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Leviticus 26 has two headings put there by men:  ‘Reward for Obedience’ and ‘Punishment for Disobedience.’  The reward is based on these words of God to the Israelites: ” ‘If you follow My decrees and are careful to obey My commands, I will send you…’ “  The punishment is from Leviticus 26.14 when God said, ” ‘But if you will not listen to Me and carry out all these commands…’ “  Obedience that is eked out of others on the basis of reward and punishment is not the obedience Jesus is seeking when He said, “If you love Me, you will obey what I command.”

For those who were under the Law of Moses were blessed by God if they obeyed the commands and punished if they disobeyed.  So the motivation was reward and punishment based, not love based.  They saw obedience as a means of earning rewards and blessings, in the same way as an employee sees his work as a means to earn his wages.  It was a contractual relationship… “Obey and I will bless you; disobey and I will curse you.”  If that is the relationship that was established between those who were under Moses and God, then the relationship established by Jesus for those who are His disciples must be superior, as the covenant He established by His blood is superior to the covenant that was established by the blood of lambs and bulls.

Unfortunately, because of the teachings of James and his men and the other Judeazers who infiltrated the early church and deprived them of their freedom, most who call themselves Christians, and those who claim a Judeo-Christian heritage have ingrained in them… ‘a reward for obedience, a punishment for disobedience’ mentality and culture.  This is summed up by the Lord’s words… “Do and do, do and do, rule on rule, rule on rule…” where a worship of God is generated based on men’s rules, not God’s.  The Israelites chose the relationship they had with God when they said to Moses, “Speak to us yourself and we will listen.  But do not have God speak to us or we will die.”  In the same way, when those who are supposed to be disciples of Jesus choose to listen to men rather than Jesus first, and do what men consider to be ‘easier’ and ‘right’ by their judgment rather than hold onto the commands of Jesus, even though they are hard and do not look, seem or sound right, they have chosen a relationship that Jesus never intended.  And because most of those who stand up and pronounce their judgment of what should be done to make things ‘easier’ and to look right prefer to listen to Moses rather than to Jesus, then many who would be disciples of Christ are led into the lesser relationship that existed between God and Israel.  A relationship where you were blessed if you obeyed and cursed if you disobeyed.

For example, if they avoid sin, they will be blessed and considered holy and righteous in His sight.  Wrong.  It is not the avoidance of sin that makes a man righteous, it is the repentance from sin through faith that makes us righteous, and the faith that is through Jesus alone that makes us holy, set apart.

Thus, those who have their mind set on rewards and punishments have a lifestyle and speech that are based on avoidance and things that must be done, rather than a life that is based on doing what needs to be done without fear of punishment or a desire for reward.  It is no longer a servant master relationship, but rather, a Family relationship that is motivated by the betterment of the commonwealth of the Family.  It is not a family where brothers demand their share of the inheritance or guard their share from the others in need, nor is it a family where sons say no or lie to the father, but a relationship where sons are already doing what needs to be done before the Father has asked.  A Family where brothers are setting out to help one another at their set tasks before the Father needs to ask.  A Family where obedience is motivated, not by the hope of reward nor the fear of punishment, but where obedience is the expression of the love and trust they already have for one another.

The punishment is not for disciples, for if you are truly a disciple you would have held onto His teachings… as He said, “If you hold to My teaching, you are really My disciples.”  No one who does not believe the words of Jesus is a disciple, for when you disbelieve the words of Jesus, you cannot hold onto them.  Thus the effect of their unbelief is not punishment dealt out to disciples; it is merely the stated factual effect of the words of Jesus.  Those who are punished for their unbelief are not being punished as much as they are receiving the fruit of their faith.  Those who choose to hear the words of Jesus and not put them into practice are not receiving a punishment as much as the reaction to their action.  Those who call Him, “Lord, Lord,” and boast of what they have done in His Name are receiving what they have chosen by their faith and action… their rejection by Jesus when He says, “I never knew you.  Away from Me, you evildoers!”  They are not being punished as disciples, for they are not disciples in the first place, for if they were… they would know not to try to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.  Why?  Because, as disciples the Kingdom of God is already within you.  Any disciples should and would know that the prayer Jesus taught His disciples requested that “Your kingdom come” and not that we may enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

Thus, a disciple is not one who is using his salvation to gain rewards and blessings, but rather, a disciple is one who uses his salvation to enjoy the rewards and blessings that are already his.  The good and perfect gifts of God for a disciple are not blessings and rewards, they are his equipment.  The gifts of the Spirit as the church knows them, are not rewards but equipment.  The power, the wisdom, the protection, the ability to do miracles, are not rewards or merit ‘badges’ to show off so that the world might see how ‘holy’ and ‘close’ you are to God… or as the church loves to say… ‘anointed’.  The power to do miracles, drive out demons, to do what Jesus has been doing and even greater things is merely part of the equipment that has been given to all disciples, and the actual ability to do them is merely the fulfillment of your duties as a disciple.

