Written in 2010
Complete Obedience. Deuteronomy 28:1-14 contains a list of the blessings the nation Israel will receive if they obey God fully. At the start and end of this section are statements that the blessings are for those who completely obey. In two places in the body of the passage are two more statements reminding us that the condition for the blessings listed is obedience (28:2b, 9b). The emphasis on complete obedience in the beginning and end is significant. I have italicized the words that point to the need for complete obedience. Verse 1 says, “And if you faithfully obey the voice of the Lord your God, being careful to do all his commandments that I command you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth.” Verses 13b and 14 say, “…if you obey the commandments of the Lord your God, which I command you today, being careful to do them, and if you do not turn aside from any of the words that I command you today, to the right hand or to the left, to go after other gods to serve them.”
The sad truth is that all of us have areas in our lives in which we are not fully obedient. A denominational leader responsible for supervising pastors once told a pastor friend of mine that, after years of dealing with issues pertaining to Christian ministers, he has concluded that everyone has a dark side which is hidden from the public image that he or she projects to the world. I think he is right. The key issue is how we deal with our dark side. Are we battling it vigorously and with the help of brothers or sisters whom we can trust and to whom we are spiritually accountable; or are we grappling with it alone? When we do so alone, there is the possibility of cultivating a secret life, which is extremely dangerous. Many of the prominent leaders, whose fall into serious sin brought great dishonor to God, were having a secret life of sin long unknown to their Christian acquaintances for some time before the sin became public.
There is much wisdom in the warning I was given, early in my Christian life, to be careful of three areas in my life: money, sex and power or pride. These are often areas where we are vulnerable and where our battle with sin is waged. Paul says, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs” (1 Tim. 6:10). This is why Paul says that they should not appoint as leaders in the church one who is “a lover of money” (1 Tim. 3:3) or “greedy for material gain” (Tit. 1:7—translation based on the Greek). It is amazing how the opportunity of making lots of money easily traps people into schemes that end up becoming a huge burden and often result in their economic downfall. The recent crashes of unethical financial schemes shows how even wealthy people were dragged into these things. In Sri Lanka we have seen how good people were dragged in, through receiving gifts, into schemes that they should have stayed clear of and how these destroyed their Christian witness.
The sin of David with Bathsheba shows how even a person described as a man after God own heart (1 Sam 13:14), could allow lust to cause him to murder and commit adultery. Sadly, after this sin, though his relationship with God was restored, his life was filled with much pain. It should not surprise us that, in our sex-charged world, many Christians are struggling with sexual temptation. This becomes known only after a big outward sin is committed, but the struggle was ongoing for many years. How much better it would have been if they had developed some accountability relationships to help them with this battle.
King Uzziah was a good king who reigned for over 50 years. Towards the end of his life he got proud and did things in the temple which only priests were allowed to do. When the bold priests confronted him on this and tried to prohibit him, he responded with angry defiance. At that time, he was struck with leprosy, which plagued him for the rest of his life (2 Chron. 26:16-23). Today too if pride goes unchecked it can lead people to do things out of their fleshly desires which could destroy them. For example, good evangelists waste much time raising support for structures that were built more to boost their name than to please God—like universities and hospitals.
When we see areas of disobedience in our lives, may we hasten to deal with them. And may we continue to deal with them, because Satan has a way of tempting us in areas where we are vulnerable. The command of God is for his people to be totally obedient.