Basic Training, Bible

Throwback Thursday ~ Basic Training: The Bible Is Sufficient

Originally published March 10, 2017

For more in the Basic Training series, click here.

God said to me…/I heard God say…

Listen for God’s voice…

God spoke to me in a dream…

God gave me a vision of…

We hear things like this non-stop these days in pop-evangelicalism. And it’s not just in the whack job Word of Faith or New Apostolic Reformation movements, or in Charismatic churches, either. These words are coming out of the mouths of regular, every day Baptists and Methodists and Lutherans and Presbyterians, too. It’s largely due to the infiltration of Word of Faith and New Apostolic Reformation false doctrine into our churches via a) “Bible studies” from false teachers like Beth Moore, Joyce Meyer, Priscilla Shirer, Christine Caine, Lysa TerKeurst and others and b) individual church members who feed on a steady diet of “Christian” television such as TBN, CBN, Daystar, and GodTV. Christians are getting the false idea that they need to hear, or should be hearing, God speak to them instead of trusting in the sufficiency of God’s word.

The theological term for “God spoke to me/showed me in a dream/etc.” is extra-biblical revelation– words or revelations, supposedly directly from God, that happen outside the pages of the Bible. I’d like to share with you six reasons God’s word is sufficient, and extra-biblcal revelation is both unbiblical and unnecessary.

1. Extra-biblical revelation is not the method God has established for communicating with us.
Maybe you and I would prefer it if God would just talk to us and tell us, one on one, in no uncertain terms, what He wants us to do. But that’s not the way that God prefers to communicate with New Testament Christians this side of a closed canon. God chooses to communicate with us through His written word. He says:

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. Hebrews 1:1-2

Let’s bear in mind, it is God Himself who breathed out these words. These verses are God speaking to us, and He says Scripture is enough to make us complete and mature, and to equip us for everything He has for us to do.

When we insist on “hearing God speak” outside of Scripture, we’re essentially saying, “God, I reject Your way and demand you do things my way instead.” Remember, God set up this whole Christianity thing, and He gets to make the rules, not us.

2. What makes you so sure it’s God who’s speaking to you?
Just because you have a feeling, an urge, or an intense experience doesn’t mean that was God speaking to you. Maybe it was Satan. Maybe it was your own wicked heart. Maybe it was a temptation to sin. Maybe it was just an old memory resurfacing. How can you know, objectively (not based on your feelings, the intensity of the experience, etc.), beyond a shadow of a doubt, that it was actually God speaking to you? And if you can’t know for sure it was God, why would you put your trust in whatever “He said” to you?

As Christians, we can irrefutably know God is speaking to us when we read His word because we know He is the author of Scripture.

3. Extra-biblical revelation is redundant and unnecessary.
Even those (most of them, anyway) who believe God still talks to people will tell you that God will never say something to you that contradicts His written Word. So why not just bypass the whole “God spoke to me” thing and go straight to the Bible? Or as Puritan John Owen put it:

As God Himself has told us in His written Word, the Bible is sufficient instruction for every situation in our lives. We don’t need God to speak to us verbally. He has already spoken. Why aren’t we satisfied with that?

4. Insisting on extra-biblical revelation demonstrates a lack of trust in God and His ways.
James 1:5 says:

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.

And where do we get wisdom to handle the situations and decisions of life? Not from a voice from Heaven saying “do this” or “do that,” but from Scripture:

The unfolding of your words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple. Psalm 119:130

Let my cry come before you, O Lord; give me understanding according to your word! Psalm 119:169

The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; Psalm 19:7

and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 2 Timothy 3:15

We don’t need God to tell us what decision to make, we want Him to, because that’s easier than doing the hard work of digging into Scripture, studying the biblical principles that apply to our situation, making the best and most godly decision we can, and trusting God for the outcome. But that’s exactly what God wants us to do:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Proverbs 3:5-6

When we honor and trust God by looking to His written word for the Holy Spirit’s guidance, He has promised to give us wisdom to make godly decisions and make our paths straight.

