We have recently taken a journey through the Bible - a journey considering some of promises recorded in the Bible. Promises given to those who obey what God teaches in the Bible.
For instance, we are taught to pray. For those who do pray, the promises are God’s nearness, God hearing and answering our prayers, mercy, grace, and help from Jesus, and the Holy Spirit’s intercession.
In addition, we are taught to forgive others. For those who do forgive, the promise is that God will forgive them.
In this message, some more promises recorded in the Bible. Promises given to those who obey, not only the teaching to pray and the teaching to forgive others, but who obey in general, as in everything taught in the Bible.
That of course requires knowing what is taught, which of course requires reading and studying the Bible. But we are to do more than read, study, and know. We are to obey what we know from the Bible. That is the challenge. The good news is that when we obey, we will be rewarded.
Today’s journey through the Bible features four passages. The first two are in the Old Testament Book of Deuteronomy, beginning with chapter 11, verses 26 through 28.
Chapter 11 is in the middle of a very long sermon spoken by Moses. The sermon begins in chapter 5 and extends through chapter 26. I do not know if all that is recorded was given in one sermon, or if there were two or three that are reported together. However it was presented, there are many, many, many teachings included in it. Teachings Moses received from God. Teachings Moses, in the sermon, shared with the people of God.
Included among the teachings are the Ten Commandments, the challenge to love the LORD our God with all our heart, soul, and strength, the instruction to teach God’s word to our children, the importance of tithing, and how to treat others, including slaves.
Over and over and over again in the sermon is God’s call to obey. In fact, one place it is worded that obedience is the main requirement of God. “What does the LORD our God require of you, but to fear Him, to walk in all His ways, to love Him, to serve Him, and to keep His commandments and statutes?”
In Deuteronomy, as in the rest of the Bible, we are taught what God teaches about how to live - how to relate to Him and how to treat others and what to think of ourselves. We need to read and study and know those teachings. However, as mentioned, that is not enough. We need to obey what we know. That is important, mainly because obedience pleases God. But there is more to it. There are promises for those who obey.
Chapter 11, verses 26 through 28. “Behold.” This is Moses speaking God’s word. “Behold, I set before you this day a blessing and a curse,” which means there are two promises presented. One of them is very negative. It is the positive one we are to go after. “I set before you this day a blessing [which is the positive] and a curse [which is the very negative].”
The blessing? Notice it comes from obeying God’s teachings, but what does it mean to be blessed by God?
How about this. God blessing a person gives him or her a desire for God. A desire that is all-consuming. It leads to victory over anything that keeps him or her from desiring God in all things.
God blessing a person gives that person full spiritual satisfaction. Satisfaction that comes from being able to overcome any worldly pressures that might take away spiritual joy.
Being blessed by God does not necessarily lead to an absence of struggles or problems or disappointments, but being blessed does mean those things will draw us closer to God, who is our help in times of trouble.
Do we want to be closer to God? Do we want to be spiritually satisfied? Do we want to be able to stay strong in our faith during times of trouble? The way to accomplish all that is to obey. The promise is that when we obey Him, He will bless us.
Then comes the negative promise. We will be cursed - God will take away a desire for Him, He will take away the ability to be satisfied, troubled times will not be able to be survived spiritually - if we do not obey His teachings. Including if we show our disobedience by going after other gods.
We are to read, study, know, and then obey the teachings of God. Let’s make it our goal to do all that all the time, in every situation, certainly because obedience pleases God, but also because there is a promise for those who obey. The promise of God’s closeness, being spiritually satisfied, and the ability to remain strong in our Christian faith.
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Deuteronomy 29:9. This is in another sermon Moses spoke to the people of God. A much shorter one this time. It was given shortly before the people were to enter the Promised Land, which would happen after Moses’ death, which means this verse contains some of the last recorded words of Moses.
29:9 - Moses said, “Be careful to do the words of this covenant.” Be careful to obey the teachings of God. Why? “That you may prosper in all that you do.”
