Obedience in the Present Age; Part One

Sitting  in a Kansas hotel reading my daily meditation by my buddy Oswald Chambers, it was brought to my attention, that when I speak and think of God, I speak of a deity who is in charge.  I revere Him; I obey Him on the promise of eternal covering.  There is no doubt that over the past three writings, we have discussed evil, truth haters and laying out the foundation of who really is charge; Our Father who art in Heaven.  We have discussed Free Will and Justice.  Free Will with which we purchase our ticket to our final destination, whether you choose to believe or not.  Justice in that God is just and will provide judgment, based on His never changing laws, but that does not mean, He doesn’t love you.  Just like our children, we love them regardless of their behavior.  Disappointed, maybebut we still love them.  We have also discussed iniquity, that which the world continues to spread, without regard to God’s decree’s.  Eventually God will sound the ending of all our little tantrums to get our own way.

All of this is the Truth!  We know that, He is the creator of the world; He has established a covenant with His people.  We have discussed the mindset of My Life, My Rules and His House , His Rules.  AND yet after all that, I, Roland Jutras, am content obeying the rules to please my Father in Heaven.

You might ask, what are you getting at, isn’t that the point?  It is but a small one.  Through this literary journey I think I have stumbled upon the essence of my life.  Once there was a heavy veil, torn asunder upon Jesus’ death, I replaced it with a sheer of my choosing, a barrier used to keep Christ out.  I still behave as though God is “up there”.  I start out each day knowing I will do the right thing as well as I can, always falling short.  I try to bring joy and kindness wherever I am.  I attempt to bring into every conversation, how God is affecting my life and the blessings that generates.

I hear, “That is such an honorable thing that you do,” in my head as I pat myself on the back.  Atta boy, Roland!

However, when I speak about Christ something is missing.  There is a little tug at my heart, I can’t seem grab hold of.  I wonder if it is my last ounce of resistance, that still yearns to hold on to some portion of the world I am reluctant to let go of.  What is holding me back from jumping all in?

I was brought to my knees in that hotel room by one word that I don’t recall having heard before in that daily reading: Propitiation.  What an odd word, realizing its significance I looked it up straight away from vocabulary.com.

-the act of atoning for sin or wrongdoing (especially appeasing a deity)

As I have said, I spend a lot of time focused on God and doing what is right, establishing my own version of propitiation.  To the point that one of the editors of my book mentioned that I spoke too much of God and not enough of Jesus Christ.  I brushed it to the side thinking, “He just doesn’t understand the context of my literary masterpiece. 

This message is about those who love God and believe in Him, but have not gone all in.  As this message was formulating, first as a home church teaching then as a blog, the blog became a two part series.  It was all packed into one with so many examples, given to me from Jesus, I finally realized that it had a true line of delineation.  Obedience in the Present and the Coming Age.  We will journey through obedience and its different flavors as displayed through the Bible and God’s response as the body of Christ transitions from the former to the latter age.

From the book Telling God’s Story by Preben Vang and Terry G. Carter, the authors clearly articulate the end result for a nation that does not follow in the ways of God, displayed by both Judah and Israel.  In Ezekiel’s, wheels within wheels vision, God showed that He would depart His people if they did not turn towards him and follow the covenant.  Many of prophets warned Judah and Israel of their impending doom if:

  • they refused to obey the law;
  • continued to marry into other cultures; and
  • kept worshiping other gods.

When they finally figured it out and turned back to the law, the nation once again found itself being rebuilt.  As they re-established the law, gaining His favor, God did not establish His presence like He once had, when Solomon presented the original temple, once it was rebuilt after the Israelites exile. This is noticed by God’s silence over the next four hundred plus years.

In an attempt to capture that presence through good intentions, a religious spirit took over the Pharisees and Sadducees and following the law became their centerpiece to godliness. The obeying of the law became the item of worship.   Make Sense?

They marketed the law. They practiced the law to the nth degree, in an effort to gain favor with God. You were graded on how well you followed it and thus gained stature amongst men.  We know this is true, look at how prominent Saul was before his conversion.  He was the preeminent follower of the law, to the point that if anything got in the law’s way it must be eradicated, even if it was God himself.

