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Following God: The Details

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Deuteronomy 5:1-33


      I saw on the news a while back that in one Ontario town they have plywood policemen. They cut out a picture of a life sized policeman holding up a radar gun and place the figure on a busy street. From a distance, people can't tell that it is not a real policeman and they slow down. We all know the law, but often it is the threat of enforcement that makes us obey the law. We do not necessarily like to obey, but we do, however, often only because it is enforced and often only when enforcement is threatened.

      In contrast to such obedience is the obedience given to someone we love deeply. If mom says to her teenaged son, "could you please do the dishes" the response, "I'm kind of busy" wouldn't be surprising. But if that same teen aged boy goes to his girlfriends place and she sweetly asks, "could you help me with the dishes" he will likely grab a towel, smile and do it willingly.

      What motivates you to willing obedience?

      Last Sunday when we studied Deuteronomy 4, we were encouraged that following God was the best way to go. We also saw that obedience is an integral part of following God. Deuteronomy 4:39,40a say "..." God invites us to obedience! Deuteronomy 5:1 says, " " This morning, we will look at Deuteronomy 5 and learn how God motivates us to obedience and examine some specific details about what obedience means.

I.                   The Nature Of Obedience

A.                 Cowering in Fear?

      We have heard the sad stories about children who obey an abusive father because they know that if they do not, they will get beat up. Obedience is given, but it is an obedience rendered in fear.

      In some pagan cultures, religion involves keeping certain powerful rituals in order to appease the anger of the gods. There are religions in which children are sacrificed so that the gods will not become angry and bring some terrible disaster to bear on the comunity. Once again we see obedience rendered in fear.

      There are some people who believe that God operates in this way. That He is a terrible, powerful God who is just waiting for an opportunity to destroy anyone who disobeys Him. They obey Him out of a sense of fear that some terrible disaster will come upon them if they do not.

      But is that what God is really like? Is that the way in which He motivates us to obedience?

B.                 Response To Holiness

      In the Deuteronomy 5, Moses reminded the people of what had happened when they had stood at the foot of Mt. Sinai in order to receive the law from God.

      God presented Himself to them on the mountain and spoke to them. Deuteronomy 5:4 says, " " Then Deuteronomy 5:23-25 describes a little more of what happened there. What was God doing here? Was He threatening them with his power? Was he presenting an angry face in order to force them to obey? Did they fear because they thought that if they didn't obey, God would pounce on them immediately with judgement? Listen again to what the elders said in 5:24, "God has shown us his glory and majesty and we have heard his voice from the fire...we have seen that a man can live even if God speaks with him." What we have here, is a picture of holiness. They themselves indicate that it is not God's judgement and power they fear, but his glory and majesty. God showed them His holiness and in light of His holiness they feared because they knew who they were unholy.

      What God was trying to do in this event was to motivate them to obedience. But contrary to many other religions, He did not motivate them by fear of punishment, but by presenting them with His holiness and inviting them to be his holy people as He was holy. Lev. 11:45 says, "I am the LORD who brought you up out of Egypt to be your God; therefore be holy, because I am holy."

      "They felt that they were powerless, frail, and aliented by sin from the holy God." Through a proper fear of God they were being motivated not to sin through distrust, disobedience or resistance to His guidance and commands."

      Those who experienced this responded. They said, in verse 27, "..."

C.                 Response To A Covenant Of Love

      Moses further sought to motivate them to obedience by reminding them of the relatioship of grace they had with God. In Deuteronomy 5:2, we read "...". In Deuteronomy 5:6 we read "..."

      The call to obedience begins with God's initiative in giving them salvation. They had been redeemed from slavery in Egypt. God took the initiative to establish a relationship with them by setting them free from bondage and making them His people. Then he met with them at Mt. Sinai or Horeb as it is called here, and made an agreement with them promising to be their God and inviting them to be his people.

      God was not saying to them, obey me or else. He was saying to them, "I love you, I have saved you from Egypt, and if you are to be my people, this is what it means. Please do this for me." In other words, obedience was motivated by love and relationship. Like a person in love, not like the law hanging over us.

      We often look at the law as the means of salvation, but in this passage, we see that salvation had already occured and obedience was a response to salvation. The ten commandments were not about achieving salvation, but about living like God’s people.

D.                A Way to Life

      Those of you who are Star Trek fans will recognize the Vulcan greeting, “live long and prosper.” A further motivation to obedience is given as a promise for obedience in a phrase which is very similar to this. We read in Deuteronomy 5:33 "Walk in all the way that the LORD your God has commanded you, so that you may live and prosper and prolong your days in the land that you will possess."

      God encouraged them to obey because if they would, they would do well in the land that they were going to possess. God promised them that if they obeyed him, they would live long and prosper.

E.                 Obey Today?

      So we see that God was very different than other religions. He motivated them to obedience by showing Himself to them in all His holiness, by reminding them that he had saved them and thus inviting them to respond in obedience and by promising them blessing if they obeyed him.

      Do these ten words still speak to us today? Are we also called to obey God in the same way?

