On my way to a speaking engagement one weekend I missed a critical turn. Thankfully, I hadn’t gone too far before I realized my mistake and pulled into a gas station where some of the locals helped me find my destination. In that case, taking the wrong turn wasn’t that big of a deal. After all, I arrived on time. But what about taking a wrong turn onto the road labeled anger, beauty, drugs, entertainment, idolatry, envy, food, power, position, prestige, or sensuality?
The day I took a wrong turn onto the road labeled thinness became years of walking on the wrong road. At first I just walked in the counsel of the older girls on my cross-country team who closely counted calories. But it wasn’t long before I stood with them in their convictions, not wanting one ounce of fat to cross my lips. Finally, I sat down and ignored those trying to change my sinful ways, thinking my ways were better than theirs.
Change didn’t come through nutrition counseling, but Scripture. The words of Scripture cut through my seductions, put salve on my sores, cleansed my corruptions, revealed my rebellion, and strengthened my starved soul. In the end, the Lord buried my addiction to thinness with His gracious shovel and put me on the right road again.
Scripture has something specific to say about right and wrong roads. Today I want us to look briefly at Psalm 1.
The Righteous Road (Psalm 1:1-3)
The opening verses of Psalm 1 remind us that there is no true happiness apart from the righteous road. The righteous man is compared to a tree that is continually nourished by the plentiful waters of a stream, so that its fruit never fails and its leaves never languish. The one who is constantly nourished on the steadfast words of the Lord is one who bears good fruit and whose source of strength never shrivels.
The Enemy, the world, and our own flesh will try to capture us by counsel of a different kind. The wicked will tell us that God’s way won’t lead to power, prestige or position. They will try to get us to walk with them, and before we know it we will be standing the same way sinners do, secretly looking for the next seduction that seemingly satisfies. Finally, it won’t be long before we actually sit down and stay awhile, scoffing at the righteous road and pitying those who walk on it.
There is only One man who has never walked in the counsel of the wicked, stood in the way of sinners, and sat in the seat of scoffers. Jesus Christ delighted in the law of the Lord and meditated on it day and night as He lived a life of perfect obedience, died a cursed death for you and me, rose again as the firstfruits of the resurrection, and ascended into heaven where He is exalted at the right hand of God the Father. As those who are in Christ, we are to walk on the road of righteousness by enjoying God, loving Him, trusting Him and obeying Him. How are you walking today?
The Rebellious Road (Psalm 1:4-6)
In stark contrast to the righteous road is the rebellious road. It seems prosperous, fruitful, and lucrative, but like the threshing floor that sifts out the good grain from the useless grain, it reveals rebellion, doesn’t get you anywhere or anything in the end—except burned.
On judgment day, when Jesus returns, the rebellious won’t be able to stand secure in His presence. Instead, they will seek shelter in anyone or anything they can find, but it will be a futile attempt, because the Judge of all the earth knows our hiding places. When He returns there will be a great divide, displaying which road was right. The righteous will be with Christ for all eternity, but the wicked will be separated from Him forever.
Perhaps you can relate to my wrong turn on the road labeled thinness, or another road with the same alluring power. Today the Lord offers us a better road and a perfect Redeemer. Jesus Christ has come to free us from false, futile, foolish roads in order to put us on the right road where we can persevere in faithfulness because we are preserved by the faithful One. No matter what suffering is on your road today, or what sin you’ve committed, or what service you are struggling to complete, the Lord beckons you to choose the right way, the way that will not only delight Him, but will delight you as well. Man’s chief end is not just to glorify God, but also to enjoy him forever.
