Teachers Need To Tremble

Negative GirlAs Bible-believing Christians, we certainly have a responsibility to confront sin in our Christian brothers and sisters, as well as in our culture at large. In no way do I want my readers to infer by today’s essay that I’ve done a 180 regarding this matter. Biblical discernment often requires taking a visible stand against ideas and people that contradict sound doctrine.

Furthermore, discernment necessitates making judgments based on the Word of God. So yes, there’s an appropriate time and place for judging sin within the Body of Christ (see, for example, 1 Corinthians 5:9-13). In our exercise of discernment, however, that same Word of God commends us to confront sin in an attitude of humility and reverent fear.

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. ~~Galatians 6:1-3 (ESV)

This passage encourages us to address sin in fellow believers. But I want you to particularly notice the emphasis on then admitting our own vulnerabilities to the very sins we call out in others.

Sometimes, we can think we’re pretty hot stuff. We see the ways that other professing Christians dishonor the Lord, and we know all the Scriptures to use in urging them to repent. But we forget that we also cave into temptation — many times the same temptation that we just corrected in that other person. When that happens, the person we corrected has every right to judge our hypocrisy.

Of course I’m not saying that we have to be perfect in order to confront sin in others. Actually, I’m saying something almost opposite. In correcting someone, we must be aware of our own propensity to sin. Therefore we must approach the issue knowing that we also need God’s grace as we aspire to live in obedience and holiness. The same Lord Who demands holiness in others also demands holiness in us.

This responsibility particularly weighs on those who teach. The Lord’s half-brother James points this principle out in his epistle:

Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. ~~James 3:1 (ESV)

As a blogger (and perhaps even a discernment blogger), I tremble a bit at passages like Galatians 6:1-3 and James 3:1. Bloggers, in essence, serve as role-models to our readers, even if we blog simply for the purpose of thinking out loud. The act of blogging automatically transforms us into teachers. So when I write posts instructing my readers towards holy living and obedience to God’s Word, the Lord holds me responsible to live consistently with my writing.

Please understand, therefore, that I write with a profound sense of responsibility to align my thoughts, attitudes and behaviors with the Biblical principles that I set before you each time I blog. If I address a sin in others or advocate personal holiness in a specific area, rest assured that my husband and the leadership of my church watch me carefully. More importantly, the Lord watches. I write with the understanding that I can be tempted.

May all of us cultivate that type of understanding and keep watch on ourselves.

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Authenticity As It Should Be

4693a-oval2bdoily2bframeThis current evangelical trend toward “authenticity” dismays me, but it really doesn’t surprise me. Once you strip away all the psycho-babble and distorted Scripture verses used to support it, you’ll find that people generally use the term to excuse sin. For example, someone I used to be close to divorced his wife, “married” his same sex partner and rejected basic Biblical doctrines all because he wants to be “authentic”  before God.

But such “authenticity” only  confirms that we are naturally rebellious toward Christ and His Word. We embrace our favorite sinful behaviors (grumbling, foul language, sexual impurity or whatever it is) as “who we are,” and expect other Christians to admire us for our “honest” lifestyle.

In fact, if they dare to confront us, especially by showing us Bible verses that counter our behavior, we indignantly accuse them of judging us. As we see it, God commends our authenticity, and therefore no one has any business calling our actions into question.

Sounds good on Facebook perhaps, but that attitude of refusing correction doesn’t really sit well with the Lord. Allow me to present just one of many Scriptures that address “authenticity” as a reason to refuse correction:

The way of a fool is right in his own eyes,
    but a wise man listens to advice. ~~Proverbs 12:15 (ESV)

Okay, the Lord also has plenty to say about the attitudes of those who offer correction, and we’ll talk about His expectations in that regard tomorrow. Right now, however, we need to focus on the notion that self-proclaimed authenticity exempts us from repenting of things that seem intrinsic to our personality.

Yesterday I wrote that, although the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin (past, present and future), He still desires us to live in holiness as a grateful response to His mercy and grace. Authenticity to our old nature fails to reflect His Spirit, Who gives us a new nature when He regenerates us.

Authenticity doesn’t have to mean that we remain enslaved to the sinful behaviors that Jesus died to release us from. As beneficiaries of His death on the cross, we have freedom to live lives that honor Him.  Because He makes us new creations when He brings us to saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, He calls us to be authentic to our new, redeemed natures.

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The Obligation Freedom Brings

Not Your OwnCertainly, the blood of Jesus cleanses us from sin, and in His crucifixion the Lord exchanges His righteousness for our unrighteousness. Putting it another way, the Father now considers us righteous because Jesus paid the penalty of our sins (past, present and future) on our behalf. No sin we commit will undo His work of grace.

During my devotions this morning, the Lord brought me to an interesting passage in Colossians.

21 And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22 he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, 23 if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister. ~~Colossians 1:21-23 (ESV)

The preceding verses highlight the wonderful truth that the Father qualifies us to share in the inheritance of the saints by reconciling all creation to Himself through His Son. Now in verses 21 and 22, Paul tells us that Christ has reconciled us to God, consequently presenting us to the Father as holy, blameless and above reproach. He proves that our reconciliation is genuine when we remain in the faith, not deviating from the Gospel.

