From the beginning of time God has always required the very same thing from man, not to build monuments, not to do great feats or organize and perform elaborate rituals, but obedience. The times change, societies evolve, man grows in his knowledge and relationship with God, but nothing changes the fact that above all else God requires simple obedience from man.
In the Old Testament period God promised the people protection, blessings, land, a Messiah. He also required them to respond to Him in faith in order to gain and keep these. That faith was expressed in obedience to His moral and ritual laws. In the New Testament age in which we live, God has promised all the things which the Savior has brought (forgiveness, righteousness, hope of eternal life, insight into truth, power to overcome sin, etc.). In the same way he requires the similar response of faith from us in order to acquire these things, and faith is still expressed as obedience. However, not obedience to the Law as it was given to Moses, but obedience to the words of Christ as they were given to the Apostles and recorded for us in the New Testament.
The times and the circumstances change but what never changes for the people of God is what they are to obey and how they are to obey. And that is what I want to discuss this evening, what we are to obey as God's people and how we are to obey it. The book of Deuteronomy provides information to every generation to these questions.
What to Obey – Deuteronomy 13:1-18
Deuteronomy 13:1-18 provides a clear example of what is to be the standard for God's people. These few verses explain clearly what God expects us to obey in every age and circumstance. Deuteronomy is the book that records what Moses said to the people as he was preparing them to enter into the promised land. The greatest danger they will face will not be the foreign armies or a hostile environment (these God has promised He will take care of for them). The greatest danger they will face is the loss of their faith by disobeying God's word. Moses knew that if they lost their faith, they would lose God's protection and blessing, and so he warns and instructs them how to guard their faith in the face of foreign gods and pagan practices.
In this chapter he is trying to tell them what God expects them to obey, and that is His word and only His word. The point of the passage is that obedience to word is the ultimate test that someone or something is correct and pleasing in God's sight, and Moses gives three reasons why we should obey the word above all else.
The Word is More Accurate Than Signs or Wonders
1"If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, 2and the sign or the wonder comes true, concerning which he spoke to you, saying, 'Let us go after other gods (whom you have not known) and let us serve them,' 3you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams; for the Lord your God is testing you to find out if you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. 4You shall follow the Lord your God and fear Him; and you shall keep His commandments, listen to His voice, serve Him, and cling to Him. 5But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has counseled rebellion against the Lord your God who brought you from the land of Egypt and redeemed you from the house of slavery, to seduce you from the way in which the Lord your God commanded you to walk. So you shall purge the evil from among you.
- Deuteronomy 13:1-5
Even if a sign or wonder is performed or a prophecy comes true, if the substance of what is being said contradicts the word of God, the miracle and the prophet are to be rejected. An example of this in our world today is where people's faith is based on miracles, visions, modern day prophets who may fill stadiums, preach to millions on T.V. but whose message and method contradict God's word. People are easily blinded by flashy displays and signs but in the end the Word is the final judge of what is authentic and what is false, not miracles.
The Word Must Prevail Over Peer Pressure
6"If your brother, your mother's son, or your son or daughter, or the wife you cherish, or your friend who is as your own soul, entice you secretly, saying, 'Let us go and serve other gods' (whom neither you nor your fathers have known, 7of the gods of the peoples who are around you, near you or far from you, from one end of the earth to the other end), 8you shall not yield to him or listen to him; and your eye shall not pity him, nor shall you spare or conceal him. 9But you shall surely kill him; your hand shall be first against him to put him to death, and afterwards the hand of all the people. 10So you shall stone him to death because he has sought to seduce you from the Lord your God who brought you out from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. 11Then all Israel will hear and be afraid, and will never again do such a wicked thing among you.
- Deuteronomy 13:6-11
Loyalty to tradition or family is a goof thing except when it prevents one from obeying God. In this passage the people were told to destroy anyone (even family) who would cause them to disobey God's word. Obedience to the word should override emotions. This is not easy when loved ones are involved, but what advantage is it to them or us if in disobeying God's word we lose our souls and cause them to lose their's as well?