5. What about being led by the Holy Spirit?
For some reason people often draw a distinction between being “led” by the Holy Spirit and studying the Scriptures He breathed out, as though they’re two different things. Studying, believing, and obeying the words the Holy Spirit inspired is being led by the Spirit.

6. Extra-biblical revelation sets up a class system within Christianity.
Why do some people “hear” from God and others don’t? The reason implied by the Christian leaders (or even your fellow church members) – who make sure you know they’ve personally heard from God – is that people God speaks to are, spiritually, a cut above. Special. More faithful. More favored by God than you are. It’s like a carrot dangling in front of a horse. It keeps you buying their books, attending their conferences, following them on social media, hoping against hope that one day you’ll become one of the spiritual elite.

But how does the idea that others are “hearing God speak” affect a Christian who isn’t hearing from God? She starts thinking maybe God isn’t pleased with her. Maybe she’s sinning against God in some way. Maybe she’s not being faithful enough, praying enough, giving enough. Maybe God doesn’t love her. Maybe she’s not even saved. It turns her into a second class citizen of God’s Kingdom and causes her to covet something she doesn’t have and God never promised her.

None of this is biblical. There are no first tier and second tier Christians. A lot of the people God actually spoke to in Scripture were hardly paragons of spiritual awesomeness: BalaamSaul, and Moses, just to name a few. And God measures “spiritual awesomeness” not in strutting your closeness to Him before others, but in humility, servanthood, and crucifying self.

Ladies, God’s written Word is sufficient for our every need. We can trust that the words of Scripture are directly from the lips of God Himself. No one can say that with any certainty about extra-biblical revelation. Trust God to direct your paths and give you biblical wisdom to make godly decisions as you grow in the knowledge and understanding of His word.


Additional Resources

Where is it written that God doesn’t speak audibly any more? at Naomi’s Table

Listening to God Without Getting All Weird About It by David Appelt

How God Speaks To Us Today by Tim Challies

Basic Training, Bible

Throwback Thursday ~ Basic Training: The Bible Is Our Authority

Originally published February 17, 2017

For more in the Basic Training series, click here.bible-authority

The Bible. Scripture. The Good Book. It used to be so blatantly self-evident that God’s written Word was the foundation and standard for the Christian faith that it was assumed. A given. You learned, “I stand alone on the word of God- the B-I-B-L-E,” when you were three or four years old, you believed it, and you moved on.

But take a look at the Westernized version of Christianity these days. The fruit of abandoning the authority of Scripture is chilling. From the demonic tremoring and barking antics of New Apostolic Reformation “churches” to the rebellion of female “pastors” to the “gay Christian” movement to “Christian” abortion doctors, it’s clear that an astounding number of self-professed Christians and churches don’t submit to Scripture’s mandates for their beliefs and practices.

“Whew,” you might be thinking, “my church and I must be OK. We call homosexuality sin. We’re pro-life. Our pastor is male. And the wildest our congregation gets is when Brother Joe bellows a good, hearty ‘Amen!’ during the sermon.”

Those are all good, biblical things and I don’t want to minimize them. But is it good enough? Are there other, more subtle ways you or your church aren’t submitting to the authority of Scripture? And what does it mean that the Bible is our authority, anyway?

Have you ever played Monopoly? If you have, you know that you’re supposed to use a Monopoly board, two dice, the and the game pieces and Chance and Community Chest cards that come with the game. You also know that there is a standard set of Monopoly rules that are supposed to be followed.

monopoly-1356307_640Suppose a friend invited you to play Monopoly but wanted to use a checker board instead of a Monopoly board. Or wanted to create a new rule that you would get $500 for passing Go instead of $200. Or that you could get out of jail without rolling doubles.

Monopoly was created in 1903 by a lady named Elizabeth J. Magie Phillips. Magie created the game to teach people the consequences of having large or valuable tracts of land controlled by private monopolies¹. Each piece of the game and each rule was created with that teaching goal in mind. To alter the rules of the game is to, at best, be out of alignment with Magie’s intentions and purposes, and, at worst, to not be playing Monopoly at all. If you want to truly play Monopoly, learn the fullest extent of the lesson Magie was trying to teach, and respect Magie as the creator of the game, you’ve got to play by her rules. All of them. Even the ones you don’t like or particularly understand.

