You have a choice to make. We all do. From the first moments that our eyes become awakened to sin, at a very young age, we have a choice to make- to obey or not obey. The choice of whom to obey is endlessly presented to us all, but most especially Christians who are living as “the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14) in a world that has fallen into darkness. That will never change. While Paul was clear that obedience to governing authorities was the peaceful choice for those in Christ (Romans 13), such obedience only exists in so much as the godly are permitted to make choices that follow the principles of the Word of God. The American Revolution was ‘disobedient’, but was it sinful? The Underground Railroad was ‘disobedient’, but was it sinful? The Holocaust resistance was ‘disobedient’, but was it sinful? When Moses’ mother hid his birth and then placed him in a basket and put him into the river, it was disobedient, but was it sinful? Of course not!
Not all disobedience is sinful, and some is even necessary, when it comes down who you are going to obey. In Acts 16:16-34 even Paul was accused of “advocating customs that are unlawful for…Romans to adopt or observe,” because he was breaking Roman law to try and bring the Gospel to Roman citizens. But was he in sin? No way. All Christians have to face these difficult choices, but when obedience to the world’s systems conflicts with obedience to God, the choice is clear– and so are the consequences. Remember: In the end, Paul was jailed and finally killed because of his acts of civil disobedience, even though he was doing the work of the Lord. Does that mean he should not have done it? What would the world be like without his incredible sacrifice?? Truly he was the servant of the Lord, even in “disobedience”.
The truth is that if you’re not intentionally bowing to the Lord, you’re unintentionally bowing to someone else.
The PROBLEM is this: When man’s authority starts to define what is right and what is wrong, then sinful man reserves the right to change their opinion. Data models, circumstances, and situations and new information and things coming to light all have the potential to change. But the Word of God is unchangeable, yesterday today and forever, the same. “The Word of God is forever settled in heaven.” (Psalm 119:89) Yet, every time the world changes its mind, we have a choice to make – to whom will we bow? To the Lord? To another person? To ourselves? The truth is that if you’re not intentionally bowing to the Lord, you’re unintentionally bowing to someone else.
In Daniel chapter 3, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon had made an idolatrous decree saying, “Nations and peoples of every language…must fall down and worship the image of gold that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up.” (Daniel 3:4-5) The consequences of disobedience? “Whoever does not fall down and worship will immediately be thrown into a blazing furnace.” (Daniel 3:6) Three of God’s people – Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego – had a choice to make, and it was a hard one. It might “sound” easy, but in reality, how many of us truly choose to obey God every time when the stakes are a matter of life and death? By choosing not to bow before idols, they chose to bow before the Lord. Paul was very clear when he said noted that those in rule over you may try to compel you by force when he wrote, “If you do what is evil [in his eyes], be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain…” It will always cost you to bow before the Lord and to refuse to bow before anyone else.
Thought for today
Worship is the ultimate form of submission to the Lord, and expresses the willing obedience that He has asked for. (Psalm 50:23) But even bowing before the Lord in worship can feel impossible! It’s a struggle to choose to bow before Him, or your own inhibitions and traditions. But, the choice to obey God should never be made based on the consequences nor the outcome – for better or for worse. God will always love you. The world will always hate you. There is pressure that comes when you finally identify your struggle as stemming from this problem: The choice of allegiance that forces you to choose the Lord’s way or the way of man. And after that choice? You will bow to whomever you have chosen to obey- either out of fear or out of love.
The response of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego was this: “If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But even if He does not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods, nor worship the golden image which you have set up.” (Daniel 3:17-18)
We must stand strong and prepare to resist the forcible obedience of those who resist the Lord and try to force us to bow to their ways – employers, husbands and wives, children, civil authorities, laws, friends… Choosing to bow before the Lord and refusing to bow before anyone else is not easy! If it were, everyone would be doing it. TO WHOM WILL YOU BOW?