Mom Always Said “Two Wrongs Don’t Make A Right”

Bible RestoredI had today’s essay all planned. I wanted to demonstrate how professing Christians misuse a certain verse fragment to justify unbiblical approaches to prayer. I confidently typed out my introductory paragraphs, carefully setting the stage before I quoted the verse in context. I knew I was about to blow up arguments for using that particular verse as a defense for their practices.

A little too smugly for my own good, I put the passage up on my computer so I could copy and paste it into my blog post. I started reading from the beginning of the chapter. Oh my! I scurried into our bedroom, where John is lying down, and asked him to read the chapter. “Were we wrong?” I asked him.

We discussed the passage, and realized that we’d been interpreting it based on its immediate context, but not the context of the entire chapter. While we saw that it still doesn’t support contemplative prayer, neither does it contradict such practices as sharply as we had believed it did. As a matter of fact, we could understand how people would misapply it as a method of prayer.

I anticipate writing about the misapplication of the verse sometime in the future, but not until I study it more thoroughly. Obviously, I still don’t understand it as well as I thought I did. At least not in relation to prayer methodology. And quoting it out of context for the purpose of showing how others quote it out of context smacks of hypocrisy. The end never justifies the means.

This morning I read through several chapters of Proverbs. I kept running into verses about the importance of integrity. Let me quote just one of them:

Whoever walks in integrity will be delivered,
    but he who is crooked in his ways will suddenly fall. ~~Proverbs 28:18 (ESV)

Had I proceeded with my planned blog post, using only the immediate context of the verse in question to substantiate my point, someone would have discovered my dishonesty. Quite appropriately, they would have publicly exposed me. I’m aware, of course, that everybody makes innocent mistakes, but in this particular case I would have knowingly misrepresented Scripture.  As a result, I would have totally undermined my entire blog. Even worse, I would have dishonored the Lord Jesus Christ.

I set out to provide my readers with a lesson in Bible context. Instead the Lord gave me a much more profound lesson. Sisters, even when we stand against error, we have the responsibility to handle God’s Word properly and with reverence.

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Letting Trent Lead The Discussion

Light In DarknessFor the past two weeks, I’ve dreaded writing today’s essay. I know the blogger called “vivator” will probably be reading, eagerly looking for holes in my argument. Upon finding these holes (real or imagined), vivator will seize on them and try to use them as evidence that I don’t understand my subject matter. While this person must realize that his or her rebuttals won’t change my position on Catholicism, perhaps he or she hopes to persuade my readers that I don’t have a grasp on Catholic theology, and therefore should be dismissed.

In thinking about writing this post, I’ve decided against trying to answer the objections vivator makes. Engaging in a detailed debate on the nuances of the Catholic view of justification (at least according to vivator) would take enormous time and energy, derailing me from my purpose of showing why evangelicals should celebrate this 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation.

For those of you who would like to read and consider vivator’s point of view, please feel welcome to investigate Viva Catholic. There, my worthy opponent explains the Catholic perspective on the issues raised by the Reformers.

As for me, I believe it will be much more productive to continue writing from a distinctively Reformed Baptist perspective. Although I don’t want to misrepresent Roman Catholic doctrine, I also realize that, while extremely well-studied in both Catholic and Protestant apologetics, vivator isn’t necessarily the final authority on Rome’s views of justification.

The final authority, for Catholics, is the Council of Trent, which convened in Trento and    Bolonga  between the years 1545 and 1563. Trent happened as a response to the teachings of the Reformers, answering to them firmly. And even though 21st Century Catholics may or may not hold to its declarations, Trent has not been officially revoked by the Roman Catholic Church. As a result, the Protestant teaching of justification by faith alone still stands in opposition to Roman Catholicism.

Canon IX  of Trent includes a decisive condemnation of anyone who believes he or she is justified by faith alone.

If any one saith, that by faith alone the impious is justified; in such wise as to mean, that nothing else is required to co-operate in order to the obtaining the grace of Justification, and that it is not in any way necessary, that he be prepared and disposed by the movement of his own will; let him be anathema.

