Trust

Throwback Thursday ~ In God We Don’t Trust: 3 Ways Bible-Believing Christians Don’t Trust God

Originally published September 28, 2018

“This really is actuallyliterally true,” I found myself urging the ladies to whom I was teaching a Bible lesson.

It was a surreal moment. There wasn’t a woman in that room who would have denied the Bible’s inerrancy or trustworthiness. All of them wholeheartedly agreed with the passage we were discussing and, if asked by anyone, would have said unequivocally that they believed the truth of it.

But there was just this…this thing…nagging at the back of my heart. Why…why did I get the feeling I needed to dig down under their profession of belief in God’s Word and convince them of the gut-level truth of the passage?

I believe these ladies and I were a representative sample of average, genuinely regenerated, Bible-believing Christians. But when I look out across the landscape of denominations and churches and ministries made up of average, genuinely regenerated, Bible-believing Christians, there’s a disconnect between what we say we believe – even what we’re convinced in our hearts we believe – about God, and the way we do life and church.

We’re not living out what we say we believe.

We don’t truly trust who God is, how He works, or what He has told us to do (or not to do) enough to simply take Him at His word and do things His way. And most of the time, we don’t even realize it.

We trust profession over fruit

If someone has walked the church aisle, prayed a “sinner’s prayer”, been baptized, attends an organization that calls itself a church, or simply declares herself to be a Christian, we trust that she’s truly been born again – despite the fact that she follows a myriad of false teachers, gets angry at or argues against the plain reading of God’s Word, lives as a practicing homosexual, runs her life by her own feelings, opinions, and experiences rather than obedience to Scripture, or her behavior is otherwise completely indistinguishable from that of a non-Christian. When it’s our grown children or other deeply loved ones, we cling even more desperately to the belief that “she’s saved because _____”, and she’s safe from an eternity in Hell, regardless of everything we can see in her life to the contrary.

But that is not God’s way. God’s way is that if it walks like a lost duck and quacks like a lost duck, we are to treat it like a lost duck. Yet, we don’t do that. We hide behind “Only God knows the heart,” or “Maybe she’s just backslidden or a ‘carnal Christian’,” when the Bible teaches nothing of the sort. Yes, God is the judge of whether or not someone is ultimately saved, but God has not called us to be the final arbiter of salvation. He has called us to lovingly urge sinners to repent and believe the gospel regardless of their church pedigree or claims of being a Christian. Those who repent and pursue holiness, though imperfectly, are the ones who are genuinely saved.

You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits. “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ Matthew 7:16-21
“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Matthew 18:15-17
But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.” 1 Corinthians 5:11-13

Do we trust the profession faith of someone whose life screams, “LOST!” over God’s Word that teaches us that saved people bear fruit in keeping with repentance and pursue holiness?

We trust man-made solutions over
God’s prescribed methods

Nowhere is this clearer at present than in the social justice movement. Even professing Christians are dreaming up all sorts of ways to right real and perceived wrongs against sexual perversion minorities, blacks (What about other ethnic minorities?), and women. It’s only natural that the world would come up with man-made solutions to these problems, but the church is embracing the ways of the world instead of applying the ways of God.

The world’s solution to the “problem” of sexual perversion not being embraced and celebrated is to socially and legally force dissenters to comply. Financial reparations from people who never owned slaves to people who have never been slaves is the solution to racism. Replacing men in power with women in power will end sexism. Many in evangelicalism are aping these humanistic ploys by accepting the idea of “gay Christianity,” insisting on fabricated “diversity” in congregations, ministries, and denominational leadership, and allowing women to serve as pastors and in other positions of teaching or authority over men in the church.

Again, coming up with our own solutions is not God’s way. God’s way is for us to understand what is sin and what is not, and how to biblically deal with sin.

