We first experience God’s blessing the moment we are born again. The Bible says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” (2 Corinthians 5:17) Something happens when we become a Christian; it’s as if life starts all over. Righteousness, peace, and joy flood our soul, as the love of God fills our heart. So, we think this is the way it always should be. Our natural tendency is to want to stay that way, a babe in Christ. As much as we might like that idea, it is not what God has in mind. (see I Corinthians 3:1-3) God’s desire is that we would grow up and become mature believers in the faith. However, doing so requires something we hate to hear: “obedience.” Growth requires obedience, and that is true with God’s blessing as well.
Deuteronomy 28:1-2 says this: “Now it shall come to pass, if you diligently obey the voice of the LORD your God, to observe carefully all His commandments which I command you today, that the LORD your God will set you high above all nations of the earth. And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, because you obey the voice of the LORD your God:”Verses 3-14 continue to describe all the many ways God had promised to bless the children of Israel.
I am not advocating that we return to the Old Testament Levitical law, even though the moral and ethical parts still apply to us today. However, I do believe that obedience still plays a vital part in living under the umbrella of God’s blessing. The Bible says that we are called to be holy, as He is holy. That word, ‘holy’ means to be set apart. We are to be different than those who do not know the Lord. The great challenge we all face is this: How do we live in the world, and yet not be a part of it?
Deuteronomy 28:15 warns us about the consequences of ignoring God’s Word and living in disobedience. A curse will follow us! “But it shall come to pass, if you do not obey the voice of the LORD your God, to observe carefully all His commandments and His statutes which I command you today, that all these curses will come upon you and overtake you.” And yet, many Christians seem to ignore the importance of obedience. Some do so out of ignorance, others simply don’t think obedience is all that important, anymore. After all, we are living in the age of grace. Obedience was required in the Old Covenant, but under the New Covenant, love covers a multitude of sins, right? (I Peter 4:18) And so, many believe times have changed; we have progressed. At least that seems to be a popular view of today.
Obedience, however, did not go away under the New Covenant. Jesus said in John 14:15, “If you love Me, keep My commandments.”We cannot continue to live like the world and expect God to bless us. Again, as I already mentioned, the Bible tells us to come out from the world and be separate. (2 Corinthians 6:17) That can be a difficult challenge and does not happen overnight. God knows that and is patient with us, as we learn to grow up and take His Word seriously. However, if we continue to ignore the Bible, we might find ourselves living outside of the umbrella of His blessing.
Romans 12:1-2 exhorts us to, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”
We are to present our bodies to God as a living sacrifice. I’m sure He wants our spirit and soul, as well, but why did He single out the body in this passage? Probably, because the body represents the natural appetites and cravings of the flesh. God will not override the human will to force us to do what He has told us to do. We must choose to surrender ourselves unto Him. As we do, we are changed little by little, one day at a time.
Years ago, I was pastoring in Ohio. One Sunday morning during worship, the Lord told me to lay down on the communion table. He wanted me to provide a visual reminder of what it means to put ourselves on the altar. Recently, I spoke to a guy I had not seen in over thirty years, and the only thing he seemed to remember about the church was the day I climbed up on the communion table! Apparently, the image of me stretched out on the altar left a lasting impression.
Our natural desires, along with the cultural trends of society, often dictate how we live. It’s easy to go with the flow. On the other hand, it takes some effort to live according to God’s Word. Let me give you an example… We live in an age of credit. It is normal for most people, today – including Christians – to live with some degree of credit card debt. You are certainly the odd man out if you don’t! Yet, in Romans 13:8, the Bible says, “Owe no one anything except love.” The only debt we should carry is to love one another.
If I understand the application of that verse correctly, we are not to owe money to anyone. We are not to live in debt. Probably, that seems foreign to most people, today, since credit has become a way of life. However, there is a reason why God does not want us to be in debt: The moment we borrow money, we become a slave to that person or organization. (Proverbs 22:7) Debt is a form of bondage!
I have seen Christians become so deeply entangled in debt that they were unable to fulfill God’s calling on their life. Our objective should be to please the Lord, and yet, something as simple as debt can keep us from doing that – because it binds us to the world.
Someone once described the average American like this: They drive a bank financed car, over a bond financed highway, on credit card gas, to open a charge account at a department store, to fill their mortgage financed house with credit card purchased furniture. Sad, but often true…
So, if you find yourself in debt, make every effort to get out! Begin by taking ownership and repent of your sin in the matter. Then, seek help in working toward freedom. It is an awesome thing to live under the blessing of God’s hand; don’t let debt keep you from it.
Another area I want to touch on has to do with giving. Giving is vital, if you want to experience financial blessings. We don’t teach tithing as a “requirement” under the New Covenant. (I have published another article on New Testament giving on this blog, so I won’t discuss that, at this point.) However, I do believe we are called to honor God with our income. (Proverbs 3:9) Jesus said “Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full — pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.” (Luke 6:38 NLT)
Giving is a law of the universe. My wife and I have practiced giving to the Lord for over 48 years. As a result, we have lived under the financial blessing of God. On the other hand, I have seen many Christians struggle financially all their life, and in most cases, they hold back from honoring God with their income. I tell people, “God won’t love you any less, but if you fail to give, you won’t experience His blessing in that area of your life. ‘He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.’” (2 Corinthians 9:6)
Blessing is not automatic. Yes, God loves us and wants to bless us in every area of life, but let’s not forget that obedience is a vital part in living under the umbrella of His blessing. So, choose obedience in every area of life – and get ready to receive His blessings beyond your wildest imagination!