Basic Training, Obedience

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

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.

1 John Bible Study

Am I Really Saved?: A First John Check Up ~ Lesson 3: Love and Hate

1 John Study

Am I Really Saved? A First John Check Up
Lesson 3: Love and Hate
Please Read: 1 John 2:1-17

Previous Lessons: 1, 2

(Helpful Hint: Using the cross-references {footnotes to related verses} provided in your Bible or in the Bible Gateway links I’ve provided will be very helpful as you study.)

Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!
2 Corinthians 13:5

1 John 1:8-2:2

The closing verses of chapter 1, as we saw in last week’s lesson, deal with whether or not a person walks in unrepentant sin. Lost people deny that they are sinners and continue, unrepentantly, in their sin. (1:8, 10) Saved people confess their sin and are forgiven through Christ. (1:9)

John continues his line of thought in the opening verses of chapter 2 (Remember, when he wrote this, there were no chapters and verses. It was just a letter like you might write today.). He’s not writing just to point out sin and how lost and saved people deal with sin differently. He’s writing so that people will not sin. (2:1)

But when Christians (“my little children” refers to John’s “children” in the faith), do sin, John reminds us, Christ has already paid the penalty for our sin. Verses 1-2 of chapter 2 encourage us to remember this, repent, and be forgiven.

And that’s not all. Look at those great little words at the end of verse 2: “but also for the sins of the whole world.” That means that if you examined yourself according to 1 John 1 and found that you are indeed a liar who walks in the darkness while claiming to belong to Christ (1:6), or someone who denies that she’s a sinner, or claims she’s not sinning when she does things the Bible clearly labels as sin (1:8, 10), and you’re grieved over that and want to repent, there is hope.

The perfectly sinless son of God, Jesus Christ, stepped between you and God (“advocate,” 2:1) and propitiated God’s wrath against you for your sin so that you could be reconciled to God. He offers this precious gift of salvation to anyone who will turn from her sin and place her faith in Christ. (2:2)

  • What did you discover last week when you examined yourself according to 1 John 1? Do you walk in the darkness or in the light? Do you agree with the Bible’s definition of sin and confess your sins, or argue against the Bible and continue in sin?
  • Has there ever been a time in your life when you came before God, confessed and admitted that He is right about your sin and you are wrong, asked His forgiveness, and placed your faith in Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection as payment for your sin? If not, I urge you to do so now.
  • If you are saved, this passage is also an encouragement to remember, when you sin – and you will – that Christ has already paid the penalty for your sin. Remember the hope you have in Christ. Repent and be forgiven.

1 John 2:3-6

Am I Really Saved? Checkpoint 3: Do I keep God’s commands?

And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. 4 Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, 5 but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: 6 whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.

With this passage, we have to make sure we don’t get the cart before the horse. John is not, I repeat, not saying that you become a Christian by being a good person and obeying all of God’s rules. The Bible is exceedingly clear that salvation does not come from our good works but by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.

John is saying that people who have genuinely been born again keep God’s word out of a heart of love for Him. Apple trees just naturally grow apples because they’re apple trees. You could buy a bag of apples at the store and tie them to an oak tree, but that would not make it an apple tree. It would just be an oak tree with fake fruit hanging from it. See?

  • Examine your heart- do you desire to keep God’s commandments? Why? What is your motive for obedience to God’s word? Are you an apple tree growing apples or an oak tree trying to pass yourself off, with fake fruit, as an apple tree?
  • Verse 4 is very similar to 1:6. Do you claim to be a Christian while actively disobeying Scripture, justifying your sin, or giving no consideration to keeping God’s commands? What do 1:6 and 2:4 call people who do this? Is this the description of a saved person or an unsaved person?
  • What does it mean to “walk in the same way in which [Jesus] walked”? Are there any areas of your life that don’t match up with the way Jesus lived?

1 John 2:7-14:

Am I Really Saved? Checkpoint 4: Do I hate others? (9-11)

9 Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. 10 Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. 11 But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.

