Tag Archives: obedience

Gideon

Gideon: How’d He Do It?

Gideon

There are many spectacular events in the Bible. There were the plagues of Egypt, the parting of the Red Sea and later the Jordan. The Blind and deaf were healed and people were raised from  the dead. In a separate category, there was the Creation, the Virgin Birth, and the Resurrection. But there is one miracle, actually a series of miracles, that has always fascinated me: Gideon’s victory over the Midianites in Judges 6 – 8.

Israel had returned to their wicked ways, and as punishment, God allowed Midian to enslave them. Gideon is an unremarkable man from an unremarkable family in an unremarkable tribe in an enslaved nation (6:15). Yet, he is told by an angel that he “shall strike the Midianites as one man” (6:16). After three different, convincing, miracles, Gideon attacks the army of Midian with 300 soldiers divided into three companies. The Midianite army numbered 135,000 swordsmen( 8:10)! That’s a ratio of 450:1! I don’t think the vaunted Navy Seal Team Six would take on such a battle. But one more thing: Gideon’s army carried no weapons (see 7:20 for their armaments). How could this unremarkable man command one of the greatest victories in Israelite history?

The answer is pretty straightforward: He didn’t.

The victory over Midian was God’s work. Gideon was just an obedient servant. He wasn’t a great tactician, and he was not a great warrior. He wasn’t much of a leader at all. He was just a servant.

But he and his countrymen were prone to taking undeserved credit. In Judges 7:2, the Lord said, “The people with you are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hand, lest Israel boast over me, saying, ‘My own hand has saved me.’” In verse 9, God tells Gideon, concerning the Midianite army, “I have given it into your hand.” This was no common victory; it was all the power of God.

While Gideon was not responsible for the victory, his faith and obedience were required. The three chapters in view record three moments when God helped build Gideon’s faith. In Judges 6:36 -40, Gideon asked for and received two miracles, which boosted his faith. He asked for a fleece to be laid on the ground and moistened with dew while the surrounding ground would be dry. The Lord’s angel caused that to happen. Next, Gideon reversed the request. This time, the ground would be wet and the fleece dry. Again, the miracle occurred, and Gideon was encouraged.

The third faith-builder came when Gideon and his servant were sent to infiltrate the Midianite camp. They overheard soldiers talking of a dream in which a cake of bread tumbled into their camp, struck the tent, and flipped it over. The soldier said, “This is no other than the sword of Gideon, the son of Joash, a man of Israel. God has given into his hand Midian and all the camp” (vs. 14).

With renewed faith, Gideon was prepared to obey God even in what seemed an odd battle strategy. The Israelite battalion was now a small company of soldiers. The 300 were further split into 100-man contingents. With no weapons in hand, Israel defeated the mighty Midianites.

The victory belonged to the Lord, but Gideon’s faith and obedience were necessary, too. Could God have won without Gideon? Of course. But he chose to use a mortal to accomplish his work.

You and I fight battles daily. Faith and obedience are required. It was hard for Gideon to see the outcome, especially given the odd tactics. But he believed and was obedient! Faith and obedience are simple tools for accomplishing great things for God. If we trust God’s lovingkindness and obey his simple commands, we will gain the greatest victory of all!

We Must Obey God

A doctrine of convenience has descended upon the religious world. People are told to believe on Jesus and that alone will save your soul. This is a false doctrine contrived by man. Belief is certainly essential for salvation, but it does not bring salvation when left alone. To believe in Jesus as the only Son of God is the beginning, but it does not reflect the totality of salvation. In some circles, it is anathema to suggest that man has any part whatsoever in his own salvation, but Scriptures loudly teach that man, while unable to be saved by his own works, is, in fact, a participant in his own salvation.

Isaiah declared that we are separated from God by our own sins:  ”Your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear” (Isaiah 59:2). The Weeping Prophet, Jeremiah, cried: “Your iniquities have turned these away, and your sins have kept good from you” (Jeremiah 5:25). The Psalmist wrote that a beautiful land had been turned into a “salty waste because of the evil of its inhabitants” (Psalm 107:34). Sin is man’s problem. It is caused by each man and plagues us all (Romans 3:23). Without God, I am justly condemned. Only the God of the Bible has the solution for sin. Without the grace of God; I cannot be saved. Without the mercy of God; I cannot be saved. Without the love of God; I cannot be saved, etc.

