Job 1:1-12 – Have You Considered My Servant

We often don’t like to think of suffering as being given by God. We despise suffering. We hate it. We would do anything to avoid it. And if we see it coming we will run from it like it is the worst possible thing. And to be fair, sometimes it is the worst possible thing. Sometimes it’s not as big of a deal as we would like to make it. Regardless of which brand of suffering we’re talking about, Christians have a tendency to explain it away from God. You won’t find many books with titles like “When God Allows Suffering” or “When God Removes the Hedge” and the like. Those don’t tend to sell very well. People use terms like “God is for me, not against me” and “God is on my side.” Generally, what they mean is God doesn’t want me to suffer and God will do what He can to take care of me. And for those who believe these half-truths don’t’ know what to do with the story of Job.

Job is a story about God allowing the suffering of one of His. The narrative suggests that God is the primary mover in Job’s suffering. Nowhere in the text does it suggest that Satan came looking to start something with Job. God offers Job as a candidate. God is not causing Job’s suffering, but He does allow it. We hate this. Our self-centeredness can’t abide a God who would allow something like this. We cry out at the injustice of it, and then we settle in, wait for the end of the book and rejoice that Job is better off in prosperity after the suffering. Unfortunately, when we focus on the prosperous bookends of the story and miss the whole counsel of God’s working through suffering, we are in danger of creating a false God instead of loving God of the Bible.

Job teaches us to expect suffering, struggle, and even pain. Job teaches us that God will be faithful to give us these things. Job and the testimony of the Spirit through the Scriptures teaches us that suffering pushes us to Christ, challenges our false notions about God, our righteousness, and what is eternally important. Job is a story of primary importance for understanding the Cross. We must be ready to embrace suffering as a means God will use in the lives of His children to draw us to Himself. God is faithful to give us suffering, just like He is faithful to walk with us through it.

The Only Good Man

11.05.16 | east pacific hotel South Richmond Hill, NY

I have had the honor of being surrounded by good men and good women most of my life. My family and my church is saturated with them, and I am thankful for that. But “goodness” has to be defined clearly. What makes someone good? Is it the way they treat people? Is it things they accomplish? Is it the amount of money they give to churches and charities? If you have been involved in a gospel preaching church for any length of time then you will, no doubt, know that those things don’t make a person good. And yet, most of us still aspire to be good by doing those things! What is it about us that drives us back to seeking goodness this way, even when we know that it does not work? It seems that it all has to do with glory.


If we are honest with ourselves, we have the tendency to attempt to do things to be good because we want others to perceive us as good. We want people to look at our lives and covet them the way that we have coveted the lives of others who we see as good. We want people to want to be like us so that our egos will be fed and we will ultimately be worshiped. There is a subtle pride that creeps in the lives of Christians and whispers in our ears, “You may have been saved by grace, but you must convince people this is true by being a good person.” We attempt to rob God of our sanctification (being made holy) so that others will look at us and think that we are good. When we do this, we are being incredibly foolish.

The gospel tells us that we are made right with God by grace alone. We are so utterly depraved that the only way for God to forgive us and still be just was to become a man and live the life we could not live (a perfect life), die in our place on a cross to satisfy the wrath of God, and rise from the dead showing his power over sin and the grave. If it took all of that work on God’s part to forgive our sin and give us right standing with him, what makes us think that we now are able to say to God, “Thank you, but I’ll take it from here.” The grace that saved us from the wrath of God is still ever-present to sanctify us (Acts 26:18). We should not feel more pride in ourselves when we grow in holiness. As a matter of fact, it is quite the opposite. J.C. Ryle said it best, “Pride sits in all our hearts by nature. We are born proud. Pride makes us rest satisfied with ourselves, thinking we are good enough as we are. It closes our ears against all advice, refuses the gospel of Christ and turns every one to his own way.”


One particular passage of scripture really helps us understand what becoming “good” should look like.

“Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”

-Philippians 2:12-13 ESV

We should “work-out” our salvation. We should try to be good. We should strive to live a holy life. But we should only do these things by trusting God who works in us. If he did not work in us, there would be no salvation to work out. God does not share his glory (Isaiah 42:8). He is more than able to accomplish the whole of our salvation. He justifies us, sanctifies us, and glorifies us. It is all his doing from start to finish, and therefore the prideful “good” we try to do on our own is really no good at all.


When our motivation changes from what others think about us to what others think about the God who works in us, then we are moving in the right direction. Jesus told us that we should have these good works in us so that others would see them and glorify God, not us (Matthew 5:15-16). When this happens, we are liberated from the exhausting and useless work of attempting to make others think well of us. It is far better to make much of God by the goodness of his Son than it is to attempt to manufacture goodness within ourselves. Jesus was the only truly good man to ever live, and the only reason I can say other Christians in my life are “good people” is because they have been covered in his goodness. Let us make much of Christ instead of attempting to make much of ourselves. When that is our motivation then we are free to have joy and peace. We cannot hold ourselves together, but he has us firmly in his grip where we can rest in his goodness.

The Exclusivity of the Bible

Part 3

Becoming enveloped in movies, books, and other forms of entertainment can be a great part of culture. Of course there are down sides to being overwhelmed with entertainment, but as a whole most of us really enjoy good story telling. But what happens when we are presented with another story that is supposedly “like” one that we already enjoy? Sometimes it holds up, and often times it does not. But even more offensive than failed attempts to be “like” stories that we enjoy is mistaken identity of a good story. A Star Trek fan is going to be a little chapped if you mistake their beloved series for a Star Wars movie. And no self-respecting fan of the Chronicles of Narnia is going to let someone get away with mistaking it for some other generic mythos. When I was a child I was a big fan of the Power Rangers, and due to the popularity of that show there were a lot of knock-offs that began surfacing. But no matter how much the tv network tried to get me to like the Big Bad Beetleborgs, they would never replace my beloved power rangers (it almost hurt to type that). The point is that if we are to be devoted to an original work, then we must be able to identify the difference between that work and other things that may be a little similar. This brings us to chapter 1, paragraph 3 of the 1689.

“The books commonly called Apocrypha, not being of divine inspiration, are no part of the canon or rule of the Scripture, and, therefore, are of no authority to the church of God, nor to be any otherwise approved or made use of than other human writings.”


If you have never heard of the apocrypha, then allow me to briefly explain. It is a collection of uninspired writings that have been printed between the Old and New Testaments along side inspired texts in some Bibles. You most likely won’t find the apocrypha in Bibles today unless you are specifically searching for it. It contains some recorded history of the Maccabean Revolt, which is no doubt a very important event in history. This is not the only thing found in the apocrypha, but possibly the most significant.

So is the apocrypha evil and to be completely avoided? No. That is not what the confession is saying at all. The point of including paragraph 3 is to make clear that the books listed in paragraph 2 are the only inspired books. No other writing, even the apocryphal writings, are inspired by the Holy Spirit and considered the very words of God. The apocrypha may read somewhat like the Bible, but it is not the Bible. We should not look to it in the same way we look to the scriptures for life and godliness, but rather we should treat it just like any other human writing. Even the 1689 confession itself is human writing that seeks to summarize the doctrines of the Bible, but we are never to treat it as the Bible. Just like a being able to tell the difference between Star Wars and Star Trek (or whatever narrative you are passionate about), we need to be able to tell the difference between the Bible and all other books.


We can apply this further by making some distinction between books that are simply uninspired versus books that are heretical (meaning that they are not only “not the Bible”, but actively push back against the truths of the Bible). We are blessed to have lots of resources that are “about” the Bible. These include commentaries, study notes, Bible studies, and books on Christian living. These can certainly be a great help to us, given that they actually teach and affirm the things in the Bible. But this is where we must be watchful. There are many “christian” books out there that do not seek to proclaim biblical truth, but rather seek to twist the scripture to a fit their own narrative. It would be like someone taking some things out of one of your favorite stories and attempting to insert them into their own story. Cheap imitation versions of biblical truth are sprinkled through many books from people claiming the name of Christ (yes, even at Christian bookstores), and we must be guarded against them. The best way to do this is to know the Bible well and with even more intensity that you give to your favorite fiction book, movie, or tv series. This will protect you against heresy in all of its subtle and not so subtle varieties. There are more “not so subtle” books out their such as the book of mormon and the nwt version of the bible (Jehovah’s Witness) that would seek to lead us astray, but the principle remains the same for guarding against these books. Read and know the 66 books listed in chapter 1, paragraph 2 of the 1689, and you will be more alert to the imitations that come up.


