Jesus was not ashamed to
Himself as a servant
God responds to Truth
God hears Truth
God is Truth
You can not preach a half truth,
or live a half truth,
in half truth words
expect to receive the Full truth in return
you can not cut off the truth
expect to receive the truth
You need to seek the truth,
Speak the truth,
Act the Truth
Live the Truth
Jesus is faithful to the Truth
Jesus is faithful to forgive when
we come to him in Truth
True Repentance produces True Results,
not half results,
Repentance is fully acknowledging your grievance
Clear, True words
seeking forgiveness, having true faith
Christ is who he says he is,
That he will forgive and redeem
Faith in Jesus Christ
Savior is the only “step” to salvation.
The message of the Bible is abundantly
We have all sinned against God (Romans 3:23). Because of our sin, we deserve to be eternally separated from God (Romans 6:23). Because of His love for us (John 3:16), God took on human form and died in our place, taking the punishment that we deserve (Romans 5:8; 2 Corinthians 5:21).
God promises forgiveness of sins
and eternal life in heaven to all who receive,
by grace through faith, Jesus Christ as Savior
(John 1:12; 3:16; 5:24; Acts 16:31).
Salvation is not about certain steps we must follow to earn salvation.
Yes, Christians should be baptized. Yes, Christians should publicly confess Christ as Savior. Yes, Christians should turn from sin. Yes, Christians should commit their lives to obeying God. However, these are not steps to salvation. They are results of salvation. Because of our sin, we cannot in any sense earn salvation. We could follow 1000 steps, and it would not be enough. That is why Jesus had to die in our place.
We are absolutely incapable of paying our sin debt to God or cleansing ourselves from sin.
Only God could accomplish our salvation, and so He did. God Himself completed the “steps” and thereby
offers salvation to anyone who will receive it from Him.
Salvation and forgiveness of sins is not about following steps.
It is about receiving Christ as Savior and
He has done all of the work for us.
God requires one step of us—receiving Jesus Christ as our Savior from sin and fully trusting in Him alone as the way of salvation. That is what distinguishes the Christian faith from all other world religions, each of which has a list of steps that must be followed in order for salvation to be received. The Christian faith recognizes that God has already completed the steps and simply calls on the repentant to receive Him in faith.
The Bible describes
as meekness, lowliness,
and absence of self
The Greek word translated “humility” in Colossians 3:12
and elsewhere literally means “lowliness of mind,” so we see that
humility is a heart attitude,
merely an outward demeanor.
One may put on an outward show of humility
have a heart full of pride and arrogance.
Jesus said that those who are “poor in spirit” would have the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:3). Being poor in spirit means that only those
who admit to an absolute bankruptcy of spiritual worth
will inherit eternal life.
Therefore, humility is a prerequisite for the Christian.
When we come to Christ
we must come in humility
We acknowledge that we are paupers
and beggars who come with
nothing to offer Him
but our sin and our need for salvation.
We recognize our lack of merit
and our complete
inability to save ourselves.
Then when He offers the
grace and mercy of God,
we accept it
in humble gratitude and
commit our lives
to Him and to others.
We “die to self” so that we can live as new creations in Christ
(2 Corinthians 5:17).
We never forget that
He has exchanged
our worthlessness for
His infinite worth,
and our sin for
The life we now live, we live by faith in the Son of God who loved us and gave Himself for us (Galatians 2:20).
That is true humility
is not only necessary to
enter the kingdom,
it is also necessary
to be great in the kingdom
Here Jesus is our model. Just as He did not come to be served,
but to serve,
so must we commit ourselves to serving others,
considering their interests above our own
This attitude precludes selfish ambition, conceit,
and the strife that comes
with self-justification and self-defense.
Jesus was not ashamed to
Himself as a servant
(John 13:1-16), even to death on the cross (Philippians 2:8).
In His humility,
He was always obedient to the Father
and so should
the humble Christian be willing
to put aside all selfishness
submit in obedience to God and His Word.
True humility produces
godliness, contentment, and security
God has promised
grace to the humble,
He opposes the proud
(Proverbs 3:34; 1 Peter 5:5).
