Loving Christ Really IS Loving His Word

My pastor’s sermon this week worked through 2 Timothy 4:1-4.

I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths. (NASB95)

As someone who often writes about discernment, I have a particular investment in this passage. I firmly believe that discernment can come only as we study God’s Word and apply it. Although pulpit ministry isn’t permissible to women, each of us can find legitimate outlets for proclaiming the truth. Most of you, being mothers, have the beautiful privilege of preaching to your children, while others of us can teach women’s Bible Studies, write Christian blogs and/or witness to non-Christians. At some level, each believer has the responsibility to preach.

Sadly, many professing Christians (including pastors who care more about enlarging their congregations than about nurturing their flocks) preach anything but the Word of God. How often have you sat through sermons and women’s Bible Studies about improving your marriage, methods of contemplative prayer or positive thinking? I remember women’s Bible Studies about how to change the oil in a car. Sometimes a pastor’s funny stories stayed in my mind long after I’d forgotten the point of his message. The Word of God has become incidental to evangelicals nowadays.

Worse, it’s now popular to say that you love Jesus more than you love His Word. Apparently, the Bible is considered an idol to some people who simply want to “follow Christ” (whatever that means). In his sermon this week, my pastor countered that position by saying, “You can’t really love Christ and not love His Word.”

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Saturday Sampler: January 16 – January 22

I start writing my Saturday Samplers early in the week, putting up each article as I read it. So I always feel hesitant to feature one of Elizabeth Prata’s essays in The End Time on a Monday, aware that Elizabeth will most likely produce even better posts later in the week. But Sin on the railroad tracks deserves attention. It wonderfully captures the heart of what’s happening in our world, while reminding us why Christians need not despair.

I didn’t expect Elizabeth to produce something the very next day. Are usurping authority and teaching two different activities or are they the same? therefore caught me by surprise. Elizabeth answers questions that I’ve been grappling with lately (mostly in the context of an online conversation with an extremist), and I greatly appreciate her Scriptural balance on how women can serve the Lord and His church.

Regular readers of The Outspoken TULIP have noticed increasing references to Biblical Counseling in recent weeks. Happily, Michelle Lesley helps explain it with Dale Johnson — An Intro. to Biblical Counseling. Follow her links if your church would be interested in this type of training.

What does it mean to take the name of the Lord in vain? Mark McIntyre, author of Attempts at Honesty, provides his Thoughts on the third commandment that broaden our understanding of the matter. You might want to consider his point of view.

Christians have good reason to be concerned about Canada’s law against “conversion therapy.” But Christians also have good reason to have hope despite this sinful law. Eric Davis of The Cripplegate writes What Canada’s Bill C-4 Can & Can’t Do to help us understand both the seriousness of the situation and the power of our sovereign God. Whether you feel indifference about the law or are fearful of it, you really need to read this one.

I wish a lot of things about me had been more Biblical 23 years ago when I taught the Sunday School class for Middle School kids in my church. Most specifically, I wish I’d read How Delightful to Study the Bible with Middle Schoolers by Peter Krol in Knowable Word. His experience once again assures me that kids best thrive when they have the opportunity to interact on a more mature level. Parents can adapt Peter’s approach to use in family devotions with their older children.

When You Shout The Same Thing Over And Over, You Add Nothing To The Conversation

Good bloggers have a specific focus. When someone starts a blog, it’s important to find her niche, and to build her posts around that niche. For instance, The Outspoken TULIP focuses on teaching women discernment through sound Biblical doctrine. Most of the blogs I read fall into that niche as well, and occasionally I interact with those women through social media or by email. We concentrate on defined areas because readers look to us for answers in those areas. God gave us this ministry so that He would be glorified.

So often, I’m tempted to veer off from the purpose of my blog for the sake of just writing. As enjoyable as such a vacation might be, it would ultimately change this blog into something I don’t believe the Lord wants it to be. I could start another blog devoted to the art of writing, and it would still honor Him. But it would need to be a separate blog. I don’t want to diffuse this blog by meandering into ideas that would distract women from discipleship. Consequently, I narrow my subject matter to select categories that contribute to my overall theme.

Even when a blog intentionally narrows its focus to a few related aspects of Christianity, however, the author should find a broad spectrum of sub-topics within that focus. One Scripture will most likely lead to more Scriptures, leading the writer to think about angles that give fresh perspectives. Too much of a focus leads to repetition that ends up annoying readers. Additionally, it can damage the writer’s credibility,

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Remember Who You Were

Take a minute to think about the power of the Gospel in your life. Think about how Jesus rescued you from an eternity in hell and liberated you from slavery to sin.

The longer we’ve been Christians, the easier it becomes to forget how desperately we needed salvation, it seems to me. We get involved in whatever ministry God calls us into, and sometimes those ministries can make us feel pretty prideful. Over the years, memories of life before Christ dim a little… or a lot. Oh sure, we can give our testimony when asked, but often we word it in such a way that we present ourselves, rather than Jesus, as the heroes. And then we dwell upon all the wonderful things we’ve done for the Lord.

