Did You Hear The Latest?

cropped-img_4654.jpgI debated with myself whether to write another installment in my Autobiography With Purpose series or continue writing about the intricacies of discernment ministries this afternoon. The Lord answered that question a bit unexpectedly when John and I did our morning devotions together today. We’ve just started reading  Philippians, so John read Paul’s introductory remarks, which include this sentence:

And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, 10 so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. ~~Philippians 1:9-11 (ESV)

As I heard these words, it struck me that discernment truly is a desirable commodity for a Christian. Indeed, we do well to pray for the Holy Spirit to develop discernment in our fellow believers, as well as for ourselves. In my private devotions, in fact, I ask Him to use my study of His Word to sharpen my discernment. Blogs, sermons and commentaries can assist in the process, to be sure, but I want Scripture to serve as my ultimate measuring rod for determining truth.

What fascinated me about the passage John and I read this morning, however, wasn’t that the apostle Paul prayed for the Philippians to grow in knowledge and discernment. Rather I found it captivating that he considered discernment as merely a means to an end. He saw it as an instrument in their sanctification process, which in turn would glorify and praise God.

Many discernment blogs have helped me evaluate well-known  evangelical teachers over the past 17 years, and the Lord has graciously used several of them (in addition to the prayers and influence of my wonderful husband John) to draw me into Reformed Theology.But lately I’ve noticed that a few of them read a bit like supermarket tabloids. At times they “critique” legitimate ministries over minor points of doctrine, or worse, on the basis of sensational websites that don’t properly document their claims.

When these blogs deteriorate into mere gossip rags, they dishonor the very Lord Jesus Christ they purport to defend. Admittedly, the fine line between calling out false teachers and slandering ones because an obscure (and usually poorly constructed) website makes some unsubstantiated allegations sometimes blurs a bit. Precisely for that reason, we must take responsibility to verify what we read before sharing it on Facebook or blogging about it.

I admit that blog posts about well-known people, especially if their titles offer indication of derogatory information, attract readers and boost stats. Why? To put it bluntly, folks, our sinful natures relish a nice juicy morsel of gossip (see Proverbs 18:8). Also, it strokes our egos to supply our readers with “exclusive information.” We forget the many Scriptures that condemn both listening to and spreading gossip. So we repeat the allegations, patting ourselves on the back for our faithfulness in executing our discernment ministries.

Dear sisters in Christ, please don’t misunderstand me. There’s definitely a need, and even an urgent one, for exposing the plethora of false teachers that permeate evangelical circles. But for the sake of God’s glory, we must ensure that we don’t pervert any gift of discernment the Holy Spirit may have given us. Discernment should lead both us and our listeners into increasing holiness that brings honor to the Lord Jesus Christ.

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Discerning Our Discernment

Ladies Study 01More Scriptures than I could possibly quote in this little  blog post urge Christians to develop and exercise discernment. The Lord desires that His people learn to distinguish between truth and error, particularly when it comes to His Word. My regular readers know that I champion the idea of encouraging greater discernment among Bible-believing Christians, especially in light of all the doctrinal error infiltrating evangelical churches these days. Weakened doctrine leads to deception, which in turn leads people to hell.

At the same time, we   can actually turn discernment into an idol, feeding into our pride as we fancy that we possess some special knowledge that most Christians haven’t been given. This superior enlightenment pulls us into pride as we use our blogs, Facebook pages and Twitter feeds to demonstrate how knowledgeable we are. Rather than warning people against false teaching  because of a sincere concern for God’s honor and for their souls, we show off our prowess at finding fault with whatever teacher or Christian idea that we manage to dig up dirt on.

I know this is true because I’ve crossed that line myself. May God forgive me!

Again, there’s a legitimate place for pointing out heresy. I praise God for the Reformers the 16th Century who stood against the perversions of Roman Catholicism to restore Biblical Christianity. Having said that, I also believe that we run the danger of manufacturing evidence for heresy where there is none.

Now concerning food offered to idols: we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up. If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. But if anyone loves God, he is known by God. ~~1 Corinthians 8:1-3 (ESV)

Apparently some of the Corinthians felt proud of their discernment regarding meat that, after being used in the worship of pagan deities, had been purchased in  markets and served to dinner guests. They would certainly have been right to abstain from eating it themselves if doing so violated their consciences. But in reality, eating such meat could be completely divorced from idol worship. These people “advised” others about the meat in order to show off their supposed discernment. Thus, they puffed up their own egos and, in the process, probably caused people to go hungry.

We all enjoy letting people think that we are “in the know,” don’t we? By billing ourselves as discernment bloggers, we indeed can puff ourselves up…at least in our own eyes. But the same Bible that  commands us to call out false teachers also admonishes us to maintain an attitude of humility.