When we miss the gospel by adding things to it that do not belong, then we are doing great damage to ourselves and others. It’s not just missing the mark by a little bit, it’s aiming at a totally different target. In writing to the Galatians, Paul was dealing with this issue. He tells them this, “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.” (Galatians 1:6-9 ESV) When we get the gospel wrong then we are actually bringing a curse upon ourselves. The true gospel of Christ says that Jesus took our curse upon himself that we would be made right with God. The true gospel says that the wrath of God was poured out upon Jesus, and that those who trust in him are justified. But when we change this message by adding to it or taking away from it, then we bring the curse upon ourselves. That is why we must know the word and consider it exclusive from all other literary works. It is the difference between life and death.


Job 1:1-5 – God’s Glory in the Most Human Experience

The story of Job is a human one. It’s one that everyone can connect with on some level. We’ve all hurt. We’ve all lost. We’ve all felt the fallenness of this world. And because of that shared experience of suffering, God tells us this story of His glory. Many of us see God’s glory in the goodness of things, as we should, but we often struggle to see God’s glory and purpose in suffering. Job helps.

We are introduced to Job as the “ideal Christian” or at least what many of us believe the ideal Christian should be. Job is morally good. Job is prosperous. Job is religious. Job is safe, comfortable, and nothing in his behavior would suggest any of that would change. There is no reason why anyone would guess based on his intro why he would be a candidate for suffering like he does. And that’s one of the most relatable things we find in the book of Job. We tend to believe that being good will save us from suffering. We tend to believe that God is working hard on our behalf to ensure our comfort, especially when we’re good. The truth is that God’s glory is most effectively seen in our struggle. And Scripture testifies to this truth over and over again.

This sounds like cruelty on God’s part. He would let us get comfortable, feel like things are going well, and then pull the rug out from under us. And if our hearts were consistently trusting Him in the midst of prosperity, He would be cruel. But the reality is that the human heart often drifts towards self-righteousness when we are most comfortable. We get into a routine and begin to believe that our behavior has led us to such blessing. We believe our work has earned us the right enjoy the things that are passing away. We believe our merit has purchased our security. In short, we quickly give glory to ourselves when things start to go well. God has a purpose in suffering: to reset our proud hearts toward Him.

The introduction to Job is not to be taken from the context of the book. We are not to set His example up as a goal for our lives. Job before suffering is to help us remember that our treasure is not here. The rest of the story is to remind us that we serve a God who will graciously and relationally remind us of this. Our God is good and does good (Psalm 119:68) and in His goodness does whatever He pleases (Psalm 115:3). When He is pleased to allow suffering in our lives, may we be ready to turn to Him in the midst of it. This is what His Word teaches us. May our hearts find rest in Him.

The Canon of Scripture


The Bibles that we have contains books that were written by men who spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. The last blog post covered this in more detail. But what about the collection of books themselves? How were they put together and how do we know that we can trust them? Well, there are far better writings out there to answer that question than what I could do here. In chapter 3 of Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology this is covered in a very readable way and can be previewed here. We call this collection of books the canon of scripture, and they are what makes up the second paragraph of the 1689 confession. Rather than listing them all here, I will just clarify that they are known as the Old and New Testaments, which can be found in the table of contents in the front of your Bible. After all the books are listed in the 1689, there is a simple phrase (and a biblical reference) recorded that will be the focus of this writing.

“All of which are given by the inspiration of God, to be the rule of faith and life.”