Certainly, we don’t want to go on and on describing our sinful lives prior to our conversions. Reliving sinful memories usually caters to our flesh, both by arousing old emotions in us and by distracting attention away from Jesus. As a new Christian, I’d frequently hear about my friends detail their past involvement in drugs, sex and alcohol, tacking on hasty comments about Jesus turning their lives around. I’d often wonder if I was genuinely saved, since I lacked such a sordid past. For years, I exaggerated my dabbling in astrologically, just to create a sense of contrast. Wallowing in our pasts, however, doesn’t really give the glory to God.

That said, Scripture indicates that we need to remember enough of who we were apart from Christ that we continually rejoice in His saving grace. Consider this familiar passage from 1 Corinthians:

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Saturday Sampler: January 9 — January 15

This week, Michelle Lesley answers an intriguing question by writing In The Mailbag: Is it OK for women to teach the children’s sermon? Her response raises fascinating issues that had never occurred to me, but are definitely worthy of consideration. She even suggests that a woman giving a children’s sermon is secondary to another question Christians might want to ask.

Leslie A and her husband own a landscaping company. In Without Excuse, an article she writes in Growing 4 Life, she shares a frustrating situation with some of their customers as an illustration of how dangerous it is to ignore God’s Word.

Writing for Tabletalk Magazine, Jonathan T. Penninton examines The Parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard by looking at the broader context of the passage. Why did Jesus originally tell this parable? What happened just before He told it? And how does understanding its context (or the context of any portion of Scripture) help us to make a correct application?

Why should Christians oppose Gender Affirmation Surgery? Calvin Goligher explains its shortcomings and destructive effects in an article for Reformation 21. I wish he had supplemented his argument with Scripture, but I appreciate his powerful use of basic human biology to make his case. Moms, this is definitely a post you’ll want to use as you talk about gender identity with your teenagers.

The past week, we’ve witnessed another angry backlash against John MacArthur on social media because of his call for U.S. pastors to preach on Biblical sexuality tomorrow. According to Elizabeth Prata in her essay, Satan roaming, MacArthur standing for The End Time, the outcry and dishonest attack on this pastor demonstrates spiritual warfare. Find out how she comes to that conclusion.

If your child is in his or her final semester of high school, you’re undoubtedly swimming in college brochures right now. Thanks to the G3 Ministries Blog, Becky Aniol offers helpful guidance. How to Choose a College: 5 Biblical Questions gives parents (yes, parents — not kids) a wonderful framework for selecting the right school. I hope you’ll find it useful.

Why MacArthur Is Doing The Right Thing

Praise God that John MacArthur never shies away from an attack on God’s Word! In support of Canadian Christians who now face criminal penalties for upholding the Biblical model for gender and sexual identity, MacArthur is calling for American pastors to preach on Biblical sexuality this coming Sunday (January 16). You can read the details here.

Although I am certainly not a pastor and you are certainly not my congregation, I want to support faithful men who will stand in their pulpits and boldly proclaim the truth about sexuality this weekend. Several pastors in Canada know that they will probably be arrested for preaching the truth, and I applaud them for obeying God rather than the unjust laws of their secular government. American pastors won’t face the same repercussions, of course, but I admire their solidarity with their Canadian counterparts. I’m writing this post simply to add my Amen.

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What Cerebral Palsy Teaches Me About God’s Grace

Until recently, having Cerebral Palsy was little more than a nuisance to me. It always rather shocked me to hear people refer to me as having a severe case. Although I obviously knew that I can’t walk, use my hands or speak clearly, I focused on all my abilities and accomplishments to such a degree that I saw little distinction between myself and others. School and church friends pretty much included me in all their activities, allowing me to feel as if I had a sizeable amount of control in my life. Looking back, I’m forced to acknowledge that I developed quite a sense of pride in my apparent normalcy.

Lately, circumstances have changed my perception of my control. Possibly due to the current health and economic mayhem overtaking the world right now, I’m having trouble getting a weekend Personal Care Attendant, and my weekday PCA often has legitimate reasons for having to call out. The Lord always provides help at least once a day, but sometimes it means I can only get up to use the bathroom. Snowstorms especially confine me to bed, leaving me feeling helpless and vulnerable,

That vulnerability makes me wonder why I struggle so much with the sin of pride.

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Saturday Sampler: January 2 – January 8

I haven’t been able to curate articles for Saturday Sampler columns in quite some time, so I’m delighted to get back to them. The Lord wasted no time in providing the first one for me to share.

Starting The Cripplegate off for 2022, Dan Crabtree writes Lions Are Lurking Outside My Door! And Other Excuses We Might Make This Year for us to consider. The post is as good as its title!

In a post for Knowable Word, Ryan Higgonbottom encourages us that You Don’t Have to Read the Whole Bible This Year. He helps us reconnect with the reasons God wants us in His Word as opposed to fleshly reasons for reading a quota of chapters each day. If yearly reading plans leave you feeling defeated before you even start, read Ryan’s article and enjoy Scripture on whatever timetable the Lord provides for you.

