Verse 21, “… if there had been a law given which could have given life, truly righteousness would have been by the law.”
I touched on this a couple of days ago when I talked about how we are all legalists at heart. We are so prone to believe that if we are somehow just good enough, we can be right with God. So often when you ask people why they think they will go to heaven, they will say “because I’m a pretty good person.”
But Romans tells us, “there is none righteous, no not one” (Rom. 3.10). We cannot be right with God on our own. As Jesus told us in John 3, we must be born again by the Spirit of God. We must accept Christ’s sacrifice and payment for our sin.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Eph. 2.8-9).
We are saved by grace through faith in the Son and what He did for us. Ephesians 2.10 tells us that a changed life will produce good works, but they cannot make us righteous. Instead, good works flow from our righteousness in Him.
Just as we are saved by grace, we are kept by the same grace.
Jesus said in John 10:
27 My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.28 And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.29 My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand.
In Romans 8, Paul said:
38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
And in Ephesians 1:
13 In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.
While it is not a license to sin (Rom. 6.1-2), our eternal security is sure because it’s not based on our ability to hang on to it. It’s based on His promises, His power, and His grace.
I’ve noticed that most people either find prayer a natural part of their Christian life or thoroughly enjoy studying the Bible. But rarely, have I met someone who says both come easily and naturally to them. Yet, it’s the two of them working together that are God’s essential means of Christian growth.
Welcome to Mondays @ Soul Survival
The 2 Essential Means of Christian Growth
Bible study comes pretty easy for me. I love reading my Bible. That doesn’t mean I do it perfectly or haven’t had to discipline myself to make it a part of my daily life, but once I acquired that habit, my hunger for God’s Word grew. And now I can’t see my life without reading and studying God’s Word.
I, also, know that prayer is important. I teach others that prayer is a necessary part of our Christian life. And I pray. Or maybe I should say, I work at praying.
I have a prayer list and verses of Scripture I like to pray for my husband, myself, and those I love. I pray as part of my journaling (the most effective way for me). I’m not afraid to pray in restaurants and other public places. I pray alone. I pray with others.
I want prayer to be like breathing for me. But the truth is, it’s more like work.
What comes easier for you? Is it prayer? Or is it reading and studying your Bible?
These two means of grace must be used in their right proportion. If we read the Word and do not pray, we may become puffed up with knowledge, without the love that buildeth up. If we pray without reading the Word, we shall be ignorant of the mind and will of God, and become mystical and fanatical, and liable to be blown about by every wind of doctrine.
When it comes to prayer, I’ve read many books and heard more than a few sermons. I always go away more motivated and, often, excited about something new I want to incorporate into my prayer life. Other times the message is a reminder of something I know to be true. But, honestly, I find I still have to discipline myself to pray.
Jesus said that prayer can move mountains (Mk. 11.23) and James said, “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much” (Jas. 5.16b). James went on to say:
17 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months. 18 And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit.
Hannah prayed and God opened her womb (1 Sam. 1).
Elisha prayed and a boy was raised from the dead (2 Kings 4.32-37).
Sampson prayed and God answered, even after he failed miserably:
28 Then Samson called to the Lord, saying, “O Lord God, remember me, I pray! Strengthen me, I pray, just this once, O God, that I may with one blow take vengeance on the Philistines for my two eyes!” 29 And Samson took hold of the two middle pillars which supported the temple, and he braced himself against them, one on his right and the other on his left. 30 Then Samson said, “Let me die with the Philistines!” And he pushed with all his might, and the temple fell on the lords and all the people who were in it. So the dead that he killed at his death were more than he had killed in his life (Judges 16.28-30).
Daniel prayed and God sent the Angel Gabriel. Cornelius prayed and God sent Peter to his home. Peter’s friends prayed and he was released from prison. Paul and Silas prayed and a jailer and his family were saved. Over and over again in the Bible we see God move in response to prayer.