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16, ESV)


As mentioned before, the previous blog post on Biblical Theology contains more detail on the inspiration of scripture, and it can be read here. But I did want to quickly address the fact that “all” of these books are given by inspiration of God. There has been a movement in modern Christianity that seeks to simply take the “red letters” in the scripture as important while holding the rest with an open hand. This is misguided. Of course Jesus words are extremely important. They are some of the most precious words that we have recorded! But all of God’s word is God’s word! The God of the Old Testament is not a different God than the one we see in the New Testament. Part of Jesus mission was to live the holy, sinless life that we could not live. If Jesus did not first live for us in this way (active obedience to the Old Testament Scriptures), then his death would not save us from condemnation. He lived by the scriptures, though he himself was God. We see this clearly in his temptation before he began his ministry (Matthew 4:4). The word of God was held up by Jesus as the very thing that mankind should live by, and that brings us to the next point.


The scriptures are meant to govern us as Christians. As the 1689 says, they are to be the rule of faith and life. If we practice our faith in a way that is outside of the authority of the scriptures, then we are no longer following Jesus (who lived by the scriptures also) and we should no longer call ourselves “Christians”. God has given us his word that we would know him and worship him. It does not make sense, then, to attempt to know and worship him outside of his revealed word. If you say that you just want to follow Jesus, while at the same time rejecting the authority of the Bible, I would like you to think hypothetically for a moment. If you lived in the time of Jesus and you followed him, how do you think he would respond to you saying that you want to follow him without fully trusting the scriptures (which would have been only the Old Testament at the time)? My best guess would be that he would say this,

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:17-19, ESV)

Jesus is not contrary to the scriptures in any way. In fact, he came to earth to rescue us from our sin because WE are contrary to the scriptures! We rebelled against God, and in our natural state we cannot submit to the word of God. That is why he rescued us and gave us the gift of the Holy Spirit that we might put to death the deeds of the flesh (Romans 8:7-13). The word of God will never change to fit our preferences, but rather we must be changed by the word of God! Neglecting the precious gift of the word is to literally neglect the faith and life itself. Take up and read.


Biblical Theology (Part 1)

2 Peter 1-21

Do not let the word “theology” intimidate you. It’s not a word that is strictly reserved for academic types or seminary goers. Theology simply means the study of God and his nature. Every Christian must do theology because it would be impossible to truly be a Christian without it. We must know things about God in order to believe and confess them. Therefore, using our brains is a necessary part of participating in the faith, not sinful as some would have us believe. It does not make you a pharisee or a person who practices dead religion. On the contrary, those who would seek to practice their faith solely by “feelings” are in more danger of walking contrary to Christ than those who would seek to know God by studying him. Theology must inform our doxology (which is our praise to God). Feelings for God are necessary. So much so that our theology would be useless if it did not lead us to affection for God. But to seek after “feelings” without being informed of the nature of God first is dangerous. It is putting the cart before the horse in the most radical sense. Our emotions change, but the truth of who God is never does.


Of all the ways God could have revealed himself to us, he chose to give us a book. Sixty-six books actually. The Bible contains all the vast content that God has revealed to us about himself. We spend lifetimes studying it, and continually learn from it until death. There are millions of books that have been written about the scriptures, and that is because there is such a wealth of knowledge within them.

Because God has given us his words in the Bible, our theology must be Biblical. How we study God must ever be linked to studying his word. When we shift away from the word of God to do theology, we are essentially studying a God that we have made for ourselves. We become like the Israelites at the foot of mount Sinai, looking at our golden calf and saying to ourselves “behold our God who brought us out of the land of Egypt.” God has given us his words! And to prefer another way of doing theology, or even simply implying that the word of God is not enough for us to do theology, is to turn our noses up at God himself. Of course we should use other books and resources in our study, but those books and resources must be Biblical. If we are not seeking God from his word then we must ask ourselves if we are really seeking him at all.