Yes, other parts of Trent affirm that Christ justifies by His merits, and yet penitents must cooperate with His grace. This line of reasoning, however, essentially gives us (not God) the ultimate authority in whether or not we attain salvation. Catholics would naturally word it more delicately than I just did, but they have to admit at some point that they are responsible for appropriating God’s grace.

The Reformers denied that humans play a part in justification. I’ve written extensively on that matter throughout this blog, and I’ll go over it again next Tuesday. This question must remain front and center as we talk about why the Reformation still matters.

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Perspectives In Titus: Teaching Young Men

Titus 2 6 thru 8

Titus 2:6-8 seems like an inappropriate text for a women’s blog. I’d argue that, although the passage indeed specifically focuses on young men, women certainly can learn from the principles it lays down.

I’ll quote the passage in the context of the verses leading up to it, just to keep everything in proper perspective:

But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine. Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness. 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. Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled. Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us. ~~Titus 2:1-8 (ESV)

Paul has been showing Titus how to minister to various groups that make up a local church, explaining how each group best  demonstrates Christian behavior. For the past two weeks we’ve concentrated on the instructions aimed at older and younger women, but now verse 6 of the text moves our attention to young men.

In contrast to Paul’s instruction that Titus delegate the training of young women to more mature ladies, Paul charges Titus to directly work with young men. As we’ll see momentarily, Titus is specifically told to urge these young men to exercise self-control. Presumably, that term would include controlling sexual lusts (see 2 Timothy 2:22).

Paul’s word “likewise” refers back to the previous three groups.  Paul emphasizes self-control as a contrast to the self-indulgence that marked the Cretan lifestyle. This command, however, especially challenges young adults, who aren’t accustomed to restraining themselves. Fleeing  youthful passions, particularly while living in an environment like Crete, would demonstrate God’s power to transform young men.

Just as young men like Titus would be asking for trouble in counseling young women regarding sexual purity, so he would be the most appropriate person to mentor young men in maintaining self-control in respect to their sexual purity.

Verse 7 slightly shifts the focus from young men in general to one particular young man: Titus himself. Why? My personal opinion is because, since he is a young man at the time of this epistle, Titus could serve as a practical example of how young men ought to   conduct themselves.

The context of this verse leads us to  think that Titus was still a young man at the time Paul wrote this letter, and therefore Titus had to model proper behavior for young men to emulate. Consequently, he was to set an example of performing good works.

He would set this example largely through his conduct as a minister of the Gospel. In his ministry of teaching, Titus would need, first of all, to show integrity. Since Paul elaborates on how to show integrity in the next verse, let’s merely say here that his teaching must be free of any corruption.

By “dignity,” Paul means that Titus should teach in a manner that commands respect. Not only must his doctrine be grounded in truth, but he must deliver it in reverence and seriousness to underscore its importance as the very Word of God. Again, Paul expands on this idea in verse 8, but I want to quickly mention that it makes me think of present-day pastors who resort to gimmicks and theatrics to capture the attention of their “audience” rather than treating the pulpit with dignity.

Verse 8 continues Paul’s instruction to Titus by urging him toward sound speech. In his teaching, Titus would need to speak doctrinally sound words that no one could find fault with. By doing   so, he would silence his critics, proving that their arguments were ridiculous.

Sound speech needed to characterize Titus’ public and private conversations.  This point both reiterates and emphasizes the call to integrity in the previous verse. Barnes comments:

Such as cannot be shown to be weak, or unsound; such that no one could find fault with it, or such as an adversary could not take hold of and blame. This direction would imply purity and seriousness of language, solidity of argument, and truth in the doctrines which he maintained.

Barnes is not alone in his observation; The Believers Bible Commentary adds that sound speech “should  be free from side-issues, doctrinal novelties, fads, crudities, and the like.” As I mentioned earlier, many 21st pastors apparently disregard this call to sobriety in the ministry of God’s Word. Yet Titus, and by extension all representatives of the Lord Jesus Christ, bear a responsibility to be faithful to God’s Word.

Paul insists on Titus exhibiting sound speech because of the opponents to the Gospel. He probably thought about the Judaizers in particular, who would be eager to discredit both Titus and Paul. He wanted Titus to ensure that no one could charge them with practicing evil (see 1 Peter 2:11-12).

