A Better Idea

Obedience is better than sacrifice, and submission is better than offering the fat of rams. 1 Samuel 15:22

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King Saul had a better idea. He knew God’s command to destroy everything Israel took from their pagan enemies. But he was the king, after all, and shouldn’t he get a vote? So he kept the choicest of the plunder and prepared to offer the best as a sacrifice to God. But God didn’t want it. He had never asked for it. The pretense of a gift did not cancel Saul’s overt disobedience. So God sent the prophet Samuel to Saul to remove him as king of Israel. The reason is found in this verse.

We often think we have better ideas too. What we read in the Bible makes us uncomfortable, so we decide that surely God cannot mean that. Surely He has evolved with the times, changed His mind on some things, and bowed to culture. Surely he will give us a vote. So we cut and paste the Bible to make it say what we want it to say. We then adjust our lives to fit the religion we created ourselves. But God doesn’t want it. The pretense of our gifts, our good deeds, or our lip service does not cancel our overt disobedience. God commands obedience from the heart. He doesn’t negotiate with us or allow us co-god status. If we insist, he removes us from the place of blessing and fellowship, and we never become all we could become.

What are you substituting for full obedience? Are you trying to negotiate with God? He doesn’t buy it.


What's Your Nature?

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

The energetic pup yapped at the preschoolers as he darted between their legs and nipped at their ankles. He had cornered  three hysterical children by the time his owner caught up with him. “Sarge, no!” the man shouted. He grabbed the pup by the collar and jerked him into a sitting position. He then knelt beside the terrified kids. “I’m sorry, guys. Sarge didn’t mean to scare you. He’s just a puppy, and he’s still learning. He’s an Australian Shepherd. It’s his nature to herd things, anything. Even kids. When he’s trained, he will help me on my ranch. He thinks he’s helping me now, by cornering you guys. You wanna pet him?”

Australian Shepherds and Border Collies were bred to help ranchers with their livestock. From puppyhood, many of them act out those natures in inappropriate and often hilarious ways. They do what they do because of who they are. We also do what we do because of who we are. Our old nature was to sin, to please ourselves, and to act upon every selfish impulse. But when we are born again as children of God (John 3:3), He changes our natures (1 Cor. 5:17).  

This new nature hates the sin we once craved. It wants to please God and surrender those selfish impulses. In this verse, Jesus is identifying His true friends as those who obey His word. Faith in Christ results in a desire to obey Him, and we do that because of who we are. Without obedience, we are not His friends, we are only fans—and He never called us to be fans. Fans talk about Jesus; followers obey Him.

Do you call Jesus “Lord” but refuse to do what He says? 
Let Him change your nature. 

Gaze of the Soul

So you see, faith by itself isn't enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless. James 2:17

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“Oh, I’ve always been a Christian,” Shara said. “I’m not into church much, but if the guy I’m living with wants to go, I’ll go with him.” She smiled confidently and nodded toward the baby on her hip. “This little guy’s dad was really into church and threw verses at me the whole time we ran the bar together. But I don’t think the Bible is relevant for us today, so I didn’t let it bother me. I keep crosses and pictures of Jesus all over my house, so I think God knows I have a lot of faith.”

Sadly, stories like Shara’s are very common. Maybe you’ve even said something similar. Because faith is invisible and is used to describe our attitude toward many things, we often isolate it from the rest of our lives. We think we can have spiritual faith while still living for ourselves. But God’s word clearly tells us that the kind of faith that saves us is the kind that changes us. We cannot have real faith in God while choosing a lifestyle contrary to all that He is (1 John 3:6). 

Sometimes what we call “faith in God” is really just a fervent hope that things will go the way we want them to. But God never commands us to have faith FOR something. He commands us to have faith IN Him. Faith is not a “force.” It is the connection between our earthly lives and the spiritual realm. A. W. Tozer writes, “Faith is the gaze of the soul upon a saving God.” Where our soul gazes, our lives travel.

Have you tried to keep your “faith” separate from your daily life? Unless faith changes us, it cannot save us. 

Shrinking Back

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My righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.” Hebrews 10:38

Al and Hal plunked the last box of dried goods in a corner of their bunker and sank to the floor to wipe sweat from their faces. Their pastor, Ken, had come to see what the brothers had talked about for months. He glanced around the concrete fortress at the canned goods, rifles, and to the left an entire room filled with bottled water. “Wow, guys, I…uh, I never imagined all this. You certainly are…ready.” 
Hal struggled to his feet and grinned proudly at his supplies. “Yep. No Islamers gonna get us. Them lib’rals, commies, and Nazi’s don’t stand a chance. We can outlast any apocalypse, and look there, I brung my Bible.” Pastor Ken nodded slowly. “I see. But I can’t help wondering how all this fits in with what Jesus commanded us. You know, loving our neighbors, evangelizing the world, sharing what we have with those who don’t.” Al scratched his head. “We used to think that, til things started going south, and now it’s every man for himself. Know what I mean? We’re gonna move in here next week and wait it out. People’s gonna wish they’d thought of this, but it’ll be too late. They ain’t getting’ our stuff, no sir!”

We may not go to the extremes that Al and Hal have, but when we take a close look at our spiritual lives, have we shrunk back? Was there a time when you were passionate about serving your world, but have become too self-focused, too angry, too jaded to care anymore? Living by faith means that we trust God no matter how bleak the world situation becomes. We refuse to shrink back from Jesus’ instructions to “love thy neighbor.” It is wise to prepare when we can. But we must never let fear replace faith, self-preservation replace self-sacrifice, or the world’s values replace God’s commands.

Have you shrunk back from where you used to be? 
Does God take pleasure in your walk of faith?

Is It Really Faith?

As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead. James 2:26

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You are standing on the banks of the Grand Canyon. A narrow suspension bridge spans the gulf, sagging several feet in the middle. It sways slightly in the wind and a few planks are missing. Standing with you is the architect of that bridge. He is world-renowned for his brilliant designs and has just shown you the blueprint for the bridge. “Do you have faith in my bridge?” he asks. You eagerly say yes and praise his reputation. But then he asks, “Will you step out onto it and start walking?”

What would you do? As long as you are on the bank, you can say that you have faith in the bridge. But that is not faith; that is hope. Faith steps onto the bridge and keeps walking. Many people stop at Hope on their journey toward God. They agree that He is great, and they like the idea of being forgiven and knowing God. But they stay on the banks, clinging to the very sins and self-will that Jesus died for. Even Christians can profess faith without acting on it. They know what God says, but they place their confidence in what they can see, hear, or feel. When faith stays inside our heads and never makes it to our life choices, it is not real faith. However, when we act on what we say we believe, our hope becomes faith. Faith is an action word. It moves us toward the object of that faith. True faith propels us onto the bridge and empowers us to keep walking.

Our life choices are indicators of what we truly believe. What does your lifestyle reveal about your faith?