It was how well you followed the rules that mattered.  How holy your daily rituals were perceived that drew attention to oneself.  Following Catholicism early in life, I learned to follow the rules of the church and I took that behavior into my Protestant lifestyle as well.  Many today still live under the old covenant in many ways.  We or they, it doesn’t matter, can still see sin in someone’s life and believe the church structure will keep you out of trouble, through a term I enjoy using, Good Orderly Direction.  An impact is still be made on society, evangelism continues to follow the way of the old prophets, warning many that they need to turn back to God.  Pointing out someone’s sinful behavior, which is contrary to God’s law, still has its place. However, because it is easier to stay focused on the outside instead of the heart of a person, our good intentions fall flat. Instead a plea to intercede, it becomes a criticism.  When we resort to obeying the rules on face value, we end up with religious robots running around.  Our present society calls that the “old school” church, which they say promotes judgmentalism and personal attacks  of one’s designer lifestyle.  The intentions are good, but when you follow the rules only and only see the sin in the world, we end up with a failure to communicate and both sides fight to be heard, then we hear those famous words:

“You don’t know me.” or “Don’t Judge me!”

I know from my own experience, when I have said these words in the past, I was thinking,  “You have no idea what I have been through, how can you stand there and tell me my life is upside down.  I will continue doing what I want and I won’t judge you even though I know what you are doing is wrong.” 

A spiritual stalemate. Each side knows the other is right, but the accuser only sees the sin in the person and not the person.  The defendant deep down knows they are sinful but doesn’t want the full force of judgement to fall on them by having sin defined properly and exposed.  Both sides are absolutely correct in each of their statements.  But I go back to that feeling, that tug on my heart which prevents me from putting all MY chips on the table.

What came to mind as I was writing this was,  “Please, Please don’t judge me, yet.  I am trying to figure out a way so it won’t hurt as bad.”

Many say adultery is bad and believe the seventh commandment is worthy of being followed as a good practice.  How many of you would call out an adulterer privately?  What if the adulterer was your friend’s spouse? Would you say it is none of your business?  In the back of your mind would you think, it might backfire on you?  What happens if you ignore it and pretend it  isn’t happening?  It is easy to point out sin, it is easy to pray for forgiveness and pray for people, but to obey God at a higher level requires faith to look someone in the eyes, get past the yelling and say, “God loves you; What is happening in your life or what you are doing will not stop unless to turn fully to God.”

Nathan, in 2 Samuel 12, obeyed God and confronted David about his affair with Bathsheba, not to punish him but to bring him back to God.  Instead of saying he was wrong, he asked David what he would do in a circumstance with a small precious lamb owned by another.  David understanding the story immediately called for justice on the one who took from the other. Once it was revealed it was he who was the one who took what did not belong to him, David repented  from his heart.  We did not see a person who buckled down harder to behave, he prayed directly to the Father.

Unlike Nathan, when we pick and choose how to obey God we gamble with our God given destiny and the destiny of others.  Obeying God by checking the boxes feels like to me a way to get by and keep people in place, no different than a dictatorship.  A dictator will say obey and continue to live the miserable existence he will allow or “die”.  God has said obey or die but it if you obey more will be given to you.

During my life and my struggles,  that is how I kept people at arm’s length; I was my own dictator.   I enforced my rules on myself and hoped I would not die inside.   If I could keep my sin private, even though I knew it was bad, I would say to myself, God and I will work it out.  Putting the responsibility squarely on my shoulders, I would then try appease my god.

I would work a little harder at being obedient, hoping that if I work harder today, I would not have to pay the price for what I did yesterday.

That statement about please don’t judge me and I won’t judge you, is an effective insurance policy, just in case one should stumble.  Satan’s cleverness has incorporated statements of this sort into society, to mean that we should not even think about of pointing out someone else’s behavior; if you do, the mirror will be turned on you.  We know how bad you are and if you push it, we will expose you as the ungodly person you really are. Hypocrite!  That sort of fear mongering has been very successful keeping Christians in their place and separated from God.

Obeying God and revealing sin brings more people to God, not the other way around.  Our inability to face our sin, in the light, keeps evil in the dark. However even in our sin we need to follow God and that means we need to listen to those around, even if it is difficult to hear the truth.

The world prefers to keep evil where it can ignore it, tries to feed it just enough to keep it at bay, instead of following God.  However, every day evil requires one more little morsel. This is what happened to Israel, time and time again. They gave into other beliefs one wife at a time, one pagan ritual at a time falling victim to multi-culturalism.  Eventually, disaster struck and I am sure someone said, “God why would you let this happen to us.”

Today many churches are marketing entertainment, spiritual thrills and reinterpreting the Bible to suit Evil’s desires. There is no attempt to make disciples of all nations. Churches are not demonstrating Jesus’ central message that the Kingdom of God is near. Many fear, if the Truth be told, it would scare people away.

Funny,  if you ask, many would say they are being obedient to God.  In many ways I am sure they are, but while trying to not anger non-Christians, they are separating the one true God from their worldly life and resort to a Good Orderly Direction message that references Christ, instead of Christ centered message.  When you fail to be obedient to God, on all levels, nations suffer.

