This week as I was contemplating Christmas and reading through Deuteronomy, I couldn’t help but notice the extravagant blessing God promised the Israelites if they obeyed Him.
You know, in the culture we live in America, we tend to extravagantly bless our kids with stuff. And if we don’t have the means, we tend to feel bad for them that they didn’t get the newest gadget, video game system, iPhone or as much stuff as Johnny, his best friend, got. Like we have failed them in comparison with our friends because we didn’t spend $500 on toys. It’s good to want to bless our kids, but I do wonder how this relates to God. God is our Father and He loves to bless us.
I wonder what kind of blessing is for us today. I mean if God proves his love by giving us tangible things, what about the Christians who don’t have much? Is it because they haven’t obeyed God? Is stuff a sign of obedience? Or today we may say, well, it’s a mindset. And yes, the gospel breaks off the poverty mindset, but I do have some concerns about assuming having stuff equals obedience to God. After really seeing “increase” in real estate, and now working in the church, it’s forced me to question all these physical blessings that we think are a sign of God’s favor on our lives. I mean, sure famous preachers can say they are blessed because they obeyed God. But that’s equivalent to an actor saying they are blessed because they obeyed God.
The Old Covenant was about serving and loving God.
If the Israelites served God and loved him with all their hearts, they would be blessed.
Obedience brought blessing.
It didn’t depend on inner transformation.
Deut 5 shares the story of the Israelites at the mountain with Moses and God and essentially they said, “We are afraid if we hear God we will die. Moses, you talk to God, and tell us what to obey.”
There’s no power in that. Sure they could muster up an outward obedience, and not murder their family, but what about inward?
I wonder if this is where we have gotten it wrong in Christianity. We are still trying to live under the Old Covenant principles of doing good to be blessed. We are trying to obey God under the Old Covenant, mustering up enough obedience to be blessed, while also trying to be a good servant like Christ and have all the Spiritual blessings. We all want peace. We all want joy. We all want stuff.
So as I think it through, and wrestle with this whole Christianity thing, didn’t Christ already do all that?
He fulfilled the Old Covenant and was good for us. He brought peace to the world through his obedience. This is what we just celebrated Christmas for. Peace to earth goodwill toward man, right? So what’s the deal with the blessings of God?
What Christianity is about is having a new heart. Becoming more like Christ to serve more people.
The Old Covenant was an outer obedience and outer reward. What the Israelites didn’t want was a relationship. They only wanted rules.
Christianity is an inner transformation resulting in outer service. It’s an inner transformation of love, and it bears fruit for an outer laying one’s life down. Christianity is all about relationship, not about rules.
What if we’ve been duped into believing Christianity is about what I can get from God, instead of how can I be more like him. We somehow think money is a sign of God’s favor, when the sign was Jesus laid his life down, for us. He already proved his love by laying his life down. Now he asks us to do the same with the power of the Holy Spirit.
It starts with your family. Is your spouse acting a fool? Lay your life down. Do they have annoying habits? Lay your life down. Then believers. Did a Christian do something that hurts? Forgive as you’ve been forgiven. Love the bride of Christ and serve others.
The New Covenant, Christianity, is about us having a new heart to serve and love others.
John 15:12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.