Picture of Pastor Carlson

Sermon delivered DATE by Pastor Paul Carlson

McDonald Road Seventh-day Adventist Church

McDonald, Tennessee

Biblical quotations are from the New King James Version, NKJV, unless otherwise noted. Divine pronouns and titles are capitalized.

Dr. God's Advice

(RealAudio available)

The story is told of two young engineers who applied for a single position at a computer company. They both had the same qualifications. In order to determine which individual to hire, the applicants were asked to take a test by the department manager. Upon completion of the test, both men missed only one of the questions. The manager went to the first applicant and said, "Thank you for your interest, but we've decided to give the job to the other applicant."

"And why would you be doing that? We both got 9 questions correct," asked the rejected applicant.

"We have based our decision not on the correct answers, but on the question you missed," said the department manager.

"And just how would one incorrect answer be better than the other?" the rejected applicant inquired.

"Simple," said the department manager. "Your fellow applicant put down on question #5, 'I don't know.' You put down, 'Neither do I.'"1

Somewhere wrapped in that story is the secret to living well. One was honest and got the job. The other was dishonest and didn't get the job. If we do well, we will be well and live well. One was honest and got the job. The other was dishonest and did not get the job. And there's nothing arbitrary in that. It's like going to a doctor you have confidence in. If you follow the expert advice you receive, it will cause you to be well and live well.

It reminds me of the book of Deuteronomy. I invite you to open your Bibles to the book of Deuteronomy in the Old Testament for the spiritual prescription for life and wellness from our Heavenly Physician. The book of Deuteronomy is Moses' last book in the Bible, although some people give Moses credit for the book of Job. It consists of four or five speeches by Moses shortly before his death.

Let's notice a very important pattern in the following texts. Look at Deuteronomy 4:1. "Now, O Israel, listen to the statutes and the judgments which I teach you to observe, that you may live, and go in and possess the land which the LORD God of your fathers is giving you.

Another one: Deuteronomy 4:40. "You shall therefore keep His statutes and His commandments which I command you today, that it may go well with you and with your children after you, and that you may prolong your days in the land which the LORD your God is giving you for all time."

Deuteronomy 6:1-3 has a similar idea with similar results: . . . . "that your days may be prolonged" (in verse 2) and "that it may be well with you" (verse 3).

Deuteronomy 6:18 tells us, "And you shall do what is right and good in the sight of the LORD, that it may be well with you, and that you may go in and possess the good land of which the LORD swore to your fathers,"

Look at Deuteronomy 16:20. It says, "You shall follow what is altogether just, that you may live and inherit the land which the LORD your God is giving you.

So we have three prominent phrases:

  1. That it may go well with you.
  2. That you may live.
  3. That your days may be long (or prolonged).

Now, let me ask you this question: Do you want to live well? And long? Moses says, Follow Dr. God's advice for His people.

The meaning of the word "life" is to be alive, to sustain life, to be restored to life or health. It also means to live prosperously. And that's the ultimate meaning in that phrase. That's God's desire for us.

The word "well" means to be good, to be glad, be joyful. In the context of these passages, it basically means to be happy. That is also what our God wants for us.

Throughout the book of Deuteronomy, we get the distinct idea that if we follow God's way of living, we will be well, spiritually prosperous and happy. In fact, the text I like the most is Deuteronomy 6:24 "And the LORD commanded us to observe all these statutes, to fear [or to respect] the LORD our God, for our good always, that He might preserve us alive," as it is this day."

I think this is wonderful to realize that God's salvation work is more than just the mighty miracles of crossing the Red Sea and the ways that He helped Israel escape slavery. It was more than the manna that fed them day after day. It was more than the miraculous water that satisfied thirst. Deuteronomy reveals a God who unselfishly continues His salvation work in our lives through His commandments prescriptions really. Our Heavenly Physician most of all is concerned that we have a spiritually abundant life, that our lives would be preserved from evil, because it is evil that destroys, and God is someone Who gives life.

This emphasis is not just in the Old Testament; it's in the New Testament as well. As Jesus told the rich young ruler in Matthew 19:17, "If you want to enter life, keep the commandments." Jesus said in John 12:50, "And I know that His command is everlasting life." John the beloved disciple tells us in 1 John 3:7, "He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous."

But remember that God doesn't want us to mindlessly, thoughtlessly and legalistically follow some list of rules that we don't even understand as if they don't make sense to us. That's not what God wants. Deuteronomy is not teaching a kind of salvation by what you do. It's more than just what you believe. And, on the other hand, it's much more than just a set of ritualistic behaviors. Deuteronomy 6:4-5, "Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one! You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength." And the same author wrote in Leviticus 19:18, "... You shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD." Jesus didn't invent those in the New Testament.

Following God's commandments means to love God with all your heart and to love everyone around you: love God, love others. John says in 1 John 3:18, "My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth." Love in the heart combines with active deeds to both follow God and help those around us. That is doing well. That's living well. I want that experience, don't you.

Several years ago my wife, Becky, was driving home after work in the rush-hour traffic of Atlanta's freeways. That's when her car died. She pushed the button to turn on her emergency flashers. Somehow she had to get out of her car and out of the traffic. And it was late in the afternoon, so mechanics would be closing their shops soon. She had to get help fast! "Please help me to find help, LORD!" she asked silently as she dodged speeding cars and worked her way across five lanes of traffic.

