The Destructive Power Of Self-Sufficiency

…Find me a woman who is a medium, so I may go and inquire of her (1 Samuel 28:7). 

How sad for King Saul! But this is the inevitable path for one who was put into his leadership position by God and then completely turned his back on God. 

God did so much over so many years to try to get Saul to turn back to Him, but Saul persisted in his self-sufficiency. As Paul wrote in Galatians, “A man reaps what he sows.” Militarily, Saul had one shining moment: delivering the people of Jabesh Gilead. The closing words of 1 Samuel show us the valiant man from Jabesh conducting a covert nighttime mission to remove the bodies of Saul and his sons from the Philistines, and then giving them a proper burial. Just imagine how many more valiant men may have been around if Saul had continually obeyed God! 

Now, nearing the end of his life, Saul is at his wits’ end: God is not answering him by any means he tries. As a result, this final chapter of Saul’s leadership is characterized by words like:

  • afraid
  • terror filled his heart 
  • great distress 
  • filled with fear 
  • his strength was gone

Until King Saul ultimately takes his own life.

The consequences of Saul’s sinful self-sufficiency impacted more than just him. A leader’s sins have devastating effects on his followers. Throughout Saul’s reign as king we see the army fearful, hesitant, ill-equipped, slinking away, confused, set up for failure, and ultimately defeated. Saul could never get out of his own way, taking Israel down with him.

A mark of a godless leader is sinful self-sufficiency.

How sad for Saul and Israel. Especially because Saul’s demise was totally avoidable if he only would have repented of his pride and turned wholeheartedly to God.

This is a sober reminder for all leaders: if God has put you in a place of leadership, you will experience success. Don’t let that success fool you, as it did with Saul, into thinking you created that success. This is the first step toward the downward slide that ultimately destroyed Saul, and it will be your undoing as well. 

This is part 49 in my series on godly leadership. You can check out all of my posts in this series by clicking here.

10 Quotes From “The Knowledge Of The Holy”

A.W. Tozer helps us think long and deep about the greatness of God, opening windows of insight that many have not contemplated previously. Check out my full book review of The Knowledge Of The Holy by clicking here. 

“With our loss of the sense of Majesty has come the further loss of religious awe and consciousness of the divine presence. … The decline of the knowledge of the holy has brought on our troubles. A rediscovery of the majesty of God will go along way toward curing them.” 

“What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” 

“The man who comes to a right belief about God is relieved of ten thousand temporal problems, for he sees at once that these have to do with matters which at the most cannot concern him for very long; but even if the multiple burdens of time may be lifted from him, the one mighty single burden of eternity begins to press down upon him with a weight more crushing then all the woes of the world piled one upon another. …

“But unless the weight of the burden is felt, the gospel can mean nothing to the man; and until he sees a vision of God high and lifted up, there will be no woe and no burden. Low views of God destroyed the gospel for all who hold them.” 

“Among the sins to which the human heart is prone, hardly any other is more hateful to God than idolatry, for idolatry is at bottom a libel on His character. … The essence of idolatry is the entertainment of thoughts about God that are unworthy of Him.” 

“The heaviest obligation lying upon the Christian Church today is to purify and elevate her concept of God until it is once more worthy of Him—and of her.” 

“When the Spirit would acquaint us with something that lies beyond the field of our knowledge, He tells us that this thing is like something we already know, but He is always careful to phrase His description so as to save us from slavish literalism.” 

“An attribute of God is whatever God has in anyway revealed as being true of Himself.” 

“We might be wise to follow the insight of the enraptured heart rather than the more cautious reasonings of the theological mind.” 

“If we ever think well it should be when we think of God.” 

“The harmony of His being is the result not of a perfect balance of parts but of the absence of parts.… An attribute, then, is not a part of God, it is how God is…. The divine attributes are what we know to be true of God. He does not possess them as qualities; they are how God is as He reveals Himself to His creatures.” 

Acceptable And Pleasing

…acceptable to the Lord … an aroma pleasing to the Lord… (Leviticus 1:3, 9). 

Whether it’s a sacrifice or a lifestyle, these two phrases sum up the goal of obeying all of God’s directives: acceptable and pleasing. 

“But,” you might say, “there is a lot of law to obey—a lot! 

And I would agree with you. Beginning with the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20 and going all the way through Numbers 9, there are 56(!) chapters of regulations.

