8 [Jesus] humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross. 9 Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

12 Dear friends, you always followed my instructions when I was with you. And now that I am away, it is even more important. Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear. 13 For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him. NLT Philippians 2:8-13

Sam talked about the attitude of Jesus.  Remember he asked us, “Do you fight life?”  It was such a helpful talk because he said, the answer to our stress and fear is having the attitude like Jesus.  Jesus was able to give his life to God every day.  Remember how Sam walked us through how hard that had to be for Jesus?  Please go back and watch that talk.  It sets us up for today.

Do you see verse 12 when it says, ‘Obeying God with deep reverence and fear’?  How do you respond to that?  Chances are, you don’t like words like obey or submit.  I don’t.  And yet, here Paul tells us, don’t just obey, obey with deep reverence and fear.

Have you ever heard someone say they are non practicing Christians or non practicing Catholics?  I’m not sure that is a real thing.  Jesus never taught, follow me unless you don’t feel like it.  He never taught, obey me unless life gets hard and then just do what you want.  He never taught, on Sunday, I want you to fake it but then the rest of the week you are on your own.

When people say, I am a non practicing whatever, I think they are saying, I believe in God, but I am not following God or obeying God.  Almost like being a Christian Atheist.

Obedience is a big deal.  Jesus told His disciples this.

If you love me, obey me. TLB John 14:15

There is a clear connection between our obedience and our love for God.  Today I want to ask you, “How do you respond to God?”  Think through that for a quick second because your obedience to God is an indicator of how much you love God.

In the past few months, I have been reading through the Old Testament in the New Living Translation.  I just finished the story of how God freed the Children of Israel all the way up through the Kings of Judah and Israel.  I don’t know if you know the story, but it starts in Genesis.  There was a man called Jacob.  His name was changed to Israel.  Israel had twelve sons and his family became a nation called the Children of Israel.  You may remember the movie The Ten Commandments that pops up around Easter when Charleston Heston was Moses and freed the Children of Israel.

God loved the Children of Israel.  He loved them so much, He made a covenant with them to always love them.  He freed them from slavery.  He led them to the promised land.  What is interesting about the story is how the Children of Israel responded to God’s love.  As you read the story through Genesis, Exodus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua and Judges, it’s crazy.  And yes, I know I just skipped the book of Leviticus.  It’s crazy for a couple of reasons.  It’s crazy because God just keeps loving them.  It’s crazy because they just couldn’t love God back.  That means they just couldn’t obey Him.  They just couldn’t do it.  They never made the connection that God was leading them to better things.

As you read this story you may wonder, as much as God did for them, how in the world could they not love God back?  You may wonder, as much as they experienced God, how in the world could they not trust God?  You may wonder, as much as God spoke to them, how in the world could they not obey God?  As you read the story it was so clear that God loved them.  You almost want to enter the story, grab their attention, and scream, “Just love God back – please obey Him!”  They just couldn’t do it.  At every moment of their story, when they had a chance to obey God, they rebelled.  It breaks your heart.

It makes you wonder, “Who would ever experience God and not obey God?  Who would experience God’s love, His miracles, His voice, and then rebel?”  That sounds insane.  The answer may surprise you.  Who would do this?  You would.  I would.  The story of the Children of Israel isn’t a crazy story, it’s a story about our struggle to follow God.  A story or how we struggle to obey God.

Think with me and be honest.  Looking over your life, how much has God done for you?  He comes to earth.  He takes your punishment and dies on the cross for you.  He rises again to break the curse of sin in your life.  Looking over your life, have you ever experienced God?  Have you ever experienced God prompting your heart?  Have you experienced God protecting you?  Now be honest, how obedient are you?  Do you put God in first place in your life?  Don you find that no matter how much God does for you, you still have a natural desire to pull away from God to do things your way?  Don’t you find that when things are going well, you kinda drift away from God?  Do you find that when things get really tough you go to God with passionate prayer?  Do you see it?  The story of the Children of Israel is a story about us.

So back to the question for today.  How do you respond to God?  Do you obey God with deep reverence and fear?  How are you at obeying God, following God?  Would you call yourself a non practicing Christian?  This way of living that says, ‘I believe in God, I just don’t obey God.’

I want to share three key moments for the Children of Israel and apply them to our lives.  These are key moments when they could have obeyed God.  To understand the bigger story, let’s start with what God was up to.  God’s motives.

Moses explains to them that God is in love with them and is leading them to the promised land.

6 For you are a holy people, who belong to the Lord your God. Of all the people on earth, the Lord your God has chosen you to be his own special treasure.  7 “The Lord did not set his heart on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other nations, for you were the smallest of all nations! 8 Rather, it was simply that the Lord loves you, and he was keeping the oath he had sworn to your ancestors. That is why the Lord rescued you with such a strong hand from your slavery and from the oppressive hand of Pharaoh, king of Egypt. 9 Understand, therefore, that the Lord your God is indeed God. He is the faithful God who keeps his covenant for a thousand generations and lavishes his unfailing love on those who love him and obey his commands. NLT Deuteronomy 7:6-9

What was God up to?  God loves the Children of Israel.  God rescues them from Egypt.  God is leading them to a promised land.  All God wants for the Children of Israel is a better life.  That’s what is in God’s heart.  That’s what His motives were.