The insistence on anchoring our righteousness solely in what the Lord did for us on the cross must remain in the forefront of our minds. So often, we try to take credit for His work of righteousness in us, mistakenly thinking that He requires us to maintain our salvation. We obey His commands with an attitude of self-righteousness, patting ourselves on the back for being such good little Christians.

So yes, we can rest in Christ’s finished work on the cross, assured that the Father sees us as righteous.

However.

I’ve seen evangelicals pervert God’s grace into license to sin. They reason that, since the Lord declares them righteous because Jesus died for their sins (past present and future), they can live in any way they please. Lately, they describe this approach to life as authenticity. In their estimation, they’re being true to themselves, convinced that the Lord is fine with it.

Yet the Bible teaches something entirely different, doesn’t it? Although Jesus has indeed borne the eternal consequences of our sins and therefore the Father sees us as righteous, the Lord now claims us as His property. Let me show you a passage written specifically about sexual sin that applies to sin in general.

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 6:19-20 (ESV)

Dear sisters, God’s grace frees us from sin, but it also places us under obligation to Him. Rather than being authentic to ourselves, we must now be true to Him. Not that we in any way earn or maintain our salvation. Christ has already taken care of that. But in gratitude for His sacrifice, we need to recognize our obligation to live in ways that honor Him. We must reflect, however imperfectly, His holiness. At least we ought to desire to reflect His holiness.

Authenticity shouldn’t give any Christian an excuse to indulge in shameful thoughts, attitudes or behaviors. Instead, the wonderful grace of God should fill us with grateful devotion that inspires our joyful obedience to Christ.

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A Prayer To The One Who Owns Me

I love the grace of God! Knowing my wretchedness, I praise Him for shedding His precious blood to pay the penalty for my past, present and future sins. When I first heard the wonderful truth that Jesus died in my place, voluntarily taking the punishment that I deserve, I overflowed with joy!

At the same time, I instinctively understood that I suddenly belonged to Him. By being my Savior, Jesus Christ also established Himself as my Lord. And,  by the power of His Holy Spirit, I gladly acknowledged His authority to take my life.

The hymn I feature today celebrities the Lord’s glorious claim on my life, as well as my acceptance of His claim. It prays for Him to use every part of me for His purposes and His glory. Is this hymn also your prayer?

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Saturday Sampler: September 10 — September 16

Fish SamplerHurricanes. Floods. Tornadoes. Earthquakes. Is it the birth pangs? asks Elizabeth Prata of The End Time. You’ll appreciate the Biblical and sensible way she addresses the eschatological concerns that natural disasters invariably raise.

Berean Research includes Amy Spreeman’s answer to an email lamenting, “I can’t find a solid church”. Sadly, fewer and fewer evangelical churches these days offer strong Biblical preaching and teaching, thus spawning malnourished Christians and false converts. Praise God for true believers like the one who reached out to Amy, who long for the Word of God.

Look at 1 Chronicles 21:1-2. Compare it to 2 Samuel 24:1-2. But instead of tearing your hair out trying to understand whether the Lord or Satan incited David to take the census of Israel, read Think These Biblical Passages Contradict? Not So Fast by Michael S. Heiser in Logos Talk to see how to resolve the discrepancy. Articles like this one highlight the value of good Bible study.

Lara d’Entremont points out that there’s Hope for the Indecisive in the Sufficiency of Scripture. Her blog, Renewed In Truth Discipleship, refreshes me by demonstrating how Biblical Counseling (rather than so-called Christian psychology) effectively ministers to people. I can’t recommend her blog enough!

According to E.J. Hutchinson, who authors The Calvinist International, Martin Luther’s famous stand on God’s Word at the Diet of Worms, though revolutionary in many respects, had roots in Augustine’s writing. Hutchinson’s article  entitled “Here I Stand:” The Patristic Roots of the Reformation helps us see how the Reformers, rather than breaking with church tradition, actually upheld Biblical Christianity and restored it to its original intent.

Do you need guidance on doing evangelism? Go to Growing 4 Life and read Leslie A’s On Sharing the Gospel. She works through 1 Thessalonians 1:1-12 to outline ten Scriptural principles to  aid us in witnessing to people.

Writing for Biblical Woman, Katie McCoy examines a disturbing trend among professing Christians. More Than Marriage: What’s Behind Polyamory in the Church? illustrates the moral disintegration that inevitably follows when people disregard the authority of God’s Word. Although this blog post is extremely uncomfortable to read, I include it here as a reminder that postmodern evangelicalism has turned away from the Bible, and that Christians must be resolute in our obedience to the Lord.

Michelle Lesley is really on fire with her article The Five Solas of the Protestant Deformation! John and I had been talking about how evangelicalism has turned away from the principles that the Lord restored to the Church just hours before this piece was published, so I really appreciate the confirmation that others see what I see. Thanks, Michelle!

In a blog post appearing in For The Church Pastor Casey Lewis answers the question From Where Does Bad Theology Come? with an appeal to Scripture. His assessment puts spiritual warfare in its proper perspective.

