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Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Spirit of Rebellion

Dr. Gary Roberts
Robertson School of Government

Rebellion is as sinful as witchcraft, and stubbornness as bad as worshiping idols. So because you have rejected the command of the Lord, he has rejected you as king (1 Samuel 15:23, NLT).

For I recognize my rebellion; it haunts me day and night (Psalm 51:3, NLT).

But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed (Isaiah 53:5, NLT).

Finally, I confessed all my sins to you and stopped trying to hide my guilt. I said to myself, “I will confess my rebellion to the Lord.” And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone (Psalm 32:5, NLT).

Rebellion is the original sin produced by the spirit of pride. Satan’s fall from heaven was a direct result of rejecting God’s authority and the explicit substitution of self-will and personal autonomy over obedience and submission. When we as Christian servant leaders know the truth and God’s will, and we choose not to honor and obey God, whether consciously or subconsciously, we are committing the sin of rebellion. Christ and the epistle writers such as Paul and James clearly state we must be both hearers and doers of the law. The passages from 1 Samuel 15:23 reflect Saul’s fall from grace and favor due to his explicit disobedience to God’s instructions.

When we think of rebellion in biblical terms, it is natural to focus on such clear-cut examples as Israel’s ongoing disobedience and rejection of God that resulted in 40 years in the wilderness and eventual destruction as a nation. For mature Christians, explicit rebellion to God’s commands usually takes more subtle, but insidious forms. I would like to illustrate this principle through the common emotional states of doubt and fear. The bible clearly addresses both issues in the Old and New Testament in a variety of forms and situations. These interconnected negative emotions are ubiquitous to fallen human nature, and are all elements of spiritual warfare that promote and inhibit our sanctification walk. Let us begin by discussing several foundational principles.

First, there is no condemnation for experiencing fear and doubt. Jesus was tempted in all ways as we were, yet without sin. Fear and doubt are inevitable emotional states given our human nature. In effect, the experience of fear and doubt is a form of temptation that only becomes sin when we act upon the foundational compulsion. This reflects the principle that fear and doubt are not nouns, but verbs, entailing action and not mere intellectual assent (belief) or the experience of an emotional state. This principle is clearly illustrated in Numbers 13 and 14 when 10 of the 12 scouts sent to explore the Promised Land acted on fear by advising the Assembly not to attack by focusing on the circumstances and using temporal reasoning thereby rejecting God’s promise of protection and victory. Only Caleb and Joshua rejected the temptation to act on fear, and they were rewarded by the Lord with entry into the Promised Land while all those who rebelled died in the wilderness. In essence, when we act on fear and doubt we engage in rebellion by rejecting God’s multiple promises of protection and ultimate victory irrespective of the circumstances. Just a sampling of these promises are amazing in their scope and include Jesus is with us always (Matthew 28:20), for this temporary state of affliction we have a far more eternal weight of glory (2 Corinthians 4:17), God will never leave nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5), all things work out for the best for those who love God and are called according to his purposes (Romans 8:28), God will not test nor tempt us beyond our ability to bear (1 Corinthians 10:13), that no weapon formed against us shall prosper (Isaiah 54:17), and God will turn what was meant for evil into a good (Genesis 50:20).

The even greater good news is that God’s grace and forgiveness extends to those who engage in rebellion. Even the rebellious children of Israel were forgiven for acting on fear, but with serious consequences because they failed to truly repent. This leads to a second principle, that when we rebel, forgiveness and grace are extended to those who confess their sin, repent of it, and renounce their allegiance to self-will. The two great examples of this are the difference in outcome between Saul’s and David’s serious transgressions in the Old Testament and Peter and Judas in the New Testament. Saul and Judas acted on fear and embraced worldly sorrow by failing to take responsibility for their and sins and engaging in another form of rebellion by refusing to humble themselves and accept God’s discipline, forgiveness and grace. They rebelled by failing to trust God for forgiveness and restoration. Worldly sorrow leads to death, while Godly sorrow makes us receptive to Godly discipline and promotes character development.

Both David and Peter learned from their mistakes enhancing the breadth and scope of their respective ministries. There is no condemnation, even for acted upon fear and doubt when we humble ourselves at the foot of the cross. We all engage in many disguised episodes of rebellion by acting on fear and doubt, but once we identify the root sin, we are one step closer to a great victory that has the power to remove yokes and break strongholds. When we repress or deny that acting on doubt and fear is a sin, either consciously or subconsciously, we give Satan permission to torment and condemn. For the many years in which I suffered anxiety and panic disorders, I did not understand that acting on fear or doubt is a sin, but that ignorance only accentuated the condemnation and negative consequences. I lacked the strength of character and trust in God to admit my doubt and fear was a sin, but when I placed Christ at the center, I slowly realized the great truth that experiencing fear and doubt is a temptation and not sin, that God forgives all sins, and hence I am set free by the blood of Christ.

I do not have to deny or repress my fear and doubt, and when I fail and act on fear and doubt, I run to the cross and receive loving and gentle consolation from my Father as I confess, repent and renounce. I am further comforted that when I am disciplined by God, it is another demonstration of His love and always produces a pleasant fruit. The Lord is systematically revealing the hidden strongholds of rebellion that remain, and how the old strongholds still exert influence. In essence, this is an important component of the renewal of our minds through the power of the Holy Spirit. To God be the glory as we work out our salvation with fear and trembling!


  1. This is so encouraging! Thank you!

  2. Truly spoken. Prayers and Blessings.