Jesus prayed before He chose His twelve apostles, when faced with the demands of ministry, when a friend died, on the night He was betrayed, and just before He died for the sins of the world.
We’re taught to pray (Matt. 6.9-13), encouraged to pray (Lk. 18.1), and commanded to pray (1 Thess 5.17). Prayer is mentioned over 250 times in the Bible. So, why is prayer so important?
Simply put, prayer is the best way for us to communicate with God. Reading His Word is listening to Him. Prayer is our response. Any relationship requires the give and take of both.
Prayer offers us the opportunity to acknowledge our need for God, to confess our sins and to thank Him for His many blessings. It helps us stay dependent on Him, instead of relying on ourselves.
God doesn’t need us to pray; He wants us to pray. He can perform His will with or without us, but He has given us the privilege of being part of what He’s doing in the earth.
I don’t know about you, but it makes me wonder why I have so much trouble disciplining myself to pray, at times.
It seems many of our politicians on both sides of the aisle are more concerned about how their current decisions and the laws they pass affect them directly. Their primary goal appears to be getting re-elected rather than doing what’s right. Yet we have a responsibility to pray for those God has placed in authority.
Reading about Hezekiah made me think of some of our politicians.
5 Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, “Hear the word of the LORD of hosts. 6 ‘Behold, the days are coming when all that is in your house, and what your fathers have accumulated until this day, shall be carried to Babylon; nothing shall be left,’ says the LORD. 7 ‘And they shall take away some of your sons who will descend from you, whom you will beget; and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.’”
8 So Hezekiah said to Isaiah, “The word of the LORD which you have spoken is good!” For he said, “At least there will be peace and truth in my days.”
The Prophet had just told him, Hezekiah, your choices and the accumulated rebellion of your generation are going to lead to the destruction of your nation as you know it. Your children and grandchildren are going to be taken into slavery, some will even be castrated. And, instead of calling his nation to repentance, his response was, “At least it will be good for me!”
It seems many of our politicians on both sides of the aisle are more concerned about how their current decisions and the laws they pass affect them directly, too. Their primary goal appears to be getting re-elected rather than doing what’s right. Without a revival in our nation, I don’t see that changing.
But that doesn’t excuse us from praying for those God has placed in authority:
1 Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, 2 for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. 3 For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Tim. 2.1-4).
If there is to be a reprieve in God’s judgment on our nation, it’s only going to happen because the hearts of our leaders change. Only then will they make right, though painful, economic decisions. Only then will they call for racial unity. Only then will they make good moral choices, even at great personal cost.
Let’s pray for revival in our nation’s capitol and her people.
Chapter 40 makes we wonder afresh if we really understand the awesomeness of God:
12 Who has measured the waters in the hollow of His hand,
Measured heaven with a span
And calculated the dust of the earth in a measure?
Weighed the mountains in scales
And the hills in a balance?
13 Who has directed the Spirit of the LORD,
Or as His counselor has taught Him?
14 With whom did He take counsel, and who instructed Him,
And taught Him in the path of justice?
Who taught Him knowledge,
And showed Him the way of understanding?
Though the Bible is not primarily a book about science, where it does speak of science or any other subject, it is truth! Verse 22, for example, says, “It is He who sits above the circle of the earth …” He told us the earth was round long before science figured it out!
Although many theories laid out by sinful, unredeemed men contradict the Bible (remember it’s the theory of evolution), true science does not!
Chapter 40 goes on:
26 Lift up your eyes on high,
And see who has created these things,
Who brings out their host by number;
He calls them all by name,
By the greatness of His might
And the strength of His power;
Not one is missing.
Just look up! The heavens declare His majesty. The order and magnificence of the universe speaks of a Creator. The intricacies of the human body alone confirm to anyone who wants to know the truth that nothing happened by mere chance.
God is upholding everything! He “brings out their host by number; He calls them all by name.” The host—all the stars and planets and all the universes that exist, do so because He created them. He already knows just how many there are even as we continue to discover new ones. He has already named each one of them. Just as He declared what a set of pagan parents would name their son (King Cyrus) a hundred and fifty years before, so He pre-ordained the name of each star and planet and solar system.
