ďFollowing Godís LawĒ†††††††† Deuteronomy 4:1-14††††††††† February 7, 2010

 

SI:Weíre studying the book of Deuteronomy.

The name Deuteronomy means a second giving of the law.

 

The Israelites were standing on the brink of the Promised Land.

†† They were about to cross the Jordan River

†† and take possession of the land promised to Abraham.

 

God told Moses to give them the law a second time.

†† So they would know how he wanted them to live in the Promised Land.

Moses began by reminding them of the history of Godís grace.

†† How he had saved them out of Egypt

†† and had been faithful to all the promises he had made.

 

In our reading this morning, Moses gets them ready to hear the Law of God

†† by explaining to them the purpose of the law in the life of the believer.

 


 

INTRO:When I was in seminary I remember an argument some students

†† got into about a preaching class we were taking.

The class dealt with techniques of public speaking. Rules of public speaking.

 

One student was very bothered by the class.

He said:What do these techniques have to do with preaching the Gospel?

†† We should study the word of God and preach from the heart.

Another student said, These are good tools and there is nothing wrong with them.

†† If you believe your message is important, you should use speaking techniques

†† to get your point across more effectively.

The other student said, No, thereís too much of a danger of misuseó

†† theyíre artificial and manipulative.

 

So the student who was defending the class said:

†† Suppose you wanted to give your wife a great birthday because love her.

But, you donít have any good ideas.You arenít very creative.

You are in a bookstore and see a book ď100 Birthday Surprises for Your Wife.Ē

So you buy the book, circle some ideas, do those for your wife, and she loves it!

†† Is there anything wrong with that?

Other student thought about it for a moment and said:Only if she finds the book!

 

You see what these seminary students were arguing about.

Does effective preaching depend on the use of rules

†† or is it a matter of preaching from the heart?

If you use rules and techniques, you might stop relying on the Holy Spirit.

†† Your sermons might be polished and pretty, but not be Spirit-filled.

On the other hand, if you say that you are going to be led by the Spirit,

†† give little attention to the rules of speaking and become an ineffective rambler.

Itís obviously both, but how do you stay balanced?

 

There is a similar tension in the Christian life regarding the law of God.

†† As a Christian, are you to follow the law of God or are you to follow your heart?

If your heart is in love with Jesus, if the Holy Spirit is within you.

†† If you love God with all you heart, soul, strength, and mind,

†† doesnít it make sense to follow your heart as the Spirit guides you?

St. Augustine said:ďLove God and do as you please.Ē

 

But we all know the problems that Christians get into when they

†† say they are going to follow their hearts instead of the plain words of Godís law.

Weíve all heard Christians baptize foolish and immoral decisions by saying,

†† my heart tells me, or Iíve prayed about it.

†† The heart is a master at self-deception and self-justification.

 

Obviously there is no real contradiction between a heart that loves God and

†† the requirement to follow the law of God in Scripture.

Jesus said if you love me, you will do what I command.

†† He said he did not come to do away with one jot or tiddle of the law.

The Psalmist says:ďOh, how I love your law, it is my meditation all the day.Ē

†† The Ten Commandments themselves quoted a dozen places in New Testament.

 

But we all know that an emphasis on law-keeping can have its own problems.

†† It can feed a spirit of self-righteousness that takes people far from Christ.

Ephesian church was one of the most law-keeping churches in terms of doctrine

†† and morality.The Lord praised them for that.

But do you remember what he said next?

†† ďBut I have this against you:You have forsaken your first love.Ē

 

This is an area of Christian life in which devil continually trying to sow confusion:

†† What place does law-keeping have in the Christian life?

†† What does it accomplish?

††† Does it save you?Does it keep you saved?Does it matter at all?

Individuals and churches have a tendency fall off on one side or the otheró

†† To put the wrong emphasis on law, or to disregard it.

 

So before Moses gives the Israelites the law a second time,

†† for this new generation, he wants them to get this straight in their minds.

He tells them numerous times to follow Godís law, to keep Godís law.

†† But in telling them Moses is also very careful to put the law in the right place.

 

This passage shows us two things:

1.The wrong reasons for keeping Godís law.