But is there anything I must do to be saved? Is there any human action required for salvation? All but the most dedicated disciple of Calvin will acknowledge that man must believe that Jesus is the son of God. To believe is a human act. That hardcore Calvinist, to be consistent, will demand that human belief is only caused by God in those he has chosen. He would say that such an urging from God is irresistible and there is no free will. The depravity of that teaching is probably best seen in Adam and Eve where he would say that God willed the sin of Adam and Eve thus spoiling his own spotless creation. But, most would accept that belief is a necessary contribution of man towards his own salvation.

The Scriptures teach more. Paul sets a contrast between those who do not obey the truth but instead obey unrighteousness (Romans 2:8). If belief alone is necessary to please God then how, we pled, is it possible to obey unrighteousness? We all believe that unrighteousness exists. Does such a belief make us unrighteous? No, it does not; no more than believing in Jesus makes us righteous! Biblical belief always produces action (James 2:14-26).

To be pleasing to God and to ensure his own survival, Noah not only believed God but worked to build an ark of safety. Abraham believed God and repeatedly acted upon God’s instructions. Lott believed God but also fled Sodom to avoid destruction. The people of Acts 2 obviously believed God but were obedient to Peter’s command to “repent and be baptized” (Acts 2:38) and then continued to live righteously.

More directly we note four important Bible passages, John 3:36; Romans 10:16; 2 Thessalonians 1:8 and 1 Peter 4:17. All four verses are cast in the negative. Each asks the same question: What is the condition of those who do not obey the gospel? We ask the reader to observe the word “obey.” It means to comply with some directive or command. Paul and Peter ask what happens to the one who does not comply with the commands of the gospel?

Other passages are set in a positive tone. For example, in Acts 5:32 Peter says the Holy Spirit is given to those who obey God. The Hebrew writer says that salvation comes to those who obey Jesus (Hebrews 5:25. John says we can know that we please God when we “obey his commandments” (1 John 5:2).

We beg our readers to consider that there is more to salvation than a one-time acknowledgment that Jesus is the son of God. We remain totally dependent upon God for our salvation, but we must comply with the truths he has revealed to us in his Scriptures.

 

The Paucity of Belief

 

beliefpaucity – smallness of quantity; scarcity; scantiness:

There is very little real belief left in Christendom and what little there is seems to be decreasing. That is a weighty charge given that much of Christianity teaches that only belief, that is, a mental agreement in some fact, is all that is necessary for salvation. Certainly, the Bible teaches that we must believe to be saved (Mark 16:16; Luke 8:12; Acts 16:31; Romans 10:9; 1 Corinthians 1:21). However, the common view of “believe” bears little or no resemblance to what the Bible teaches. Biblical belief is replaced by a comfortable, convenient, “agreement” that Jesus is the Son of God. While such an agreement is essential, the one who denies it is antichrist (2 John 7), Biblical belief compels action beyond mental assent.

True belief requires action. If you believe that your child suffers from a debilitating disease, you will do all possible to get them the care and treatment required. Your belief in the diagnosis compels or drives you to action. Your neighbor bangs on your door at 3 AM and tells you that your house is on fire; you smell smoke and see flames. Will you thank him and assure him you believe that your house is ablaze and then return to your bed to complete your slumbers? Of course not. You roust your children and spouse and flee the burning building. Your belief that the house is on fire has driven you to action.

Believers are told to do certain things. For example, believers in Acts 2:38 were told to “repent and be baptized.” Noted preacher Frank Chesser recently observed that it would have been foolish to tell the people on Pentecost that all they needed to do was believe. They already believed! They heard Peter preach, perhaps out of curiosity, and realized they had the blood of Jesus on their hands. Now they believed that the one of whom they demanded death was the Son of God. To tell them to simply believe was redundant. There was more to be done.

In Acts 8, the Ethiopian was already a believer when he commanded his chariot to stop so that he might be baptized. Why the hurry? Why the rush? Were there not better waters in the Ethiopian palace? Would he not desire his family and friends to attend the joyous event? No, he stopped because his belief in all that Phillip taught drove him to the water.

Belief comes first, but it must lead a man to obey all that Jesus has said. “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:16). It is unnecessary to say that “he who does not believe and is not baptized will be condemned,” for it should be obvious that a man who does not believe will not be baptized. Once we truly believe in Jesus, we will become obedient followers of all that he teaches. Surely that belief extends far beyond baptism. The true believer is a baptized believer who spends his life for the Lord. We must strongly reject the incomplete notion that a Christian is one who only believes. He believes, obeys and serves!

