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.

Salvation, Sanctification

Throwback Thursday ~ Sinatra Saints and Developing Disciples

Originally published September 7, 2018

“I don’t get it. I just don’t get it.”

My friend, who’s also in women’s ministry, and I were discussing a phenomenon we’re seeing more and more among professing Christian women (and among men, too, I’m sure). I call it “Sinatra Sin-drome”.

Most of us are too young to be able to remember Frank Sinatra in his heyday, but one of the songs he was best known for was My Way. The lyrics open with a man who’s near death looking back over his life. He recounts his adventures and regrets, the good times and the bad, but no matter what came his way, he faced life on his own terms. “I did it my way,” is the refrain woven into the fabric of the entire song. The last stanza is especially telling:

For what is a man, what has he got?
If not himself, then he has naught
To say the things he truly feels and not the words of one who kneels
The record shows I took the blows and did it my way.¹

This man kneels all right. He kneels at the altar of self. Nobody else is going to tell him what to do. He’s going to do what he wants to do.

Most of the women my friend and I were discussing are either savvy enough or self-deceived enough that they would never dream of even thinking in these clear-cut terms, much less stating them so boldly. And yet, for many, their hearts beat to the rhythm of My Way.

One example of this kind of mindset – though it may have been an isolated incident in the lives of some women – came out in some of the comments on my recent Mailbag article, Should Christian women cover up while breastfeeding?. The sentiment behind the words from several women was, “What the Bible says about the shame of nakedness and denying self to serve others means less to me than: the law that says I have a right…the culture where I live that says it’s OK…my personal experience with the way my baby nurses that demands that I not cover up.”

It came out in a rather puzzling conversation I had with a reader, “B”, who sent me the link to my article on Priscilla Shirer and demanded to know why I think Priscilla is a false teacher (even though the article, which “B” claimed to have read, clearly demonstrates from Scripture why she’s a false teacher). It wasn’t that “B” didn’t have the information and Scriptures right in front of her, it was that she didn’t like what Scripture says about Priscilla. She loves Priscilla Shirer, so she’s willing to put her own feelings above what Scripture says.

It comes out constantly with the issue of women preaching to, teaching, and exercising authority over men in the church setting in violation of 1 Timothy 2:12. “I feel called to preach.” “It’s OK if I teach this co-ed Sunday School class because I have my pastor’s/husband’s permission.” “I can preach a sermon to a mixed audience at this event, because it’s not in a church, it’s at a Christian conference.”

And it always comes out when the topic is Christian women dressing modestly. “I can wear what I want! If men have issues with lust, that’s their problem. They can just avert their eyes.”

Now, let’s be clear, any time you or I or anyone else sins, we are – consciously or subconsciously – saying through that sinful thought, word, or action, “I don’t care what the Bible says about this, I want to do what I want to do.” I’m sure my own words and actions have shouted that rebellion against God loud and clear on many occasions.

But there’s a difference between…

A Developing Disciple
A Christian who is striving to do things God’s way, who occasionally stumbles into sin or gives in to a momentary weakness of the flesh. When confronted with what Scripture says on the subject, she sorrowfully repents and submits to God’s Word.

and

A Sinatra Saint
A person who claims to be a Christian and generally aligns with what the Bible says as long as it agrees with her. When confronted with what Scripture plainly says about her beliefs or actions, she doesn’t repent, but digs in her heels and attempts to justify herself, often with claims like, “Well that’s just your opinion/interpretation,” or “That’s not really what that passage means.”

Sometimes it can be hard to come to grips with a difficult passage of Scripture that challenges something you’ve believed or done your whole life. (Hey, I’ve been there. It’s no picnic.) But the difference between a Developing Disciple and a Sinatra Saint is that the Developing Disciple will grapple with the passage with an overall desire to properly understand and submit to that Scripture, even if it’s hard, while, for the Sinatra Saint, it’s a no-brainer. Her opinions, feelings, or personal experiences win. Because it’s not just that one isolated issue, it’s her whole outlook and approach to life.

Am I saying that a woman who thinks it’s OK to let it all hang out while she’s nursing her baby isn’t saved? Of course not. What I’m saying is that if your general approach to life is, “I’m doing it my way and if the Bible wants to align with me, fine, and if not, that’s fine, too,” you’d better start examining your heart pretty carefully against Scripture to discover whether or not you’re actually saved.

Why? Because that’s what the Bible says. And if you claim to be a Christian, the Bible is your authority in life, not yourself.

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.
Ezekiel 36:26

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

This isn’t just flowery, poetic language. When Christ saves a person, he literally changes that person into a new type of creature with a different way of thinking, different likes and dislikes, different goals, different responses.