2.The right reasons for keeping Godís law.

 

To live as a biblical Christian, you have to keep these straight.

Letís look at each.


MP#1The wrong reasons for keeping Godís law

There are three:To get in, to stay in, and to buy in.

 

First wrong reason for keeping Godís law is to get in, to get into heaven.

The name for this thinking is legalism.

†† Itís the belief that you are saved by obeying the law.By being a good person.

†† My status before God is determined by the way I live my life.

 

Iím certain all of you know that law-keeping doesnít save.

†† But we need to hear it said sometimes because itís the default setting of the heart.

†† We are all born with the instinctive belief that being good gets you in.

Ask most people if they are going to heaven and they will say yes.

†† Ask them why and they will say because theyíve been a good person.

This is such a natural way of thinking that it is always seeping into the church.

 

We see legalism in the Old Testament churchóprophets fought it.

†† You think you are saved by coming to the Temple and offering sacrifices.

Jesus dealt with the legalism of the Pharisees.

†† And Paul fought it in several churchesóespecially in the Galatian church

†† where some were saying you had to trust Christ and be circumcised to be saved.

 

Thatís legalism in its Christian form.Doesnít deny the necessity of faith in Christ.

†† But it says that itís faith plus obedience to the law.

Usually there is a list, or some particular laws chosen that must be followed.

†† Keeping these is the determining factor of whether or not you are a real Christian.

 

Tim Keller points out that legalistic conservative churches

†† and legalistic liberal churches end up with the very same messageó

†† Jesus Christ plus your good deeds.

Itís just that the good deeds are different.

†† In conservative churches they are sexual morality and avoiding worldliness.

†† In liberal churches they are social activism and environmental concern.

So churches across the theological spectrum are capable of adding to Gospel.

 

Moses pushes back against this, throughout Deuteronomy.

He makes it clear that the obedience the Israelites are to give God is not for the

†† purpose of making them Godís children.They are already his children.

They owe him obedience because they are already in.

†† You get in through Godís grace alone.

The second wrong reason for keeping Godís law is to stay in.

I said a moment ago that I donít think any of you in this church

†† believe you have to keep the law to get in.

But Iím sure that there are some of you, myself included,

†† who have at times felt that you have to keep the law to stay in.

That you have to keep the law to stay in Godís good graces.

†† You have to keep walking the straight and narrow or you lose salvation.

 

Iíve been a Calvinist all my life.I believe in the perseverance of the saints.

†† I believe in eternal security of believers, that we canít lose our salvation.

But there have been times I have very strongly felt that I was going to lose mine.

†† And many times, Iím ashamed to say, I responded to that feeling of

†† worry about my soul by trying to keep the law more diligently.

 

But it doesnít work.The more you try to keep Godís law to stay in,

†† the more that very law exposes your sin and your inability to keep it.

†† The greater your guilt becomes.More you realize you canít keep yourself in.

 

Last Saturday I attempted to do some minor plumbing in the bathroom.

†† At one point I thought the water was off, unscrewed something and blast

†† of water hit me in the chest and some little parts from the faucet fell out.

I didnít know what to do and I thought about going to Lowes and buying

†† a do-it-yourself plumbing book that I had seen there.

But then I thought.Thatís crazy.If I have a book to follow Iíll dig a deeper hole.

†† Instead of tearing up the faucet, there is no telling what damage Iíll do.

†† So I resigned myself to calling a plumber.Allison was delighted.

 

If you turn to the law of God to try to stay inóthe law of God will eat you alive.

†† It will expose more of your faults and guilt.

Bible tells you itís not just actions, itís thoughts tooó

†† If you hate someone in your heart youíve murdered.

†† If you lust after someone, youíve committed adultery.

Not just thoughtsóeven matter of motiveóLove God with all heart.

†† ďAll who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written: ďCursed is everyone

††† who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.Ē

If you rely on law to stay in, you will soon realize you canít do everything written.

†† You will dig a hole of helpless despair or give up.

†† Thatís why, once again, you need Godís grace.

Godís grace gets you in and keeps you in.

Third wrong reason for keeping Godís law is to buy in.

