Deuteronomy 7:1-26 (Part 3) – Why God Doesn’t Go “Bam” and Change Our Lives Instantly at Salvation

Posted: January 12, 2017 in Book of Deuteronomy
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Deuteronomy 7:1-26 (Part 3 of 3)

The Privilege of Holiness

 

Yesterday, I was accepted into the Doctor of Ministry (D.Min.) program at the Brashier Graduate School of North Greenville University. It was a big day for me. It marks the beginning of a journey that will end when my dissertation is accepted. The process will take about three years at a minimum. The first two years (four semesters) will be classroom study in week-long on-campus intensives once per semester and a lot of self-managed study outside those intensives. Then, after that comes the development and the writing of my dissertation. That will take a minimum of two semesters if all goes well. It may take more if not.

 

When I look back at the trajectory of my life since my salvation back in December 2001, I stand amazed at the work that the Lord has done within me. Back then, I would have never dreamed that 10 years later I would embark on getting my masters degree in Christian ministry. I would have never dreamed that he would place a desire in me to go into ministry. I would have never dreamed that I would be in a bivocational ministry position right now. I would have never dreamed that I would be working full-time in my secular career and also in a part-time ministry position in the financial and administrative end of church business and love it. I would have never dreamed that I would have the desire to combine the two into one position at some point. Knowing full well that when I go into full-time ministry as an executive pastor or administrative pastor that I will make a good deal less than I am making now in my full-time secular career. That would have seemed inconceivable to me 15 years ago when I first became a Christ follower. But God does His work in us slowly and at a pace that He thinks that we can handle.

 

He has put people and churches in my path that have grown me and challenged me as He felt I was ready for those challenges. For almost a decade after I accepted Christ as my Savior, I was a spiritual baby. God had many idols He had to remove from my life before He could start maturing me. There was the idol of needing approval from others. There was the idol of validating my self-worth through sex. The combination of these idols were a very potent combination in my life. Many, many stupid decisions before, during and in-between marriages were made because of serving these combined idols. Within the last few weeks, I have laid all that before you in my blogs so there is no need to repeat the details here, but, suffice it to say that God had a lot of work to do within me. These idols were difficult for me to give up. Further, money was an idol of sorts as well. It was not until about 8 years after my salvation that I began to see my money as really God’s money that He was allowing me to manage. I thought money and credit were for the taking. I was irresponsible with money and debt and thought, for example, that it was OK to blow my tax refunds on self-pleasures rather than catch-up or pay off debts. I was a mess coming into the family of God and there was much, much work to do by the Holy Spirit before He could begin maturing me.

 

When I was ready to begin maturing, the Lord brought Luke and Felisha Brower, the pastor and pastor’s wife, of Livermore Alive Community Church into our lives. Luke challenged me to grow in my faith. Luke challenged me to make my faith more than a box that I pulled down off the shelf on Sunday and play with and then put back on the shelf. Luke challenged me to make my faith a part of my daily life, not just some theological, academic argument. He also challenged me about picking and choosing what I believe in the Bible and to understand that it is all or nothing when it comes to God’s Word. We must love God enough to accept His whole world and incorporate into our lives. Otherwise, when we pick and choose what we want to believe, then, we are making ourselves our own gods. Luke called me out about living with Elena and not marrying her. He challenged me on having sex with a woman that I am not married to. He was in my face about it. He called me a hypocrite for wanting to be a leader in the church but yet living with a woman I was not married to. Under the challenging authority of this pastor, iron was sharpening iron. He challenged me to examine my life. He challenged me to make my faith real on daily basis and that there was no excuse for not making faith a real and tangible part of your daily life.

 

Then God led us to Lyman, SC and LifeSong Church. Here, God matured me and my wife even more. The slogan for our church is “be missionaries where you live, work, and play”. It was what Luke challenged us to be in California. In California, with Luke and Felisha, we were spoon-fed at the feet of our pastoral couple. It was a small church and Luke and Felisha could spoon-feed us. We reveled in the closeness that we had with the pastoral family and to a certain extent it was validation that we were on the right path by having a close friendship with the pastoral couple. At LifeSong, it was multiples of times bigger than Livermore Alive. The challenge at LifeSong that came down from the top from founding and senior pastor, Jeff Hickman, is that we are all priests of God’s Word. He challenges the whole church to not wait to be spoon fed by him, not wait to be selected by or tapped on the shoulder by the senior pastor, BE a minister in your own sphere of influence. You don’t wait on the pastor to tell you to witness to your neighbor. You witness to your neighbor because that what Jesus told us to do. We are to be priests of the gospel in our daily lives. We don’t wait on the church to develop a program around that, go do it, live boldly for Christ. We do these things because we want to please Jesus not because we want recognition from the pastor or our name in the bulletin. Being a missionary daily is part of our DNA not some one-time project for which we get a pat on the back from the pastor. Under Jeff’s challenges, we matured in so many ways and even have become leaders in the church not because we want Jeff to pat us on the back but rather because we have a passion to serve the Lord in these ways. Jeff’s leadership and God’s leading us to this church have matured us and challenged us to be deeper, go deeper, probably in ways that we would have never learned in Livermore.

