Love, Obey, and Hold Fast
Scripture: Deuteronomy 30:15-20
Rev. Steven B. Miller, Feb 12, 2017
"See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil. If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God that I command you today, by loving the Lord your God, by walking in his ways, and by keeping his commandments and his statutes and his rules, then you shall live and multiply, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to take possession of it. But if your heart turns away, and you will not hear, but are drawn away to worship other gods and serve them, I declare to you today, that you shall surely perish. You shall not live long in the land that you are going over the Jordan to enter and possess. I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days, that you may dwell in the land that the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them." The Word of the Lord -Thanks be to God
Will you pray with me? Lord Jesus, we come again to your Word for an understanding of who you are and how we are to be in this world. Draw us closer to you as we listen again to the Word of Life. Let the good Word come with power and grace along with the full assurance of faith. Give this preacher your words as he shares what you have laid upon his heart. Quiet the distractions of our lives and those negative voices that would seek take us away from what your Holy Spirit has for us in this moment. For we pray these things in Jesus' powerful name. Amen
I want to begin by asking you a few questions: the first is: how do you learn Life's lessons in order to live a Good life? Or what shapes your daily lives the most as you seek to live as a disciple of Jesus? Or are you a person who accumulates knowledge from books and allows that education to shape your life choices? Or are you an experience driven learner who sees the mistakes and successes that you make as the life shaping events. Or are you someone who is a combination learner who is gaining knowledge and wisdom from lots of people, experience, and written sources? How we learn effects how we live.
As parents, I think we work hard the first few years of your kids lives just to keep your kids alive long enough for them to be able to get older so they can learn for themselves to meaning of how to live a good life. Keeping your kids away from moving cars, hot stoves, electrical outlets and powerful chemicals that could harm them is stressful - lets be honest.
I recall when my son Josh was 2 1/2 and he found grandpa's blood pressure medication in an unsecured medicine bottle and decided to try some because it looked like candy. After a call to 911, some paramedics, an ambulance ride and a few hours in the children's hospital in Fresno, we learned, and so did Josh, that there are lots of dangerous things in the world that need to be avoided.
In addition, when I was in my late teens and twenties I decided to take up the sport of rock climbing. Much to the chagrin of my mother "the nurse," I wanted to climb. Now this was not the indoor kind of rock climbing - that is padded and protected in a climate-controlled environment - but the outdoor kind that is full of challenging situations and exposure to real heights.
While I learned how to climb I also learned about how to protect my self from serious falls that could take my life. I learned quickly the importance of strong rope, harnesses and solid anchor points and knots tied the correct way. I also learned to put a knot on the end of the rope you are using to repel off a cliff, because many people die when they repel of the end of the rope if that rope is not touching the ground. Rock climbing is an experiential learning sport just like parenting in many ways, and if you learn the important lessons, you will save lives -maybe your own!
All this lead in is to open the topic of learning the stuff the Lord wants us to learn so that we will have long and blessed lives under God's design. At the time the book of Deuteronomy was written, in 1406 B.C. we see the Israelites camped in Moab waiting for the Lord to give Israel the green light to enter the Promised Land. We know that Moses is very old at this point in his life, and he has been told by God that he will not enter the Promised Land because of an event in Numbers 20: 12 where Moses did not do what the Lord told him to do. The hard part was Moses could see the Promised Land that was just a few miles away from their encampment.
While Moses waits for the Lord to give God's people "the Go" he writes a collection of sermons to his people called "Deuteronomy" which many of you know means: "repetition of the law" or in perhaps more up to date terms: "reminders of what is important to live by."
Moses has written down the key things that need to be said again and again so that all the important things about a loving relationship with God will not be forgotten. Moses wants to provide the framework to build a community of faithful people who receive the all the blessings the Lord has in mind for them as they live a "God directed life." So the first leader of Israel is reminding God's people how to live a good and fulfilling life based upon his experience with God in addition to the Covenant and commandments. Moses begins our passage for today with these words: "See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil. If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God that I command you today, by loving the Lord your God, by walking in his ways, and by keeping his commandments and his statutes and his rules, then you shall live and multiply, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land"
Moses has a logic that has a black and white quality in many ways as he shares the ideas that will provide a good life in the mist of a world that has evil in it. Restated if you desire a good life live in this way -simple but not easy. Lets remind our selves of a few of the 10 commandments:
1. You shall have no other gods before me.
2. You shall not make an idol of anything you would worship.
3. You shall not misuse the Name of the Lord your God.
4. Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy.
5. Honor your father and mother.
I could go on... but I think you get the idea that living in the life style of Moses had in mind is challenging... and it requires lots of confession. Jesus helps us simplify Moses' call to obedience with the passage in Matthew 22:37-40: And he said to him, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets."
So even with this simplified call to live for God from Jesus this is still a hard lifestyle. Realizing this challenge laid before us I think there are there examples of how we might pursue this lifestyle that can help us.
There is a Christian College located in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, named Messiah College. This small Christian liberal arts college has the most successful college soccer program for both the men and women for the last 16 seasons in all divisions of the NCAA. Between these two soccer teams they have won 15 national championships since 2000. The men have 10 wins and the women have 5 wins - no other college comes close. In 2016 the men lost in double overtime to the over all winner in the semi final, and the women lost in the final by one penalty kick after an overtime deadlock. These are two amazingly successful teams of soccer players who would tell you candidly that the "secret sauce" to their success is not about winning soccer games! The core of the success in the program is living intentionally in Christian community their core values and principals everyday. First and foremost they play soccer for the Glory of God! This soccer program is about raising people to be excellent examples of people who live for the kingdom of God. Yes they are really good soccer players who have very good coaches who know the game of soccer, but that is not enough to succeed for this many years. It is the core values of the team that provide the ingredients of the teams success.
1. The team comes first. There is no place for selfishness, egotism, or envy.
2. We have complete control over our physical preparation and take responsibility for it.
3. We choose to be positive.
4. There are no unimportant details. We do things a certain way for a reason. Little things make big things happen.
5. We mean no offense and take no offense with each other.
6. Team Spirit: an eagerness to sacrifice personal interests or glory for the welfare of all.
7. Success: giving of your best at all times, no matter the circumstances.
8. We work hard.
9. Do the right thing, for the right reason, all the time.
10. We are a team of grace.
If you are like me, it is easy to see how the Messiah college soccer program can shape lives and mold men and women into amazing followers of Jesus Christ. "This soccer program has unity around striving toward a common goal, it flows, of course, out of a world view, their uniform assumption that they collectively play the game for God rather than for themselves" says 2002 All American Mindy Smith.
What would happen if the church could be like this? If we lived into these kinds of core values, our lives would change in some powerful ways. Moses encourages us to live our lives in specific ways in verse 20 where he writes: "Loving the Lord your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days, that you may dwell in the land"
Over the course of my lifetime I have known people who have willingly chosen to live their lives to honor and glorify the Lord in every aspect of their lives, and I can tell you they live without regret - full of contentment and full of clarity about what is important.
God is calling us to be: an intentional, values driven, God loving people who live in community toward the goal of glorifying God knowing that that commitment will bring blessings and success. 3423 years ago Moses called his people to live in a special God directed way, so our question today is how then shall we choose to live?
Let us pray, Lord you call us to a new standard of living that seems difficult, but in the same breath we know your purposes for us will emerge as we journey on in faith. God help us to look carefully into your Word for those core ideas and values that move us into your blessings. Let us have the courage to trust in ways that we could never have imagined. Lord let our hearts be yours as we live in community for your glory most of all. For we pray all these things in Jesus Name. Amen
Westminster Presbyterian Church