Deuteronomy 6:20, 24-25 20 In the future, when your son asks you, “What is the meaning of the stipulations, decrees and laws the Lord our God has commanded you?” 24 The Lord commanded us to obey all these decrees and to fear the Lord our God, so that we might always prosper and be kept alive, as is the case today. 25 And if we are careful to obey all this law before the Lord our God, as he has commanded us, that will be our righteousness.”
Commands, stipulations, decrees, laws, guidelines, rules, discipline, obey…it all sounds daunting, discouraging, and negative at times. Why do those words, especially associated with God’s Word, seem to be overbearing at times? Why do they come across as negative to so many? Furthermore, why do so many (me included) follow these out of fear for much of our lives?
A lot of this depends on our narrative of God. For most of us, our parents and earthly authority figures have taught us about rules, laws, discipline, etc. and in most cases out of love. However, there are those times where the discipline we have received has been accompanied by a withdrawal of love. Now, as I say this, I recognize that our parents and godly authority figures have led us as best they could. This withdrawal of love is usually based out of a hurt heart on the part of our authority figure. Out of those hurt feelings, he/she protects the heart by withdrawal. As a parent, I make mistakes. I am flawed and at times within my discipline, I withdraw my love. That is not my intent; however, out of my own wounds, insecurities, and limited knowledge, I have made this mistake. I also realize that some of my readers may have had an upbringing that was quite painful and their caregivers were intentional in withdrawal of love. For that, I feel tender.
For years I have believed in a God that loves me, but is disappointed in me quite a bit of the time. In my head, I know God’s love. In my heart, I question if He loves me all the time. Where does this come from? I have projected onto God how I have been handled by my authority figures. I have taken earthly mistakes and assumed that God treats me the same way. And, sadly, I have taught my children the same lesson. My intent here is not to cast blame or make those of us who have enforced God’s law without love feel guilty. I would like to see myself and others walk a new walk in God’s love.
I have tried very hard to make God’s Word practical to life. Of course, many times I become Pharisaical and push God’s teachings with a hardline approach. For the most part, I have lived life teaching a practical approach. God has reasons for his commands, laws, stipulations, and decrees. After all, He created us; wouldn’t He know what is best for us? I appreciate what Henry Blackabay says in Experiencing God:
God loves you deeply and profoundly. Because He loves you, He has given you guidelines for living so you will not miss the full dimensions of the love relationship. Life also has some land mines that can destroy you or harm your life. God does not want to see you miss His best, and He does not want your life destroyed by foolish choices…That is the purpose of God’s commands. He wants you to receive life and have it abundantly…When God gives you a command, he is not restricting you. He is freeing you.
God loves us. His commands are rooted in love. He created us, knows us, and wants what is best for us. He sent Jesus to die for us so that we can enter into a relationship with Him. There are two books that have helped me shape this view of God. The first one is The Good and Beautiful God by James Bryan Smith. This book helped me to see the way I have viewed God. The second book is Gateways to God by Dmitri Bilgere. This book has helped me begin a journey of believing in and living in God’s love for me. My encouragement to you is to look at what you believe about God’s commands and God’s love. Look at how God has loved you and how His commands are rooted in love.
1. Who in your life has shaped your narrative of God?
2. Where in your life do you feel God has punished you?
3. From that punishment, how did you feel about God?
4. What parts of your life do you feel are a disappointment to God?
5. Identify the earthly authority figure where you picked up this idea of being a disappointment to God.
6. This week, notice where you feel unloved by God. Ask Jesus to come into that situation. Sit in silence and listen for Jesus. What truth is He telling you about God’s love?
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