Many of the same principles apply to Christianity. God set Christianity up a certain way with His own intentions and purposes. If we alter His rules, we’re, at best, not lined up with those intentions and purposes, and, at worst, not practicing Christianity at all. If we really want to honor God, grow in Christ to the greatest extent and truly be practicing biblical Christianity, we’ve got to play by His rules. All of them. Even the ones we don’t particularly like or understand.

But what many Christians are doing today is taking their “Monopoly game” of Christianity and assuming it’s for their own entertainment, better quality of life, or positive feelings. And because they’re largely ignorant of the Creator of the “game” and His purposes and intentions behind said game, the players start tossing out His rules whenever those rules don’t fit the purposes and intentions of the players.

God created you and me and the world and Christianity and the church for His glory. He gets to make the rules. We follow the rule book (the Bible), not because those rules will make us personally happy or successful, but – simply and ultimately – because they are given by God and glorify Him. What He says goes, and we honor Him by our obedience. We need to remember that our role in the game is player, not Creator. Players submit to the authority of the Creator.

When the Creator says…
I created the world in six literal days and here’s how I did it, we don’t dishonor His word by trying to cram evolution in there and make it fit. We believe Him, and we teach what His word says.

When the Creator says…
Ladies, I don’t want you to preach, teach Scripture to men, or hold authority over men in the church, we don’t search for loopholes. We search for ways we can humble ourselves and serve God in ways that please Him, not ourselves.

When the Creator says…
Here’s how I want you to pray, we repent of using unbiblical prayer methods such as private prayer languages and contemplative prayer, and we pray the way God wants us to pray.

When the Creator says…
Pastor, I want you to preach the Word, that means pastors preach rightly handled, in context Scripture- not a stand up comedy routine, not the storyline of the latest blockbuster movie, not a half hour of jokes and personal anecdotes, not their own opinions and self-styled doctrines.

When the Creator says…
I want you to stay away from people who teach false doctrine, it doesn’t matter how much we like that teacher, how good she makes us feel, how much we think she’s helping us in our walk with the Lord, or that we’d rather “chew up the meat and spit out the bones.” We reject her, and her teaching, and listen to those who teach sound biblical doctrine instead.

We bow the knee to what God’s word says. Period.

Ladies, if you don’t want to cripple your growth in Christ, one of the worst phrases you can utter about Christian beliefs and practices is, “Well, I just think…” followed by your own personal feelings or opinions. You don’t write the rules.

The Bible says:

You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. 
1 Corinthians 6:19b-20a

…you…have become slaves of God…
Romans 6:22

If you’re a genuinely regenerated believer, you are the slave of Christ. That means you don’t get to hold, or live by, your own feelings or opinions any more. That’s what lost people do. You are only entitled to God’s opinions as set down in His written Word. Your opinions don’t matter.

mozart

When it comes to Christian beliefs and practices, your experiences don’t matter either. It doesn’t matter what kind of so-called supernatural experience you had where you babbled incoherently or “heard God speak” or saw a “vision” or whatever. If your interpretation of your experience conflicts with the written word of God, your interpretation of your experience is wrong. Something may have happened, but it wasn’t God. (And if something supernatural happened and the Bible says God doesn’t work that way, there’s only one other option.)

When you decide what you’re going to believe and do based on your own opinions, feelings, and subjective personal experiences rather than the written word of God, what you’re doing is saying, “I know better than the almighty, all-knowing God of the universe.” You’re setting yourself up as judge over Scripture. You’re in charge, not God. Doesn’t sound much like a slave, does it?