We need to trust God’s word that there’s a difference between sinfully hurting someone and hurting someone who’s sinning. Just because someone’s feelings have been hurt doesn’t mean she has been sinned against. If I call someone names or treat her unkindly because she is a homosexual or a certain ethnicity or a woman, I am sinfully hurting her. If people are hurt when I humbly, lovingly, and kindly teach what the Bible says about homosexuality or repenting for the sins of my ancestors or the biblical role of women in the church, and call to repentance those who believe and act unbiblically in these areas, they are hurt because they are sinning.

Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy. Proverbs 27:6

We also need to stop viewing sin as systemic – as though racism, “homophobia”, and sexism were living, breathing beings we need to conquer – and start trusting God’s way of holding individuals responsible for their own sins. What is God’s way for us to deal with an individual who is, according to God’s Word, sinning?

Lost sinners: We share the gospel with that person. When God raises a sinner from death in her trespasses and sins to new life in Christ, He breaks the power sin has over her and enables her, through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, to obey His commands. He changes her from a creature who loves sin into a new creature in Christ who hates sin. If you want someone to stop being racist, sexist, or unkind to sexual perversion minorities, plucking leaves off the weed isn’t going to do it. You need the Master Gardener to pull that pernicious plant up by the roots and plant a rose bush in its place. If we really trusted God to transform the heart of a sinner like He says He will, we’d be out there sharing the gospel with everyone we know and we would stop relying on man-made solutions to sin.

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved…For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:1-5,10
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 2 Corinthians 5:17
And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. Ezekiel 36:26-27

✢ Saved Sinners: When a Christian sins, we go to her in love, humility, and kindness, and gently point out what God’s Word says about her sin and her need to repent. If she doesn’t immediately repent, we continue praying for her and calling her to repentance until she proves that she loves her sin more than she loves Christ. Then we regard her as a lost person in need of salvation and preach the gospel to her (see “Lost Sinners” above).

“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Matthew 18:15-17
Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Galatians 6:1

God has never asked us to brainstorm solutions to these issues. He has already laid out in the Bible how we’re to handle problems and hurt and wrongdoing. We often give lip-service to His instructions, but we don’t trust that they will “work”, because, fundamentally, we don’t trust God to do what He says He’ll do in the heart of a sinner or a Believer.

We trust our own efforts over the power of God

It’s a good thing – a godly and biblical thing – to want unsaved people to know Christ and avoid an eternity in Hell. All of us who claim the name of Christ should have this burden for the lost.

But we have to sit down and really come to grips with the fact that salvation is all of God. If a person gets saved, it ultimately does not matter what lengths you went to in order to “get her saved”. Your efforts didn’t save that person. God drew her to Himself and gave her the gift of repentance and faith in Christ. He saved her. He knows whom He will save and when and under what circumstances. We have to trust that God knows what He is doing when it comes to salvation.

It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.” John 6:63-65
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. Ephesians 2:8-9

The vehicle God has chosen to deliver the message of salvation to the lost is the preaching of the gospel.

How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?…So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. Romans 10:14,17

We have the joy and the duty to share the gospel with the lost, but our faith should not be in our ability to share, or our method of sharing, but in the power of God working through His Word that is shared.

Every Christian I know would agree with that statement. But do we really believe it? Instead of simply presenting the gospel to people as we go about our daily lives (as the Great Commission instructs us), pastors preaching the gospel, and elders and teachers teaching the gospel, we trust in our own efforts more than we trust God’s sovereignty in salvation.

We change our church services to be “seeker sensitive,” trusting in cool music and coffee bars and skinny jeans to make Jesus appealing to haters of God. We join cultural causes – like the aforementioned social justice movement – to get the world to like us, thinking, “If we can compromise with the world just enough, we can get them to like us, and then we can introduce them to Jesus, and they’ll like Jesus too.” Wives of unsaved husbands nag-vangelize – undoubtedly out of love and concern – thinking if they just keep trying, they’ll manage to come up with the exact right combination of words at the exact right time, and their husbands will get saved. We offer a dumbed-down gospel, simplistic sinner’s prayers, mood-altering music during the altar call, urgency, scare tactics, guilt – anything, anything, anything…as long as it’s the magic formula to get them through the gates of the Kingdom.

