Bible, Psalm 119
Bible, Psalm 119 (Photo credit: jason2917)

“See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil, in that I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in His ways, and to keep His commandments, His statutes, and His judgments, that you may live and multiply; and the Lord your God will bless you in the land which you go to possess. But if your heart turns away so that you do not hear, and are drawn away, and worship other gods and serve them, I announce to you today that you shall surely perish; you shall not prolong your days in the land which you cross over the Jordan to go in and possess. I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live;”—Deuteronomy 30:15-19

What freedom to realize that we don’t have to follow God’s commandment, we get to follow them! We have a choice. We are privileged to be able to follow God’s ways…his commandments, statutes, and judgments.

How blessed are those whose way is blameless,
Who walk in the law of the Lord.
 How blessed are those who observe His testimonies,
Who seek Him with all their heart.
They also do no unrighteousness;
They walk in His ways.
You have ordained Your precepts,
That we should keep them diligently.
Oh that my ways may be established
To keep Your statutes!
Then I shall not be ashamed
When I look upon all Your commandments.
I shall give thanks to You with uprightness of heart,
When I learn Your righteous judgments.
I shall keep Your statutes;
Do not forsake me utterly! –Psalm 119:1-8

Spiritual growth comes through obedience to God’s ways…Hebrews 5:8-9 says, “though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him.”  Obeying God’s laws should be our delight (Psalm 1:2, Psalm 19: 7-11, Psalm 40:8, Psalm 119, Romans 7:22, 1 John 5:3). If we truly love God, we will keep His commandments, “By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him: the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.” –1 John 2:3-6

We have choices…we will also bear the consequences of our choices…eternal choices and eternal consequences. Life…death; blessings…curses; good…evil.

“If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”—Joshua 24:15

The choice is ours.

Truth, Tradition, and Trespass

Then the Lord said, “Because this people draw near with their words and honor Me with their lip service, but they remove their hearts far from Me, and their reverence for Me consists of tradition learned by rote, therefore behold, I will once again deal marvelously with this people, wondrously marvelous; And the wisdom of their wise men will perish, and the discernment of their discerning men will be concealed.” — Isaiah 29:13-14

 Have you ever questioned why you believe what you believe? Why you do the things you do for God? Why you follow certain rites, rituals, traditions, and celebrations? For me, this concept of questioning has taken me on quite the journey; not an easy one, but a necessary one. It has cost me…family, friends, comfort, and so much more. When I questioned and then allowed myself to be open to the fact that what I had had been taught in church might not be what the word of God says…my world turned upside down. Is it worth the cost? Absolutely…there is no turning back. In my questioning and my bible reading, and my prayer, and my researching I have discovered things in the modern church that are not supported by scripture; things like what day the Sabbath is on…I had always heard that it didn’t matter what day we choose, as long as we choose a day. Did you know the bible says in Genesis 2:3 that God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made. The funny thing is, I always assumed Sunday was the seventh day…however in researching I discovered that in fact Saturday is the seventh day (that’s why our calendar is the way it is!) Not only is Saturday the seventh day and therefore the Sabbath, but there are also certain things we should and should not do on the Sabbath that are very clearly outlined in Scripture. Who knew?!!!

And then there are the holidays that we celebrate…Christmas…Easter…all well meaning, but still steeped in pagan traditions that we have “Christianized”. And considering that God says in several places in scripture not to worship Him the way the pagans worship their gods…not to take on pagan practices…does this make it alright? Just because “that’s not what it means to me” comes from our lips doesn’t make it right…Isn’t it more important to consider what it means to God?

For years I blindly followed what everyone else in church was doing…until I came to the realization that blind faith is really no faith at all…what “god” was I following? The more I dig into His word, the more I realize what an amazing, awesome God I serve. 1 Chronicles 28:9 says “…serve Him with a whole heart and a willing mind; for the Lord searches all hearts, and understands every intent of the thoughts. If you seek Him, He will let you find Him; but if you forsake Him, he will reject you forever.” When I came across that verse the other day, the words “willing mind” jumped out at me…we must be willing to do what He asks us to do, go where he tells us to go, be who He says we are to be.

As I was watching a video the other day, this quote from the Barna Group really hit home. “The problem of the Christian Church is not that people lack a complete set of beliefs; the problem is that they have a full slate of beliefs in mind, which they think are consistent with biblical teachings, and they are neither open to being proven wrong or learning new insights. It may well be that spiritual evaluation is so uncommon because people fear that the results might suggest the need for different growth strategies or for more aggressive engagement in the growth process. No matter what the underlying reason is, the bottom line among both the clergy and laity was indifference toward their acknowledged lack of evaluation.”

So the question is…Are we willing to sacrifice our man-made traditions and the things we’ve been taught in exchange for His truth…His ways? Or are we like the people in 2 Timothy 4:3-4, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.” Or are we like the people in Mark 7:7-8, “But in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men. Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men.”

Ladies and gentlemen it is time to “See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.” (Colossians 2:8) It is time to, “Obey God rather than men.” (Acts 5:29) It is time to, “Present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:1-2)

Here is a link to a blog that I think does a wonderful job explaining the origins of Christmas.