 

 

John 3:16 – More Than Simple Agreement

Belief that Jesus is the Son of God is essential for salvation. Would anyone question that? How can you be saved by something or someone that you do not believe in? Unquestionably we must believe in Jesus (1 John 3:23). But as we have said before on John 3:16, belief is more than a simple acknowledgement of some fact. Biblically, belief in Jesus was always accompanied by some action on the part of the believer.

What I wish to show in this article, is that saving belief includes certain actions on the part of the believer. Several examples will help including some from the Old Testament.

John 3:16, Adam & Eve

Adam and Eve both believed in Jehovah God. They enjoyed a relationship with him which was, at first, uncluttered by sin. They had been instructed by God as to how they should live; they could not even touch, let alone eat, of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. The first couple clearly understood (Genesis 3:2-3). Nevertheless, they were disobedient and were thus punished with expulsion from the Garden, immediate spiritual death and the immediate beginning of physical death.

Clearly, for these two, more than simple belief in God was necessary. They must be obedient to God to avoid his wrath. They were not. Likewise, the present day reader must also be obedient to God. He must surely believe, but he must also obey.

John 3:16 and Noah

Noah was a preacher of righteousness as well as a boat builder.  He was the recipient of grace from God (Genesis 6:8). Noah was obviously a believer in God. He was also obedient to the Lord. repeatedly, the text notes that Noah was obedient (c.f. Genesis 6:22; Genesis 7:5; Genesis 7:9; Genesis 7:16).

Noah was blessed by God for his faithfulness (Genesis 9:1). Does anyone really think that Noah would have been saved from the Flood and blessed by God apart from his careful obedience? Would Noah, or anyone else, be saved in rank disobedience? It was necessary for him to both believe and to be obedient.

John 3:16 and Pentecost

Peter preached the first Gospel sermon in Acts 2. It was a great day as the church began with power. The people who listened to his message already believed in God. They were devout Jews (Acts 2:5) who had come to Jerusalem for  to celebrate Pentecost. What did they now lack? They lacked a belief in Jesus. It is likely that some of the people in the crowd had witnessed the crucifixion. Perhaps some had even been among those hurling insults at the Lord. Peter delivered a masterful sermon which reached back into the Old Testament. His message convinced his hearers that Jesus of Nazareth was the Son of God.

When they heard Peter, they cried, “What shall we do?” (Acts 2:37). At this point, they believed that Jesus was the Son of God and that he was both Lord and Christ. But their belief was not sufficient. There was more. Thus Peter responded to their simple question with a simple answer. Peter told them to “repent and be baptized” (Acts 2:38). The purpose was included. Repentance and baptism brought remission or forgiveness of sins.

The people of Acts 2 believed but they also obeyed. Acts 2:41 is clear that those who were baptized were added to the church. Again, belief must be coupled with obedience.

John 3:16 and Paul

Like the people on Pentecost, Paul was already a believer in God when he met Jesus on the Damascus road. Also like the people of Pentecost, he sought to be obedient upon his belief in Jesus. Paul asked the Lord, “What shall I do, Lord?”  (Acts 22:10). Jesus only told him to go into Damascus where he would be told what to do (Acts 9:6, Acts 22:10). At this point, Paul has yet to be told what to do. The text is in the future tense. What he must do is still coming.

Clearly believing in Jesus now Paul makes his way into Damascus. Ananias comes to him and delivers what Jesus told him to expect; Ananias tells Paul was to do.

“And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name” (Acts 22:16).

While Paul’s actual baptism is not recorded, it is not questioned by any student of the Bible that I am aware of. Indeed Paul would argue forcefully that one must show deeds worthy of his repentance (Acts 26:20) and that baptism is the way in which we are united with Christ (Romans 6:3-8). Paul was a believer. But just like Adam & Eve, Noah, and the people of Pentecost, he was also obedient.

John 3:16 and Today

John 3:16 is just as true today as it was when Jesus spoke those beautiful words. God has always expected obedience of his people and today is no different. It is a comfortable doctrine indeed to assert that we need do absolutely nothing towards our own salvation. Such removes the tiniest speck of responsibility from me for the conduct of my life. But such is an incomplete Gospel. Obedience is essential. To be sure, we will stumble and our obedience will sometimes fail but God still delivers those who walk in the light (1 John 1:5-10).

Why would we not do all that the Lord has commanded? Baptism alone does not save but it is a piece of the obedience God requires.

What Will It Take to Get Your Attention?

Some people are just hardheads. It takes a disaster to get their attention. You know the kind. They are people who have no insurance until they collide with a $75,000 luxury car. Then they wish they had a policy. Or how about the person who drives around with the “check engine” light on. Suddenly the motor seizes and becomes an expensive boat anchor – then  they get the message. Some people just will not listen.

