This weekend I performed my 45th wedding. After officiating so many weddings, most ceremonies seem the same. Nevertheless, participating in such an important moment in the life of a couple is always an honor for me that I never want to take for granted.
But participating in a wedding ceremony is much different than making a marriage.
Thinking through the many weddings—and marriages—I participated in over the last 23 years, I can think of one word of instruction that will give them the best chance of building a happy, healthy marriage: love each other. If couples would love each other along the lines of 1 Corinthians 13 and Ephesians 5:25-32, they would stand a good chance of making it.
So really, it boils down to a simple command: love.
In today’s Bible conversation, we’re going to look at a similar command that God has issued to all of us, which will hopefully change our perspective on following Jesus.
INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS
Deuteronomy 11-12:32. In verse 2, Moses tells Israel that their children “were not the ones who saw and experienced the discipline of the Lord.” But then he describes it as God’s majesty, mighty hand, outstretched arm, and so on. In this context, “discipline” might be better translated “instruction.”
In verses 18-21, Moses offers advice to Israel on how to keep from falling into idolatry. He lists them as meditating on his words, creating symbols to serve as reminders, teaching them to their children, even writing them on their houses and gates. If you’re looking for down-to-earth application, this is it!
Chapter 12 then explains how God wants to be worshiped.
Luke 8:22-25. Jesus and his disciples encounter a storm while sailing across the Sea of Galilee. Where was the safest place on earth at that moment? With Jesus in the boat. Sometimes in the middle of stressful situations, Jesus seems so far away. But he isn’t. He just might be hidden in the boat, sleeping.
Luke 8:26-39. We’ve explored this story of the demonized Gerasene man in one of our previous Gospels. Two thoughts hit me about the story this time: Despite his power over the demons, the villagers were terrified of Jesus. Given a choice, the people probably would have preferred that the man remain in his demonized condition than find healing. Such is the price of status quo. Change can be frightening.
Secondly, I was struck by the fact that after he was healed, Jesus instructed the man to remain in Gerasa to tell others what God had done for him. Who can refute the power of the story of a changed life?
Psalm 70. In many ways, this is an abbreviated version of Psalm 69.
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THE WORD MADE FRESH
Reading Deuteronomy 11 today moved me in a profound way. In verse 13, Moses offers us a new definition of obedience: “To love the Lord your God and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul.” He more or less repeats this again in verse 22.
Our society—as well as human nature—tends to view obedience as adherence to a list of meaningless rules that we don’t want to obey. It’s drudgery. Obedience to God? Well, that’s like carrying a cross–a necessary evil of sorts.
But in reality, that’s not the case in our walk with God. Essentially, he issues us one command: to love him. Similar to the piece of advice that every engaged or newlywed couple needs to love each other.
That’s all God wants from us—to love him completely. With everything that’s within us.
There’s another word that describes this: worship. The Westminster Catechism (a historic church document used to instruct children in the Christian faith) rephrased it as “enjoying God.” From this perspective, obedience doesn’t sound so dull and dreary.
With our new definition of obedience in place, we understand why idolatry is such a big deal to God. In fact, that explains why Moses addresses idolatry immediately following this passage. The opposite of obedience is idolatry. Making an idol of something that prevents us from loving, worshiping, and enjoying God completely. Usually the idols we worship are fashioned in our own image.
Remember that in Friday’s reading, we saw that God desires to give us life—through the life of obedience.
Living a holy life, focused on loving and enjoying God, will bring life. It’s the life God intended for you and me! The life that we will enjoy. The life that brings significance and purpose.
- What spoke to you in today’s reading?
- How would you live your life differently if you viewed obedience as an opportunity to love God with all your heart and your soul?
- Do you have any stories you’d like to share about how you’ve learned to better love, worship, and enjoy God?
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Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, Colorado.