The practical awe of God
When I was deciding on what to write during Lent I forgot about the panic of seeing an empty page. On 1st January this year, I said I wanted to get my awe of God back. Then thinking about Lent I wanted to build on the idea that God’s gifts are practical, The Holy Spirit equips us to minister in whatever way we minister.
I ended up with six steps, no not really steps as they are not consecutive, six questions about how your life relates to God, to other people and how I can relate God to other people. To look at all aspects of life, there is no barrier between spiritual and physical. I got these questions from an internet search and I do not know who came up with them. If they are yours please reply so that I can give credit where it is due.
The first question is what is my, or your, state of discipleship?
Will I obey Christ’a teaching?
All the talk of obedience in the Bible sounds harsh leading some to reject it because it points to an autocratic God. But God is not autocratic. Something else is happening. When the children of Israel had wandered for a long time in the desert after leaving Egypt they were told to stand on two mountains on either side of a valley and Moses read God’s blessings and curses over them he was using the standard form of covenant over them. Covenant was how agreements were made in those days, agreements between countries and between tribes within a country. You can read the blessings in Deuteronomy 28:1-14, and the curses in verses 15-64, the ultimate curse was an exile from the land.
Covenants could be very one-sided, and they still can be. Only the very fortunate get to discuss a working arrangement, most people get a few pages of an agreement to sign or they don’t get the job. God’s covenant is not like that, it is about being in a loving relationship, a two-way agreement based on mutual love.
Obedience is the love language of god’s covenant with humans. Jesus said this:
15 “If you love me, obey my commands. 16 I will ask the Father. And he will give you another friend to help you and to be with you forever. 17 That friend is the Spirit of truth.John 14:15-17a NIRV
We show our love for Jesus by obeying him and Jesus shows his love for us by sending the Holy Spirit. Love is how a covenant with God works. But how do I obey Jesus Christ? How will I know? (I have just given myself an earworm, the David Guetta song How Will I Know.)
A covenant agreement means conforming. Both sides agree to the terms and conditions. Being in a covenant relationship of love with God is a two-way agreement, we turn to God with our joys, disappointments and problems and God listens to us, that is part of the deal. We also have agreed to conform to God’s revealed rules. Conformity to God often means we are counter-cultural to the society we live in. Conformity to society often means we are counter-cultural to God. We need to decide which side we conform to, the way we act will need to conform, to go over to God’s side will mean changing the way we act, changing our desires and changing our way of thinking. It is that fundamental and very difficult.
On the Monday evening before Lent started, I was in church, at Holy Trinity Huddersfield, a service we call Delve, an extended time of worship music and a time for people to share what God is doing and saying in their lives. I thought I heard God speak words of encouragement to me. I was praying for the Holy Spirit to fall down on us when God spoke (I believe) asking for my obedience, am I acting out of love? After some contemplation, I believe that I am being challenged also in my compartmentalising of what I believe. Is my obedience to Jesus linked with my acceptance of those who Jesus accepts? That is a question that links the first two of these questions I am answering this Lent, so more in next week’s blog post…
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