And if that’s not enough, it’s His power which holds each one in its place, “by the greatness of His might and the strength of His power; not one is missing.”
What an amazing thing that the Creator of everything in the heavens above and the earth beneath invites us to have a relationship with Him!
Today’s Other Readings:
For His Name’s Sake
And when we have a right relationship with Him, He deals with us through His mercy and grace.
“But You, O GOD the Lord, deal with me for Your name’s sake; because Your mercy is good, deliver me” (v. 21).
The Curse of Sin
“Like a flitting sparrow, like a flying swallow, so a curse without cause shall not alight.”
Certainly, this can apply to the laws of sowing and reaping, but the world as a whole is under the curse of sin. One day it will be destroyed because of God’s righteous judgment and will be replaced with a new heaven and a new earth (Rev. 21.1).
Justified by Faith
When God destroys the earth, those of us who have been justified by faith (v. 16) will not be destroyed with it.
1 Thessalonians 4:
16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore comfort one another with these words.
God is in control of everything and the best preparation we can take for the catastrophic changes coming to the world is not environmental restrictions. It’s not stocking up on survival gear. The most important preparation is the preparation of our hearts and cultivating a passion to share Christ with those who don’t know Him.
Let’s not be like Hezekiah in the spiritual sense, thinking we won’t be around to worry about all this.
In the next few days we’ll talk more about legalism, especially in our parenting, whether or not things God hates could be part of our lives and more.
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Have you ever spoken the truth to someone concerning some area of sin, only to have them say, “You’re being legalistic!”? Perhaps you’ve even said those words yourself. But is a call to obey God’s clear commands legalism?
Millard Erickson says:
Scripture does not give us any basis for disregarding God’s revealed commands. Jesus said, “If you love me, you will obey what I command” (Jn. 14.15), and “You are my friends if you do what I command” (Jn. 15.14). We are not at liberty to reject such commands; to do so would be an abuse of Christian freedom. Therefore, we must seek to guide our lives by these precepts. Such behavior is not legalism. Legalism is a slavish following of the law in the belief that one thereby earns merit; it also entails a refusal to go beyond the formal or literal requirements of the law. It is ineffectual because it ignores the facts that we never outgrow the need for divine grace and that the essence of the law is love.
The words legalist and legalism don’t appear in the Bible, but Jesus painted us a portrait of a one in Luke 18:
9 Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector.12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’13 And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
Legalists are opposed to grace. Like this Pharisee, legalists often have a strict set of rules and regulations that must be kept. They often add to the Bible’s commands or apply them in harsh, judgmental ways. They fail to understand that the law was our schoolmaster to show us our need for Christ (Gal. 3.24-25) and that none of us can keep it perfectly (Rom. 3.10-12).
Legalism doesn’t change the heart. Paul said:
Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules: “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? These are all destined to perish with use, because they are based on human commands and teachings. Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence (Col. 2.20-23).
In today’s reading, the Galatians, who had received the Gospel of salvation by grace, had been infiltrated by Judaizers, men who wanted to impose their own legalistic requirements on them. It’s as if someone came into your church or mine and began to hold his own Bible study telling people they are not really saved unless they’ve been baptized, become vegetarians, get circumcised, take communion every week, worship on a certain day, or some other list of requirements. It may sound foolish, but if you don’t know the truth and have it firmly fixed in your mind, you will fall for anything!
A Subtle Trap
Legalism can show up in other, more subtle ways. Many people who sit in church every week, when asked if they’re sure they’ll get to heaven will say “yes,” but when asked why, will say “because I’m a pretty good person.”
What is that? It’s salvation by works. It’s one form of legalism! They may have received the gospel on an intellectual level, but in their hearts believe they must add something to it, and certainly must do something to keep themselves saved.