There was a service station on each corner of the main intersection nearby. She headed for the closest one first. "My car died in the middle of traffic out there," she pointed. "Can you help me get it off the highway and take a look at it?"

Sounding stressed rather than sympathetic, he said, "It's almost closing time, Lady. We don't have time to do anything else today."

The men at the next two stations gave her a similar refusal. No apologies. No sympathy. Big cities can seem so cruel.

The manager was giving an order to a tire salesman as she ran into the last station. Feeling out of breath and low on hope, she blurted out her story to six pairs of staring eyes. Someone there had to help her! But no, they were closing, too. They just couldn't take on another job this late.

As she climbed back into her stranded car, she felt fear accelerating to panic. She felt so helpless. If only she were back in the little town she had just moved from. She could have called her uncle, or her next-door neighbor, or her colleague at work, or even friends down the street. But here, she was all alone in this huge, strange city. There seemed to be no one who cared about her and her car.

That's when a thought came to her: "You are not alone!" She talked to God again and immediately, a car pulled up right beside hers. Three men jumped out and one motioned for her to roll down her window.

"Look, I'm a tire salesman," he said, "and I know every station in this area. I'm going to find you a mechanic who can fix your car."

Becky was in a terrible situation, but someone went out of the way to help her. How do we really live well? By living out God's commandments to love Him and to love each other.

According to Deuteronomy, those commandments are really God's invitation for us to enter into an active heart-relationship with Him. And it includes being willing to help someone in need. According to Jesus in Matthew 25, what matters is not what you profess to believe, it's what you actually do that demonstrates you are His follower. That's because salvation is not an arbitrary matter. It's a matter of healing, it's a matter of conversion and having a new heart along with new values and new behavior choices.

The message of the gospel, believing in Jesus for His salvation, is demonstrated best, not by our words, but by our actions. It's not by our ability to defend our beliefs, not by our ability to persuade others of the rightness of our faith. It's not even by how well we can discuss the Sabbath School lesson, or debate it, for that matter. We must love in action. And love for Jesus finds it's way deep down into our feet, in our hands, in our actions for other people. It's being honest at work. It's being kind to our neighbors, even when we feel they don't deserve it. It's treating our family members with respect. It's all of these things because of a deep heart relationship with God that shows its value by the rock-hard commitment of action.

A past Adventist Review magazine includes a story about Kent Hansen. Kent graduated from Monterey Bay Academy in 1971, and then entered Loma Linda University. When he went to law school, he did so well that he was asked to join the staff of an elite academic publication. After that, he returned to Loma Linda at age 26 to be associate dean of students and legal counsel. After three years he joined a law firm and became very successful at what he did.

He married a loving woman, had a child and was living the American dream as far as he could tell. But he was spiritually empty. He was on seven civic boards, raising millions of dollars, but volunteer service didn't help. He attended church only twice in seven years. The church, he says, had become only a business to him. He would drive home at night and pound the steering wheel in frustration, thinking there must be something more.

It was around this time, that he started reading a book called, Ordering Your Private World, by Gordon MacDonald. He first thought the book was about time- management. But he found out that it was about having a relationship with Jesus Christ. Reading the book made him think about trying to pray. He thought, "What do you pray about when you aren't asking for anything?" All he could think of was "God, I want to talk to You, but I don't know how." Then he heard a distinct, clear voice saying to him, "You are convicted of sin." "What is my sin?" he asked. The voice said, "Pride and busyness are choking Me out of your life and are killing your relationship with your family."

Then the voice said, "Don't you think I can take care of everything you're worried about? Trust Me." That was it. He was 36 years old, a successful attorney on a business trip, and he was hearing a voice and talking to it! When he came home, he told his wife, "I need to talk to you." She asked, "Is anything wrong?" He said, "Yes and no." They went inside and he told her everything that he experienced that day. And he told her how he wanted all the busyness that was robbing them of their lives of meaning and relationships he wanted all of that to change. He told her how he wanted to concentrate on serving God and giving priority in their lives to their marriage, that he wanted to be a better husband and father to their children. And that they would need to help each other in that.

Then they prayed together. And that's when things began to be different for Kent and his wife. He began to experience a craving to read and know God's word. Also, he began to talk to people about God and found himself ministering to people in their needs. He witnessed to his office manager and she started going back to church for the first time in seven years. Another attorney in his firm came into his office and started talking to him, asking him questions. Kent told him about Jesus, who persuades and doesn't force, how unconditional love expressed in loving service to others will result in their response of love and trust and acceptance to God.

Jesus entered that man's life too.

"Christianity," Kent said, "is not about cracking heads. It's about choice and commitment. It's about living with purpose and power not just getting by through keeping the rules." Kent Hansen and the book of Deuteronomy are in complete agreement. Christianity is more than just what you believe. Appearing to be godly is not the same as being godly. Christianity is a lifestyle of active love that comes about through a growing friendship with God. And in that relationship we learn that our heavenly Physician desires what's best for our own spiritual healing and well-ness. May God help us to go beyond shallowness and legalism to experience a deep, satisfying life of love and service to Him and our brothers and sisters.

Endnotes: 1. -- newsletters@crosswalk.com (Crosswalk.com)

 Hymn of Praise: #509,  How Firm a Foundation
Scripture:  Deuteronomy 6:4,5
Hymn of Response: #319,  Lord, I Want to be a Christian

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