16 For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17 For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” 18 we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. 19 And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, 20 knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. 21 For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” ( 2 Peter 1:16–21, ESV)

The Apostle Peter is quite clear. The scriptures are not “cleverly devised myths”, but eyewitness accounts and prophetic words not produced by the will of man. The scriptures are words that have been spoken through men from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. These words are trustworthy and true. They are not a mixture of truth and error as some would have you believe. God is gracious to us, and he did not speak “some” truths in the Bible. He did not speak partial truths in the Bible. He does not expect us to find the parts that are trustworthy in it and discard the parts that we deem unfit. Yet this is what many today choose to do with his word. Something comes up in it that makes them uncomfortable and they decide that it is “inconsistent with God’s character” and toss it out. It is much more palatable for us to cherry-pick the scriptures for things we like than it is to take God at his word. When we choose to do that, we end up with a man-centered theology that seeks to rob God of his glory by placing a priority on our feelings rather than the truth. The Bible proclaims itself to be the very words of God, and we should read it as such.

Our Need For Scripture

The Scriptures Part 1

The Holy Scripture is the only sufficient, certain, and infallible rule of all saving knowledge, faith, and obedience,1 although the light of nature, and the works of creation and providence do so far manifest the goodness, wisdom, and power of God, as to leave men inexcusable; yet they are not sufficient to give that knowledge of God and His will which is necessary unto salvation.2 Therefore it pleased the Lord at sundry times and in diversified manners to reveal Himself, and to declare (that) His will unto His church;3 and afterward for the better preserving and propagating of the truth, and for the more sure establishment and comfort of the church against the corruption of the flesh, and the malice of Satan, and of the world, to commit the same wholly unto writing; which makes the Holy Scriptures to be most necessary, those former ways of God’s revealing His will unto His people being now completed.4

1 2 Tim. 3:15–17; Is. 8:20; Luke 16:29,31; Eph. 2:20
2 Rom. 1:19-21, 2:14–15; Psalm 19:1-3
3 Heb. 1:1
4 Prov. 22:19-21; Rom. 15:4; 2 Pet. 1:19–20


The very first section in the 1689 confession is all about the scriptures. This should reinforce the fact that the purpose of  the confession is to lay out the doctrines of the Bible in a clear way, and not at all replace them. The 1689 starts with the doctrine of scripture because there would be no 1689 confession without the scriptures. They are the lifeblood of the confession. So why does the confession seek to actively define a doctrine of scripture? For the sake of unity in the church. When we have a unified understanding of what the scriptures are and how we are to use them, there will be less strife within the church. We need a clear understanding of what the doctrine of scripture is in order to further understand the other doctrines that are within it. So the question is, what does the Bible say about itself?


The scriptures tell us that we need them. In the same way that we need oxygen to live, we need the scriptures for salvation. Nature itself testifies to the glory of God. There is no doubt about this. But nature is not enough to clearly articulate the gospel of God. Romans 1:19-21 and Romans 10:14-17 make this very clear. Nature leaves us without excuse, but it does not give us enough to fully know God. He has chosen to reveal himself in a salvific way through his word.

The word is also necessary because it brings us more clarity. What can be learned from nature is what we call “general revelation”. But the Bible is what we call “special revelation”. The Holy Spirit actually spoke to people, and those people recorded the revelation from God onto parchment. This truly is a miracle, not only because of the way it happened, but also because it has been preserved all these years. This special revelation gives the church all the instruction we need to properly govern ourselves. This protects the church from abuse of leadership and ignorance of sin because we all have the word available to us.


God has given us clear and sufficient words. What he has revealed is more than enough for us. We will spend our lives reading the word and depending on the truth within it. It will never fail us, or lack anything that would drive us to find ultimate truth somewhere else. That is not to say that the Bible answers every single question or has instruction for every single situation. It doesn’t. But it does have a sufficiency in it for all things pertaining to life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3-4). All that God has revealed is enough for us to live a life that is pleasing to him. When we wrestle with things in this life, we lean on the scriptures. Of course there is nothing wrong with seeking knowledge and wisdom from other books or from professionals (such as councilors, doctors, etc). But the scriptures are sufficient for us.

