Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Bob Gonzales Reviews "Confessing the Impassibile God"

The blog's regular readers will no doubt remember our support of Bob Gonzales' writing on the doctrine of the impassibility of God here. Well, now I would like to call your attention to his review of Confessing the Impassible God: The Biblical, Classical, & Confessional Doctrine of Divine Impassibility. In this review Bob manages to put into words what has troubled many of us regarding the current debate over the doctrine of divine impassibility. The review is entitled From Dust to Deity: Some Critical Reflections on a Critical Book, and I highly recommend taking time to read it. And, while you're at it, you might want to take some time to read more of Bob's excellent, thoughtful, balanced and Biblical writing on his It Is Written blog. The slogan under the blog titles says, "Promoting the Supremacy of Scripture," and that is exactly what Bob does, not only on the issue of impassibility but on every issue about which he writes.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Bob Gonzales Teaches on The Doubting Believer (Luke 7:18-23)

Below is a sermon entitled "The Doubting Believer," which was preached by Bob Gonzales at Englewood Baptist Church in Englewood, New Jersey, on October 20, 2013. I highly recommend listening to the sermon, especially if you have struggled with doubts in your Christian walk. If you haven't yet struggled with doubt, then I highly recommend listening to this sermon in preparation for such times in the future. Here you will find healing balm from the Word of God for the doubting soul.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Does the Bible Teach That the Charismatic Gifts Are For Today?

Above is a debate between Dr. Sam Waldron, Dean and Resident Professor of Systematic Theology at Covenant Baptist Theological Seminary, and Matt Slick, President and Founder of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry. They debate the question, "Does the Bible teach that the charismatic gifts are for today?"No matter which side of the issue you may be on, I highly recommend watching this debate, which is very instructive and helpful in seeking to understand the important issues involved. I think it may be the best debate I have seen on the issue, especially since it is between two men who share a commitment to Reformed theology. I also think that Sam Waldron won the debate. He did a much better job defending his "cascade argument" than Matt slick did in defending his position.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Jeff Johnson Discusses The Absurdity of Unbelief on Knowing the Truth Radio Program

Listen to Jeff's interview with Kevin Boling on the Knowing the Truth Radio Program as they discuss The Absurdity of Unbelief, Jeff's excellent new book on apologetics. I highly recommend the book as an outstanding example of presuppositional apologetics. Jeff ably demonstrates how all other worldviews but the Christian worldview are internally inconsistent and ultimately end in absurdity.

Monday, January 11, 2016

2016 "What is a Reformed Baptist?" Poll

Please check out the "What is a Reformed Baptist?" Poll on the right sidebar on this page (the red box with white type). I intend to conduct the poll for one year, and I am interested in how the Reformed Baptist community might answer this question. I have given four options for answers that I think basically sum up the various groups or individuals that I have found to be using the term.

Notice that for the sake of this poll I regard "substantial adherence" to the Baptist Confession of 1689 as adherence to the theology contained in it, but not so strictly that modifications or refinements are not welcomed if deemed Scripturally appropriate. I recognize that there is a fair amount of debate as to what "substantial adherence" should mean, but I hope I have phrased the question in such a way as to clarify what is intended for the purpose of this poll. The word substantial is taken here primarily to mean being largely but not wholly that which is specified, but it is also intended to emphasize  agreement concerning essential doctrinal matters while allowing differences on some matters deemed less essential to Scriptural orthodoxy. Thus one may be willing to modify the confession with regard to such things as the proper understanding of the Regulative Principle of Worship, divine impassibility, or the proper nature of Sabbath observance. I have included the example of impassibility in the text of the question below since that is a current topic of debate, in which some are arguing that a modification in the statement of the doctrine -- not a rejection of it -- should be allowed, and some are arguing against it. Here is how the question, along with the four possible answers, appears on the poll widget:
To regard oneself as a Reformed Baptist, one must ...

1) adhere at a minimum to a Calvinistic soteriology.

2) adhere at a minimum to a Calvinistic soteriology and to Covenant Theology.

3) adhere substantially to the Baptist Confession of 1689 (e.g. modify regarding Impassibility).

4) adhere strictly to the Baptist Confession of 1689.
I would appreciate the blog's readers weighing in and letting me know where they stand on this question. As for myself, although Immanuel Baptist Church, where I serve as the primary teaching elder, has adopted an amended form of the Baptist Confession of 1689 and essentially practices the third point of view, I personally think that all that should be required to adopt the label Reformed Baptist is to adhere at a minimum to a Calvinistic soteriology and to Covenant Theology, the second point of view. For an explanation of why I call myself a Reformed Baptist, see here.

