Following Christ: Obedience Leads to Freedom – Healing 2023


Peter Herbeck’s talk explores the counterintuitive relationship between obedience and freedom. He contrasts the world’s perception with the Christian perspective, emphasizing that obedience to God’s will actually leads to true freedom. Drawing insights from St. Paul’s writings and Jesus’ sacrificial love, Herbeck underscores how embracing obedience releases the hold of negative influences and fosters a liberated and purposeful life.

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Reflective Study Guide Questions

“[H]e humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.”

Phil. 2:8

1. Peter says that the world often views freedom as the opposite of obedience, but that the Christian worldview shows us that freedom comes from obedience. How do you tend to view obedience in your life? How can you work on seeing the connection between freedom and obedience?

2. The letters of St. Paul discuss how the flesh resists God’s will and recoils against obedience. In what areas of your life do you most often recoil against obedience to God?

3. Jesus’ death on the Cross was the ultimate act of love. He sacrificed His life for us, out of love. What sacrifices might God be calling you to take on out of love for Him?

4. In Scripture, Jesus tells us that the Devil has no power over him because He does what the Father commands Him to do. The Devil is not dragging Him to the Cross. Rather, He obeys the Father by dying on the Cross. How can you release the hold of the devil over you through obedience to God in your life?

Text: Obedience Leads to Freedom: Following Christ

Hello, friends. This is Peter Herbeck. It’s an honor and delight to be with the Pray More Novenas team for the Summer Healing Retreat. My wife is joining you as well this summer and we’re really grateful for the opportunity. Today I want to talk about, in a very important and central point of Christian life, obedience, an obedience that leads to freedom.

Obedience and Freedom

In the Christian life, obedience and freedom are tied together. In the world, the world has a different opinion. I mean, the Lord has basically turned the world’s understanding of obedience on its head. And obedience to the world is it’s a form of slavery. You think, for example, of Psalm two, the great messianic Psalm, where it begins, it says, the kings of the earth have set themselves against the Lord and his anointed, saying, let’s throw off their chains, right, that bind us, and the kings of the earth consider the commandments of God and the rule of God and the dominion of God as a form of slavery, right? And so, nobody wants to be in a position of having to obey someone else. 

But in the Christian life, Jesus does just the opposite, shows us just the opposite. That obedience is, can be the ultimate act of freedom. Why? Because he connects obedience to the Father to love. Obedience is the love language of heaven, right? And so, that’s all I want to touch on today is, that connection between obedience, freedom, and love, that are all there. And, of course, the greatest act anybody could ever do, the greatest exercise of freedom, the most dignified expression of freedom is authentic love. And Jesus demonstrated that on the Cross. 

Freedom and its Meaning

But to begin with, just to think about freedom for a moment, you know, for the Christian, we talk about freedom from something so that we can have freedom for something. So, what’s the from? What are we getting freed from? So, it comes from, you know, the biblical worldview. It’s so well-articulated by St. Paul in his letter, his letter to the Ephesians, chapter two where he talks about the, you might call it the fundamental call Christian anthropology, the understanding of the human, the fallen human condition and the way in which the human person is enslaved and needs to be set free. So, here’s what he says, the beginning of chapter two of Ephesians, “And you, he made alive when you were dead through your trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience. Among these, we all once lived in the passions of our flesh following the desires of body and mind. And so we were by nature, children of wrath like the rest of mankind.”

By nature, children of wrath. So in just these few sentences, St. Paul says a great deal. First, he begins by saying, you were once dead. Because what you were dead in your sins, he said, right? Another place in Romans, he said, “Death comes through sin, all men sin, therefore, all men die. Sin is the refusal, is the no to the will of God.” And that sin, we inherited the original sin. So this is why we’re born in this condition. But in life, we also connive with that sin. And then the powers that are at work against us that seek to enslave us. 

