The Blessings of an Obedient Life

Steve Viars March 4, 2006 Deuteronomy 7:

- This morning I’d like to begin our time by asking you a few questions...
1) Does God believe in “cause and effect”?...
2) In other words, has He built the principle into His world that you reap what you sow?...
3) Is there a relationship between choices made today, and conditions that result tomorrow?

- now, I would assume that most, if not all of us would answer that with at least a “qualified yes...”...
- whether we’re talking about the Old Testament, the New Testament...at any point in the history of God’s dealings with His people...the principle of cause/effect is in operation...
- now, the reason I say most of us would want to give a “qualified yes”...is because...
- we can’t always apply that to a particular event in our lives with absolute certainty...
- well, I know that “good thing” happened to me because of some right choice I made in the past...
- or, I know that “bad thing” that is happening right now is because of some wrong choice I made in the past...
- this side of heaven, we won’t know the connection between all of our causes, and all of God’s effects...
- in other words, we don’t always have the answer to the question of why God has allowed something to happen to us, whether positive or negative...

- we would also want this qualified because sometimes there is a long period of time between what we choose to do...and how God chooses to respond...
- we have to be very careful to say things like...well, God must be very pleased with the choices I’m making right now because of how well things are going for me...
- or God must be very displeased with me because things are going so poorly...
- no, the wheel of God’s justice turns ever so slowly...but it grinds, oh so fine....

- so if we pull absolute certainty out of the equation, and we factor in the issue of extended timing...
- then most of us would rightly say with the apostle Paul...
Galatians 6:7-8 - Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.

- now, what’s the logical implication of that?...
- people who are wise think a lot about the consequences...
- about the long-range effect of their choices...
- about where the road they are on is going to lead...

- you could say it this way...their eyes aren’t simply on their feet...they’re also on the horizon...
- where is this road going to go...

- now, let’s push it one step further...generally speaking, are people like you and me skilled at making daily decisions with an eye on future consequences?
- [thinking positively or negatively]
- if I speak that way to my friend today, and tend to do that habitually, here’s what that could mean three months from now...
- if I fill my mind with these kinds of thoughts by watching this particular TV program, or listen to the lyrics of that particular song...here’s what my mind will be like a year from now...
- if I use my money in this particular way...here’s what that means for the days ahead...
- [develop others...]

- I think many of us would say, we’re better at watching our toes than watching the horizon...
- we’re better at thinking about what we’ve got to get done today than carefully asking where that cluster of choices today could lead us in the days ahead...
- and if that’s true...we’ve not benefited from what God has taught about the principle of cause and effect...
- He told us in advance that we reap what we sow so that...we would be very careful about how we sow...
- learning to develop a long-range view of life...

- and I’m concerned about 2 kinds of persons this morning...
1) The first would be person who is doing a lot of things right...your choices are sound...
- but your circumstances today are still pretty hard...
- and you find yourself getting tired...you’re what the Bible calls “being weary in well doing”...
- I believe the Lord would want you to take your eyes off your feet and look to the horizon...
- payday doesn’t always come on Friday in God’s economy...but it always comes...
- short-term thinkers quit too soon...
- long term thinkers find endurance and strength for the journey...

2) The second kind of person is the individual who is making very unwise choices today...
- maybe not in every area of life [almost surely not in every area...but in some...]
- and that person may have concluded...I got away with it today...
- I was able to live that way another week with no negative consequences...
- My task this morning is to help all of evaluate where that road will lead...
- there’s a reason Paul began Galatians 6:7 with the words...be not deceived...
- he who believes he won’t reap what he’s sown hasn’t watched the fields long enough...yet...

- with that in mind, would you please open your Bible to Deuteronomy chapter 7...[page 138 of the front section of the Bible under the chair in front of you, page 235 of the Chinese English Bibles...]...
- this year is all about Gearing Up for Greater Effectiveness...
- we’re thankful for all the ways God has blessed us, and used us...and we would never take that for granted...
- but we understand the principle of stewardship...to whom much is given, much is required...so we’re stretching ourselves in the coming months....to serve God effectively now and in the days ahead...
- in order to do that, we have to gear up...