      Moses motivated them by pointing to God's holiness. I Peter 1:15,16 says to us, "But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: "Be holy, because I am holy."

      Moses motivated them by pointing to the salvation they had experienced. We have also experienced God's love in saving us and calling us to be His people and as a response, we also must obey Him in order to be His people. Eph 5:1 says, "Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children..."

      Moses motivated them by promising blessing and God continues to reward obedience. Matthew 5:6 says, "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled."

      So in other words, God encourages us to obey Him with the same kinds of motivations.

      But do these specific ten words still apply to us? The summary of obedience for believers in the New Testament is found in Matthew 22:37-39 which says, "...'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'"

      In outline, the ten words can be divided into two parts. The first part is about loving God and the second part is about loving our neighbour. Therefore, we also are invited by God to follow Him in obedience and the ten words of Deuteronomy 5 are still basic specifics about obedience.

II.               The Specifics Of Obedience

      You may have heard of the "top ten lists?" If we were to reorganize the ten commandments into the top ten list of commandments broken by people today, how would you sort them out? What would be the number one commandment broken today? If God were to give us His list of top ten commandments broken today, which commandment would He say is the top commandment broken today? If God were to make a list of the top ten commandments you have broken, what would He say to you?

      Let us take a brief look at these ten words in the order God first gave them and examine ourselves according to these commandments. Are we walking in holiness by obeying these commandments?

A.                 No Other Gods

      Because we don't have gods like Baal in North America today, we don't think that this law pertains to us. But think about it this way. What is God's place in our life? Is He not to be worshipped? That is, is He not to be admired above all else? Do we admire Him above all else, or has something else taken that place...a sports figure, a family member, a piece of machinery? God's place in our life is also that He is the one we are to rely on in every circumstance. But do we or is there something else that has taken that our bank account, our wisdom and education, our life insurance?

      I challenge each one of us to think deeply about what we worship and what we rely on. Have we placed any of these things above God?

B.                 No Idols

      The second command does not only have to do with making an image of other gods, but also making an image of God. When they built the golden calf, Aaron told the people that this was the god who had brought them out of Egypt. They had not seen God, and they needed something visible to help them believe.

      Moses was very specific in Deuteronomy 4 when he talked about the time Israel had a living encounter with God that they "saw no form." God is so much bigger than anything he can be represented by on earth. To try to make a representative of him fails to come anywhere close. We are called to worship a God who is unseen and any time we try to reduce God to something we can understand or grasp we fall into the sin of idolatry. The image does not have to be physical, it can be in our minds. How have you tried to reduce God to an image that you can understand?

C.                 No Misusing God's Name

      Although we live in a society which has no problem using the name of the Lord in vain, most of us do not have that problem.

      The glory of God's nature is known in his name. He has made Himself and His character known in his name. To misuse His name is to misjudge His character. Do we appropriately honor the name of God? We have rejoiced in the fact that God is our friend. Have we perhaps dishonored his name by speaking too familiarly about and to God? Have we failed to recognize His majesty, glory and holiness? Is there a sense of awe in our hearts when we speak the Lord's name?

      The ancient Hebrews so revered the name of God that they would not even pronounce it, but used a different name for God. Do we honor the name of God?

      The word the hallelujah is often used today as a way of saying Yippee! I am always hurt when it is used in this way because Hallelujah is Hebrew for "Praise God."

      Are we obeying God by honoring His name?

D.                Observe The Sabbath

      The only one of the ten commandments that is not repeated in the New Testament is the command to observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Does this mean that it is not relevant anymore? The problem in the time of Jesus was that they had elevated it to such a position that it came to represent everything that had gone wrong with obedience. We need to be careful as we consider how it applies to us, not to fall into that same trap.

      There are two purposes of keeping the Sabbath. One is rest and the other is taking time for God. Although we have kept a semblence of Sabbath in the past, I wonder if we have fulfilled God's intention? We chastize farmers who work on Sunday, but we think nothing of doing homework or marking papers or catching up on work missed during the week. Have we rested? Perhaps we have rested, but have we set time aside for God? Sometimes in the summer if we don't feel like going to church, we don't mind taking time to go to the lake. We get our rest, but do we take time for God and for fellowship with His people.

      Today, with a pluralistic society and stores opened on Sunday, we need to make sure that we don't return to a Pharisaic legalism, but we need to think much more carefully about the meaning of Sabbath keeping and keep the principle of Sabbath as a way of honoring God.

E.                 Honor Your Parents

      Kids, the next commandment is yours. Jesus and Paul both repeated this commandment and so it is still relevant. All of the commandments are relevant to you, but this one is especially for you. Are you doing it?

F.                  Don't Murder

      In the recent M.B. Herald, there is an amazing article about the next of the ten commandments. The writer, who spent 25 years teaching American soldiers how to kill, has written about how through television, we are teaching our children how to kill. He suggests that we have desenstized them to killing through operant and classical conditioning. He shows that as a result, the murder of school children by school children is not surprising. Therefore, one of the most important ways in which we can obey the next commandment is to keep our finger firmly planted on the off button, especially for our children.

