Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Friday, 1 July 2022:
Deuteronomy 27:1 — “Keep the whole commandment that I command you today.”
How serious and diligent are you in your obedience to the Lord? Your obedience reveals the truth of your relationship with the God. Jesus said it plainly, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (John 14:15) John, known as the apostle of love, added, “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.” (1 John 5:3) In other words, if you wholeheartedly love God, obedience is not a burden but rather a joy, your earnest desire. When we lovingly obey God, we abide, or remain, in His love and experience the fullness of joy in Him – “Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us.” (1 John 3:24) In today’s readings, Moses warns the Israelites to keep the “whole commandment.” Likewise, Jesus, who quoted Deuteronomy more than any other book of the Bible, commanded us in Matthew 28 to teach others to observe, or obey, “all” that He commanded. Partial obedience is disobedience. The more we grow in our love for the Lord, the more earnest our desire to remove any sin which would hinder our relationship with Him and our witness to others.
- Hebrews 12:1 — Let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
- Song of Solomon 2:15 — Catch the foxes for us, the little foxes that spoil the vineyards….
- Proverbs 25:26 — Like a muddied spring or a polluted fountain is a righteous man who gives way before the wicked.
- 1 Peter 1:15-16 — …but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”
For some, the word obedience is a killjoy; it conjures up notions of legalism, judgmentalism, guilt, shame, and confinement. Many view exhortations for obedience as antithetical to the message of grace. But Christian obedience isn’t motivated by a desire to earn God’s love (which is impossible by definition) but rather to unite with God in love, to experience the fulness of God’s love, to display God’s love, to live out God’s love, and to share God’s love. Obedience to God is the natural desire of the one who loves God, and it is how we love others.
- Matthew 7:21 — “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.
- Luke 11:28 — But he said, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!”
- Luke 6:46 — Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?
- John 14:15 — “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”
- John 14:23 — Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.
- Philippians 2:8 — And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
- 1 Peter 1:14 — As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance….
- 2 Corinthians 10:5 — We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ….
- Romans 1:5 — Through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations….
- James 1:22 — But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.
- 1 John 3:10-11, 14, 16-18, 23 — By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother. For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another…. We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death…. By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth…. And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us.
- 1 John 4:7-12, 16-21 — Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us…. So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.
The foundation of all of God’s commands is love. The first and greatest commandment is love, and the others are practices of love, or labors of love. Love is required to obey, and obedience is required to love – “Love [comes] from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” (1 Timothy 1:5) Jesus harshly rebuked the Pharisees for pridefully obeying outward, observable commands (the law) in order to claim for themselves righteousness, while neglecting the most important, inward, unobservable command of truly loving God with all their hearts, souls, and minds, as well as truly loving others. Jesus called those who unlovingly obeyed commandments hypocritical (the word hypocrite means stage actor), pretending to be loving. When we don’t feel like obeying from a heart of love, when obedience is still a burden rather than a joy, we must obey nonetheless, but not from pharisaical pride; rather, from a humble, repentant heart, earnestly desiring to grow into Christ-like love (See Philippians 2:1-9). For the humble Christian, in full acknowledgement of God’s mercy and grace, our imperfect acts of love are not window dressing or whitewash to disguise our true motives but rather practices of love intended to develop in us a more loving character with the continual help of the Holy Spirit as we seek to more closely emulate the righteousness of Christ (which has been credited to us), along with His mercy and grace.
- Matthew 21:28-31 — “What do you think? A man had two sons. And he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ And he answered, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he changed his mind and went. And he went to the other son and said the same. And he answered, ‘I go, sir,’ but did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you.
Our practices of love, though often poorly motivated, can produce positive external effects for others (clothing the poor, feeding the hungry, etc.) and can also produce (with humble submission to the counsel of the Holy Spirit) positive internal results, conditioning our hearts to a more genuine love. So, in practice, we often obey out of a sense of duty (“I don’t really want to, but I know I am supposed to.”) while seeking to obey out of genuine love. Certainly, if we waited for a perfect heart to obey, we wouldn’t obey much at all. Rather, humble obedience helps perfect our hearts. It is in our imperfect pursuit of loving obedience where God calls us to walk confidently in His grace as He continues to sanctify us.
