Sunday, December 7, 2014

"What a difference a 'little' disobedience can make ... "

Day #345:  Daily Bible Reading Plan - December 8th

Scripture Reading:  Deuteronomy 26 - 28 ...

Does obedience to God really matter?  God knows we aren't perfect and all of us disobey God sometimes.  What's the big deal?  I fear that in this age of GRACE we have forgotten that God's blessing is still tied to obedience!  We know that salvation is not dependent on our works.  "It is by grace you have been saved, through faith (and that not from yourselves - it is the gift of God) not by works, so that no one may boast" (Ephesians 2:8-9).  But the very next verse explains that "we (believers) are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God has prepared in advance for us to do" (Ephesians 2:10).  Though we are saved by grace, the fact remains that God's blessing in this life is tied to obedience, and there are consequences for disobedience.

As the people of Israel are about to enter into the promised land, Moses instructs them once more in the simplest of God's dealings with mankind:  Obedience brings His blessing; disobedience brings His curses.  God NEVER takes disobedience lightly.  This is why James writes centuries later that "faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead" (James 2:17).  Faith in God understands that we do not belong to ourselves, but to the One who created us for His glory.  In His Law God reveals His glory and obedience to His law is the very righteousness Jesus tells us to pursue when He says, "Seek first His kingdom AND His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you as well" (Matthew 6:33).  He was saying the same thing Moses says in our reading for today.

Do not consider these things as a means to earn your salvation, but as evidence that you ARE saved, that you are one of God's chosen people.  Notice that Moses says, "WHEN you have entered the land the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance ..." (26:1), and "WHEN you have crossed the Jordan into the land the LORD your God is giving you ..." (27:2).  God keeps His promises and fulfills everything He has said He will do.  Moses tells them, "You have now become the people of the LORD your God.  Obey the LORD your God and follow His commands and decrees that I give you today" (27:9-10).  And here is God's promise:  "If you fully obey the LORD your God ... the LORD your God will set you high above all the nations on earth.  All these blessings will come upon you and accompany you if you obey the LORD your God" (28:1-2).

These promises were given specifically to Israel, the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  But now, through Christ, the "Seed of Abraham," we who believe in Jesus receive the same promises IN Christ Jesus.  Obedience brings blessing.  Putting God FIRST and worshiping Him and not the things of the world bears fruit in our lives.  God commanded His people to bring the first fruits of their land to the Levites and to those in need.  This would be a sign that they were His people and that they were different than the nations around them.  We must recognize that to be a disciple of Jesus Christ today means that WE are "a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that we may declare the praises of Him who has called us out of darkness and into His wonderful light" (I Peter 2:9).  Putting God first and bringing Him the first fruits of His blessings to us acknowledges that ALL we have belongs to Him.

As certainly as God can bring blessing into your life and mine, He can remove it just as quickly.  Moses warned the people that the blessings would turn to curses if they turned away from the LORD their God.  There are thousands upon thousands of examples of lives that have faced untold heartache and trials due to disobedience to the LORD, our God.  This does NOT mean that every time a believer faces trials that it is due to some disobedience and is thus discipline from Him.  God often allows His children to go through trials so that our faith may be strengthened and we may testify that His grace and strength are sufficient for our every need.  In fact, it is in the midst of such struggles that the light of faith and victory in Jesus shine the brightest!

Still, disobedience has its own "reward," its own consequence.  After pointing out the blessings that obedience brings, Moses declares, "HOWEVER, if you do NOT obey the LORD your God and do NOT carefully follow all His commands and decrees I am giving you today, all these curses will come upon you and overtake you" (28:15).  Once again, these words were spoken specifically to Israel, and they would, indeed, face the just rewards of their idolatry and rebellion in the centuries to come.  All the curses would come upon them because they turned away from God and brought His judgment on themselves.  But there was a remnant within Israel, as there is today among the nations, who believed in God, who trusted in Him and who lived to serve Him.  At times their number was small, and it is much smaller today than most may think, but these understand God's unchanging principle and seek God's blessing in their lives through their obedience to His Word.

Reading through the Gospels it is impossible to imagine Jesus telling His disciples that it didn't matter whether they kept His commands or not.  People who do not have a desire to please God quite simply do not know God, and certainly do not love God with all their heart, with all their mind and with all their strength - what Jesus calls the "greatest commandment."  In His "Great Commission," Jesus spoke to His disciples shortly before His ascension into heaven and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me.  Go and make disciples of all nations; baptizing them into the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit; teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.  And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age" (Matthew 28:18-20).  Obedience is not the CAUSE of our salvation, but it IS the result of the work of God's Spirit within us.  Where there is no desire to obey God, the Spirit is not present and the sinful nature is still in control.

Moses told the people to build an altar and to bring their "fellowship offerings" there, "eating them and rejoicing in the presence of the LORD your God" (27:9).  Fellowship with God is sweet as you live in obedience to His Word.  Disobedience causes guilt and a sense of separation from God, even though He says He will never leave or forsake His own.  In Christ, God has made a way for us to return to Him, through confession and repentance and faith.  "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (I John 1:9).  But we who believe do not take God's grace for granted.  Only those who do not know Christ believe they can continue to live in unrepentant sin and rely on God's grace to cover their sin through the blood of Jesus.

True faith, then and now, produces within us the desire to love God and to obey God.  The two go hand-in-hand.  One does not exist without the other.  Draw near to God today, bring your offerings of thanksgiving and praise and trust in Jesus Christ for forgiveness of your sins.  Be quick to confess and pray that God would help you daily to put to "put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness" (Ephesians 4:22-24).  There is no such thing as a "little" disobedience.  God calls you and me to holiness!  Pursue it with a greater passion than those who do not know God pursue their own desires and you will find that obedience always brings our Father's blessing in one way or another, sooner or later.

"God is not unjust; He will not forget your work and the love you have shown Him as you have helped His people and continue to help them.  We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, in order to make your hope sure.  We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised" (Hebrews 6:10-12).  May that be YOU!!

"O LORD, our God, Your Word reminds me that to obey You is its own reward, for in obedience to Your Word I discover freedom from the old nature that desires to enslave me.  Convict me by Your Spirit when I stray from Your Word, when I am drawn by the desires of the flesh to disobey Your commands, and move me to return to you in true confession and repentance, claiming Your grace and forgiveness in Christ Jesus, and pursuing holiness and righteousness through the power of Your Spirit Who is at work within me.  Let my life reflect Your glory to those around me so that they, too, may be drawn to turn away from sin to follow the path of righteousness for Your name's sake!  In Jesus' name, Amen"

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