If => Then

If => Then
Pastor Stephen "Red" Shumate
March 11th, 2018
Photo by Brendan Church on Unsplash

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If => Then
In Leviticus 26 there are a lot of If=>statements…

Just what is an If=>Then Statement?  It is a statement that says IF something happens, THEN something else will result. For instance, you might say:

IF it rains tomorrow, THEN I’ll work inside.
IF it doesn’t rain tomorrow, THEN I’ll work outside.

If you have ever worked with formulas in an excel spreadsheet, then you are probably familiar with how IF=>Then statements work.  Excel actually combines these two If=>Then statements together and the formula looks like this IF ([qualifier],[if true],[if false]).  So, the above statements in excel would look like this IF (it’s raining, work inside, work outside) which means, If it is raining then, I’ll work inside, if it is Not then I’ll work outside.

And the IF=>Then statements in Leviticus 26 look very similar take a look at Leviticus 26:3-4

If you do…Then…
Leviticus 26
If you follow my statutes and faithfully observe my commands, 4 [then] I will give you rain at the right time, and the land will yield its produce, and the trees of the field will bear their fruit.” [emphasis added]

God is being very clear with His people. He is saying, in the most simple and basic way that He can… If you DO everything I tell you to THEN I’m going to give you good crops.

And God has told us the same thing, in the most basic and simple way, If we follow Jesus, we are going to have good crops (spiritually speaking of course).  We learn in Galatians 5 that if we walk by The Spirit, THEN we experience the fruit of The Spirit.  It’s pretty plain and simple.

And here, I want to take a second to point out a small difference between what God told the Israelites and what He tells us.  For the children of Israel… If the children of Israel did what God told them to, then it resulted in a reward. 

For us, if we do what Jesus tells us to, it doesn’t so much result in a reward as much as it is a result. There is a very fine line here, so, don’t get caught up too much in it.  But the point that I want to be clear about is that we shouldn’t see being obedient to God as earning a reward as much as we see the result of being obedient to God as being good.

So, for us, if we walk in the spirit, the result is that we reap what we sow… we reap the fruits of The Spirit.  If we don’t, then we don’t have those crops and we go hungry.  And hungry is no fun.

So, Just as God gave the people in the old testament under the old covenant If=>Then statements, He gives us If=>Then statements as well.

Under the Old covenant:
IF they obeyed God, THEN they would have good crops.

Under New Covenant:
IF we obey Him and walk in The Spirit, THEN we enjoy the fruits of The Spirit.

These are the things that happen IF we DO what God wants us to do, but what happens if we don’t?

If you don’t… Then…
Leviticus 26:14-16
“But if you do not obey me and observe all these commands— 15 if you reject my statutes and despise my ordinances, and do not observe all my commands—and break my covenant, 16 then I will do this to you: I will bring terror on you—wasting disease and fever that will cause your eyes to fail and your life to ebb away. You will sow your seed in vain because your enemies will eat it.

Ouch! That’s pretty harsh.  God says, if you don’t do what I say then you’ll experience terror, disease, and your enemies will eat your crops…

Why did he give them such a harsh punishment? I believe the punishment was so great because the consequences of them not living in His law are even greater because for them to live without God meant their destruction.  Without God, they would have never escaped Egypt.  Without God, even if they had escaped, Israel would have captured and killed them.  Even if they had escaped and Egypt didn’t come after them, the enemies they will defeat during the next 40 years, were more powerful than they were and would have won the battle if they had not had God on their side.

So, for the Israelites, their obedience is really important and that is why I believe we see such a disparity between the “If you do…” and “If you don’t…” statements.

So what does this look like for us, under the new covenant?

Hebrews 12:6
for the Lord disciplines the one he loves and punishes every son he receives.

If we don’t follow God’s commands when we should know better, then we should expect punishment. Just like any good father would give a child punishment for being disobedient, we should expect the same from God as our father.  And we need to understand that the punishment isn’t going to be fun.  Lessons are hard to learn.

We cannot have the mindset that God will just let us do whatever we want to do and that His ultimate goal is to make us happy.  When we do, we have made ourselves gods and have made God the worshipper.  But the truth is: We serve Him, not the other way around

Now, that doesn’t mean God that doesn’t want us to be happy.  In fact, He does want us to be happy and joyful, just as any father would, but not at the cost of sin.  Not at the cost of something that will hurt us.

So, this is why we should expect punishment.  This is why we should fear the Lord as we would fear a father’s punishment.  This is why we should do our best to remain obedient (to a fault): To avoid God’s punishment, and instead enjoy the fruits of the Spirit.

So, under the Old covenant:
If they DIDN’T follow God’s commands, THEN bad things happen.

Under the New covenant:
If we DON’T follow God, THEN we will be punished.

Now you might think this is all that is needed for an If=>Then statement.  If you do, then this happens, if you don’t then something else happens, but God has added one more part to this IF=>Then statement that says, If you Still Don’t…

If you STILL Don’t…
Leviticus 26:18-20
But if after these things you will not obey me, I will proceed to discipline you seven times for your sins. 19 I will break down your strong pride. I will make your sky like iron and your land like bronze, 20 and your strength will be used up for nothing. Your land will not yield its produce, and the trees of the land will not bear their fruit.