“And I’m supposed to follow all of those?!” 

Yes! Every single one of them. And not just those, but also the innumerable man-made rules that were added on top of all of those laws. 

In the opening words of Leviticus, two key words emerge:

  • Acceptable to the Lord 
  • An aroma pleasing to the Lord

“How can I ever get there?” 

YOU can’t! 

For EVERYONE has sinned; we ALL fall short of God’s righteous standard (Romans 3:23 NLT). 

For NO PERSON will be justified—made righteous, acquitted, and judged acceptable—in God’s sight by observing the works prescribed by the Law… (Romans 3:20 AMP). 

But here is our hope—Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing the heavenly places in Christ…to the praise and of the glory of His grace, by which HE MADE US ACCEPTABLE in the Beloved (Ephesians 1:3, 6 NKJV). 

And when we are in Christ, we also become an aroma pleasing to God—Our lives are a Christ-like FRAGRANCE rising up to God (2 Corinthians 2:14-17 NLT). 

On our own, we cannot accomplish any of this. But in Christ we are both ACCEPTABLE to the Lord … and an aroma PLEASING to the Lord…. 

Justice And Love

But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?” (Genesis 3:9). 

There are consequences for sin (because God is Just) and there is a remedy for sin (because God is Love). 

Adam and Eve sinned. 

They lost their innocence before God, they were expelled from the Garden of Eden, they would experience pain in childbirth, they would have to scratch to provide their food, they would experience relational turmoil, and most devastatingly of all, they faced the potential of being separated from God’s presence forever. 

These are all just penalties for sin. 

But don’t miss God’s love in this too—

  • God came to them in the cool of the day, not in the instant of their sin 
  • He came walking in the Garden, not hurling lightning bolts of judgment 
  • He came with questions, not accusations 
  • He cursed the devil and the ground, but not Adam and Eve 
  • He provided for the final defeat of satan, not the final defeat of mankind 
  • He killed an animal to clothe their nakedness, not leaving them vulnerable 
  • He didn’t allow them to become immortal while still in their sin

There are painful consequences for sin—this is Justice. 

But even in justice, never lose sight of the fact that GOD IS LOVE ❤️

Turning From Moral Folly To Wisdom

“The man who says, ‘I want to go to heaven, but I don’t want to live a pure life; I want to be free to continue with my present life. I will change a little and do better, but I have no desire to be pure,’ or the man who says, ‘I want to escape hell and make heaven my home at last, but I have no particular desire to cease to live as I have lived’ is deceiving himself. You are hearing the language of a moral fool. This is not the language of wisdom, but the folly of the damned. … 

“The penitent man wants to be changed. If you are still sufficiently in love with yourself and all you want is a little improvement, I see no possibility of faith approaching your heart. Unless a man comes to Christ seeking to be a different person, to be humble, meek, and self-effacing, he is not coming to Christ at all. Unless we hate evil and love righteousness, at least to the degree we are able at the moment, we are still in the bonds of iniquity and the enemies of righteousness. … 

“Join me in this prayer: “Oh, I want to be other than what I am. I want to be different. I want to change. I am not satisfied. I want to believe in Thee, and trust in Thee, and throw myself boldly on Thee, and I want to be made like Thyself. I do not want only to escape hell, I want to escape sin. I not only want to go to Heaven at last, but I want to have Heaven in my heart now. I not only want to dwell with the redeemed, I want to be like the redeemed here on earth. I want to be another kind of person.” —A.W. Tozer, in The Wisdom of God

8 Quotes From “Jesus In Me”

Anne Graham Lotz has given us a delightful book that feels like a living room chat with a friend as we discuss how the Holy Spirit operates in our lives. Check out my full book review of Jesus In Me by clicking here. 

“The Holy Spirit is not a thing but a Person. His personhood is emphasized in John 16, when eleven times in eight verses, He is referred to by the personal, masculine pronouns He, Him, or His.” 

“Could it be that you have missed the comfort of the Comforter because it has come indirectly through someone or something else? Like Mary Magdalene at the empty tomb, are your tears blinding you to the presence of Jesus right there beside you? Right there within you? My prayer is that He will use these words to comfort you as you experience the constant companionship of the Holy Spirit. Ask Him to open your eyes to the nearness of the One who is, in fact, Jesus in you.” 