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. For each will have to bear his own load. ~~Galatians 6:1-5 (ESV)

When we have concerns about a person’s ministry, therefore, we must first examine ourselves. Why do we feel the necessity to call attention to this person’s weaknesses? Is the error they teach assaulting an essential doctrine (such as the sufficiency of Scripture or Total Depravity), or are they simply mistaken about a disputable point of echatology? Are we exposing them because they do serious damage to the Body of Christ, or so that we can bolster our image as tippers of sacred cows?

Sometimes the Church really  does require people with the courage to speak out against doctrinal error. Sadly, we live in a time when evangelicals compromise with all sorts of deception and error, creating a legitimate need for discernment ministries and discernment blogs. That said, let’s be certain to exercise genuine discernment  instead of demonstrating our skill at finding skeletons in the closets of well-known Bible teachers. Above all, let’s remember that our primary purpose is to honor the Lord Jesus Christ.

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Allegations Investigated

Dark WisdomA few weeks ago, I read some allegations against John MacArthur and Al Mohler in a “discernment” blog. The specifics of these accusations may or may not be addressed in another post. I haven’t quite decided whether or not I’ll take them on yet, though my gut instinct leads me to think doing so would probably be a waste of time. So today I want to restrict my remarks to my response to reading such criticisms of Christian teachers  that I respect.

Let’s begin with my initial reaction  to her posts. Immediately I felt defensive. Who did this blogger think she was to malign these respected teachers? But in acknowledging my defensive emotions, the thought crossed my mind that supporters of Beth Moore, Rick Warren, Sarah Young and Joyce Meyer feel those same emotions when they read my blog. Now that the shoe was on the other foot, how was I going to deal with it?

I decided, first of all, to examine the links she provided. But I did more than read the articles; I vetted the websites which featured the articles. None of them struck me as particularly credible, and some of the websites she linked to very clearly exist with the sole purpose of discrediting MacArthur. I’ve yet to locate anything in regard to one of her claims either to verify or refute it, but even if it proves true, it’s about MacArthur’s ancestor, not him. (Heavens, I’d hate to be judged by things my ancestors did!)

She offered only one example of doctrinal disagreement with MacArthur, and that disagreement revolved around a point of echatology. The problem there had more to  do with the timing of the Rapture (which she admitted herself). On that basis, however, she labels MacArthur as a false teacher, even as she states that she agrees with 95% of his teachings.

Goodness, I don’t agree with everything John MacArthur says either! Nor do I agree with everything John Calvin or Charles Spurgeon said. Occasionally I even disagree with my own pastor. I need to judge all teachers (and bloggers) against God’s Word. But I can’t label any of them as false teachers unless they distort the Gospel and/or assault the sufficiency and authority of Scripture.

This blogger also believes John MacArthur  (and probably R.C. Sproul) must be avoided because they allow Al Mohler to speak at their conferences. She has bought into some overblown conspiracy theories based on misunderstandings about the U.N.’s endorsement of Mohler. I then googled her allegations against Mohler and found only a reasoned refutation of her “research.” I found more evidence of Mohler criticizing the U.N. than of him being a diabolical agent joining its schemes to usher in the Antichrist.

I welcome correction if I endorse teachers or practices that directly contradict Scripture. If a favorite teacher of mine habitually says and/or does things that  damage the Gospel or undermine Scripture, let me know. Provide evidence from several credible sources, along with Scripture quoted in context that demonstrates their error. Then let’s determine whether that error is on a major or minor point. If we examine their associations (which is legitimate in evaluating them), make sure those associations are strong enough to discredit the original person. And, as much as possible, please find substantiation from their own media.

You’ll notice that I haven’t identified the  blogger that made the allegations about MacArthur and Mohler. Out of a desire to protect her reputation, I won’t. But tomorrow I plan to discuss the problems of “discernment blogs” and conspiracy theories that her blog (and others) have forced me to consider.  Please join me then.

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The Joy Swells My Heart

Nothing thrills me as thoroughly as singing about Christ’s  victory over death, and the astounding promise that He will one day raise our bodies so that we might live forever gazing on His glorious Face! Resurrection Sunday has got to be the most joyous holiday ever celebrated because it rejoices in Christ’s wonderful conquering of sin’s power! Through His resurrection, He empowers believers to resist sin, thereby ensuring that death cannot claim us!

I’m breaking a cardinal rule of punctuation with all these exclamation marks, but I simply don’t see how I can write about the Lord Jesus Christ without expressing  excitement over His triumphant resurrection. Blame it on today’s hymn, which I’ve never  been able to sing without tears in my eyes and  my heart swelling with uncontrollable joy! How can I avoid exclamation marks?

Hallelujah! Christ arose!