- that’s exactly what is happening to the children of Israel...they’re completing their 40 years of wandering in the wilderness...and now they are preparing to enter the promised land...
- so Moses gathers the people at a place called Beth Peor...and he gives them a series of speeches, included this one in Deuteronomy 7...which explains The Blessings of an Obedient Life...
- reaping what you sow is a very good thing...if you are committed to sowing well...
- with that in mind, please follow along as I read beginning at Deuteronomy 7:1 [read 7:1-26]

- we’re talking about the blessing of an obedient life...and in the time we have remaining, let’s think about Three categories of truth to help you take the long view of life.


I. The Components of Wise Sowing.


- in these first 6 verses, Moses challenges the children of Israel in some very specific ways...first of all, to...
A. A commitment to complete obedience.
- I realize that some of us might be uncomfortable with the concept of God’s judgment...but we would remove that from Scripture at our own peril...
- the entire backdrop of this book is the harsh reality of people reaping what they had sown...
- why were the children of Israel wandering in the wilderness for 40 years...
- because of God’s judgment on His people for the unbelief...
- Deuteronomy 1:35 - Not a man of this evil generation shall see the good land I swore to give your forefathers,
- now God was going to use His people as an instrument of judgment on the nations that lived in the promised land... Deuteronomy 9:5 - It is not because of your righteousness or your integrity that you are going in to take possession of their land; but on account of the wickedness of these nations, the LORD your God will drive them out before you, to accomplish what he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
 
- now, the challenge the children of Israel were going to face was to only partially obey what God was saying...
- regrettably that’s exactly what was about to happen...do you remember in the book of Joshua...they enter the promised land and have a marvelous victory in the city of Jericho...
- no one could deny that God had gone before them and given them and worked in amazing ways...
- but then they go to the next city, a place called Ai, and are defeated...
- and Joshua is trying to figure out what went wrong...and if you’ve studied the Bible, you know what went wrong...
- after the previous victory...a man named Achan and his family saw a beautiful Babylonian garment, and 200 shekels of silver, and 50 shekels of gold...and instead of destroying it like God commanded...they buried it under their tent...[they literally sowed it...]
- think about the folly of watching God obviously giving them a miraculous victory and then thinking somehow God would not be aware of their flagrant disobedience...
- and Joshua said to Achan... Joshua 7:19 - - ...My son, give glory to the LORD, the God of Israel, and give him the praise. Tell me what you have done; do not hide it from me.
- and if you wish, you can read the rest of Joshua chapter 7 which records what Achan and his family reaped because of their worship of material things and the disobedience to God’s Word that they sowed...
- [could also tell the story of King Saul in I Samuel 15 – “then what is this bleating of sheep, and lowing of oxen which I hear?]...

- there was also to be...
B. A commitment to the perpetuation of godly families.
- why would Moses spend time talking about intermarriage in a discussion about “gearing up”?...
- please don’t forget where they are...there’s a reason this conversation is taking place at Beth Peor.
- we began this series by reminding ourselves of the events of Numbers 25... Numbers 25:1-3 - While Israel was staying in Shittim, the men began to indulge in sexual immorality with Moabite women, who invited them to the sacrifices to their gods. The people ate and bowed down before these gods.
- that chapter goes on to explain that because they sowed the worship of illicit sexual gratification, they reaped significant consequences at the hand of their holy God...
- and Moses wants them to understand that the issue of who they make their closest friends, and who they marry will have an important impact in the days ahead...

- verse 6 explains that there was to be...
C. A commitment to fulfill your calling.
- Deuteronomy 7:6 - For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession.
- everything we’re studying this morning is intended to be a great encouragement to the person who is sowing well, but a stark reminder to the person who is not...
- and I recognize that some people about now might be thinking...the God of the Bible is not particularly safe...if you’ve come to that conclusion, there is a definite sense in which you’re right...
- many of you have probably seen the movie, or read the series The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis......
- at one point the youngest character named Lucy is talking to Mr. And Mrs. Beaver...
- she is about to meet Aslan, who is a lion and in the story represents Jesus Christ...
"Is he a man?" asked Lucy.
"Aslan a man!" said Mr. Beaver sternly. Certainly not. I tell you he is King of the wood and the son of the great emperor-beyond- the-sea. Don't you know who is the King of the Beasts? Aslan is a lion - the Lion, the great lion."
"ooh!" said Susan, "I'd thought he was a man. Is he - quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion."
"That you will, dearie, and no mistake" said Mrs. Beaver; "if there's anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they're either braver than most or else just silly."
"Then he isn't safe?" said Lucy.
"Safe?" said Mr. Beaver; "don't you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? 'Course he isn't safe. But he's good. He's the King, I tell you."
C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch & The Wardrobe (Penguin, 1950).
- see, God’s not safe because living in a sin cursed world isn’t safe...
- making bad choices today will result in all sorts of dangerous consequences tomorrow...
- Proverbs 13:15 - Good understanding gives favor: but the way of transgressors is hard.
- Proverbs 28:13 - He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy.