Therefore, we must confess
and put away pride.
If we exalt ourselves, we
in opposition to God who will,
His grace and for our own good,
But if we humble ourselves,
God gives us more grace and exalts us (Luke 14:11).
Along with Jesus, Paul is also to be our example of humility.
In spite of the great gifts and understanding he had received, Paul saw himself as the “least of the apostles” and the “chief of sinners”
(1 Timothy 1:15; 1 Corinthians 15:9).
the truly humble will glory
in the grace of God and in the cross,
not in self-righteousness
The Bible says a lot about humility.
God calls all people to humble themselves
(Micah 6:8; Matthew 23:12; Romans 12:16; Philippians 2:3–4; 1 Peter 5:6).
The prophet Zephaniah sums it up well:
“Seek the LORD, all you humble of the land,
you who do what he commands.
Seek righteousness, seek humility”
Believers especially are reminded: humble
yourselves in the
sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up
Humility goes hand in hand with fearing the
Lord and doing what He commands
(Proverbs 22:4; 2 Chronicles 7:14).
James addresses the interpersonal conflicts occurring among the readers.
He tells them that envy and strife are
not from God.
God gives grace (James 4:6),
and our response should be
to submit to Him and
resist the devil (verse 7).
When you submit to God, your heart and desires change. We live humbly before God and others instead of demanding our own way and causing conflict. Ultimately, the solution is to humble ourselves in the sight of the Lord.
Humility is literally a “lowliness of mind.” Humility is not thinking less of ourselves, but thinking of ourselves less. It is understanding ourselves properly in light of who God is and who we are and living accordingly (Romans 12:3). God is the Creator and Sustainer of the universe. We are not. The humble person recognizes that all he has is a gift from God (1 Chronicles 29:16). When we humble ourselves in the sight of the Lord, our hearts continually seek after God, even when we sin. We confess our pride and faults to God and allow Him to transform us into Christ’s likeness. In response, God gives grace to the humble but resists or scorns the proud (Psalm 147:6; Proverbs 3:34; 1 Peter 5:5; James 4:6).
Humbling oneself is necessary for salvation. Proverbs 22:4 tells us that “humility is the fear of the LORD.” Jesus reiterates this need for humility in the Beatitudes. He says the “poor in spirit” will inherit the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:3). To be poor in spirit is to admit one is spiritually empty and unable to please God apart from Christ’s sacrifice. Those who humble themselves and trust in Him will inherit eternal life with God. James 4:10confirms this promise: “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up” (NKJV). The reward of the humble is promotion by God (1 Peter 5:6). Eternal salvation is available to those who humble themselves in the sight of the Lord, and so is a hope-filled life on earth.
Humbling ourselves in the sight of the Lord requires a true heart attitude of meekness. The humble person avoids false humility, and he is not interested in appearances. It’s one thing to put on a show of humility, but we’re not commanded to appear humble in the sight of others but to humble ourselves in the sight of the Lord, who sees the truth of the heart’s condition. The humble are also wary of becoming the type of people described by scholar and clergyman Robert Burton: “They are proud in humility; proud in that they are not proud” (The Anatomy of Melancholy, 1621, pt. I, § 2). The insidious nature of pride is that it can masquerade as humility and creep into the lowliest of hearts.
“Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord”
is not just a command that affects our relationship with God.
It also affects our daily choices.
In this earthly life, we “die to self”
so we can live as new creations in light of God’s grace
(2 Corinthians 5:17–18). Instead of living for ourselves, we now live by faith in the One who loved us and gave Himself for us (Galatians 2:20). We seek to obey and understand His Word and will above our desires. This humility also affects our relationships with others. Philippians 2:3 reminds us to “count others more significant than yourselves” (ESV). Humility negates our pride, sets aside personal rivalry, excludes conceit, and looks out for the good of another. Instead of elevating ourselves in the moment, we can humble ourselves in the sight of the Lord and choose what is best for someone else. In this way, we represent Christ well. The humble can let go of inconsequential matters and pursue peace and holiness instead (Hebrews 12:14).