That’s because Scripture says those who truly belong to Christ will have a heart to keep His word. We will stumble and fall along the way. We will sometimes mistakenly believe things we shouldn’t. But one of the hallmarks of a Christian is that she loves and strives to obey God’s word. Because, as Christians, the Bible is our authority.

ps-119-57


Additional Resources

What does it mean that the Bible should be our sole authority for faith and practice? at Got Questions

For the Authority of Scripture by Dr. John MacArthur

Divine Authorship and Authority at Ligonier

The Authority of the Bible by Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

Bad Fruit, Diseased Trees, and the Authority of God’s Word


¹Monopoly (game), Early History, Wikipedia, February 16, 2017
²Amadeus photo and quote courtesy of Orion Pictures, Amadeus1984.

Basic Training, Bible, Bible Study

Throwback Thursday ~ Basic Training: The Bible is Necessary

Originally published March 17, 2017

For more in the Basic Training series, click here.

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But he answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
Matthew 4:1-4

I have not departed from the commands of His lips; I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my daily food.
Job 23:12

More to be desired are [the words of God] than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb.
Psalm 19:10

I have a question for you. Try to answer it within three seconds.

Where’s your Bible? (Not the one on your phone or computer- your real Bible.)

Were you able to answer in three seconds because you read it today and remember where you left it when you were finished? Because it stays on your night stand and rarely gets opened? Did it take longer than three seconds because you frequently carry it around with you and can’t remember where you most recently left it?

The point of the question isn’t really where your Bible is in geographical relationship to you, but where you are in relationship to your Bible.

David said God’s word was more valuable to him than gold, even much fine gold.

Job said he treasured God’s word more than his daily food.

Jesus hadn’t eaten a bite in over a month, and He still valued every word that comes from the mouth of God over bread.

If someone put a stack of fine gold in front of you and said you could have it as long as you hardly ever read your Bible, would you take it?

What if you had gone without food for forty days and someone offered you a loaf of bread in exchange for your agreement to put your Bible away and open it only rarely? Could you withstand the temptation?

I’d like to believe I would choose God’s word over a stack of gold or even life-sustaining food. But when I think about all the lesser things I sometimes choose to do instead of setting aside time to study God’s word…

…television
…social media
…reading
…sleeping
…hobbies

…well, I can’t help but wonder:

Do I really value God’s word as deeply as He wants me to?

We need God’s word. It is more necessary to us, spiritually, than food is to us, physically. Yet many Christians unintentionally starve themselves spiritually, thinking a “meal” or two of Scripture at church every week (if they actually attend every week, that is) is enough to sustain them. It’s not. We need to feast on God’s written Word every single day.

We need to know who God is

Saved people are in a one-on-one, personal relationship with God. But how can you have a relationship with someone you don’t really know? How can you love Him, please Him, or enjoy spending time with Him if you know nothing about Him? His character, His attributes, His likes and dislikes, the way He operates – these are all integral to knowing this God who created and saved us. And in His infinite love, God has chosen to reveal all these things about Himself in a book we call the Bible.

We need to know who we are

Just as an employee can’t rightly relate to her employer if she doesn’t understand her role, her place, and her responsibilities, we can’t rightly relate to God unless we understand both who He is and who we are in relationship to Him. We need to understand that He is God and we are not. That He is perfect in holiness and righteousness and we are depraved from the womb. That we are sinners in need of a Savior, created for the purpose of bringing glory to God, servants of the most high King. The only place to learn all of this, and more, about who we are, and where we stand with God, is in the pages of His word.

We need to know what God wants from us

What does God want me to do with my money? How can I be a godly wife if my husband is unsaved? Does God think it’s important for me to go to church? Is it always a sin to lie? Is it wrong to watch pornography? In addition to being a revelation of the nature and character of God, the Bible is also an intensely practical book, instructing Christians on issues of every day life and helping us to understand how God wants us to think, act, and speak. God knows we have questions and in His kindness and mercy has provided all the answers we need in Scripture.

We need to hear from God

While the idea and practice of “hearing God’s voice” is unbiblical, the desire to commune with God- to visit with Him as a loved one – is not. We only have to look back to the Garden of Eden to see that God’s perfect design was for people to fellowship with Him. Because of the Fall, we can’t do that face to face this side of Heaven. For now, we talk to God through prayer and worship. He talks to us through His written Word. Constant communion with God deepens our love for Him and increases our Christlikeness.

