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Tuesday
May032011

What Does the Lord Require?

What does God want from me? It is a question that has plagued believers as long as people have believed in God. Job must have wondered what God wanted from him as he found himself seemingly punished for doing the right thing. Even today, many people are confused as to why their lives seem so unrewarding, when they feel as if they are doing fairly well, or at least better than some who seem to be prospering. What does the Lord require? There are some Old Testament principles that come into play in the covenant of Christ that might help us better understand what God wants. Deuteronomy is the second giving of the Law of Moses, or a summary of Hebrew history up to the point that Moses then died.

I. What Does The Lord Require? (Deuteronomy 10:12-22)

    A. Fear God

        1. the subject of fearing God is a controversial one, but it is the beginning point and nothing about love or obedience is going to function or matter if not constructed upon godly fear: “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction” (Proverbs 1:7).

        2. the Old Testament presented God in a way that could be terrifying to his enemies – think of the ark from the perspective of the people who drowned – but modern people would prefer to think of God, if they think of him at all, only in terms of niceness and gentleness

            a. “It is the Lord your God you shall fear. Him you shall serve and by his name you shall swear” (Deuteronomy 6:13).

            b. all the promises and rewards were attached to fearful obedience, not terror and compulsion, but the kind of respectful subjection that children afford their fathers (Deuteronomy 6:1-3)

        3. the trouble is that most people can no longer harmonize fear and love, especially as it involves God, preferring to ignore commands and subjection in favor of extreme tolerance and indulgence

            a. yet even the New Testament of grace demands godly fear: “Fear God” (First Peter 2:17) and continues to warn those about whom it is said, “There is no fear of God before their eyes” (Romans 3:18).

            b. when the apostle John is critical of fear, it is a tormenting terror about Hell that he rejects, not respect and reverence for an omnipotent God (First John 4:16-18)

        4. it remains “a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31) and no amount of grace will save the unbeliever or apostate, which is what we become when we arrogantly walk away from the New Testament

 

    B. Walk In All His Ways

        1. when we reverence our Father in Heaven properly, it is only natural that we would want to walk in his ways, and the relationship of Israel to God depended upon fidelity to the covenant (Deuteronomy 5:31-33)

        2. the New Testament illustrates this theme even more dramatically we now have a perfect example of that being done as we can examine the footprints of Jesus Christ upon the soil of the Earth

        3. in fact, the gospel invitation is built around the Lord’s command to follow him (Matthew 16:24-26)

        4. following in the Lord’s footsteps is the essence of wisdom in choosing a path that never goes wrong; walking in his ways is the definition of true discipleship (First John 2:3-6)

 

    C. Love God

        1. it is hard to command someone to love someone else – it seldom works in arranged marriages or even in marriage counseling where spouses have grown apart

        2. and yet the Law of Moses commanded Israel, not to just to fear and obey, but to love God (Deuteronomy 6:4-9)

        3. perhaps it must be considered whether this God of the Bible is even lovable at all, or if his servants are demanding the impossible

        4. again, the New Testament answers that question resoundingly upon the cross, where the God of the Bible dies a barbaric death so that he might restore to life the people who believe him

            a. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him” (John 3:16-17).

            b. “We love him because he first loved us” (First John 4:19, NKJV).

        5. proximity to the kingdom depends upon loving God enough to approach him without falling prey to apathy or disdain (Mark 12:28-34)

 

    D. Serve Him Heart and Soul

        1. faith, to be anything more than mental assent, must be actively influential over the way that a person, thinks and behaves; God requires you “to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.”

        2. is there a difference between serving God and serving him heart and soul?

            a. the difference lies in the motivation, attitude, and energy behind the service

            b. some do things very reluctantly or half-heartedly, succeeding only in a minimal way that disappoints a God who gives all

        3. serving God heart and soul means holding nothing back in effort, energy, or attitude

            a. it means making sacrifices and taking risks (Luke 12:32-37)

            b. it means giving one hundred percent: “Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord” (Romans 12:11).

 

    E. Keep His Commandments

        1. God further required his people “to keep the commandments and statutes of the LORD.” 

        2. they were rules for living that were enacted not for the sake of oppression or repression, not from a mind of arbitrary intimidation, but for man’s own ultimate benefit

            a. when the Preacher settled upon the meaning of life, he made a prominent place for obedience toward God: “The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil” (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14).

            b. he had discovered that all his experimentation and self-indulgence produced nothing but guilt, heartache, regret and emptiness, especially as his days began to grow fewer and purpose mattered more than play

        3. the New Testament, of course, liberates all men from the authority of the Old Testament, even its commands and rules, but not from obeying the will of God

            a. we are “not under law but under grace,” which gives us another chance to turn from sin and be led by the Spirit through the terms of the new covenant (see Romans 6:14, Galatians 5:18)

            b. Jesus united love for him with obedience to his teaching (John 15:9-11)

        4. the psalmist wrote, “I look at the faithless with disgust, because they do not keep your commands” (Psalm 119:158).

 

II. Circumcised Hearts

    A. Induction Into the Body of Christ

        1. Moses addressed a population that was often very expert at rituals and ceremonies, going through the motions with little personal feeling, save for boredom

        2. Jesus sought a restoration of affection for God, what Moses also desired, but found elusive in Israel: “Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no longer stubborn” (Deuteronomy 10:16).

        3. in the first century, the scribes and Pharisees sought to infect Christianity with their self-serving legalism, imposing adult circumcision upon Gentile converts, missing the point entirely (Colossians 2:8-14)

        4. the family of God is no more determined by birth or race, but by rebirth and grace, “For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter” (Romans 2:28-29).

 

    B. Faith Working Through Love 

        1. when we wonder what God requires us, we often to look to passages like this one that summarize it so well, but the new covenant is different and directs us to discover instead the mind of Christ and to take on his character (see Philippians 2:5)

        2. we learn that a ritualistic faith, turned over to someone else or mired in apathetic hypocrisy, is still ineffective (Micah 6:6-8)

        3. we learn that what is effective is neither Moses nor circumcision, “but only faith working through love” (Galatians 5:6)

        4. fear, discipleship, service, love, and obedience remain the hallmarks of what God requires of the people he would save

 

Conclusion

Within this requirement, the steps of salvation break forth in the New Testament. The believer is one whose faith motivates him to confess Christ, to renounce a life of sin, to appeal to God for a cleansed conscience as he is immersed in water, and to strive to live faithfully and consistently.

 

Questions For Review

  1. What distinguishes fear from terror?
  2. How can we learn to walk in Christ’s ways?
  3. Why don’t some Christians really love God?
  4. What does heart and soul service look like?
  5. Why doesn’t obedience nullify grace?
  6. What is a circumcised heart?
  7. What is an idle faith worth?

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