 

It’s all been about steps in the process. God maturing us at the rate that He knows we are ready for. Now, there are going to be new challenges and new ways to go deeper in my commitment to the Lord. He has done it at the pace that was necessary for me. Sometimes, you wish that God would have just miraculously and instantaneously changed my life back in 2001. There would have been less pain and fewer mistakes and yet there would have been fewer lessons learned. When I look back on how far God has brought me, it is an amazing process to think about. It make me trust the Lord, because on my own, none of this happens.

 

Today, when I was reading through Deuteronomy 7 again for the third time before we move on, I focused in on vv. 21-24, where Moses tells Israel that God would destroy Israel’s but not all at once. That got me to think about the maturation process that I have been through from the day of my salvation until now and how now is still just a step in the process:

 

7 When the Lord your God brings you into the land you are entering to possess and drives out before you many nations—the Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites, seven nations larger and stronger than you— 2 and when the Lord your God has delivered them over to you and you have defeated them, then you must destroy them totally.[a] Make no treaty with them, and show them no mercy. 3 Do not intermarry with them. Do not give your daughters to their sons or take their daughters for your sons, 4 for they will turn your children away from following me to serve other gods, and the Lord’s anger will burn against you and will quickly destroy you. 5 This is what you are to do to them: Break down their altars, smash their sacred stones, cut down their Asherah poles[b] and burn their idols in the fire. 6 For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession.

 

7 The Lord did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. 8 But it was because the Lord loved you and kept the oath he swore to your ancestors that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt. 9 Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments. 10 But

 

those who hate him he will repay to their face by destruction;

    he will not be slow to repay to their face those who hate him.

 

11 Therefore, take care to follow the commands, decrees and laws I give you today.

 

12 If you pay attention to these laws and are careful to follow them, then the Lord your God will keep his covenant of love with you, as he swore to your ancestors. 13 He will love you and bless you and increase your numbers. He will bless the fruit of your womb, the crops of your land—your grain, new wine and olive oil—the calves of your herds and the lambs of your flocks in the land he swore to your ancestors to give you. 14 You will be blessed more than any other people; none of your men or women will be childless, nor will any of your livestock be without young. 15 The Lord will keep you free from every disease. He will not inflict on you the horrible diseases you knew in Egypt, but he will inflict them on all who hate you. 16 You must destroy all the peoples the Lord your God gives over to you. Do not look on them with pity and do not serve their gods, for that will be a snare to you.

 

17 You may say to yourselves, “These nations are stronger than we are. How can we drive them out?” 18 But do not be afraid of them; remember well what the Lord your God did to Pharaoh and to all Egypt. 19 You saw with your own eyes the great trials, the signs and wonders, the mighty hand and outstretched arm, with which the Lord your God brought you out. The Lord your God will do the same to all the peoples you now fear. 20 Moreover, the Lord your God will send the hornet among them until even the survivors who hide from you have perished. 21 Do not be terrified by them, for the Lord your God, who is among you, is a great and awesome God. 22 The Lord your God will drive out those nations before you, little by little. You will not be allowed to eliminate them all at once, or the wild animals will multiply around you. 23 But the Lord your God will deliver them over to you, throwing them into great confusion until they are destroyed. 24 He will give their kings into your hand, and you will wipe out their names from under heaven. No one will be able to stand up against you; you will destroy them. 25 The images of their gods you are to burn in the fire. Do not covet the silver and gold on them, and do not take it for yourselves, or you will be ensnared by it, for it is detestable to the Lord your God. 26 Do not bring a detestable thing into your house or you, like it, will be set apart for destruction. Regard it as vile and utterly detest it, for it is set apart for destruction.

 

Here in these verses, vv. 21-24, both you and I know that God has the power to destroy Israel’s enemies in an instantaneous display of power, but yet, He choses to destroy Israel’s enemies in stages. Little by Little. In the same way and in the same power, God could miraculously change your life. However, He usually choses to help us gradually. He often teaches us one lesson at a time. Rather than expecting miraculous and instant spiritual maturity with instant solutions to all your problems, let us slow down and work through our problems in life one step at a time. We must learn to trust that God knows what He is doing and that He will make up the difference between where we should be and where we are now. When we trust the Lord to do things in our lives at the pace that He thinks we are ready for, it will be amazing some 15 years later and see the work and the changes that God has wrought in your life. Then, you stand amazed at what He has orchestrated. It will further develop your trust in Him when you see all the things that others might call coincidences as part of this grand plan that God has for your life. We could not see this if God just went BAM and your life is miraculously changed at the moment of salvation.

 

Thank you God for the journey. Thank you God for teaching me the things that I need to know at the pace that you think that I am ready for. Thank you for the people that you have placed in my path that are no coincidences. Thank you for being Sovereign. Thank you showing me that I should trust you with all of me.

 

Amen and Amen.

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