Tag Archives: obedience

Trust Christ, Not Your Baptism

Animal Sacrifice

Animal Sacrifice

A friend of mine, Ken Craig, wrote an exciting little book called The Big Picture of the Bible, in which he lays out some common threads running through the Old and New Testaments. In Chapter 8, he makes this point:

“What made animal sacrifice work? It derived its power from the faith of the believers. The followers of God understood His instructions and they believed that killing the animal would remove their sins. So they acted and performed the animal sacrifice according to the instructions God had given them. One couldn’t just believe in animal sacrifice (Heb 9.22) any more than merely believing in medicine will make one well! The origin of true faith is, and always has been, by the instruction of God. Romans 10.17 emphasizes this point: ‘Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.’

Trust in Christ

Trust in Christ

Ken then goes on to parallel the faith-inspired act of animal sacrifice and the New Testament faith-inspired act of baptism, which is, I think, a Biblical parallel.

So, his major point: You must (1) Believe the action will result in forgiveness, and (2) Perform the action! You can’t receive forgiveness by saying, “Oh I believe I should offer a sacrifice in order to receive the forgiveness of sins (the word is ‘atonement’ in the Old Testament),” and not actually performing the sacrifice. Likewise, you can’t just perform the sacrifice without the faith behind the action and expect forgiveness.

True faith always acts. True faith always obeys as far as is possible. Read Hebrews 11 for a beautiful series of faithful, obedient actions.

And always remember – it was never the actual act of sacrifice, never the animal itself or even its blood, that forgave the sins. God forgave the sins based on the person’s faith. They may not have understood that at the time, but that’s what the New Testament teaches.

But Christ’s blood actually does atone for sin! Baptism is that way in which we call on His name (Acts 22:16). It’s that way in which we identify with His death, burial, and resurrection (Romans 6:1-7; Colossians 2:11-12). Always remember, though, it’s not the actual act of baptism, not the water itself, not the purity of the one doing the baptism, not the depth to which your are plunged or anything else about that physical act, that forgives our sins. God forgives our sins based on our faith!

It’s important to remember it’s God who forgives sins because when we start thinking the power is in the water we start putting our faith in our works. Our confidence then lies in what we have done. And sometimes we doubt what we have done. Was every part of our body submerged? Did I understand everything exactly like I should have (after all, I have grown tremendously in my understanding since the day of my baptism)? Was I in the right church building?

Now it may very well be that you did put your faith in the baptism itself and not in God. If that is true, perhaps you have now come to faith in Him. My question would be, “Were you baptized in the name of Jesus Christ?” That’s what seems to really count in Scripture – read Acts 19:1-10 to see Paul baptizing some folks in Jesus’ name because they had only been baptized in John the Baptist’s baptism. You don’t have to understand everything about baptism when you are first baptized. In fact, you probably will never understand all about it! Put your faith in the God who told you to be baptized. Put your faith in Christ, the One you swore to follow. Don’t trust in yourself. Don’t trust in the perfection of your sacrifice. Trust in Christ, the perfect sacrifice, God’s sacrifice for you!

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Not Because of My Righteousness

Why Choose That One?

Why Choose That One?

Personal Note: The Daily Bible Messages list has been quiet lately because my wife gave birth to a new baby boy on January 4th and he has thrown our little family out of kilter! But we are slowly getting back in shape. Thanks in advance for your prayers :-)

Have you ever wondered why God chose Noah? Was it because he was so good? Was it because Noah deserved saving and the others didn’t?

Why did God choose Abram? Was it because of Abram’s awesome faith? Was Abram super-spiritual and the rest of the world was not?

Why did God choose the Israelites? And why did they get to destroy all the nations in Canaan? Was it because they were such a wonderful, righteous people?

Why did God choose you and me? Why do I enjoy His grace while so many others don’t?

Whatever the answers to the above, Deuteronomy 9:4ff tells us God’s choice of Israel was not based on their righteousness! Check it out:

“Do not say in your heart when the LORD you God has driven them out before you, ‘Because of my righteousness the LORD has brought me in to possess this land,’ but it is because of the wickedness of these nations that the LORD is dispossessing them before you. It is not for your righteousness or for the uprightness of your heart that you are going to possess their land, but it is because of the wickedness of these nations that the LORD your God is driving them out before you, in order to confirm the oath which the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Know then, it is not because of your righteousness that the LORD your God is given you this good land to possess, for you are a stubborn people…” (Deuteronomy 9:4-6)

And Moses goes on! Poor Israelites–they got soundly spanked.

Why would we think we are any different? Will we possess the Promised Land because of our own righteousness? Paul shuts every self-righteous mouth in Romans 3:9-18–”There is none righteous, not even one.”

