When people hear the word command, they often think of someone with an angry expression barking orders in a harsh, stern tone. Is this how God looks and sounds when He’s commanding us? It depends. First of all, God speaks to us in a wide variety of ways. Many of His communications to us don’t have any tone at all because they are not verbal. Secondly, God is always responding to our soul attitudes. This means that how He talks to you will depend on how your soul is currently responding to Him.
Suppose you’re a low ranking soldier in the army. You end up being really good friends with a high ranking general. Even though you’re friends, the fact remains that this general outranks you, and whatever he says goes. But you are a very obedient soldier who always does what you’re told. Because he knows this about you, the general doesn’t use harsh words with you. If the two of you are walking along, he might say, “I see something on that rock over there. Why don’t you go get it and bring it to me?” As far as he is concerned, he’s giving you an order, not a suggestion, but he’s using a very friendly tone because he is so pleased with your good attitude. If you weren’t such a good soldier, he would use a harsher tone with you and say, “Go get that item and bring it here on the double.”
This is how it works with you and God. God never considers His words to be some trivial thing. It’s always a big deal when He speaks, because He is the King. But towards souls who sincerely care about pleasing Him, God enjoys using gentle, encouraging tones. When you lose your cool and say something you shouldn’t have said, the Holy Spirit will gently nudge you and say, “You need to apologize—the sooner the better.” If you are currently behaving like a spiritual brat, He’ll probably be a lot crisper and say, “What you just said was totally inappropriate. Apologize right now.” Just as a good human father doesn’t discourage his obedient children with harsh words, God doesn’t yell at His obedient kids. On the contrary, God encourages souls who want to succeed with Him and He speaks to them in positive ways.
Now let’s be very clear on this concept of obedience. We’re talking about soul choices here, not external behavior. You might really want to please God inside, but on the outside you keep messing up. God judges you by your soul choices, not by how well you’re managing to control your earthsuit. Legalistic theology is one in which you’re taught that God is always scrutinizing your behavior with a disapproving scowl on His face while He keeps precise tallies of all of your sins (see Hellfire Legalism & Prosperity Theology: Two Different Applications of the Same Lie). This isn’t how it really works. You might look like a carnal train wreck on the outside, but God is looking at your soul choices. Maybe you’re bogged down with a bunch of nasty addictions. God isn’t judging you by your earthsuit’s cravings. Maybe your mind is filled with a bunch of sordid images. God isn’t judging you by your thought life. Maybe you’re a real jerk in public. God isn’t judging you by your social skills. How is your soul responding to Him? This is what He cares about. Do you really care about pleasing Him? Are you wanting Him to have His way in your life? These are the soul choices which put a smile on God’s face.
The wonderful thing about God is that He never misjudges you. You might look like a carnal yuck to other Christians and they don’t want anything to do with you. But if your soul is longing to somehow, someway be pleasing to God, He is going to be very pleased with you. God never confuses His obedient kids with His brats. He doesn’t treat one group like the other. So if you know that you really care about pleasing God and you keep feeling like He’s scowling down at you or you’re hearing some harsh, impatient voice bossing you about in your mind, you’re being harassed by demons who are trying to impersonate God just to throw you off track. Demons love to try and make sincere Christians believe that God is mad at them. But God doesn’t get mad at His obedient kids—He only gets mad at His brats until they decide to stop being brats.
When God speaks, He wants you to listen and take His words to heart, no matter how friendly He’s being. But God also takes full responsibility for making Himself clear to you. This means that you don’t ever need to be afraid that God will suddenly get ticked at you for not rushing to obey some unclear conviction. God knows how to make Himself heard. If all you’re getting is a bunch of vague confusion, God isn’t going to accuse you of willfully defying Him. Unlike our human parents and bosses who are stuck judging us by our behavior through the grid of their own personal biases, God sees our true intentions and He never thinks we’re ignoring Him when we’re really not. God is very easy to succeed with because He does 99% of the work in the relationship. He comes to you. He helps you understand His communications. He guides your desires. He helps you carry out His orders. And after He does 99% of the work, He makes a big fuss over how well you obeyed Him. This is how generous He is. God delights in relating to us.
The obedient soul often experiences God’s commands to be so gentle and friendly that they feel more like suggestions. They aren’t suggestions, because God is the King, and we don’t treat our King’s requests like trivial things. But the longer we walk with God, the more we will enjoy the experience of Him commanding us about. It’s always a thrill when our God makes some specific request of us, because that means He’s giving us yet another opportunity to honor Him by the way that we respond.