If you’ve been exposed to all the vitriol against Calvinism lately, read Twin Truths by Lesley A. Leslie authors Growing 4 Life, a blog that consistently pulls readers back to Biblical teaching and practical application. This particular blog post gives much needed encouragement to those of us who endure ridicule for holding to Reformed theology.

Are You A Church Hopper? asks Robin Self of A Worthy Walk. She explores reasons why people move from church to church, and offers suggestions on how to stay committed to a solid church once we find one.

You’ve got to read How Can we deal with knowing someone we love is probably in hell? Elizabeth Prata of The End Time writes a must see essay that points our grieving hearts to Christ. As someone whose close family members died without evidence of saving faith, I found tremendous comfort in Elizabeth’s words, If you only read one blog post in this sampler, please make it this one!

Throwback Thursday: Unacknowledged Pharisees

Originally published March 11, 2016:

Biblical Unity

My insistence on sound doctrine as an essential element in Christian maturity has, more than once, spurred people to call me a Pharisee, either directly or by insinuation. People making that connection also sometimes point out the perils of dead orthodoxy, reminding me that the Lord cares more about how I live than about my finer points of theology. In some respects, I understand their concerns. And, in one sense, I agree with them. After all, Paul’s advice to Timothy applies to everyone–not just pastors:

 Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers. ~~1 Timothy 4:16 (ESV)

Yet the apparent hostility to the idea that sound doctrine (by which I mean the teachings of the Bible)  matters troubles me. The rallying cry to disregard doctrine “for the sake of unity” often tolerates (or even promotes) violations of Scripture such as Contemplative Prayer, pragmatism, women in leadership and the acceptance and celebration of homosexuality. Some who bristle at the word “doctrine” believe these are secondary matters. Others still recognize  that the Bible does prohibit homosexual behavior, but increasing numbers of evangelicals now question the “traditional interpretations” of “the six clobber passages.”

Those who minimize concern over the erosion of doctrine typically equate conservative Christians with the Pharisees of Jesus’ earthly ministry, charging that we live by the “dead letter” of Scripture rather than by the Spirit of the Living God. I shall resist the temptation to embark on a lengthy discussion of their hypocrisy in making that judgment. Instead, I want to give attention to their implication that God’s Holy Word is a “dead letter” that requires human intervention (such as Contemplative prayer or pragmatic evangelism strategies) to revive it.

Hebrews 4:12 describes God’s Word as “living and active.” Additionally, 2 Timothy 3:16-17 teaches  both that the Spirit of the  Living God authored each word of Scripture, and that  Scripture adequately gives us all the teaching, reproof, correction and training in righteousness necessary for serving Him. Far from being a “dead letter” that opposes the Spirit, the Bible is His sword, operating by His power.

The Pharisees dogmatically  claimed that they adhered strictly to God’s Word, and fiercely objected to the “new” doctrines that Jesus proclaimed. In reality, however, Jesus routinely brought them back to the original intent of His Word, rebuking them for corrupting it with their traditions, loopholes and embellishments. For example:

Then Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said, “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat.” He answered them, “And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? For God commanded, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ But you say, ‘If anyone tells his father or his mother, “What you would have gained from me is given to God,” he need not honor his father.’ So for the sake of your tradition you have made void the word of God. You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said:

“‘This people honors me with their lips,
    but their heart is far from me;
in vain do they worship me,
    teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’” ~~Matthew 15:1-9 (ESV)  

Could it be that the  real Pharisees shun the pure doctrine of God’s Word, preferring the human traditions that now creep into churches despite their claims of fidelity to the Bible? Could a return to the doctrinal purity of Scripture pose a threat to their unacknowledged doctrine of cultural accommodation? Perhaps not. Only the Lord knows the thoughts and intentions of their hearts. But they might consider the possibility, especially before attaching the Pharisee label to those of us who stand for sound doctrine.

You’re Convinced, But I’m Not

Twitter just amplifies a sad reality: Christians love to argue with each other.

Sometimes we argue about issues that actually matter. For instance, a sister in Christ may be reading supposed Bible Study material by a known false teacher, and you’ll need to give her evidence that she’s being exposed to error. Similarly, a friend might be engaging in sexual immorality, angrily resisting your attempts to lovingly correct her. Someone online may insist that the Bible was written merely by men, and therefore shouldn’t be regarded as God’s Word. In such clear-cut situations, arguing on behalf of Scripture becomes a necessity. Never shy away from arguing against obvious sin.

Alas, too often we misinterpret matters of personal conviction as commands from God that all Christians must embrace. We have our proof texts from the Bible to use as clubs to beat dissidents into submission. We assure ourselves that Scripture supports our position. If they disagree, they demonstrate ignorance at best, and outright rebellion most of the time. We firmly believe that (whether knowingly or unknowingly) those who don’t share our convictions disobey God’s commands. Therefore we argue, working tirelessly to force their repentance.

Scripture will have none of that. I want to look at Romans 14 as one example of respecting the personal convictions of Christians who don’t share our convictions.

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