Tuesday, June 27, 2017
You shall FOLLOW the Lord your God and fear Him;
and you shall keep His commandments, listen to His voice,
serve Him and cling to Him.
The first command is to FOLLOW the Lord your God. This word defined means to go or come after; move or travel behind; strive after; aim at. It implies that one is in front and one is behind, one is leading and one is following.
I talk a lot about following when I counsel with women. Following is one of the hardest roles of the wife and it is perhaps the most important. In Ephesians 5 Paul uses the military term "submit" when he instructs wives to follow their husbands. This means to willingly place yourself under your husband's authority.
In our context today, God is not instructing only women to follow Him, but men and women alike. We are called to willingly place ourselves under God's authority, step aside and let Him lead. In essence, this is what happens at salvation.
In our fleshly, sinful state, we were not following God but instead rebelling against Him and His lordship. At salvation we recognize our need for a savior and we willingly place ourselves under God's authority. When we accept His free gift of salvation, we are turning over the leadership to Him. Our way is to failure, His way is to life. We have a new Leader, a new Master and He is not only good, faithful and just, He is a worthy Master. He proved His love for us when He took our punishment on Calvary.
Following is an act of trust. It says, I trust where you are taking me. I trust what you are asking of me. I trust that you will not hurt me, but that you love me. When I was a young girl, my father took my older sister and I to a haunted house. I thought I was tough enough for it but as I stood outside on that cold October evening, waiting to go in, my confidence started to get shaky. By the time we entered the house, I knew I had made a big mistake. So I put my full trust in my father and I followed him...literally. I wrapped my arms around his waist from behind, dug my head into the back of his jacket and held on for dear life. Occasionally I pulled away to see if it was as scary as it sounded, and the answer is, yes, it was. In the end, I made it out of the house in one piece, much in part to my father's sheer strength of pulling me through that nightmare.
When following the Lord, sometimes it is that scary. Sometimes we have to just hang on for dear life and let Him take us where He wants to. You see, the more you know your heavenly Father, the more you will understand that His heart is for you, not against you. In Genesis, Joseph went on a journey that was miserable at times, being beaten and sold into slavery by his brothers, lied to and thrown in prison and forgotten for years. But in the end, where that road took him was beyond anyone's imagination. Only God could take this young Hebrew boy and place him second in command in Egypt. What I admire about Joseph is that through it all, he willingly placed himself under God's authority, never doubting that God was good, faithful and that He loved him and had a plan for him. It required a lot of patience and at times was even painful, but his choice to follow God brought great blessing in his life all along the way.
Colossians 3:1-3 says:
Therefore, if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on the earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
When we set our minds on the things above, we are seeking His face, seeking His will, living our lives with an eternal perspective. Jesus said it pretty simply: Follow Me. The command to follow Jesus is the starting point of your life with Christ. Willingly placing yourself under His authority - this puts order back into your life and gets you headed in the right direction.
How about reading through Joseph's story today? I trust you will be encouraged as you see God's love and care, and great provision for this man of faith.
Genesis 37, 39-45. Enjoy!
Wednesday, June 21, 2017
You shall follow the Lord your God and fear Him;
and you shall keep His commandments, listen to His voice,
serve Him, and cling to Him.
I love a good "In Christ" series, but this is not going to be the typical one. The typical one looks at who we are in Christ - adopted, beloved, justified, redeemed, enlightened, saved, righteous, holy, chosen, etc. Instead of looking at what Jesus has done for us in changing our identity, I want to study what is on our side of the table - what is our responsibility. Now before any of you cry, "Heresy!", I want to assure you that our ability to be in Christ is solely through His actions, however we do have a response to His gift of salvation. His redemptive work gives us the ability to respond and transform, but we don't simply wake up one morning, look in the mirror and realize we have become perfect. Nope, we have some work to do and technically, perfection isn't a "this life" reality anyways...
So, what has been your experience? I know many who have been drawn to the church, moved by the worship and teaching, came forward with a prayer of decision and possibly even a baptism, and then went home and said, "Now what?" It's that question that I want to address. Now that I am in Christ, what do I do?
I have been studying the book of Exodus for our women's group this fall and that study has taken me into the Law. Oh. My. Goodness! The Law is WONDERFUL! Yes, I said wonderful. As I have studied the Law, I have seen the heart of God for broken man more clearly than ever before. He understands how sin has infected the mind of man, which has diminished his ability to reason and live sensibly and lovingly, so God has patiently laid out instructions that not only bring Him glory, but also provide stability and justice for His people.
By the time you get to Deuteronomy 13, God is addressing false prophets, who were alive and well 4,000 years ago, just as they still are today. These people did not just promote chasing after false gods, but their messages were backed up with signs and wonders. Now, if a miracle accompanies a message, it has to be from God, right? But what if that message contradicts the Law? Then the message must be rejected and the prophet must be put to death!
It is interesting. Not just the prophet is to be killed, but even the person who chases after his false god and wants others to do so, as well. Listen to what the Lord says in verses 6-9:
If your brother, your mother's son, or your son or daughter, or the wife you cherish, or your friend who is as your own soul, entice you secretly, saying, "Let us go and serve other gods' (whom neither you or your fathers have known, of the gods of the peoples who are around you, near you, from one end of the earth to the other end), you shall not yield to him or listen to him; and your eye shall not pity him, nor shall you spare or conceal him. BUT YOU SHALL SURELY KILL HIM; your hand shall be first against him to put him to death and afterwards the hand of all the people." (emphasis mine)
Now, don't start planning the murder of the people in your life who worship false gods because we don't have a government that will allow that, but can you see the heart of God in this? False prophets and even people interested in worshipping false gods are a threat to the purity of God's people. God knows how easily our hearts are drawn away from Him and He wanted Israel on the alert, to keep their hearts completely set on Him and Him alone.
It is in the midst of these verses that we get the answer to our question, "Now what?" God clearly lays out our instructions for life, not just for Israel, but for believers who are IN CHRIST. He says:
You shall FOLLOW the Lord your God and FEAR Him; and you shall KEEP His commandments, LISTEN to His voice, SERVE Him and CLING to Him. (Debt. 13:4, emphasis mine)
The child of God has clear instructions on how he is to live his life: follow, fear, keep, listen, serve and cling. In doing these things the transformation process will enfold. Upon salvation, we are immediately transformed from dead to alive, but the sanctification or growth process happens as we follow, fear, keep, listen, serve and cling. In one verse, we have the answer to "Now what?"
Over the next few blogs, I want to look at each one of these actions. My hope is that as we work our way through this one verse, we will have greater understanding of the meaning of our lives and the purpose for which we were created, and that we will be inspired to roll up our sleeves and life the God-centered life He wants us to live.