Posts Tagged ‘simple’

Deuteronomy 11:8-32

The Blessings of Obedience

 

Seems pretty simple – obey God’s commands and thrive, disobey God’s commands and fail to thrive. Blessings and curse. The curse is the lack of blessing, the removal of blessing. How we wonder why Israel would blatantly turn away from its protector, and benefactor in the Lord God Almighty. But they did, repeatedly over the centuries. We can’t comprehend why. We know the story from God’s perspective through Moses and the subsequent Old Testament writers that Israel failed to keep its part of the covenant relationship with God. Just doesn’t make sense, does it?

 

However, some view the United States of America as the new Israel, a nation blessed by God in so many ways over the past several centuries. It is a nation that was started under the pretense of religious freedom. Our country was founded on Judeo-Christian principles. It is the land that people have clamored to be a part of since its inception as a free nation ruled by laws and not kings. It was a nation founded on the fact that God created man to be free and to live lives free of the whims of the tyranny of despotic kings and free from the rule of the mob. The principles of our government were founded upon that we are all created equal in God’s sight. Our nation was built by people who feared the Lord. Our nation made the Bible a part of daily life. Generally, our nation has been mightily blessed as a result. Some, as I have said, have called the United States the new Israel. We have been a blessed nation. We received the blessings of God for a nation that has stood for freedom, hard work, belief in Jesus Christ, and a nation that was unafraid to tell the world of its basic Christian values.

 

However, we have become drunk with our success. We have become a nation preoccupied with ourselves. This is a nation that once made great sacrifices. Turning our factories from peace time pursuits to one where every man, woman, and child contributed to the effort to end tyranny around the world in World War II. However, now, we are a nation that feels as though we are entitled to all our excesses. We no longer are a nation willing to sacrifice for the common good. We riot in the streets when we don’t get our way. We say that though a leader was elected lawfully as per the process that has worked for almost two and half centuries that he is not our leader. We are a nation that has become spoiled by our success. We have removed God from the equation. The very thing that fueled the sacrifices that made our country great, a basic belief in God and his commandments, is being removed from society.

 

No longer are we a nation but rather we are 300 Million nations. Individual rights are paramount. The common good is no longer the consideration. We are a selfish nation full of selfish people. We pursue whatever is best for us and we call that evolution of man. We see individual rights to pursue whatever we believe is right for us as paramount in our society. We no longer see subsuming ourselves to the greater good of the nation as the prime directive. We have become a nation of self-seekers. We have become a nation that if my rights that are unique to only me then the whole world must adjust its belief system to accommodate my needs. We are all about us individually. We are independent of the nation in which we live. The nation is here to serve us and not the other way around. We are now a maddening cacophony of individual gods seeking our own pleasure. We feel that we are entitled to the blessings that we have been given by God, but since we do not allow God into the stream of American thought anymore, our blessings come from ourselves. We are the reason we have the opulence we have. It has nothing to do with God, right? Do you not see the similarities of the new Israel, the United States, and the old Israel.

 

Israel had it made. It was the envy of the Middle East when David and Solomon were kings. God granted great blessing upon the nation when it was focused on giving glory to God. Under David and Solomon, Israel was a great power and was secure as a nation. Nobody messed with Israel when it was experiencing the blessings of God when the nation was obedient to God, when it was led by leaders who were obedient to God. Then, the nation became self-involved and self-seeking and self-pleasuring and turned away from God. Within 500 years after Solomon, the nation of Israel was ripped into two nations from within and then was ripped apart by the empires that developed around it. Then it was subject to the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Greeks, and the Romans to the point that Israel no longer existed. This all happened between the zenith of Israel’s power at the transition of power from David to Solomon in 971 BC to the final destruction of the Temple and dispersion of the Jews in 70 AD. Within 1040 years of the zenith of Israel’s power, it no longer existed and it was a slow painful dissent into disintegration.

 

We may have pushed God out of our lives in the United States and think we have evolved into a higher plane but saying He does not exist does not make Him not exist. Saying the elephant in the room is not there does not make the reality of the elephant being in the room any less valid. We think that we have evolved beyond the need for God. Israel did too. We are repeating the history of Israel right here, right now. We were once a nation after God’s own heart. Sure, we weren’t perfect then. No nation ever is. But in general we were a nation that chased after God and we allowed His principles to permeate our society. We experienced blessing. Blessings like a nation has never seen before. But, we like Israel, have become cocky at our own success and have begun to believe that we are our own gods. We seek self-fulfillment rather than God’s will. We have made ourselves our own idols. We are doing exactly what Israel did. We will experience the removal of blessing and the slow painful dissent into disintegration will follow.

