Deuteronomy 5-6 - "Love is the Fountain of Obedience"
There is no doubt that we believe in the unmerited grace of God. Even just last week, I drew attention to the fact that God chooses to save people from slavery apart from anything that they do. Before he gives the Ten Commandments, he reminds them “I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt”. Their deliverance was not based upon anything they did, but wholly on the grace and mercy of God.
But if we simply stop there, then we haven’t heard the entire Gospel story. The point of salvation is not to simply provide forgiveness of sins. That is glorious enough. It’s not just a way for you and me to go to heaven. That’s glorious too.
Some of you are familiar with the movie Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. In that story there is a little boy named Charlie who was poor but grateful to be at this amazing chocolate factory. But he was one among four others: Veruca Salt, Violet Beauregarde, Mike Teevee, Augustus Gloop. Each one of these kids, other than Charlie, are spoiled rotten. Why? Because as the Oompa Loompa’s sang about Veruca:
Who went and spoiled her
Who pandered to her every need?
Who turned her into such a brat?
Who are the culprits? Who did that?
The guilty ones now this is sad
Dear Old Mum and Loving Dad
Same story in Harry Potter with Dudley Dursley.
The beauty of the Gospel is not that it merely saves us. This is gloriously true. But the even more beautiful fact is that once we have been made right in God’s sight…once we have been born—who were once dead in our sins and rebellion, God is in the business of changing us.
Why? Because he loves us. Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” // The world is so jaded we don’t understand the intimacy of this statement. Love—true love—always changes us. Jesus tells us to Love God and Love Neighbor. But the question for the child is: How? The Law gives details, instructions. And as we heard from Galatians a moment ago, its purpose was to train us. To give detailed instructions on how to love others. // When I was a child, my parents would tell me to clean my room. They learned rather quickly—as any parent does—that you have to be very detailed in your instructions: Pick up these clothes right here. Put them in the hamper. Put these books on that shelf. Vacuum the floor with this vacuum cleaner… So it is with the Law. That’s why those who have embraced Christ are told not to go back to the elementary principles of the faith.
The Law shows us how to live. It was always meant to be temporary and to point to a Savior. And the Law reveals to us our tendency to not love God. How do we know we don’t love God—because we disobey.
As we’ve talked about numerous times, we so often think the problems we have in life are somehow out there and what happens to us. We can think the problem is slavery in Egypt…or in Babylon…or in Rome…True. These are not right and sad and ought to be corrected. But, as Israel saw and as we see—even when circumstances are just as we would have them. Even at the beach on vacation. Even when we take a retreat to the mountains. Even in the desert, where monks would flock to be free from the sin of the world. Sin is always crouching at our door. Our desire to rule is still in our hearts.
You obey what you love. You act upon that which you believe will bring you comfort and life. At root, our obedience issues stem from trust issues. At root, when we disobey, we do it because we don’t trust that God knows what he’s doing. // We know we ought not gossip or complain or be mean or be self-centered. And we do it because it feels good to think we have a God’s-eye point of view. But, they produce more angst and more anxiety. Instead of finding True Rest in God, we fret and concern ourselves with things too great for us to be in control of.
When we hear the word “law” or “statutes” or “commands”, it’s very easy to divorce them from the fact they come from a merciful and gracious God. We can often think, “Oh, so he did a little bait and switch! He saved us. But what he really wants is for us to obey.” That would be the case if there was such a sharp line between Grace and Law. But the Law is Gracious. And Grace has Directions. It is free. It is indiscriminate. It is over abundant. It flows. Would love be love if it didn’t have parameters? I don’t love all women the same as I love my wife. If I did, then it wouldn’t be real love. And so it is with God, who has loved his Church with a laser-focused and purposed affection. God loves the world. But he loves his Church like a Bride.
So many of our problems with God and with others is that we treat relationships as transactions. I invite you. You invite me. That’s why so many churches have lost the power of grace in their midst. Instead of being led by the Spirit, they have defined who they will spend time with and money on by what they will get in return.