In the Old Testament there was a great effort to point out that obedience was not only an individual obedience to God but national one. Unfortunately, time and time again the cycle repeats itself and national obedience to God is ignored, why is that?  The world thinks that they are the ones that need to dispense grace, mercy and judgement.  That God has His place and it is exactly where I picture Him, up there somewhere out of reach and out of touch.

The world flatters itself and applauds each other’s grand  shallow accomplishments, like the never ending entertainment awards.  When that is all you see and hear, that will be what is desired and “The True Light”  is hidden under our sacred bushel.

Another flavor of obedience is the “limiting power of God” obedience. God did great things yesterday and I sure He will do great things in the future but not today.  I am truly amazed when people say, “Oh that can’t be true about God.” and walk away with a Bible in hand that clearly says it is true.  Even with it in the palm of their hands, they resign to the status quo in their belief so life can be somewhat predictable.

Do you think, with that sort of obedience, if a move of God happened, would they actually believe it to be of God?  In many churches today, if a move of God happens through a person, unless it is pleasing to the masses and an “acceptable” move, many are asked to leave the church or profess it wasn’t God.   In the “limiting power of God” obedience, many believe in God, when nothing was happening. When a move of God is happens I have seen many turn away from where He is moving, as we will see in our brief tour in Exodus.

Through the works of our hands:

  • Going to church;
  • attending Bible study;
  • bake sales here and there;

bringing good deeds to the community without understanding the Power of God.  These are good things in and of themselves, but think of the power that would fuel this, if the belief of a powerful God was present today.  As someone told me years ago,  “You won’t see it until you believe.”

That is no different than “trying” to be obedient to God.  In my opinion, that’s what the prophets were warning Judah and Israel about, they weren’t different; they were disobedient in their selective unbelief.  It wasn’t until Judah and Israel realized that there would be further judgement or that their current state was judgement, that they obeyed the covenant law instead of picking which laws they wanted to follow.  Designer Faith, sound familiar.

However, good behavior only gets the Pharisees off your back as we will see.  Obeying the law moves you in position to experience God, it is not the experience itself.  By obeying God, you provide the door for which God/Jesus can enter, depending on what age you are referring to, the Present Age or the Coming Age.  Up to this point we have been discussing Present Age Obedience prior Christ. We know that when the first temple was built, the Shekinah Glory was manifested in the Temple, with a consuming fire after the first sacrifice in 2 Chronicles 7.

7 Now when Solomon had finished praying, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the Lord filled the house. 2 The priests could not enter into the house of the Lord because the glory of the Lord filled the Lord’s house. 3 All the sons of Israel, seeing the fire come down and the glory of the Lord upon the house, bowed down on the pavement with their faces to the ground, and they worshiped and gave praise to the Lord, saying, “Truly He is good, truly His lovingkindness is everlasting.” NASB

They obeyed the law, which provided a door for God to enter when they built the finest temple with their first fruits and God was pleased. When God is pleased, he makes his presence known.

Let’s go to Genesis 4 with Abel’s and Cain’s offering and note the differences.

In the course of time Cain brought an offering (Not the first fruits) to the Lord from the fruit of the ground, while Abel, for his part, brought the fatty portion of the firstlings of his flock. The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry and dejected. Then the Lord said to Cain: Why are you angry? Why are you dejected? If you act rightly, you will be accepted; but if not, sin lies in wait at the door: its urge is for you, yet you can rule over it.  NABRE

Both were obedient in offering a sacrifice, while one’s heart was filled with reverence and the other’s was filled with obligation. We all know the Truth here, if Cain would have brought a wilted flower and his heart was in the right place his offering would have been looked upon with favor by the Lord.  Obedience does not necessarily gain favor.  But boy oh boy we wish it would.

I will pause and let that settle.

Now let’s go back to the desert and compare a couple of more instances of this.  God has just decreed the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20 the opening line is,

 1 Then God spoke saying…….

18 All the people perceived the thunder and the lightning flashes and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking; and when the people saw it, they trembled and stood at a distance. 19 Then they said to Moses, “Speak to us yourself and we will listen; but let not God speak to us, or we will die.”20 Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid; for God has come in order to test you, and in order that the fear of Him may remain with you, so that you may not sin.” 21 So the people stood at a distance, while Moses approached the thick cloud where God was.  NASB

I hope you can see the differences here with the intent of their hearts. Solomon’s group obeyed out of reverence and Fear of the Lord and bowed down and worshiped. The Mosaic group obeyed out of fear of getting punished.  I can picture them putting their hands to their faces to shield themselves during this episode. To make things worse they moved a little farther back from the “do not cross line” spoken of at the end of Exodus 19.  God told them they could come to this spot near the mountain and they would not be harmed.  But when we are obedient to only gain favor and do not believe in what we are doing it for, we tend to have a wait and see attitude.   This was the mindset of the Israelites; at every point along the way they doubted, they wanted to be hand fed.  God wanted maturity, but they always turned their backs and tried some other means to satisfy their fears and lack of faith. They told Moses, you go and deal with God.  Funny they felt they wouldn’t get burnt by God if they moved twenty feet further back or sent Moses in their place.