God’s people have been that way a few times too. In the days just before Israel (northern 10 tribes) went into Assyrian captivity the prophet Amos warned that God had tried and tried to call them back to faithful service but they had refused.

In Amos 4:6-11 the prophet listed 5 specific ways God called Israel back. 5 ways which they rejected.

  1. He brought famine upon the land (vs.6),
  2. He brought drought upon the land (vss. 7-8),
  3. He brought disease upon their plants and vegetation (vs.9),
  4. He brought death upon the people (vs. 10), and
  5. He overthrew their cities (vs.11).

The result of their hard hearts brought them face to face with an angry Lord, “prepare to meet your God” (vs. 13)! His words of doom are unmistaken: “Fallen, no more to rise is the virgin Israel…” (5:2). And, “the city that went out with a thousand shall have a hundred left and that which went out a hundred shall have ten left to the house of Israel” (vs. 5:3).

History records the horrible downfall of the north. A small remnant was all that remained of the once proud people of Israel. As a nation they simply vanished.

Some 3,000 or so years removed from their fate we still find people who resist God in spite of his warnings and chastening. We seem to bumble through life ignoring struggles that should point us toward the Father while taking personal glory in our tiny achievements. We trust in ourselves and not God. Our world suffers through every imaginable tragedy yet we still ignore the Creator. How can we be surprised at anything that happens?

Amos still held out hope for Israel. Until the moment of their exile God awaited their hearts. In chapter 5 he says, “Seek me and live…” (vs. 4) and “Seek the Lord and live…” (vs. 6). Those words ring true today also. God waits for his people to reach out to him and be blessed. Like ancient Israel we can choose to ignore or accept his offer.

When Israel ignored God’s calls they were essentially banished into captivity and never returned. (Remember that it was Judah or the southern 2 tribes that returned after Babylonian captivity – the north never did.) What will be our estate if we ignore his warnings now? Not national captivity – although nothing is beyond possible. If we ignore his warnings now, after he has given us his Son, we can expect only the most severe punishment.

Let us hear his call for return and redemption now before it is too late!

What Will It Take To Get Your Attention?

Some people are just hardheads. It takes a disaster to get their attention. You know the kind. They are people who have no insurance until they collide with a $75,000 luxury car. Then they wish they had a policy. Or how about the person who drives around with the “check engine” light on. Suddenly the motor seizes and becomes an expensive boat anchor – then they get the message. Some people just will not listen.

God’s people have been that way a few times too. In the days just before Israel (northern 10 tribes) went into Assyrian captivity the prophet Amos warned that God had tried and tried to call them back to faithful service but they had refused.

In Amos 4:6-11 the prophet listed 5 specific ways God called Israel back. 5 ways which they rejected.

1. He brought famine upon the land (vs.6),

2. He brought drought upon the land (vss. 7-8),

3. He brought disease upon their plants and vegetation (vs.9),

4. He brought death upon the people (vs. 10), and

5. He overthrew their cities (vs.11).

The result of their hard hearts brought them face to face with an angry Lord, “prepare to meet your God” (vs. 13)! His words of doom are unmistaken: “Fallen, no more to rise is the virgin Israel…” (5:2). And, “the city that went out with a thousand shall have a hundred left and that which went out a hundred shall have ten left to the house of Israel” (vs. 5:3).

History records the horrible downfall of the north. A small remnant was all that remained of the once proud people of Israel. As a nation they simply vanished.

Some 3,000 or so years removed from their fate we still find people who resist God in spite of his warnings and chastening. We seem to bumble through life ignoring struggles that should point us toward the Father while taking personal glory in our tiny achievements. We trust in ourselves and not God. Our world suffers through every imaginable tragedy yet we still ignore the Creator. How can we be surprised at anything that happens?

Amos still held out hope for Israel. Until the moment of their exile God awaited their hearts. In chapter 5 he says, “Seek me and live…” (vs. 4) and “Seek the Lord and live…” (vs. 6). Those words ring true today also. God waits for his people to reach out to him and be blessed. Like ancient Israel we can choose to ignore or accept his offer.

When Israel ignored God’s calls they were essentially banished into captivity and never returned. (Remember that it was Judah or the southern 2 tribes that returned after Babylonian captivity – the north never did.) What will be our estate if we ignore his warnings now? Not national captivity – although nothing is beyond possible. If we ignore his warnings now, after he has given us his Son, we can expect only the most severe punishment.

Let us hear his call for return and redemption now before it is too late!

-Bryant Evans