Our friend says, “But I repented and changed and started to do right. That’s why God saved me.” Really? He saves you because you decided to be righteous? Somehow you perfected yourself so God will now save you?

“No,” our friend says. “But after God forgave me of my previous wickedness, now I stay righteous in order to be saved.” Really? He keeps you saved because you are now so good?

Forgive me, but that isn’t good news to my ears. Any plan which has me saved based on how well I do down here on earth does not give me much comfort! I don’t believe it’s biblical, either.

I take my stand among the Israelite camp and enter into the Promised Land depending upon the God of grace to give me something I don’t deserve now nor ever will! I stand upon His promises and not on my own obedience.

Praise God for saving us, not on the basis of our own righteousness, but because He keeps His promise to glorify His name, justifying us in His Son, Jesus Christ. We are saved because of His righteousness!

Doesn’t that make you want to serve Him more?!

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Obedience and Not Sacrifice

Don't WalkGod told King Saul to kill all the Amalekites. Not most of them. All of them. God spoke clearly through the prophet Samuel. Saul could not complain of a hazy or garbled message. Samuel said, “Now go and strike Amalek and utterly destroy all that he has, and do not spare him; but put to death both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey” (1 Samuel 15:3).

So what did Saul do? He decided to spare Agag, king of Amalek, and best of the sheep, oxen, fatlings, lambs, and all that was good. In other words, Saul destroyed exactly what he thought ought to be destroyed and kept what he wanted. Isn’t that the way we often roll?

My kids say to me all the time, “Daddy, it’s just so hard to obey.” What they mean is, “It’s hard to obey when it’s something I don’t want to do.” I get it. I understand. Obedience is pretty easy when it’s something we want, too. But it gets hard when it’s something we don’t like or enjoy. We obey the laws of the land as long as we see why the law is there and why it’s good for us, right? But then there are a few pesky laws which just don’t set well with us, so we break them. The Bible says if we break one part of the law, we are guilty of the whole thing. We are law-breakers if we decide to run a red light!

King Saul decided to break God’s law. I’m sure he didn’t think, “I think I’ll do exactly what God told me not to do.” I’m sure he made excuses for himself and the people. One of his personal excuses was, “The people made me do it.” Another excuse was, “We saved the best so we could sacrifice them to the Lord” (1 Samuel 15, 21).

Samuel explained to Saul:

Has the LORD as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices
As in obeying the voice of the LORD?
Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice,
And to heed than the fat of rams.
For rebellion is as the sin of divination,
And insubordination is as iniquity and idolatry.
Because you have rejected the word of the LORD,
He has also rejected you from being king.” (1 Samuel 15:22-23)

Samuel did not say that sacrifices were meaningless. He said sacrifices without obedience were meaningless! You can offer up to God your time, your job, your money, your family…but what God desires is your heart. He wants dedication, commitment, obedience. Many will say to Jesus on the judgment day, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?” And Jesus will say, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.” (Matthew 7:22-23) Here are folks who say many things and do many things “in Jesus name,” but their lack of obedience shows their real heart. They do those things they want to do. They don’t go all the way. They do not make Jesus Lord and King of their lives.

“If I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:3).

How do you stand with Jesus? Have you given everything to Him? You must first give Him yourself, your heart, your desires, your passions. Allow Him to lead in every path of life.

Do sacrifice, but with an obedient and willing heart!

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What Does God Require of You?

The Sacrifice

The Sacrifice

What does God require? Sacrifice and religious observance, right? In the Old Testament God wanted Jews to slaughter and burn animals to compensate for their sins. He expected them to follow all the rules of the temple exactly. That was how they were to be holy…right?

And in the New Testament, God expects us to get the details straight, or He won’t be happy. We must learn how to worship right. We must figure out the right rituals, because those are our sacrifices today…right?

Actually.

Not.

Think through these passages in the Old Testament. What did God really want from His people? I love Micah 6:7-8:

Does the LORD take delight in thousands of rams,
In ten thousand rivers of oil?
Shall I present my firstborn for my rebellious acts,
The fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?
He has told you, O man, what is good;
And what does the LORD require of you
But to do justice, to love kindness,
And to walk humbly with your God?

And to Saul, God said in 1 Samuel 15:22-23:

“Has the LORD as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices
As in obeying the voice of the LORD?
Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice,
And to heed than the fat of rams.
For rebellion is as the sin of divination,
And insubordination is as iniquity and idolatry.”

And David wrote in Psalm 51:15-17:

“O Lord, open my lips,
That my mouth may declare Your praise.
For You do not delight in sacrifice, otherwise I would give it;
You are not pleased with burnt offering.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.”