- this isn’t a matter of God wanting to jam us up, and cramp our style...
- it’s a matter of Him trying to protect us from the harmful consequences that inherently attend the way of the transgressor...

- there was an article this week in our local paper about the rise of sexually transmitted diseases among young people in our country...
- we live in a culture that worships illicit sexual gratification [not talking about proper sexual fulfillment between a man and a woman within the boundaries of monogamous marriage which the book of Hebrews clearly says is an act of worship to God...]...
- but our culture worships illicit sexual gratification...and this text makes it clear..
- that is an evidence of hatred of God...[please let those words roll around your mind for a moment]...
- when people sow in that way, they will reap destruction in a variety of directions...

- God desires people who are growing in holiness so they will be protected from reaping negative consequences...
- can we just stop at this point and ask a couple of evaluative questions...

1.  What are you sowing?...
- when the kind of words that you tend to speak sprout up...will it produce joy and peace and greater godliness in the lives around you?...
- do you sow mercy?...do you sow grace?...do you sow thanksgiving?...
- [cf. Proverbs 6 – God hates those who sow discord among the brethren...]

- what about what you sowed in your mind this week?...
- what about the relationships you cultivated?...
- what about the choices?...the steps...which way are you feet headed?

2. Are you skilled at taking the long range view...
- do you allow the thought of future consequences motivate you to zealously do right, and stubbornly avoid wrong?

3.  What about this issue of complete obedience?...
- we’re not talking about perfection, but do you recognize the tendency that all of us possess to rationale the ways we are not obeying God?...
- and I want to be sure I’ve said that every situation is unique...that’s why we have all kinds of counseling ministries and discipling ministries to be sure that we are applying God’s Word to specific areas of life practically...but still, we all possess that tendency to excuse our disobedience...
- [develop and apply to specific areas of life...]

- [develop – I would also encourage you not to underestimate the powerful attraction of an obedient life...cf. The Church of Irresistible Influence by Robert Lewis...]
- now, verses 7-11 give us...


II. The Foundation of Wise Sowing


- Moses reminds the people of...
A. God’s initiating love.
- He didn’t choose them because they were bigger or because they were stronger or because of something they had to offer...
- He loved them...because He loved them...
- and their obedience wasn’t blind, it wasn’t purposeless...
- it was simply a response to His loving hand...

- I realize that some of you may be new to studying the Bible and I want to be sure that I have said to you that we are not in any way talking about being obedient so you could earn your way into heaven...or being obedient to establish a relationship with God...
- the Scripture is clear about this---salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone...
- the greatest judgment was borne by Christ on the cross---the penalty of sin being laid on Him...
- and if you have never trusted Jesus Christ as savior and Lord, we would invite you to do that today...
- but the Scripture is also clear that after that decision is made, our hearts are moved...forever...toward loving and then serving Him...
- 1 John 4:19 - We love Him because He first loved us.
- John 14:15 - If you love Me, keep My commandments.

- [by the way, if you have questions about the love of God, a new book has just been published --- cf. The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God by D.A. Carson]

- another part of this foundation of obedience is...
B. God’s redeeming hand.
- at the end of verse 8, Moses takes them back to the crossing of the Red Sea...
- God goes to great lengths to redeem His people and put them in a position of wanting to, from their hearts, obey Him and in the process sow wisely...
- [tell the story of the couple receiving counseling and were encouraged to come to the conference in Portland...were hesitant to come, weren’t sure they could afford it...won a registration by being the correct caller to the local Christian radio station...]

- you might say, PV, how can I be sure that there really are blessings for obedience and negative consequences for disobeying God?...
- verses 9-11 answer that...
- the third part of this foundation is...
C. God’s faithful promises.
- [read 9-11 again]...
- see, on the authority of the faithful promises of God Himself...if you are here and you would say, I’m sowing in righteousness but I’m getting tired because I’m not seeing the results I’d like to see...
- Galatians 6:9-10 - And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.
- now, it is interesting to me that the rest of the passage is very positive...
- Moses apparently wants his people to leave this part of the discussion relishing in...