What I mean by that is that many people, many Christians even,

†† think that they can earn the good things they want by keeping Godís law.

They would never say that they believe keeping the law saves them.

†† They would affirm that salvation is by grace alone.

But when it comes to the good things of life,

†† they think they can buy into Godís blessings by obeying the law.

 

Maybe itís a matter of finances or marriage or health.

†† The thought is, If I obey, God will have to respond and make things right.

We once knew a couple who had a series of miscarriages.Professing Christians.

†† They told us that they had never tithed.But they had started tithing because

†† they though God would see their obedience and give them a baby.

What do you say to someone like that?

 

Donald Barnhouse, famous pastor of 10th Presbyterian in Philadelphia

†† was speaking at a conference on the topic of prayer.

†† A man said:Iím living an obedient life.Why hasnít God answered my prayer?

Barnhouse said:Because you donít pray in Jesusí name.

†† Man said:Of course I do.After every prayer I say:In Jesusí name.Amen.

No, Barnhouse said, youíre praying in your own name.

†† You believe that God owes it to you because of your obedience.

†† Go home and repent of trying to manipulate God by your good works.

What about you?Why do you obey Godís law?

 

Let me ask you some diagnostic questions:

Are you critical of other people?Do you enjoy their moral and relational failures?

†† Behind that criticism and self-righteousness is a reliance on law-keeping.

You think your obedience and morality has secured your status with God,

†† and your criticisms of other people is the way you affirm that.

Not only will that make you prideful, you will be devastated when you fail.

†† Repent of your law-keeping and accept Godís grace.

 

Do you struggle with anger or despondency because of things missing in your life?

†† Behind both problem emotions is a denial of grace and reliance on law-keeping.Both come from the belief that God owes you for your obedience.

†† Youíre angry because you think youíve done good and God owes you.

†† Youíre despondent because know havenít lived up, but think itís still up to you

†† to pull it together so that God will bless you.

Many of the pathologies of the soul that Christians suffer from come from

†† keeping Godís law for the wrong reasons.

Anger, despondency, touchiness, shameótrace them back and behind them

†† is often the belief that if I do good, then God owes me.

The answer is not to downplay the law of God, or say that we need to live

†† from the heart or something like that.Godís law is good.We are to keep it.

†† And if we keep it for the right reasons, it becomes a huge blessing.

So letís consider now . . .

 

MP#2The right reasons for keeping Godís law

First, you should keep Godís law in order to enjoy the blessings of obedience.

 

It might sound like Iím contradicting myself.

†† I just said that itís wrong to keep the law to try to get things from God.

†† Or to think that God owes it to you to work things out in a certain way.

†† But weíre not talking about earning or demanding.

The Bible says that there are blessings that follow obedience.

†† And the Bible often motivates Christians to obey Godís law for that very reason.

 

In fact, thatís the first thing that Moses tells the Israelites.

He says Iím teaching you the law of God

so that things will go well with you in the Promised Land.

Follow Godís law and you will become such a wise and understanding and

†† blessed people that you will be the envy of the nations all around.

†† Will say of Israel, ďSurely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.Ē

 

And then Moses goes on to say, Arenít Godís laws great?

†† ďWhat other people have such righteous decrees and laws as we do?Ē

†† None.Because none have a God who is as close to us as our God, the Lord.

In other words, God did not just choose some arbitrary laws to impose on us.

†† Instead, His laws reflect the way He has made us.

†† His law is the way for us to live happily and safely.

 

If you buy a new car you will find the ownerís manual in the glove compartment.

†† If you operate the car according to those instructions, you will get many years.

But if you break those rules.If you hitch up a plow and use it as a tractor,

†† it will soon be a useless pile of junk.

The law of God is our heavenly Fatherís ownerís manual for human life.

†† If you want a full and rich life, live by Godís law.

If you are truthful, generous, loving, faithful.There will be blessings.

†† If you lie, steal, indifferent, unfaithful.There will be curses.

†† There are laws God has established to govern nature, laws to govern morals.

 

There is not a single commandment of God that will not enrich your life

†† if you obey it.