The Bible sitting on your shelf is the most precious physical object that you own. It contains the law of God and the gospel of God. It reveals to you the righteous standard of YAHWEH. You see clearly from the scriptures that he is holy and that you are unable to follow his commands without failure. You see that if it depends on you, and your own ability to meet God’s standard, then you are damned. But in those same scriptures you see the gospel of grace! You see that God has sent his own Son to live in the place of sinners (meeting God’s standard for us) and to die in the place of sinners (satisfying God’s wrath toward us). You see the law and the gospel, and how God has given us everything because he has given us himself. You see this in his word, and this is what the confession affirms. God’s word is enough.


There is no more scripture left to be written. This is not a limitation on us, but a huge blessing! We have it all! All of God’s special revelation is ours to take up and read! Yes I just used three exclamation points in a row. Can you tell that I am excited about this? So many Christians live this life in search of something “more” from God. They want to know his plan for their lives. They want things from him that they feel would make them feel complete. But the truth is that God has given us more than we will ever need. He has given us himself! The glorious God of all creation has given us the gift of relationship with him, and we know him by his word. Of course one day our faith will be sight, and we will see Jesus face to face. That will be the best thing ever. But how do we know this will happen? Through God’s word that reveals this truth to us (1 Corinthians 13:12). The fact that the Bible is a closed book (no more to be added to it) is not something that restricts us, but rather it empowers us! We can trust the Bible because it is complete.

Confessing The Truth


What do you believe? Are you a Christian? How do you articulate what you believe to others? Can you define clearly the truth of the gospel and hold fast to it in the midst of criticism? These are all valid questions that each of us should ask ourselves. There is great value in experience and actually walking in the way of Christ. It’s what all of his followers are expected to do. We are to be doers of the Word and not hearers only.  But we cannot be doers of that which we do not know. Knowing the word and doing what it says are like diet and exercise. You can excercise for hours, but if you are not taking in the proper nutrients your body needs, your exercise will lack the fuel required for it to be done properly. In the same way, we take the time to study and know what the doctrines of the Bible are so that we would be able to properly live by them. This brings me to the point. We will be going through the 1689 Confession of Faith on this blog for the forseeable future. We will take it a section at a time and break down its contents that we might be sharpened in our knowledge of the doctrines of the Bible. You can find and read the confession here, and I encourage you to do so.


I know some may think, “Why do we need to read something like this? Isn’t it just something men have put together? Why not just read our Bibles?” It’s understandable why one would think this, and thus I think it is necessary to clarify some things. Creeds and confessions are NOT and NEVER will be a replacement for reading the Scriptures. God has graciously given us his Word, and I would argue that there is no greater treasure we have on this earth. Never stop seeking him in his Word. The purpose of this confession is not to replace the Scriptures, but rather it is to clearly lay out the doctrines found in them. You will notice after each paragraph there are many references to the Scriptures, and they are there for us to read and understand why the doctrines are defined the way that they are.


These doctrines can be very weighty, and some of them may challenge your thinking on several things that you thought you had all figured out. So what should you do if you feel this tension start to develop in you? Take a deep breath. Pray. And seek the Lord in his word, especially using the referenced passages. It is a healthy thing to wrestle with the doctrines of Scripture. If you have questions or want to further discuss some of the things in the confession, reach out to us (your pastors) and we would be happy to meet with you and walk through these things together. We all should have a healthy understanding that this document is not inerrant, but the Scriptures are. That is not to say that we believe there are major errors in the 1689. It seems to us there are not, otherwise we would not be walking through it with you.


How is it helpful for our church to walk through this confession? Well, besides the wrestling together mentioned above, it is also helpful because it brings us closer together in unity. When we can confess what we believe together, we are able to better live out what we believe together also. The gospel-driven community that we want to thrive at the Hill Church is helped by having unity in our doctrine. Confessions and creeds are tools meant to help us do just that. That is why we have a statement of faith that our covenant members must confess, which can be found here. Unity around the Word is what we seek, and going through this confession is a tool that will help us come together. The Word itself is what we believe, but many have taken it out of context and twisted it to mean something that it does not. That is why we need confessions, creeds, and statements of faith. Not because they replace the Word in any way, but because they help us clearly define the doctrines found within it.