I previously conducted a similar poll that finished back in February of 2008, and you may read the results here. If you read those results, you will also discover why I think that one may adhere at a minimum to a Calvinistic soteriology and to Covenant Theology and properly call oneself a Reformed Baptist.

Friday, January 08, 2016

The Absurdity of Unbelief by Jeff Johnson Is Available Now!

Today my blog partner, Jeff Johnson, announced on Facebook that The Absurdity of Unbelief, his new book on apologetics, is now available on Here is the description of the book on the Amazon webpage:
Because all non-Christian worldviews are indefensible, it is not sufficient for skeptics to attack Christianity without also defending the foundation for their own unbelief. Everyone has a worldview, even atheists and skeptics, but only the Christian worldview is not self-contradictory. The Absurdity of Unbelief demonstrates why every possible reason for unbelief is irrational and ultimately meaningless by exposing the various self-refuting systems of thought in which these objections are rooted.
"Agnostics and atheists have been making a lot of noise in recent years, in spite of the fact that their belief systems are so obviously flawed. To counter their propaganda we need a flow of books exposing just how flimsy their arguments are. Jeffrey Johnson has chosen the word 'absurdity' to characterise these, and he has chosen well. Chapter by chapter he strips unbelief of any vestige of credibility, then shows with crystal clarity why the biblical case for God stands supreme when contrasted with all other philosophical and religious belief systems. I predict that this book will be as great a help to many of its readers as it has been to me, and I commend it warmly." John Blanchard
"As Christians struggle to hold onto a semblance of sanity in the midst of the collapse of Western morality and thought, a sound foundation upon which to stand in explaining our unwillingness to bow the knee to Caesar is a must. In The Absurdity of Unbelief, Jeffrey Johnson provides a clear and compelling case for the Christian faith, readable and usable for believer and unbeliever alike." James R. White
Having read the book myself, I highly recommend it as a must read on the subject. As I said in a post earlier this week, it as an excellent example of presuppositional apologetics. It is one of those books on apologetics that every pastor should read and have on his shelf for future reference.

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

The Absurdity of Unbelief by Jeff Johnson Is Coming in 10 Days!

Today my blog partner, Jeff Johnson, announced on Facebook that his new book on apologetics, entitled The Absurdity of Unbelief, "is currently being printed. The Official release date is Jan. 15, though the books should be ready for shipping before then. Take advantage of the 50% off pre-publication special that will continue for the next few days by filling out the contact information on this link below." Here is the link about which he spoke: The Absurdity of Unbelief.

As the link for the pre-publication page says, "Sign up to take advantage of the 50% discount. This does not obligate you in anyway, it simply ensures that you will receive the discounted rate. No payment is due until the time of shipping. You will be contacted a few days prior to the release date with shipping and payment options.." I have read the book, and I highly recommend it as an excellent example of presuppositional apologetics. It is one of those books on apologetics that every pastor should read and have on his shelf for future reference.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Did Jesus Exist? Michael Kruger's Response to Valerie Tarico

Michael J. Kruger, Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at Reformed Theological Seminary, Charlotte, North Carolina, has recently written a brief, yet excellent, response to an article by Valerie Tarico posted at RawStory website and entitled Here Are 5 Reasons to Suspect Jesus Never Existed. Michael's response is entitled Did Jesus Even Exist? Responding to 5 Objections Raised by @rawstory, and here is the conclusion to that article:
In the end, Tarico has provided few reasons to think we should doubt the existence of Jesus. On the contrary, each of her suggested reasons, when explored more fully, reveal that we actually have very solid reasons to believe in the existence of Jesus.
In short, the scholarly consensus on this matter exists for a reason. Scholars may disagree about a great many things regarding Jesus. But his existence is not one of them.
I recommend reading the article. It isn't very long, and it is definitely worth it.

By the way, Michael has also written one of my favorite books on the canonicity of the New Testament entitled Canon Revisited: Establishing the Origins and Authority of the New Testament Books. I highly recommend it!

Friday, December 25, 2015

Luke 2:8-20 – Jesus Christ Is God's Gift to Us (Teaching Outline)

Introduction: If your family is like my family, you all enjoy giving and receiving presents at Christmas time. I really see no problem with celebrating Jesus' birth by enjoying giving to others as a way to emulate His love and to “remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, 'It is more blessed to give than to receive'” (Acts 20:35). However, we must always be careful not to forget what we should really be celebrating at Christmas, which is the marvelous Gift that God has given us in sending His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. As the Apostle John tells us:
NKJ John 3:16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
With this in mind – and in order to help focus our attention upon the true “reason for the season” today – I would like to point out five blessings or characteristics of the great Gift that Jesus is to all of us from our loving Father in Heaven.