The point of Law is not sheer obedience and getting us to toe the line. God graciously gives his statues and laws to change us. Unlike Veruca Salt’s parents, God’s love doesn’t bend to our wills. Instead, it conforms our will. It changes our insides, because that’s where the infection is. He changes our hearts. He changes our hearts. He changes our actions.
We rob God of his proper glory when we treat him transactionally. But this is most of the problem with us and our culture. We treat church as some way to appease God. And when things get difficult, we get upset. We forget that he is changing us.
One of the things we can subtly do is think that God is speaking to other people. It’s like we’re nudging our neighbor and saying, “Are you listening?” Well, the children of the parents of those that were redeemed out of Egypt. I can’t highlight this enough. This is key to understanding how the OT and all of Scripture expects those who read it to read it as God’s word to them. Have you considered that when you and I sit down in our Living Rooms to read this Bible, we are standing in the Plains of Moab and are given the same warnings—Do not harden your hearts. Do not make idols out of what is seen and touched. Do not forget what God has done for you. V. 3: “Not with our fathers did the Lord make this covenant, but with us, who are all of us here alive today.” Our faith has to be ever-new. Ever-deepening. Don’t rely on the manna in the desert.
And note, your interactions with others say more about what you think about God than they do about people. It’s taken me several years to come to understand this…But the issues that I have. The issues my friends and family. The disgruntled customer. The frustrated life. These all stem from a misappropriation of God.
Deuteronomy 5.6-15 — Love God.
Deuteronomy 5.16-21 — Love People.
In the Ten Commandments, the first four have to deal with God, the last six have to do with people. God is showing you and me that we sin against God before we sin against people. People sin against God before you and me. Means we don’t have to take offense so quickly when someone does us wrong. Not just you and me. You-God-Me.
Is this not what the Lord says (v.29): “Oh that they had such a heart as this always, to fear me and to keep all my commandments, that it might go well with them and with their descendants forever!” Our disobedience and wanting to rule our own worlds stems from not revering God. This is not a cowering fear. But the fact that we struggle so much with our obedience stems from not having a healthy fear of God. Not really believing he is who he says he is. Listen to
God has saved you. He’s brought you into this land flowing with milk and honey. The obedience God is binding them to provides the parameters of what it means to love the Lord.
Note the dynamics of the obedience that comes from faith. If you are satisfied in God. If you are reminded everyday of what he has done in your life, then it will not be difficult to have his name be on your lips as you sit down in your house as a family…as walk around town…the first thing when you get up in the morning.
Our tendency is to forget and to fear. Forget the past and Fear the future. So let me give you a few real practical things. Practical things we see exemplified in our text:
First thing in the morning. Before Facebook. Before email. As you’re drinking coffee. Say out loud one thing you’re grateful to God for.
Read your Bible. This isn’t something new, but the question is: Are we doing this consistently? If God has spoken to us from the mountain and we have heard his voice…are we squandering the privilege of having his Word? Have some kind of plan. Take a psalm each day. Read it slowly. Out loud. Take a proverb. Today is the 23rd. Take Proverbs 23 and read a couple verses and consider what it means to you and how you can apply its truth.
Journal. This has been the single-most helpful practice in my life. Take a few verses. You could start in the book of Matthew and read a paragraph and write down: Scripture. Observations. Application to your life. A Prayer.
Write down three names of people you want to share the Gospel with. Begin to think of how you can integrate them into your life. Coffee. Lunch. Having over to dinner. Write them down and pray for them.
But you may say: “I love Jesus, but I don’t find that I talk about him all that much.” This is not something to feel guilty about. It is something that needs to be remedied, though. Remind yourself of who God is and what he’s done for you. He is love. He has loved me by giving his very life for my life. Therefore, I do not need to fear others. The future. Because he has said “I will never leave you nor forsake you."