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I Know That It Is Finished

Instead of trying to write yet another essay observing Easter weekend, I’ve decided to let you listen to a popular but thought-provoking hymn focusing on the Lord’s crucifixion. The most encouraging part of this hymn emphasizes the wonderful fact that, in shedding  His precious blood, Christ fully accomplished everything necessary  for our salvation. As a result, we don’t need to add anything! He paid it completely!

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The Good Of This Friday

At The CrossSince I write about the atonement almost every time I open this blog, I’m not sure I can come up with anything original this afternoon. Yet this is Good Friday, and it would be shameful  to ignore Christ’s wonderful work of substitutionary atonement on the cross.

For 20 centuries, theologians and pastors have filled libraries and sanctuaries with words detailing every aspect of Christ’s crucifixion and its amazing implications, always causing Bible-believing Christians to rejoice that the very Second Person of the Trinity, God in Human flesh, would willingly accept the wrath of His Father in order to pay the penalty for our sinfulness. Frankly, I don’t think many of us (including myself) have the  capacity to comprehend the enormity of His sacrifice.

There are two reasons I see for our insensitivity to the wonder that the Lord of all creation willingly took our sin on Himself, even though He Himself had lived a life of sinless perfection despite being tempted in all ways. In the first place. we have tremendous difficulty accepting the fact that our sins make us completely unacceptable to God. We convince ourselves that surely the good we do can outweigh any bad. Essentially, we operate under the false assumption that we can atone for our shortcomings (what few of them we have.)

Isaiah 64:6 easily addresses that attitude, however:

We have all become like one who is unclean,
    and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.
We all fade like a leaf,
    and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away. (ESV)

And this Scripture leads right into the second reason for our inability to grasp the full implications of Christ’s death on our behalf. God, because of His holiness, considers our supposedly righteous  deeds  as polluted (literally as menstrual rags) in comparison with His holiness. And, to be honest, few of us have any idea how holy He really is!

I believe that we regard the Lord a bit flippantly, and as a consequence we don’t understand  the scope of His holiness. For this reason, we sometimes tend to think that any sins we commit are really minor infractions that shouldn’t bother Him all that much. We have absolutely no concept of how pure the Lord  actually  is, and how greatly our sin offends Him.

This Good Friday is nearing its  close, but it reminds me that I  need to deepen my  appreciation of God’s holiness. As I learn more about His purity, His Holy Spirit will teach me what it meant for this righteous God to take my sin, as well as the sin of everyone who would ever believe in Him, upon Himself. In His holiness, I accurately  recognize  the horrendous gravity of my sin, as well as the necessity of His sacrifice to atone fir it. And, praise the Lord, in that holiness, I see His generous love.

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Proclamations Of Terrible Glory

IMG_5209Has it really been a week and a half since the Shepherds Conference? As I did last year, I enjoyed the various General Sessions, though they obviously were intended primarily for pastors rather than for housewife bloggers (regardless of how interested such bloggers might be in Biblical theology). Therefore, at times I felt a bit like an eavesdropper, hearing things that weren’t exactly mine to hear. Nevertheless, I don’t regret watching the live-stream, and I’ll do it again next year.

One session, however, got me thinking seriously about the emphasis of this blog, or perhaps the way I approach my emphasis. In his introductory comments to his Session 9 lecture on 2 Corinthians 5:20, Paul Washer pleaded with his audience to preach the attributes of God more than the sinfulness of humanity. He made the point that, as people encounter Christ’s glory, they will automatically be confronted with their sinful  conditions.

As Washer  spoke, my mind went back to that familiar passage in Isaiah 6, in which Isaiah came into direct  contact with the Lord. Look at this passage with me, ladies, and I’ll show you how it applies to my blogging efforts.

In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said:

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory!”

And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” ~~Isaiah 6:1-5 (ESV)

First, you need to notice the power of what Isaiah saw. To begin with, the Lord did not appear as a social equal to Isaiah. Much to the contrary, He appeared seated on an exalted throne, denoting His majesty and authority. That alone would quite properly fill  Isaiah with an overwhelming sense of awe and reverence! But on top of that, seraphim (which are fiery angels–literally “fiery, burning ones”) attended Him, each calling to the other with proclamations of God’s holiness. And if all that wasn’t enough, the very foundations of the temple’s thresholds quaked uncontrollably as smoke filled the house.

This wasn’t a tame little vision! The Lord revealed His glory to Isaiah in all its terrible power, and it must have been frightening! The prophet responded, not with spiritual pride at the fact that the Lord of heaven and earth had appeared to him, but with a sense of personal and national sin that shook him to the core of his being.

Paul Washer didn’t say that pastors should avoid preaching about human sinfulness, but he made it clear that people realize their sin when they see the Lord’s splendor and holiness. Therefore he begged the men at the Shepherds Conference to show Christ, in all His magnificence, to their congregations. From there, he launched into a rich and passionate sermon on what Christ accomplished on the cross (here’s the link to his sermon).