World, Flesh, Devil

It talks about the world, the flesh, and the devil. The world is the fallen dimension of God’s good creation, the political, social, volitional forces, entertainment, things that resist the will of God and push a different worldview and insist on it and reject the life and teaching of Christ, right? And really acting against one’s own conscience on a very deep level. So that’s the world. The second is the flesh. That’s the dimension of the fallen human heart that says no to God, that resists the will of God, that resists submission and recoils against obedience. And instead of thy will be done, it’s my will be done. Right? And we’re driven by these internal passions. And, of course, Jesus echoing the prophets of the Old Testament, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and others who anticipated the coming of, the human race receiving a new heart, the law of God being printed on our heart, giving us a new capacity to live by the Holy Spirit, Jesus says this about the condition of the human heart. 

When he was asked the question, “Master, if we eat certain things, do they defile us?” And Jesus said, “It’s not what comes from outside of man that defiles him, but what comes from within.” And then, he clarifies and says, “Now look in the heart.” What’s in the human heart? Envy, jealousy, rivalry, conceit, hatred bitterness, lust, murder, rebellion. These are in the human heart. This is the sin sick condition. So, it’s the Trojan horse inside us that works to bring us down and seriously limits our freedom and our capacity to love, to love God. The way we were called, so the world and the flesh, and ultimately, the devil, our great enemy, right? He prowls around like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour. He hates us. He’s a murderer, he’s a liar, he’s a deceiver. And he deploys his armies against us to manipulate the world, to manipulate and seduce our flesh, to keep us in a condition of slavery, of a darkened mind that causes us to resist the will of God. And he keeps a hold of us in that way and we’re not able to come into the fullness of who we’re meant to be. 

So, Jesus came to deal with that whole regime of powers, right? And the disordered energy of death and the consequences of sin. So how did he do that? He took on human flesh. He died on a cross for us in a perfect act of love. Again, expressing the love language of heaven. Now, I’m going to go back to, I want to go to John 14, where he talks about the importance in the centrality of love. He said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. If you love me, you will keep my commandments and I’ll ask the Father, and he will give you another counselor to be with you forever, even the spirit of truth.” Verse 21, John 14, he said, “He who has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me and he who loves me will be loved by my Father and I will love him and I will manifest myself to him.”

 So Jesus is bringing us into the love between the Father and the Son, and the Son and the Father. And at one point, Jesus will say that he loves us. He said, “As the Father loves me, so I love you.” And then in John 17, he says that the the way the Father loves the son, so the Father loves us. Those are baptizing to Christ. This is how God loves us. How does God love us? The way God loves God from all eternity, the passionate love of God. And Jesus reveals the meaning of love, what love actually is and what it looks like. 

And so, Jesus frees us from the world of flesh and the devil and the powers of sin and death by dying on the Cross and shedding his blood. He becomes a sacrifice for the sins sick condition that dominates our lives. The Old Testament sacrifices were, as we know, an anticipation, without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sin. The offering of goats and lambs was a type of what is to come and the definitive offering and sacrifice of Jesus. And the shedding of that blood is what cleanses the human heart and makes us, enables us to be free. How? Because not only are we cleansed by the blood of Jesus and the sin is, and the guilt and the sin is washed away, but he cleanses us so that he might now come and live in us in the Holy Spirit. We might now become a dwelling place for God in the spirit. He sanctifies us, he sets us apart, as I mentioned in another video. 

A New Capacity

So, we now have a new power and a new capacity to live a new way of life. In the new way of life, the Christian life, as Paul would say, back to Ephesians two, “You were dead and now you’re alive.” This is Christianity. You were dead to a regime of powers you could not free yourself from, Christ came to deal with it. And how did he do it? He took away your sin and he gave you new life, right? The eternal life that was with the Father. The apostles said, he appeared to us, right? The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead to a new humanity, to a new creation. He’s at the right hand of the Father pouring out the Holy Spirit and where the spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom, freedom to do the will of God, to love what God loves, to do what the Son of God did to walk in the footsteps of Jesus. That’s the real grasping and understanding of the Christian life. And Paul says, I think it’s in Hebrews, you know, God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit. 