So the best thing for you to do is to keep all of Godís commandments

†† with care and attention to detailóthe laws governing your time, your money.

†† your relationships, your responsibilities in the church, and in your family,

†† and to your neighbor.

Every command is a path to Godís best for you.

 

There are some of you whose lives are a shadow of what they could be for God,

†† and for other people, and for yourself because you arenít keeping Godís law.

You think you know better than your heavenly Father what you ought to do.

†† You are being very foolish.Your life could be so much better.

 

You ought to love Godís law.You ought to think of it as his fatherly counsel.

†† Just like the counsel you give your children when you sit down with them

†† and tell them how to live if they want to be happy and holy.

This is the Bibleís teaching about the law of God in the Christian life.

†† Itís a gift of Godís love to his children whom he has saved by grace.

†† You ought to keep it because in doing so, you will be blessed.

 

And there is another big reason you should keep Godís law and that is

†† to show your gratitude to him for his grace.

When Moses talks about the law, he makes it clear over and over that the obedience

†† the Israelites are to give God is not for the purpose of making them Godís

†† children.They are already his children.

They owe obedience to God because heís already saved them.

†† They owe it to him because they are already in.

 

He refers to the law as the commands of the Lord your God.

†† Itís not that he will be their God after they obey.

They were his people before he gave them the law.

†† In verse 7 Moses refers to the way that the Lord is near his people

†† to hear and answer their prayers.And in verse 10 how he gave them the

†† Ten Commandments at Mount Horeb after he had saved them from Egypt.

 

Thatís always the order of the Christian life.Itís grace and relationship first.

†† And then, after that is established, you have the law to keep.

Parents, you donít tell your children that if they obey you, then you will let them

†† become a part of your family and they will become your children.

No, you tell them that they must obey you because they are your children,

†† and it is right for children to obey their parents.

 

Deuteronomy is a book of grace.

†† Itís the saving work of God through Christ pre-figured in the Old Testament.

When Jesus Christ saves you from the curse of the law He draws you into the

†† deepest possible obligation of gratitude to Him.

And your gratitude and love is expressed in obedience to Godís law.

†† This is the way Jesus put it:

†† ďIf you love me, you will obey what I command.Ē

 

Where do you need love Christ more?

†† Where do you need to obey his law more carefully and diligently?

Maybe his laws about money and giving?

†† He has many commands about money.Donít love money.

†† Be content with what you have.Give generously and cheerfully.

 

Maybe his laws about rearing your children?

†† He commands you to talk to your children about the faith.

†† To pray with them.To read them the Scriptures.Bring up in nurture of Lord.

†† Are you obeying those commands or forgetting them and letting years go?

Maybe itís Jesus commands about marriage or forgiving your enemies

†† or guarding your tongue.All of us have different weaknesses and challenges.

 

Those places you struggle are where you can show your love for Jesus the most.

It is entirely possible to keep the letter of the law and not love Jesus as you should.

Love for Jesus is much more than just keeping Godís lawó

it is having a heart that is completely committed to Him,

†† filled with gratitude and wonder that He has saved you and forgiven sins.

 

But even though love for Jesus is much more than just keeping Godís lawó

†† it is never less.

In fact, the greater your love, the more you will desire to conform your life

†† in every way to Godís moral law.

†† Say with Psalmist, ďOh how I love your law.I meditate on it all day long.Ē

CONC:There is a poem about the law and the Gospel

†† written by the old Scottish Presbyterian Ralph Erskine.

 

†† ďWhen once the fiery law of God

†† Has chased us to the Gospel road;

†† Then back unto the holy law

†† Most kindly Gospel grace will draw

 

Heís saying that first Godís law is like fire.It shows us our guilt.

†† It shows us hell and wrath.And that chases us to the Gospel.

†† Chases us to Christ for forgiveness and grace.

 

But what then happens?Do we forget the law?Are we done with it?

†† Not at all.After we are saved, the Gospel kindly draws us back to the law.

†† Why does it draw us back?Because itís through the law that we express

†† our love for God as his sons and daughters, and our gratitude to Christ

†† for his great salvation.

 

†† The precepts of the law me show

†† What fruits of gratitude I owe . . .