It seems important to cite another passage earlier in Deuteronomy. Another passage in the earlier sermon referred to. In it, Moses listed the wonderful things the people of God would see in the Promised Land. Cities they had not built. Houses filled with good things they would not have provided. Cisterns for water that they had not carved. Vineyards and olive trees they had not planted.
Moses told the people that in the Promised Land, they would find wonderful things. What a great prospect that was after centuries of them and their ancestors being enslaved in Egypt and, at that time, being in the barren wilderness between Egypt and the Promised Land, where they had been for 40 years. For a very long time, there had been suffering for the people of God. The prospect of cities and houses and abundant water and food was a wonderful thing to think about.
In that earlier passage, Moses added a warning. A warning against forgetting God, which he knew would be a very real possibility when the people were no longer suffering.
In that passage, Moses added, “You shall fear.” That was his challenge. “You shall fear God,” as in respect Him so much you will obey Him.
The same challenge is given in 29:9. Listen again. “Do God’s word [obey the teachings of God] that you may prosper in all that you do.” The people were about to enter the Promised Land. That was to happen in the very next Old Testament book. They were about to see the cities and houses and cisterns and vineyards and olive trees in that land, so again the words. “Remember God.” Continue to learn about Him. Continue to obey His teachings. Then - the implication is that only then - you will be able to prosper in all you do.
The promised reward? Those who obey God will prosper. At least spiritually. That is a promise given to Old Testament people of God. The same is true even now. As we read and study and know and obey, we, too, will be able to prosper in what we do. Our prosperity may or may not be financial in nature, but it will be spiritual in nature.
Referring back to the first passage, the spiritual prosperity we will have will feature being close to God, being spiritually satisfied, and being able to stay strong in our faith during times of trouble. What wonderful promises for those who obey.
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On to the New Testament before returning to the Old. James 1:25, which is part of a section of the chapter that continues to teach the need, not only to read, study, and know the Bible, but obey it. The wording in James is the challenge to be doers of the word. “Be doers of the word, and not hearers only.”
I found a story attributed to Chuck Swindoll.
Imagine, if you will, that you work for a company whose president found it necessary to travel out of the country and spend an extended period of time overseas. He says to you and the other trusted employees, “I am going to leave. While I am gone, I want you to pay close attention to the business. You manage things while I am away. I will write you regularly. When I do, I will instruct you in what you should do from now until I return from this trip.”
You and everyone else agrees. The president of the company leaves and is gone for a couple years. During that time he writes often, communicating his desires and concerns.\
Finally the president returns. He walks to the front door of the company and immediately discovers everything is in a mess. Weeds are flourishing in the flower beds, windows are broken across the front of the building. Inside he finds the receptionist at the front desk is asleep, loud music is blaring from several offices, two or three people are engaged in horseplay in the back room.
Instead of making a profit, the business has suffered a great loss. Without hesitation, the president calls everyone together. With a frown he asks, “What happened? Did you not get my letters?”
You say, “Oh, yeah, sure. We got your letters. We have even bound them in a book, and some of us have memorized them. In fact, we have letter study every Sunday. You know, those were really great letters.
The president will ask, “But what did you do about my instructions?”
How sad when you and the rest of the employees will respond, “Do? Well, nothing. But we read every one of them.”
How sad it will be for those who not do the instructions God has sent to us, not only in the Bible, but through Jesus as the Savior. One more time, it is important to read, study, hear, and know the Bible, but there must be more. There must be obedience.
Which is the point of James 1:25. “But the one who looks into the perfect law [the one who reads, studies, and knows the perfect law] of liberty and perseveres [the one who obeys the perfect law and therefore who is not only a hearer who forgets but is also a doer who acts], that one [here is a promise] shall be blessed in his doing.”
Remember how being blessed was described earlier. Being blessed by God gives the one blessed a desire for God. God blessing a person gives that person full spiritual satisfaction. Being blessed by God does not lead to an absence of struggles or problems or disappointments, but it does mean those things will draw us closer to God, who is our help in times of trouble.
