If you will obey…

Have you thought about being a Christian? Are you a Christian in practice and not just on Sunday morning or Saturday or Wednesday night, depending upon when your church meets for services? God seeks people of faith who will obey His commandments and seek Him in all things. Why do I say this? Because God said so!

He told the Israelites to go into the Promised land and destroy utterly all of the pagan nations and people who lived there. Why? Because God knew that they would entice His people to “check out” their religion and their gods, and they would turn away from Him. Which is exactly what happened. But, before they crossed into that land, Moses gave them a sermon on obedience and the rewards that come with it.

I am not going to print the whole text of it but you can read it here. God told them through Moses that if they would obey Him and keep their belief and their faith in Him, that He would bless them mightily but He also said that if they did not obey, there would be consequences.

If you have ever read the Bible, particularly Exodus and Deuteronomy, you know what happened. They would obey for a time, then they would begin to follow the practices of those around them because they didn’t follow God’s command. It is like watching a child of two or three when you tell them not to do something and you go to leave the room and immediately they move toward the very thing you told them to leave alone. Like the cookie jar or some other treat which tastes so good, but you have told them not to eat more than one.

This happened all through the wilderness and it was the very reason why they had to wander for forty years. They refused to obey God or listen to His wisdom. He had told them that He would drive out the people ahead of them if they would obey Him and they were afraid. Only two men out of the twelve would go into the promised land and they were the ones ready to go because the Lord said that He would be with them and fight for them. They were Caleb and Joshua.

All of the others died in the wilderness from the age of twenty on up except for those two men. Caleb took his land away from those who were there when he was 80 years of age. Joshua led the rest of Israel into battle many times and he was 80 when they crossed the Jordan into the Promised land. After his death, the people forgot about how God had provided for them and they began to follow their own ways of living and to follow the religions of people who were living there, just as God had told them not to do.

Even when Israel demanded a king be placed over them, even the king didn’t obey God when he went up against another ruler. The very first battle that Saul fought after being crowned King, he disobeyed God’s decree. He had been told by the prophet Samuel to wait and he, Samuel, would come and pray for their victory over the Philistines. When Samuel delayed in coming, after seven days Saul put the priest’s ephod on himself and offered burnt offerings to God because his troops were afraid.

It is at this point that God told Samuel to find a King from among the people who had a heart like His. He went to a man named Jesse and chose David and anointed him to be King, but he wasn’t crowned King until after Saul had ruled for a long time.

The point that I am making here is that God requires obedience not sacrifices or outward shows of our loyalty. God doesn’t require a burnt offering but He does require our obedience to Him, but it usually is our pride which causes us to do our own thing and try to serve Him in our own way. If we would just learn from the failures of Israel in the Old Testament we could and would be so much more effective in our lives and in serving God today.

Trust and obey, how can we do that today?

And she named the child Ichabod, saying, “The glory is departed from Israel”: because the ark of God was taken, and because of her father in law and her husband. (Isaiah 4:21)

At the wedding in Cana, Mary the mother of Jesus told the servants, His mother said to the servants, “Whatever He says to you, do it.”

In the first quote from Isaiah, it was a time of Israel’s departure from worshipping God. They were following all of the stuff that was around them in the promised land. The gods of the different people had enticed them, the people had enticed them and they had fallen out of love with God. Why? Because they had done it before, time and time again. People today ask, “How did the gods entice them?” Satan and his demons were the gods and they would cause things to happen from time to time so that the god seemed real, but the piece of wood or metal was still just as deaf and dumb as it was before. When the ark of God was taken from Israel, the Spirit of God did leave the Temple and the nation itself.

In the second quote above, the mother of Jesus told the servants to make sure that they did what He told them to do. Why? Because of Who He was and Who He is! Today, we have many churches which have formed their own doctrines and their own requirements for worship, but they are man-made! What good is that? Anything done by man or made by man will flop if it is not done for the Glory of God! If what you are doing in your life is only for yourself and nobody else, then it may work for a while but ultimately it will fail. It doesn’t matter if it is a business or your marriage, if you haven’t dedicated it to God and His Kingdom and make sure that you seek His Wisdom for it every day, then there will be trouble at some point. It may start as something small and insignificant but it will get worse.

