“All the earth shall worship thee” (Psalm 66:4).
How can we say that we worship God if we will not obey Him? Surely the first act of worship is submission. The true call of God to man is simple: follow Christ – in obedience, faithfulness, righteousness and holiness. Of course, it is impossible that we can do those things and be that way in and of ourselves; it is only possible as we live in continuous, uninterrupted fellowship with Christ.
He has done everything that we cannot do ourselves; paid the penalty for our sins, reconciled us with the Father, redeemed us from the authority of darkness; showed us the way to live and given us the power of the Holy Spirit to enable us to follow Him; but there remain things that only we can do.
i) He can’t do our repenting for us; that is something that we must do for ourselves. We are told by both John the Baptist and Peter that we must Repent, (Matthew 3:2 and Acts 2:38); the verb on both occasions being in the imperative. God will take six steps towards us, but He will not take the seventh; He will incline us to repent but He cannot do our repenting for us. The teaching of salvation without repentance is a latter day heresy that has filled the Church with those professing faith, while being fundamentally untouched in their moral lives.
ii) He can’t do our abiding for us; we must choose for ourselves where we are going to abide but Jesus left us with a powerful instruction; Abide in Me! He said (John 15:4). That, also, is in the imperative. This is the foundational step in the true life of faith; if we do not Abide in Him then there is no possibility that we will ever be able to achieve those things that are essential to salvation; obedience (Hebrews 5:9), righteousness (Matthew 5:20) and holiness (1 Peter 1:16). Jesus tells us that if we don’t abide in Him we are cast away as a branch and thrown into the fire.
iii) It is a fundamental tenet of the faith that “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son so that all those trusting in Him might not perish but might have eternal life” (John 3:16). God’s love is a gift that is irrevocable, but we cannot receive it unless we are in the right place; after all, God loves those who have never known Him but they cannot receive its blessings; and nor can Christians unless we, as Jude put it, “keep yourselves in the love of God” (Jude 21); this is also in the imperative. Obedience and abiding are basic to keeping yourself in the love of God; we cannot ignore God’s righteous requirements and expect to know His love; while it might be given, it cannot be received if we are abiding in our carnal nature.