It is wonderful and godly to have that kind of zeal for people to know Christ, but zeal becomes the sin of presumption if it leads us to trust in our own efforts to save someone – especially if those efforts conflict with Scripture or alter the gospel – rather than presenting the biblical gospel, stepping back, and trusting God do His amazing work of salvation. Do we really trust God to be able to save someone through the simple proclamation of His Word?

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20
I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. 2 Timothy 4:1-2

 

If we truly took God at His Word, the visible church would look very different today. We say we want to see God at work in our churches, families, and the world, but, somehow, we think we’ve got to push Him along to make that happen. We over-complicate things and get lost in the weeds of programs and movements and methods and efforts instead of opening our Bibles, believing what God says to believe, doing what God says to do, and trusting Him to do everything else – in His power, in His way, and in His time.

Trust

In God We Don’t Trust: 3 Ways Bible-Believing Christians Don’t Trust God

“This really is actuallyliterally true,” I found myself urging the ladies to whom I was teaching a Bible lesson.

It was a surreal moment. There wasn’t a woman in that room who would have denied the Bible’s inerrancy or trustworthiness. All of them wholeheartedly agreed with the passage we were discussing and, if asked by anyone, would have said unequivocally that they believed the truth of it.

But there was just this…this thing…nagging at the back of my heart. Why…why did I get the feeling I needed to dig down under their profession of belief in God’s Word and convince them of the gut-level truth of the passage?

I believe these ladies and I were a representative sample of average, genuinely regenerated, Bible-believing Christians. But when I look out across the landscape of denominations and churches and ministries made up of average, genuinely regenerated, Bible-believing Christians, there’s a disconnect between what we say we believe – even what we’re convinced in our hearts we believe – about God, and the way we do life and church.

We’re not living out what we say we believe.

We don’t truly trust who God is, how He works, or what He has told us to do (or not to do) enough to simply take Him at His word and do things His way. And most of the time, we don’t even realize it.

We trust profession over fruit

If someone has walked the church aisle, prayed a “sinner’s prayer”, been baptized, attends an organization that calls itself a church, or simply declares herself to be a Christian, we trust that she’s truly been born again – despite the fact that she follows a myriad of false teachers, gets angry at or argues against the plain reading of God’s Word, lives as a practicing homosexual, runs her life by her own feelings, opinions, and experiences rather than obedience to Scripture, or her behavior is otherwise completely indistinguishable from that of a non-Christian. When it’s our grown children or other deeply loved ones, we cling even more desperately to the belief that “she’s saved because _____”, and she’s safe from an eternity in Hell, regardless of everything we can see in her life to the contrary.

But that is not God’s way. God’s way is that if it walks like a lost duck and quacks like a lost duck, we are to treat it like a lost duck. Yet, we don’t do that. We hide behind “Only God knows the heart,” or “Maybe she’s just backslidden or a ‘carnal Christian’,” when the Bible teaches nothing of the sort. Yes, God is the judge of whether or not someone is ultimately saved, but God has not called us to be the final arbiter of salvation. He has called us to lovingly urge sinners to repent and believe the gospel regardless of their church pedigree or claims of being a Christian. Those who repent and pursue holiness, though imperfectly, are the ones who are genuinely saved.

You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits. “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ Matthew 7:16-21

“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Matthew 18:15-17

But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.” 1 Corinthians 5:11-13

Do we trust the profession faith of someone whose life screams, “LOST!” over God’s Word that teaches us that saved people bear fruit in keeping with repentance and pursue holiness?