III. The Blessings of Wise Sowing.

A. The blessing on your family – verse 13a.
- Proverbs 31:28-29 - Her children rise up and call her blessed; Her husband also, and he praises her:  “Many daughters have done well, But you excel them all.”
- Psalm 128:1-4 - Blessed is every one who fears the LORD, Who walks in His ways.  When you eat the labor of your hands, You shall be happy, and it shall be well with you. Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine In the very heart of your house, Your children like olive plants All around your table. Behold, thus shall the man be blessed Who fears the LORD.

[deal with the issue of barrenness, and the times when good parents have children who choose foolishness...]

B. The blessing on your work and material possessions – verses 13b-14
- we don’t believe in some sort of “prosperity gospel”, but I wonder sometimes if we stay so far away from that emphasis that we ignore clear teaching of Scripture...
- Malachi 3:8-12 - Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me! But you say, ‘In what way have we robbed You?’  In tithes and offerings. You are cursed with a curse, For you have robbed Me, Even this whole nation. Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, That there may be food in My house, And try Me now in this,” Says the LORD of hosts, “If I will not open for you the windows of heaven And pour out for you such blessing That there will not be room enough to receive it.  And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, So that he will not destroy the fruit of your ground, Nor shall the vine fail to bear fruit for you in the field,” Says the LORD of hosts;  And all nations will call you blessed, For you will be a delightful land,” Says the LORD of hosts.
- Luke 6:38 - Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.”
- we could say the same thing for ministry...
- John 15:16 - You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you.
- [talk about experience this week at Master’s College – sitting with Doc who, with Leona, invested 2 years of their life there...they sowed faithful ministry and have reaped a marvelous harvest...]

C. The blessing on your health – verse 15

- that’s true in a lot of ways, but one of them is the issue of anxiety [develop]

D. The blessing of confident ministry – verses 16-26

- [develop examples of current ministry opportunities...going after them with confidence]
- the overall question this morning friend is, what are you sowing?
- and have you developed the ability to not just look at your feet [what you’re doing today], but at the horizon [where those steps will lead]

- I came across an unexpected illustration of that this past week...
- last Friday and Saturday I was in Portland, Oregon doing some biblical counseling training with a group of churches there...
- the Lord is really blessing our efforts in that area of the country in part because of a growing number of leaders that are really becoming fired up about using biblical principles to help people in their churches and communities find answers and solutions to the challenges of everyday living...
- so after the conference we went out to supper with a group of the men and women who organized the event...
- and I was sitting next to a man who was a pilot for one of the airlines on the west coast...
- and he was telling me about a new plane they had just started flying that had a glass cockpit...
- and of course I had no idea what he was talking about but he told me that one of the problems pilots face, especially when they are landing in low visibility situations is having to go from their instruments on the panel in front of them...to the actual conditions they see out the windshield...
- and so you eyes are constantly going back and forth from instruments to reality...
- and he said that because generally speaking, it is the older men and women who become the captain...their eyes are actually slowing down in their ability to quickly refocus...
- so there’s this moment of disconnect as you are scanning from the instruments to the windshield...
- so some really smart person came up with the idea of projecting the instruments in a holographic fashion right on the windshield...so you don’t have to look down...
- you’re still looking out the windshield...but a light from behind your head is projecting all the data you need in a see through fashion on the glass in front of you...
- and he was telling me that they even project a little triangle out on the horizon with a picture of the plane itself...and the pilot, even in dense fog...just has to keep the picture of the plane in the center of the triangle...
- and eventually as he comes down through the fog and sees the runway...
- the picture of the future matches the reality of the moment, and he safely lands the plane.

Steve Viars

B.S. - Bible, Baptist Bible College
M.Div. - Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min. - Westminster Theological Seminary

Pastor Steve Viars has served at Faith Church since 1987. He and his wife Kris were married in 1982 and have two married daughters, a son, and two grandchildren. Pastor Viars’ gifted teaching ministry, enthusiasm for the Word of God, and organizational skills are instrumental in equipping Faith Church. He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith ministries and serves on the boards of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Biblical Counseling Coalition, Vision of Hope, and the Faith Community Development Corporation.

Read Steve Viars’ Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Viars to Faith Church.

View Pastor Viars' Salvation Testimony Video