How to “Teach Them To Obey”

Scripture says, “To obey is better than sacrifice” (I Samuel 15:22). Jesus told his disciples, “Teach them to obey all that I have commanded…” (Matthew 28″18-20). John, quoting Jesus, wrote: “You are my friends if you do what I command” (John 15:14). I could go on, but suffice it to say that obedience to God is a common thread woven throughout the Bible.

As a disciple-making teacher, how will you go about “teaching them to obey”? I have a suggestion. It’s one I’ve tried to live out as a group leader: it starts with your example.

First, before you teach your group to obey, do this to the utmost of your abilities. If you want to teach your people to obey, start by obeying what you know to be the revealed will of God. You set the example. Things are sometimes “more caught than taught.”

Take a look at Ezra 7:10. The Bible says, “Now Ezra determined in his heart to study the law of the Lord, obey it, and teach its statutes and ordinances in Israel.” He had the correct order, and it is still the correct order for people today like you and I who lead people in Bible study.

First, Ezra studied. The Hebrew in this verse is literally rendered “to tread over the same ground, as in hunt.” This indicates to me that Ezra was on a search for truth; he hunted down the meaning of the Scripture. Once he captured that, then he moved on to the next phase: obeying it. Before he taught it, he lived it out. This gave him the moral authority to challenge the people to obey it because he’d already obeyed it himself.

If you want to “teach” your group members to obey, perhaps what they don’t need is another Bible study lesson in which you explain the merits of obedience. Perhaps what they don’t need is another Bible story about a person who obeyed. Maybe what they need to see is a living example, you. Maybe what they desperately need to challenge them to obey God is a group leader whom they can see obeying God to the best of his or her abilities. Couple that example with a study on obedience, and you have a powerful combination. Teach about obedience while people know you are not obeying the biblical text on a particular issue, and you run the risk of being labeled a hypocritical teacher. You’ll lose your influence. You’ll lose your audience.

Most of the people in our groups have a grasp of God’s Word. They know many of the “do’s and don’ts.” They know what they should and should not be doing. What may be missing, though, is the example you and I set for them as we first obey God’s Word, then challenge them to “follow us, as we follow Christ.”

Is there an area of your life in which you are being disobedient to God? Is there an area in which you need to surrender yourself to the Lord and begin obeying him? Is it in the area of evangelism, tithing, or service to others? Could it be that you are not loving your wife the way Ephesians 5 says to? Are you a boss or supervisor who “lords it over the people” instead of being a servant leader to them? (Mt. 20:25).

Search your heart today and ask the Lord to reveal to you one or two ways you can more fully obey him. Watch the difference this makes as you obey first, then teach others to obey by your example.


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  1. A very good & needed word! Thanks for this blog, Ken! Appreciate your blogs and your heart for God’s Word & God’s work!

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