We trust man-made solutions over
God’s prescribed methods

Nowhere is this clearer at present than in the social justice movement. Even professing Christians are dreaming up all sorts of ways to right real and perceived wrongs against sexual perversion minorities, blacks (What about other ethnic minorities?), and women. It’s only natural that the world would come up with man-made solutions to these problems, but the church is embracing the ways of the world instead of applying the ways of God.

The world’s solution to the “problem” of sexual perversion not being embraced and celebrated is to socially and legally force dissenters to comply. Financial reparations from people who never owned slaves to people who have never been slaves is the solution to racism. Replacing men in power with women in power will end sexism. Many in evangelicalism are aping these humanistic ploys by accepting the idea of “gay Christianity,” insisting on fabricated “diversity” in congregations, ministries, and denominational leadership, and allowing women to serve as pastors and in other positions of teaching or authority over men in the church.

Again, coming up with our own solutions is not God’s way. God’s way is for us to understand what is sin and what is not, and how to biblically deal with sin.

We need to trust God’s word that there’s a difference between sinfully hurting someone and hurting someone who’s sinning. Just because someone’s feelings have been hurt doesn’t mean she has been sinned against. If I call someone names or treat her unkindly because she is a homosexual or a certain ethnicity or a woman, I am sinfully hurting her. If people are hurt when I humbly, lovingly, and kindly teach what the Bible says about homosexuality or repenting for the sins of my ancestors or the biblical role of women in the church, and call to repentance those who believe and act unbiblically in these areas, they are hurt because they are sinning.

Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy. Proverbs 27:6

We also need to stop viewing sin as systemic – as though racism, “homophobia”, and sexism were living, breathing beings we need to conquer – and start trusting God’s way of holding individuals responsible for their own sins. What is God’s way for us to deal with an individual who is, according to God’s Word, sinning?

Lost sinners: We share the gospel with that person. When God raises a sinner from death in her trespasses and sins to new life in Christ, He breaks the power sin has over her and enables her, through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, to obey His commands. He changes her from a creature who loves sin into a new creature in Christ who hates sin. If you want someone to stop being racist, sexist, or unkind to sexual perversion minorities, plucking leaves off the weed isn’t going to do it. You need the Master Gardener to pull that pernicious plant up by the roots and plant a rose bush in its place. If we really trusted God to transform the heart of a sinner like He says He will, we’d be out there sharing the gospel with everyone we know and we would stop relying on man-made solutions to sin.

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved…For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:1-5,10

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 2 Corinthians 5:17

And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. Ezekiel 36:26-27

✢ Saved Sinners: When a Christian sins, we go to her in love, humility, and kindness, and gently point out what God’s Word says about her sin and her need to repent. If she doesn’t immediately repent, we continue praying for her and calling her to repentance until she proves that she loves her sin more than she loves Christ. Then we regard her as a lost person in need of salvation and preach the gospel to her (see “Lost Sinners” above).

“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Matthew 18:15-17

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Galatians 6:1

God has never asked us to brainstorm solutions to these issues. He has already laid out in the Bible how we’re to handle problems and hurt and wrongdoing. We often give lip-service to His instructions, but we don’t trust that they will “work”, because, fundamentally, we don’t trust God to do what He says He’ll do in the heart of a sinner or a Believer.

We trust our own efforts over the power of God

It’s a good thing – a godly and biblical thing – to want unsaved people to know Christ and avoid an eternity in Hell. All of us who claim the name of Christ should have this burden for the lost.

But we have to sit down and really come to grips with the fact that salvation is all of God. If a person gets saved, it ultimately does not matter what lengths you went to in order to “get her saved”. Your efforts didn’t save that person. God drew her to Himself and gave her the gift of repentance and faith in Christ. He saved her. He knows whom He will save and when and under what circumstances. We have to trust that God knows what He is doing when it comes to salvation.

It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.” John 6:63-65

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. Ephesians 2:8-9

The vehicle God has chosen to deliver the message of salvation to the lost is the preaching of the gospel.