More than daily food. More than gold. More than any earthly pleasure, wisdom, or experience, we need God’s word. And we need it every day, all the days of our lives.

Basic Training, Church

Throwback Thursday ~ Basic Training: 7 Reasons Church is Not Optional and Non-Negotiable for Christians

For more in the Basic Training series, click here.

It’s a disturbing trend that’s spreading like the plague, especially among women who claim to be believers:

“I’m a Christian but I refuse to attend church.”

These aren’t women who can’t attend church due to health reasons, caring for an ill or disabled loved one, who have no other choice but to work on Sundays, or who live in an area with no reasonably doctrinally sound church to attend. They’re women who could get plugged in to a decent local church, but intentionally shun the body of Christ.

Usually, the decision to opt out of church boils down to one of two scenarios: a) a believer who was hurt by a previous church and yet isn’t ready to risk being hurt again or b) someone (often a false convert) who doesn’t grasp the concept that being joyfully joined to a local body of believers is part of what defines someone as a Christian.

I can tell some of y’all have already fired up your e-mail programs or mentally formulated a corrective comment. Hang on, and please read what I’m about to say so we’re all on the same page here. I am not saying, have never said, and will never say that attending church, joining a church, serving at a church, or being baptized into a church is what saves a person, even in part. Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian. Everybody with me? Scripture is clear that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, and that good works, such as church attendance, play zero part in a person’s salvation.

What I am saying is that one of the signs, or fruits, that someone is already saved is that she has a heartfelt love and affection for the things of God, which includes the gathering of the saints for fellowship, worship, encouragement, and edification. For a believer, love for the bride of Christ is a natural extension of loving Christ, Himself. She doesn’t have to be talked into attending church; there’s no place on earth she’d rather be.

We’ve all been in difficult situations with difficult people at church that can hurt, sometimes deeply – believe me, I’ve been there – and can leave us in need of taking a few Sundays off to recover, or possibly the need to change to a healthier church. But if you’ve harbored antipathy toward the church, as a whole, for years, have never taken joy in fellowshipping and worshiping with fellow believers, don’t see any particular need for gathering with the Body, or are generally apathetic in your attitude toward church, you’re in a very dangerous place, spiritually, and you need to question your salvation. Those are symptoms of being lost, not fruit of being saved.

For Christians, being joined to a local church is not optional and non-negotiable. Why?

1. God Says So

Just in case the entirety of the Bible isn’t clear enough that God wants His people meeting together for fellowship, worship, and the Word, He says so very bluntly in Hebrews 10:24-25:

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

The HCSB puts it this way: “not staying away from our worship meetings, as some habitually do,” and NASB says: “not forsaking our own assembling together.” God says we are not to neglect, stay away from, or forsake, the meeting of the church body. For anyone who claims to be a Christian, that reason alone ought to be good enough. When God tells us to do something, we do it. Period.

2. The Church is God’s Plan for Christians

God doesn’t need or want your help devising the best methodology for your life and growth as a Christian. He already has a plan. He already established that plan. That plan is the church. There’s no plan B or any cafeteria-style options. If you’re a Christian, God’s plan for you is to be a faithful part of a local body of believers. The Bible never suggests that it’s OK for you to be a “Lone Ranger Christian.” There are no explicit statements to this effect, nor even one example of a New Testament Christian who lived life apart from the church. The New Testament assumes Christians will be part of a church. If not, the majority of Matthew through Revelation would be moot. If you reject the church, you’re rejecting God’s word and His way in favor of your own way.

3. Jesus Values the Church

You claim to love and follow Jesus, right? Well, Jesus founded the church. Jesus is the head of the church. Jesus loves the church. Jesus died for the church. Jesus is the Savior of the church. Jesus nourishes, cherishes, and sanctifies the church. How could anyone claim to love and follow Jesus and yet cavalierly toss aside something He values so much that He laid His life down for it? If you really love Jesus, you’ll value the things He values, and, clearly, He values the church.

4. Being Joined to the Church Is an Indicator of Salvation

First John 2:18-19 makes no bones about it. Forsaking the church is an indicator that you’re not saved:

…now many antichrists have come…They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.

Want to make it plain that you’re not of Christ? Step one is to leave the church.

5. The Church is the Dispensary for the Word and the Ordinances

The preaching and teaching of God’s Word. Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. In order to preserve their purity and sanctity, God established a hierarchical structure of ecclesiastical authority and placed the responsibility for administering Scripture and the ordinances with the church, not isolated individuals. Do we have women’s Bible studies and Sunday School classes? Of course. But only under the oversight of our pastors and elders, as an outflow of, and in keeping with, the preaching and teaching ministry of the church. Do we share the gospel with the lost we encounter during the week? You bet! Our churches enable us to do so by training us in the Word, and we bring new believers back to our churches so that they may be discipled.

6. The “One Anothers”

Love one another. Comfort one another. Forgive one another. Serve one another. Bear one another’s burdens. Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another. Have you ever stopped to think which people “one another” is referring to? It’s easy to see when you look at these verses in context. It’s our brothers and sisters in Christ. All of the New Testament “one anothers” are written to the church. You need brothers and sisters to minister the “one anothers” to you, and your brothers and sisters need you to minister the “one anothers” to them. We cannot properly carry out the “one anothers” outside the church because they were meant to be practiced first and foremost within the church.

7. Sheep Need Shepherds

The Bible often uses sheep as a metaphor for God’s people. And since we know that God is the author of Scripture, we know God handpicked that metaphor to describe us. Ever notice that God never describes a sheep wandering off on its own as though that were a good thing?

All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way;
Isaiah 53:6a

I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek your servant,
Psalm 119:176a

When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.
Matthew 9:36

What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray?
Matthew 18:12

Sheep who leave the flock to make their own way in the world are in danger from wolves, the pitfalls of sin, and any number of other perils, especially the trials and tragedies of life. I can’t tell you how many e-mails I’ve received from distraught Christian women in dire personal circumstances who desperately need pastoral counsel. Sadly, when I tell them I’m not equipped to help them with such a complicated problem from so far away and that they need to make an appointment with their pastor for one on one, face to face counseling, the response is often, “I haven’t been going to church. I don’t have a pastor.”

We need the protection of the sheep pen, the brotherhood of the flock, and the leadership of our shepherds, our pastors, to help guide us. God knew we needed those things. That is one reason He established the church and created the position of pastor. Christ is our Good Shepherd, but until He returns, He has appointed godly men to watch over and protect the flock in His absence:

When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.
John 21:15-17

And he gave…the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,
Ephesians 4:11-12

So I exhort the elders among you…shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.
1 Peter 5:1-4

You can’t shepherd yourself. That internet pastor you listen to – even the most doctrinally sound one – can’t shepherd you. You need to be part of a flock led by a shepherd who knows you and cares for your soul.

Do you take joy in gathering regularly with your brothers and sisters in Christ for worship, the Word, the ordinances, building one another up, and serving one another? If not, the solution is not to leave the church altogether. The solution is to examine your heart against Scripture to discover whether or not you’re truly saved, and then to find a healthy church you can pour yourself into. Christ has given believers the local church as a blessing and a benefit, not a burden and a bore. Love and embrace this precious gift He has lavished on you.


Additional Resources

Six Ways Not to Forsake the Assembly 

7 reasons worshipers need the church at The Cripplegate

Mailbag #49: Home Groups Over Church at 9Marks

My Jesus, I Love You; Your Bride I Despise! at Reformation21

Why You May Be Tempted To Neglect Your Church by Tim Challies

Five Essential Reasons for Christians to Gather in Public Worship at Ligonier

Prioritize Your Church by Tim Challies

Is a “Churchless Christian” an Oxymoron? at Ligonier

The Plight of Churchless Christians at The Cripplegate

40 reasons to be part of a local church at The Cripplegate

Basic Training, Obedience

Throwback Thursday ~ Basic Training: Obedience: 8 Ways To Stop Making Excuses and Start Obeying Scripture

Originally published August 18, 2017

For more in the Basic Training series, click here.