Thus, there are no rewards or punishments for a disciple, except for the one who turns renegade against the Holy Spirit and uses all that is at his disposal as a disciple to speak against the Holy Spirit who said to Jesus, “Come!”  The false prophet says to Jesus, “Do not come,” and fights Jesus to prevent Him from coming back, using the equipment given him to make an unholy alliance with Satan… his power for Satan’s authority, even raising up the beast by breathing life into its image.

Thus, those who believe in His words are saved that they may be chosen by the Father to be the disciples of Jesus.  Those who have heard His words and put them into practice are protected so that their journey of discipleship may continue unhindered.  And as they practise what they have heard and hold onto His teachings, their growth permits them to appreciate the Family they have become a part of… more and more.  And that appreciation, which expresses itself as increasing belief, faith, trust, love and obedience, brings out of them all that has been predestined by God in them – the sonship in the fullness of the stature of Christ.  Thus, all are predestined by God in Christ, but the manifestation of the predestiny depends on our choice, not God’s.  It depends on our desires, and since opportunities do not always permit our desires, wishes and will to manifest, it is the grace of God that He does and makes happen the wish and will of those who would allow His word to abide in them even as they abide in Him. 

So from righteous Abel to Zechariah, by faith men have always been made righteous.  From Enoch to Elijah, by a willful desire of their choice to be one with God, so men have been made holy, set apart, and taken up by God.  Not because there were rules to follow, for Abel was declared righteous when there were no prescribed rules for sacrifices and burnt offerings.  Enoch was taken and never died before there were prescribed rules that allowed a man to live and never die, since the original law that protected all men from death was broken by Adam and Eve.  Rather, in Enoch’s case, God broke His own rule as it was and Enoch never died even though he was a son of man.  God can do that because the sacrifice of the Lamb slain before the foundation of the Earth had prepaid not only for men’s transgressions, but for God’s digressions, so that through Jesus who is the Lamb of God, God can have mercy on whom He chooses to have mercy and compassion on whom He chooses to have compassion.  To spare from death Enoch even though Enoch should die; to spare Noah from the flood even though we know not of a single thing Noah did before he obeyed God; to spare David and Bathsheba from death for his murder of Uriah and their adultery; to spare Rahab and her family and accept them into Israel even though she was a prostitute; to allow Ruth to marry Boaz even though she was a Moabite… all of these men and women and many others who neither earned a place in Jesus’ lineage by obedience of a law, nor were excluded in the lineage despite their disobedience of a law, are to show the all encompassing sacrifice of Jesus, that through Him once and for all sins… God can be God whenever He chooses and however He chooses to be.  That is the magnificence of the wonder and glory of His wisdom. 

Thus, creation with all its laws and rules, dos and don’ts, was never brought forth by God so that God would be Judge and Jury, Rewarder and Punisher of those who obeyed Him or disobeyed Him, but it has always been and will always be that God is just being God… doing whatever He pleases in the righteousness and truth that He is, always has been and always will be.

That is the God Jesus said to His disciples to have faith in when He said, “Have faith in God,” the second morning when they walked past the fig tree He had cursed the day before in Matthew 21.19.  For that fig tree had immediately withered as soon as Jesus said, “May you never bear fruit again!” and the disciples were amazed, asking, “How did the fig tree wither so quickly?”  And Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will be done.  If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.”  However, the next day… In the morning, as they went along, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots.  Peter remembered and said to Jesus, “Rabbi, look!  The fig tree You cursed has withered!”  “Have faith in God,” Jesus answered. “I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him.  Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.  And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in Heaven may forgive you your sins.”   You see, what God gives stays given.  The fig tree withered immediately and it stayed withered.  God is not a man that He should be or change His mind.  The withering of that fig tree was not a magic act, an illusion or a delusion, but a fact.  What was done in response to what was said remained done.  And this is also the God whom Jesus later would tell the eleven, saying, “Do not let your hearts be troubled.  Trust in God; trust also in Me,” as the eleven’s heart became troubled, first to hear and see that Judas would be the one who would betray Jesus, and then that they themselves would all deny Him, even Peter… especially Peter, who would deny Him three times!

