Obey God

Christ Covenant Church
Marq Toombs
Text – Deuteronomy 10:12-13
Go with the FLOW: Obey God

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May the grace and peace of the Lord our God be with you all.

As you know we are doing a mini-series from the Book of Deuteronomy in the OT. We are calling this series Go with the FLOW because throughout Deuteronomy God commands his people to fear God, love God, obey God, and worship God.

What the Lord required of them he also requires of us. That is why we are learning how to go with the FLOW.

So far we have learned to fear God and love God. Today we will focus on the requirement to obey God. Obedience is a bad word in our culture and in some of our churches. For some it smacks of mindless control. For others it smacks of robotic duty. But obedience is an act of trust, humility, and love. “Obedience means you cede someone an authority over you that is there even when you don’t agree with him.” (Tim Keller) To obey is to submit to someone other than yourself.

In his book The Cost of Discipleship, Dietrich Bonhoeffer stated, “Only he who believes is obedient, and only he who obeys is a believer.” Trust is a condition of obedience, and obedience is a condition of trust. (69-71)

Put another way, obedience is impossible where pride is present; obedience is only possible where pride is absent. Obedience is an act of loyalty and devotion; disobedience is an act of rebellion.

Our sermon text for today is Deuteronomy 10:12-13. If you are able, please stand for the reading of God’s Holy Word. The word of God reads:

“And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you besides this: to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and 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?”

The word of the Lord. May God add his blessing to the reading, preaching, and hearing of his living and active word. And all the church says: Amen!

Here we see the words ‘require’ and ‘keep’ paired together.

We have already learned that the word for “require” is simply “ask.” When coupled with the phrase “of you” ask becomes a nice way of saying requires or demands. The reason this is so important is because it shows that God is speaking to us the way a father speaks to his children, not the way a Master speaks to his servants.

The word for “keep” is shamar. It means observe, perform, watch, preserve, guard. The idea is to do whatever God commands. Thus, obey God.

What does Father God ask of you? He asks you to obey him. Not as a dog obeys his owner, nor as a student obeys her teacher, nor as an athlete obeys his coach, but as a child obeys his parent — in love.

I don’t recall where I heard this story, but it’s worth telling here.

One summer day a dad decided to take his sweet little girl out for ice cream. So they load up in the car and start down the road. Along the way the little girl unlocks her seat belt, stands up, and leans over the front seat. Her daddy slows down and tells her to sit back down and fasten her seat belt.

The little girl leans back and continue to stand. Her daddy pulls over and brings the car to a stop. He turns around and demands that she sit down and put her seat belt on right now or else he will get out and make her sit down and buckle her seat belt and go back home without ice cream.

The sweet little girl stands her ground. So her dad says “Ok, that’s it!” He unfastens his seatbelt and turns to get out of the car. The little girl quickly drops down and clicks her belt. Her daddy glares at her for a moment, then clicks his belt and pulls onto the road. He glances in the mirror, sees his little girl sitting down, and feels satisfied and relieved that he won that battle. A moment later the little girl says, “Daddy, I’m sitting down on the outside, but I’m still standing up on the inside!”

What she did looked like obedience, but it was disobedience. She obeyed her daddy the same way legalists obey God — on the outside, but not the inside. But true obedience looks like sitting down inside and out.

Too often, we fake obedience by going through the motions.

We come to worship on the outside, but we are still sleeping in, or watching the game, on the inside.

We greet one another with a smile and a hug on the outside, but we are still frowning and pulling away on the inside.

We devote ourselves to our spouse and children on the outside, but we still distance ourselves from them on the inside.

But all that going through the motions falls short of what the Lord requires of you.

+ CONTRASTS

Let’s look at our sermon text again. “What does the Lord your God require of you besides this: to keep the commands and statutes of the Lord your God for your good?”

Notice: it tells us who we are to obey, why we are to obey him, and how we are to obey him.

Who do you obey? 

We are to obey the Lord our God. He is our Lord, we are his servants. He is our Redeemer, we are his inheritance. He is our Father, we are his children.

Legalists obey the rules, not the Rule-maker. Believers obey God the Father, not just the rules.

Why obey God?

