15 “See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil. 16 If you obey the commandments of the LORD your God that I command you today, by loving the LORD your God, by walking in his ways, and by keeping his commandments and his statutes and his rules, then you shall live and multiply, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to take possession of it. 17 But if your heart turns away, and you will not hear, but are drawn away to worship other gods and serve them, 18 I declare to you today, that you shall surely perish. You shall not live long in the land that you are going over the Jordan to enter and possess. 19 I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, 20 loving the LORD your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days, that you may dwell in the land that the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.”
Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the LORD! 2 Blessed are those who keep his testimonies, who seek him with their whole heart, 3 who also do no wrong, but walk in his ways! 4 You have commanded your precepts to be kept diligently. 5 Oh that my ways may be steadfast in keeping your statutes! 6 Then I shall not be put to shame, having my eyes fixed on all your commandments. 7 I will praise you with an upright heart, when I learn your righteous rules. 8 I will keep your statutes; do not utterly forsake me!
I Corinthians 3
But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. 2 I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, 3 for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way? 4For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not being merely human? 5What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. 6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. 7So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. 8 He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. 9For we are God's fellow workers. You are God's field, God's building.
21 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable a to judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable a to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. 23 So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. 25 Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison. 26 Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny. 27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye l causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into m hell. 30 And if your right hand l causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.31 “It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32 But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery. 33 “Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’ 34 But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. 37 Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.
In his book "Bad Religion", Russ Douthat writes a bit about the rather popular speaker and writer Joyce Meyer, "She dresses simply and talks bluntly, offering earthy, self-deprecating pep talks that emphasize emotional well-being and then slip the promise of financial success in between the lines. That promise is still crucial to Meyer’s appeal. “The whole Bible really has one message: ‘Obey me and do what I tell you to do, and you’ll be blessed,’” she told the St. Lous Post-Dispatch in 2004, when it ran a series of stories revealing just how blessed she has been." Douthat, Ross (2012-04-17). Bad Religion (p. 188). Simon & Schuster, Inc.. Kindle Edition.
Leaving aside Meyer's message of financial success, I do want to focus on the her quote in the St. Louis newspaper, “The whole Bible really has one message: ‘Obey me and do what I tell you to do, and you’ll be blessed,’” It is an interesting quote, and in reading the passages above, one would say that is has some biblical support
Is that not, for example, what God told Israel? "15 “See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil. 16 If you obey the commandments of the LORD your God that I command you today, by loving the LORD your God, by walking in his ways, and by keeping his commandments and his statutes and his rules, then you shall live and multiply, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to take possession of it." If you obey the commands, all the commands, then certainly God will bless you. The Psalmist echoes that, "Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the LORD! 2 Blessed are those who keep his testimonies, who seek him with their whole heart, 3 who also do no wrong, but walk in his ways!"
And why should we doubt that this would be true! Was God lying when He said that? Was the Psalmist not writing this song by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit? A firm "No!" to each of those questions! God is speaking truly in both passages. Blessed is the one who is blameless, and who walks in the law of the Lord! Blessed is the one does no wrong, but walks in God's ways!
But if we are to think that what Meyer said is not completely unbiblical, we must also know that it not very accurate, either. When she claims that the whole message of the Bible is that we will be blesses if we obey God and do what He says, she is wrong. It is a part of the message of the Bible, yes, and an important part. But the whole message?
Let's be honest--if that was the whole message of the Bible, than we may as well just quit. Take a look at the Deuteronomy passage, "If you obey the commandments of the LORD your God that I command you today". Ok, so, they need to obey all the commands God gave them that day. Take a look at all the commands. So far as I can tell, Moses begins speaking at Deuteronomy 5. In the 27th chapter, he says twice that they are to obey all the commands. Take a look at those laws, glance over them or read them in-depth, whichever may work to make you realize the task God has set for you.
Obey all that. Fully follow all of that Law.
And if you think it is only about blessings, think again. At the least, Meyer does not mention this in her quote, though to be fair, it may be implied, or maybe she's said it elsewhere, and of course she didn't really write that article, but another did. But at the least, there is the other side of that, that if you disobey God and don't do what He says, then you will not be blessed, in fact you will be cursed. As is said Deuteronomy 27:26, "Cursed be anyone who does not confirm the words of this law by doing them."
So, let us add this negative aspect to Meyers' statement, that if we fail to keep the Law or fail to do all that God has told us to do, then we are cursed. And considering how much Law there is, and how Jesus shows us the full extent of the commands, how it's not just about outward actions but also things like unjust anger and who we secretly lust after, then we can see how difficult this task is. It is as God also says in Deuteronomy, that He has set before us life and death, blessing and cursing.
But if that life and blessing are only accessible through the keeping of the Law, then, again, we may as well quit. Because we haven't kept the Law perfectly, and should we live another day we won't in the future. As children, we did not perfectly follow the command to "Honor our Father and Mother". We did not perfectly obey the command that says "Do Not Lie". We did not perfectly obey the command that says "Do Not Covet". You can go into a large store at almost any time of day, and see and hear a small child, of may three or so years of ago, having a fit because he or she is being denied some little toy that they suddenly wanted. You can see how, even in that one instance, that child is breaking the commands to Honor Father and Mother as well as Do Not Covet.
And I would dare say that we who are now grown, when we were children of about that same ago, were little different.
