What the Lord Requires in Times Like This

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“And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments and statutes of the Lord, which I am commanding you today for your good? Behold, to the Lord your God belong heaven and the heaven of heavens, the earth with all that is in it. Yet the Lord set his heart in love on your fathers and chose their offspring after them, you above all peoples, as you are this day.

Deuteronomy 10:12-15

As I sit here writing this, I find myself continuing to think about the most recent acts of mass assault against innocent people that our nation has had to endure over the last month alone, Las Vegas, New York, and most recently, Sutherland Springs, Texas. Dozens of people killed in just a little over a month in senseless acts of violence. More pain, more trauma, more arguing over what to do next and how to stop this madness.

Some say the answer is in stricter gun control regulations and laws. Others say the issue boils down to mental health problems. Some say that the problem is in how we raise our kids with an obsession of violence in video games and on the television. I’m not going to try get into any of  those arguments, they are all so politically charged that no one really is listening to each other in these things anyway.

But what can we do in such times as this? Should we throw our energies and efforts into the fight for gun control or better care for the mentally ill? Maybe, that’s up to you and your conscience before the Lord, but there is one clear call to us from God’s word that we ought to heed. It seems to me that the call to the Christian in our culture today is the same call that every generation of God’s people has had. Our passage above was written to Israel many generations ago and to a different culture, but through it we ought to be reminded of how the Lord would have us live in our own dangerous and divisive times. Here are three principles to guide us in such times as this.

  1. Be in right relationship with your Creator (vs. 12). We are told to fear the Lord because this is the beginning of wisdom and understanding (Proverbs 9:10). We should not fear the troubles of this world, but place our fear in the only appropriate place, in the Lord Himself (Isaiah 8:13). We are also told to love and serve the Lord with all our hearts and with all our souls. Every ounce of our being is meant to be used in pursuit of a relationship with our God, pleasing Him and honoring Him in all we do. Steering our fears of the dangers of this world, and steering our hopes and affections to Him re-orients our perspectives and gives us hope in a world of chaos. We must turn our eyes to the Lord and rest our hopes and fears squarely on Him.
  2. Obey the heart and ways of your Creator (vs.12&13). Many today seem to minimize the need of obedience to the character and will of God. We have cheapened God’s grace to the point that we have no fear of His wrath and no fear of the consequences of sin. Disobedience to God always brings death(Romans 3:23). We see and suffer the consequences of sin everyday. While salvation comes only as a gift of God’s grace found in Jesus Christ, we also have the responsibility to live in a way that honors God and gives Him glory. When we obey the heart and character of God in this fallen world, we show off His great glory and goodness, and offer a better hope to those who see our trust in God through our actions.
  3. Remember that all things are in God’s hand (vs. 15). Lastly, we need to see that God is the Sovereign Lord over all things. Both heaven and earth belong to Him and He holds all things together. More than that, if you are in Christ you are one of His chosen people. The Lord has set His love on you from all eternity. There is nothing or no one who can tear you away from this love. God’s sovereignty should be a great source of comfort and confidence as we live through these fearsome and distressing times. No matter what happens in life or in death, the Lord is still on His throne and He will accomplish righteousness and justice in all the earth.

Be encouraged by the promises of God in His Word. Embrace Him through Jesus Christ, live in His ways by faith, and trust in His good plans for you and the world. This is how we ought to live in times such as this.

Grace and Peace.

On Faith: Who’s doing the Choosing, Man or God?

