Pardon There Was Multiplied To Me

One of the saddest aspects of evangelicalism is that people make professions of faith without genuinely understanding why they need salvation. Evangelicals often present Jesus as an agent of life enhancement rather than the One Who bears the wrath of a holy Judge on our behalf.

But how thankful I am that the Holy Spirit confronted me with my sin 46 years ago! Knowing that I deserve eternity in hell has made me so appreciative of the Lord’s sacrificial death on the cross for my sin! Only those who see how terrible their sin is realize what a wonderful thing the Lord did for us on Calvary.

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Saturday Sampler: June 18 — June 24

Rose SamplerMark McIntyre writes Did he really say that? on his Attempts at Honesty blog primarily as an exhortation to men in pulpit ministry. But his words apply to all Christians as we proclaim the Gospel in face-to-face conversations and/or on social media. The truth, no matter how lovingly we present it, will always offend unbelievers.

How seriously do you take sin? According to R.C. Sproul of Ligonier, Sin is Cosmic Treason. Sproul gives a thorough explanation of sin’s nature and why God can’t tolerate it.

I completely agree with The Gospel Coalition Blog‘s Michael A G Haykin that Every Christian ought to be a good historian. Having enjoyed two years of a church history class in Adult Sunday School, I join Haykin in believing that church history displays God’s power and faithfulness to His people.

It’s wonderful to see Jessica Pickowicz blogging on Beautiful Thing after a long hiatus! Her blog post, The Not So Simple Life, evaluates the current trend of simple living by holding it up against practicality and ultimately against God’s Word. If you’re a busy mom, Jessica’s essay may be just the encouragement you need.

Denny Burk’s article, Mainstreaming fornication (a.k.a. “ethical non-monogamy”) saddens me.

In light of recent internet fights among well-known Christian apologists, I found Leslie A’s blog post, Engaging The Enemy on her Growing 4 Life blog, wonderfully balanced and refreshing. Biblical discernment doesn’t require us to win arguments; it simply enables us to stand on God’s Word.

Evangelism often means encountering people who, quite frankly, have no interest in the Lord. In his essay for Parking Space 23, Greg Peterson writes Excuses… Excuses… to counter some of the better-known objections to the Gospel. In addition to citing pertinent Scriptures for each argument, Peterson also provides links to helpful articles.

Mike Riccardi’s post, Ecumenical vs. Evangelical in The Cripplegate traces the fascinating history of the Ecumenical Movement. It’s a good caution against blurring the lines of doctrine for the sake of unity.

Although Herman Melville’s Moby Dick was by far my least favorite assigned reading in   college, I respect Elizabeth Prata’s delight in reading it. And I absolutely love the way she uses a passage from the novel to remind wives to use prudence in Exposing or ignoring the ignominious blemish in our husbands for The End Time. Interestingly, I gave similar counsel just this morning to a young friend who will be getting married a few months from now.

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Why I Wanted More Than Scripture

Victoria PaintingTo my shame, I like to talk about myself. Everybody does, I suppose, but I see it as one of my character flaws. Wouldn’t it be much better if my conversation revolved around the Lord and His Word?

Sometimes, however, talking about myself gives me the opportunity to tell people how the Lord has worked in my life. I’ve written several articles about the ways that evangelicals try to supplement God’s Word with mysticism and psychology, but perhaps I come across as not understanding why those practices attract so many professing Christians. Perhaps readers (especially those who haven’t read my Autobiography With Purpose posts) think I’m simply unaware of how God can use these practices to enhance Biblical principles. With such possibilities in mind, I’d like to tell you a little bit about my struggles with the sin of anger and my subsequent minimization of the Bible’s ability to address it.

Mostly in those years when I accepted Charismatic theology (but also in later years), I considered the Bible to be less than satisfying. Oh, with my mouth I’d insist that Scripture possessed everything Christians needed to know, but when I struggled with personal issues, I’d search its pages and find my heart yearning for something “deeper.” Prophecy, psychology, or “words of knowledge” promised to augment God’s Word.

My battle to tame my temper provides an example of my dissatisfaction with Biblical principles. I dutifully read all the passages condemning anger, as well as the ones encouraging self-control. Yet they didn’t seem to offer guidance on how to keep  from exploding into fits of rage when I’d feel irritated or threatened. I believed I needed to understand childhood trauma that caused my root of anger. Additionally, I went through “deliverance” from a demon of anger that had supposedly possessed me. I read Christian books and articles, looking for mystical experiences with Jesus that would free me from my anger and transform me into a woman of inexhaustible patience.

The magic bullet never materialized.