Grace-based living doesn’t feel trapped in hopeless disobedience or in tedious works of obedience. Instead, grace-based living celebrates the righteousness we have in Christ, which enables us to freely and fearlessly pursue lives of righteousness and genuine love, and grace-based living expects God to make obedience increasingly a joy to us rather than a burden.
- Matthew 11:28-29 — Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
Ephesian 4:23 and Romans 12:2 reminds us that our behavior starts with our thoughts. What we choose to focus our attention on will guide our thoughts. The key to sanctification is not focusing more on our failures and inadequacies (identifying our weaknesses and seeking greater will-power) but rather focusing more on Jesus. The more we appreciate the love of Christ and the reality of our righteousness in Him, and the more we “abide” in Him, the more His love will be perfected in us, and the more we will joyfully obey Him. Fix your eyes on Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith. (Hebrews 12:2)
“Keep the whole commandment that I command you today.”
Deuteronomy 27:6 — “You shall build an altar to the LORD your God of uncut stones.”
Uncut stones took man’s efforts out of the equation for worship. The alter focused all attention on the works of God rather than the works of man. There was no human pride attached to the sacrifice or to worship.
Deuteronomy 27:9-10 — “Keep silence and hear,… you have become the people of the LORD your God. You shall therefore obey the voice of the LORD your God, keeping his commandments and his statutes, which I command you today.”
Talk less; obey more.
Deuteronomy 27:12-13 — “When you have crossed over the Jordan, these shall stand on Mount Gerizim to bless the people: Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Joseph, and Benjamin. And these shall stand on Mount Ebal for the curse: Reuben, Gad, Asher, Zebulun, Dan, and Naphtali.”
The mountains and the tribes selected for the proclamation of either blessings our curses are intentional. Concerning the mountains, some have suggested that when the people faced Mount Gerizim, which was very green, they faced Jerusalem, but when they faced Mount Ebal, which was without vegetation or bald, they turned their backs on Jerusalem – a physical contrast representing the consequences of good and evil. Concerning the selected tribes, there have been many suggestions. Those on Gerizim, the mount of blessing, are children of Jacob’s lawful wives, Leah and Rachel (Gen 35:23-26). Reuben and Zebulun (children of Leah) are the exceptions— Reuben was cursed because he had sexual relations with Bilhah, his father’s concubine (Gen 35:22; 1 Chron 5:1). It is still unclear to me as to why Zebulun makes the list of cursers.
Deuteronomy 27:15-27 — Life and obedience to God is all about relationships.
Note: Check out this video overview of Philippians as you prepare to read the book — https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oE9qqW1-BkU
Philippians 1:1, 2 — “Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all the saints in Christ Jesus… Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Paul’s letter offers some very important insights into his perspective on our role in Christ: We are called to be servants and saints as Christ’s ambassadors on a mission of reconciliation, proclaiming grace and peace on behalf of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. We are all partners in the gospel, sharing in God’s grace. Christians have a heart for one another, continually and joyfully praying for one another as we all endeavor to grow more Christ-like each day and struggle to remain faithful to our calling under the great challenges presented by the world, the flesh, and the devil. As Christians (“people of the book”), we know that love must be accompanied by knowledge and insight so we can understand specifically what God’s will is in order to pursue purity and holiness and to truly live a life of fidelity, worthy of the Gospel of Christ. Our aim is to courageously and fearlessly proclaim the gospel, and we know that the more courageous we are, the more we inspire others to confidence (iron sharpens iron). We preach God’s truth not because we are judgmental “haters” but rather out of love and goodwill. We are not ashamed of the Gospel, and we are not afraid of the world’s response to our message, because we have already been crucified with Christ and no longer live, but Christ lives in us. Our suffering for the gospel is fellowship with Christ. Our suffering on behalf of Christ is for us a gift from God, and in faith, we stand firm in unity before a sinful world.
Philippians 1:6 — “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”
You are a work in progress.
Philippians 1:7-11 — “You are all partakers with me of grace…. For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.”
Living by Grace, we are called to grow day-by-day in ever-increasing love, purity, and righteousness, through the power of Christ in order to bring glory to Him. Grace is not an excuse to continue in sin.