We can willingly humble ourselves in the sight of the Lord, or we can be humbled by God Himself, a process that will be more painful in the long run—just ask Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 4; cf. Proverbs 16:5; Luke 18:14). God promises the humble riches, honor, and life eternal. The prideful will receive destruction and punishment. There is no better way to live than to walk humbly with our God (Micah 6:8). Therefore, “humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up” (James 4:10, NKJV).
rampant worldliness in the
lives of his readers,
James launches into a warning (James 4:1–17) with this harsh assessment:
“You adulterous people! Do you not know that
friendship with the world is enmity with God?
Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world
makes himself an enemy of God”
(James 4:4, ESV). Enmity is animosity, the state of being actively opposed to someone.
A common biblical metaphor for
in our relationship
with God is adultery
(e.g., Jeremiah 3:20; Ezekiel 16).
Nowhere is this imagery more evident than in the book of Hosea (Hosea 2:1–23).
While God showed
unfailing love to Israel,
they responded with
faithlessness, immorality, and idolatry
Scripture depicts God as the husband of His people (Isaiah 54:5; 2 Corinthians 11:2) and believers as His bride (Jeremiah 2:2; 2; Ephesians 5:22–33; Revelation 21:7, 9). So, when James calls his readers “adulterers and adulteresses” (James 4:4, NKJV), the implication is clear. To the God who has loved His people unsparingly and relentlessly, what could be more painful than their heartless betrayal?
James calls out a challenge to people who have turned their hearts away from God and fallen in love with the world. When he speaks of “the world,” he means the world system or world order, consisting of people whose beliefs, values, and morals are in opposition and rebellion to God’s. The goals and objectives of “the world” are in direct contrast to God’s commands. To cling to the world is to choose enmity with God.
James warns believers not to cultivate a lifestyle that resembles “friendship with the world.” We must never pursue the ideals, morals, goals, or purposes of the world but instead “seek first [God’s] kingdom and his righteousness” (Matthew 6:33).
Through repetition, James emphasizes that “friendship with the world is enmity with God” and “whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” With the same Greek word translated “enmity” in James 4:4, Paul denounces the worldly mindset: “The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God” (Romans 8:7–8).
We must be careful not to deceive ourselves into thinking that we can live in close fellowship with God and, at the same time, set our hearts on the things of this world. We must “remember what happened to Lot’s wife!” (Luke 17:32, NLT). The apostle Paul teaches Christians to cultivate a singular focus: “Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:1–3, NLT).
What does friendship with the world look like? How can we be sure we’re not setting ourselves up to be enemies of God?
One clear indication that we have made friends with the world is our behavior. Are we acting like the people of the world? Do we quarrel, covet, and fight (James 4:1–2)? Do we “harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition” in our hearts? Do we “boast” and “deny the truth?” Do we “find disorder and every evil practice” in our lives? Or instead, do we display “deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom?” Are we “peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere” (James 3:13–18)? Friendship with the world rubs off on our character.
If anything or anyone takes a more important place in our lives than our relationship with God and Jesus Christ, we have probably entered into friendship with the world and enmity with God. One commentator writes, “Love for God and love for the world are mutually exclusive” (Dibelius, M., & Greeven, H., James: A Commentary on the Epistle of James, Fortress Press, 1976, p. 220). Jesus confirmed, “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other” (Matthew 6:24).
Pursuing friendship with the world puts us at odds with God and in danger of forfeiting our souls (Mark 8:36). On the other hand, if we seek intimate fellowship with Jesus by giving up our own way, taking up our cross and following Him, we gain everything we need in this life and in the one to come. If we try to hang on to the old worldly way of life, Jesus said we will end up losing everything. But if we give up our lives to cultivate friendship with Christ for the sake of the gospel, then we gain salvation and everlasting life with Him (Mark 8:35).
The word holy has two primary definitions. First, holiness refers to absolute moral purity and an uncompromised, unsurpassed standard of righteousness. God, who is incapable of error, untainted by sin, unrestrained by the laws of nature, and pure in all His ways, is holy. Second, holiness refers to the state of being set apart from the common for God’s purpose. As an example, the psalmist referred to God’s “holy” temple in Jerusalem (Psalm 79:1). The temple was not just another structure of wood and stone; this was the place where God’s people assembled in reverential worship. Our Lord Jesus was justly angered by greedy mercenaries who were making the holy temple a “den of robbers” (Matthew 21:12–13).