I. Jesus is a Gift that Casts Out Fear

Let's read verse 8 through the first part of  verse 10 once more:
NKJ Luke 2:8-10a Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. 10 Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid ...”
After telling us that the shepherds were “greatly afraid,” the very first words the angels said the to them were, “Do not be afraid.” I think John Piper has done a good job helping us grasp the significance of these words when he said:
It's a natural thing for a sinner to fear. The more guilt we have, the more things we fear: fear of being found out for some little deceit, fear that some ache we have is God's judgment, fear of dying and meeting the holy God face to face. But even though it's natural, God sends Jesus with the word: Fear not! Hebrews 2:14 says: Jesus became man 'that through death He might destroy him who has the power of death, that is the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death have been held in lifelong bondage.' Doesn't this last phrase imply something tremendously liberating for our daily life? If the worst fear – fear of death – has been taken away through the death of Christ, then surely God does not want us to fear the lesser things in life. (A Big God for Little People)
What is it you are fearing this morning? Is it fear of facing an old hurt from a family member that you will have to see again this Christmas? Is it fear of not knowing how you will pay all the bills? Is it fear that you may lose your job? How about fear that you will fail at some endeavor, like starting a new job, or taking a test at school, or having to speak in front of some group at work? Or maybe you fear that you will disappoint others? Or, more importantly, maybe you fear God's judgment due to some besetting sin in your life?

Whatever it is that you may be fearing in your life, remember that God's perfect love casts out fear! (1 John 4:18). This Christmas let us remember the words of Jesus:
NKJ Matthew 6:25-30 Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? 28 So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; 29 and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?
Or as the Apostle Peter reminds us:
NKJ 1 Peter 5:6-7 Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, 7 casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.
Or let us say with faith this Christmas season:
NKJ Psalm 27:1 The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid.
Let the words of the angels to the shepherds be a reminder to you this morning that our Lord Jesus delivers us from our fears. In fact, He delivers us from the greatest fear of all – fear of death and the judgment of God.

II. Jesus is a Gift that Brings Joy

Let's read verse 10 again:
NKJ Luke 2:10 Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.”
The second thing that the angels said to the shepherds was, “behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy,” and this should be a reminder to us today of the joy we have in Jesus Christ our Lord.

I have seen over the years that for many Christians the Christmas season is not a time of joy at all, usually because it reminds them of lost loved ones or of broken or strained relationships with family members. This is especially true for those who may have come from broken or abusive homes. There are some who even become quite depressed at this time of year! In fact, I can testify to my own struggle with this over the years. Perhaps there are some of you, too, who struggle in this way.

On the other hand, there are those who have gotten so caught up in Christmas as a season to celebrate shopping and materialism that they have turned it into one big stress-filled hassle. They have truly lost sight of the real reason Christians choose to celebrate this holiday, which is God's gift of salvation through His Son Jesus Christ. They have thoroughly forgotten that it is about good tidings of great joy! But Jesus greatly desires that we have joy from Him that springs from His great love for us. Remember that He said:
NKJ John 15:8-11 By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples. 9 As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. 10 If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love. 11 These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.
The fullness of joy that Jesus brings can also sustain us through the most difficult of times. Remember what the Apostle James wrote:
NKJ James 1:2-5 My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. 4 But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. 5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.
Remember also what the Apostle Paul wrote to the Philippians:
NKJ Philippians 4:4 Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!
Perhaps there are some here today who simply need to pray with David this Christmas season:
NKJ Psalm 51:12 Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and uphold me by Your generous Spirit.
After all, Christmas is about God's generosity, not ours!

III.  Jesus is a Gift that Brings Peace

Let's read again verses 11-14:
NKJ Luke 2:11-14 “For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: 14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”
Our focus here will on on the words of the angels in verse 14, which the New King James Version translates, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” However, this verse is better translated in several of the other modern versions. For example:
ESV Luke 2:14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!
NAU Luke 2:14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.
NIV Luke 2:14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.
In other words, God's gift of His Son Jesus brings peace to believers, for it is only believers with whom He is pleased, for “without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6). And the peace that Jesus brings to believers is a peace that the world cannot offer! Remember Jesus' promise:
NKJ John 14:27 Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.
This peace is for any who put their faith in Christ as Savior and Lord and, as Paul teaches us, it can be accessed through prayer whenever we feel it waning due to our lack of faith:
NKJ Philippians 4:6-7 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
Such peace can be known even in the midst of our greatest trials, in which we might be tempted to be very anxious and worried. It is a peace that every true believer has known. Even though it cannot fully be explained, since it “surpasses all understanding,” it may be experienced anew by each one of us if we trust in Christ as Paul tells us to do.

