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July 23, 2013

Foundational Instruction From The One True God

By Anthony Wade

When the last Judge, Samuel, was leaving, he had some parting instruction for those who would follow God...


But be sure to fear the  Lord  and faithfully serve him. Think of all the wonderful things he has done for you. But if you continue to sin, you and your king will be swept away."  - 1Samuel 12: 24-25 (NLT)

The nation of Israel was designed by God to be a theocracy, with Almighty God as the Sovereign King. After their deliverance from Egypt and the leadership of Moses and then Joshua would pass from this earth, Israel went through a period of four hundred years where God would raise up judges from amongst their numbers to deliver them from the oppression they found themselves under. If you read the Book of Judges, overall you will see a continuous cycle of sin, repentance, deliverance, and then sin again. Having never learned any lessons from the mistakes of their past, the Israelites seemed doomed to repeat them. The final of these judges was Samuel. It was toward the end of Samuel's life that the people of Israel insisted that they wanted a mortal king to rule over them like all of their neighboring kingdoms. 

Samuel was displeased with their request and went to the  Lord  for guidance. "Do everything they say to you," the  Lord  replied, "for it is me they are rejecting, not you. They don't want me to be their king any longer. Ever since I brought them from Egypt they have continually abandoned me and followed other gods. And now they are giving you the same treatment. Do as they ask, but solemnly warn them about the way a king will reign over them."  - 1Samuel 8: 6-9 (NLT)

Despite those warnings, Israel demanded their own mortal king to replace the one true King of Kings. Saul would be anointed the first King of Israel and he would lead them into various military successes early on. Samuel would grow older and realize his time was coming to a close. The key verses today are literally the parting words Samuel gives to the people of Israel. It is therefore the foundational instruction for the new nation Israel became once they moved from a theocracy to man-led regime. Over a thousand years later as we watch the remnant of Judah carried into captivity by the Babylonian Empire, we realize that Israel failed to adhere to these instructions. Fast forward thousands of years after this and we see the church today failing as well to adhere to the basic foundational instructions from the Prophet Samuel to the people of God. Within these two simple verses are four foundational instructions for us today as believers and as the church as a whole. 

The first warning is perhaps the most basic. The most foundational. The most important for us. Be sure to fear the Lord. Unfortunately, the modern theories of church growth omit any discussion of the fear of God. They want to sell a fuzzy warm God who is all about little puppies and endless rainbows. They do not want to discuss Sodom and Gomorrah. They do not want to discuss how the flood destroyed all of known humanity except the family of Noah. Jesus however made sure to discuss it:

"When the Son of Man returns, it will be like it was in Noah's day. In those days before the flood, the people were enjoying banquets and parties and weddings right up to the time Noah entered his boat. People didn't realize what was going to happen until the flood came and swept them all away. That is the way it will be when the Son of Man comes.  - Matthew 24: 37-39 (NLT)

So it goes today, both in the world and in the church. In the world we see a culture that is drifting further and further away from any sense of godliness. But just like the instructions from Samuel were for the people of God - so they remain for us today. The church is also partying like in the days of Noah. How can someone preach to thousands of people, using God, to line their own pockets? No fear of God. How can someone sell fake healing to those who are most desperately in need? No fear of God. How can someone create a purpose driven empire that erodes the foundations of the church? That waters down salvation to the point that people are being "churched" instead of being saved? No fear of God. How can leaders sell the notion that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is no longer sufficient for the next generation? That we must compromise who we are in order to become relevant to a dead culture? No fear of God. How can entire denominations allow leaders who live lifestyles outlawed by God Himself? How can entire denominations abandon the Bible as being the literal Word of God? How can someone preach grace without sin? No fear of God. 

Fear of the  Lord  is the foundation of wisdom.   Knowledge of the Holy One results in good judgment.   Wisdom will multiply your days   and add years to your life.   If you become wise, you will be the one to benefit.If you scorn wisdom, you will be the one to suffer.  - Proverbs 9: 10-12 (NLT)

Scorning wisdom causes suffering. Since wisdom is founded upon fearing the Lord it is reasonable to conclude that suffering follows from not having a healthy fear of God. These lessons apply to us personally, not just on the level of the church. How does someone call on the name of Jesus and treat their fellow man with contempt and disdain? No fear of the Lord. How can one go to play church every week when they know deep down they are worshiping the pastor or even the building? When they know they are unified by something other than Christ? When they have seen the blood on the hands of their leaders? No fear of the Lord. How can we lift our hands on Sundays knowing the sin in our lives is not laid bare before God? No fear of the Lord. 

While on this subject, it has become in vogue to denounce those who would even discuss the fear of God. People who brazenly claim they do not fear Him. People who use grace as a shield from things it was not designed to protect us from. How can we not fear the God who spoke the entire universe into existence? Beloved it is not to fear who God is but to fear us ever forgetting who He is. That is the central problem within the church today. There is simply no operational and foundational fear of God anymore. There are some Bible verses that do more than give me pause. They make me revaluate who I am and what I am doing. I do not know how someone can read that not everyone saying "Lord Lord" will enter the kingdom of God and not want to work their salvation out with the fear and trembling as we are instructed to do. At one point even Jesus incredulously asks why bother calling Him Lord if we will not do as He says? The friend of God generation we are raising up does not understand His Lordship. They do not understand a healthy fear of God. 