What I really needed, of course, was to obey the Holy Spirit, Who has given me a spirit of self-control (2 Timothy 1:7). I could choose to walk in the Spirit’s ways, which He outlined in the Bible, or I could choose to walk in the flesh. Walking in the Spirit doesn’t erase my fleshly feelings of indignation, but it trusts the Spirit’s power to help me respond to irritations as He would have me respond.

Obedience isn’t the easy way of dealing with sin. Often, it fails to change our feelings or remove our sinful desires. Instead, it requires us to deny the demands of our emotions, bringing them into submission to God’s commands. Certainly, the Holy Spirit empowers us to obey the Lord, but He doesn’t necessarily do so in ways that we find comfortable. And, frankly, we turn to mysticism and psychology precisely because we want a comfortable way of dealing with sin.

God’s Word not only teaches us what the Lord expects, but it points us to the power of God’s Spirit, Who enables us to obey. We need no “deeper” knowledge, nor do we need psychology. Scripture guides us to the risen Christ, Who in turn raises us from bondage to our sin natures. Really, what more could we possibly need?

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Discernment Ministry Does More Than Expose False Teachers

Biblical UnityOur Monday Bible Studies in Titus may be suspended for the summer, but I’m still thinking quite a lot about Paul’s charge to Titus regarding the responsibilities of older women.

Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled. ~~Titus 2:3-5 (ESV)

As a blogger, I am in an unofficial teaching position, hopefully teaching younger women how to honor the Lord. Thus far, I’ve written little about marriage and even less about raising children, mostly because I married late in life and consequently missed out on motherhood. But I certainly can teach what is good in terms of Christian doctrine and discernment.

Without rehashing specifics, recent arguments among well-known figures in discernment ministry cause me to wonder if I should focus my teaching more on discerning how to exhibit a character that reflects the Lord Jesus Christ and less on calling out false teachers. To be sure, those false teachers need to be identified, especially because women tend to gravitate to ones that use humor, psychology and emotional mysticism to lure us into doctrinal error. But, as I’ve said many times, blogs like mine can easily degenerate into tabloid gossip mills.

Blogging as a Christian places me under an obligation to keep my doctrine pure. An elder from my church monitors The Outspoken TULIP for that very reason, as does my husband. But right doctrine is only half the battle, dear sisters in Christ. Remember that the Pharisees in Jesus’ day had right doctrine. But they used their right doctrine to cover up their sinful lifestyles.

If, in exposing false teachers, I use this blog to generate gossip, I stand guilty of dishonoring the Lord I claim to represent. On one level, I teach younger women to cultivate discernment regarding popular teachers and trends within the evangelical community (which is sometimes necessary), but on a deeper level I teach by example that discernment depends on gossiping about others.

Recent events in the evangelical world have caused me to consider the type of character I want to model as I emblazon words on the internet. Do I demonstrate godly attitudes even when I warn my readers against false teachers? Do I encourage my readers to pray for people who fall victim to doctrinal error, and do I point them back to the Word of God? Or do I act like a talebearer who enjoys the sport of character assassination?

Older women, Paul says, must teach what is good. Teaching what is good, in turn, necessitates living in conformity to sound doctrine. The current nastiness in the name of discernment, by God’s grace, admonishes me to be careful as I write my blog posts, knowing that the example I set can either encourage sinful attitudes or lead ladies to honor the Lord.

 

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Dogs Eating Homework And Luther’s Commentary On Galatians

Rat TerrierLast Tuesday I concluded my installment on this Protestant Reformation series by saying that I’d write about Galatians this week to demonstrate Scripture’s stance against adding human works to God’s work of justification. Definitely, Galatians applies to the argument against Roman Catholicism’s system of sacraments, Purgatory, indulgences and the Mass.

Would you believe me if I said the dog ate my homework?

Didn’t think so. In which case I’m forced to admit that I just plain didn’t do my homework this week, leaving me totally unprepared to follow up on my promise. I consequently feel the same embarrassed shame I felt in my 7th grade English class when I had to admit (in front of the entire class, mind you) that I hadn’t done my homework. The teacher had always let the boys get away with it, but she sure had no grace for me!

I failed this week, but I at least did enough cursory research to know that Galatians has been called the Magna Carta of the Protestant Reformation. Martin Luther cherished the epistle, and his commentary on it is perhaps his most famous work. The little reading I did today convinced me that we really must look at Galatians as part of our discussion on the Reformation.