Imagine if you had a magic wand and could change a house cat into an elephant. When the cat was a cat, he wanted to chase mice. Now that he’s an elephant, he’s afraid of mice. As a cat, he craved tuna, but as an elephant, he turns his trunk up at meat, preferring an herbivorous diet. No more baring his claws to scratch at an enemy; now he tramples and uses his tusks to ward off danger. The coziness of hearth and home? Nope. The elephant prefers the wide open savanna.

And all of that is nothing compared to the radical transformation that takes place in the heart of someone who has been genuinely regenerated by Christ.

Christ changes our mindset from the mind set on the flesh to the mind set on the Spirit:

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.
Romans 8:5-9

Christ changes our will – from desiring what Satan desires to desiring what God desires:

You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires.
John 8:44a

Now may the God of peace…equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.
Hebrews 13:20a,21

Christ changes our behavior from willful disobedience to joyful obedience:

“Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?”
Luke 6:46

If you love me, you will keep my commandments. John 14:15  Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. John 14:21a  For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. 1 John 5:3

Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him,
1 John 2:4

And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments.
1 John 2:3

Christ changes us from His enemies to His friends:

You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.
James 4:4

They are…haters of God
Romans 1:29b,30a

The friendship of the Lord is for those who fear him, and he makes known to them his covenant.
Psalm 25:14

You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.
John 15:14-15

Christ changes us from believing Satan’s lies to believing God’s truth:

Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me. Which one of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me? Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.”
John 8:43-47

Has there been a radical transformation like that in your heart and life as a result of repenting of your sin and placing your faith in Christ? You can be your own authority and have “I did it my way,” as the theme song of your life, but you can’t do that and be a Christian too. The two are mutually exclusive. It doesn’t matter if you’ve walked an aisle, made a “decision”, prayed a prayer, been baptized, joined a church, are a “good person”, and do all sorts of good deeds, if your heart and your desires aren’t generally oriented toward Christ, growing toward in Him and away from self, you aren’t saved.

But that can be remedied right now. The gospel is right there, ready for you to repent of your sins and believe. Take some uninterrupted time alone with God and measure your life and your heart against the plumb line of His Word. Is it “I did it my way,” or “I’ll do it Thy way.”?

Are you a Developing Disciple or a Sinatra Saint?


¹My Way. AZLyrics. https://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/franksinatra/myway.html
Salvation, Sanctification

Sinatra Saints and Developing Disciples

“I don’t get it. I just don’t get it.”

My friend, who’s also in women’s ministry, and I were discussing a phenomenon we’re seeing more and more among professing Christian women (and among men, too, I’m sure). I call it “Sinatra Sin-drome”.

Most of us are too young to be able to remember Frank Sinatra in his heyday, but one of the songs he was best known for was My Way. The lyrics open with a man who’s near death looking back over his life. He recounts his adventures and regrets, the good times and the bad, but no matter what came his way, he faced life on his own terms. “I did it my way,” is the refrain woven into the fabric of the entire song. The last stanza is especially telling:

For what is a man, what has he got?
If not himself, then he has naught
To say the things he truly feels and not the words of one who kneels
The record shows I took the blows and did it my way.¹

This man kneels all right. He kneels at the altar of self. Nobody else is going to tell him what to do. He’s going to do what he wants to do.

Most of the women my friend and I were discussing are either savvy enough or self-deceived enough that they would never dream of even thinking in these clear-cut terms, much less stating them so boldly. And yet, for many, their hearts beat to the rhythm of My Way.

One example of this kind of mindset – though it may have been an isolated incident in the lives of some women – came out in some of the comments on my recent Mailbag article, Should Christian women cover up while breastfeeding?. The sentiment behind the words from several women was, “What the Bible says about the shame of nakedness and denying self to serve others means less to me than: the law that says I have a right…the culture where I live that says it’s OK…my personal experience with the way my baby nurses that demands that I not cover up.”

It came out in a rather puzzling conversation I had with a reader, “B”, who sent me the link to my article on Priscilla Shirer and demanded to know why I think Priscilla is a false teacher (even though the article, which “B” claimed to have read, clearly demonstrates from Scripture why she’s a false teacher). It wasn’t that “B” didn’t have the information and Scriptures right in front of her, it was that she didn’t like what Scripture says about Priscilla. She loves Priscilla Shirer, so she’s willing to put her own feelings above what Scripture says.

It comes out constantly with the issue of women preaching to, teaching, and exercising authority over men in the church setting in violation of 1 Timothy 2:12. “I feel called to preach.” “It’s OK if I teach this co-ed Sunday School class because I have my pastor’s/husband’s permission.” “I can preach a sermon to a mixed audience at this event, because it’s not in a church, it’s at a Christian conference.”