“Whether your situation involves a misunderstanding with your neighbors, or a disagreement within your church, or tension in your home, or slander in your school, or gossip in your office, the Holy Spirit is able to defend you and plead your cause. Always. Ask Him. He’s never lost a case.” 

“Multiple times God has told me He would strengthen me through the howling winds of hardship. In Jeremiah He clearly warned me that people would fight against me but that He would make me an iron pillar. Through Isaiah He told me that people would rage against me and oppose me but that I was not to be afraid because He would strengthen me. He encouraged me from Revelation that if I would endure patiently and with humility, He would make me ‘a pillar in the temple of my God.’” 

“It’s a huge relief to know that it’s not my job to convict anyone else of sin. That’s the Holy Spirit’s job. Which leaves me free to love people just as they are. Yes, I can counsel and advise if they are open to it. Yes, I can speak the truth in love. Yes, I can point out the potential consequences of their sin. But in the end the most effective thing I can do is to pray for them with a heart full of love. Because the power to transform is His alone.” 

“As we choose to fix our eyes on Jesus, pursue righteousness, live by the truth, and fulfill God’s purpose for our lives, the Holy Spirit will guide us, sharpening our focus in the midst of life’s distractions and confusion.” 

“Maintaining the fire requires intentionally establishing some common spiritual disciplines. They are simple choices but not always easy. They include daily prayer, daily Bible reading, sharing the gospel, continuous obedience as you live out what God says in His Word, continuous trust as you relinquish your expectations and let Him have His way, deepening surrender to His authority—especially during times of pain and suffering.” 

“He uses all things without exception, not just some things, for my ultimate good. And my ultimate good is not health, wealth, prosperity, happiness, or sometimes the things we associate with ‘good.’ My ultimate good is to fulfill God’s purpose of shaping me into the image of Jesus Christ so I bring glory to Him.” 

It’s Time To Come Home

I already shared the bizarre but beautiful sermon illustration that Hosea lived out for the Israelites and for us. His wife had been unfaithful to him and had gotten herself so far in debt that she was a virtual slave. Hosea, in a clear picture of God’s amazing, unrelenting love, bought back his wife, paid off her debts, and completely restored her to himself. 

Sadly, the people of Israel—even after seeing this grace-filled living lesson—continue to push farther and farther away from God. This prompted God to announce the indictment against them… 

Hear the word of the Lord, you Israelites, because the Lord has a charge to bring against you who live in the land: “There is no faithfulness, no love, no acknowledgment of God in the land. There is only cursing, lying and murder, stealing and adultery; they break all bounds, and bloodshed follows bloodshed” (Hosea 4:1-2). 

It wasn’t the first time that someone preferred the things of the world to the things of God (like Adam and Eve), and it wasn’t the last time (like you and me). We mortals tend to be seduced by what we can see and hold right now, instead of trusting God for something far better. 

Jesus told a story about a son who enjoyed the full privilege and favor of his father, yet this son thought he could do better on his own. He asked his father for his share of the inheritance and left for a distant land, determined to live a life where he called all the shots. But with his money gone, he found himself in debt, starving, and working as a hired hand in a pigsty. 

It was then that Jesus said that young man came to his senses. He had nothing to bring to his father—no gift of restitution, no token of respect, nothing except his words. All he could say was, “Father, forgive me.” 

But that’s all that was needed. Hosea counseled the Israelites to do the same thing:

Return, Israel, to the Lord your God. Your sins have been your downfall! Take words with you and return to the Lord. Say to Him: “Forgive all our sins and receive us graciously, that we may offer the fruit of our lips” (Hosea 14:1-2). 

The wayward son had a rehearsed speech asking his father to simply hire him as a servant, as if he wasn’t worthy to be considered a son any longer. But the father—in words that reflect our Heavenly Father’s love—cut the son’s speech short. He let the son only say, “Forgive me,” but before the son could make the request to be a servant the father totally restored him. 

After Hosea calls the wayward people to return with their “forgive us,” he quotes God’s reply: “I will heal their waywardness and love them freely, for My anger has turned away from them” (14:4). 

How could this be? How could God’s full judgment not fall on His wayward people? How could it not fall on you and me?! Because it fell on Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:21)! So when we come back to God with our words of forgiveness, He restores us and clothes us in the robe of Jesus (Galatians 3:27). 

