Obedient from the Heart: Linking Desire & Behavior

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But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed.
–Romans 6:16

During a 1976 interview with Playboy magazine, then presidential candidate Jimmy Carter said, “I’ve looked on many women with lust. I’ve committed adultery many times in my heart.” Society lampooned Carter for his statement, but he did express an understanding of sin that goes deeper than outward actions.

A key question to answer regarding our walk with the Lord is whether we are obedient to his Word. But as this text indicates, we should ask an even deeper question, “Are we obedient from the heart?” That is, is our obedience more than mere outward conformity? God has called us to an obedience that wells up from the heart into our outward actions. Or in other words, do we have a deep desire to walk in obedience?

It is very possible for a disconnect to exist between our heart and our actions. In an old Dennis the Menace comic strip, Dennis was made to sit in the corner for his misbehavior. He did sit. But his words belied his heart, “I may be sitting on the outside, but I’m standing on the inside.”

As a Christian we are to be sitting on both the inside and the outside. A unity of desire and action prevents us from being duplicitous folks.

God-honoring obedience originates in the heart of the believer. It flows outwardly to our walk. Consider these statements as you examine your own heart before the Lord.

1. You can be outwardly obedient by sheer will power.

Because you act right does not mean that you are right. Especially type A personalities can perform actions by the force of their determination. Others can do that which they think will mean the path of least resistance even if contrary to what they really want.

In your self examination, do not be duped by this kind of obedience.

2. You can be outwardly obedient in a schizophrenic way.

Some folks live lives so inconsistent with the desires of their hearts that they become spiritual schizophrenics. The outward person acts one way. But when the facade is peeled away, they are somebody altogether different.

Don’t be that person.

3. Outward obedience does not necessarily indicate a clean heart.

Jesus often made this point when he spoke to the religious leaders of his day. He accused them of being white-washed sepulchers. They were clean on the outside, but full of dead bones on the inside. He also told them that they were like cups that were outwardly clean but inwardly putrid.

After all, it is the inside of the cup that matters most when it comes to cleanliness. Let the Spirit shine his light on the crevices of your heart.

4. To be godly obedient is to measure your heart to the proper standard.

As Paul taught the Romans he provided the measure against which to measure our heart. That measure or standard is the “teaching to which you were committed.” That teaching or doctrine, we know, is the Scriptures.

The godly man will saturate his heart in the Word so that the expressed desires of God become the desires of his heart.

To be godly obedient is to inwardly desire obedience and outwardly do obedience. Ask for God to so renew your heart so that your walk in life will reflect a clean heart in step with the biblical standard.

Question: Are you walking in heart-felt obedience to the Lord as revealed in his Word?