I want to focus for a bit on a particular part in the Deuteronomy passage, "But if your heart turns away, and you will not hear, but are drawn away to worship other gods and serve them...". There are many obvious froms of idolatry, the worship of the gods of false religions, be they the Hindu pantheon, the earth-worship or nature-worship of modern forms of paganism, or the worship of ancestors. There is also a more subtle for of it, which the Bible mentions in Colossians 3:5 and Ephesians 5:5, where covetousness is called a form of idolatry. When we may crave power, money, success, or any thing, more than a desire to please God, that thing has become our object of worship, our idol.
But there is an even subtler kind of idolatry, and in the US it may well be that this is the most popular form. In this, I again must acknowledge Ross Douthat's book, "Bad Religion". He points out several ways in which we today have created our own god. We may even put the name "God" on this thing of our own creation, and even more we may try to find biblical passages that seem to show that this construct is actually the God of the Bible. Here are some examples.
Recently, there has been a controversy over the legitimizing of a well-known preacher who has been known as a modalist, meaning that he does not believe in the Trinity--that God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, one God three persons, as the Bible shows us. The god he believes in, that he preaches, is not the God that has revealed Himself in the Bible. But his acceptance seems to have been rather complete, and he is being welcomed into many different circles. Why? Apparently, because his ministry shows signs of success, meaning it's popular, brings in lots of money, and lots of people listen to him. Certainly not because he teaches sound biblical doctrine.
This man not only preaches a false view of the Godhead, but also the popular 'god' that will provide health and wealth to those who believe, or believe hard enough, or who will do the required acts, which usually involve giving money, the more the better and the more their god likes it. As Douthat points out, this is a very popular teaching. Whole so-called 'Christian' television networks are devoted to spreading this prosperity gospel. Thousands attend conferences and meetings held by these prosperity gospel teachers and faith healers. Their books are among the best-sellers. Their message that God wants you to be well-off, successful, and healthy is very popular. They have story after story of the success of their ideas and methods, and are not even bashful about pointing to themselves as examples.
And it is not just the average person who laps it up. Church leaders see the apparent success these ministries have, and want it, too. If covetousness is indeed a form of idolatry, then far too many church leaders have fallen into the idolatry that covets the numbers and successes of the mega-churches--churches that have multiple services on a Sunday morning, services at multiple location in the city or even outside the city, thousands and maybe even tens of thousands attending those services, cutting-edge video and audio equipment, large buildings with many extras like coffee bars, people more committed to fulfilling the pastor's vision for the church than they are the Bible, in other words a veritable church-empire. In such a culture, where numbers equal success and God's blessing, then the more and higher the numbers, the better. While the occasional token nod to doctrine and the Bible are given, by and large the services that I've listened to from these churches seem to be a mixture of with theatrical production and stand-up comedy.
One thing that Douthat seems to make little mention of, but that I think does deserve some mention, is the god who wants us to take over the world, what has been called Dominionism. It's closely tied to the prosperity gospel, and indeed many adherents to the prosperity gospel also believe in some form of Dominionism. Here is how one preacher of the dominion gospel, Bill Johnson, puts it in a book he co-authored, "Jesus then gave His authority to those who would follow Him. He basically announced that we were back to Plan A: taking back the dominion of a planet, now as redeemed humankind...In Christ, our partnership to rule was restored...The commission to “take back the planet” starts with prayer." (Essential Guide to Healing, The (Kindle Locations 1567-1586)). And in another location in the same book, "While the worship team was playing, Mike leaned over to me and said, “God is looking for a city that would belong entirely to Him. And once He gets that one city, it will cause a domino effect across our nation.” (Kindle Locations 1988-1990).
This is a very popular teaching. If you are familiar with The Call, the Kansas City International House of Prayer and it's various offshoots, Youth With A Mission, 24-7 Prayer and it's various Boiler Rooms, then understand that this is essentially what they are teaching. Behind the Christian imagery and language is the great ambition to take over what are called "spheres of influence", to take back dominion of the planet, to take over cities. and as another Dominionist preacher put it, even at least one nation. "There will have to be at least one "sheep nation" before He calls all nations into judgment. The sons and daughters of the kingdom, of at least one nation, will enter their promised land and evict nations "greater and mightier" than they are. May many, many nations be so won by the children of the King." (Johnny Enlow. The Seven Mountain Prophecy (p. 41). Kindle Edition).
These are some examples of false gods that far too many in the church have fallen before in worship.
But whether our god is one who wants us to take over the world, or our own smaller ambitions and desires, all are still idols, and it is to the one true God that we must come to repent of worshiping any other false god.
For if you plan to claim that we can make ourselves good by keeping the Law, know that you will fail, and indeed have already failed. If you have put your hope in keeping the Law, then you are without any real hope. And if that were the end of the story, then it would not matter if your hope of true or not.
But that isn't the end of it. We have already established the truth in this statement from Romans 3, "19 Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin." But let us read on a few verses more, "21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. 27 Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. 28 For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law."
So, we may conclude that Meyer's statement, taken in isolation as it is, is simply wrong. “The whole Bible really has one message: ‘Obey me and do what I tell you to do, and you’ll be blessed,’” is not the one whole message of the Bible--far from it! We cannot obey God and do what He tells us to do, and so we are all cursed! But there is One who has obeyed God and did do what God told Him to do, who was obedient even to death on the cross. We can stop trying to impress with our attempts at making ourselves righteous by keeping the Law, it is hopeless; rather, we are called to simply have faith in Jesus Christ, and we who believe will be given this righteousness as a gift!
So simple, so easy, no works required, no great and futile acts of penance demanded, only repentance of sins and belief in Christ! What we could not do ourselves, God has done for us.