Does God Really Demand Obedience?

Most of us grew up seeing the Ten Commandments posted on walls of our schools, courthouses and churches.  Many have claimed these principles are the basis for our Judeo-Christian society.

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My husband and I started 2019 by reading through the Bible – starting with Genesis.  The story was interesting at first as we read about creation, the flood and the beginning of the Israelite nation with patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  Then we got to the end of Exodus and the beginning of Leviticus.  Here, Moses was given detailed instructions on how the tabernacle should be built and how the priests should conduct offerings used in worship of God.  There are rules about what to eat and what not to eat, a lot of rules regarding sexual relations and how to deal with skin diseases.

To be honest, this is difficult and somewhat boring reading.  But one thing I noticed throughout that portion of Scripture that over and over it was said that Moses did “just what the Lord had commanded.”

Throughout the Old Testament we read the story of how the Israelites did like we still seem to do today – sometimes obeying God – sometimes not.  The Old Testament ends with the nation of Israel exiled because of their failure to obey God’s commands.

Then we enter the New Testament.  We see Jesus who came to pay the price of our disobedience.  We live in what we call the period of grace.  What a blessing to not have to live in fear of breaking a command of God, of knowing that we are saved not by what we do, but by faith and acceptance of what Jesus did for us on the cross.

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So, does that mean we are no longer required to obey?  The loving picture of Jesus in the New Testament is certainly much more appealing than the demands of obedience in the Old Testament.

But a closer look at the words of Jesus shows He also demanded obedience if we would claim to be following Him.

“If you love me, keep my commandments.”

“The person who knows my commandments and keeps them, that’s who loves me. And the person who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and make myself plain to him.”

Jesus summed up the commandments when He told his questioners:

“‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’  This is the first and greatest commandment.  A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”

This all sounds pretty simple.  Really not too demanding.  Much easier than living under the Law.

Right?

I don’t think so.  I think the requirements of Jesus are much more demanding – and something we cannot do without His help.

Think about it:

  • The Law said not to murder.
  • Jesus said if you are angry and curse someone you are in danger of hell.  He said to not bring any sacrifice to Him until you made it right with the one you were angry with.

 

  • The Law said not to commit adultery.
  • Jesus said a person must not look at another with lust in their heart.

 

  • The Law said to love your neighbor and hate your enemy.
  • Jesus said to love your enemy and to even pray for them.

 

  • The Law was concerned with our outward appearance.
  • Jesus is concerned with our heart.

 

My heart grieves today as it seems many Christians feel they no longer have to obey the words of Jesus when it comes to loving and praying for their enemies.

But I note that He said He would love us and make Himself plain to us (in other words have a relationship with Him) IF we obey His commandments.

Without love for others, I fear we will, like the Israelites, find ourselves without God’s protection.

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Lord God, thank you for loving us.  Help us to remember that as we experience your love and mercy we just give that love and mercy to others.  Even to those who disagree with us.  Even to those who hurt us.  Help us to love as you love and remember that you not only love us, but you love our enemies.

Does God’s Grace Extend to Colin Kaepernick?

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Disclaimer:  My thoughts on this post all came from a sermon I heard this past Sunday.  Guess that this post might be considered plagiarism.  Since the minister that spoke is my daughter, hopefully she will forgive me for stealing her thoughts.

She spoke of our need for God’s grace not just at the moment we realize we need a savior but each day as we rely on God’s grace – it is an ongoing way of life.  Knowing we have received grace, we need to pass that grace on to others in our life.

The meaning of grace could call for a deep and long theological dissertation – but I’m not qualified for that.  For my post, I’m just using a simple definition – again not my own but one I have heard hundreds of time when someone tries to define what we mean by grace.

G — God’s

R – riches

A – at

C – Christ’s

E – expense

Some definitions:

God’s favor toward the unworthy

God’s benevolence on the undeserving

Grace is what God is all about.  Because of His grace, we are forgiven – not based on anything we have done, but simply on His love and mercy.  And, because we have received grace, we are to pass that same grace – that same love and mercy – to others.

But here is where I find a big problem among my Christian friends today.  We are living in a very divided country right now.

  • Left vs right
  • liberal vs conservative
  • Democrat vs Republican
  • pro-choice vs pro-life
  • against a wall vs for a wall
  • restriction on gun rights vs gun rights advocates

And the list could go on and on.

As Christians we have every right to speak out on our own opinions, to speak out for truth and against things that are totally outside God’s Word.

BUT….while we can and should speak out for the truth, we need to remember that those we disagree with, those who we strongly feel are wrong, are people who God loves, people that God died for.  People that need to know God’s love and mercy in their own lives.

Remember the verse we all learned early in life:

For God so loved the WORLD that He gave His only begotten son….

That means God loves:

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  • all the NFL players who take a knee during the National Anthem, including Colin Kaepernick
  • all the crazy Democrats, including Nancy Pelosi
  • all the pro-choice activists, including Cecile Richards

Do we speak out against their beliefs, their actions?  Certainly we have that right and maybe in some cases even that responsibility.

But when we speak out against them personally, call them names, say we don’t care about them, I think we have crossed the line as Christians.  No longer seeing them as people who need to know God’s love, but as “enemies.”  We dehumanize them.  We refuse to extend love and mercy.

Jesus told us:

You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that.

So, I ask my Christian friends:

When was the last time you prayed for those who you disagree with?

When was the last time you bent your knee and prayed for your enemies?

We hear a lot of calls to pray for President Trump – and we should.  But where are the calls to play for those we disagree with?  Don’t they need God too?

Just as we don’t deserve God’s forgiveness, someone you know may not deserve yours. It doesn’t matter: We are still commanded to forgive them.