How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?…So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. Romans 10:14,17

We have the joy and the duty to share the gospel with the lost, but our faith should not be in our ability to share, or our method of sharing, but in the power of God working through His Word that is shared.

Every Christian I know would agree with that statement. But do we really believe it? Instead of simply presenting the gospel to people as we go about our daily lives (as the Great Commission instructs us), pastors preaching the gospel, and elders and teachers teaching the gospel, we trust in our own efforts more than we trust God’s sovereignty in salvation.

We change our church services to be “seeker sensitive,” trusting in cool music and coffee bars and skinny jeans to make Jesus appealing to haters of God. We join cultural causes – like the aforementioned social justice movement – to get the world to like us, thinking, “If we can compromise with the world just enough, we can get them to like us, and then we can introduce them to Jesus, and they’ll like Jesus too.” Wives of unsaved husbands nag-vangelize – undoubtedly out of love and concern – thinking if they just keep trying, they’ll manage to come up with the exact right combination of words at the exact right time, and their husbands will get saved. We offer a dumbed-down gospel, simplistic sinner’s prayers, mood-altering music during the altar call, urgency, scare tactics, guilt – anything, anything, anything…as long as it’s the magic formula to get them through the gates of the Kingdom.

It is wonderful and godly to have that kind of zeal for people to know Christ, but zeal becomes the sin of presumption if it leads us to trust in our own efforts to save someone – especially if those efforts conflict with Scripture or alter the gospel – rather than presenting the biblical gospel, stepping back, and trusting God do His amazing work of salvation. Do we really trust God to be able to save someone through the simple proclamation of His Word?

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. 2 Timothy 4:1-2

 

If we truly took God at His Word, the visible church would look very different today. We say we want to see God at work in our churches, families, and the world, but, somehow, we think we’ve got to push Him along to make that happen. We over-complicate things and get lost in the weeds of programs and movements and methods and efforts instead of opening our Bibles, believing what God says to believe, doing what God says to do, and trusting Him to do everything else – in His power, in His way, and in His time.

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.

Ruth Bible Study

Ruth: Lesson 5

Previous Lessons: 1, 2, 3, 4

Ruth 4

Now Boaz had gone up to the gate and sat down there. And behold, the redeemer, of whom Boaz had spoken, came by. So Boaz said, “Turn aside, friend; sit down here.” And he turned aside and sat down.And he took ten men of the elders of the city and said, “Sit down here.” So they sat down. Then he said to the redeemer, “Naomi, who has come back from the country of Moab, is selling the parcel of land that belonged to our relative Elimelech. So I thought I would tell you of it and say, ‘Buy it in the presence of those sitting here and in the presence of the elders of my people.’ If you will redeem it, redeem it. But if you will not, tell me, that I may know, for there is no one besides you to redeem it, and I come after you.” And he said, “I will redeem it.” Then Boaz said, “The day you buy the field from the hand of Naomi, you also acquire Ruth the Moabite, the widow of the dead, in order to perpetuate the name of the dead in his inheritance.” Then the redeemer said, “I cannot redeem it for myself, lest I impair my own inheritance. Take my right of redemption yourself, for I cannot redeem it.”

Now this was the custom in former times in Israel concerning redeeming and exchanging: to confirm a transaction, the one drew off his sandal and gave it to the other, and this was the manner of attesting in Israel. So when the redeemer said to Boaz, “Buy it for yourself,” he drew off his sandal. Then Boaz said to the elders and all the people, “You are witnesses this day that I have bought from the hand of Naomi all that belonged to Elimelech and all that belonged to Chilion and to Mahlon. 10 Also Ruth the Moabite, the widow of Mahlon, I have bought to be my wife, to perpetuate the name of the dead in his inheritance, that the name of the dead may not be cut off from among his brothers and from the gate of his native place. You are witnesses this day.” 11 Then all the people who were at the gate and the elders said, “We are witnesses. May the Lord make the woman, who is coming into your house, like Rachel and Leah, who together built up the house of Israel. May you act worthily in Ephrathah and be renowned in Bethlehem, 12 and may your house be like the house of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah, because of the offspring that the Lord will give you by this young woman.”