Some of my fondest memories go back to the years I wrote and directed plays in drama ministry, so reading John Ellis’ Drama Programs Do Not Belong in Church in PJ Media  hurts a bit. It hurts because I now believe he’s right. The fact that he builds his case from his knowledge of theater strengthens his credibility.

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Judge Not, But Be Discerning?

Judge NotBefore we examine ways that Biblical discernment directs our actions, leading us to personal holiness, let’s look at the relationship between discernment and judging. Certainly, discernment is an aspect of judging ourselves, others and the surrounding culture by the standard of God’s Word.

Some of you are probably objecting to what I just typed, frantically wanting to remind me that the Lord Jesus Christ specifically taught against passing judgment. Even the most militant non-Christians believe that verse, which they’ll quote without hesitancy. And of course, I can’t deny that Jesus did, in fact, command us not to judge. But looking at the verse in context helps us understand what He actually meant.

 “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.

“Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you. ~~Matthew 7:1-6 (ESV)

And later in the chapter:

15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. 18 A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus you will recognize them by their fruits. ~~Matthew 7:15-20 (ESV)

In the first passage, Jesus condemns hypocritical judgment, commanding that we judge ourselves before judging someone else. Once we’ve properly addressed our own sin through confession and repentance, however, we can discern sin in others. That discernment, in turn, enables us to correct our brothers and sisters in Christ. It also helps us determine when someone wouldn’t receive godly correction (and therefore should be left to God’s judgment).

The second passage goes even further by commanding us to judge whether or not someone is a false teacher by evaluating that person’s teachings and conduct. In essence, the Lord tells Christians to judge those we listen to and read to see how their teachings and conduct lines up with Scripture.

In making judgments, we must first judge our own teachings and conduct. No, we don’t have to be perfect before we judge someone else, but we do need to humbly admit our sin with an attitude of repentance. We can’t coddle our sin, especially if we then condemn the very same sin in another person. We must be willing to turn from that sin through the grace God gives us.

If we self-righteously judge someone for (as an example) dressing immodestly when we’re flirting with somebody at the gym, we need to readjust our focus and deal with our own immodesty before we address that gal who shows too much cleavage. Once we’ve stopped our immodest banter with the guy at the gym (do we really need to work out during the time he goes?), then maybe we can talk to our friend about her wardrobe, acknowledging the struggle both of you have in the area of purity.

Discernment is a good thing, unless we dispense it hypocritically. Jesus calls us to make judgments between good and evil, truth and error and obedience and sin all the time. But discernment must begin with a willingness to judge ourselves first.

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Maybe This Is A Discernment Blog After All

Discernment ScrollLooking over my blog stats, I easily see that readers gravitate toward articles on discernment. This tendency both frustrates and encourages me.

My frustration comes because I believe that most evangelicals make a correlation between discernment and outing false teachers. And, while sometimes we in fact do need to name names and expose trends that subtly contradict the Bible, discernment bloggers run the risk of branding orthodox believers as heretics merely because of small areas of disagreement. Really, we don’t need to die on every hill. Much less should we crucify each other each time we believe we see a hill. Turning discernment blogs into yellow journalism never honors the Lord.

The interest in discernment encourages me, however, when readers desire discernment in order to please Christ. Scripture teaches that we must grow in knowledge (and therefore discernment) for the purpose of pleasing Him. A passage I read just this morning reinforces the relationship between Scriptural knowledge and holy behavior.

And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; ~~Colossians 1:9-10 (ESV)

The term, “spiritual wisdom,” essentially means “discernment,” making it plain that Paul prayed for the Lord to fill Christians with the ability to recognize His truth and apply it accurately. But verse 10 expands on that idea by revealing the reason believers need discernment. Biblical discernment enables us to please the Lord.

I know I wrote about the relationship between discernment and personal holiness only last week, but a variety of circumstances in the past few months have convinced me that there’s a huge disconnect among people who claim to be discerning. From what I see, people regard discernment as nothing more than an ability to spot false teachers, totally ignoring the purpose of true spiritual wisdom and understanding in their own conduct.

Because of this disconnect, I hope to write more articles challenging you (and challenging myself as well) towards developing Biblical discernment that we can then apply to our daily lives. These articles won’t be a series. Rather, I’m proposing a direction for The Outspoken TULIP.

This direction isn’t exactly new, but it will become more defined from this point onward as we examine Biblical discernment and its practical implications. Occasionally we will continue calling out false teachers and unbiblical trends that derail evangelicals from the truth, but even then we will do so with the aim of promoting personal holiness that honors the Lord. Essentially, ladies, we’ll discourage the shallow view of discernment as a tool for hunting down heresy in favor of encouraging godly wisdom that produces godly behavior.

If you want “discernment” articles that merely expose false teachers, this blog isn’t for you. But if you want to develop Biblical discernment in ways that help you become godly women, please stay with me. We’ll learn together, as I know I still need to work on areas of sin in my life. But we’ll definitely learn discernment in ways that lead us to honor the Lord Jesus Christ. And that’s the purpose of discernment.

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