Obedience Is Better

From the time we are old enough to comprehend basic sentences from our parents, we are told to obey commands. And obedience to those commands was not required of us because our parents wanted to make us unhappy. As a father with two children and a third on the way soon, I can say with confidence that the things I ask my children to do spring from a desire for their good and not their misery. And yet, by their reactions to my commands to them, you would think I seek to torture them. I acted this way towards my parents when I was a child, and so did you. Rebellion is in our nature. Not just rebellion toward our parents, but rebellion towards our Creator. We are born rebellious toward him who gives us life, breath, and everything. We are born his enemies, and our only hope to obedience and reconciliation with him is in his grace. I wanted to make this clear up front so that there is no mistaking what I am about to write as legalistic or somehow possible apart from the grace of God. It is not, and I will address this reality in more detail towards the end.

The Danger of Partial Obedience

In 1 Samuel 15, we find the tragic downward spiral of king Saul. His disobedience to the command of God is the reason for his downfall, and yet it is not blatant, full-on disobedience. It is subtle, partial disobedience that set him totally off course. He was told to devote Amalek to total destruction (15:3). That was the command. Do not leave anything breathing, not even an animal. Now this sounds brutal I know, and the reason the LORD would require such a thing is a topic for another time. The point is, Saul was given a clear command from God that he chose to ignore (15:9). He obeyed it partially, and thus he was pleased with himself.

Partially obeying God’s word is equal to disobeying God’s word. One of the greatest dangers we face as Christians is the art of cherry-picking things from the Bible that we like and willingly choosing to ignore and discard the things we don’t like. This reveals that it is not God whom we are seeking to worship, but rather an idol. Not just any idol either. It is the worst of all idols. It is us. When we choose to ignore the things in God’s word that don’t align with the way we see things, we are worshiping ourselves. We are boldly proclaiming that we know more than our Creator. Augustine of Hippo once said, “If you believe what you like in the Gospel, and reject what you don’t like, it is not the gospel you believe, but yourself.” The conscience is given us by God, but it has no liberty where God has clearly spoken. We must either have all of his word or none of it. He has not given us the scriptures to decode and figure out which parts are true, he has given them to us that we might know him, love him, and obey him.

The Danger of People Pleasing

In the account in 1 Samuel 15, we also see in Saul a desire to be liked by the people because he feared what they might think of him (15:24). This is a trap that is easy for us to fall into. The truth is that it doesn’t matter what decisions you make, there will always be people who don’t approve of them. Attempting to make everyone happy while ignoring the words of God will not be helpful to us in either direction. People will turn on you just as quickly as you turn from the LORD in an attempt to appease them. It will not be popular to stand firm and obey the things God has revealed, but it is a rock to stand on in the midst of quicksand.

People pleasing is not just a danger to us, but a danger to the very people we claim we want to make happy. It is selfish to desire to be liked by people more than to desire obedience to the word of God. Only the word gives life (Psalm 119:25, Matthew 4:4, Romans 10:17). When you seek to please people by encouraging disobedience to the word, you actually seek to keep them dying of thirst. It is always destructive. If you really want to help others around you have joy then tell them the truth. Give them the word in all its fullness, not just the parts that you deem worthy. The hearts of people are fickle, and attempting to please them apart from the word of God will suffocate you with complexities. Stand firm on the word that endures forever.

God Delights in Obedience

Samuel, after finding out Saul’s disobedience to the clear command of God, rebukes him with this word, “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.” (1 Samuel 15:22) Saul had spared Agag the king and all the animals that where acceptable for sacrifice to the LORD. The problem with that is that he was not asked to do that, but to destroy everything. God’s delight is in the obedience of his people, and that is why we must not walk in our own ways doing what seems right to us. Yet all of us have failed at this so what is our hope?