The first story I want to share with you is when they are freed from slavery.  They watched as God sent plagues against Egypt.  They experienced God protecting them from having their first-born child dying.  They left Egypt and the Egyptians gave them gold and silver.  They experienced God as they walked through the river on dry ground.  Psalms tells us, the riverbed was like a desert.  They watched as the most powerful army was destroyed in moments.  It was undeniable, they experienced God.

Two months after experiencing God, this happens.

1 When the people saw how long it was taking Moses to come back down the mountain, they gathered around Aaron. “Come on,” they said, “make us some gods who can lead us. We don’t know what happened to this fellow Moses, who brought us here from the land of Egypt.”  2 So Aaron said, “Take the gold rings from the ears of your wives and sons and daughters, and bring them to me.”

3 All the people took the gold rings from their ears and brought them to Aaron. 4 Then Aaron took the gold, melted it down, and molded it into the shape of a calf. When the people saw it, they exclaimed, “O Israel, these are the gods who brought you out of the land of Egypt!” NLT Exodus 32:1-4

Who would ever experience God in such a wonderful, powerful way and sixty days later turn back on God to their old ways of sin?  Crazy right?  The answer?  You would.  I would.

They struggled to trust and obey God.  This moment exposed how immature they were.  They experienced God but the first time they faced doubt, they gave up, they turned back to their old ways.

Don’t people do that today?  We experience God and as real as the God moment is, we can turn to our old habits.  It’s easy to turn back to the ruts of our lives.  We turn to alcohol, pornography, gossip, saying the critical things, living in negative attitudes, controlling others, guilt bombs and on and on, etc.

Is this you?  Have you experienced God on Sunday but by Monday you are back to your old ways?  And by Friday night, maybe, you are sloppy drunk again?  Maybe your relationship with God is up and down.  When life is good you find that you pull away from God.  The moment stress hits, you run to God with passion in prayer.

How do you respond to God?  How do you obey?  I ask because obedience is an indicator of our love for God.

Would you like to know God’s perspective about this?  It’s recorded in scripture.  Let’s read.

7 The Lord told Moses, “Quick! Go down the mountain! Your people whom you brought from the land of Egypt have corrupted themselves. 8 How quickly they have turned away from the way I commanded them to live! They have melted down gold and made a calf, and they have bowed down and sacrificed to it. They are saying, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you out of the land of Egypt.’” 9 Then the Lord said, “I have seen how stubborn and rebellious these people are.” NLT Exodus 32:7-9

The second story I want to share with you.  They are about to walk into the promised land.  Again, they experienced God freeing them from slavery.  They experienced walking through a river.  They experienced God destroying the most powerful army in moments.  They experienced God giving them the 10 commandments.  They needed water so God provided water.  They needed food so God provided Manna.  They experienced God’s presence in a pillar of fire and a cloud.  They are about to walk into the promised land.  It is undeniable that God is with them.  God tells them, scout out the land.  40 days later this happens.

31 The other men who had explored the land with him disagreed. “We can’t go up against them! They are stronger than we are!” 32 So they spread this bad report about the land among the Israelites: “The land we traveled through and explored will devour anyone who goes to live there. All the people we saw were huge. 33 We even saw giants there, the descendants of Anak. Next to them we felt like grasshoppers, and that’s what they thought, too!” NLT Numbers 13:31-33

14 Then the whole community began weeping aloud, and they cried all night. 2 Their voices rose in a great chorus of protest against Moses and Aaron. “If only we had died in Egypt, or even here in the wilderness!” they complained. 3 “Why is the Lord taking us to this country only to have us die in battle? Our wives and our little ones will be carried off as plunder! Wouldn’t it be better for us to return to Egypt?” 4 Then they plotted among themselves, “Let’s choose a new leader and go back to Egypt!” NLT Numbers 14:1-4

Who would ever experience God, face fear, and think maybe God isn’t with us, maybe we should give up and go back to slavery?  The answer?  You would.  I would.

Regardless of how much God proved to them that He was with them, they struggled.  This was such a key moment for them.  They felt fear and they had to decide, will we trust and obey God leading us to better things?  Or will we allow fear to destroy our faith, our trust, our love for God?

Don’t people do this today?  Isn’t this us?  God saved us from sin.  God walks with us today.  God promised us heaven.  We have everything.  Then we face fear, and we collapse.  We wonder, will God come through for me – today – now?  We know God has been with us all our life, but maybe not today.  That stress and fear can destroy our trust and obedience in God.