IV.  Jesus is a Gift that Leads Us to Worship

Let's read again verses 15-20:
NKJ Luke 2:15-20 So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, “Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger. 17 Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child. 18 And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds. 19 But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them.
Here we will focus our attention on verse 20, where we see that the shepherds are an example to all of us of the heartfelt worship that Jesus should engender in us. We are told that the “returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen.” And, if they were led to worship God at the announcement of the birth of our Lord, how much more should we be led to worship by the knowledge of His sinless life, His atoning death, His glorious resurrection, and His sovereignty over all the universe as He reigns at His Father's right hand! How can our hearts not be filled with an even greater desire to praise Him as we remember His birth, since we know so much more fully what this means for our salvation!

V. Jesus is a Gift to be Shared with Others

Let's back up in the text a few verses and read verses 17-18 again:

NKJ Luke 2:17-18 Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child. 18 And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds.

Again the shepherds serve as an example for us. Not only do they demonstrate hearts properly brimming with praise, but they also show us that those who are filled with a desire to worship the Lord will be filled with a desire to share the good news about His saving work with others. Thomas Constable does a good job of describing the significance of the fact that God first announced this good news to shepherds, who in turn told others:
Shepherds were socially looked  down upon in Jesus' day. Their work made them ceremonially unclean, and they had a reputation for being untrustworthy. Thus God first sent the gospel to the lowly. Luke had a special interest in the lower elements of society. David, of course, had been a shepherd, but God had elevated him to be the ruler of His people (2 Sam. 7:8). Jesus' career would follow the pattern of his ancestor generally. Throughout the Old Testament God used shepherds as symbols of those who cared for His people (Ps. 23:1; Isa. 40:11;  Jer. 23:1-4; et al.). Consequently these shepherds represent all people of lowly origin and reputation who receive the gospel by God's grace and proclaim it joyfully to others. (Notes on Luke, e-sword)
This means that each of us can rest assured that we can be used of God to share the Gospel. In fact, perhaps we can all best celebrate this Christmas season by resolving to renew our efforts to tell others about Christ. The Lord Jesus Himself has certainly commanded us to do so:
NKJ Matthew 28:18-20 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.
But not only can we ask the Lord to renew our zeal for sharing the Gospel with others in obedience to His commands, we can also pray that He will send even more witnesses into the lives of those we know … as well as to the rest of the world. Remember His command to His disciples that they should pray for God to send laborers into the harvest:
NKJ Matthew 9:37-38 Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. 38 Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.”
Surely we, too, should be moved to tell others about our Lord Jesus and to pray for more laborers for the harvest!

Conclusion: Well, I hope today we have all been reminded about what Christmas really means, and I hope we have all been strengthened in our faith, looking to the Lord as the one who  casts out fear, who brings great joy and peace that passes understanding, and who calls us to worship Him and tell others of the salvation He offers in Christ. I will remind you once again that the meaning of Christmas may perhaps best be summed up with these well known words from John's Gospel:
NKJ John 3:16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

Friday, December 18, 2015

1 Samuel 15:22-23 – To Obey is Better Than Sacrifice (Teaching Outline)

Note: Begin reading the passage at verse 1 in order to grasp the immediate context.

Introduction: A mother is said to have once told this story about her little boy:
My son, Michael, was four years old the night I found him sobbing uncontrollably in the hallway. Concerned, I knelt next to him and drew him close.
“What's the matter, sweetheart? Are you hurt?” He shook his head and turned to me, but I was unprepared for his response.
“Daddy said a bad word to me!” he sobbed. I almost laughed out loud. I had known my husband 12 years and had rarely heard him raise his voice. But Michael had heard him say something, and I was curious enough to want to know what it was.
“Honey, what bad word did Daddy say?” And seeing a chance for sympathy, my sensitive four-year-old stopped crying and blurted out – “Obey!”
I never think of that incident now without asking my Heavenly Father to keep me from believing, as my son did, that 'obey' is a bad word. (2000+ Bible Illustrations, e-Sword)
Today we will take a look at a grown man who seemed to view obey as a bad word, and that man is King Saul. We will focus our attention on verses 22-23 of our text, in which Samuel confronts Saul for having disobeyed God. We will examine the text under three headings: 1) Samuel's rhetorical question, 2) Samuel's rebuke, and 3) the reasons for Samuel's rebuke.