 

Obey my commands and experience blessing. Disobey my commands and experience curses, the lack of blessing. Pretty simple. Pretty obvious. But how can two blessed nations, biblical Israel and modern day United States, not see the correlation.

 

The inevitable internal decay of our nation and its eventual subjugation to other nations as a curse for us straying from God is what I thought of when I read through this passage, Deuteronomy 11:8-32, today. Let’s read it together:

 

8 Observe therefore all the commands I am giving you today, so that you may have the strength to go in and take over the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess, 9 and so that you may live long in the land the Lord swore to your ancestors to give to them and their descendants, a land flowing with milk and honey. 10 The land you are entering to take over is not like the land of Egypt, from which you have come, where you planted your seed and irrigated it by foot as in a vegetable garden. 11 But the land you are crossing the Jordan to take possession of is a land of mountains and valleys that drinks rain from heaven. 12 It is a land the Lord your God cares for; the eyes of the Lord your God are continually on it from the beginning of the year to its end.

 

13 So if you faithfully obey the commands I am giving you today—to love the Lord your God and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul— 14 then I will send rain on your land in its season, both autumn and spring rains, so that you may gather in your grain, new wine and olive oil. 15 I will provide grass in the fields for your cattle, and you will eat and be satisfied.

 

16 Be careful, or you will be enticed to turn away and worship other gods and bow down to them. 17 Then the Lord’s anger will burn against you, and he will shut up the heavens so that it will not rain and the ground will yield no produce, and you will soon perish from the good land the Lord is giving you. 18 Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 19 Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 20 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates, 21 so that your days and the days of your children may be many in the land the Lord swore to give your ancestors, as many as the days that the heavens are above the earth.

 

22 If you carefully observe all these commands I am giving you to follow—to love the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him and to hold fast to him— 23 then the Lord will drive out all these nations before you, and you will dispossess nations larger and stronger than you. 24 Every place where you set your foot will be yours: Your territory will extend from the desert to Lebanon, and from the Euphrates River to the Mediterranean Sea. 25 No one will be able to stand against you. The Lord your God, as he promised you, will put the terror and fear of you on the whole land, wherever you go.

 

26 See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse— 27 the blessing if you obey the commands of the Lord your God that I am giving you today; 28 the curse if you disobey the commands of the Lord your God and turn from the way that I command you today by following other gods, which you have not known. 29 When the Lord your God has brought you into the land you are entering to possess, you are to proclaim on Mount Gerizim the blessings, and on Mount Ebal the curses. 30 As you know, these mountains are across the Jordan, westward, toward the setting sun, near the great trees of Moreh, in the territory of those Canaanites living in the Arabah in the vicinity of Gilgal. 31 You are about to cross the Jordan to enter and take possession of the land the Lord your God is giving you. When you have taken it over and are living there, 32 be sure that you obey all the decrees and laws I am setting before you today.

 

What is God’s curse? It is not some magician’s spell. To understand it, we must remember the conditions of the covenant between the superior party, God, and the inferior party, his chosen people, Israel. Both parties had agreed to the terms of the covenant. Blessings from the superior party would flow to Israel if they kept up the terms of the agreement through their actions. They would receive land, live there in peace forever, have fruitful crops, and expel their enemies and as a result be able to flourish as a secure nation. The would fall on Israel only if the broke the terms of the covenant by their actions. They would forfeit the grace and peace of the superior party, God, that the superior party was allowing them to have. Everything would be off the table then. Crop failures, susceptibility to invasion, and ultimately expulsion from their land would result. The protection of God would be removed. The blessings of peace and prosperity and the flourishing as a nation would all come under siege without the blessings of God. The removal of God’s protective hand, that’s the curse.

 

We have the same fundamental choice today as a nation and as individuals. We can live for ourselves or live in reverent awe and respect for our Creator. To choose our own way is to travel on a dead-end road without realizing that it will dead-end but to choose God’s way is to receive eternal life, to receive blessing, to receive his protection, to live in peace, on a road that has no end.