Philippians 1:12-14 — “I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.”
God places you in challenging circumstances and with difficult people so that you can spread the Gospel while God also builds up your godly character. Don’t resent the circumstances God has given you. Be thankful.
“There are two ways to look at every situation: How it will affect you, and how it will affect God’s kingdom. The apostle Paul was always concerned with how his circumstances might aid the spreading of the Gospel. When he was unjustly imprisoned, he immediately looked to see how his imprisonment might provide God’s salvation to others (Phil. 1:13; Acts 16:19-34). When he was assailed by an angry mob, he used the opportunity to preach the Gospel (Acts 22:1-21). When Paul’s criminal proceedings took him before the king, his thoughts were on sharing his faith with the king! (Acts 26:1-32). Even when Paul was shipwrecked on an island, he used that opportunity to share the gospel there. Regardless of his circumstance, Paul’s concern was how he could use his current situation to tell others of God’s good news of salvation.
Often when we encounter a new situation, our first thoughts are not about God’s kingdom. When we face a crisis, we can become angry or fearful for our own well-being, rather than looking to see what God intends to do through our circumstances. If we remain self-centered we will miss so much of what God could do through our experiences, both for us and for those around us.
Ask God to make you aware of how He could use your present circumstances to bless others. Perhaps someone around you needs to see the difference Christ’s presence makes in your life. Are you willing for God to use your circumstances to demonstrate His saving power to those around you?” (Henry T. Blackaby)
Philippians 1:15-16 — “Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. The latter do it out of love.” There are those who use the word of God for the wrong motives. But Bible doesn’t tell us to just speak the truth but rather to “speak the truth in love.”
God knows everyone’s motives and judges the heart. Check your own heart before you challenge others with the word of God; make sure you are not being motivate by fear, pride, anger, envy, or anything other than love.
Philippians 1:24, 25 — “My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account.”
In Christ, our only goal for life on earth should be to grow closer to Christ and to bring others closer to Christ. Nothing else really matters. To draw closer to Christ, you must obey Him. If you obey Him, all the issues of life will be resolved.
Philippians 1:27-28 — “Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ… standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents.”
God intends for you to “strive” with other Christians to advance the Gospel with boldness. Striving is no small effort. The Greek word used here is “sunathleō,” from where we get the word “athletics.” The root word athleō was used of gladiators fighting in the arena. Paul pictured us fighting together, side by side in the arena of this world in a life and death battle to advance the gospel – “and not frightened in anything by your opponents.” Are you courageously striving for the Gospel? Who is fighting at your side?
“Paul never lost his wonder at having been called by God. He understood that the way he lived ought to be worthy of the King who had chosen him. He knew that the mystery of the gospel had been hidden for generations and had only been revealed in his day through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ (Col. 1:26-27). Paul also understood that until people accept the gospel, they are spiritually dead and therefore without hope (Col. 2:13). As a result of God’s plan of salvation, those who trust in Jesus are not only made alive in Christ but are also adopted as the Father’s children (Rom. 8:16-17). Paul recognized that though the Gospel sounds like foolishness to the world, it is the power of God that brings eternal life to those who accept it.
Because Paul’s life had been radically transformed by the gospel, he was intent on living to honor the gospel that gave him life. It would have been tragic to receive the riches of the gospel and then to live as a spiritual pauper. It would have been disgraceful to be saved from death by the blood of Christ and then show no reverence for that sacrifice. It would have been foolish to accept such love from Christ and then to resent what He asked in return.
The way you live your life ought to be a tribute to the matchless grace that your Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, has bestowed upon you.” (Henry T. Blackaby)
Philippians 1:29 — “For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake.”
Suffering for God is a special trust granted to you by God Himself. You should be honored to suffer for Him.
Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 1 July 22: God has called you to proclaim the Gospel to the world, to go into the world and make disciples, teaching them to obey all that Jesus commanded (Matt 28:19-21), to be an Ambassador for Christ (2 Cor 5:20), proclaiming the mission of reconciliation (2 Cor 5:19), to dedicate your whole life and all of your energy to spreading the Good News (Philp 1). So, today, evaluate your mission accomplishment so far, and rededicate yourself to total commitment. Don’t waist your life chasing after things that don’t matter.