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Thursday, July 15, 2010

God will outdo himself

6-7 God, your God, will cut away the thick calluses on your heart and your children's hearts, freeing you to love God, your God, with your whole heart and soul and live, really live. God, your God, will put all these curses on your enemies who hated you and were out to get you.  8-9 And you will make a new start, listening obediently to God, keeping all his commandments that I'm commanding you today. God, your God, will outdo himself in making things go well for you: you'll have babies, get calves, grow crops, and enjoy an all-around good life. Yes, God will start enjoying you again, making things go well for you just as he enjoyed doing it for your ancestors.  10 But only if you listen obediently to God, your God, and keep the commandments and regulations written in this Book of Revelation. Nothing halfhearted here; you must return to God, your God, totally, heart and soul, holding nothing back.  11-14 This commandment that I'm commanding you today isn't too much for you, it's not out of your reach. It's not on a high mountain—you don't have to get mountaineers to climb the peak and bring it down to your level and explain it before you can live it. And it's not across the ocean—you don't have to send sailors out to get it, bring it back, and then explain it before you can live it. No. The word is right here and now—as near as the tongue in your mouth, as near as the heart in your chest. Just do it! (Deut. 30:6-14)

In my morning devotions today, I felt moved to return to the Book of Deuteronomy.  I wanted to bring the entire chapter before you this morning, but I will summarize some of it for you instead.  The opening verses indicate the conditions God sets before Israel related to their wandering and wayward hearts.  He has set them up to enter the promised land of Canaan, establish them as a strong nation, but more importantly, he has established them as HIS possession (a holy nation).  Yet, he tells them that he knows they will wander away in their heart-devotion to him AND that he has already made a way back for them!  He lays out the conditions for restoration - something we can all relate to in some form or another.  We have ALL wandered in our heart-devotion at one time or another and can benefit from understanding how God defines the "way back". 

The opening verses indicate that our return is conditioned on heeding, or paying attention, to the things that become evidenced in our lives.  For Israel, it was the blessings and curses that God proclaimed in his Word - if they did right, they'd enjoy blessing; if they pursued wrong purposes, they'd experience curses upon their nation.  Really, in the simplest terms, God is saying that we need to "tune into" our lives a little better, allowing the Holy Spirit to expose our motivations, our heart attitudes, and then weigh them against what God defines for us in his Word as "righteousness".  If we find ourselves falling away from the "standards" he defines there, then it is time to make an about-face and come back to center again.  The most amazing part of the first 5 verses of this chapter is the statement, "No matter how far away you end up, God, your God, will get you out of there..."  That should squelch all doubt we have in our minds that we could ever drift away from God unnoticed by his watchful eye, or unreachable by his caring hand.

Now, consider the above passage in context of what I have just shared with you - WHEN we drift (and not IF we drift), God is a restoring God.  When we recognize our condition, respond to the grace God is extending, and take the action to return, look at the actions God takes on our behalf:
  • He brings us back - it is not OUR efforts that get us "back on track" in our walk, but his!
  • He removes the calloused parts of our heart - freeing us again to love God with our entire heart.  Think about a callous for just a moment - it is hard, unsightly, and abrasive to everything it touches.  It is also pretty impenetrable.  If a "physical" callous was around our heart muscle, the heart would be so restricted that the normal and regular beating of that heart would be impossible.  God is the one to remove those callouses of our heart - removing our "restriction" in worship of him.
  • He places us in the very circumstances where we can make a new start - dealing on our behalf with our enemy (our own lust, our immense pride, the devil himself).  Our part is to listen obediently - callouses removed giving us freedom to "beat again" in unison with is heart.
  • He will outdo himself - in making things go well with us!  He blesses us over and over again - outdoing all we could ever imagine about his grace, his love or his ability on our behalf.  
  • He will ENJOY us - it absolutely amazes me that God could ENJOY me!  Sometimes, I don't bring much joy to myself - how could I ever bring joy to him.  Yet, he says we will become a thing of enjoyment to him.  
Our part is to hold nothing back - no half-hearted attempts at obedience.  Oh, don't get me wrong here - God knows we will slip up from time to time.  He also knows he will give us grace to get up again and move on.  It is the heart attitude he is focused on here - one of commitment, dedication, and entirety in our responsiveness.  If you have ever found yourself moving at a speed of 45 mph down a busy surface street, approaching the intersection, and suddenly the light turns from green to amber, you make a split-second decision to screech to a stop and possibly have a multi-car pile-up, or plunge on through the intersection in spite of that amber light.  If you decide to do the latter, we say that you are "committed" due to the speed of your vehicle, the traffic coming at a face pace behind you, etc.  Commitment describes a determination that drives us forward, calculating the risks, and then acting.  That is what God expects of us - make a commitment - allow it to drive us forward despite what we see may be the risks.  When we do, he stands ready to restore us.

His word to us is to "come back".  His action on our behalf is to "welcome us back".  His blessing to us is in coming back is to "take back" what we have lost and restore it to us completely.  Don't get bogged down in the fact that you may have wandered - listen obediently to the still small voice of the Holy Spirit, respond with an open heart, and come on back!