The text says we are to obey the Lord our God for two reasons: first, because God requires us to obey him; second, because obeying God is good for us. Legalists obey to earn God’s favor. Believers obey because they have received God’s favor. Legalists are motivated by guilt and fear. Believers are motivated by grace and faith. Tim Keller explains why we should obey God and do his will:

“Do God’s will, not because it is exciting (though it will eventually be an adventure) not because it will meet your needs (though it will eventually be a joy) not because you understand why this is the path of wisdom (though it will eventually become more clear.) Do it because he is your Lord and Savior and you are not. Do it because it is the law of the Lord. And if you do it—if you obey him even in the little things—you will know God, know yourself, find God’s grace, love your neighbor, and simply honor him as God. Not a bad deal.”

How do we obey God?

We must keep, observe, perform, guard, and obey whatever God commands with all our heart and soul. A legalistic person tries to do this from the skin out. He goes through the motions, but his heart is not engaged. A true believer acts in faith, hope, and love from the heart.

+ CONTEXT

Now, let’s consider some practical applications.

Start with the context of the command to keep the commandments of the Lord your God (10:13). Imagine you are holding out your hands to receive something from the Lord. See if you can hold the load he gives you.

According to the Book of Deuteronomy, what does obeying the Lord your God look like in everyday real life?

Obeying the Lord your God looks like:

Not adding to or taking away from whatever the Lord our God commands (4:2; 12:32)

Doing whatever God commands us to do (4:6; 7:12; 11:22, 32; 12:1, 32; 17:10; 26:16)

Remembering the covenant that God made with us (4:40)

Learning God’s word and living it out in real life (5:1)

Obeying the Lord your God looks like:

Leading your family to walk before God in reverence and awe (6:2; 12:28)

Hearing and trusting God’s word (6:3,17, 25; 7:11-12)

Knowing that the Lord your God is God (7:9)

Enduring hardships and passing tests (8:2)

Obeying the Lord your God looks like:

Not forgetting the Lord or his word (8:11)

Loving the Lord your God (11:1) and holding fast to him (11:22)

Listening to the voice of the Lord your God (6:3; 13:4, 18; 28:1; 28:45)

Resting and worshipping on the Lord’s day (5:12; 16:1)

Obeying the Lord your God looks like:

Not breaking your vows and commitments (23:23; 26:17)

Understanding the consequences of disobedience (28:45, 58)

Understanding the benefits of obedience (29:9; 30:10, 16)

These are practices the Lord our God requires to do. Do you feel the weight of the Law in your hands and on your heart? Can you feel the yoke on your neck and the burden on your back?

Now, when we put it in generic terms like this, God’s requirement to obey God might not seem so difficult. It might even seem doable. But let’s see what happens when we put it in more specific terms. Hold out your hands again.

Obeying the Lord your God looks like:

Having no other gods before God.

Not making for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.

Not bowing down to them or serving them; for the LORD our God is a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation of those who hate him, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love him and keep his commandments.

Not taking the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.

Observing the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, as the LORD your God commanded you. Remember that you were a slave, and the LORD your God brought you out with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the LORD your God commanded you to rest.

Honoring your father and your mother, as the LORD your God commanded you, that your days may be long, and that it may go well with you in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.

Not murdering, or even getting angry with your brother.

Not committing adultery, or even lusting in your heart.

Not stealing, or even cheating others or not sharing.

Not bearing false witness against your neighbor, or even bearing false witness for your neighbor.

Not coveting your neighbor’s wife, or even desiring your neighbor’s property, people, or possessions. (Deuteronomy 5:6-21)

So — now that we put it in specific terms, does obeying God still seem do-able? Does keeping God’s law seem more difficult or less difficult? Does obeying God seem possible or impossible, bearable or unbearable?

According to Deuteronomy, obeying God is practical and personal. We are commanded to obey God from the heart, from the inside out — yet we know by experience just how hard that is to do. In fact, we have failed so many times it is impossible for us to do. None of us will do it; none of us can do it.

To add insult to injury, we are all accountable to God for whatever we do in this life — whether good or bad. “God will render to each one of us according to our works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury.” (Romans 2:6-8)

We are more like the latter than the former: self-seeking and disobedient.