In discussing the holiness of Christ, we must hold an accurate understanding of His personage and nature. To some, Jesus is little more than a historic figure—an ancient prophet, a moral teacher, the founder of a major world religion, a martyr, a philosopher, and perhaps, even a miracle worker. Islam esteems Jesus as a prophet inferior in status to Muhammad. The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society teaches that Jesus is Michael the Archangel. Mormonism holds that Jesus is the spirit brother of Lucifer. The New Age Movement considers Jesus an avatar or messenger from a long line of messengers. Liberal theology teaches Jesus is one of many ways to God. Obviously, there is much misunderstanding surrounding the person and nature of Christ Jesus; to properly know Him, we must diligently search the Scriptures that speak of Him (see Luke 24:27).
The holiness of Christ is related to His deity. Jesus is fully God and fully man. Jesus claimed to be God (John 8:58; Revelation 1:8, 17). Jesus accepted worship (Matthew 2:11; John 12:13). Jesus declared He and His Heavenly Father are of the same divine essence and nature (John 10:30). The prophet Isaiah called Him “Mighty God and Everlasting Father” (Isaiah 9:6). Upon seeing the resurrected Jesus, the disciple Thomas honored Him with the dual title, “My Lord and my God” (John 20:28). The apostle John opens his gospel account by attesting to the deity of Jesus: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made” (John 1:1–3, ESV). Christ Jesus is worthy of our highest adoration and praise, for He is God who clothed Himself in human flesh (John 1:14). To deny His deity, and thus to deny His holiness, is to deny Him altogether.
In his book Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis wrote, “I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic—on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg—or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to” (Macmillan, 1952, pp. 55–56).
Man’s Attraction to and Fear of the Holy
Those who obey Jesus’ commandments may call Him friend (John 15:14), but we must never treat Him as an equal. His holiness demands awe and respect. To approach Him in an overly familiar manner or to use His name flippantly or carelessly is shameful. Jesus draws us to Himself, and we find Him altogether lovely, for He is of the same divine essence and nature as God the Father (Philippians 2:6). Yet His unparalleled goodness and radiant glory stand in stark contrast to fallen mankind’s depravity. Even the best among us are as lowly worms in His divine presence. The Lord Jesus is deserving of our worship, and the day is approaching when even those who mocked and scorned Him will bow in submission and say, “Jesus is Lord” (Philippians 2:10–11).
Suppose that, overcoming his fear, a young boy musters the courage to approach the prettiest girl in his class for a date. With nervousness and inelegance, the youth stumbles over his words and behaves in an almost comical manner. What we are witnessing in this encounter are the contradictory feelings of attraction and dread. The young man is drawn to the girl’s beauty, but that is also the source of his anxiety. In a rather homey way, this illustrates the concept of numinous awe. Sinful man is drawn to God because of His holiness, yet the divine presence of the Holy One fills us with fear and dread.
We see this mixture of attraction and fear in Peter on the Lake of Galilee:
On one occasion, while the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, he was standing by the lake of Gennesaret, and he saw two boats by the lake, but the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. Getting into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, he asked him to put out a little from the land. And he sat down and taught the people from the boat. And when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking. They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish that they had taken, and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him (Luke 5:1–11, ESV).
Simon Peter was a seasoned fisherman. He knew what he was doing when it came to tackle and nets and harvesting fish. Peter may have marveled at the teachings of Jesus, but in the matter of catching fish, Peter bowed to no one. When Jesus asked to use his boat as a floating speaker’s platform, Peter agreed, but when the itinerant rabbi suggested that he drop his fishing nets into the deep, Peter reluctantly obliged: “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets” (Luke 5:5).
