Over the last two blogs, we looked at how the salvation covenant was designed to ensure our eventual transformation into God’s people and how we should understand it.
In this blog, we will look at how to keep the salvation covenant. There are three things to keep in mind:
1. The Ten Commandments are just an outline.
2. God is working with us to transform us.
3. We can only properly serve Him when we serve Him with all of our heart, our mind, and our strength.
1. The Ten Commandments – an outline to live by
The Ten Commandments are inclusive. They are made to speak to our own situation and in our own uniqueness. We are to fill in the details or look for individuals ways in which we can serve Him. When we personalize our obedience to God as our relationship with Him progresses, our obedient life becomes our gift to Him and the public (and private) demonstration of our love for Him.
‘Do not murder.’
For example, we can understand the sixth commandment ‘You shall not murder’ literally.
However, in Matthew 5:21-22, Jesus explains to us that the commandment “do not murder” goes far beyond the point of murder to not even being angry with our brothers:
“You have heard that the ancients were told, ‘You shall not commit murder’ and ‘Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.”
We understand it is against God’s covenant to murder but He is really speaking about controlling our anger. If we control our anger with all of our heart, mind, and strength we won’t be lead to murder.
His covenant is designed to help us to rethink how we have treated people in the past and how we will treat people going forward. His word is designed to transforms us into people who can represent Him properly.
The ‘outline’ of the Ten Commandments is, therefore, the absolute minimum that God asks us to do. He will naturally show us more of His ways as our relationship with Him grows and we are in His word more. The more we get to know Him the more insight we will have to please Him.
A partial summary of the salvation covenant
The salvation covenant can be partially summarized in Matthew 7:12:
“In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets.”
And again in Leviticus 19:18: “You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the Lord.”
God gave us the full instructions so that we have the latitude to be able to express our unique love and gratitude for God. We show our understanding by treating others in our lives according to God’s word.
2. God is working with us to transform us.
God gave us this amazing salvation covenant. If we are listening to Him, He forces us, essentially, to consider how we are keeping it. He transforms us into the process.
We ought not just to be ‘doing,’ but instead, consider carefully (and prayerfully) what He intended when He gave us the instructions. Then we can properly carry out His commandments as we come to understand what His original intent was.
The idea is not to hear what we want to hear, but rather to get to know God and understand His instructions in light of how much He loves us. His covenant was designed to protect us, to bless us, and to prepare us to stand before Him one day in the presence of His full glory.
His salvation covenant was not just designed to be just a set of instructions to get us to a reward.
Instead, it is a discovery of a new world: one where God is exalted and where we treat each other as valuable children of God. In the salvation covenant, it is God and us coming together to prepare us for our future of eternal living.
Wisdom and understanding
To understand this more fully let’s look at the word ‘wisdom’ which is the noun ‘hhakhmah’ in Hebrew.
‘Hhakhmah’ is derived from this adopted root and is usually translated as wisdom, but more literally means one who can distinguish between good work and bad work (Benner, 2017 Ancient Hebrew Research Center).
In other words, wisdom is the ability to distinguish between good work and bad work, or as Ezekiel puts it ‘between the holy and the profane.’
We distinguish between the two by discovering the intention of what we are examining.
God tells us straight up that we cannot be His priests if we cannot distinguish between the good and the bad.
Ezekiel 22:26 says: “Her priests have done violence to My law and have profaned My holy things; they have made no distinction between the holy and the profane, and they have not taught the difference between the unclean and the clean; and they hide their eyes from My sabbaths, and I am profaned among them.”
If we are going to be able to live according to our salvation covenant, we are going to have to get to know the heart of God. Only when we are willing to get to know Him genuinely will we be able to properly live out His salvation covenant according to His perfect will.
3. Heart, mind and strength
‘Heart’ is synonymous with ‘love.’ Like we discussed in an earlier blog love literally means ‘to give.’
God is directing us to love someone other than ourselves and that does not come naturally for us. To God, love is not a feeling, but rather something we must do when we start to understand Him.
We are ‘to give’ of our time, our passion, our very being to God through the process of living inside of the goodness of His salvation covenant. This is how we love Him. God tells us as much in 1 John 5:3: “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome.”
Of course, they are not burdensome they are the source of our blessings, of a good society, our salvation, and so much more.
Our mind is where we process our information. Social constructionism says that we only process data that is readily available and socially acceptable.
God tells us to reject the socially accepted norms of the world. He wants us to think of Him and things not of this world.
The critical question is: ‘How do we know what to reject and what are the things of God that we are to think about?’ How do we distinguish between the ‘temporary’ and the ‘eternal’?
Because this is a fact: the things of the world will vanish, along with the people that did not accept God.
1 Corinthians 15:50-53 states:
“I declare to you, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.
Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality.”
Galatians 5:22-24: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.”
The things of God are not temporary and will last for eternity. These are the things that we must think about.
It is best said in Colossians 3:2–4: “Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.”
Our strength is our ability to continue through the hardships and the difficult times of life to the very end of the race.
Why does God want our strength? We cannot lose our salvation, can we?
Of course, we can. This is why we need strength to stay the course.
Our strength is the test of our faith. It is easy to be faithful in good times, but can you stay faithful in hard times? If you are only faithful when life is easy, then you are not faithful at all. It is all about that relationship with God. You’re either in it 100%, or not.
Revelation 2:10 states: “…Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.”
True faith requires us to stay the course until death.
The Shema is a prayer that is recited every morning and night according to Jewish custom. In its entirety, the Shema consists of three paragraphs: Deuteronomy 6:4–9, Deuteronomy 11:13–21 and Numbers 15:37–41.
The first part, we find in Deuteronomy 6:5: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.”
It will require all of our strength to live according to our salvation covenant the way God intends it.
After reading these last three blogs, you should have most if not all of the necessary tools to start living in covenant obedience. Soon we will get into the salvation covenant itself.