Absolutely amazing! 

God longingly speaks to His wayward people, “It’s time to come home. I’m waiting for you with open arms. I am ready to restore you completely. Just come home.”

Join me next week as we continue to learn about the major lessons we can discover in the minor prophets. 

Poetry Saturday—The Precious Blood

Before Your Cross I kneel and see
the heinousness of my sin,
my iniquity that caused You to be
‘made a curse,’
the evil that excites the severity of divine wrath.

Show me the enormity of my guilt by
the crown of thorns,
the pierced hands and feet,
the bruised body,
the dying cries.

Your blood is the blood of incarnate God,
its worth infinite, its value beyond all thought.
Infinite must be the evil and guilt
that demands such a price.

Sin is my condition, my monster, my foe, my viper,
born in my birth,
alive in my life,
strong in my character,
dominating my faculties
following me as a shadow,
intermingling with my every thought,
my chain that holds me captive in the empire of my soul.

Sinner that I am, why should the sun give me light,
the air supply breath,
the earth bear my treat,
its fruit nourish me,
its creatures serve my ends?

Yet, Your compassion yearns over me,
Your heart hastens to my rescue,
Your love endured my curse,
Your mercy bore my deserved stripes.

Let me walk humbly in the lowest depths of humility,
bathed in Your blood
tender of conscience,
triumphing gloriously as an heir of salvation. —Arthur Bennett

8 Quotes From “The Jesus Who Surprises”

Dee Brestin has given us an excellent “starter’s guide” to help you discover Jesus on every page of the Old Testament. Be sure to check out my full book review by clicking here. 

“Every time we sin, it is because we do not trust the goodness of God, so we endeavor to meet our needs our way.” 

“The blood of innocent lambs spills throughout the pages of the Old Testament but ceases when John the Baptist heralds Jesus as the Lamb of God. Jesus is the only Lamb who can take away our sins (Hebrews 10:4, 10). All other sacrificial lambs were simply a foreshadowing of the One to come.” 

“What satan wants to do is cause attachment disorder between God and us. … satan wants to convince us that God does not love us and does not want the best for us so that we will back away and stop talking to Him, throwing away our only lifeline.” 

“Think about what makes Jesus so angry over and over again—it is the pretense and dishonesty of the Pharisees. He is not angry with Job, Naomi, the prophets, or the psalmists who lament, and indeed He often comes running to them. But He is angry with the Pharisees. They put up a façade, a wall that keeps them from experiencing intimacy with the Lord, and one day He may surprise them by saying, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me’ (Matthew 7:23).” 

“Recording and retelling increases memory—memory that is sorely needed in times of trouble.” 

“God knows the shaking of our world can awaken us to understand what is transitory and what is eternal. If we press into Him, we will discover what can never be shaken.” 

“Prayer is not getting God to give you what you want but dialoguing with Him, listening to Him, submitting to Him, and asking Him to give you what He wants, even if it is costly.” 

“Love is not love if it is only grace. That is enablement.” 

My Conscience

…my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit (Romans 9:1). 

Conscience is that God-implanted part of a human soul that can distinguish between…

  • …the morally good and the morally bad 
  • …the things that attract God’s presence and the things that repel God’s presence
  • …commending things and condemning things
  • …the things that please the Holy Spirit and the things that grieve the Holy Spirit

Sin corrupts a conscience. Sin tries to blur the lines between good and evil. Sin looks for loopholes. 

Paul said his conscience was aligned with the Holy Spirit—my conscience bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit. 

The word for witness is the Greek word martyreo. Martyreo helps me distinguish because of personal experience OR divine revelation. In the case of a Holy Spirit-baptized Christian, it isn’t OR, it’s AND. Jesus used the same word when He said the baptism in the Spirit would empower His followers to be martyreo (Acts 1:8). 

The Holy Spirit aligns my conscience with God’s righteousness. The Spirit grieves when I fall short, and He rejoices when I obey. 

Following the other uses of martyreo in the New Testament, we can see that a Spirit-aligned conscience…

Can you say with Paul, “My conscience is aligned with the Holy Spirit”? You can if you make it a daily habit to listen for the Spirit’s voice and then obey His promptings. 

Don’t let sin corrupt your conscience, but let the Holy Spirit align your conscience with God’s righteousness. 

%d bloggers like this: