And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you? He requires only that you fear the LORD your God, and live in a way that pleases him, and love him and serve him with all your heart and soul. And you must always obey the LORD’s commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good.— Deuteronomy 10:12-13
Have you ever asked yourself, “What does God expect from me?” Moses gives us a summary that is simple in form and easy to remember. Here are the essentials: (1) Fear God; (2) Live in a way that pleases him; (3) Love him; (4) Serve him with all your heart and soul; and (5) Obey his commands. Too often we complicate our faith with man-made rules, regulations, and requirements.
Are you frustrated and burned out from trying hard to please God? Concentrate on his real requirements and find peace. Respect, follow, love, serve, and obey. When you do these things life doesn’t seem quite so difficult.
Now may the God of peace—who brought up from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great Shepherd of the sheep, and ratified an eternal covenant with his blood—may he equip you with all you need for doing his will. May he produce in you, through the power of Jesus Christ, every good thing that is pleasing to him. All glory to him forever and ever! Amen.— Hebrews 13:20-21
This verse includes two significant results of Christ’s death and resurrection. God works in us to make us the kind of people that would please him, and he equips us to do the kind of work that would please him.
Let God change you from within and then use you to help others.
Most people think that when they die, they are going to heaven. If you asked why, the majority would say they have been good people or their positive deeds outweigh any negative things they’ve done. Yet the sad reality is, most people will not find themselves in heaven—and that includes some who claim to be Christians.
It may not be a popular topic of conversation, but our Savior knew that hell was essential to understand. He uses illustrations of contrasting gates, trees, and houses to point out that there are only two possible destinies after death: heaven and hell. Jesus is warning us about a most sobering reality—that not everyone who calls Him “Lord” actually belongs to Him (Matt. 7:21-23).
What, then, distinguishes a true follower? John 14:15 tells us those who love the Savior will keep His commandments. This obedience begins with believing Jesus is the Son of God (John 3:36). In other words, the first step is to humble ourselves before God, admitting that we’re sinful and deserving of condemnation. Next, we must call out to Him, requesting the forgiveness for which His Son’s blood was shed on our behalf. From then on, we’re to live only for God.
If you hear the gospel but stop short of obedience, ask yourself, Do I fully understand the goodness of God’s love? That should inspire you to obey the Father. Looking good on the outside isn’t enough to enter the kingdom of heaven. Remember, to those who truly receive Him, He will give “the right to become children of God” (John 1:12). Won’t you make sure you’re among those destined for heaven?
Personal ambition and servant-hood aren’t always compatible. In fact, they are often at odds with each other. A servant’s goal is to please his or her master in whatever way is required, but personal ambition strives for self-advancement. Jesus’ words from today’s passage must have sounded foreign to the disciples’ ears since, according to the thinking of their culture, greatness was acquired by striving for it, not by serving.
Like them, we live in a world where many people are seeking to make a name for themselves. They set goals, make plans, and do whatever is necessary to achieve what they’ve set out to do. But as Christians, we’re to live by a different standard: exalt Christ, obey His commands, and serve Him faithfully by doing His will, not our own.
We’re not called to gain fame and fortune by leaving our footprints in concrete for all to admire. Our task is to humbly follow in Jesus’ footsteps. Whether our lives have a large or small impact is up to God, not us. The greatest acts of service are not usually flashy displays; more often they’re commonplace gestures like being kind to strangers, ministering to fellow believers, and praying for others.
Jesus humbled Himself, surrendered His rights, and obeyed God even to the point of death on the cross (Phil. 2:5-8). Being His servant begins with the same attitude. It requires helping others when it’s not convenient, doing tasks that are not glamorous, and obeying the Lord even if it’s costly. We aren’t on earth to build our own kingdom but to faithfully serve God as He builds His.
He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to an idol or swear deceitfully. He shall receive blessing from the LORD, and vindication from the God of his salvation. Such is the generation of those who seek Him, who seek Your face, O God of Jacob.—Psalm 24:4-6
Genuine worship requires a heart of faith and a disposition of obedience to God. It would be difficult for unbelievers to worship the Lord, because they don’t have the Holy Spirit and cannot understand spiritual things (1 Cor. 2:14). Nor does God find worship acceptable from believers who cling unrepentantly to sin (Ps. 66:18). Drawing near to Him requires clean hands and a pure heart, which is possible only through Jesus Christ (Ps. 24:4-6).
The goal of worship is to glorify God, and it begins with our attitude. We must come into His presence with a repentant and humble heart, a mind focused on Him, and a life that demonstrates obedience.
Yesterday as I was having my quiet time with the Lord, He impressed upon me the value of abiding in Him. I read in John 15:4-7 Jesus’ explanation of abiding in Him. But, I kept asking myself “what does it mean to abide in Him?” I went back to God’s word and reread the verses pertaining to the story Jesus told of the vine and branches.
In the story Jesus uses the story of the vine and branches to show the importance of our “remaining” or “abiding in Him”. He points out that He is the vine and we are the branches. Without Him we will die. He also gives us proof of what happens when we abide in Him.
Proofs of abiding in Christ (i.e., proofs that one is truly saved and not just pretending) include obedience to Christ’s commands (John 15:10; 1 John 3:24); following Jesus’ example (1 John 2:6); living free from habitual sin (1 John 3:6); and the awareness of a divine presence within one’s life (1 John 4:13).
One of the proofs of our salvation is perseverance, or sustained abiding in Christ. The saved will continue in their walk with Christ (see Revelation 2:26). That is, they will “abide” or remain in Him. God will complete His work in them (Philippians 1:6), and they will bring forth much fruit to the glory of God (John 15:5). Those who fall away, turn their backs on Christ, or fail to abide simply show their lack of saving faith. Abiding is not what saves us, but it is one of the signs of salvation.
If you’ve fallen away from Christ it is not too late to confess your sins, repent and ask His forgiveness. When you are received back into the fold of Jesus’ care you can start abiding in Him and God will complete His work in you.
Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Carefully consider what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible on your part, live at peace with everyone. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.—Romans 12:17-18; 21
We must confess unrighteous anger as sin and then begin to deal with it immediately. Anger is often a response to hurt and care must be taken not to excuse or defend it in the name of justice. Even when someone has sinned against you, it’s important to realize that holding onto anger in response is also a sin. Scripture tells us to overcome evil with good, not to repay it.
Some people want to hang on to ill feelings, but nursing a resentful attitude isn’t sustainable; anger must be put aside. If we retain our “right” to hold grudges, we can’t expect to live in the new nature Christ has created for us.
The place where we will find strength is in our new Christlike personality. Our responsibility is to put it on. He invites us to cooperate with Him in the process of transformation. With each step of obedience, the peace of Christ will increase and anger will diminish.