Obedience in the life of the Christian always seems to bring about an air of confusion.
For one, a lot of people who grow up in the Church and are familiar with Christianity altogether (including me) seem to establish a lot of “rules of the game.”
Moreover, the Bible itself seems to point towards the notion that God blesses those who are obedient; i.e. God and the Israelites, the Israeli Kings, etc.
However, what seems to be overlooked all to often is why God desires obedience from those who follow Him. More importantly, we can also overlook is what precedes obedience to God.
Take the Israelites for example. In Exodus 19, after the Israelites were freed from Egypt, God leads them to Sinai under the leadership of Moses. There, the Lord proceeds to to remind Israel that He was the one who saved them from Egypt and then asks for their obedience. In other words, what comes before obedience? Redemption.
This is crucial to understand for the believer in Jesus Christ.
If we get this one point wrong, we get it all wrong. Always, always, always, God through the atoning work of Jesus Christ and the application of faith in the heart of Christians by the Spirit first redeems and then brings that work to completion (Philippians 1:6) through grace-based, Jesus-centered, Gospel-affirming obedience. In other words, it is not our works, or obedience (Ephesians 2:8-9), that earn us favor with God, but only the gift of grace and redemption offered in Jesus Christ.
Thus, because the believer in Jesus is no longer a slave to sin, but has a new master (Jesus–the very embodiment of grace) he/she is free to obey based on the foundation of their redemption. All the while full knowing that their gracious, loving, kind, and faithful advocate in Heaven, Jesus Christ, will make intercession for them (Hebrews 7:25), supply sufficient grace for them in their weakness (2 Corinthians12:9), forgive their sins (1 John 1:9), and supply all the strength they need (Philippians 4:13) to live a life that is Gospel-based and obedient to Him.
Why? For our joy! God does not and did not establish rules and the Law for us to feel burdened, but to show us our sin and need for Jesus to come! Therefore, Christians can rejoice in the freedom we have in Jesus and fully commit, based upon His grace, to take up our Cross in obedience to Him fully knowing that our rest, security, and eternal joy awaits in the arms of Christ at the end our lives. Obedience brings us through sanctification and increases our joy, it does not earn us God’s favor–Jesus does. So whether God chooses to bring us through abundant joy, or seemingly unbearable trial, we can rest assured that all those instances point to our dependence and need of the Love of the Father, the Grace of Jesus, and the Help from the Holy Spirit.