My Dear Friend,
Many Christians own flip calendars inscribed with an inspirational Bible verse for each day, week, or month. In a recent Bible study I uncovered a rare find: a verse for life!
It is just one sentence, yet it contains all the basic truth believers need to know God and do His will. It is a statement that sums up the body of practical Bible teaching. It condenses all God's vast life-truth into one inspired text. It compresses God's vast wisdom into one brief-but-illuminating lecture. It marks out a lifelong path to spiritual maturity in a few simple words. In it God has lovingly packed away the essence of the Christian life - for all who love Him to unpack. Simply put, it is a discipleship course in a verse!
It is Deuteronomy 13:4:
- "Ye shall walk after [follow] the Lord your God, and fear [respect, worship] Him, and keep [retain, obey] his commandments, and obey his [Spirit's] voice, and ye shall serve [labor with] him, and cleave [cling closely] unto him."
The unpacking is as follows:
"Ye shall walk after the Lord," or steadily, faithfully follow Him. To follow is to track one that has gone before and walk in his paths, not other paths of one's own choosing. It's a simple, humble, daily, step-by-step walk, and the One we are to follow is Jesus. His paths - spiritual lifeways - are described in the four gospels. They tell us His values, decisions, and life works. They reveal how He thought, what His motives were, what His life goals were, which way He turned at life's crossroads - and why.
Historically, Jesus' footsteps led Him into close, daily fellowship with His Father in the secret place. And they kept Jesus in constant communication with Him. As a result, Jesus lived in uninterrupted consecration to the work His Father chose for Him, the way His Father wanted that work done, the time the Father chose for Him to do it, and to the small but faithful band of disciples His Father gave Him for friendship and assistance.
Jesus' footsteps led Him through years of hidden, humble, faithful labor in the tiny village of Nazareth. And to misunderstanding by His unspiritual half-brothers, murderous rejection by His synagogue ("church"), and official denunciation by His nation's corrupt religious authorities. And on to a garden of agonizing decisions, a "fixed" show trial, a violent beating, brutal lashings, pitiless public mocking, and humiliating official rejection - naked, bleeding, unrecognizably swollen, and gasping for breath - on a rough, filthy Roman cross. Unto death.
But great gladness followed Jesus' great sadness: a rapturous resurrection, unrivaled authority, unequalled fame, worldwide fruit, and unparalleled ministry success: He has saved all who have called on Him for twenty centuries! But there's more.
All along Jesus' ultra-humbling life path, He enjoyed supernatural fellowship with His heavenly Father, personal reviving from His life-generating Spirit, and regular, generous anointings of the "power of the Spirit" for service (Luke 4:14; Acts 10:38).
Summarizing, Jesus' footsteps were marked by many outward risks, but many inner rewards; many insults, but many insights; many misunderstandings, but many miracles; many diabolical assaults, but many divine interventions. God's grace always exceeded Jesus' grind. In His Father's way, He was never overcome, never without clear guidance, never without hope - even during His apparently hopeless crucifixion! Will you walk this way?
Sadly, many Christians will not. They receive the Savior but reject His paths. They find Him, but will not follow Him. He knows them, but they never truly know Him. He pleases them with worldly blessings, but they do not please Him by growing up spiritually. Enoch walked "with God," or in Jesus' footsteps, eons ago and therefore came to know God intimately (Genesis 5:22, 24). Consequently, God translated Him to glory: "he was not, for God took him [alive to heaven]" (Genesis 5:24). If you do so, you, too, will one day be suddenly taken into His presence above.
"And fear Him," or stand in awe and worship Him. To "fear" God is to deeply respect Him. It is to stand in awe of His unique awesomeness - and believe, obey, and worship Him. Unless we consistently believe, obey, and worship the Lord, we do not truly "fear" Him, however reverential we may act on Sunday mornings. And since "the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge" and "wisdom" (Proverbs 1:7; 9:10), we cannot learn and live by God's wisdom, or grow to truly, personally know Him unless we fear Him.
Christians who do not fear Jesus cannot follow Jesus - and are thus sure to fail Him. Godly awe is awfully rare in our unawed world and spiritually awful, Laodicean churches. Surprisingly, God's fear delivers us from all human fears and fills us with unbreachable security: "In the fear of the Lord one has strong confidence" (Proverbs 14:26, ESV), or "powerful security" (CJB), or "a secure fortress" (NIV). May we be blessedly gripped with the full awareness of the immeasurable magnitude of the God who made the cosmos, revealed Himself in Christ, and yearns to reveal Himself to us!