As Christian women, we can learn from Paul’s instructions to Titus. Even though we don’t teach in mixed congregations, we do teach other women. Therefore, like Titus, we must model integrity, dignity and sound speech that silences the opponents of the Lord Jesus Christ. We represent Him, and consequently our deportment should reflect that fact.

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A Prayer We All Should Pray

Recently I read that someone, in a critical tone, asked why so many Christian songs and hymns focus on the cross. I’m not quite sure what the point of the question was, so I’ll resist the temptation to speculate on the motives behind the question. But it saddens me that the person didn’t know how Christ’s atoning sacrifice has purchased God’s pardon, allowing wretched sinners like me to enter heaven to live eternally with the Lord Jesus Christ.

Hymn writer Fanny Crosby certainly understood the value of the cross, as well as the necessity of constantly reminding ourselves that Christ’s work on it is the only basis for our salvation. In the hymn featured below, she prayed that Jesus would keep His cross always before her. Perhaps more  of us should pray that sort of prayer. And then sing hymns that remind us that we mustn’t glory in anything other than the cross.

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Saturday Sampler: May 21 — May 27

Bows SamplerReflecting on her personal study of Titus 3, Leslie A. of Growing 4 Life reminds us that For So We Once Walked. Her insights help us have humility toward God and compassion toward non-Christians.

16-year-old Squid,  purveyor of Squid’s Cup Of Tea, is wise beyond her years. Her recent post, Not a Bad Temptation, offers a fascinating take on Eve’s disobedience in the garden. Why didn’t I have the caliber of discernment she has when I was young?

In a creative, but pointed essay in The End Time, Elizabeth Prata shows us how the Bible might read If Jeremiah, John the Baptist and Paul were Armimian… This piece is entertaining, and yet it wonderfully demonstrates the sovereignty of God in electing us to salvation.

Examining tongues, prophecy and healing as present-day Charismatic churches practice them, John Chester explains Why Our Church Isn’t Charismatic in Parking Space 23. As a former Charismatic, I appreciate his clarity in demonstrating how the current interpretation of these gifts differs from their Scriptural functions.

Jennifer at One Hired Late in the Day responds to the timely question How do we love and engage with our unbelieving friends without compromising our testimonies? In this era of political correctness and unbridled sexuality, Jennifer’s advice offers encouragement and wisdom.

Recycling an essay she wrote two years ago, Michelle Lesley ministers to those who need to find a new church, either because they’ve relocated or because their present church fails to uphold Biblical doctrine and practices. Throwback Thursday ~ Six Questions for a Potential Church includes links to three other posts that list important things to ask pastors or elders before joining a church.

Along those lines, Nichols T. Batzig, in his blog, Feeding on Christ, writes The Weight of the Church as encouragement to factor in the availability of solid churches when considering a move or a college.  Batzig provides an excellent perspective.

Infamous abortionist Kermit Gosnell falsely believes himself to be a Christian, and has recently published a manifesto attempting to defend his actions from Scripture.  In 5 verses used to justly abortion, Jesse Johnson of The Cripplegate exposes Gosnell’s wrong use of God’s Word. This blog post both shows that abortion can never be defended as a moral act and affirms the importance of properly using the Bible.

Reformation 500 has been steadily posting daily history lessons highlighting various events of the Protestant Reformation. In their article, Ignatius Loyola, they present a powerful discernment lesson by comparing and contrasting Ignatius Loyola and Martin Luther. The article applies so well to evangelicals in 2017.

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Think You’re Not A Sinner?

SanctimonyIt’s terribly easy, don’t you think, to look at people in the LBGTQ community and sanctimoniously sniff as we read Leviticus 19 and Romans 1. Obviously, their sin far exceeds anything that we do!

I definitely trust Scripture’s verdict that God condemns the sin of homosexuality. I believe that someone with same sex attractions must repent of all homosexual behavior and fantasies, trusting Christ to forgive her. Perhaps in future posts I can write about the wonderful hope He extends to those who are trapped in this sin.