Another subtle sign of legalism is the expectation that if I keep my set of rules, I can expect God to keep what I see as His end of the bargain. I do “A,” God somehow owes me “B.”
We find ourselves thinking:
“I can’t believe God is allowing this to happen to me, I go to church every Sunday.” Or …
“I homeschool my kids, take them to church, raise them right so, how could my son say he doesn’t believe?” Or … Continue reading →
“For I fear lest, when I come, I shall not find you such as I wish, and that I shall be found by you such as you do not wish; lest there be contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, backbitings, whisperings, conceits, tumults; lest, when I come again, my God will humble me among you, and I shall mourn for many who have sinned before and have not repented of the uncleanness, fornication, and lewdness which they have practiced” (12.20-21).
After that sharp rebuke, the Apostle wrote:
“Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you—unless indeed you fail the test?” (2 Cor. 13.5 NASB).
As believers, we can and do sin, but genuine believers will experience conviction and, eventually, repent. If we can sin without any conviction, we too, should examine ourselves to see if we are really saved. A redeemed life will produce good fruit. Jesus said, “You will know a tree by its fruit” (Lk. 6.44). And John the Baptist warned the Pharisees, “Bear fruit in keeping with repentance” (Lk. 3.8).
No amount of “good fruit,” what is often called good works, can save us. The Prophet Isaiah said, “all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment” (Is. 64.6). Paul said, “by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight” (Rom. 3.20)and when writing to the Ephesians:
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast (Eph. 2.8-9).
We are saved by God’s grace when we put our faith in Christ’s finished work on the cross. But Paul went on to say in the next verse:
10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them (Eph. 2.10).
While good works cannot save us, the result of a changed life is good works or fruit.
It will vary in degree and amount and even the speed with which it is produced, but that fruit should include: Continue reading →
Paul was one of God’s most faithful servants. Why would God allow something so difficult in his life that Paul called it “a thorn in the flesh”? Could the reasons be the same reasons He allows “thorns” in our lives? If so, we would do well to better understand them.
Here in chapter 12 Paul talks of being taken up to the “third heaven” either literally or in a vision (vss. 1-4). The things God spoke to him there were so incredible, that he was given a “thorn in the flesh” to help him keep his feet on the ground and remember that it was all about God and that he was just a vessel.
But were there other reasons for Paul’s thorn? Could they be the same reasons God allows “thorns” in our lives, too? Verses 7-10:
7 And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. 8 Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. 9 And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
Nothing tests our character or helps us grow in spiritual maturity like tests and trials (Jas. 1.2-5). It’s easy to claim faith in God and change in us when life is easy, but when our faith is tested, we may find there are areas where we’re trusting in something other than Christ.
2. To humble us (v. 7).
None of us is immune to pride. Pride is not something Paul was tempted with or maybe you are, but not me. Pride is something with which we all struggle. It’s just a matter of how and where it shows up. Tests and trials keeps us real with ourselves.
3. To draw us to Himself (v. 8).
Paul “pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from [him].” It’s easy to get lackadaisical about our time with the Lord when things are going well, but when times get tough, believers run to their Father.
4. To display His grace (v. 9a).
When we bring our troubles to the Lord, we want Him to simply remove them. Paul did, too. But often, God’s answer is to give us the grace to walk through them, instead. He teaches us to apply His Word to specific situations and grows us in faith and trust in Him. Through it all, God does what only He can do, especially in us.
5. To perfect His power (v. 9b).
When we see our own weakness and cry out to Him, God’s power can work in and through us in amazing ways. Suffering and hardship remove the dross of self-sufficiency, selfishness, and pride and make us pure channels for God’s power.
When I Am Weak
When Paul recognized God’s purpose in his trials, he could proclaim, “Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
If we stay focused on how much we dislike the trial or get into self-pity and a why-me attitude, we miss what God wants to do in and through us. But when we surrender our pain and suffering to Him, admit our weakness, and rely on His strength and wisdom, He does great things.