And it’s the Holy Spirit who subdues the flesh right? The death directed destiny of our flesh, the Holy Spirit subdues that. And now we have a new power and a new capacity to live in that freedom, to say yes to God, to love God. Even as Jesus did, even to the point of death, right? So, the spirit that raised Jesus Christ from the dead dwells in us. And we no longer are slaves to the powers of sin and death. Hebrews chapter two, verse 14 says, you know, the devil’s strategy is to enslave the human race through the fear of death. And I don’t have time to talk about it on them. I’ve done some YouTube videos at Reno Ministries if you want to go to it, to just see the devil’s strategy of manipulating the disordered energy of death that human beings are so deeply and profoundly crippled by and it dominates their lives in many ways and makes them slaves even though they’re calling darkness light and they think they’re walking in freedom. That’s a whole ‘nother topic. But I think it’s relevant to what we’re saying. 

So, we’re enabled now to live as children of God, the freedom of the sons and daughters of God, we can walk in. Again, it’s critical to see how important though from Jesus’s perspective, obedience is. Later in John 14, this is one of my favorite passages in the entire Bible. And because what I’m about to read to you, I think is maybe the most intimate conversation Jesus had with his closest friends about his heart motive. What’s the deepest, the deepest movement of his heart? What does he most want the apostles to know?

The Last Supper Discourse

So John 14 is in the context of the Last Supper discourse, John 13 through 17. This is the most, you know, as I mentioned on the other video, the greatest teaching of the greatest man who ever lived. It’s absolutely profound. God’s life and light and wisdom that’s here for us. And it’s also the best news and the worst news that the apostles could possibly hear that Jesus is about to be arrested, they’re about to betray him. Some of them betray or deny him, and total chaos is going to break out. But here’s what Jesus wants his friends to know. 

And he said, and now, this is verse 29, he said, “And now I have told you before it takes place so that when it does take place, you may believe. I will no longer talk much with you. For the ruler of the world is coming.” So Jesus, here, they’re having this Passover meal celebration and Jesus is saying so many extraordinary things and they know something’s up. And he said, “I won’t be with you much longer.” So that gets their attention. I mean, they did think, despite things He had said that this Messiah, this Lord was going to bring down the Roman empire and establish the kingdom of God, the Messianic kingdom. But they didn’t see the real plan. But Jesus said, “I won’t be with you much longer.” Why? Because the devil is coming after me. All right? The spiritual battle, he’s helping them see what’s going on. 

He said, “I will no longer talk much with you for the ruler of this world is coming. But I want you to know he has no power over me.” Right? Jesus is in control. He’s absolutely free, right? The devil doesn’t have a hold on him. Jesus committed no sin. The devil has no way to get a grip on Jesus. Jesus has a deeper plan and a deeper motive. But the dark hour, you know, the final of the devil’s hour is here. And Jesus is going to walk in that for a higher purpose. And he said, don’t… He’s essentially saying, don’t be afraid of the devil. Don’t be afraid of what’s coming. Don’t lose your mind about what’s happening. Here’s what I want you to know. This is so beautiful. “The devil has no power over me, but I want you to know…” He said, “But I do, as the Father has commanded me so that the world may know that I love the Father.”

Here is Jesus’s fundamental motive. I’m not being dragged there by the devil. I want you to know what’s leading me to climb up on that cross, right, to die on that cross. Why? Here’s what I want my friends to know, and I want the whole world to know, that I do everything the Father commands me because I want the whole world to know that I love the Father. It’s his fundamental motive. It’s the first reason he said yes, his obedience to the Father. And he said, then he said, “Rise, let us go on from here.” 

Philippians Two

Now Philippians two is a great place to lay hold of this fundamental truth at a deeper level, this great beautiful hymn. Verse four, chapter two. “Let each of you look not only to your own interest but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which was in Christ Jesus, the mind of Jesus, who though he was in the form of God did not account equality with God something to be grasped.” But he emptied himself, right? He calls his disciples after he rises. You know, if you want to come after me, you have to deny yourself. Here’s what he’s doing. He emptied himself of his prerogatives, his privileges as the, you know, second person to the Trinity. And he took on the form of a servant being born in the likeness of men and being found in human form, here’s the key, being found in human form, he humbled himself. He became obedient even unto death. So, what’s humility? Humility, which God loves is an expression, is expressed in obedience. Humility and love. He became obedient unto death even death on the Cross. Therefore, God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name, at the name of Jesus, every niche shall bow and every tongue will confess in heaven and on earth and under earth that every tongue confessed that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father. 