13 So Boaz took Ruth, and she became his wife. And he went in to her, and the Lord gave her conception, and she bore a son. 14 Then the women said to Naomi, “Blessed be the Lord, who has not left you this day without a redeemer, and may his name be renowned in Israel! 15 He shall be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age, for your daughter-in-law who loves you, who is more to you than seven sons, has given birth to him.” 16 Then Naomi took the child and laid him on her lap and became his nurse.17 And the women of the neighborhood gave him a name, saying, “A son has been born to Naomi.” They named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David.

18 Now these are the generations of Perez: Perez fathered Hezron, 19 Hezron fathered Ram, Ram fathered Amminadab, 20 Amminadab fathered Nahshon, Nahshon fathered Salmon, 21 Salmon fathered Boaz, Boaz fathered Obed, 22 Obed fathered Jesse, and Jesse fathered David.


The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.


Questions to Consider

1. Briefly refresh your memory on Deuteronomy 25:5-10 (God’s instructions for levirate marriage), and read Leviticus 25:23-28 (God’s instructions for selling and redeeming property). Compare the actions of Boaz and the other redeemer (1-10) to these two passages. Did both of them obey the law? Since Boaz is a type of Christ, how does his fulfillment of this law point us to Christ’s fulfillment of the Law? Compare Boaz’s obedience to the law in order to redeem Ruth to Christ’s obedience to the Law in order to redeem sinners.

2. Why do you think Boaz first proffered the sale of the property to the other redeemer rather than mentioning Ruth first? (3-5)

3. Compare the other redeemer’s unwillingness to bear the cost of redeeming Ruth (6) with Boaz’s willingness to endure great cost to himself to redeem Ruth (9-10). How does this point us to Christ’s willingness to empty Himself of the riches of Heaven to redeem sinners?

4. Examine verses 9-10. Would you characterize this business transaction more as an investment for financial gain or the purchase of a debt? Who stood to gain materially from this transaction, Ruth or Boaz? How? When Christ redeemed us by purchasing us with His blood, who stood to gain from that transaction, Him or us? Read these passages, and examine Christ’s purchase of our sin debt and the benefit we receive at salvation by His righteousness being imputed to us.

5. Notice the impact Ruth and Naomi’s story had on the women of the town who had been watching these events transpire. (13-17) How were Ruth’s, Naomi’s, and Boaz’s godly behavior a witness to these women of God’s goodness and faithfulness? Consider your own life. How could your godly words and actions point watching women to Christ and open a door for you to share the gospel with them?

6. Why did the women say, “A son has been born to Naomi,” (17) when Obed was Ruth’s baby? (10)

7. Compare verses 18-21 with these passages. How do the people mentioned in verses 18-21 fit into the family line of Christ? How does the story of Ruth and her family line showcase God’s sovereignty and the way – centuries in advance – He was setting events in motion and working out His plan for the coming of Christ?


Homework

Just as Ruth was living in poverty and needed someone to redeem her out of that life, someone you know is living in the poverty of sin and needs Jesus to redeem her from eternal death to eternal life. She needs Jesus to purchase her sin debt and give her the riches of His righteousness in exchange. This week, share the gospel with someone. Tell her about Jesus our Redeemer.

Ruth Bible Study

Ruth: Lesson 4

Previous Lessons: 1, 2, 3

Ruth 3

Then Naomi her mother-in-law said to her, “My daughter, should I not seek rest for you, that it may be well with you? Is not Boaz our relative, with whose young women you were? See, he is winnowing barley tonight at the threshing floor. Wash therefore and anoint yourself, and put on your cloak and go down to the threshing floor, but do not make yourself known to the man until he has finished eating and drinking. But when he lies down, observe the place where he lies. Then go and uncover his feet and lie down, and he will tell you what to do.” And she replied, “All that you say I will do.”

