Taking God At His Word

A walk in the woods on an autumn afternoon when the leaves have turned to brilliant colors of yellow and red provides a beautiful view of God’s handiwork.

We often stand in awe of the marvels of God’s creation. But if what we see today is so remarkable, think of what it must have been before the earth came under the curse of sin. Adam and Eve lived in a garden which provided not only beauty but also all of their needs. It was peaceful, there was no conflict, there was no suffering, there was no evil.

 Paradise Ruined

But the scene changes. In fear they attempt to hide themselves from the Lord. They scramble to make aprons to hide their nakedness. They introduce a concept, which is still popular with their descendants – shift the blame for problems to someone else.

Eve blamed the serpent; Adam blamed Eve and ultimately pointed at the Lord. But both were accountable for their actions.

They had violated God’s commandment, they had sinned and now they were under a curse.

They were driven out of their earthly paradise to face a life of difficult work, sickness, pain and disappointment. How could it be? How could Satan have been so effective as to ensnare a man and his wife who had everything? Why would anyone trade a beautiful garden for thorns and thistles? Who would want to substitute peace with conflict or give up life for death?

What a dark day when our first parents were driven from their home. There would soon be a murder in their family, and this was just the beginning of conflicts and wars that would bring destruction and death to multitudes. Where there had been harmony and love, the sinful nature passed on to future generations would often produce controversy and hate. Man is now at enmity against his Maker.

How did this happen?  Adam and Eve did not take God at his word.

Obviously, if Eve could have envisioned what was ahead she would never have bought Satan’s story, and if Adam had complete respect for what God said, he never would have disobeyed. Just how did this downward plunge begin? Satan suggests that God does not have Eve’s interest at heart; that He wants to hold her back and keep her from enjoying the best. In fact he said you just can’t trust God. God said if you eat of the forbidden fruit you will die, but I am telling you, you won’t die. The whole issue became the word of God. Is it reliable? Is it sufficient? Can I believe it?

The Same Old Trick

Satan has not had to modernize his techniques—the ones he started with have served him well. God’s word is still being called into question.

“Is this really what He said?  How do I know that is actually what He meant? The Bible was written by men and is full of mistakes. Times have changed and I don’t want to depend on an ancient book for the direction of my life.” 

The list of objections is often quite long, but the issue is the same: will God’s word be honored?

Adam and Eve were the first to embrace the theme later included in a popular song, “I did it my way.” God said no, they said yes. Eve saw the forbidden tree as being good for food, pleasant to the eyes, and beneficial in moving her along to a higher station in life. Her self-esteem was in full motion when she ignored what God said and partook of the fruit. She was thinking about herself, not about God. Adam was thinking about pleasing his wife and not about obeying his Maker. So they suffered the consequences of their sinful behavior.

There are always consequences to sin.

Ask David about the trouble he suffered following his great fall. Ask Peter about the tears he shed after he denied the Lord. Satan can make the path of sin appear inviting, or at least the most logical course at the moment, but there is always trouble to be faced down the road.

One of Satan’s tactics to discredit the word of God is to encourage the idea there can be no absolutes. Some one reads a portion of Scripture and says, “This is what is means to me.”  The idea may be in conflict with the basic teaching of Scripture, but if the person is comfortable with their private interpretation, they feel that should be an acceptable point of view. The thinking that has become popular is that you can’t say, “This is absolutely right” because that implies that someone else is wrong. But if the Bible was written to allow everyone to read into it “what works for them,” then it really doesn’t contain a message from God; it is just a launching pad for men’s own philosophies.

While it is certainly acceptable to draw practical lessons from Old Testament experiences, there is a problem in spiritualizing details for which there is no biblical authority. To make the five stones which David carried when he killed Goliath supposedly mean something which the Scriptures do not reveal, can not only lead to  the misinterpretation of God’s word but can discourage Bible reading because others say, “I am unable to decipher those hidden meanings, so what is the point of my trying to read the Bible?”

Paul described another problem, which is prevalent in our day. He said, “The time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables” (2 Timothy 4:3-4).

There are those who completely reject the Bible as being God’s inspired word, the final authoritative answer for every question and test for every concept.

With others the rejection of sound doctrine is more subtle. They will give lip service to believing the Bible but either reject or ignore the parts they do not like. Jeremiah was instructed to write words of warning to the people in his day, but when the king heard it read he wanted no part of it: “Now the king sat in the winterhouse in the ninth month: and there was a fire on the hearth burning before him. And it came to pass, that when Jehudi had read three or four leaves, he cut it with the penknife, and cast it into the fire that was on the hearth, until all the roll was consumed in the fire that was on the hearth” (Jeremiah 36:22-23).

Thomas Jefferson, who was a deist, appreciated the moral teachings of the Bible but rejected the accounts of miracles; so he just took a knife and cut those sections out of his Bible! Maybe no one today is literally using a knife to remove some of the pages of God’s word, but indeed; there are those who reject what they don’t like.

 Receiving God's Word As God's Word

The Apostle Paul rejoiced that the Thessalonians had great respect for God’s word as he preached it to them: “For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe”  (1 Thessalonians 2:12).

How wonderful it is when people have that attitude toward the Word. What they were hearing may not be have been in harmony with what they thought, or what someone told them, and it may have been something difficult to understand or challenging to obey; but nevertheless they received it as God’s Word.

There can be a tendency over time to allow trite and well-worn phrases to become a substitute for what the Word really says. How is it with you? Are you ready to receive God’s Word as the only absolute authority and apply it in your life? Failure to respect and obey God’s Word caused Adam and Even to be banished from the garden. Rejection of God’s word dishonors him, and it can be the cause of great disruptions in a person’s life or even the death of a church.

Let us reject all of Satan’s suggestions that God doesn’t mean what he says, and hide the Word in our hearts.

When Satan appeared to Eve he obviously did not come in the form of a snake to frighten her, but no doubt transformed himself into an angel of light. He was friendly and appeared to have great wisdom so that he was effective in gaining influence over her. Remember Satan will never come after you in a red suit wielding a pitchfork. He would then be easily recognized and quickly rejected. He is still working under the guise of an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14). He uses the attractive wares of the world as a strong appeal -- the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life (1 John 2:16).

To successfully resist him, we must put on the whole armour of God (Ephesians 6:11-20).  We must hold up the shield of faith to quench the fiery darts of the wicked; we must wear the helmet of salvation to protect our minds from evil thinking and utilize the sword of the Spirit—the word of God—to effectively stand against sin and error. Some have difficulty taking God at his word when he promises to forgive.  Because of a deep sense of unworthiness they say, “But I don’t feel forgiven.”

The issue, though, is not how one feels but what does God say.

There are consequences to sin but there is hope for sinners. Jesus came to seek and to save that which is lost. Guilty sinners are declared to be just because of the imputed righteousness of Christ.

The good news is there is forgiveness. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). Have you taken God at his word and confessed your sins to him, trusting in his faithfulness and in his forgiveness?