So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin. James 4:17

Excuses, excuses.

We’ve all got them. We’ve all used them.

“The dog ate my homework.”

“I was going to, but…”

“I’d like to, but I can’t, because…”

Sometimes there are legitimate reasons we can’t take part in certain earthly activities. Time conflicts: If a birthday party and a wedding are scheduled for the same date and time, you obviously can’t be in two places at once. Financial constraints: Maybe you’d really like to attend that conference, but there’s no money in the budget. Prioritized responsibilities and loyalties- you’d like to travel as much as you did when you were single, but now that you have a family, taking care of them comes first.

Those aren’t really excuses, though, they’re reasons – totally understandable ones – that you can’t do something. But we’re so much in the habit of explaining why we can’t do something in the day to day logistical realm that it never occurs to us that this isn’t right when it comes to the things of God. When God’s word tells us to do something, we are to obey it, not make excuses about why we can’t.

Most Christians seem to grasp this concept when it comes to one of the “big” commands. Take abortion, for example. We know that abortion is a sin regardless of the circumstances, even when those circumstances are huge and scary. We reach out to pregnant women with the gospel and with practical help so that they won’t commit that sin. We love the homosexual who wants to come to Christ but is being pulled the other direction by her lifestyle, living arrangements, and loved ones, by compassionately providing for her needs while holding firm to the biblical gospel that says she must turn from her sin in repentance if she wants to be saved.

But when it comes to the “little” commands like…

…submitting to your husband

…being a faithful, active member of a local church

…refraining from teaching men or holding authority over them in the church

…refusing to be anxious about anything

…lots of those same Christians (including me) who are so clear that abortion and homosexuality are sins requiring repentance regardless of the circumstances, have at the ready, all kinds of excuses and reasons and circumstances to offer up as to why we can’t obey God’s word.

“I just don’t think my husband’s decision is the right way to go.”

“A church hurt me in the past, so I’m done with church.”

“None of the men in my church will step up and lead, so I have to.”

“I’m in a really bad situation. I can’t help it if I’m constantly stressing about it.”

Uh uh. No excuse for disobedience that we can come up with is going to wash with God. There is never any acceptable reason or excuse to say, “I can’t,” when it comes to a command of Scripture. God expects us to be obedient. So how can we move from excuses to obedience?

1. Understand that obedience to Scripture is not “legalism” or being a “Pharisee”

As much as pop evangelicalism would like us to believe it, obedience to Scripture is not legalism, nor is someone acting like a Pharisee if she’s teaching that all Christians should obey Scripture. Legalism is when you think obeying God’s commands will save you, make up for your sin, or somehow make you right with God through your own fleshly efforts. Pharisee-ism is making up your own bibley-sounding laws – usually ones that are related to Scripture, but more restrictive than Scripture – and insisting that others adhere to them or they’re not saved, not as good of a Christian as you are, etc. That’s not what we’re talking about here. We’re talking about rightly handling God’s word in context, understanding what His commands to Christians actually are, and joyfully submitting to them in obedience.

2. Embrace what Scripture says about obedience:

So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin. James 4:17

Teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. Matthew 28:20a

So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, “We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.” Luke 17:10

And Samuel said, “Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and presumption is as iniquity and idolatry.” 1 Samuel 15:22-23a

If you love me, you will keep my commandments. John 14:15

And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked. 1 John 2:3-5

For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. 1 John 5:3

Scripture says that Christians seek to obey God’s word, and when we don’t, we’re sinning.

3. Know that there are no commands of Scripture followed by asterisks

“You shall not murder…unless…” “Do not worry…except in circumstances X, Y, or Z, then it’s acceptable.” “If no men will step up and teach that co-ed Sunday School class, it’s OK if a woman teaches it.” Nope. You will not find a command of Scripture that contains exceptions or caveats. When God says “do” or “don’t”, He means it. He means it for you. He means it for everybody. He means it if it’s difficult or inconvenient. He means it regardless of your circumstances.

