You are an Independent Free Agent (Deuteronomy 6:1-9)
So where are we dependent as Christians, where are we interdependent, and when are we independent? It probably seems like as pastors that we talk about all three of these ideas at various times, and that would be true.
Our theme for the second of the six weeks of the Momentum series has been to address a second myth that we have surfaced: Praying and reading the Bible are habits for nuns and spiritual mystics.
When we think of spiritual mystics and professionally religious types of people, there is a tendency to think that those people are the ones who are particularly given over to what we might also call “the spiritual disciplines.” And to some extent, yes, those who work professionally with the Scriptures have a highest standard of expectation in this regard. But there is no doubt from all biblical teaching that God wants to have an open flow of dialogue with us: from Him through the Word of God, and from us back to Him in prayer.
It is in this sense that I am speaking to you of being an independent free agent before God. We are dependent upon God and His Word and the work of the Spirit living through us, and we are interdependent upon each other as we serve one another with the gifts that God has distributed throughout the body of Christ. But we are independent to manage our own spiritual development through knowing God in His Word and communicating with Him through prayer.
Today, in the modern enlightened age, there is not the same need that people had over the centuries to be dependent upon a monk, a priest, a pastor or whomever to teach them what they needed to know and could not learn independently on their own. You can read, you can gather printed resources, and as never before, you can surf the world in a nearly limitless way. (Although a point to be made about surfing is that you need to be aware that there is everything out there – good and bad. You need discernment, which adds more fuel to today’s argument for being a person who is knowledgeable in biblical truth.)
The Scriptures throughout picture this discipline of Bible reading and prayer as a daily sort of thing, as necessary as anything else that sustains your life. It is a daily “as you go about life” routine more than a “when you get together with other Christians” event. So many people today only read the Bible or pray at those times they are around other believers, and that is not the vision at all that God has for us.
A great picture of God’s vision is seen in the passage in Deuteronomy 6 – a passage that I’ve often described as the John 3 passage of the Old Testament. In the same way that we see John 3 as embodying the central message of Christ’s mission with John 3:16 as the core, the Jewish people saw this chapter as the central definition of who they were as God’s people, with 6:4 as the central verse.
Verse 4 defines God uniquely (and truthfully) as compared to the polytheism of all the nations around them – who had rejected the true God years before. Israel had the one true God – there was no pantheon of competing Gods to have to worship and appease. No, this one true God had given his commands to them, and if they would love him, know and follow his commands, life would go well for them.
And we see the daily element in this. It was not just something that happened when they hung out with Aaron and the Levites at the Tabernacle place of meeting. No, it was an everyday thing that permeated life. It was to be a regular daily conversation that happened, particularly in the family system, from the time of rising to the time of going to bed.
If we hear from God through His Word, if we commune back with Him through prayer, and if this is to be a pervasive part of our lives, then we need to make plans to prioritize it in our lives.
The bad news: this takes some work and discipline. The good news: It is not that complicated or difficult to do, and IT WORKS!
6:1 – These are the commands, decrees and laws the Lord your God directed me to teach you to observe in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess, 2 so that you, your children and their children after them may fear the Lord your God as long as you live by keeping all his decrees and commands that I give you, and so that you may enjoy long life. 3 Hear, Israel, and be careful to obey so that it may go well with you and that you may increase greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey, just as the Lord, the God of your ancestors, promised you.
4 Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 5 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.