Know, recognize, and understand that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love Him and keep His commandments, to a thousand generations,

This particular verse came to me this week, in part because of the recent statements by Pope Francis.  During an address to the Catholic Church, the Pope warned that “we all run the risk of becoming Christians in appearance… Christians in name only.”  He went on to say, ” [These so-called Christians] are enemies of the cross of Christ. They take the name of Christian, but do not follow the requirements of the Christian life.”  As an example, he cautioned us to ask ourselves how much we compromise ourselves to be part of this world.  Do we love money?  Are we prideful?  Then he said, “If you try to love God and serve others, if you are gentle, if you are humble, if you are the servant of others, you are on the right path. Your citizenship is in heaven.”

     To be honest with you, that is not enough — furthermore, I think that doesn’t give us an accurate picture of just how BIG our God is!  First of all, when God’s own finger wrote down the Commandments He wanted us to follow, He made it very clear that rebellion (or disobedience to these commandments) would not be tolerated.  He loved us enough to provide us with guidance in the form of 10 commandments, and He wrote it in stone to be an everlasting reminder of His covenant with those who are faithful to follow them. 

     Secondly, where is the mention of Jesus as the Son of God; that it is faith in Him and His resurrection that will ensure your citizenship in heaven, and the right to be called a Christian?  Without the mention of Christ and the One True God, those “loving attributes” could apply to any number of religions.  I know the focus was on the Christian faith, but I think if you are going to put Christians under the microscope, it is important that everyone fully understand the core principle of being a Christian … just being a gentle spirit and serving others is not the primary criteria.

     While I agree with the Pope that there are people who call themselves Christian, who do not deserve that title, (and will be amazed when Jesus says to them on Judgment Day, “I never knew you”), I’m afraid I differ with Him over his path to citizenship in heaven.  “Following the requirements of the Christian life” go much deeper than an admonition to “try” to love God; to be gentle and humble; to serve others.  Deuteronomy 7:9 is just part of the bold statement Moses makes in the entire Chapter.  He tells the Israelites, “You are a holy and set-apart people to the Lord your God; the Lord your God has chosen you to be a special people to Himself out of all the peoples on the face of the earth.”

     Moses goes on to lay out the very strict requirements of the life God expects them to live; and it is no different today.  In fact, our Scripture today tells us that God will love those who keep His commandments even to a thousand generations.  Whether you interpret that to mean today’s generational span of 25 years, or an accepted Biblical generation of 40 years, a thousand generations would be a long time!  These commandments are apparently the same today as they were a mere 3500 years ago.  And that applies to all the commandments given by God throughout the Bible … those concerning sexual immorality, adultery, abortion, and what it means to be “born again.”

     Yet today’s Church — including both Catholic and Protestant — are weakening God’s message about keeping His commandments.  They interpret Deuteronomy 7:9 as a picture of God’s faithfulness and steadfast love … which it is … for those who love Him enough to keep His commandments.  What the modern Church does not do, is make note of the comma at the end of verse 9, which portrays a slight pause before Moses finishes God’s statement on His covenant.  You see, verse 10 completes what God will do … And [God] repays those who hate Him to their face, by destroying them; He will not be slack to him who hates Him, but will requite him to his face.  

     You see, God equates loving Him with obeying His commandments.  He sees disobedience as rejecting Him and hating His commandments.  Remember that one of His character traits is His immutability — He never changes.  Just because the culture of the world has moved in a more accommodating direction, it does not mean that God is willing to compromise on His commandments.  

     We seem to have forgotten about that comma at the end of verse 9; or at least choose to ignore it.  So when the Pope, or any Pastor, uses his position to tell his flock that God sanctions same-sex marriage, or if they counsel you that divorce is acceptable to God, or that if you are inconveniently pregnant, it’s OK to terminate your baby’s life; he is not paying attention to the beginning of Deuteronomy 7:9 … Know, recognize, and understand that the Lord your God IS God… the same God who loves those who follow His commandments, and rejects those who choose to re-interpret them and water them down.  

     The Pope is right about one thing … Jesus did say, “Because you are lukewarm, I will vomit you out of my mouth.”  I guess the Church thinks that compromising on the Lord’s commandments does not qualify as “lukewarm”.  But for those of us who know, recognize, and understand who God is, we are aware that His commandments are enduring and lasting truths … for a thousand generations.

Written by Belle Ringer-
Salvation and Survival

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