Although I’m a housewife blogger rather than a pastor, I believe some of what Washer told those men at the conference can apply to my blogging practices. I’ve been troubled  by the fact that what passes for evangelism in 21st Century Western culture minimizes the seriousness of  sin, consequently causing people to be converted to a false gospel. Such is sadly true. But perhaps the more effective way of helping people come to terms with their sinful conditions lies in showcasing God’s holiness. And perhaps a housewife blogger needs to take  such a thought to heart.

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Definite/Limited Atonement

I came across this blog post Monday, and appreciated how much it brings to the conversation on Limited Atonement. I hope the included Scriptures prove helpful as you study this difficult doctrine.

The Reformed Reader

Institutes of Elenctic Theology, Volume 2 One of the doctrines of grace is the biblical teaching that Jesus died to redeem his sheep, God’s people, the elect.  For example, the Westminster Larger Catechism says that “redemption is certainly applied, and effectually communicated, to all those for whom Christ hath purchased it, who are in time by the Holy Spirit enabled to believe in Christ according to the gospel” (WLC Q/A 59).

Not all Christians agree with this statement.  And, of course, the words of the WLC are neither inspired nor infallible, nor are they of highest authority.  What does the Bible say?  That’s the main question.  I do believe that the WLC phrase, though not inspired, accurately echoes the truth of Scripture: Christ died to actually redeem the elect.  Francis Turretin (d. 1687) wrestled through this issue, and found some great Biblical proof for it.  I’ve put the biblical proof below (though I have edited Turretin’s…

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Christ, Center Stage

Cross of GloryOpening night. The actors move across the stage speaking their lines with eloquence and handling their props quite naturally. The six weeks of countless rehearsals have helped the actors perfect their characters until they can think and speak and even feel like them. They have learned more than just lines; they have learned to portray their characters exactly as the writer had planned. And now, as the curtain rises and the footlights illuminate them, they inhabit their parts as if they had never known anything else.

How on earth is this this a metaphor for heaven? To answer that question, first consider that God’s eternal Kingdom will revolve around the Lord Jesus Christ, rather than being a place dedicated to our comfort and pleasure. (This is not to say, however, that we won’t experience a joy that we can not yet imagine.) He commands full attention as He rules the new heavens and the new earth.

To our shame, we seldom think of our eternal home in terms of Christ’s preeminence, do we? Instead,we often imagine our joyous reunions with Christians who have died before us, resurrection bodies that no longer suffer from sickness or being in a place with no more sorrow. We anticipate streets of gold and mansions and lavish banquets. Indeed, these expectations come directly from Scripture. But all these blessings, although certainly wonderful, take on a secondary importance to the glorious worship of Christ.

The apostle John, in Revelation, provides several scenes of heavenly worship. I only have time today to cite one example, but I hope it will help you see how all of heaven refers its attention back to Christ.

11 Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, 12 saying with a loud voice,

“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain,
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might
and honor and glory and blessing!”

13 And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying,

“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!”

14 And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” and the elders fell down and worshiped. ~~Revelation 5:11-14 (ESV)

In His Kingdom, we will have the sublime joy of showering Him with our praises. He has the starring role, and God has blessed us with the privilege of being His supporting cast.

So how do we prepare for an eternity of glorifying our Lord and Savior? I believe it begins with appropriating the grace He’s given us to live holy lives (Titus 2:11-14). Heaven is characterized, more than anything else, by His holiness and righteousness, and its inhabitants must be adept at living holy righteous lives.

At this point in time, we live on earth, struggling with the attractions and temptations that the world system sets before us. It is in saying no to these attractions that God’s people train themselves to live in the holiness and righteousness that will typify our eternal lives. Therefore, we are like the actors in the rehearsal. Right now we drop lines, mishandle props or forget to stand stage left, but our director (the Holy Spirit) faithfully corrects our mistakes and shows us how to step into our new character. How gracious He is to prepare us for His great play rather than plunking us on stage before we’ve even read the script!

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Don’t you love reading about Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem, when the people openly worshiped Him as King?

Now when they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will send them at once.” This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying,

“Say to the daughter of Zion,
‘Behold, your king is coming to you,
    humble, and mounted on a donkey,
    on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’”

The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them. Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” 10 And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, “Who is this?” 11 And the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.” ~~Matthew 21:1-11 (ESV)

What a wonderful sight it must have been to see people using cloaks and palm branches to form a royal carpet for Him!  How thrilling to see the King of all creation at last fulfill the messianic prophecy! Here came the Son of David, restoring Himself to the throne that had been vacant since the Babylonian Captivity.

We can join the worship of this King of heaven, remembering how wonderfully He has loved us. Today’s hymn celebrates His goodness to us as it encourages us to spread our praises before Him.

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