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Worship Theme: The Nature of Christian Love: Love shows itself in obedience.
Sermon Theme: The Purpose of Christian Obedience
I have a little pop quiz for you as we start out this sermon today. I want you to think about the Ten Commandments. Maybe you’re already thinking that you’re going to fail, but hang with me. Here’s the question, “What is the Fourth Commandment?” It’s not, “You shall not murder.” That’s the fifth. The fourth is this, “Honor your father and mother that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”
The fourth commandment is aimed at the relationship between a child and parents. The command is to honor mom and dad. So, what’s it mean to “honor”? It includes the idea of valuing them, caring for them, showing them respect, and obeying them. Of course, there can be a lot of challenges to keeping that commandment, but there is purpose to obeying not only the command but also your parents. Your obedience shows love, trust, honor, and brings about the blessings of long life. Your parents aren’t going to want to strangle you if you’re behaving!
The reason I picked the fourth commandment to spend a moment reflecting upon is because of the idea of faithful obedience with a purpose. This type of faithful obedience shouldn’t just be in your earthly family relationship, but even more importantly it should be in your spiritual family and your relationship with the Heavenly Father.
It’s this fourth commandment and the other nine of which the leader of the Israelite people, Moses, would remind them in the chapter of Deuteronomy following the one that is in front of us today. In today’s section, the lead-up to the reminder of God’s commands, Moses encourages faithful obedience. Now that’s nothing new to the ear of the Christian or even to the casual observer. Obey God’s commands. Right. But God through his servant Moses shares the important “here’s why.” There is important purpose behind obeying God’s commands.
For 40 years the people of Israel had been wandering through the desert on their prolonged journey from Egypt to the Promised Land all because of their sins against God. Now the time had come for them to enter into the Promised Land. This was a milestone moment that reminded the people that even though they had been less than faithful and obedient to the Lord, he was still faithful in guiding, protecting, and fulfilling his promise to them to bring them to this land.
But, will you think about this with me for a moment? What did the nation of Israel do to deserve to take possession of the Promised Land? They grumbled and complained against God, they didn’t trust him, they turned from him, they disobeyed him, they worshiped other gods. What did they do to deserve this? Nothing. But they had God’s promise. In the same way, what have you done to deserve God’s presence in your life, to have God call you his own dear child, for God to say, “I forgive you,” to have a place awaiting you in heaven, to have all the blessings God had showered on you in your life? What have you done to deserve these things? Nothing. But every single one of those and so much more is yours because of God’s promise of forgiveness and life because Jesus Christ lived and died in your place. Praise the Lord for his grace!
A family of four won free all-inclusive season passes to a local amusement park. It included free parking, free food and drinks, and special access to rides. It was like they were kings and queens of the park! But the park had basic rules to follow, things like keep your hands and feet inside the ride at all times, no cutting in line, that sort of stuff. But the family found the rules to be a bit restrictive/stifling. So, when the announcement to secure loose items was heard, instead of putting away his iPhone 12 Pro Max, the son held it out in front of him to record the ride only to have it fall out of his hands on the first loop and crash to the ground. Even though they had special passes to get on rides faster, the daughter and mother still cut in front of people and the nasty looks and hurtful comments chased after them. The dad abused the free food and was ill for the rest of the day after just one ride. The family left that day, early, because the trip became unbearable. It wasn’t fun or enjoyable for them. Why? Because they didn’t obey the rules. The purpose of the rules and obeying them, was to protect the family and to make their visit enjoyable.
Israel was entering into the Promised Land, God said, “Here it is. This is a gift of my grace, but there are some ground rules that I’d like you to follow.” Why? “Now, Israel, hear the decrees and laws I am about to teach you. Follow them so that you may live and may go in and take possession of the land the LORD, the God of your ancestors, is giving you.” Listen to God’s decrees and laws and obey them so that you may enjoy the blessings of God’s grace.
I get it, my sinful nature agrees with you that God’s laws can seem restrictive, and there are great temptations in your life to blow them off and just live the way you want to. But after God’s law shows us our sin and need for a Savior, and you come to know the amazing grace of God’s forgiveness, obedience to God’s law becomes a practice of faith, of honor to God, and a way to enjoy the blessings of life with the Lord.
God puts down some rules about the marriage relationship. The world says forget that! Yet you can see the hurt and heartache and the breakdown of the family in society that happens when we disregard God’s desire for marriage. But what blessings there are when husband and wife honor, love, respect, and forgive each other in the confines of marriage.
God says to be content with what you have. But the world says that you’re entitled to bigger, better, more. You can see the stress, the anxiety, the despair, the arrogance that comes from the sinful longing for and pursuit of stuff. But the heart that says thank you Lord for what you have given me today is not burdened by the worries of the world.
God says to be kind in the way we speak. Yet it’s so easy to lash out, to criticize, to bash another person whether out loud, or online, or just in your head. You know how this breaks relationships, destroys trust, and creates division. But what blessings there are when there is patient listening and understanding and we seek to build one another up in Christ.
Do you get this?? We could go through this with all of God’s commands – the unpleasant results that occur when I break them and the blessings that come when I obey them. Obedience is not because God said so, or because I have to in order to get right with the Lord. It’s so that you can enjoy the free gift of God’s grace! The gift of the Promised Land of eternal life is given freely to you. Listen to God’s laws and obey them so that you may live in the peace God has for you. In Christ, you can!
There’s another blessing that comes from your Christian obedience. By obeying God’s commands, you also share that gift of grace with others. “Observe them carefully, for this will show your wisdom and understanding to the nations, who will hear about all these decrees and say, “Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.” What other nation is so great as to have their gods near them the way the LORD our God is near us whenever we pray to him?” When the people of Israel showed obedience to the Lord, they served as a powerful witness of the good and gracious Lord to other nations.
Jesus later said it this way, “You are the light of the world…let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:14, 16). As a Christian, when you obey God’s commands and live the way he desires, others take notice.
In the early Christian church, the Apostle Paul and his partner Silas were thrown in prison. Instead of moping around or cursing God, they prayed out loud and sang hymns to God. The head guard heard this all, and later after he almost took his life in despair, it was to Paul and Silas that he ran and asked, “What must I do to be saved?” Their response, “Believe in the Lord.” (Acts 16). Because of their simple witness, that man came to know his Savior that day.
The same is true in your life. When you show the love of Jesus and his forgiveness to our children, your friend may come to you when they have trouble with their own kids and ask you how you do it. When you grieve with joy at the death of a loved one who goes home to Jesus, others see that and want to know how you’re getting through it. When you express hope even when the news is full of turmoil and tragedy, people want to know about that too. “Tell me more.” “Tell me how you have the peace, the joy, the hope that you do.”
You have the wisdom of knowing the Savior of the world. You have the Lord God by your side who hears every plea of your heart. You have his righteous laws to bless you in this life. Observe and keep them with a faithful heart and let your Christian life be on display so others too may marvel at the grace of God!
And to come full circle, “Teach [the ways of God] to your children and to their children after them.” Share the ways of God with the next generation that God is not forgotten. Share it with your obedience to God’s will as you stand against the sin of this world. Share it so that your children may to obey the commands of our God so they too can enjoy the blessings that come from God’s grace.
Christian obedience has purpose. God’s commands aren’t given in order to put a heavy burden on you and make life miserable. In Christ, you are set free and declared forgiven. May God’s commands now guide you in Christian living that you can enjoy the blessings that God pours out into your life and be a witness of God’s grace to many others. Amen.
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