So she went down to the threshing floor and did just as her mother-in-law had commanded her. And when Boaz had eaten and drunk, and his heart was merry, he went to lie down at the end of the heap of grain. Then she came softly and uncovered his feet and lay down. At midnight the man was startled and turned over, and behold, a woman lay at his feet! He said, “Who are you?” And she answered, “I am Ruth, your servant. Spread your wings over your servant, for you are a redeemer.” 10 And he said, “May you be blessed by the Lord, my daughter. You have made this last kindness greater than the first in that you have not gone after young men, whether poor or rich. 11 And now, my daughter, do not fear. I will do for you all that you ask, for all my fellow townsmen know that you are a worthy woman. 12 And now it is true that I am a redeemer. Yet there is a redeemer nearer than I. 13 Remain tonight, and in the morning, if he will redeem you, good; let him do it. But if he is not willing to redeem you, then, as the Lord lives, I will redeem you. Lie down until the morning.”

14 So she lay at his feet until the morning, but arose before one could recognize another. And he said, “Let it not be known that the woman came to the threshing floor.” 15 And he said, “Bring the garment you are wearing and hold it out.” So she held it, and he measured out six measures of barley and put it on her. Then she went into the city. 16 And when she came to her mother-in-law, she said, “How did you fare, my daughter?” Then she told her all that the man had done for her, 17 saying, “These six measures of barley he gave to me, for he said to me, ‘You must not go back empty-handed to your mother-in-law.’” 18 She replied, “Wait, my daughter, until you learn how the matter turns out, for the man will not rest but will settle the matter today.”


The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.


Questions to Consider

1. What did Naomi mean when she said she wanted to “seek rest” for Ruth?

2. In order to understand what is about to transpire between Ruth and Boaz in Ruth 3 and 4, it’s important to familiarize yourself with Deuteronomy 25:5-10, God’s instructions for levirate marriage. What was the purpose of levirate marriage? Why is it significant that Boaz was a relative of Naomi’s? (2) How was he related to her family? What did it mean that Boaz was a “redeemer,” and that there was a nearer redeemer than he? (9, 12-13)

3. Naomi’s instructions to Ruth (1-8) may seem a little odd, even inappropriate, to our Christian way of thinking. This is why it’s important, when studying God’s word, to understand, as best we can, the culture and customs of the audience of the book we’re studying. Read this commentary on Ruth 3:2-4. Were Ruth’s actions in any way immoral or inappropriate, biblically, or in her culture? What did Ruth mean when she said, “Spread your wings over your servant”? What was Ruth trying to convey to Boaz by her words and actions?

4. What are some ways Ruth demonstrates submission and humility in this passage? Compare Ruth’s demeanor with 1 Peter 3:4. How does Ruth model a “gentle and quiet spirit”?

5. Examine Naomi’s wisdom and counsel to Ruth in this chapter. How does Naomi exemplify the older “Titus 2 Woman“? How does Ruth exemplify the younger “Titus 2 Woman”?

6. If Boaz is a type (symbol, foreshadowing) of Christ, who does Ruth symbolize? Did Ruth have anything to offer Boaz that would make this marriage materially beneficial to him? When we come to Christ as sinners, do we have anything to offer Him that would make us “worthy” of saving? Compare Ruth’s humility and dependence on the good graces of Boaz to redeem her to our humility and dependence on God’s grace and mercy to redeem us. Compare verses 13b-14 to Ephesians 2:1,4-6. If Ruth represents us as sinners, what does her lying down for the night and rising at dawn symbolize?


Homework

Boaz points us to Christ as our redeemer. Look up the word “redeem” in a Bible dictionary and study these verses. What does it mean for Christ to “redeem” us- that He is our “Redeemer”?