Paul wrote his letter to the church in Galatia because they had compromised the Gospel by believing false teachers. These false teachers had told them that faith in Christ alone wasn’t really enough to justify them before God; they insisted that these Gentile converts submit to Jewish law by undergoing circumcision. Infuriated by their distortion of the Gospel, Paul wrote the epistle to call them back to the truth that we can’t add anything to Christ’s work on the cross.

15 We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; 16 yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.

17 But if, in our endeavor to be justified in Christ, we too were found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not! 18 For if I rebuild what I tore down, I prove myself to be a transgressor. 19 For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose. ~~Galatians 2:15-12 (ESV)

Luther saw a parallel between the First Century Judaizers and the Roman Catholic Church that he saw in the 16th Century. His study of Galatians confirmed to him that the Roman Catholic system again taught the deception that human efforts must cooperate with God’s grace in order for salvation to take effect.

I honestly can’t promise to go through Galatians in detail, following Luther’s commentary, but I would like to go through a few key passages as we continue exploring the Reformation and its importance 500 years later. As Bible-believing Christians, we mustn’t forget why the Reformation happened. The Reformers risked their lives (in fact, many lost their lives) because they valued right doctrine over personal comfort. Since their doctrine of justification served as the keystone for them,  we have an obligation to understand how they derived it from God’s Word.

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Lysa TerKeurst And The Challenge To Discernment Bloggers

Teardrop RoseAfter reading that Lysa TerKeurst has decided to divorce her husband, I wanted to follow Leslie A’s lead by sharing a few thoughts of my own. As I type, I pray that my words will honor the Lord Jesus Christ rather than generate vicious gossip. So I’ll begin this article by asking that all of us (myself included) pray for Lysa and her husband Art to search the Scriptures and (if at all possible) find ways of reconciliation.

My greatest fear in this matter has been that discernment bloggers would use this divorce as a “gotcha” moment. Indeed, I’ve been struggling with that very temptation all weekend. Lysa’s ministry has been more than questionable on several fronts, and this situation seems like a perfect opportunity to show her followers that she shouldn’t be trusted.

Well, she shouldn’t be trusted, but this isn’t the appropriate time to talk about the problems with her ministry. Again, I agree with Leslie A that it’s a time for compassion. Can you imagine how humiliating it must feel, after writing books on marriage and speaking to large audiences about having successful relationships, to publicly announce that you’ve initiated a divorce? In that respect, Lysa TerKeurst exercised tremendous courage.

Thankfully, I haven’t seen any discernment bloggers celebrating Lysa’s downfall, though I’ve heard that some of them have been a little giddy. Perhaps as this week gets going, some less scrupulous bloggers will emerge and write self-righteous blog posts about this divorce. They’ll quite probably rationalize that they’re simply showing people the truth about Lysa TerKeurst. But in reality they’ll be capitalizing on someone else’s suffering, just to demonstrate their supposed discernment skills.

To such bloggers, I’d issue a challenge. Please examine your hearts. Is discrediting Lysa TerKeurst at this particular point in time the most godly response to the situation? Would you consider praying, with sincerity and compassion, that the Lord would use this terrible tragedy to lead this woman into His Word so that He can purify her theology? And, like Leslie A, would you humbly look at your own marriages with the understanding that you might be just as vulnerable.

Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. ~~1 Corinthians 10:12 (ESV)

Discernment ministry can so easily lead us into pride, particularly as we point out false teaching that comes from popular teachers. But the news that Lysa TerKeurst is filing for divorce challenges me to use a different type of discernment. I must have wisdom regarding when to write about her errors and when to humbly pray for the Lord to gently lead her to repentance. And I must realize how easily  I fall into sin.

Lysa TerKeurst’s divorce is nothing we should gloat over. Nor is it, to paraphrase our last President, a crisis that discernment bloggers shouldn’t waste. It should grieve us, driving us to humility and compassion as we seek for God to glorify Himself through this sad turn of events.

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Do You Have Time?

Life has a way of crowding out our time with the Lord. I know we all have occasional days when a prolonged Quiet Time certainly isn’t possible, and I believe the Lord doesn’t want to place us under a legalistic regimen. After all, legalism didn’t work  too well for the Pharisees, as you’ll recall.

At the same time, we can’t ignore the Lord and expect to grow spiritually. We need to invest in prayer, Bible Study and corporate worship, letting His Holy Spirit transform us through these practices. Consistency is the key to maintaining good spiritual health.

This week’s hymn reminds us, in the midst of summer activity, to keep Christ as our highest priority. While we will inevitably have days here and there when we honestly can’t engage in a full-blown Quiet Time, the overarching pattern of our lives should be one of devotion to knowing and obeying Him.

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