 

What’s it going to be? The nation reflects its individuals. So, it is up to us Americans to decide if we are going to do things God’s way or our own way. It is up to us as those who have been saved by the blood of Jesus Christ to become actively involved in turning our nation back to God. It’s only going to happen we care as individuals. We can no longer have the luxury of waiting for someone else to do it. We must as individuals do our part to turn our nation back to God. The choice seems so clear – blessing or the lack of blessing, flourishing nation when obedient to the Lord or a nation that will be conquered many times over when disobedient to the Lord.

 

Amen and Amen.

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Romans 10:5-21 — Let’s spend a couple days on this passage. Today, the message is that it is really simple actually!

Yesterday, we talked about the fact that when we leave it up to man, he will create religion. He will create checklists. He will make it about performance. He will make it complicated. Paul’s message here is that it really is quite simple.

In order to be saved by the law, one must live a perfect life without sinning one time ever. As far we can tell, there has only been one person who was flesh and bone that ever accomplished that. His name was Jesus. However, what about the rest of us? Why did God give us the law if He knew from the get-go that we would be unable to stand up under its weight? The reason that God gave it to us was to show us that we are guilty and in need of a Savior. The law was a foreshadowing of Christ. The sacrificial system that God instituted through Moses was to educate God’s people on the need for a Savior. It showed us that we need a way outside of ourselves to make us right with God. Jesus was the culmination of the OT sacrificial system. He was that which makes us right with God once and for all. No temporary sacrifices that atone us for a period of time. He was the permanent, once and for all sacrifice.

The old sacrificial system was complicated but Jesus’ coming to earth in the flesh makes it simple. Salvation, being made right with God, is as simple and as close as your heart and lips (which represent the mind). If we believe from the depths of our soul that Jesus is Lord and Savior and we confess with our mouth our belief in our mind that Jesus was raised from the dead, we will be saved. That’s it! No complicated pagan ceremonies of pleasing a man-made God. No keeping a checklist of things we have to be and do. No apprenticeship that must be served. No, it’s quite simple. Believe and speak. We must believe that Jesus is the one sent by God to die on the cross as the ultimate, final sacrifice for our sin-filled life that condemns us under the law. We must confess that He was indeed the Son of God by believing that He arose from the dead.

All other religions make things complicated. All other religions make it up to us to perform. Things that we must do to become one with the universe. Things we must do to achieve perfection. Things we must do to prove ourselves. Christianity is different. It is because Christianity, in its purest sense, is not a religion at all. It is about a relationship with the Father that we come to through simple faith in Jesus Christ. It is not complicated. We must learn that we are sinners incapable of earning our way to heaven. The law does that for us. We must learn that we need a Savior to intervene on our behalf. The law does that for us. We must learn that there’s not a thing we can do to keep ourselves from the hell that our dark souls deserve. The law does that for us. We cry out to the Messiah to save us from hell. Jesus does that for us. We must simply believe that Jesus is the one who died for us and our sins. We must simply believe that His death makes us right with God. God does this for us.

What a wacky religion that is? No black belts to earn over time. No complicated levels to attain? And guess what it is not something that we can use to segregate ourselves from others? Once you accept Jesus as your Savior, you have the same standing as a person who has been saved for 60 years. Once you accept Christ as your Savior you also can’t use it to say I’ve got it and you don’t. Being a Christ follower is available to anyone who will believe in their heart that Christ is Lord and who will confess with their mouth that they believe Jesus was raised from the dead. They are in the club once they have these beliefs. Not complicated. Simple. Jesus. Simple. Relationship not religion. Simple. Is it not true that the truth is simple and that lies are so complicated. All other religions are lies and are complicated. There is but one true way, there is but one truth, there is but one life. Jesus. Simple. Available to anyone who believes in their heart and mind that Jesus is Lord and that He was raised from the dead. Simple. Jesus.

Tomorrow, let’s revisit this passage one more time and talk about how this simple message must be shared since it is available to everyone who will believe!

Father, I have a simple prayer this morning. Thank you for pointing out through the law that I am a sinner in need of help from outside my efforts. Thank you for Jesus who is my Lord and Savior who was raised from the dead to demonstrate that He is indeed the Son of God. Thank you for His sacrifice that makes me right with you. Amen.