Moses told the Israelites from the beginning in Deuteronomy 6:4-5:

“Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one! You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.”

God wants the sacrifice of our hearts. Paul praised the Thessalonian givers because “they first gave themselves to the Lord and to us by the will of God” (2 Corinthians 8:5). God doesn’t care about our money or our things. He cares about us. He wants us. “Present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship” (Romans 12:1).

If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his won heart, this man’s religion is worthless. Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world. (James 1:26-27)

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Changing God’s Commands

Looking for God's Commandments

Looking for God's Commandments

Jeroboam, the first king of Israel, always stands out as a prime example of rebellion and lawlessness. God promised him, “If you listen to all that I command you and walk in My ways, and do what is right in My sight by observing My statutes and My commandments, as My servant David did, then I will be with you and build you an enduring house as I built for David, and I will give Israel to you” (1 Kings 11:38). Isn’t that a wonderful blessing? Jeroboam sat on top of the world. God gave him power and a great promise. But he squandered it.

As soon as Jeroboam came into power as king over Israel, he started making changes to things he had no right to mess with (1 Kings 12:25-33):

  • He made two golden calves and said to the people, “Behold your gods, O Israel, that brought you up from the land of Egypt.”
  • He made houses on high places (i.e. temples)
  • He made priests from among all the people who were not the sons of Levi
  • He instituted his own feast days “in the month which he had devised in his own heart”
  • He sacrificed to the calves he had made

Folks, when God commands something, obey! God blesses the obedient, and He curses the disobedient. Jeroboam got too big for his britches. He thought, since God had appointed him king, he must have the power to do whatever he wanted. All the kings and rulers of this earth have the same duty you and I do towards the Lord of heaven: obey Him (Psalm 2)!

It’s essential we search the Scriptures for God’s commandments and statutes. We should do things His way, always. His commandments are not burdensome (Matthew 11:28-30; 1 John 5:3). We have no business changing what God has expressly stated or commanded.

  • God says elders and deacons must meet certain qualifications
  • God says husbands are to lead and love their wives
  • God says wives are to respect and obey their husbands
  • God says fathers are to train their children
  • God says Christians have responsibilities towards one another in love
  • God says we should be at peace with one another as far as it depends on us
  • God says we should not commit fornication or adultery
  • God says we should not get drunk, participate in lascivious parties, or carouse
  • God says much more

And when God speaks, we listen!

God bless,
Nathan

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It’s Not a Contest to “Be the Best” but It IS a Race

Are You Running?Nathan Dial roomed with me at Florida College in the fall of 1997. We grew to be close friends, and I regard his mind, character, and heart with great respect. This is something he wrote, and I asked him if I could share it with you. What I especially liked is in the second paragraph. Let me know what you think.


It’s Not a Contest to “Be the Best” but It IS a Race

It’s not a contest against other Christians (or unbelievers) who are all trying to be “first in heaven” but it is a race we must run with endurance, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, (who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.)

We are not saved by our own behavior and we never could be. And I am aware that some Christians really do see it as some sort of “be-good game” with a mentality not much more advanced than my 3-year-old daughter. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s wonderful that at such a tender age she is beginning to recognize right and wrong, modest and immodest, sharing and not-sharing, and to care about things like attendance and lack thereof or things in the Bible and not in the Bible. But to her child’s mind it is still just playing a game and I deeply hope that as she matures she grows beyond that to a genuine understanding of what the Gospel really means. As I noted earlier, some Christians have failed to progress beyond such a childish perception of righteousness.

Crossing the Finish LineBut while recognizing that faith is not a game of “who is best at following the rules” we also must know that faith cannot be separated from obedience. It’s not about who’s being the “MOST modest,” certainly. But we don’t respond to that by being as close to immodest as we can get, do we?

We don’t “win the game” by going to all the church services, but we certainly don’t strive for the prize by going to as few as possible do we?

We certainly shouldn’t say “thank you that I’m not the tax collector” but … that is because we are the tax collector. We are the unworthy one, who without God’s grace would be lost and condemned with no recourse. If I recall, his attitude was not to assert “It’s not a contest” but rather to acknowledge his own failings and penitently plead for mercy.

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.

Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.

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Why Obey Jesus?

Bow Before HimJohn said, “After me One is coming who is mightier than I, and I am not fit to stoop down and untie the thong of His sandals. I baptize you with water; but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” (Mark 1:7-8)

God said to Jesus at His baptism, “You are My beloved Son, in You I am well pleased” (Mark 1:11).

When Jesus said, Follow Me,” John and James “left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants, and went away to follow Him” (Mark 1:17-20).

