Cornerstone Magazine Fall 2015 - Page 10

Partnering with God for Sanctification NICHOLAS CHUAN This is an adaptation of a message given in Grace Harbor Church. Have you ever felt that the commandments and statutes in the Old Testament are too ancient and obsolete to have any relevance today? Knowing this, many churches intentionally avoid preaching out of more difficult and outdated texts of the Bible. If you don’t believe me, think of how many sermons you have heard come out of the book of Leviticus or Numbers. This is my burden, and hereafter, I seek to explain an ancient Biblical verse, Deuteronomy 10:16. In the earlier chapters of Deuteronomy, Moses describes the history of Israel after the Exodus event, before exhorting the nation to trust in God’s promise to enter the land of Canaan. He stops this long list of commands to remind the Israelites of how they partook in idolatry by worshipping the golden calf. Then, beginning in verse 12 And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God ask of you except to fear the Lord your God by walking in all His ways, to love Him, and to worship the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul? Keep the Lord’s commands and statutes I am giving you today, for your own good. The heavens, indeed the highest heavens, belong to the Lord your God, as does the earth and everything in it. Yet the Lord was devoted to your fathers and loved them. He chose their descendants after them—He chose you out of all the peoples, as it is today. Therefore, circumcise your hearts and don’t be stiff-necked any longer. Let’s zoom in on verse 16, the last sentence. Moses is telling the Israelites to do two things - circumcise their hearts, and, stop being stiff-necked. Actually, they are two sides of the same coin - a positive imperative to circumcise their hearts, and a negative one to stop being stiff-necked. Circumcision was a badge of having the covenant identity, having its roots in the Abrahamic covenant. Being circumcised meant that you were part of God’s chosen people. On the other hand, the heart symbolises the inner man, what one really thinks and feels. When you put that together, circumcising one’s heart means removing the stubbornness that prevents the heart from properly loving God, which is really the same as the second part of the sentence to stop being stiffnecked, an ancient way of describing stubbornness. Moses is basically saying that God wants more than just outward conformity to His laws, He wants the hearts of the Israelites. 8 CORNERSTONE Magazine In light of that, this is the main point of the passage Partner with God in His sanctification of your soul. This is done in three ways - 1) Accept God’s immeasurable love for you, 2) Recognize your need for a Savior, and 3) Allow the Holy Spirit to work in you. Firstly, accept God’s immeasurable love for you. The first word of the verse is the conjunction, “therefore.” This tells us that there is a reason why Moses is asking the Israelites to circumcise their hearts. The reason is clear in its preceding verse - God chose the Israelites. Moses is basically saying that God wants more than just outward conformity to His laws, He wants the hearts of the Israelites. Moses is saying that because God chose and loved the Israelites, therefore, they should circumcise their hearts and stop being stiff-necked. God didn’t just choose the Israelites, He chose you (Eph 1:4). He didn’t just love the Israelites, He loves you. All He’s asking you to do is to accept this great love that He has for you. To be clear, God didn’t choose you because of anything you have done. Isaiah says that all of our righteous acts are like filthy rags (Isa 64:6), and that includes the exam you aced, that huge sum of money you gave to a charity and that sleepless night when you consoled your depressed friend. None of that can stand up to the perfectly just God, because of the sin in our hearts: the sin that causes us to lust, raise our voices in anger and be arrogant. We all deserve the judgement of God, but instead, He gives us love and grace. So how do you accept it? The same truth Moses spoke of thousands of years ago still apply - give your heart to God and stop being stubborn. One of the best ways to do this is committing to come under the teaching of the Word every Sunday at church. That is how you can accept God’s love for you, by listening to His Word preached and explained. Beyond that, accept God’s love through daily devotions, quiet time and prayer. When we intentionally take time out of our schedules to read the Word or come into God’s presence, we let Him and His love into our hearts. This is how we partner with God in His sanctification in us, by accepting His love for us. But, we cannot do this alone. Moses tells the Israelites to circumcise their hearts and stop being stubborn. But God knows that we cannot achieve this on our own. He knows that we are sinful and that we cannot cleanse