Interview by Melissa Kruger
I always like to know a little something about an author before I sit down and open up his or her book. Today I’m excited to share about Sarah Ivill’s latest Bible study, 1 Peter, 2 Peter, and Jude: Steadfast in the Faith. As a women’s ministry leader at my church, I’m always looking for Bible studies that faithfully put women in the Word and this one does just that. Sarah’s book combines personal Bible study with wise, thoughtful commentary as well as questions to use for group discussions. Her personal research and expertise will help both students of the Bible and those who hope to teach others.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I was raised in a Christian home where we attended church regularly, so I was blessed to grow up surrounded by people who loved the Lord. Although I can’t remember a time when I didn’t sincerely sing and believe, “Jesus Loves Me,” it was in elementary school, after stealing fruit shaped scented erasers from my teacher’s desk and being convicted about it that the Lord revealed to me I was a sinner in desperate need of a Savior. (It’s a truth I continue learning today!) I also had the blessing of being mentored through high school, college, and seminary by wonderful godly women who taught me sound doctrine and how to apply it to all of life.
I have been married to Charles for almost 14 years and together we have four children (Caleb, Hannah, Daniel, and Lydia) ranging in age from 11 to 1. We are members of Christ Covenant Church in Matthews, North Carolina (a suburb of Charlotte), which is also where we live. Currently I spend my time discipling our children, teaching a women’s Bible study at our church, as well as serving in various other leadership roles, speaking at women’s retreats and conferences, and writing Bible studies.
When did you first start writing? What do you enjoy about it?
I started writing as a young girl, putting my prayers down in journals or writing poetry. One of the things I have enjoyed about journaling my prayers is that I can go back and see God’s hand of faithfulness in my life, which encourages me in the present, and I hope will be an encouragement to my children and grandchildren one day.
I first started writing Bible studies when I began teaching a women’s Bible study. I learn best when I put what I have learned down on paper, especially when that involves writing study questions. Once I started writing Bible studies I couldn’t stop. (I’m now on my 34th book of the Bible, and since it’s Psalms, it’s taking me awhile!) My hope is that through these studies women will come to understand what it means to study Christ in all of Scripture, and that they will grow in their love for Christ and their love for one another.
Writing is as much a part of my life as anything else I do on a regular basis. Even when I am not in my study writing, I am usually thinking about what to write next. Writing Bible studies also keeps me in the Word, which I desperately need. My theme verse, which is posted on the door to my home study, is Psalm 45:1, “My heart overflows with a pleasing theme; I address my verses to the King; my tongue is like the pen of a ready scribe.” I truly desire to “address my verses” to the King instead of to man. Writing is also enjoyable for me. When I write I feel like I am doing what God has prepared for me to do, and even during dry or discouraging seasons, it’s not long before I am studying and writing again.
For a sneak peek here are some quotes from Steadfast in the Faith:
“Perhaps you are grappling with questions today like these: Who am I? How do I find peace? Is there any hope? If God cares about me, why am I suffering? Or maybe you are not sure how to define the true grace of God. I hope and pray that you will find the answers to your questions as you study Peter’s declaration of the true grace of God.”
“If you are tempted to believe that the words we choose to describe ourselves determine our life’s course and that we are able to tap into transformation by affirming our God-given inner strengths, talents, and abilities, hold that thought. If you are tempted to exalt the power of self rather than the power of God, hold tight. If you are tempted to believe transformation will come by your own words instead of God’s Word, don’t go anywhere. If you are tempted to focus on the inner means of positive thinking instead of the outward means of grace, stop.”
“Perhaps you have given up the fight for the faith today, subtly accepting our culture’s call to embrace pluralism. Or maybe you have slipped from your belief in the central doctrines of the faith and are following a different way instead. Perhaps you have given up Bible study for some time now due to difficult seasons in life and need to commit again to a steadfast study of Scripture. Maybe you need a fresh reminder that false teaching is still alive and well in churches today. Or perhaps you need to remember how great God is in the midst of a society that relegates Him to another option in the pool of pluralism. Regardless, Jude has a timely word for all of us. He calls us to contend for the faith and to remain in it while at the same time grounding us in the greatness and eternality of God’s glory and majesty and dominion and power.”
