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Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.

—Proverbs 3:5-6

S atan’s great goal is to tempt us to replace God’s wisdom for our own wisdom, God’s pre-ordained deeds for our own good deeds and our own interpretation of the Word instead of seeking the Spirit’s guidance. We give into the temptation to rely on our wisdom and understanding because we doubt God’s intentions, God’s character, God’s truth, and God’s power.

In the book of Genesis, the serpent said to Adam and Eve, “Did God really say, ‘You shall not eat from any tree in the garden’?” (Genesis 3:1). In response, instead of talking to God about their doubts and asking for his help, they stayed in the dialogue with the serpent. This emboldened the serpent, who said, “You will not die; for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:4-5).

The rest is history! Adam and Eve gave in to the temptation because they wanted to be like God, instead of being with God. They wanted to know on their own, instead of having to depend on God’s wisdom. In other words, they did not want to acknowledge God. This same kind of brazen independence is alive and active in our religious circles today. It’s being promoted by self-help books and self-empowering conferences. Self-confidence, self-assurance, and self-reliance seek only the exaltation of the self—all rooted in pride. And the only fruit they produce is self-worship.

We call it determination, resolve, and empowerment. God calls it harlotry.

God made this clear in the book of Hosea. God called Hosea to expose Israel’s sin and to show his people the cure: “the Lord has an indictment against the inhabitants of the land. There is no faithfulness or loyalty, and no knowledge of God in the land,” (Hosea 4:1). God wanted for his people to understand that their rejection of God’s knowledge was equal to rejecting him.

In turn, he rejected them: “Because you have rejected knowledge, I also reject you as my priests; because you have ignored the law of your God, I also will ignore your children” (Hosea 4:6) No one in Israel thought they were rejecting God by rejecting God’s knowledge. In fact, they thought they were trying to live for God—and they were—but they were doing it in their own way. These people were doing many good deeds. They’re were trying to live well, according to what they thought best. They had even taken steps toward change, but it was all done in the power of their own strength. They did not realize that God did not want their works. God did not want their good religious deeds. He wanted their hearts. “For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings,” God told them (Hosea 6:6).

If we acknowledge God, we will make room for him and learn to love him. And, if we love him with all our mind, heart, and strength, sin will not such power over us. and God will make our paths straight.

Sandra Nikkel

Sandra Nikkel is minister of Conklin Reformed Church, a country church north of Grand Rapids, Michigan. She became a Christian in her twenties and left law school to pursue theological training. She is passionate about God and his Word, preaching, prayer, her congregation, traveling, and her three adult children. She also writes for the religion and ethics section of the Grand Rapids Press.