Just a note about verse 4: Paul said when he was taken up into heaven, he heard, “inexpressible words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.” If the great Apostle was not permitted to share what he saw of heaven, it certainly should make us question the claims of those who say they did and have come back to tell us all about it.
Whether it’s our own experiences or those of others, we always need to filter them through the lens of Scripture. Continue reading →
When Jesus spoke truth to the rich young ruler, he turned and walked away. And Jesus didn’t stop him! If we as individuals, or even as a nation, are determined to continue turning our backs on God and refusing to live His way, He will let us! But the results could be disastrous.
Over and over throughout these passages God is warning His people to not rely on themselves or their own wisdom and not to turn to false prophets who merely tell them what they want to hear. He also warned them not to turn to outsiders, other nations, no matter how strong they look. The message is “I am sovereign—I am in control.”
He warns them that all the false prophets, all the strong nations, all the wisdom of man will ultimately be brought to nothing. With all the problems in our country today many cling to the idea that some leader, some program, some philosophy, some scientific discovery will solve our problems nationally and individually. We are so much like the people in Isaiah’s time (30.9-13):
Children who will not hear the law of the LORD;
10 Who say to the seers, “Do not see,”
And to the prophets, “Do not prophesy to us right things;
Speak to us smooth things, prophesy deceits.
11 Get out of the way,
Turn aside from the path,
Cause the Holy One of Israel
To cease from before us.”
12 Therefore thus says the Holy One of Israel.
“ Because you despise this word,
And trust in oppression and perversity,
And rely on them,
13 Therefore this iniquity shall be to you
Like a breach ready to fall,
A bulge in a high wall,
Whose breaking comes suddenly, in an instant.
The list of things we no longer want to hear as a nation is endless:
That rebellion and disrespect is wrong (1 Sam. 15.23). Consequently, we disrespect police officers and other authority figures. Our children, in turn, disrespect us, their teachers, and anyone else who tries to tell them what to do.
That marriage is to be between one man and one woman for a lifetime (Matt. 19.4-6). Consequently, the rate of divorce and of couples living together without marriage happens across all levels of society in huge numbers and without any shame. And now so-called gay marriage has become the law of the land.
That sex is holy and reserved for the marriage bed (Heb. 13.4; Rom. 1.24-32). Consequently, sex outside of marriage in all of its forms is rampant: adultery, fornication, rape, incest, molestation, homosexuality, pornography and more.
That life is precious and God is the giver and taker (Acts 17.24-25; Ps. 139.13-16). Consequently, abortion is now called a woman’s right, euthanasia has been openly debated and practiced, murder is rampant in many of our cities, and mass shootings because of anger, hate, or political ideology happen all too often.
That work is God-ordained and the way God provides for His people on a day-to-day basis (2 Thess. 3.10; 1 Tim. 5.8). Consequently, we have husbands and fathers who find every excuse possible not to work and provide for their families, people who know how to “work the system” going from agency to agency, organization to organization, even church to church getting every handout they can, and others who live much of their lives dependent on the government. (Bear in mind, that other passages commanded God’s people to care for the genuinely needy and unable to work.)
And if we continue going our way and turning our backs on God, things will get worse, but the answer is the same today as it was thousands of years ago: to return to God, not to become independent, but God dependent: Continue reading →
With the destruction from Hurricanes Irma and Harvey fresh in our minds, few would doubt the sheer force of storm driven wind and rain. And we’ve all seen images of earthquakes and other natural disasters.
Man made destruction can be just as powerful: war torn countries, the effects of suicide bombers and terrorism, and our own twin towers. Now another enemy threatens with missile launches and nuclear tests.
But are any of those the most powerful force in the world? And, if not, what is?
Another Monday morning. Jeannie would have to pray. She and Sue were the only two women on a job that was hard enough without Sue’s constant antagonism. It was made worse by the fact that, as far as Jeannie knew, she had never done anything to warrant her hatred.