Is this you?  Has God rescued you from sin?  Has God spoken to your heart?  Has God been with you as you walk through hard times?  Has God promised you heaven?  What do you do the moment you feel stress and fear?

How do you respond to God?  How do you obey?  I ask because obedience is an indicator of our love for God.

Would you like to know God’s perspective about this?  It’s recorded in scripture.  Let’s read.

11 And the Lord said to Moses, “How long will these people treat me with contempt? Will they never believe me, even after all the miraculous signs I have done among them? 12 I will disown them and destroy them with a plague. Then I will make you into a nation greater and mightier than they are!” NLT Numbers 14:11-12

The last story I want to share with you.  The first generation of the Children of Israel is freed from Egypt.  The second generation, 40 years later, walks into the promised land.  The third generation is now living in the promised land.  God has made it abundantly clear.  I have freed you.  I have cared for you.  I love you.  I have protected you.  I have provided for you.  I have given you everything I promised I would give you.  Then this happens.

10 After that generation died, another generation grew up who did not acknowledge the Lord or remember the mighty things he had done for Israel.  11 The Israelites did evil in the Lord’s sight and served the images of Baal. 12 They abandoned the Lord, the God of their ancestors, who had brought them out of Egypt. They went after other gods, worshiping the gods of the people around them. And they angered the Lord… In those days Israel had no king; all the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes. NLT Judges 2:10-12, 21:25

The Children of Israel are experiencing every good thing that God has done for them.  Every comfort and every blessing they have is because of what God has done for them.  What do they do?  Do they use this freedom to pursue God?  No.

They are so comfortable, so blessed, they have concluded, we don’t need God.  We can do whatever we want, whenever we want, how we want.  They don’t pursue God’s commands.  They look to themselves to decide what is right and wrong.  They no longer put God in first place.  They don’t have to respect and honor the Sabbath.  They don’t give their best back to God.  Their money is their money, they don’t have to give 10% back to God.  They decide if they give back 10%, 5%, or nothing.  They don’t celebrate the Holy days like Passover.  Why would you – you have everything you want.

Not pursuing God is rebellion against God.  After three generations of God visibly moving on their behalf, they rebelled.  After three generations of every promise being fulfilled, they rebelled.  You would have to ask, who in their right mind would do this?  The answer?  You would.  I would.

Is this you?  You know God has rescued you.  You know God has walked with you and blessed you.  You know God has healed you.  And to this day, you just can’t put God in first place of your life.  Almost like a Christian Atheist.  I believe in God, but I don’t obey God.

This is a common condition in the North American Christian.  You know God loves you.  You know God cares for you.  You know God has invited you into a meaningful relationship with you.  You may tell others, ‘I struggle with that.’  Instead of pursuing a meaningful relationship with Jesus, you just jump into another day thinking, I don’t really have to do that.

You know God has given you His love and you never earned it.  But you struggle to give love to those around you who haven’t earned it.  You know God forgave you and you never deserved it.  But you struggle to forgive those around you who don’t deserve it.  How do you treat your spouse?  How do you treat people in your life?

Would you like to know God’s perspective about the third generation not passionately pursuing Him?  It’s recorded in scripture.  Let’s read.

1 The angel of the Lord went up from Gilgal to Bokim and said to the Israelites, “I brought you out of Egypt into this land that I swore to give your ancestors, and I said I would never break my covenant with you. 2 For your part, you were not to make any covenants with the people living in this land; instead, you were to destroy their altars. But you disobeyed my command. Why did you do this? 3 So now I declare that I will no longer drive out the people living in your land. They will be thorns in your sides, and their gods will be a constant temptation to you.” 4 When the angel of the Lord finished speaking to all the Israelites, the people wept loudly. NLT Judges 2:1-4

How do you respond to God?  How do you obey?  I ask because obedience is an indicator of our love for God.

Let’s read what Paul wrote in Philippians 2:12 again.

Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear.

How do you obey?  I ask because obedience is an indicator of our love for God.

Is Jesus the Lord of your life?

Maybe today you need to surrender your life to God.

Maybe today you need to come to God and ask for forgiveness.

Maybe today you need to make some radical changes.

Maybe today you need to redefine what rebellion is.

David wrote this.

Going through the motions doesn’t please you, a flawless performance is nothing to you.  I learned God-worship when my pride was shattered.  Heart-shattered lives ready for love don’t for a moment escape God’s notice. MSG Psalms 51:17

David learned that it was when he obeyed, God was pleased.  It wasn’t about going through the motions.  It wasn’t about living out religious expectations.  It wasn’t about looking good for others.  It was about his pride and rebellion being shattered and obeying God.

Do you return to the old ways of living and sin?  Do you allow fear to steal your trust and faith in God?  Are you so comfortable, so prideful, you don’t pursue God?  Do you have a relationship with Him?

Let me ask you, how do you respond to God?  Do you obey Him?  I ask because obedience is an indicator of how much you love him.

Have you made the connection yet that God is leading you to better places?