Has the American Church Lost Its First Love? - Conclusion (Part 3)

God’s Instructions to Israel before Entering the Promised Land

by B.J. Wheelock

Continuing from Part 1 and Part 2 of this series, let’s now look at one last portion of Scripture, taken from Deuteronomy. In this passage (Deut. 4:1-2, 9), God is giving instructions to the Jews (for the second time, because they paid no attention the first time) regarding how they are to live their lives in the new land He is sending them to.

Notice the priorities: 1) listen (i.e., learn) the statutes and rules that I (God) have taught you, and do them!!  2) Do not add or subtract from My Word, but obey them. 3) …be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. 4) Teach them to your children and to their children after them.

Now, look closely at the first priority: Listen. In other words, learn the statutes and rules that I (God) have taught you, and do them in every part of your life!! This is exactly the same thing that Christ commanded His disciples in the Great Commission – teach them (new Christians) all that I have commanded, and teach them how to observe all that I have commanded (i.e., DO THEM).

The requirements of the old and new covenants are identical – know the law (commandments, teachings) and practice the law (keep, guard, observe the commandments, teachings).  The main distinction between the old and new covenant is not that the requirement to keep the law has changed, but that now we can actually meet the requirement (and even desire to) because of what Christ accomplished on the cross.  And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and CAUSE YOU TO WALK IN MY STATUES AND BE CAREFUL TO OBEY MY RULES”. (Ezekiel 36:26-27)

Question. Who is Ezekiel speaking of, Old Testament believers or New Testament believers?  Answer – New Testament believers.  This means that New Testament believers (i.e., Christians) will be distinguished by their walking in (continually practicing) Christ’s statutes (laws) and their obedience to His rules.  And they will want to because they have been given a new heart with new desires, and because God Himself will make sure of it (I will cause you to walk in My statutes). 

Bottom line – true Christianity is marked by a deep desire to obey Christ’s commandments.  It still involves rules, commandments, law.  Grace does not eliminate God’s law; grace gives the Christian the desire and the ability to keep God’s law – not perfectly; but with far greater success than before our salvation. Put another way, the new covenant doesn’t jettison God’s law, it jettison’s the old heart that hated God’s law and replaces it with a new heart that loves God’s law.

Therefore, the first love of the Christian, and by extension the Church, is to learn and observe all that Christ has commanded.  The first love of the Christian is law

But someone will say, “No, the first love of the Christian is Christ.” And to this Christ says, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” Hang on a second, I thought that law and love were diametrically opposed to one another? Nope. What is the greatest commandment (law)? LOVE the Lord your God with all your heart.  And the 2nd greatest commandment (law) is like the first. LOVE your neighbor as yourself. Love and law are not mutually exclusive, they are mutually inclusive. Therefore, if the first love of the Christian is law, does this describe the American Church? Or has the American Church left its first love?

The priorities in Deuteronomy 4 are on:

  • Listening, or learning and obeying God’s Word (the law of the Lord) – which requires (1) continuous, thorough, education and (2) constant challenges to apply this knowledge wisely and virtuously in real life (as Jesus instructed in Matt. 28 above).
  • Remembering the history of God’s works to bring them out of slavery and into freedom. Don’t let god’s history be forgotten.
  • Teaching the children and grandchildren the same lessons, principles and behaviors

Are these the priorities of the majority of churches in America today?

Again, it appears we have left our first love.  

 

4 If a conversion appears to be “instant”, the true conversion will be known only in time (Matt. 7:16-20). No man can tell another that he or she is saved simply because they repeated a prayer. The Holy Spirit is the One who brings about the “conversion”, and He is the only one who knows if the confession of faith is real. And no doubt He has been working on the soul’s heart for much longer than an instant.