The cheating began just a few months into their marriage. Mary had cried, yelled, spied on him, and threatened to leave. Each time Joe would tell her he was sorry and promise to break off the affair. But before long, she’d overhear a conversation, someone would call and hang up, or Joe would stay out all night and she’d know.
Karen’s husband worked hard. He came home every night. He paid the bills. But week-ends were a nightmare. Before the sun set on Friday, Bill was well into a bottle of bourbon and the more he drank, the angrier he got. More than once he had pulled out his gun and waved it around, even pointing it at Karen.
Each workday Jeannie determined to be kind to Sue, in spite of her cursing and cheap shots. But there were days when she went home in tears and cried out to God for another job.
Then one day after a particularly angry outburst, Sue stopped and just stared at Jeannie. “What is wrong with you? Everyday you come back and treat me right no matter what I say or do!” What followed were tears, but this time they were Sue’s and not Jeannie’s, as she poured out a story of heartbreak and abuse. Eventually, she accepted an invitation to attend church with Jeannie where she found the grace to let God heal her heart. Continue reading →
Verses 3-5, “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.”
Notice three words in this passage: “arguments,” “knowledge,” and “thought.” The strongholds Paul talks about here are not physical and they are not demonic in the sense of “demon possession” or as a spirit holding us captive to some behavior (“spirit of alcohol,” or “a spirit of nicotine,” or “a spirit of lust,” etc.).
They have to do with arguments, knowledge, and thoughts—our thinking, ideas, and beliefs. The strongholds we have to battle are false ideas, false religions, false doctrines, and false philosophies—wrong thinking. We fight them on our knees and with “the Word of Truth.” The way to overcome strongholds is by replacing lies with truth.
“Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2.15).
It’s easier to see some of the big lies or strongholds that keep people in bondage—lies like false religions and cults. But there are many more plausible lies, lies that are easier to believe and buy into.
A plausible lie: A woman has the right to do what she wants with her own body. The truth: “Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed and in Your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them” (Ps. 139.16).
Plausible lies: Kids are going to have sex. We just need to teach them how to have “safe sex.” Or, God certainly doesn’t expect me to be chaste; after all, I’m only human! Or, that was for Bible times; this is a different culture! The truth: “For this is the will of God, your sanctification. that you should abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in passion of lust, like the Gentiles who do not know God” (1 Thess. 4.3-5).
A plausible lie:Homosexuality—God made them that way, so they can’t be expected to change. The truth: Homosexuality like all sin is part of our fallen nature, but we are redeemable. “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.”
A plausible lie: About dating or marriage—I know he’s not a Christian, but how else is he going to get saved? At least he comes to church with me and I’m sure he’ll become a Christian. The truth: “Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God …” (2 Cor. 6.14-16).
A plausible lie: God wants me to be happy! The truth: God does want His children to be blessed, but he first wants us to be holy! “But as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.” (1 Pet. 1.15-16). Happiness if fleeting, but holiness leads to joy unspeakable!
But there are other, more religious sounding lies.
A plausible lie: How could a loving God send anyone to hell? That’s not the God I serve! The truth: God isn’t sending us to hell. We’re already lost and He sent His Son to rescue all those who will believe (Jn. 3.16; 1 Jn. 4.9).
A plausible lie: All religions lead to God though they may call Him by another name. The truth: Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me” (Jn. 14.6).
A plausible lie: Jesus just loved everyone. We should do the same. After all, who are we to judge? The truth: We should love everyone, even our enemies, but part of loving means there are times when we need to speak the truth in love (Gal. 6.1-2; 2 Cor. 7.8-11; Prov. 27.5-6).
A plausible lie: It doesn’t matter what I believe about God and the Bible, as long as I love Jesus. The truth: What we believe about God and His Word as revealed in the Bible matter a great deal. It affects how we handle tests and trials, how we reflect Him to a lost world, the level of our trust, and our ability to have peace and joy no matter what our circumstances. For more on this, check out my post, “Good Doctrine Matters.” In that post I explain how some false doctrines sound good, but have a nasty downside.