      Jesus raises the bar on this one when he says in Matther 5:21-26, " "

G.                 Don't Commit Adultery

      In spite of being broken often in our society, adultery is as devastating as ever. Jesus also raises the bar on this one when he says in Matthew 5:27,28. " "

H.                Don't Steal

      Have you ever said, "finders keepers, losers weepers." Do you know what the Bible says about that? If we make no effort to return property,  we are stealing.  The eighth commandment says, “You shall not steal." Deuteronomy explains further when it says in Deu 22:1-4. " "

      In the New Testament, this command is also repeated in Ephesians 4:28.

I.                   Don't Lie

Dad - Son, come in here, we need to talk.


Son - What's up, Dad?

D- There's a scratch down the side of the car. Did you do it?

S- I don't believe, if I understand the definition of "scratch the car", that I can say, truthfully, that I scratched the car.

D- Well, it wasn't there yesterday, and you drove the car last night, and no one else has driven it since. How can you explain the scratch?

S- Well, as I've said before, I have no recollection of scratching the car. While it is true that I did take the car out last night, I did not scratch it.

D- But your sister, Monica, has told me she saw you back the car against the mailbox at the end of the driveway, heard a loud scraping sound, saw you get out to examine the car, and then drive away. So again I'll ask you, yes or no, did you scratch the car?

S- Oh, you mean you think you have evidence to prove I scratched it. Well, you see, I understood you to mean did "I" scratch the car. I stand by my earlier statement, that I did not scratch the car.

D- Are you trying to tell me you didn't drive the car into the mailbox?

S- Well, you see sir, I was trying to drive the car into the street. I mishandled the steering of the car, and it resulted in direct contact with the mailbox, though that was clearly not my intent.

D- So you are then saying that you did hit the mailbox?

S- No sir, that's not my statement. I'll refer you back to my original statement that I did not scratch the car.

D- But the car did hit the mailbox, and the car did get scratched as a result of this contact?

S- Well, yes, I suppose you could look at it that way.

D-  So you lied to me when you said you did not scratch the car?

S- No. No, that's not correct. Your question was "Did I scratch the car?". From a strict legal definition, as I understood the meaning of that sentence, I did not scratch the car... the mailbox did... I was merely present when the scratching occurred. So my answer of "No" when you asked "Did I scratch the car" was legally correct, although I did not volunteer information.

D-  Where did you learn to talk like that?

S- From The President of the United States.

      Colossians 3:9,10 repeats the 9th commandment when it says, "Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator."

J.                   Don't Covet

      Covetousness is insideous and destructive in ways that we do not even realize. It rears its head in jealousy and sometimes results in injury. It breaks relationships and destroys friendships. It is the root of much of the trouble in our world today.


Pastor Joe Wright's Prayer:

When Pastor Joe Wright was asked to open the new session of the Kansas Senate, everyone was expecting the usual politically correct generalities. But what they heard instead was a stirring prayer, passionately calling our country to repentance and righteousness.The response was immediate - with a number of legislators walking out during the prayer. In six short weeks Central Christian Church logged more than 5,000 phone calls, with only 47 of those calls responding negatively.

Commentator Paul Harvey aired Pastor Joe Wright's prayer on the radio and received a larger response to this program than any other program Paul Harvey has ever aired.

In addition, Central Christian Church is now receiving international requests for copies of this prayer from India, Africa, and Korea.  The prayer is reprinted below:

Heavenly Father, we come before You today to ask Your forgiveness and seek Your direction and guidance. We know Your Word says, "Woe on those who call evil good," but that's exactly what we have done. We have lost our spiritual equilibrium and inverted our values.  We confess that: We have ridiculed the absolute truth of Your Word and called it pluralism; We have worshiped other gods and called it multi-culturalism; We have endorsed perversion and called it an alternative lifestyle; We have exploited the poor and called it the lottery; We have neglected the needy and called it self-preservation; We have rewarded laziness and called it welfare; We have killed our unborn and called it choice; We have shot abortionists and called it justifiable; We have neglected to discipline our children and called it building self- esteem; We have abused power and called it political savvy; We have coveted our neighbor's possessions and called it ambition; We have polluted the air with profanity and pornography and called it freedom of expression; We have ridiculed the time-honored values of our forefathers and called it enlightenment. Search us, O God, and know our hearts today; try us and see if there be some wicked way in us; cleanse us from every sin and set us free. Guide and bless these men and women who have been sent here by the people of Kansas, and who have been ordained by You, to govern this great state. Grant them Your wisdom to rule and may their decisions direct us to the center of Your will.  I ask it in the name of Your Son, the Living Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

      As we read this prayer, we have to say that we are implicated in a society that has broken God's word.

      Today it often seems that we do not think much of obedience. We dismiss it by calling it legalism. We laugh at those who are meticulous. We emphasize relationship and rejoice in the love of God but not obedience. Can we really claim to have a love relationship with God if we do not obey Him?

      God has forgiven us and invited us to be His people. He is a holy God and in order to be His holy people, we must obey.

      Do you obey Him?

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