Again, do we want to be closer to God and spiritually satisfied and able to stay strong in our faith during times of trouble? The way to accomplish all that is to obey. The promise is that when we obey Him, we will be blessed in all our doings - in all the ways we live our lives as we make decisions daily.
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Back to the Old Testament. II Chronicles 7:14. “If My people.” These are words of God. “If My people, who are called by My name.” If those of us who belong to Him. We belong to Him if we have accepted His Son Jesus as Savior. “If My people who are called by My name” do a number of things. If they - if we - obey His teachings, including His teachings to be humble and pray and seek His face and turn from any wicked ways we might have. If we will remember that God is God and we are not. If we will constantly seek His will and way. If we will, with God’s help, repent of any wrongs things we are doing. This extends to wrong things we might not even know about. We need to include those kinds of sins. If we will pray for humility. If we will pray to know God’s will. If we will pray to know even our hidden faults. If we belong to God and if we obey His teachings, here is another promise, then God will hear our prayers, forgive our sins, and heal our land.
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Two quick stories, the first one on the need to know who is in charge.
Roger Staubach was a great quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys from 1969 through the 1979 NFL season. He led the Cowboys to multiple Super Bowls, winning two of them. Among his awards are MVP of a Super Bowl and being named to six Pro Bowl teams.
Despite his skills and his knowledge of the game - he was known for reading, studying, and knowing the Cowboy play book - Staubach played in the era when coaches, for him, Tom Landry, sent in every play. Landry told Staubach when to pass and when to run. Only in emergency situations could Staubach change the play, and even then, the coach told him he had better be right.
Staubach knew the game, but he was trained to listen to the coach. To obey the coach. He admits it was difficult to do that. As he words it, his pride told him he should be able to run the team. But because he obeyed, there was harmony, fulfillment, and victory.
We want harmony in our lives. We want harmony to continue in our congregation, do we not? We hope we feel spiritually fulfilled and we need to help others feel fulfilled as well. We want to win battles for the Lord. The way for that to happen is to let God call the plays. Our role is to obey.
And this story, attributed to Abraham Lincoln.
During the Civil War, President Lincoln met with a group of ministers for a prayer breakfast. At one point, one of the ministers said, “Mr. President, let us pray that God is on our side.” Lincoln’s response showed far greater insight. “No, gentlemen, let us pray that we are on God’s side.”
Lincoln reminded those ministers that religion is not a tool by which we get God to do what we want, but an invitation to open ourselves to being and doing what God wants.
Let’s read and study and know the Bible. And let’s not stop there. We need to obey what we are taught in the Bible. We need to be doers of the Bible.
Doing so will bring us God’s blessing. That is a promise.
It will bring us at least spiritual prosperity. That, too, is a promise.
God will hear our prayers. That is a promise.
It will bring us forgiveness and spiritual healing. That is a promise as well.
Today’s closing song is I Surrender All. As we sing, let’s decide to surrender to Jesus so we can obey Him, or ask for the Lord’s strength to keep obeying Him.
All to Jesus I surrender,
All to Him I freely give;
I will ever love and trust Him,
iIn His presence daily live.
All to Jesus I surrender,
Humbly at His feet I bow,
Worldly pleasures all forsaken,
Take me, Jesus, take me now.
I surrender all, I surrender all.
All to Thee, my blessed Savior,
I surrender all.
All to Jesus I surrender,
Make me, Savior, wholly Thine.
Let me feel the Holy Spirit,
Truly know that Thou art mine.
All to Jesus, I surrender,
Lord, I give myself to Thee;
Fill me with Thy love and power,
Let Thy blessing fall on me.
I surrender all, I surrender all,
All to Thee, my blessed Savior,
I surrender all.
Lord, You teach us to obey You in all things, including Your teachings to pray and to forgive others. We ought to obey You simply because You deserve obedience and because obedience pleases You, but You make it even better by promising us wonderful rewards - closeness to You, spiritual satisfaction, the ability to stay strong in our faith, being blessed by You in all those ways.
Help us to continue - or start - reading, studying, and knowing the Bible. Help us always to be, not just hearers or readers, but doers 0f Your teachings. Amen.