The people “were amazed at His teaching; for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as the scribes” (Mark 1:22). “They were all amazed [when He cast out an unclean spirit], so that they debated among themselves, saying, ‘What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey Him.’” (Mark 1:27)

“‘But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins‘–[Jesus] said to the paralytic, ‘I say to you, get up, pick up your pallet and go home.’” (Mark 2:10-11)

Jesus said, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:28)

“Whenever the unclean spirits saw Him, they would fall down before Him and shout, ‘You are the Son of God!‘” (Mark 3:11)

“And He appointed twelve…to have authority to cast out the demons” (Mark 3:14-15).

His disciples even became afraid when He stilled the storm, saying, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?” (Mark 4:41)

What is this? He has authority over all things, yet He calls us to obey. He commands, but He does not force. The winds, seas, and unclean spirits obey Him. He is Lord of the Sabbath and has authority over sins. He is the Son of God!

So why do we not obey Him?

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Growth Formula #5: All of the Above

Growing Together

Growing Together

The question: What Growth Formula do you follow?

Suggestion #1 was: Read, Study, Obey.
Suggestion #2 was: Pray without Ceasing.
Suggestion #3 was: Let Go and Let God.
Suggestion #4 was: Seek Godly Counsel.

Here is suggestion #5.

All of the Above

If we truly want to grow, we must employ all the tools God has given us.

Amy is a photographer. She is a student of that particular discipline. I wonder how she became so good at what she does? I might ask her the following questions:

  • Did you read and study information on the topic?
  • Did you ask for help? Did you reach out to other photographers?
  • Did you take lessons from mature photographers?
  • Did you practice, fail, and fine-tune your techniques?
  • Did you study not only about the field of photography but also about your specific camera?
  • Do you continue to read, study, and go deeper?

Bring me a student of any discipline, and I will show you a person who knows how to grow. Disciples employ many different avenues of learning and experiencing. If they want to be GOOD at what they do, they do whatever it takes.

God has given us a bunch of growth tools. Perhaps we are only using one or two. Perhaps we don’t use ANY of them very well. Perhaps we need to grow in the use of the tools He has given us :-).

Do you want to grow? What’s your growth formula?

“…solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.”
Hebrews 5:14

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Growth Formula #1: Read, Study, Obey

Good Formula!

Good Formula!

Last week, we introduced the question: What Growth Formula do you follow?

If you want to grow spiritually or emotionally or any other way, what is your basic plan? Here is suggestion #1.

Read and Study and Then Obey

You may recognize these words from the child’s song “The B-I-B-L-E.” This is the basic formula on which I was raised. Jesus said, “Everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock” (Matthew 7:24). James wrote, “Putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls. But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves” (James 1:21-22).

Growth Formula: Listen and Obey. Simple. So how has that been working for you? If you know the right thing to do, do you always do it? If you know what is wrong, do you always avoid it?

Questions:

  1. Is this a good formula for growth?
  2. Is it a scriptural formula?
  3. If it is good and scriptural, am I implementing it in my life?
  4. Is it the ONLY formula I should be using? Is it a complete formula?

 

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Step Away from the Boat

Life is a Stormy Sea

Life is a Stormy Sea

Yesterday, I challenged the group of Christians meeting here in Mandeville, LA, to do four things this week. We studied the account of Peter walking on water (Matthew 14:22-33). Peter got out of the (relative) safety of his boat in order to walk towards Jesus!

1. Think about your comfort zones.

Where are you? What are your hobbies, routines, weekly hangouts and activities? How much time do you spend with close friends? How much time do you spend with your family? How much time do you spend on the TV, Internet, sports, etc?

Is your schedule getting in the way of serving God, your brethren, and your neighbors?

2. Think about where Jesus is.

Is Jesus in your activities? If Jesus came back right now, would you want Him to find you where you normally are? Maybe plopped down on the couch with a romance novel. Maybe glued to some action flick. If Jesus were here, on earth right now, what would HIS priorities be? What would He choose to do? Perhaps that kind of thinking is considered a bit radical, over the top, even unrealistic. But what kind of righteousness does Jesus expect from us? Didn’t Jesus call us to be like Him?

Seriously. What would Jesus do? That’s what we need to do.

3. Pray.

After you get a good picture of where YOU are in relation to where JESUS is, then it’s time to pray. Tell God where you are. Tell Him where you want to be. Ask Him to help you get there.

4. Get out of your boat and walk!

Then is the time for action. Be sure that God WILL help you get where you need to be. But you must work at it. “Well, which is it, Nathan? Is God working in me, or am I working?” Yes! “So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:12-13). You must work. You must obey. And you realize, as you work, it is God who empowers, motivates, and works in you. So give Him the glory for whatever good comes from “your” work.

God bless,
Nathan

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