And you thought the first round of punishment was bad… Oh no, this is much worse.  God makes it very clear here that they absolutely DO NOT WANT to continue to live in disobedience.  And so, He gives them an even harsher punishment.

So what does this look like under the new covenant?

For us, under new covenant, if we disobey, God disciplines us to try and get us back on track however, if we continue to disobey… unlike the Israelites, we don’t face more harsh punishments, but instead we face harsh consequences.

Remember the Israelite's  If=>Then statements started with Reward and now ends with really harsh punishment.  For us, our If=>Then statement starts a result and ends with a consequence.

Romans 1:24 - Therefore, God delivered them over in the desires of their hearts

Psalm 81:11-12
But my people did not listen to my voice; Israel did not obey me.
12 So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts to follow their own plans.

So, for us, when we disobey God, then we are punished, if we STILL disobey God, then He hands us over to our stubborn hearts or He gives us over to our sins and we get to face the consequences of those sins.

Galatians 5:19-21
Now the works of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, moral impurity, promiscuity, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambitions, dissensions, factions, 21 envy, drunkenness, carousing, and anything similar.

These are the consequences of sin.  And I’ll tell you, you really REALLY don’t want these things in your life. I’ve had some of them, and personally speaking, these are destructive to the spirit.  They will kill you.  They will drain every piece of energy and hope you have… so we must avoid them at all costs. 

Fortunately for us, if we find ourselves being handed over to sin, then we can still get back on track.  This is what the story of the Prodigal son in Luke is all about.  But it is far better never to go there in the first place.

Alright…to bring all of this together:
Under the Old Covenant
1. If they obey, then as a reward, they will have good crops.
2. If they don’t, then as a punishment, they will face terror, disease and hunger.
3. If they still don’t obey, then God’s wrath will be unleased on them.

Under the new covenant
1. If we walk by the Spirit, then the result is we enjoy the fruits of the Spirit.
2. If we walk by the flesh, then we will be punished.
3. And if we continue to walk in the flesh, then we will be handed over the desires of the flesh(and as result, the consequences of our sin).

Now before we go, let’s look at one more thing… Let’s see this IF => Then statement play out for the Israelites in in Numbers 13. God now takes them to the promised land.  This is about 14 months after they left Egypt… just over a year… and they are already at the promised land.

And the first thing they do when they get there is send out scouts to check the land out and to see what they are up against. When the scouts came back…this is what all but two of them said…in Numbers 13:31 “We can’t attack the people because they are stronger than we are!”

God was telling them to go, and yet they disobeyed Him.

So, here is how the If=>Then statement plays out…
IF they would have had faith and obeyed God… THEN they would have entered the promised land right then and there…

SINCE they didn’t, the “If you don’t” statement came true, they were punished by having to wander in the dessert for 40 years.  But it is even worse than that… Because this disobedience really falls under the If you STILL don’t category.  Their faith had been lacking from the start

Here is God’s response
Numbers 14:28-30
Tell them: As surely as I live—this is the Lord’s declaration—I will do to you exactly as I heard you say. 29 Your corpses will fall in this wilderness—all of you who were registered in the census, the entire number of you twenty years old or more—because you have complained about me. 30 I swear that none of you will enter the land I promised to settle you in, except Caleb son of Jephunneh and Joshua son of Nun.

God handed them over to their own desires, sins and fears, and that was to die in the dessert (Numbers 14:10).

Here is how are just a few examples of how these if=> then statements might play out for us…
1. If we are obedient and we forgive and don’t hold a grudge?  Then we immediately move into freedom… that person who hurt us no longer has any power over us.
If we don’t… then bitterness grows for many years.  And if we still don’t, we will never truly live in peace and will possibly miss out on a restored relationships.

2. If we are obedient and we give to the needy with a grateful heart,  then we almost immediately feel the joy of the Lord, because we helped one of His children.
If we don’t give to the needy or we give with a grudging heart… THEN we wander in a desert of looking down on and being disgusted by people… If we still don’t, we run the risk of making money our God.

3.  If we worship Every Sunday with the rest of the church body… Then we are immediately a part of a wonderful church family.
If we don’t, we wander in loneliness trying to do Christianity our way and failing for many years. If we still don’t, we run the risk of losing our faith altogether.

4.  If we step out on faith and do that thing that scares us to death that God is calling us to do, then we defeat that fear and learn to rely on God’s strength, which leads to a peace that surpasses all understanding.
If we don’t, we live trying to do life under our own strength by placing our faith in things like money, jobs, success.  If we still don’t, then one day these things will fail us, and we will find ourselves at the bottom.

5.  If we live the way Jesus teaches us to live, then we live in the fruits of The Spirit, if we don’t then we face God’s punishment, if we still don’t then we live in the consequence of sin, without help from God.

What is the If => then that you are facing today?

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