Humility and Obedience

The Father has exalted Jesus because of this act of love that has saved us. He humbled himself becoming obedient. It took humility, the emptying of his prerogatives to make him, to make his life an offering for the salvation of others. He said, there’s no greater love than this to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. Jesus and John said, I call you my friends. But he wants his friends to know, and he wants you and me to know that the first motive he had and he doesn’t want us to ever forget this that he’s on that Cross because he wants to do whatever the Father commands him to do because he loves the Father. Jesus is living the love language of heaven, obedience to the Father, the mission the Father has sent him on. This is the passion of Jesus, to seek and save the loss the will of the Father in his life. Friends, it’s so, it’s such a beautiful, beautiful thing to be able to see. 

Jesus says in Matthew chapter 22 that love, what he talks about love, you know, the great commandment. Somebody ask him, “You know what? What’s the greatest commandment?” He said, “Love the Lord’s, your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.” He said, “This is the first and the greatest thing.” Friends, the greatest man, the God man told us where true greatness lies. It lies in obedience to the love of God. Loving God first with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength in the love language of heaven, which the Holy Spirit empowers us to be able to do, we overcome the powers of the world, the flesh, and the devil by the grace of God. And the love of God is poured into our hearts in the Holy Spirit where the spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom and we’re now free to will what God desires, right? And that’s to will the good, my own good, my neighbor’s good, and the will of God, to do justice to God, to give to God what belongs to God. 

This is what Jesus did and no human being had ever done before. He totally gave to God what belongs to God, doing justice to God. It’s absolutely amazing. Now, the world frowns on obedience. The world doesn’t respect humility but this is what the kingdom of God celebrates and crowns. That’s why Our Lady is the queen of heaven and earth. She’s been crowned queen to the humble, yes, the humble servant that she was, the mother of Jesus. The pure heart, the meek and humble heart that was present, and the obedient heart.

What it Means to be Free

Friends, this is what it means to be free and we’re being tested in the world today. You are going to be tested by a world that’s aggressively turning against the kingdom of God. We’re not going to be rewarded anymore like we’ve been for generations in the United States of conformity to the commandments and living a virtuous life that’s consistent with God’s plan and purpose. There’s a different dark worldview that’s rising and it’s coming against the will of God. You’re going to be pressured to cave, to back away, to conform, to get along, right, to run from harm in any way, shape or form. We have to come to terms and we have to walk in the footsteps of Jesus, who is the faithful witness to the ultimate truth about the meaning of obedience, the meaning of the central reality of human freedom, and the fact that love, God’s love, the way God defined it is what’s truly great, right? It’s the first, it’s a first importance, and it ought to be in our lives. And the Holy Spirit has come to help order our loves, loving God, loving neighbor, loving self in the Lord. What a precious, precious gift we have, friends. Let’s pursue that freedom. Let’s say yes to the Holy Spirit. Let’s turn away from sin. Say yes to the Lord and He will lead us. We’ll be able to be saints. Maybe we could be martyrs someday. Wouldn’t that be something? That’d be awesome if we could have that great grace and opportunity. God bless you, friends.

About Peter Herbeck

Peter Herbeck Healing Retreat

Peter Herbeck is the Executive Vice President and Director of Missions for Renewal Ministries. For more than thirty years, he has been actively involved in evangelization and Catholic renewal throughout the US, Canada, Asia, Africa, and Eastern Europe. Peter is the co-host of the weekly television show, The Choices We Face. He hosts the daily radio show Fire on the Earth. He is a frequent conference speaker, has authored When the Spirit Comes in Power, When the Spirit Speaks, and numerous booklets, and is a frequent contributor to Renewal Ministries’ popular YouTube channel. Peter and his wife, Debbie, have four children and eleven grandchildren, and reside in Ann Arbor, Michigan.