You might be laughing, but each of do this every day. The closer we get to God and Jesus the heavier the price and the more exposed we are.  Many are not willing to pay that price of admission, exposure.  In this discussion, we look for a shortcut to God’s grace that’s not as expensive.  Solomon’s group paid the price and were immediately blessed, Moses’ group obeyed God through disbelief and turn from God.  They may not have been burnt at the reading of the ten commandments, but God did have the last say.  The Israelites had to stay in the desert until the old generation died off before entering the promise land.  He did not want the Promise land tainted with unbelief. Even Moses was left at the edge and could not enter the Promise land due to his disobedience.  Like I said obedience gets you to the door of experiencing God and He demonstrates that time and time again throughout the Bible. Your disobedience will keep from going through it if your heart is not right.

Moving forward and back at the temple, the Israelites became comfortable, they dropped their guard and ever so slowly abandon the covenant.  The Presence of God departed the temple never to return, Ezekiel 10. When the people allowed their uniqueness as a blessed people take second place to all the cultures around them, God withdrew.  He was no longer pleased.  Most of the prophets who tried to bring a people back to God through the covenant law were killed, rejected or ignored.

The prophets warned that they needed to start with the law to have God’s protection and let the healing of a nation begin.  That is all we can do as well, but they also prophesized that another was coming who would dwell within them once again.  Not like the past covenant but a new one.

The heart is the matter!  When a move for God happens, our Heart is touched and the next thing most of us what is a repeat performance, “Give it to me one more time” obedience.

If you want your congregation to experience more life and attract a move of God do this, this and little of that.  Where is the Truth; the same place Peter’s was on the Mount of Transfiguration, let’s set up tents and wait for the next move of God right here.  We try to repeat a move of God through obedience and the work of the church: worship, good deeds, social services, coffee stations, fitness centers and the list grows in our effort to bring people in to capture the moments by happy experiences we miss the joy. It is the difference between lust and love.

Jeremiah 31:31-34

31 “Behold, days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, 32 not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,” declares the Lord. 33 “But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the Lord, “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. 34 They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” declares the Lord, “for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.”

The key for me in verse Jeremiah 31:32; is that God wanted to “be a husband to them”.  God led His bride out of Egypt, like a husband and his bride crossing threshold for the very first time as they enter the sanctity of their home. But, as much as he wanted to be with the people, he cannot stand in the presence of sin, so it became somewhat of a long distance relationship.  Once He was in their presence and due to their continued back and forth obedience he departed and placed himself up there somewhere.

A husband provides protection to a wife, who submits to her husband and doesn’t fight him every inch of the way.  When a husband does not feel respect from His wife it does something to his heart.  It is defeating and a husband is less likely to jump in as a willing participant.  When the Israelites submitted to God, He protected them, when they didn’t, He stepped back.  The Israelites did their best to follow when it suited them and when it didn’t work out the way they wanted, they improvised.  That is not how a marriage is supposed to work.  The Israelites feared their “husband”, and obeyed Him instead of submitting to Him. There was no relationship.  It was God’s house and God’s rules, but no one was listening or if they were is was just to keep a roof over their heads  “I am your God and you are my people.”  or I am your husband and you are my wife.  And Vice Versa!

The Present Age was a time when the law was given in word to be obeyed and God showed up when they did obey with a reverent heart and he showed up when they didn’t. There were some glorious moments when all of this was on display for the world to see and then other times when the world did not believe that God was even there.  Our current society is in the middle trying the old methods to suit their needs and some of the new.  Just like my revelation, the veil was torn for me, but I want to sew it back up and appease God myself, my way, but as God said

Ezekiel 36:26-28

26 Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances. 

A time is coming when His grace and mercy will fall upon you like to have never seen before.  His law will be etched on your heart. No longer will God be up there but he will be right here; face to face.

To be continued…….

I love you all and there is nothing you can do about it.

1 thought on “Obedience in the Present Age; Part One

  1. Here is a quote from Charles Spurgeon which is very appropriate to your blog… We are not saved by obedience, for obedience is the result of salvation! We are saved by faith because faith leads us to obey! Faith is weakness clinging to strength and becoming strong through so doing…. 1891, sermon 2209

    Ray Begin

    Sent from my Verizon Wireless 4G LTE smartphone

    Like

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