And it always comes out when the topic is Christian women dressing modestly. “I can wear what I want! If men have issues with lust, that’s their problem. They can just avert their eyes.”

Now, let’s be clear, any time you or I or anyone else sins, we are – consciously or subconsciously – saying through that sinful thought, word, or action, “I don’t care what the Bible says about this, I want to do what I want to do.” I’m sure my own words and actions have shouted that rebellion against God loud and clear on many occasions.

But there’s a difference between…

A Developing Disciple
A Christian who is striving to do things God’s way, who occasionally stumbles into sin or gives in to a momentary weakness of the flesh. When confronted with what Scripture says on the subject, she sorrowfully repents and submits to God’s Word.

and

A Sinatra Saint
A person who claims to be a Christian and generally aligns with what the Bible says as long as it agrees with her. When confronted with what Scripture plainly says about her beliefs or actions, she doesn’t repent, but digs in her heels and attempts to justify herself, often with claims like, “Well that’s just your opinion/interpretation,” or “That’s not really what that passage means.”

Sometimes it can be hard to come to grips with a difficult passage of Scripture that challenges something you’ve believed or done your whole life. (Hey, I’ve been there. It’s no picnic.) But the difference between a Developing Disciple and a Sinatra Saint is that the Developing Disciple will grapple with the passage with an overall desire to properly understand and submit to that Scripture, even if it’s hard, while, for the Sinatra Saint, it’s a no-brainer. Her opinions, feelings, or personal experiences win. Because it’s not just that one isolated issue, it’s her whole outlook and approach to life.

Am I saying that a woman who thinks it’s OK to let it all hang out while she’s nursing her baby isn’t saved? Of course not. What I’m saying is that if your general approach to life is, “I’m doing it my way and if the Bible wants to align with me, fine, and if not, that’s fine, too,” you’d better start examining your heart pretty carefully against Scripture to discover whether or not you’re actually saved.

Why? Because that’s what the Bible says. And if you claim to be a Christian, the Bible is your authority in life, not yourself.

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.
Ezekiel 36:26

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

This isn’t just flowery, poetic language. When Christ saves a person, he literally changes that person into a new type of creature with a different way of thinking, different likes and dislikes, different goals, different responses.

Imagine if you had a magic wand and could change a house cat into an elephant. When the cat was a cat, he wanted to chase mice. Now that he’s an elephant, he’s afraid of mice. As a cat, he craved tuna, but as an elephant, he turns his trunk up at meat, preferring an herbivorous diet. No more baring his claws to scratch at an enemy; now he tramples and uses his tusks to ward off danger. The coziness of hearth and home? Nope. The elephant prefers the wide open savanna.

And all of that is nothing compared to the radical transformation that takes place in the heart of someone who has been genuinely regenerated by Christ.

Christ changes our mindset from the mind set on the flesh to the mind set on the Spirit:

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.
Romans 8:5-9

Christ changes our will – from desiring what Satan desires to desiring what God desires:

You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires.
John 8:44a

Now may the God of peace…equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.
Hebrews 13:20a,21

Christ changes our behavior from willful disobedience to joyful obedience:

“Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?”
Luke 6:46

If you love me, you will keep my commandments. John 14:15  Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. John 14:21a  For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. 1 John 5:3

Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him,
1 John 2:4

And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments.
1 John 2:3

Christ changes us from His enemies to His friends:

You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.
James 4:4

They are…haters of God
Romans 1:29b,30a

The friendship of the Lord is for those who fear him, and he makes known to them his covenant.
Psalm 25:14

You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.
John 15:14-15

Christ changes us from believing Satan’s lies to believing God’s truth:

Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me. Which one of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me? Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.”
John 8:43-47

Has there been a radical transformation like that in your heart and life as a result of repenting of your sin and placing your faith in Christ? You can be your own authority and have “I did it my way,” as the theme song of your life, but you can’t do that and be a Christian too. The two are mutually exclusive. It doesn’t matter if you’ve walked an aisle, made a “decision”, prayed a prayer, been baptized, joined a church, are a “good person”, and do all sorts of good deeds, if your heart and your desires aren’t generally oriented toward Christ, growing toward in Him and away from self, you aren’t saved.

But that can be remedied right now. The gospel is right there, ready for you to repent of your sins and believe. Take some uninterrupted time alone with God and measure your life and your heart against the plumb line of His Word. Is it “I did it my way,” or “I’ll do it Thy way.”?

Are you a Developing Disciple or a Sinatra Saint?


¹My Way. AZLyrics. https://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/franksinatra/myway.html
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.