Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Tuesday, 16 March 21:
Deuteronomy 4:1, 2, 6, 9, 15, 35 — “And now, O Israel, listen to the statutes and the rules… do them, that you may live, and go in and take possession…. You shall not add to the word that I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God that I command you…. Keep them and do them, for that will be your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples, who, when they hear all these statutes, will say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’… Take care, and keep your soul diligently…. Watch yourselves very carefully…. To you it was shown, that you might know that the Lord is God; there is no other besides him.”
“By grace [we] have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.” (Ephesians 2:8) We weren’t saved by our good works; we were saved for good works. We weren’t saved so we could continue to live sinful, ungodly, defeated lives and yet go to heaven when we die, but rather so we could be free to live victorious lives in Christ, enjoying Him and bringing Him glory on this earth. Stop now, and read Romans 6 for more.
Picking up from yesterday’s readings, Moses continues his theme of ‘listen, obey, live, overcome the world (take possession), and glorify God.’ This is a message of victory, not victimization and failure. We are called to obedience grounded in love which is the greatest commandment of all –
- Luke 10:27 — “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”
- 1 John 4:12 — No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.
- 1 John 5:3 – “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.”
However, none of us are perfected in love; our motives are often mixed, but if we obey with a humble desire to grow in love, we will grow through the power of the Holy Spirit.
The Gospel is the good news that we have been freed from the PENALTY of sin through Christ; we are being freed from the POWER of sin in Christ, and we will one day be freed from the PRESENCE of sin when Christ returns to make all things new. The process of being freed from the power (influence) of sin in our lives is known as sanctification –
- Romans 6:19 — I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification.
- Romans 6:22 — But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.
- 1 Corinthians 1:30 — And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption….
- 1 Thessalonians 4:3 — For this is the will of God, your sanctification….
- Romans 8:29 — For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.
The path of sanctification, of discipleship, is one of continually growing obedience. Consider again the Great Commission – “And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’” (Matthew 28:18-20) Teaching them to what? “To observe (or obey) all that I have commanded….”
Today, Moses warns the people not to add to God’s word or take away from God’s word. Since the original sin, people have manipulated God’s word in an attempt to justify their own sin – “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” (Genesis 3:1) We attempt to adjust God’s word to our behavior rather than adjusting our behavior to God’s word. We add caveats or modifiers to God’s clear commands, or we downplay commands that we would rather not deal with in our lives. Consider what sins rarely come up in sermons or in Christian conversations today because they are so widely accepted among God’s people, all in the name of grace as an excuse for complacency, complicity, and compromise.
Also, pay close attention to what Moses says — “Keep them and do them, for that will be your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples, who, when they hear all these statutes, will say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’” Note that Moses addresses both what people will see from our behavior but also what they will hear from us. In other words, we must proclaim the Gospel and the Sovereignty of God in BOTH word and deed.
Many Christians have convinced themselves that they don’t need to publicly proclaim the truth, only serve as a visible, silent example of the truth. However, we have been entrusted with both the ministry and the message of reconciliation. (See 2 Corinthians 5:18, 19) Sometimes silence is appropriate, but too often, it is a comfort-based decision motivated by fear or complacency. What did Jesus model for us in Mark today? Not just healing – “Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:14, 15) “Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.” (Mark 1:38) Jesus’ message was repent and believe. Is that your message? How many times will you hear the word repent this year?
God commands us to obey. Jesus said obedience was the indicator of our love for Him (John 14:15), and the Bible commands us to proclaim His Gospel to all. Sharing the Gospel is an obvious command, a “no-brainer,” since love would never withhold the message of forgiveness and eternal life from anyone. And the Gospel message begins with a call for repentance, which is never an easy message; but it ends with grace through faith, which is a magnificent message — it is a two-edged sword that cuts and heals, that reveals both God’s judgment and God’s offer of grace and salvation. How well are you doing on your God-given command and ministry of reconciliation?
- Psalm 105:1 — Oh give thanks to the Lord; call upon his name; make known his deeds among the peoples!
- Isaiah 12:4 — Give thanks to the Lord, call upon his name, make known his deeds among the peoples, proclaim that his name is exalted.
- Ezekiel 3:17-19 — “Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel. Whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me. If I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die,’ and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, in order to save his life, that wicked person shall die for his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand. But if you warn the wicked, and he does not turn from his wickedness, or from his wicked way, he shall die for his iniquity, but you will have delivered your soul.
- Luke 12:8 — And I tell you, everyone who acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man also will acknowledge before the angels of God.
- Acts 1:8 — But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.
- Acts 13:47 — For so the Lord has commanded us, saying, “‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’”
- Acts 20:24 — But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.
- Romans 10:10-16 — For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” But they have not all obeyed the gospel.
- 1 Corinthians 2:1-2 — And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.
- 2 Corinthians 5:20 — Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.
- 2 Timothy 4:5 — As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.
- 2 Peter 3:9 — The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 16 Mar 21: Let nothing stop you today from obeying God and fulfilling your calling as Christ’s ambassador to the people around you.