When this awe overawes us, we make a beeline for, not Jesus' hand but His feet. Yes, we still pray for His hand to move to meet our human needs, but we now spend far more unhurried time in His presence - thanking Him, loving Him, silently adoring Him, gently singing to Him, recalling His daily blessings, and listening for His crucial direction.
Such intimate Christ-worshipers are not worried about the rapture. They know He will catch them up in that day because they are caught up with Him every day, worshiping Him "in spirit and in truth" (John 4:24). Will you live, bow, and worship in awe at Jesus' feet?
"And keep his commandments," or obey all His written Word. God's Word is divinely designed for our highest good and sweetest joy, and that good and joy are ours the instant we surrender our will to God's sovereignty and simply do what His written instructions tell us to do. In every situation. In every relationship. In every joy. In every adversity. Every day. All day. All our days.
This spiritual walk is a Scriptural walk. All Bible verses are "God-breathed" and thoroughly, perfectly true (2 Timothy 3:16). When we study them, we breath in the Spirit embedded in their texts. When we obey them, a powerful spiritual release occurs: the Spirit reanoints us, reforms our thinking, and changes us bit by bit into the image of the living Word who gave us the written Word (Romans 8:29). Will you humbly obey the written Word, so the living Word can make you like Him?
"And obey His voice," or His Spirit speaking to lovingly guide or correct us. "As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are [living as] the [true] sons of God" (Romans 8:14). Obeying the Bible is one thing; complying with the Spirit's guidance - His checks, prompts, corrections, and calls to service - is another. We are not to obey one or the other but both. Life, and God's presence, provision, protection, and power, are all ours all our days provided we follow the Spirit's guidance. Only those doing so build God's glorious eternal kingdom; all others are building their own self-led works of wood, hay, and stubble. And however impressive or unimpressive they look, they will be destroyed one day. Truly, if God can't guide us, He won't use us; if God can't correct us, He won't use us; and if God can't use us, He won't bless our works. Will you let the Spirit lead you and correct your flaws, so He may use and bless your works?
"And ye shall serve him," or fulfill your predestined works, whether in ministry or natural vocations. Every work God calls us to in some way builds His kingdom. The labors of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers do so most obviously. But the daily labors of every other Christian executed "heartily, as unto the Lord" (Colossians 3:23) also contribute - by our righteous life example and verbal witnessing, by our intercessions for coworkers, and by our income, from which tithes and offerings flow to churches, ministries, and the materially disadvantaged. Wherever God has raised a Christian church, ministry, or school, you will always find laymen who have funded God's work (Luke 8:1-3; Philippians 4:14-18). Will you serve Christ wherever He puts you? In your natural vocation, or "carpenter's shop"? As a faithful member and donor in your church? In ministry? "Whatsoever He saith unto you, do it" (John 2:5).
"And cleave unto him," or cling very closely to Christ. The Christian life is a clinging life. It is a life of constant closeness to, and utter dependency on, Jesus. Whatever breaks this union pleases Satan; whatever enhances it pleases God. Wisely, Barnabas exhorted new Christians to "cling unto the Lord" (Acts 11:23), and we ignore his wisdom at our peril. Spiritual clingers devote themselves zealously to seeking God daily. They "hold on" to Jesus by prayer, thanksgiving, worship, and meditative Bible reading and study. They "hold on" in every circumstance - mundaneness, success, failure, popularity, rejection, profit, loss, great success, severe testing - refusing to let anything or anyone move them from Jesus. He described this as "abiding" and solemnly promised every abiding Christian would bear "much fruit" (John 15:1-8).
To cling also implies loyalty. Christ-clingers are Christ loyalists. They set their hearts to side with Him and His loyal followers always. In every controversy, they stand true to His Word, because He said, "If you love me, keep my commandments" (John 14:15, NKJV). When others step away from Him, they continue following His steps, knowing He is their Lord and Life and all their eternal hope, joy, and fulfillment is in Him.
When heresy draws many from Him, they draw nearer to Him and His Word, which alone is inspired, inerrant, and infallible, and thus always true, safe, and sure. When fellow believers or family members turn aside to sin, they turn harder to Him, faithfully aligning with His righteousness and holiness, whatever the costs. When even their closest Christian friends faithlessly abandon them, they stay faithful to their unfailing Friend, who said, "Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you" (John 15:14). And when they see other loyal Christians suffering for their faith, they stand by them, honoring, fellowshiping, and serving with those who are being dishonored for His sake. Will you, Christ's living branch, cling tightly to your loyal Vine, His living Word, and other suffering branches?
Truly, Deuteronomy 13:4 is far more than a Word for the day, month, or year. It is a word for life. Make it the story of your life.
Making it my story,
Dr. Greg Hinnant
GREG HINNANT MINISTRIES