Peter was unprepared for what followed. Never before had he hauled in such a catch. The nets, bursting with fish, filled not one, but two boats well beyond their normal capacities. This was the catch of a hundred lifetimes—an unexplainable, supernatural event that defied human understanding. Peter understood this was more than good fortune, and he reacted with unsettled fear. Rather than thanking Jesus for the abundant catch, Peter fell at the Lord’s feet and begged Him to leave: “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord” (Luke 5:8). Peter’s fear stemmed from the contrast between his sinfulness and the holiness of Christ. It is frightful indeed when the common and profane encounter the One who is holy.
Unfathomable, yet Approachable
By all rights, sinful creatures should recoil in abject fear in the presence of Christ Jesus, for He is holy. And, by all rights, Christ Jesus should recoil from the wickedness that marks our fallen race. Yet He opens His arms and says, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28–30, ESV).
In our natural state, we are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked, but Jesus did not turn His back on us. He says, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me” (Revelation 3:20, ESV). Is it possible the Holy One of God, Christ Jesus, genuinely desires fellowship with us? As improbable as this sounds, the answer is a resounding “yes.” When we place our faith in Christ Jesus as Savior, we, formerly the “children of wrath” (Ephesians 2:3), are supernaturally transformed into His beloved sons and daughters (Romans 8:15).
The Lord Jesus, who is fully God and fully man, is meritoriously holy because of His divine nature. He is sinless, impeccably pure, and unequivocally righteous (Matthew 26:59–61). Even Pontius Pilate, the politician who refused to act on behalf of the world’s first and only truly innocent man, three times pronounced Jesus to be without fault (see Luke 23:13–15). Christ Jesus is the only One worthy to offer Himself for our sin, and His sacrifice was like that of “a lamb without blemish or defect” (1 Peter 1:19). We now join in the exultation of heaven: “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!” (Revelation 5:12).
The phrase “every knee shall bow” comes from the Old Testament book of Isaiah. In the last half of the book (chapters 40—66), God prophesies through Isaiah the coming comfort to His people, Israel, who are in exile in Babylon for their covenant unfaithfulness. The phrase in question is found in Isaiah 45:23, which reads, “By myself I have sworn; from my mouth has gone out in righteousness a word that shall not return: To me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear allegiance.”
The main thrust of the overall passage is that God is the only one who can save His people, as opposed to the idols that are worshiped by the nations. God is God and there is no other (Isaiah 45:5–6, 18, 22). Those who turn from their idols will be saved. Those who do not will be ashamed. The bottom line is that, before God, every knee shall bow and every tongue swear allegiance to God.
The apostle Paul quotes this passage twice in his writings, once in Romans 14:11 and again in Philippians 2:10–11. In the Romans context, Paul is writing about Christian liberty. The Christian is not to pass judgment on his brother or sister in Christ over non-essential issues—the examples given in the text are dietary habits and religious days of observance. In these things to which the Lord gave no specific command, we should not stand in judgment of our brothers or sisters in Christ.
The other quote, Philippians 2:10–11, comes in that wonderful Christological passage, the overall context of which is the call to Christian humility and how we should not consider ourselves better than others. Rather, we should look out for the interests of others above our own. In vv. 5–11, Paul uses Christ as the ultimate example of humility that we should follow. It was Christ who, being in the very form of God, emptied Himself and took on the form of a servant. In doing so, He became obedient to God to the point of death. This He did for the sake of His people. It is important to note the overarching theme of this passage—the humiliation and exaltation of Christ. Christ first humbles Himself and then submits Himself in complete obedience to the Father. Afterwards, the Father highly exalts Him above all things. Paul cites Isaiah 45:23 to say that at the feet of Jesus every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is the Lord to the glory of God the Father.
In both of Paul’s citations of Isaiah 45:23, he is echoing the truth that there will come a time when “every knee shall bow and every tongue confess” to the glory of God. In the Philippians citation, Paul is declaring the divinity of Jesus when he says that every knee will bow and every tongue will confess Him as Lord. This is a clear indication of what will occur at the Second Coming of Christ. During the first advent, Christ came in humiliation and died a humiliating death on the cross for the sins of the world. In His second advent, Christ will come with power as the Conquering King. When that happens, it will be as our Lord Himself predicted in the Olivet Discourse (Matthew 25:31–46) and as the vision the apostle John received in Revelation 20:11–15. When the King of kings and the Lord of lords returns to this earth, then will come true what the prophet Isaiah foretold all those years ago: “Every knee shall bow and every tongue shall swear allegiance.”