4. Realize that God is sovereign over your circumstances

God controls everything in this universe. Nothing happens anywhere that He hasn’t either allowed or caused. Translation: you’re in the circumstances you’re in because God either put you there or allowed you to be there. Everybody has some sort of situation in her life that makes obedience to Scripture difficult or inconvenient. Do you think God intends for everyone to use those circumstances that He sovereignly decided to allow or put into their lives as an excuse to disobey Him? Adam and Eve tried that. Did God accept their excuses? Isn’t blaming your disobedience to Scripture on the circumstances you’re in just another way of saying it’s God’s fault you’re being disobedient? That if God had just created you differently or put you in a different set of circumstances, you’d obey, but since He didn’t, you have no choice but to disobey?

5. Ask yourself, “Do I really want to obey?”

When we really want to do something, we find a way or die trying. Be honest- have you checked out every single church you can get to and explored every available resource and option for finding a church before giving up and saying you can’t attend church? Have you actually tried submitting to your husband even when you think he’s making a boneheaded decision? Is anybody at your church going to die if all of the women refuse to teach men and that co-ed class is disbanded? Are you so willing to obey Christ that you’ll do whatever you have to do in order to find a way to obey Him?

6. Consider that this might be a test

Remember taking pop quizzes when you were in school? Unless you were a child genius, you probably don’t look back on them fondly. They were unpleasant. Hard. Sometimes scary because so much was riding on them. Maybe you were like a lot of students who could easily answer questions on the subject matter while studying, but went blank during the quiz because of the fear and pressure.

The testing of our faith can be a lot like those pop quizzes. We know the test is coming, but we’re never quite sure when. We’re supposed to be studying the Textbook and asking the Teacher for help every day so we’ll be prepared. But when the test comes, we have to take it. There’s no opting out and saying, “If this test weren’t happening I’d be able to obey easily.” Of course you would! It’s easy to obey God when it’s convenient and everything’s going your way, but obeying when it’s difficult or inconvenient pushes you. Stretches you. It reinforces what you’ve learned, reaffirms your commitment to Christ, and refreshes your trust in God. Don’t give up in the middle of the test. Hang on to Christ, hang in there, and…

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. James 1:2-4

7. Look to Christ as your example

Christians are supposed to “walk in the same way He walked” (1 John 2:5b). Christ is the perfect example of someone who determined to obey God regardless of His circumstances. Just look at everything He went through. Don’t you think He was awfully hungry after fasting for 40 days in the wilderness? Wouldn’t it have been extraordinarily easy to strike down every Pharisee who got on His nerves? Couldn’t He have decided the cross was just too much and that redeeming mankind wasn’t worth the trouble?

Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. Hebrews 12:3-4

Jesus gave up His body – His life – in order to obey God. Are we willing to give up whatever it costs us to walk in the same way He walked?

8. Remember that God has promised to help you

What an amazing God we serve who doesn’t just give us a bunch of rules to follow and leaves us to figure it out on our own! The Holy Spirit is right there, indwelling His people, always ready to help, guide, strengthen, and comfort. First Corinthians 10:13 says:

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

God isn’t going to put you into a situation in which you have no choice but to disobey Him. Jesus proved that with His own life. Have you asked God to provide you with a way to obey Him? The Bible tells us that when we pray for things in accordance with God’s will, He will give those things to us. It is definitely in God’s will for you to resist temptation and obey Him, so it is His delight to answer when you ask Him for a way to do that.

Ladies, obedience to Christ is not optional. We don’t get to pick and choose which of God’s commands to Christians we want to obey and which ones are OK to let slide. He expects us to follow after Christ, who obeyed to His last breath, His last drop of blood. And He promises to help us, even when obeying Him is hard. Let’s stop making excuses and start looking for ways to submit to, and obey, God’s word.