  • This passage talks about living a lifestyle of hate. Do you have an ongoing pattern of hate in your life? Do you hate a certain person? People who behave a certain way? A a certain racial group or class of people?
  • Compare this passage to 1:5-7. Which two words does John again use to draw a sharp contrast between sin and holiness? What does 2:9 say about people who claim to be Christians, yet whose lives are characterized by hate? What does 2:10 say about the one who loves his brother? Which characterizes the life of the Christian, love or hate?
  • Which three groups of people does John address in verses 12-14? What are the reasons he gives for writing to them?

1 John 2:15-17:

Am I Really Saved? Checkpoint 5: Do I love worldliness?

15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. 17 And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.

  • What does verse 15 mean when it says not to love “the things in the world”? How does verse 16 define this phrase? Can you give some real life examples of “the desires of the flesh”? “The desires of the eyes”? “The pride of life”? Why does verse 16 say these things are “not from the Father”?
  • What does verse 15 say about people who love the things of the world? If “the love of the Father is not in” a person, is that person a Christian? Instead of loving the world, what characterizes a Christian, according to verse 17? Which is temporary, the world, or the one who does the will of God? Which is eternal? (17)

This week, we are examining our salvation with three questions:

1. Do I keep God’s commands?

2. Do I hate others?

3. Do I love worldliness?

Christians, out of love for God, desire to obey Him, love others, and reject worldliness. Lost people may behave outwardly in a way that looks like obedience to God’s commands, but, because they have not been born again, there is no love for Him leading to true obedience and love for others. The lost person’s true love is the things of this temporal world.

Where do you stand in light of 1 John 2:1-17? Do you love the right things, such as God’s word, others, and the things of God? Do you hate the right things, like sin and worldliness? Prayerfully examine your heart, comparing your motives and actions to these Scriptures. Surrender your life to Christ if you find that you are not truly saved. If you are saved, repent of any sin God reveals to you and ask Him to help you “walk in the same way in which [Jesus] walked.”

Additional Resources:

1 John 2– Matthew Henry’s Commentary

Propitiation: How the Cross Affected God by Steve Lawson

True or False? A Study in 1 John– at Naomi’s Table (lessons 7-9)

Old Testament, Sunday School, Worship

Why the Law? ~ Sunday School Lesson ~ 2-22-14

sunday schoolThese are my notes from my ladies’ Sunday School class this morning. I’ll be posting the notes from my class here each week. Click here for last week’s lesson.

Through the Bible in 2014 ~ Week 8 ~ Feb. 16-22
Leviticus 11-27
Why the Law?

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 Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.
Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day.
I long for your salvation, O Lord, and your law is my delight.
Psalm 119:18, 97,174

When David wrote those words, his Bible consisted mainly of the Pentateuch (Genesis – Deuteronomy), the majority of which is law. Did you “behold wondrous things out of,” “love,” and “delight in” your reading of Leviticus? Why do you think God gave Israel the Law? Are Christians supposed to be obeying all these laws? If not, why is the book of Leviticus in the Bible today? While Christians are no longer bound by many of the laws of the OT the Law does show us some pretty amazing things.

 Primary Reasons for the Law

There are three types of law given in the OT:

Ceremonial (sacrifices, feasts, dietary, “daily living”, etc. laws)
Civil (“eye for an eye”, inheritance, property, etc., laws, similar to our local, state, and federal laws)
Moral (adultery, murder, lying, etc.)

Even though Christians are no longer required to keep the ceremonial and civil laws (we are still to obey the moral laws—we’ll get into the “why?” of that in another lesson), we can learn a great deal from them about the nature and character of God and His desires for His people.

For I am the Lord your God. Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy… For I am the Lord who brought you up out of the land of Egypt to be your God. You shall therefore be holy, for I am holy.” Leviticus 11:44a,45

The Law showed Israel they were a distinct people, set apart from other nations. (2 Corinthians 5:17, 1 Peter 2:9-10)
They were to be separate and different in all their ways. They were not to be like idolatrous nations in any way, and the things they ate, wore, even the way they cut their hair reflected this. As Christians, God’s grace has saved us and made us into completely new creatures in Christ. We are “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people;” Do the places we go, the things we say, the things we post on Facebook, the way we act, reflect this?