I. Samuel's Rhetorical Question

We find Samuel's question in the first part of verse 22:
NKJ  1 Samuel 15:22a Then Samuel said: “Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD?”
As we have already seen in our reading of the context, Saul claims to have obeyed the Lord, but he has really only partially obeyed the Lord. He has not killed Agag, the king of Amalek, and he has allowed the people to take spoils that they were not supposed to take. His excuse was that they were going to use some of the captured livestock for sacrifices to the Lord. Thus Saul clearly thought that going through the motions of religious observance would somehow make up for the fact that he had not completely obeyed the Lord.

So, when Samuel asked, “Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD?,” he was asking Saul whether he really thought that going through the religious motions of worship could make up for the fact that he had disobeyed what God had commanded him to do.

Application Questions: Before we move any further in the passage, then, perhaps we could each one of us ask ourselves a similar question this morning. For example, do we sometimes think that we can make up for failing to obey God throughout the week by coming to church on Sunday? Do we sometimes think that because we read the Bible on a regular basis we can somehow make up for the fact that we do not really live according to the Bible as we should? Do we sometimes think that sharing the Gospel once in a while will somehow make up for all the missed opportunities the Lord has brought our way? Do we sometimes think that certain acts of obedience are better than others and can thus somehow make up for any lack of obedience in what we might consider to be less important areas? Do we sometimes fall into the same trap as Saul, thinking that somehow partial obedience is just as good as complete obedience, so long as that partial obedience is something that we think is really important?

These are the kinds of things we should think about as we consider Samuel's question. But now let's look at Samuel's answer, in which he drives the point home by way of a rebuke.

II. Samuel's Rebuke

We find Samuel's rebuke in the second part of verse 22:
NKJ  1 Samuel 15:22b Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams.
Of course, there can be only one answer to Samuel's question, the answer which he immediately provides, namely that obedience and really listening to God is better than sacrifice. Nothing can substitute for full, heartfelt obedience. Sadly, there are many today who seem to dismiss any need for complete obedience. For example, many professing Christians claim to hold to the doctrine of eternal security, yet they do not see obedience as all that important. They seem to think that, since they have their “fire insurance” – so to speak – they can live as they please and are assured of everlasting life despite their lack of concern for obeying God. As A.W. Tozer has aptly stated, “To escape the error of salvation by works, we have fallen into the opposite error of salvation without obedience” (Paths to Power, p. 51).

But listen to what the Apostle Paul wrote to the Roman Christians:
NKJ  Romans 6:15-19 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not! 16 Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one's slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness? 17 But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. 18 And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. 19 I speak in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves of uncleanness, and of lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves of righteousness for holiness.
Someone has rightly said, “When Christ takes the burden of guilt off a sinner's shoulders, He places the yoke of obedience upon his neck.” But we must remember that our Lord Jesus' yoke is pleasant:
NKJ  Matthew 11:28-30 Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 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. 30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.
We must also remember that, as we follow Jesus in obedience, we gain assurance:
NKJ  1 John 2:3-5 Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. 4 He who says, 'I know Him,' and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. 5 But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him.
Obedience really is the very best thing for us, isn't it? And we should allow this to motivate us to obey our Lord Jesus Christ in all that He commands. But Samuel, remember, is rebuking Saul, so he gives some negative reasons for his answer.

III. The Reasons for Samuel's Rebuke

Now we will focus upon the reasons why Samuel says that complete obedience is better than sacrifice. These reasons are found in verse 23. Here it becomes clear that partial obedience – which is really disobedience – is the worst kind of sin! For the source of such sin is 1) rebellion, 2) stubbornness, and 3) rejection of God's Word.

First, disobedience is rebellion against God as the source of wisdom for our lives.