The Word is More Sure Than Human Movements or Causes
12"If you hear in one of your cities, which the Lord your God is giving you to live in, anyone saying that 13some worthless men have gone out from among you and have seduced the inhabitants of their city, saying, 'Let us go and serve other gods' (whom you have not known), 14then you shall investigate and search out and inquire thoroughly. If it is true and the matter established that this abomination has been done among you, 15you shall surely strike the inhabitants of that city with the edge of the sword, utterly destroying it and all that is in it and its cattle with the edge of the sword. 16Then you shall gather all its booty into the middle of its open square and burn the city and all its booty with fire as a whole burnt offering to the Lord your God; and it shall be a ruin forever. It shall never be rebuilt. 17Nothing from that which is put under the ban shall cling to your hand, in order that the Lord may turn from His burning anger and show mercy to you, and have compassion on you and make you increase, just as He has sworn to your fathers, 18if you will listen to the voice of the Lord your God, keeping all His commandments which I am commanding you today, and doing what is right in the sight of the Lord your God.
- Deuteronomy 13:12-18
The Jews were to safeguard the purity of the land by striking down and destroying at the very source any movement that would lead them into disobedience. Men who were beginning a movement into idolatry, these were to be sought out and stopped immediately.
In most church splits, caused by doctrinal differences, rebellious grumblers, discipleship factions the one common mistake made by the leaders of the church was the failure to act quickly, decisively, and biblically in disciplining and/or cutting out the infected parts. Obedience to the word is what decides who is right, who should lead and who should be corrected. From the very beginning until now and until the day when Jesus comes, the word of God is what we are to obey regardless of signs, pressures or movements we may face.
46I have come as Light into the world, so that everyone who believes in Me will not remain in darkness. 47If anyone hears My sayings and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world. 48He who rejects Me and does not receive My sayings, has one who judges him; the word I spoke is what will judge him at the last day.
- John 12:46-48
How to Obey – Deuteronomy 4-8
God provides His word to guide, protect, and build us up and He requires that we obey it. In His word He also outlines for us how we are to obey His word, in other words, there is a quality of obedience that we should aspire to in order to please and show our love to God. The spirit of obedience is explained in various passages contained also in Deuteronomy 4-8.
You shall not add to the word which I am commanding you, nor take away from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you.
- Deuteronomy 4:2
We must not add or subtract from God's word. The word and only the word is our guide. Restoration and New Testament church is not a man made idea, it is a Bible idea, that is why it is good.
So keep and do them, for that is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples who will hear all these statutes and say, 'Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.'
- Deuteronomy 4:6
Obedience in God's sight involves reliance on revealed truth not human logic. We are growing in spiritual maturity and insight when we understand this principle.
7For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as is the Lord our God whenever we call on Him? 8Or what great nation is there that has statutes and judgments as righteous as this whole law which I am setting before you today?
- Deuteronomy 4:7-8
We should be eager to obey the word because of its intrinsic value as Divine inspiration. It is our spiritual treasure and not to be seen as a yoke or something that keeps us from doing what we "really want to do". Our obedience should have an eagerness to it. What we really should want to do is obey the word because there is nothing like it in the world.
4"Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! 5You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. 7You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. 8You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. 9You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
- Deuteronomy 6:4-9
Proper obedience requires that the word of the Lord be taught to others, especially family. We obey by teaching others to obey. We have not fully obeyed until we have done this.
For you are a holy people to the Lord your God; the Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for His own possession out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.
- Deuteronomy 7:6
Obedience should be such that our conduct is superior to others. We ought not to be hypocrites but if we obey the Word, our thoughts and actions will be holier and more righteous than others and we should not be embarrassed or proud. It is normal. Obedience is seen in holy living.
"All the commandments that I am commanding you today you shall be careful to do, that you may live and multiply, and go in and possess the land which the Lord swore to give to your forefathers.
- Deuteronomy 8:1
God promises that quality obedience to His word will result in blessings for these people. His method and promises have not changed. If we know and carefully follow his word and only His word, we too will continue as His people. And one day in a world without sinful flesh or the presence of Satan, we will be so filled with the knowledge of His word that just as Christ existed in the form of the pure word and through the agency of the Holy Spirit became flesh, we who are now flesh one day, though the power of the same Holy Spirit, be transformed into a perfect reflection of the word.
Let us leave here tonight convinced and convicted of three things:
- Obeying God's word is the most important thing we can do with our lives, it is the beginning of our spiritual life and guarantee of our eternal life.
- God's word is the final judge of what is right and true, and pleasing to the Lord.
- No matter how young or old, we need to make greater efforts to learn and obey the word as well as teach it to others.
If we leave here with these three things out time will have been well spent and you will have obeyed God's word. There may be some who need specifically to obey the word in repentance and baptism tonight, or obey the call to be restored. if this is what the Lord is requiring of you why put it off any longer? Why not obey now?