The Law demonstrates that God is holy. (Isaiah 55:8-9)
God is higher than and set apart from His people. God’s ways are not man’s ways, they are higher, which is why they are often confusing to us and hard to understand. God’s laws and His setting apart of Israel to follow His laws reflected His “otherness” and “set apart-ness.”

The Law shows that people must be holy in order to commune with a holy God (Psalm 24:3-4, Hebrews 9:22)
The cleanliness/unclean laws show that no one can have a right relationship with God unless God first makes him clean. If an Israelite became unclean he could only be made clean and restored to God through the sacrifice or offering God provided for him. We cannot make ourselves clean. It can only be done by God through the shedding of the blood of the Lamb of God (Jesus). “Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins”.

The Law shows us it can’t save us. (Galatians 3:24, Isaiah 64:6, Romans 3:9-20, Hebrews 10:1-18)
Perhaps the greatest thing the Law did for Israel (and for us) was to show them the futility of striving to keep the Law. Not that they should give up on obeying the Law (which is what they often did), but that they needed something greater than the Law to save them since they were utter failures at keeping it. The ease of breaking the laws -even unintentionally- every time they turned around shows the impossibility of keeping the Law perfectly, the extent to which sin taints every move we make, and our desperate need for God’s mercy and forgiveness, which came in the form of a Savior who would make the perfect sacrifice once for all. The Law pointed Israel and us to Jesus.

The Law showed God’s sovereignty over and care for every aspect of life (Matthew 10:29-31 1 Corinthians 10:31)
The laws governed every aspect of life from eating and drinking to illness to “that time of the month,” showing that God was to have dominion over, and be remembered, glorified, and served in, even the smallest parts of an Israelite’s life, just as in the Christian’s life today. We are to do everything His way for His glory. It also shows His attention to detail and that He is concerned about everything about us. Nothing is too small for God, and nothing gets by Him.

The Law provided a way for people to express honor to God. (John 14:15, Colossians 3:16)
While the “do/don’t do this or that” laws honor God by testifying to His holiness, righteousness, and judgment, the feasts testify to God’s provision, benevolence, mercy, forgiveness, salvation, goodness, grace, and rest. The laws allowed the people to show their honor for God through obedience. The feasts gave the people the opportunity to show their honor for God through worship, celebration, and thanksgiving. We have this same opportunity every Sunday!

The Law was a testimony to other nations about God (1 Kings 8:59-61).
God’s ways were not the ways of the false gods of the nations surrounding Israel. His Law was to cleanse and protect the people so they could enjoy fellowship with Him. The worship of false gods was strictly to appease the idols themselves. The intrinsic nature of the laws themselves and Israel’s keeping of them were a testimony to the uniqueness, holiness and glory of God to all the surrounding pagan nations. “This God is different from all the others,” they said, “This is the one true God.” In the same way, our obedience to God shows how different He is from the world’s way of doing things.

 

 

Secondary Reasons for the Law

Most of the laws had secondary, practical reasons behind them, showing us that God doesn’t just care about our spiritual state, but our physical well being as well.

Law and Order
Every society has to have a way of maintaining law and order, protecting people and their stuff, and carrying out justice. Property, inheritance, and other civil and criminal laws protected the personal rights of Israelite citizens. God’s laws about restitution and punishment of criminals show His wisdom and that He is just.

Health
Rules about which animals to eat could have served to prevent food-borne diseases, such as trichinosis, which comes from pork. The multiple laws about quarantining those with leprosy helped stop its spread to others. Recently, scientists have discovered health benefits to circumcision. We know God is a healer, and sometimes He does this in the form of prevention.

Care and Safety Net
God made sure that widows, orphans, and the disabled were cared for and not taken advantage of. His laws showed Israel how to care for the poor and make sure no one went without provision.

But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed. Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.
Galatians 3:23-26

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