We see this in the first part of verse 23:
NKJ  1 Samuel 15:23a For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft [קֶסֶם, qesemdivination]
The Hebrew word for witchcraft here is qesem, which denotes divination (BDB #8634, BibleWorks) or “prediction, the survey of future events” (HALOT #8435, BibleWorks). Divination could encompass a number of practices, such as seeking to communicate with the dead, the examination of animal entrails, or astrology. Such practices were strictly forbidden by God:
NKJ  Deuteronomy 18:10-12 There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, or one who practices witchcraft [קֶסֶם, qesem, divination], or a soothsayer, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, 11 or one who conjures spells, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. 12 For all who do these things are an abomination to the LORD, and because of these abominations the LORD your God drives them out from before you.
So, Saul's partial obedience was really rebellion against God as the true source of wisdom. Such partial obedience, which does not see complete obedience to God as important, actually rejects God's wisdom and cries, “I know better!” In this way, it is just like divination, which seeks after wisdom in a source other than God.

Sadly, this tendency actually later led to Saul's literal practice of divination – and to his ultimate demise – when he visited the witch of En Dor (1 Sam. 28:3-25). This should serve as a warning to us, since it shows us how easily partial disobedience ultimately leads to complete disobedience.

Second, disobedience is stubbornness toward God that is the same kind of sin as idolatry.

We see this in the second part of verse 23:
NKJ 1 Samuel 15:23b and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. 
John Piper has described this point well:
When God says one thing and we consult the little wizard of our own wisdom and then stubbornly choose to go our own way we are idolaters. We have not only chosen to consult ourselves as an alternative to God, and thus become guilty of divination, but we go beyond that and actually esteem the direction of our own mind over God's direction and become guilty of idolatry. And worst of all, the idol is our own self.
So it stands to reason that God will be displeased with disobedience because at every point it is an attack on his glory.
It puts the fear of man in the place of the fear of God. 
It elevates pleasure in things above pleasure in God. 
It seeks a name for itself instead of a name for God. 
It consults the wisdom of self instead of being satisfied with the will of God. 
And it sets more value on the dictates of self than on the dictates of God and thus attempts to dethrone God by giving allegiance to the idol of the human will. (The Pleasure of God in Obedience)
This is the nature of the sin committed by Saul, and it is the nature of all sin that ignores the commands of the LORD.

Third, disobedience is a rejection of God's Word.

We see this in the third part of verse 23:
NKJ  1 Samuel 15:23c Because you have rejected [מָאַס, mā’as] the word of the LORD, He also has rejected [מָאַס, mā’as] you from being king.
Saul claimed that he really allowed the people to keep the cattle they should have destroyed because he wanted to give them as sacrifices to God. He claimed, therefore, to be interested in worshiping the Lord and bringing Him glory. But Samuel showed him that he could not claim to worship God while at the same time he rejected His Word. And because he rejected God's word and refused to obey it, he was rejected as a servant of God. Any opportunity he had to truly do good for God was therefore lost due to his disobedience.

Application: What about us? Do we have the same tendency as Saul to blind ourselves to the true motives for our disobedience? Do we try to rationalize our disobedience, rather than admit that it amounts to outright rebellion against God? Do we sometimes tell ourselves that partial obedience is good enough, rather than admit that we are just too stubborn and selfish to put God's will first?

Perhaps we would all do well to remember the words of a little poem that is said to be inscribed in the cathedral of Lübeck in Germany:
'Ye call Me Master and obey Me not;
Ye call Me Light and see Me not;
Ye call Me Way and walk Me not;
Ye call Me Life and desire Me not;
Ye call Me Wise and follow Me not;
Ye call Me Fair and love Me not;
Ye call Me Rich and ask Me not;
Ye call Me Eternal and seek Me not;
Ye call Me Gracious and trust Me not;
Ye call Me Noble and serve Me not;
Ye call Me Mighty and honour Me not;
Ye call Me Just and fear Me not;
If I condemn YOU, blame Me not'.
Let each one of us resolve today to obey God more completely and to refuse to rationalize away our disobedience and thus fail to see it for what it really is – an affront to God, a rejection of His loving, sovereign will in favor of our own stubborn, sinful desires.

Let us also remember that we cannot truly worship the LORD apart from heeding his word. We must always look to His word as the source of the wisdom we need to truly serve and worship Him. As the Apostle Paul again teaches us, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16-17).

Conclusion: As someone once wrote, “One of the reasons people find it hard to be obedient to the commands of Christ, is that they are uncomfortable taking orders from a stranger.”

This really hits the nail on the head, doesn't it? It highlights the fact that when we continually struggle to obey, it is because we have grown distant in our relationship to Christ. But remember what Jesus said:
NKJ  John 15:5 I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.
We can never obey as we should without a close relationship to our Lord Jesus Christ, without the strength of our Lord enabling us. As the Apostle Paul so wonderfully put it:
NKJ  Philippians 2:12-13 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; 13 for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.