First, to have faith in God, because what is done by God cannot be undone.  Second, to trust in God, because when all things look and sound bad, God has already provided the answer and deliverance in such a way that the very troubles are to bring forth the deliverance that has been prepared.  God’s deliverance of His people and family is never a reaction to trouble, but rather, an action that necessitates trouble to illuminate.  Just as no light is appreciated without darkness, so darkness came first and then there was light.  And we know God is the One who brings the darkness and the light.  Whereas we used to think darkness was from Satan, we now know darkness is from God, for how else could God say, “I will give you the treasures of darkness…”

Those who are in darkness fear darkness because they have no light.  But those who are light have no fear of darkness, for darkness cannot overcome or understand the light, but the light can reveal what is hidden in the darkness so that what is hidden is known, and if it is known, it can be understood.  So God put treasures in the darkness so that those who have no light will never find them, but those who are light will not only find them, but also enjoy them.

So when Jesus said, “If you love Me, you will obey what I command,” it is clear that He is not seeking obedience from those who fear Him nor those who seek after rewards for themselves, but from those whose obedience is not motivated by the fear of punishment or by the desire for rewards.  Those who obey because they love Him… those who know Him, those who trust Him… for love always trusts and you cannot love someone you do not know, you can only idolise him.

With hindsight then, it is no wonder that Satan used James the Younger to lead us back to the curse of the law with his judgments.  For Jesus said, ” ‘…a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household,’ “ so that as believers and disciples listen to James, they let go of Jesus’ teachings.  But by Jesus’ own words, those who were meant to be disciples were no longer disciples because they were no longer holding onto Jesus’ teachings but Moses’.  As they went forth to preach the Gospel and began to teach those who put their faith in the Gospel to abstain from the eating of blood of strangled animals and of food sacrificed to idols, not one of those who laid down their lives to preach the Gospel were really obeying Jesus… for Jesus said, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”

They were raising up disciples in His Name who were being taught to hold onto teachings other than Jesus’, and those same disciples were sent out to preach the Gospel, making more disciples who were not taught to obey everything Jesus had commanded.  So the process of discipleship became adulterated, and in order to prevent the scheme to be detected, the enemies of God and His Christ then made up lies that the Holy Spirit had departed, infiltrated more adulterated teachings through the Gnostic gospels and set up theological schools that dared question who Jesus is, and finally, locked the Scriptures away so that men and women could not look at what is written and see the lies that were being preached and practised in His Name.

And if what Jesus commanded is hidden, then how can anyone obey what Jesus commanded?  No, rather, all well meaning men and women could do was obey what the church commanded, and so people loved the church but the love for Jesus was stolen, for to love Jesus… you have to obey His commands.  And since the Father will love him who loves Jesus and obeys His teachings, and They will come to make Their home with him… that Scripture could not be fulfilled… because no one was being raised up by the church to listen to Jesus to obey everything He commanded.  Rather, the church has raised up disciples who listen to men and obey what the church commands… raised up children who did not fulfill John 14.23, or rather, in whom John 14.23 could not be fulfilled.  And if the Father and Jesus could not come and make Their home with those who had taken up their rights to be children of God, how could they come to know their Father?  And any child who does not know who his Father is is a child of a prostitute.  And so the church became the great prostitute, raising up children who do not know who their Father is… disciples who obey the teachings of the church but not Jesus personally.  Obedience that seems good and pleasing to God in men’s eyes, but obedience that cannot withstand the test of God’s absolute standard for all things.

So absolute obedience had been denied God… all because we never learned to listen and we never absolutely repented, but held onto our culture of rewards and punishments rather than God’s culture of love and trust.  We did things out of fear and greed… and not out of love and duty as God does.  For God is Love, and God never forgets His duty to provide for, to look after, to care for the creation He brought forth… showing Himself to us through His Son, Jesus, as the Good Shepherd who goes after the one lost sheep.  God is the Good Shepherd who loves His sheep and who never shirks His duty to them.

So likewise, now that you know what good and pleasing obedience is, have nothing to do with them, for no one is good except God alone, and what seems pleasing to us may not be pleasing to God at all.  No, now that you know what good and pleasing is, leave them for what is absolute.  Obey what He commands, not for fear of punishment or greed of reward, but because you love Him.  It is never a question of whether God loves you, for that has been established before the foundation of this world.  The question is, do you love Him?  And as He asked Peter… “…do you truly love Me more than these?” if you could say, “Yes,” and nothing more, you will find out what absolute obedience brings.  Amen.

 

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