Here’s what others are saying about Steadfast in the Faith:
“Calling Christian women to ‘return to being women of one Book above all others,’ Sarah Ivill provides a rich, faithful, Christ-centered study of 1 Peter, 2 Peter, and Jude for those who want to be saturated in the word of God. Sarah is a careful student of the Bible and faithful member of her local church, and these qualities show in her labors to be accurate in the handling of God’s word and helpful to women who want to be grounded in the truth of scripture. I am thankful for her heart and her labors, and I warmly commend her work to you.” —Ligon Duncan, Chancellor, CEO, and John E. Richards Professor of Systematic and Historical Theology, Reformed Theological Seminary
“I am happy to commend these fine studies. Sarah is a sure guide–handling the text carefully, applying the Word wisely, and writing with an eye toward the edification of women in the church. The commentary and questions are marked by exegetical faithfulness and theological integrity. The church will benefit from Sarah’s excellent work (and even more so, from God’s Holy Word!).” —Kevin DeYoung, Senior Pastor, University Reformed Church
“In the shifting cultural landscape where truth is needed more than ever, Sarah Ivill’s, Steadfast in the Faith-1 Peter, 2 Peter and Jude, is solid ground intended to equip the believer to stand firm. She challenges us as elect exiles to find hope as we root our identities firmly in Christ and eagerly await the promise of his return. This study is filled with theologically rich content and gospel penetrating questions designed to prepare us to give an answer for the hope that lies within us.” —Karen Hodge, Women’s Ministry Coordinator for the PCA (Presbyterian Church in America) and author of Transformed: Life-Taker to Life-Giver.
If you had an afternoon to do whatever you’d like, where would we find you?
Enjoying the outdoors with my husband and children.
Besides Sunday, my favorite day of the week is Thursday morning. As hard as it is to get four children out the door to women’s Bible study, it is an effort that bears much fruit. I’ve been involved in women’s Bible studies for over twenty years, and over those years I’ve been richly blessed by how it’s anchored me to truth and anchored me to community.
This has been true for several reasons, but here are six:
(1) Scripture alone teaches us what we are to believe about God and how we are to live in relation to Him and others. There is no other book that is more worthy of our study, time or attention than the Bible. We need to challenge one another to spend more time reading Scripture, verse-by-verse, book-by-book. This guards us against empty words that threaten to tickle our ears and starve our hearts.
(2) The Scriptures bear witness about Jesus. We can’t know Jesus without studying the Bible. From Genesis to Revelation each passage of Scripture reveals who God’s Son is so that we might know Him more, love Him more and serve Him more. Such a Christ-centered study of Scripture keeps us from buying into a legalistic lesson (do this and you will live), a moralistic lesson (be a good person and you’ll be saved), a therapeutic lesson (I’m good, you’re good, God’s good, everything’s okay), or an allegorical lesson (I’m going to make this verse about Christ no matter what interpretive principles I have to ignore).
(3) Older women in the faith are to teach the younger women (Titus 2:3-5). The foundation of older women teaching younger women is sound doctrine. If we don’t have sound doctrine, then we can’t teach younger women in the faith what is good, we can’t train younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, to be pure, to be working at home, and to be submissive to their husbands in a way that will not discredit the word of God. The difference isn’t whether or not we will teach them or train them. The difference is whether or not we will teach them and train them in a Christ-centered way.
(4) Studying God’s Word in the context of community sharpens me. Not only do I learn from my sisters’ answers to the exegetical and theological questions, I learn from my sisters’ shared struggles with suffering, sin, and service.
(5) Praying with my sisters one day a week and praying for my sisters the rest of the week cultivates a love for them rooted in God’s grace.
(6) I am my sister’s keeper. Cain’s question to the Lord, “Am I my brother’s keeper” (Gen. 4:9) is answered in 1 John 3:11, the context of which is John’s exhortation to the church to love one another. We are to know who our sisters are and what they are doing so that we can encourage and exhort them in the ways of the Lord.
In a nutshell then, Women’s Bible studies help to drive out the individualism and isolationism that has plagued mankind all through the history of redemption, pointing us to Jesus Christ, who took the curse of our sin upon Himself, freeing us from self-reliance to God-reliance, and freeing us from isolation to interdependence in the community of grace.
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