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     “For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.  It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples,  but it is because the Lord loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.” — Deuteronomy 7:6-8

Back in 1992, after graduating from high school, I met this really pretty and fun girl who captured both my eyes and my heart and who later, by God’s grace, became my wife. At the time I was a “churched unbeliever” with strong Baptist roots but no real faith in Christ. Lanaea was a believer in Jesus and was attending a Presbyterian Church. I knew very little about the Bible and even less about this Reformed Faith that I was hearing so much talk of, but there were a couple things that really bothered me about what these Presbyterians believed about the Bible. The most offensive to me at the time was their doctrine of election. This doctrine says that God has sovereignly and lovingly chosen some to rescue from their sin and misery and has left others in their unbelief, rebellion and judgment. I remember thinking that this doctrine made God out to be unfair, and unjust while making people out to be mere robots. But as I studied the Bible for myself I came to embrace Jesus as my Savior and quickly understood that He had chosen me long before I had chosen Him.

I was reminded of this time in my life when I read the passage above recently. Moses is continuing to remind God’s people of who they are in the Lord and that therefore they should obey and honor Him. This pattern is often referred to as the “indicative-imperative” pattern where the writer is rooting the people in who they are as an encouragement to live up to their identity. Paul uses this pattern often in his letters to the church and can be summed up as, “You ARE God’s people, so act, live, and talk like God’s people”. Notice how different this pattern is to the natural tendency of the human heart which says, “If you want to be one of God’s people, then start acting like it”. The former is a Gospel pattern, the latter is a lie from Hell.

Here are few thoughts on what Moses declares about the identity of the nation of Israel as he is imploring them to obey their God.

  • The Lord’s people are a chosen people (vs 6). I have heard it said so many times, and even said it myself in the past that it is unjust and unfair for God to choose some and not others. We must be careful of what we say because it is quite clear from this passage that God is in fact in the choosing business. He had chosen Israel out from the other nations to save them and bless them. Was He unfair or unjust to do that for Israel? Why then would He be unjust or unfair to do it for us?
  • The Lord intends for, and declares that, His chosen people will be holy as He is holy and are His treasured possession (vs 6 and 7). This is such a key point for us to grasp. Our righteousness, holiness and standing with God comes from His choosing to place those things on us, not by us trying to attain them by our own effort. In short, men are only holy, righteous, and good because God has chosen them to be so and declared them to be so. You cannot attain right standing with God by trying hard to obey Him. Stop your striving and receive the righteousness of God in His Gospel alone!
  • The Lord’s choice of people is not because they are better than everyone else but because He has set His love on them (vs 7& 8). Some accuse Christians like me, who believe in God’s election of some for salvation, of being arrogant, that we believe we are better than others and that’s why God would choose us. Nothing could be farther from the truth! God saves the weak, the small, and the unimpressive. There is no room for arrogance in that! (See 1 Corinthians 1:26-31 for the same idea.)

I could go on with these but this is a blog and not a sermon. I would like to finish with one last important point, though.

  • God’s chosing of people does not make them robots but frees them to willingly obey Him with all their hearts. Look at what Moses says later in the passage.

“You shall therefore be careful to do the commandments and the statutes and the rules that I command you today.” Deut. 7:11. 

I hope you can clearly see the Gospel driven principle of Moses’ words. God’s people are to obey Him because that is who they already are. Their identity is that they are chosen, holy, and beloved by the Lord. Their response is to willingly and gratefully obey His voice and live according to their God-given identity. There are no robots here. God’s sovereignty does no harm to human choice or responsibility, rather His sovereignty undergirds and motivates the human will for obedience!

I pray that you all see this principle not only in Deuteronomy 7 but also throughout the rest of Scripture. I pray that you would choose to worship freely and truly the God who has freely and lovingly chosen you. If you are not a believer and you are wondering if the Lord has chosen you or not for salvation, hear this. The only way we can know if the Lord has chosen us as His own is that we have repented of our sin and trusted in Jesus as Savior. This choice of ours shows us that the Lord has chosen us and has been long working to bring us to Himself in love. Embrace Jesus today and so show yourself to be chosen by God! If you are a Christian then obey Jesus today! Not that you would be more loved and accepted by Him, but precisely because you are already infinitely loved and accepted by Him!

So, does God choose us or do we choose Him? The answer simply is Yes….