As stated in the introduction, our hope is in the perfect obedience of Christ. He was the only man who has ever lived that perfectly obeyed all the commands of the LORD. Even king David who came after Saul failed miserably at times. Partial obedience and people pleasing has plagued us all, and we stand before God as unclean rebels from the day of our birth. But not Christ. From the very day of his birth he lived in perfect obedience to the commands of his Father. Every second of every day, he obeyed. A task that is impossible for sinful men and women was perfectly executed, day after day, by Christ. When confronted with the possibility of partial obedience, he held fast to the word (Mark 7:5-13). When the opportunity to please people rather than God came before him, he clung to the word, obeyed God, and told people the truth (John 4, Matthew 21:12-17). Because he has obeyed all the commands of God, we who are in him can rest secure in his obedience. His righteousness was imputed to all who belong to him, meaning his obedience is now our obedience (2 Corinthians 5:21).  He did not merely die for us, but he lived a life of obedience for us.

So where does that leave us now? Because Christ has obeyed for us does that mean that we can cast aside all efforts to obey the commands of God? In a word, NOPE. We who have been saved by Christ will continue to be made more like him. This is called “sanctification”, and it is a vital part of the Christian life. By the Holy Spirit we have been given a new nature (2 Corinthians 5:17), and though the old sin nature still dwells within us, the Holy Spirit is working in us to shovel out the old and permeate us with the new. We obey God by focusing our affections on Christ and all that he has done for us, and by the power of the Holy Spirit to sanctify us through the word. Will you obtain perfect obedience in this lifetime? Well the answer is both yes and no. No, we will not reach the point of perfection that Christ did. We will spend this lifetime dealing with our sin and the sin of others. But the answers is also yes, because we have it in Christ. All of his perfection and all of his obedience is ours! Let us continue to hope in him as we strive to be like him.

Christ Our Wisdom

How does it affect you when someone calls attention to your unwise choices? If we would be transparent, I think it is safe to say that most of us become very defensive. “How dare they insult my intelligence” we might think. Or we might begin reminding ourselves of all the good and wise things we feel we have done in this life in an attempt to offset the sting of someone coming against that. Pride, which is the sin that comes into play here, is both very obvious and very subtle. We long to be wise and respected so that others will think well of us and that we might think highly of ourselves. And that is why our God will not allow us to be in accordance with his word and remain prideful. Consider how the new testament refers to those at the church in Corinth.

“For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God. But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, so that, just as it is written, ‘LET HIM WHO BOASTS, BOAST IN THE LORD.'” (1 Corinthians 1:26-31 NASB)

God, speaking through Paul, straight up tells the Corinthian Christians that they were not wise at all compared to most other people in the world. What a humbling thing to hear for those who will truly receive it. There were many people outside of the church that possessed far superior human wisdom than those God had called into his family. And the same could be said today. God did not rescue us from our sin because he needed some “smart people” on his team. He is not trying to compete with the wisdom of the world in any way. To think this way shows our ignorance, proving further that God did not make us a part of his family because we had something special to offer. We are like the Corinthians, foolish and weak. God has chosen to save us that he might show his glory through fools! He has chosen to save the weakest that he might shame the strong. He has chosen us as his instruments to show to the world that creation is nothing apart from its creator. His glory he will give to no other, and he intends to prove that through the foolish sinners he has redeemed.

“God has chosen” is a recurring phrase that you will see in the scripture above. We, as God’s people, are not products of our own wise decision making. That is something that is not easy to receive due to the sin of pride. It is in our nature to be self-made and self-sufficient. But the word comes against that idea and tells us that we are not products of our own design. We are products of grace for the glory of God. He chose you out of the world that he would shine through your weaknesses and glorify his name. He chose you out of the world that he might pour out his wisdom through you in spite of your foolishness.

How does he do this? “But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption.” By his doing, he has made us “in Christ” who is our wisdom. Any good that comes out of us in this life is actually coming out of Christ whom we are “in”. There is no more room for pride, for you are in Christ. You have no wisdom of your own, for you are in Christ. You bring no strength to the equation, for you are in Christ. God fully intends to use you to glorify his name without any of your help! All he has left you to do is boast in him! That is your only task. You are to point to him. Magnify his name for all those in your life to see that God alone is able to produce wisdom in a sinner like you. He does the work in his people, and all we are to do is worship him for it.