On the cross, Jesus bore the curse that we might walk in the blessings of God. The requirement to Israel in the Old Testament was to listen to the voice of God. In the New Testament, too, Jesus repeats this command when He says, "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me."
It’s good to be with you again, sharing out of truths that life has taught me, truths that have made the difference between success and failure in my life, and can do the same in yours.
In my first two talks this week I’ve explained how God has made a way for us to be delivered from the slavery of the kingdom of darkness and to become heirs of the kingdom of light. The way that God has made for us is through the death of Jesus Christ on our behalf.
On the cross Jesus took upon Himself the curses that were due to our disobedience (these curses cover the whole area of the kingdom of darkness) that, in turn, we might enter into the blessings that Jesus earned by His obedience. And these blessings cover the whole area of the kingdom of light. Both the curses and the blessings are worked out in three main areas of our life: spiritual, physical and material.
Today I’m going to deal with the spiritual area. What are the spiritual curses from which Christ has delivered us? And what are the spiritual blessings which Christ has made available to us?
I’m going to return to the 28th chapter of Deuteronomy, the chapter that sets out in great detail two opposite things: the blessings that result for obedience to God and the curses that result of disobedience to God.
First of all, I want to look again at the basic causes, the causes that bring blessing and the causes that bring curses. I’m going to read from a marginal version which is more literal than the actual version that’s in the text of the New American Standard Bible. Deuteronomy 28:1-2, and I want to repeat that this is the marginal version, but it’s closer to the original Hebrew than the actual text version.
“Now it shall be, if you will diligently listen to the voice of the Lord your God, being careful to do all His commandments which I command you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth. And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, if you will obey the Lord your God.” (Marginal Version NAS)
And then in verse 15, Moses turns to the curses and this is the reason why the curses come.
“But it shall come about, if you will not listen to the LORD your God, to observe to do all His commandments and His statutes which I charge you today, that all these curses shall come upon you and overtake you.” (Marginal Version NAS)
It’s vitally important for us all that we understand the decisive difference between earning the blessings and earning the curses. And it’s summed up on one short, but very important phrase: “Listening to God’s voice.” If you will diligently listen to the voice of the Lord your God, all these blessings will come upon you, but if you will not listen to the voice of the LORD your God, all these curses will come upon you.
So you see that our whole destiny for wellbeing or for disaster is settled by the voice that we listen to. Listening to the voice of the Lord and obeying what He says will bring blessing. But not listening to the voice of the Lord will bring a curse, many curses. Of course, it’s not sufficient to listen to the voice of the Lord unless we also obey what He says. But conversely, it’s impossible to obey what God says unless we first hear His voice, because it’s His voice that tells us what He requires us to do.
And the great spiritual danger that confronts so many professing Christians is that they’ve become insensitive to the voice of God. They may continue in their religious activities and duties, but it’s all something that is habitual and formal, just a matter of a life pattern and of habits that they’ve cultivated, but there isn’t that ongoing, continuous awareness of God’s voice. You see, through all dispensations the one thing that God asks of His people is this: that we listen to His voice.
For instance, this is stated clearly by the Lord Himself in Jeremiah 7:22-23. In these verses God explains what He really required of Israel when He brought them out by redemption from Egypt. He says that the first thing He had in mind was not the keeping of the law for the offering of sacrifices, but listening to His voice. Now His voice would lead them to keep the Law and to offer the sacrifices. But on the other hand, merely observing the externals of the Law and offering the sacrifices was of no avail to them if they were not doing it as a result of listening to the voice of the Lord. The key requirement of God is that we listen to His voice. Here what God says there in Jeremiah 7:22-23:
“For I did not speak to your fathers, or command them in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, concerning burnt offerings and sacrifices. But this is what I commanded them saying, ‘Obey My voice, and I will be your God, and you will be My people...’” (NAS)
Notice the simple requirement that the Lord may be our God and that we may be His people, “Obey My voice and I will be your God...” That’s summing it up as simply as it’s possible to sum it up.
Now you might think that it is different in the New Testament, but it’s not. The principle is exactly the same. Jesus sums it up in one single verse in John 10:27:
“My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me...” (NAS)
The mark that we really belong to Jesus is not that we practice a certain denominational pattern of life or that we worship in a certain building, but it’s that we hear His voice; and hearing His voice, that we follow Him. That’s the mark of true believers in all races and in all ages, in all denominations. It’s not something external, but it’s an inner personal relationship with the Lord that enables us to hear His voice, and hearing His voice, to follow where He leads us. We see then that the simple pathway to God’s blessings is to hear and obey His voice, but the inevitable end of not hearing and obeying God’s voice is the curses.
Today I’m going to list for you briefly the curses in the spiritual realm, the inner realm, the realm of our inner personality which result from disobedience to God as they are listed by Moses in Deuteronomy 28. First of all, in verse 20, Moses says that we will experience confusion in all we undertake to do. That’s the first specific spiritual curse, it’s confusion. And let me observe that modern America is full of confusion.
In verse 28, Moses lists madness and bewilderment of heart. Those are results of not hearing God’s voice. They are curses.
In verse 34, God says you shall be driven mad by the sight of what you see. We might say that mental and emotional breakdown is a curse and it’s the result of disobedience against God.
Let me observe from experience that one of the most common causes of confusion and mental and emotional breakdown in modern America and I am speaking from personal observation of scores and scores of cases perhaps the commonest single cause of confusion and mental and emotional breakdown is involvement in the occult, in wrong spiritual relationships and activities that are forbidden by the Word of God.
And then to go on with the list in verse 65, Moses speaks of a trembling heart and despair of soul. I believe we could sum up the spiritual consequences of disobedience these spiritual curses in some words like these: confusion, frustration, inner agony and torment. And I speak as a minister who is always dealing with people and their problems. These are the things that we continually encounter in the lives of people in America today: confusion, frustration, inner agony and torment.
Now what is the blessing in the spiritual realm that result from obedience? Of course, there are many blessings, countless blessings. But I believe they really can be summed up in one short and beautiful word, the word is peace. In Isaiah 53:5, where Isaiah pictures the exchange that took place when Jesus died on the cross, he says this, “The punishment that brought us peace was upon Him...” So Jesus endured the judgment and the punishment due to our sin and disobedience that we might be reconciled with God. And being reconciled with God, that we might be delivered from inner agony and torment, from confusion and frustration, and that we might know the reality of a deep, settled, inward peace. And I feel I must add from personal experience that for many years now, I’ve enjoyed that deep settled peace. It’s a reality to me, not a theory, not a doctrine, not a theology.
Let’s look at two other Scriptures in the New Testament that speak of this peace. Romans 5:1:
“Therefore having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ...” (NAS)
What beautiful words, “we have peace with God.” No longer are we guilty. No longer do we fear that somehow we are not pleasing God. We have peace with God. And then a beautiful verse in Philippians 4:7 that describes the experiential results within us:
“The peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (NIV)
It takes the peace of God to guard our hearts and minds in our contemporary civilization. But I want to testify that God’s peace can do that. Actually, the word “peace” in its Hebrew form means more than just the absence of conflict, it means wholeness or wellbeing. But I want to say this, that peace begins in the inner man but it leads to total wellbeing. It works out in every area of our lives, in the physical and in the material also.
All right, our time is up today but I’ll be back with you again tomorrow at this time. Tomorrow I’ll be speaking about the outworking of redemption in the physical area, the physical benefits that Christ has made available to us through His death.