Became

By faith in Christ, we became the people of the LORD our God

Read: Deuteronomy 27

Then Moses and the Levitical priests said to all Israel: “Be silent, Israel, and listen! You have now become the people of the LORD your God. Obey the LORD your God and follow his commands and decrees that I give you today.” (Deuteronomy 27:9-10)

Reflect:

“You have now become the people of the LORD your God.” What a powerful identity statement. Proclaimed by both Moses, the political leader and the Levitical priests, the spiritual mediators, to the entire motley crowd of Jacob’s descendants. They needed to shut their mouths and still their inner monologues, because this was a crucial declaration.

“You have now become…” Past tense: the people have been freed, by God, from Egypt; have received, from God, the Law; and have made the tabernacle, according to God’s design. The people have been brought, by God, through the desert; have been led by the pillar of God’s presence, marked by smoke and fire.

Now they are changed, transfigured. They are no longer slaves. Now they are different: “the people of the LORD.” Now they are truly one people and they belong not to the slave-holding Egyptians, nor yet to themselves, but to the LORD, Yahweh, the I AM who spoke to Moses from the burning bush. This LORD is their God, in the closest relationship of kinship and belonging with his people.

What an amazing identity!

So now, because Israel “have now become the people of the LORD” they were to obey the LORD. The same logical flow is seen in the lives of the people of Christ. By faith in Jesus Christ, who died as a sacrifice to redeem me from slavery to sin, I have now become one of the people of the LORD my God, now to obey him.

crux:

By faith in Christ, we became the people of the LORD our God.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

You are the LORD, Yahweh, the I AM who spoke to Moses so long ago from the burning bush. You are my God, the divine object of my love, worship, awe and reverential fear.

I belong to you. I am one of your people, because this is what you have made me through the gift of faith in your Son Jesus Christ.

Thank you for redeeming and delivering your people Israel from slavery in Egypt and bringing them to your land, there to obey you. Thank you for redeeming and delivering me from slavery to sin and the curse of the law and bringing me to my present circumstances, here to obey you.

Please help me to obey you and follow you, because I belong to you. Please help me to be keen to bring honour to your name through my choices and actions, especially as Amy and I travel today to Indianapolis for the Gospel Coalition Women’s Conference tomorrow. Please bless us!

Amen.

Belong

I belong to the church because I know the truth about Christ

Read: 1 John 2:18-23

They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us.
But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth. (1 John 2:19-20)

Reflect:

The circumstance behind John’s letter-writing is evident in this section of his letter. There has been division in the church. Some people have left the church. John calls them “anti-Christs,” people who are against Christ, including among them “whoever denies that Jesus is the Christ” (v22). They are liars (v22).

In the worldwide church today, including all so-called Christian denominations, some people like this stick around rather than leave. You can talk Church History and Church governance until you’re blue in the face but I’ll never understand why Bishop Spong hasn’t been excommunicated long since. (He’s not in my denomination, thanks be to God.)

But some people do break off, and start splinter pseudo-churches. We know they are not true Christians because their teaching of Jesus is faulty and does not match with what the New Testament says; with what the apostles (like John) taught and still teach us through their written words today. They start churches like the LDS, whose founder decided to set up his own church rather than join one of several Bible-believing Christian churches in his local neighbourhood. Mormon does not equal Christian. How do I know this? Because their teachings on Jesus are not the same as those of the Scriptures.

Further Reflection:

I’ve been thinking about this passage for almost a week now. It keeps being quoted in podcasts I’m listening to, a similar topic was discussed in our Sunday sermon, and it is also popping into my mind at odd times.

At first, I was thinking about people who’ve left the church as schismatics. But 2:19 also applies to those many Christians describe as having “fallen away” from the church. 2:19 says that people who may have appeared to be Christians in the past reveal themselves as non-Christians (they’re not even “nominal Christians”) when they leave the church.

Jesus predicted that there would be people like this in his Parable of the Sower and the Soils, and in his Parable of the Weeds.

This truth explains what happened to me in my late teens and early 20s. I’d grown up attending church but, in hindsight, I realise I wasn’t really in the church because I didn’t understand or accept the grace-aspect of the gospel. So I left the church, my actions fitting my reality.

Thanks be to the Holy One, he did anoint me with his Spirit and enable me to know the truth of Jesus Christ, on Ash Wednesday 2001. Now I shall remain where I now belong.

Crux:

I belong to the Church because God’s Spirit enables me to know the truth about Christ.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty, Holy One,

You alone are Sovereign over all things and over all people. You have put the Church under the sovereign headship of your Son, Jesus Christ. May you be glorified in Christ and in his Church.

LORD, protect your church from those people who do not really belong to us; those who grow up among us like weeds, not wheat. Make your body discerning so that we may be kept apart from those who would teach false doctrine; those who will one day go out from us. Keep us safe from their lies; keep our eyes true on Christ.

Yet LORD I also ask for you mercy and grace to be upon those wanderers who have left your church. May you call them to your Son, open their eyes to see him truly, remove the lies they have believed from their minds and make them true, faithful, knowledgeable Christians. Anoint them with your Holy Spirit, Holy One, so they may finally be justified by your grace through faith in the finished work of Jesus.

Amen.