Give your heart and your life as well as yourself to Jesus. Dedicate your marriage and your business to Him by giving ten percent of your increase to the church and God’s Kingdom. All of these are the beginning of wise living, the most important is giving yourself to Jesus and asking Him to come into your life. Live your life as if He was walking with you because if you have asked Him into your life, He is. Be careful of your business dealings, make sure that they would glorify God no matter what you do. The outward appearance of holiness without the inward man being renewed by Jesus, if like a white-washed tomb. It is pretty, but it isn’t clean. Just as you can clean up a hog and take it to the ring and show it off, but as soon as you let him out of the trailer at home, he will go straight to the mud wallow.

Living your life as Jesus would is the only way to show the world exactly Who it is that we follow. If they can’t see Jesus in your life, then He very likely isn’t in your life or your heart. Remember the clean hog? He is only clean until you let him out, then he goes right back to what he was doing before. Love and the power to change comes with Jesus, if you can’t show others both of those results in your life, then maybe you need the One Who can clean you up inside and out.

To finish the story from the wedding in Cana, Jesus told the servants to fill six water jars (about thirty gallons each) to the brim, then take it to the man in charge of the wedding. He told the groom, “Most people give the best wine at the first, then bring out the cheap wine. You have saved the best wine for last”.

It was because the servants did what Jesus told them to do that the miracle happened. The water was not special. Neither were the pots. What made the difference? First, it was the One who gave the command and second it was the obedience of the servants. Obedience is the thing which God has always looked for in us. From the Garden all the way through the Bible to the end of the age, it is our obedience, faithfully doing the will of God which brings the most blessings into our lives and in the lives of others.

Many people might ask the question, “How do I find the will of God for my life?”. That answer is simple: seek Him out in reading the Bible, prayer for His wisdom in your life, pray that He would reveal His will to you through His Word. Just as Jesus said, “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and all of these things will be added unto you.” Matthew 6:33

The Wisdom of God is contained within the pages of our Bibles, all that you need to do is read it, study it, pray over it and seek Him in it. Then pray about the things which you feel led to do by His Spirit. If He leads you to come to Him in repentance, then do that! It doesn’t matter how many years you have been in church! If you have been a member of a church for five years or fifty, that won’t save you if you haven’t given your heart to Jesus and asked Him to change you into what and who He knows you can be!

Live for Him, allow Him to live and work through you every day, because this is how many people will come to know Him and your example may be the only time that they ever meet Jesus before the end of their life. Make sure that they recognize Him through you.

Lies, lies, lies

In one sense all lies are lies to God. However, as the passage below shows, there is a particular type of lie that qualifies specifically as lying to God. I think of this as “lying on steroids.” Often, this lie is not about hiding things that are wicked, but about misrepresenting things that appear to be good, even righteous. This is where the greatest danger lies for children raised in Christian homes. That is why your parenting must go beyond addressing just their behavior.

Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property. With his wife’s full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles’ feet. Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied to men but to God.” Acts 5:1-4

Each day you challenge your children to obey God. In each home this challenge comes with the promise of some kind of negative consequence for not obeying and some type of reward for obedience. Even when you neglect to follow through with the consequences of disobedience, the specter of accountability hangs in the air. Given their sinful nature, the tendency of children is to find ways to avoid these consequences. At the same time, there is also the promise of reward attached to requests for obedience. So again, even when the reward is not consistent (or even not biblical), human nature desires the reward, whether it is deserved or not.

For example, one sibling sees that his sister is rewarded for cleaning. So, he is careful to mention that he too, helped, even if he did not actually do anything. This child realizes that he can achieve what he wants if his parents perceive that he is doing good things. Thus, he might participate by appearing to be busy, but only when mom is looking. Internally, he may be resentful of having to do something he doesn’t want to, but he is motivated by the reward or praise he thinks he will receive. He may even agree that God helped him to obey because he knows that is what his parents want to hear. This deceptive, self-serving attitude may eventually lead to the kind of deception that Ananias and Sapphira practiced. They were seeking praise and status without the sacrificial spirit of truly loving Christ. It was in this way that they lied to God.

As parents, you must not become complacent when your children give only outward compliance to your directions. If you put up with a grumbling, complaining spirit as the price for your children following your directions, you open the door to lying to God. God desires obedience from the heart, not the outward form of ritual sacrifice. (Amos 5:21-23; Isaiah 29:13) So, the mindset that says, “At least he took the garbage out, even though he moaned and groaned about it,” totally misses the point of loving God. This child is not being shepherded. Rather he is being encouraged to believe that God will be satisfied with mere outward compliance to his commands, even when his heart is not involved in his obedience.

