But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified. 1 Corinthians 9:27 (NKJV)
Greek athletes lived lives that were dominated by rules. A competitor had to know the rules of his event, train diligently with an understanding of those rules, and finally compete according to the rules. Competitors in the Greek Games also had rules regarding their training. Only after meeting these standards was a competitor qualified to enter an event. Every event was governed by rules and boundaries. Any athlete who failed to compete within those boundaries faced disqualification. But those who competed fairly were eligible to receive the victor’s prize.
We see that Paul says he disciplined his body and brought it into subjection so that he wasn’t disqualified. The idea here is that he didn’t allow his physical desires to determine what he did. Instead, he did what he was supposed to do. He followed the rule book. Basically the idea is that he lived in obedience to God. Just as Paul lived in obedience to God so that he would not be disqualified, so we also must live in obedience to God or face being disqualified for the prize. The Bible teaches us that obedience to God is of supreme importance to God.
“So Samuel said: “Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, As in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, And to heed than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, And stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, He also has rejected you from being king.” 1 Samuel 15:22-23 (NKJV)
There is nothing you will ever do that will be as pleasing to the Lord as simply obeying Him. In fact you cannot disobey Him and please Him at the same time. Let me say that again. You, or I, cannot live a live a life of disobedience to God and live a life that pleases God at the same time. It will be one or the other.
While obedience to God is of primary importance, the reason we obey God is also of primary importance. Obeying God to be saved or to earn our righteousness is not a legitimate reason to obey God. In fact, according to Galatians 5, obeying God for these reasons will actually keep us from God. Everything in the Christian life rises and falls on the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Everything about our salvation and righteousness is bound up in what Jesus did on the cross. The Gospel doesn’t teach us to obey God to earn our salvation or our righteousness. The Gospel teaches us to obey God because Jesus has saved us and made us righteous. Obedience to God is part of our response to the Gospel. Let me show you four Gospel centered reasons for obeying God.
We obey God because we have been saved by God. “and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.” 2 Corinthians 5:15 (NKJV)
We obey God because we believe God. “By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his household, by which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith. By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going.” Hebrews 11:7-8 (NKJV)
We obey God because we know God. “Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He who says, “I know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.” 1 John 2:3-4 (NKJV)
We obey God because we love God. John 14:15, 21, 23-24. “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome.” 1 John 5:3 (NKJV)