But today I want to address those of us who are guilty of heterosexual sin. That would be every heterosexual on the planet, by the way. Jesus made that fact painfully evident in Matthew 5:27-28. We dare not pretend that we’ve avoided impure fantasies, even if we’ve never physically acted on them.

Yesterday, I quoted 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, a common passage used to demonstrate that homosexuality is one of several very serious sins that requires Christ’s atoning blood. But I want you to notice the passage that immediately follows it.

12 “All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything. 13 “Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food”—and God will destroy both one and the other. The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. 14 And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power. 15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! 16 Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, “The two will become one flesh.” 17 But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. 18 Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. 19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.   ~~1 Corinthians 6:12-20 (ESV)

Verses 12 and 13 refer to common sayings in First Century Corinth used to justify sexual immorality. Those sayings mirror our modern rationalization that sex is merely a biological function on the same level as eating, so lust should be satisfied the same way we satisfy hunger. If we go outside the boundaries of heterosexual marriage, the argument continues, that’s permissible.

Beginning with verse 17, however, Paul puts the brakes on such thinking. Sexual immorality has no place in the life of a Christian, particularly since the Holy Spirit resides in each of us. This passage clearly addresses heterosexual immorality. Therefore, the reference to homosexuality in the previous passage is a minor point, introducing Paul’s primary point that sex must not go beyond God’s parameters. Chapter 7 continues the discussion by giving guidelines on marriage, divorce and singleness, clarifying the Lord’s position that sex belongs exclusively between husband and wife.

When you factor in Matthew 5:27-28, where Christ says that even sexual fantasies constitute sexual immorality, you see that everyone stands condemned unless they find shelter in the shed blood of Jesus Christ.

As I said yesterday, Christians must love those in the LBGTQ community enough to call their fantasies and behaviors sin. By doing so, we offer them the same hope of grace that liberates us from sexual immorality. But the key to offering this hope is in remembering our own sexual sin and our consequent dependence on God’s grace. Sanctimony is not an attitude that Christians can afford.

 

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Tolerance, Embracing And Making Proper Distinctions

Rainbow Bible02When did the definition of tolerance change? It used to mean putting up with disagreeable circumstances or people despite your personal feelings about them. As a child with Cerebral Palsy, for example, I was taught that, even though I didn’t like my leg and back braces, I needed to tolerate them during school hours. I didn’t have to celebrate them. As a matter of fact, I had perfect freedom to voice my distaste for them as often as I wished. But I had to tolerate them by wearing them. Even to church and Sunday School.

Tolerance in the 21st Century, apparently, means something far different. Particularly with respect to the LBGTQ community, tolerance now requires enthusiastic agreement with their lifestyles, even to the point of finding new ways of interpreting God’s Word in order to embrace those lifestyles.

Meanwhile, of course, those who stand firm on Scriptures that call homosexuality a sin don’t deserve any tolerance from society. We must be corrected, marginalized or silenced. Our pastors must be threatened with prison if they preach forgiveness for anyone who repents of same sex relationships. Christians who refuse to participate in same sex weddings have been successfully sued, with some actually losing their businesses because they wouldn’t compromise their convictions.

To those readers who belong to the LBGTQ community, please understand that I (and the vast majority of Bible-believing Christians) accept you, just as we accept heterosexuals who engage in sexual sin. We call your behavior sin, certainly, just as we call premarital sex, adultery and divorce sin, but we affirm that Christ can cleanse you as thoroughly as He has cleansed us.

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. ~~1 Corinthians 6:9-11 (ESV)

Apart from Christ, I am sexually immoral, an idolater, greedy and a reviler. I hardly have the moral superiority to look down my nose at lesbians, transgendered people or homosexuals when I remember my own sins. And if you don’t want the Lord to take you out of your sin, I’ll still accept you. I can tolerate your lifestyle. I can enjoy your company, and might even treat you to lunch in Boston.

But I can’t condone anyone’s sin, regardless of whether you’re gay or straight. I’ll love you enough to say that you need to repent as much as I need to repent. Although I tolerate your lifestyle, I must lovingly warn you that, when Jesus returns, He won’t tolerate anyone’s sin.

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