Ananias and Sapphira believed that they could trade the appearance of obedience for spiritual status—for recognition from others that they were devoted to the church. But God is not mocked. He cannot be deceived. Lying expresses the hypocrisy of the human heart. This is why the Lord detests lying lips. As lies progress beyond mere self-protection to the point of lying to achieve personal desires, the danger of lying directly to God increases. Ananias and Sapphira tried to manipulate the appearance of doing good. The fatal mistake they made was thinking they could deceive God as well as people.

Lying is not something to ignore, deal with lying whenever you discover it. Don’t allow the busy routine of life to cover patterns of outward compliance. But we must address this sin carefully and wisely. This requires a substantial investment of time and biblical wisdom.

Pray like your life depends on it!

If you leave out the power of God that comes with fervent prayer that will not take no for an answer, none of your Bible study or church or choir practice or the church building will do you any good at all. By praying to God like your life depends on the outcome and you won’t take “No” for answer, your life can be immeasurably impacted by what He can and will do in your life!

Especially if you aren’t sure of your position in Christ, fervent prayer is what you need to do. Your life actually does depend on your prayer and how you approach God with it, your present life may not depend on it but your eternal life can be radically changed by what you pray for and how you pray!

For instance, consider how you would pray if your child were deathly ill or even your wife or husband were in such serious condition that nothing that modern medicine has will help. How would you pray then? If you haven’t given your heart and life to God and asked His forgiveness for your ignoring His grace toward you through Jesus Christ, then that is exactly how you should pray for yourself!

You can decide that you don’t want to believe that God would condemn you to hell for that, but it will have the same effect as not believing in gravity, it won’t go away because of your non-belief. Your life, especially your eternal life is in God’s hands but your fate in eternity is in yours. Believe or don’t, eternity is still ahead of you and the result and the consequences of your belief or lack of belief will be totally in your hands.

God loves you and never intended for you or any of us to be sent to hell. It was created specifically for Satan and those who have chosen to follow him by not believing in the saving power of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. This doesn’t mean that you have ever worshiped Satan, but by not giving your heart to Jesus you have put yourself in the same place, the same camp as Satan. Whether you believe that or not won’t change anything either. Your belief or disbelief won’t change anything unless your faith and belief is placed in Jesus. When you have done that, then your life really begins to matter because every word that you say, every action that you do can have a greater impact on those around you once Jesus is in your heart!

The grace and mercy that was imparted to each one of us on Calvary two thousand years ago is something that we can’t understand without Jesus. The love that the Father has for us is also something which we can’t comprehend, even with Jesus but we can get a taste of that love through Jesus’ presence in our lives.

So, what do we do with His presence in our lives once we have it? Jesus told us to “Go and tell the world the gospel, the good news of salvation that is available to all”. Granted, he didn’t say it in those exact phrases but that is what He meant for us to do with our salvation and the wonder of the grace that has been imparted to each of us. If you accept His grace and the salvation that it gives to you, then you are fortunate indeed, because the Creator of everything knew you from the beginning. He knows your name and everything that you do, whether you have given your life to Him or not, so why not make this relationship a two-way relationship? None of us can hide from God, Jonah found that out and many others have as well, especially me! God called me over twenty years ago and I heard Him, I just didn’t want to do what I felt He was calling me to do. So, I ignored Him for a while, like about eighteen years or so.

Then, when I heard Him again it was like He was saying “Can you hear Me now?”, “Are you ready now?” This time, I answered “Yes!” and I have been doing what He wanted me to do, to the best of my ability, ever since. I am not saying that my prayer life is better than yours or that I am more “righteous”, what I am saying about a calling from God is that we have to obey it, we need to obey it. Obedience is the one message that is echoed throughout the entirety of God’s Word, from the beginning to the end it is the one action that gets action in your life and the life of others because that is what God wants from us.

Just like parents when your child obeys you and it makes you happy and proud that they did what you asked of them, God feels the same way! Obedience to a calling from God will move you in directions that you never anticipated, maybe you don’t want to go in that direction, but if you obey the calling of God, it will work for your life and for His purpose.