The lesson for those living in the “here and now” is that we must heed the warning of the writer of Hebrews who said: “So, as the Holy Spirit says: ‘Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion, during the time of testing in the desert, where your fathers tested and tried me and for forty years saw what I did. That is why I was angry with that generation, and I said, “Their hearts are always going astray, and they have not known my ways.” So I declared on oath in my anger, “They shall never enter my rest”’” (Hebrews 3:7–11, citing Psalm 95:7–11).
If we have heard and responded to the gospel, then we must live each day in light of its truth, shining the light of Christ into a dark world. Those who have not responded to the gospel are exhorted to respond today and not harden the heart. It is appointed for each of us to die once and then to face the judgment (Hebrews 9:27). Every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father. Those who have responded to the gospel with faith and repentance will do so gladly and willingly. Those who have hardened their hearts to the call of the gospel will do so with great fear and trembling.
People tend to judge the character and worth of others by looking at outward appearances. If a person is tall, good-looking, well-built, and tastefully dressed, then he or she possesses physical qualities that humans generally admire and respect. Often these are the physical qualities we seek in a leader. But God has the unique ability to see inside a person. God knows our true character because he “looks at the heart.”
In 1 Samuel 16, the time had come for Samuel to go to the house of Jesse in Bethlehem to anoint Israel’s next king. As Samuel looked at Jesse’s oldest son, Eliab, Samuel was impressed with what he saw. “Surely, this is the man the Lord wants me to anoint,” said the prophet (verse 6).
But God told Samuel, “Don’t look at his appearance or how tall he is, because I have rejected him. God does not see as humans see. Humans look at outward appearances, but the LORD looks into the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7, GWT).
Saul, Israel’s first king, was tall and handsome. Samuel may have been looking for someone like Saul, and Eliab’s appearance was quite striking. But God had a different man in mind to anoint as Israel’s king. The Lord had earlier revealed to Samuel that He sought a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14).
Samuel looked at all seven of Jesse’s older sons, but the Lord rejected them all as His choice for king. God was looking for one who had a faithful heart. David, Jesse’s youngest son, whom they had not even bothered to call, was out tending the sheep. After Samuel passed over the other sons, they sent for David, and the Lord said, “This is the one” (1 Samuel 16:12).
David was God’s choice—imperfect but faithful, a man after God’s heart. Although the Bible says he was handsome (verse 12), David was not a striking figure. But David had developed a heart after God. In his time alone in the fields, shepherding the flocks, David had come to know God as his Shepherd (see Psalm 23).
Appearances can be deceiving. The outward appearance doesn’t reveal what people are really like. Physical looks don’t show us a person’s value or character or integrity or faithfulness to God. Outward qualities are, by definition, superficial. Moral and spiritual considerations are far more important to God.
God looks at the heart. The heart in Scripture is a person’s inner moral and spiritual life. Proverbs 4:23 explains that everything we do flows from our hearts. The heart is the core, the inner essence of who we are: “A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of” (Luke 6:45).
To everyone who saw him, Judas Iscariot looked like a faithful disciple, but his appearance was deceiving. The other disciples had no idea of what was going on inside Judas. Jesus was the only one who knew Judas’s heart: “Have I not chosen you, the Twelve? Yet one of you is a devil!” (John 6:70). God’s perspective is higher, deeper, and wiser than ours.
Second Chronicles 16:9 says the eyes of God are continually roaming throughout the earth to strengthen people whose hearts are fully committed to Him. God can peer into our hearts, examine our motivations, and know everything there is to know about us (Psalm 139:1). God knows if a person will be faithful. God sees what people can’t see.