Secondly from the key verses we see the instruction to faithfully serve Him. Many might gloss over this as a given but who do our lives really serve? The Bible deals quite often with the sin of idolatry but we may not stop long enough to translate this into modern terms. I think we hear idolatry and think of people bowing down to a graven image. The first commandment however is to have no other gods before Him. Who have we set up in our lives before the God Almighty? Is our career before God? Do we bow down and chase after the gods of this world? Do we chase after money more than God? The rich young ruler was not told to give all his money to the poor because he was rich. It was because his money was placed ahead of God in his life. We cannot pretend to follow God and have anything else before Him. 

Yet how often do we do this today? How often does even our own church become an idol in our lives? Or the pastor we follow? Or even our kids? Beloved, God has a call on YOUR life. He has a purpose for you specifically and that is not to live vicariously through anyone else. But we are not only to serve Him but to faithfully serve Him. Faith requires vigilance. The devil is relentless. The world is unforgiving. Our flesh is always seeking gratification. Sometimes we treat salvation as an event that happened in our past instead of a state of being that must be worked out daily:

Then he said to the crowd, "If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me.  - Luke 9: 23 (NLT)

We must take up our cross daily beloved. No one said the Christian walk was an easy one. That is a lie being sold in too many pulpits today. Christianity does cost something. It costs us the rest of this life in faithful service to the God who lavished His love and grace upon us. 

Thirdly, we see the instruction of appreciation. Think of all the wonderful things He has done for you! Do we really do this enough anymore? Do we merely pay lip service to the thankfulness we should have towards God? One of the obvious results of prosperity doctrine, in all of its unholy forms, is that it develops a consumer mentality within the hearts of those who seek Christ. Salvation is not a business transaction. There is no quid pro quo. There is nothing we could have done to earn it. Yet despite this, people are convinced that God is a cosmic ATM there for their whims to dispense blessings as we see fit. Joel Osteen sells this false god every day but he is far from alone. Joseph Prince sells us half a god who only exists in the from of grace luring us away from the very vigilance our faith requires. Pastors like Mark Batterson sells us on the notion that prayer is petulance. That God is playing chicken with us when it comes to answering our prayers. Stop the insanity please. Just think of all the wonderful things He has already done for us. 

Because that is what keeps us humble before God beloved. He could not do another thing for me as long as I live and still He has done everything for me. Seeker friendly? Since when did salvation not become seeker friendly enough? The Bible says that God is working all things out for our good yet we act as if an answer of "no" from God is somehow a bad thing. We are raising up a generation of believers who in deed believe that is not Your will but mine be done. We fail to appreciate God. Consider God's recipe for peace:

Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God's peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.  - Philippians 4: 6-7 (NLT)

Prayer is not just a whine list. It is supposed to be where we acknowledge all God has done. Why? Because it protects us. It guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. What we may not want to admit is that when we lack peace we are really experiencing a lack of faith in who God is. Being thankful for all He has already done reminds us who He is! When David decided to face Goliath what was his rationale to King Saul? 

But David persisted. "I have been taking care of my father's sheep and goats," he said. "When a lion or a bear comes to steal a lamb from the flock, I go after it with a club and rescue the lamb from its mouth. If the animal turns on me, I catch it by the jaw and club it to death. I have done this to both lions and bears, and I'll do it to this pagan Philistine, too, for he has defied the armies of the living God! The  Lord  who rescued me from the claws of the lion and the bear will rescue me from this Philistine!"   Saul finally consented. "All right, go ahead," he said. "And may the  Lord  be with you!"  - 1Samuel 17: 34-37 (NLT)

Sometimes we confuse ourselves too much in the faith. We think we need the faith of King David when all we really need is the faith of the shepherd David. It was King David that would eventually fall prey to sin's clutches with Bathsheba. Sometimes the higher up we go the harder it is to remember who brought us there. Lets us never forget to be thankful to God. 

Lastly, we see the instruction that is so overlooked in modern Christendom. If we continue to sin we will be swept away. Sin is the unspoken doctrine in churches today. Entire new theologies have sprung up to assure us that we do not have to worry about sin anymore but those are lies from the pit of hell. Only the enemy profits from a church that is not vigilant against sin. We see mega church pastors falling from grace every week. Recently, one took a 17 year old girl across state lines for sex. Another three in the Orlando area all fell from adultery. This should be a wake up call to the leaders of the church. Sin is always waiting to destroy our life. Besides these four men, think of the 100,000 people who followed them. There is real damage in this life from sin. The grace of God assures us of our eternal security but it does nothing to protect us from the principle of sowing and reaping in our temporal lives. 

When Achan tried to hide his sin under his tent, the Israelites lost their battle with Ai. What battles do we lose because of the sins we have buried under our tent today? David forgot this principle and sinned with Bathsheba. It cost him his kingdom and the lives of three of his children. What has sin cost us in our own lives? How much are we willing to lose? Do we truly count the cost? Beloved, God was very specific to His people when Samuel was retiring. Four simple instructions that we need to follow personally and corporately. If we sin we will fall. We need to appreciate all that God has already done in our lives. We must faithfully serve Him. We must be sure to fear God. The time grows short and the hour draws near. It is time to return to the foundational instructions we have been given by God and follow them as if our lives depended on it - because they do. 

Reverend Anthony Wade - July 23, 2013

Authors Bio:
Credentialed Minister of the Gospel for the Assemblies of God. Owner and founder of 828 ministries. Vice President for Goodwill Industries. Always remember that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.