The Book of Deuteronomy makes it clear that only those who do everything written in the Book of the Law will be blessed; but those who do not are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by and do all things written in the Book of the Law.”

We fail to obey God in all things and we disobey him in many ways — and though we want to explain ourselves, we must shut our mouths and keep silence before the Lord, for we have no excuse. “For no human being will be justified in God’s sight by works of the law, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.”

Now you feel the weight of the Law on your heart. Now you feel the yoke on your neck. Now you feel the burden on your back.

So, now what? Since we fail to obey, keep, guard everything written in the Law, are we under a curse? Are we naked and ashamed? Are we cast out of paradise and kept out by a flaming sword? Are we condemned to die away from the presence of the Lord our God?

The answer is Yes — and No.

Yes for those who are not in Christ Jesus by faith.

No for you who are in Christ Jesus by faith.

Why?

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

The wages of sin is death, which is what all fallen sinners outside of Christ will be paid.

But the free gift is life, which is what all fallen sinners in Christ will receive.

How?

They are justified by God’s grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a shelter/covering by his blood, to be received by faith. (Rom 3:19-25)

+ CHRIST

Jesus Christ makes all the difference. He obeyed everything his Father asked him to do in life; everything God required of him in the Law.

What did obeying God the Father look like for Jesus?

It looked like leaving heaven, becoming a man, growing in wisdom, and stature, and favor with God and men (incarnation), suffering and dying as a man (crucifixion), and overcoming death as a man (resurrection), and returning to heaven (ascension).

According to the apostle Paul,

Although Jesus was in the form of God, he did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but he emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even the death of a cross. (Phil 2:6-8)

In the days of his flesh, he offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him. (Hebrews 5:7-9)

Jesus obeyed the Lord his God with all his heart and soul. In love, he obeyed the Father enough to keep all his commands and statutes, and not to break any of them.

As a result, he should have been spared death and lived the life of a blessed saint — and yet he died the death of a cursed sinner.

Jesus redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”— so that by faith we might receive the blessing of the promise of the Holy Spirit. (Gal 3:10-13)

Jesus lived obediently as a law keeper on your behalf, and he died obediently as a lawbreaker in your place.

Jesus obeyed the moral aspect of God’s law, and he obeyed the penal aspect of God’s law. Theologians refer to this as the active and passive obedience of Christ.

We are used to hearing about the passive obedience of Jesus, that he suffered and died on the cross in the place of sinners. But we also need to hear more about the active obedience of Jesus, that he lived towards and leaned into the cross.

As John Owen said, “almost every act of Christ’s obedience, from the blood of his circumcision to the blood of his cross, was attended with suffering, so that his whole life might be called a death” but we must not overlook his “willingness and obedience in all of it.”

Jesus did what no one else from Adam to you was willing to do: He suffered rather than disobey God. He learned obedience from what he suffered, and he joyfully, willingly, and humbly, obeyed his Father in love.

Adam’s trespass in the garden led to condemnation for all people because all sinned; but Jesus’ righteous act leads to justification and life for everyone who puts their trust in him. For as by Adam’s disobedience even God’s chosen people (the many) were made sinners, so by Jesus’ obedience God’s chosen people will be made righteous by grace through faith.

Now, the law of Moses came in to increase the trespass, to make us aware of our sin, and to intensify our guilt; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that grace might reign through righteousness and lead us to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 5:18-21)

Thanks to Jesus’s total obedience, his active and passive obedience, your sin is smaller than God’s grace; and God’s grace is greater than all your sin.

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:1)

Jesus lived the life you should live but don’t. And he died the death you should die but won’t. Jesus did for you what you would not do — and could not do — for yourself.

So how do you get in Christ? How do lawbreakers and sinners get into Christ?

By doing more good than bad? By trying harder to do better? By keeping more rules, getting more religious, acting more devout? No! That only establishes your own self-righteousness; it only increases your sin and guilt.

So how do lawbreakers and sinners get into Christ?

When you turn and trust in Jesus God counts your active and passive disobedience to Jesus, and he counts Jesus’ active an passive obedience to you.

When you turn to him and trust in Jesus God takes you out of Adam and Moses and takes you into Christ; he transfers you out of sin and disobedience into righteousness and obedience.

Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.

The righteousness based on faith says, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’” (that is, to bring Christ down) “or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). You cannot build a tower of good works high enough to reach the Savior in heaven; and you cannot dig a pit of bad works deep to find the Savior in hell. You do not need to go up high to get Jesus, or go down deep to get Jesus. God the Father sent Jesus Christ into the world to save sinners right where they are.

The righteousness based on faith says, “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the gospel that we preach). Now, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.

That is how lawbreakers, trespassers, and sinners get into Christ!

Twenty-five years ago I learned that “justified” means that through Christ God looks at me “just-if-i’d” never sinned. That’s okay as far as it goes, but it doesn’t go far enough. The good news is that God looks at all who are in Christ as if they have already suffered and died for their own sins, and as if they have always obeyed God all things. Why? Because Jesus lived obediently as a law-keeper on their behalf, and he died obediently as a lawbreaker in their place.

That is why “no one who believes in Jesus will ever be put to shame” and why “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Rom 10:4-13)

+ COUNSEL

What shall we say to all these things?

Shall we continue in sin with Adam and Moses so that grace may abound in Christ? By no means!

All of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death. We were buried with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. (Romans 6:1-4)

We are not free to practice sin just because we are not under law but under grace. Rather, we are free to practice righteousness because we are under grace not under law.

Before Christ came to us, and before we were in Christ, we were slaves of sin.

But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed.

And, when you were set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. (Rom 6:15-18)

Does that mean you always do what is right and only what is good? No. It means that you will live as a baptized Christian, as someone who is united to Jesus in his death, burial, and life.

It also means that your attitude and allegiance has changed from satan to God, from Adam to Christ. As John Murray says, “When we speak of obedience we are thinking not merely of formal acts of accomplishment, but also of the disposition, will, determination, and volition which lie back of and are in registered in these formal acts.” (Redemption Accomplished, p 22)

The Lord your God requires you to go with the FLOW: to fear the Lord your God, to love him, to obey him, and to to walk in all his ways. That starts with your attitude and ends with your actions. That flows from your heart into your life.

Apart from Christ you cannot go with the FLOW. But if you are united to Christ you can, for the Spirit of Christ enables you fear, love, obey, and worship the Lord your God with your heart, mind, soul, and body.

I saw a viral video this week that captures what I am trying to say about obeying God.

A mother used a video baby monitor to check on her twin daughters. The twins were supposed to be napping, but they were standing up in the cribs gibbering to each other. So the mother speaks to them through a microphone, “Hi ba-bies…” Immediately, at the sound of their mother’s voice, the twins drop down into their cribs and lay down. When the mother sees their response to her voice she laughs and laughs.

I suggest that your response to God’s voice ought to be the same as the twins’ response to their mother’s voice. And your Father’s response will be even more joyful than that mother’s response. Not joyful over your disobedience, but laughter over your repentance.

Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts — lest you fall by disobedience.

If you are standing up in disobedience in some area of your life, obey God from the heart and bow down in worship.

If you are still standing up on the inside, even when you bow down on the outside, repent and obey God from the heart. For his glory and for your good.

Nothing grieves your Father like disobedience coupled with rebellion. Nothing brings joy and laughter to your Father like obedience coupled with repentance.

To obey or not obey? That is the question!

To go with the FLOW — that is the answer.

Pastoral Prayer –

O merciful God, when Jesus Christ came into the world, he said, “Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but you have opened my ears and prepared a body for me; in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure. Then he said, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will, O God, as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.’” And by that will — your will — we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. I have told the glad news of deliverance in the great congregation; I have not restrained my lips, as you know, O LORD. I have not hidden your deliverance within my heart; I have spoken of your faithfulness and your salvation; I have not concealed your steadfast love and your faithfulness from the great congregation. Now, O Lord, do not restrain your mercy from us; let your steadfast love and faithfulness preserve us always. Be pleased O Lord to deliver us, and make haste to help us. May all who seek you rejoice and be glad in your Son Jesus Christ; may those who love your salvation say continually, “Great is the LORD!” Amen (Hebrews 10:5-10; Psalm 40:9-11, 13, 16)

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