King David was far from perfect. He committed adultery and murder (2 Samuel 11). But God saw in David a man of deep, abiding faith who was wholly committed to the Lord. God saw a man who would depend on the Lord for strength and guidance (1 Samuel 17:45, 47; 23:2). God saw a man who would recognize his sin and failure and who would repent and ask the Lord for forgiveness (2 Samuel 12). God saw in David a man who loved his Lord; a man who worshiped his Lord with all his being (2 Samuel 6:14); a man who had experienced God’s cleansing and forgiveness (Psalm 51) and had come to understand the depths of God’s love for him (Psalm 13:5–6; 106:1). God saw a man with a sincere and personal relationship with his Creator. When God looked at the heart of David, He saw a man after His own heart (Acts 13:22).
Like Samuel, we can’t see what the Lord sees, and we must rely on Him for wisdom. And we can trust that, when God looks at our hearts, He sees our faithfulness, our true character, and our value as individuals.
The word sin and its cognates are used 786 times in the New International Version of the Bible. Sin means “to miss the mark.” It can refer to doing something against God or against a person (Exodus 10:16), doing the opposite of what is right (Galatians 5:17), doing something that will have negative results (Proverbs 24:33–34), and failing to do something you know is right (James 4:17). In the Old Testament, God even instituted sacrifices for unintentional sins (Numbers 15:27). Sin is the general term for anything that “falls short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).
Sin leads to a downward progression that, without the restoring power of the Holy Spirit, we all tend toward. The sin nature is present in every human being born since the Fall of Adam (Genesis 3:6–7; Romans 5:12). If left unchecked, continual sin leads to a “reprobate mind,” spoken of in Romans 1:28. Our sin nature causes us to gravitate naturally toward selfishness, envy, and pride, even when we are trying to do good. The apostle Paul alluded to his propensity to sin when he wrote, “For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out” (Romans 7:18).
The sin nature leads to trespassing. A trespasser is someone who crosses a line or climbs a fence that he should not cross or climb. A trespass may be intentional or unintentional. Trespass can also mean “to fall away after being close beside.” Peter trespassed when he denied Jesus (Luke 22:34, 56–62). We all “cross the line” in thought, word, or attitude many times a day and should be quick to forgive others who do the same (Matthew 6:15).
Transgression refers to presumptuous sin. To transgress is to choose to intentionally disobey; transgression is willful trespassing. Samson intentionally broke his Nazirite vow by touching a dead lion (Numbers 6:1–5; Judges 14:8–9) and allowing his hair to be cut (Judges 16:17); in doing so he was committing a transgression. David was referring to this kind of sin when he wrote, “Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered” (Psalm 32:1). When we knowingly run a stop sign, tell a lie, or blatantly disregard an authority, we are transgressing.
Iniquity is more deeply rooted. Iniquity refers to a premeditated choice; to commit iniquity is to continue without repentance. David’s sin with Bathsheba that led to the killing of her husband, Uriah, was iniquity (2 Samuel 11:3–4; 2 Samuel 12:9). Micah 2:1 says, “Woe to those who plan iniquity, to those who plot evil on their beds! At morning’s light they carry it out because it is in their power to do it.” In David’s psalm of repentance, he cries out to God, saying, “Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin” (Psalm 51:2).
God forgives iniquity, as He does any type of sin when we repent (Jeremiah 33:8; Hebrews 8:12). However, iniquity left unchecked leads to a state of willful sin with no fear of God. The build-up of unrepentant sin is sometimes pictured as a “cup of iniquity” being filled to the brim (Revelation 17:4; Genesis 15:16). This often applies to nations who have forsaken God completely. Continued iniquity leads to unnatural affections, which leads to a reprobate mind. Romans 1:28–32 outlines this digression in vivid detail. The sons of Eli are biblical examples of reprobates whom God judged for their iniquities (1 Samuel 3:13–14). Rather than repent, Eli’s sons continued in their abominations until repentance was no longer possible.
The biblical writers used different words to refer to sin in its many forms. However, regardless of how depraved a human heart may become, Jesus’ death on the cross was sufficient to cover all sin (John 1:29; Romans 5:18). Psalm 32:5, quoted at the beginning of this article, ends with these words: “And you forgave the guilt of my sin.” The only sin that God cannot forgive is the final rejection of the Holy Spirit’s drawing to repentance—the ultimate fruit of a reprobate mind (Matthew 12:32; Luke 12:10).