It is one thing to look like you take God’s Word seriously and another to really put it into practice. Unfortunately we sometimes settle for a hypocrite’s obedience. If others think I am serious about the Bible, then I am serious about the Bible. This is far from the proper response to God’s Word.
Jonathan Edwards highlights three characteristics of real obedience:
1. The obedience of the godly is sincere.
Sincerity is when what a person does on the outside matches what is going on on the inside. In other words, when our outward religious activity matches up with our inner religious activity we are being sincere. Obviously, we are not speaking of perfection but intention and direction. If the direction of our hearts gratitude and the intention to honor God for the good He has given to us, then our giving of thanks is sincere.
2. The obedience of the godly is universal.
It’s tempting to feel like you are obeying God because you obey the commands of God that you like or agree with, even when you are ignoring what He has to say about the issues where you don’t really want to change. We sometimes even develop the habit of only hearing what we want to hear and ignoring the rest. If we are going to honor God with our obedience we must be willing to submit even when submission requires self-denial.
3. The obedience of the godly is a persevering obedience.
There are times in most people’s lives where they feel bad about a certain sin and decide they are going to change, only to give up on changing when the next temptation comes. One of the distinguishing characteristics however of godly obedience is a commitment to moving forward with obedience, no matter how slowly. This again of course does not mean that the godly never fail when it comes to obeying God, but it does mean that when they have failed, they get up again and keep walking the long path of obedience without giving up.