We, of all people, should not buy into the plausible lies that the world uses to argue against the truth and keep people in spiritual blindness and bondage! But we also need to be on guard against the religious sounding lies that can destroy our testimonies, keep us discouraged, or cause us to doubt God’s love.
Let’s purpose in our hearts to tear down those strongholds, first in our own hearts, and then to prayerfully share the truth with others.
Verse 1 of chapter 28 says, “Woe to the crown of pride, to the drunkards of Ephraim, whose glorious beauty is a fading flower which is at the head of the verdant valleys, to those who are overcome with wine!”
This passage is written to the ten northern tribes represented by Ephraim. The area where they lived was very lush and fertile. God had blessed them with an abundance of beauty and fruitfulness, but they were puffed up with pride as if they had caused it and had wasted God’s blessings on “drunkenness”—their own sensual pleasures.
I recently started attending a Bible study taught by a dear friend. During this week’s lesson, she told a story that I loved.
A young man who was an avid hiker wanted to propose to his girlfriend, but he want to do so at a particularly scenic spot in the mountains where he hiked. His girlfriend, an “indoor girl,” agreed to go, but was having a difficult time with the trek. As she struggled with the ascent, he encouraged her by saying, “just step where I step.”
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Step Where I Step
And that’s what she did, step by step. That “indoor girl” followed the young man she had grown to love and trust.
She made it. He proposed.
And later she said, even though it was challenging, it was so worth it! In fact, she said, it wasn’t as hard as it looked.
As my friend, Marie, was telling the story, I thought about the Christian walk. It, too, can be a challenging journey. It’s filled with steep ascents, unexpected turns, scary cliffs and falling rocks. It tests our stamina and our courage, at times.
But I wonder, do we make the journey harder than it needs to be, because of our failure to truly follow in the foot steps of our Savior?
Just as surely as He did to those first twelve disciples, Jesus says to each of us, “follow me.” Just step where I step.
Too often, we’re walking in our own strength, trying to do what we should through self-effort and wondering why it’s so hard.
We end up exhausted, burned out, or frustrated, because the Christian life can’t be done in our own strength (Matt. 9.26).
This isn’t just a problem for new believers. In fact, as we grow in Christ we may be more prone to self-effort. After all, we know the drill. We speak the language. We know what we should say and do. We’re not as desperate for His help and guidance, not clinging to Him one step at a time. We’ve walk the path before and can easily think, “I’ve got this.”
God knows our tendency and out of His love for us will take us on new paths, steeper journeys than we thought possible, so we see our need for Him. When He does, we’re sometimes shocked at our responses.
We may respond with sinful anger that we thought we’d dealt with years ago or find ourselves tempted with another sinful habit.
In our heart of hearts, we sometimes think “after all I’ve done to serve You, Lord, why would You allow this?”
Why would my child rebel after I’ve raised her right?
Why would my business fail after I’ve tithed all these years?
Why would my spouse walk out?
How can I be struggling with this?
It’s not fair!
That’s when we must look to Jesus and the path he walked ahead of us. We need to step where He stepped … when He was betrayed, misunderstood, falsely accused, arrested and crucified. We need to follow in His steps as He forgives those who reject and sin against Him today.
We need to forgive the unforgivable (Rom. 5.8; Eph. 4.31-32).
We need to love the unlovable (Matt. 5.43-48).
We need to submit to the harsh and unreasonable (1 Pet. 2.18-21, 3.1-2).
We need to bless those who revile us and do us wrong (1 Pet. 2.23).
We need to refuse revenge and overcome evil with good (Rom. 12.17-21).
We need to release the prodigal to His love and consequences, yet stand ready to welcome him home (Lk. 15.11-24).
We need to refuse to be like the prodigal’s brother (Lk. 15.25-32).
We need to follow His steps as He loves and forgives us when we turn to other gods and commit spiritual adultery (Jas. 4.1-4).