The King Eternal Goes Before Us

Most evangelical churches these days preach feel-good messages, assuring us that God loves us and has a wonderful plan for our lives. If they mention sin at all, they depict it as a series of psychological problems that require extensive counseling. Usually this counseling leads us to blame others for our sin.

The Bible, in contrast, insists that we manufacture sin without any outside assistance. Thankfully, when the Lord Jesus Christ saves us, His Spirit empowers us to put our sin to death. Invariably, our sin nature fights back, determined to maintain its tyrannical control. This battle lasts throughout our earthly lives.

Praise God that He leads us to victory over our sin as we obey Him by following His commands. Those commands don’t always alleviate sinful urges, but they enable us to conquer each  urge for His glory.

The hymn I feature this week looks to the Lord to lead us in the battle against sin, celebrating His might as the means of overcoming. As you listen to these glorious lyrics, join me in rejoicing that the Eternal King goes ahead of us to secure the victory.

 

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Saturday Sampler: January 14 — January 20

Bell Sampler

The age of feminism seduces Christian women into thinking we have to perform monumental tasks for God, according to Elizabeth Prata of The End Time. She writes Ladies, no job is too menial and no sphere is to small to make a huge difference as an encouragement to those of us who feel unnoticed and obscure.

To help us understand the importance of patience, Clint Archer posts Waiting for God? Oh. in The Cripplegate. The English major in me appreciates Archer’s allusion to the play, Waiting for Godot, but I appreciate even more the Biblical application he brings out in this devotional piece. Each of us should take this message to heart.

What do you think The Easiest Sin to Justify is? I used to justify this one all the time, so I believe Tim Challies hits the nail on the head. See if you agree.

Once again, Leslie A of Growing 4 Life graces us with her wisdom in Do I Need a Special Experience in Order to Know God? It’s shameful that evangelicals still need teaching on this matter, but praise the Lord for people like Leslie who continually proclaim the truth and remain faithful to Scripture!

If, like me, you wondered if Hollywood’s protest against sexual harassment at the Golden Globes was disingenuous, Brett McCracken’s Will #MeToo Cause Hollywood to Rethink its Views on Sex in The Gospel Coalition Blog will confirm your suspicions. But it doesn’t just throw stones at the entertainment industry; it also challenges Christians to accept responsibility.

Guest posting for Unlocking the Bible rather than her own blog, Lara d’Entremont addresses the typical decline in maintaining New Year’s resolutions her article, Change of Plan: To Change Every Day. She strikes at the heart of Christian living, using Scripture to illustrate the practical principles she proposes.

Although Michelle Lesley repeats Answering the Opposition – Responses to the Most Frequently Raised Discernment Objections in Discipleship for Christian Women, reading it again sure doesn’t hurt! So many of the objections she addresses betray a lack of properly understanding Scripture in its context. This issue accentuates the critical importance of knowing God’s Word thoroughly.

Al Mohler’s article, Moralism is Not the Gospel (But Many Christians Think It Is), raises a point that all too often gets overlooked. Praise God that Mohler brings it to our attention, handling it with balance and fidelity to Scripture.

Quoting the heartbreaking experience of a feminist who aborted her baby, Denny Burk writes A feminist describes her abortion… and sadness to remind us that the unborn aren’t the only victims of this horrible practice. What a needless tragedy.

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The Kind Of Discernment That’s Kind

purple-bible

What are we doing as discernment bloggers? Lately, there’s a viciousness that I’ve never seen. A friend of mine, in discussing the matter, observed that some bloggers and podcasters appear to relish the task of calling out wolves just a little too much.

Now, I do agree with the perspective that women often won’t get it if pastors and teachers simply teach sound doctrine without ever naming names. Surely their favorite celebrity Bible Study teacher doesn’t teach error! After all, she tweets all the time about how many commentaries she supposedly reads, how she “prays the Scriptures” and how she loves God’s Word. Never mind that she teaches Old Testament passages as allegories and claims to receive direct revelations from God.

So yeah, calling out false teachers certainly has an important place in women’s ministry. Again, praise God for Elizabeth Prata, Michelle Lesley and Leslie A who boldly and consistently identify false teachers and demonstrate how these false teachers deviate from Scripture.

As an aside, I came to Reformed Theology primarily because my research of “Christian” yoga led me to discernment blogs. I thank the Lord for using those blogs to educate me on how to apply proper hermeneutics in studying the Bible and for solidifying essential doctrines in my mind. Those discernment blogs went a long way in getting me grounded in the Bible and protecting me from popular evangelical fads.

But the idea of discernment (not necessarily discernment itself)  is somewhat of a fad among Reformed Christians these days. Even more troubling, some discernment ministries have developed a nastiness about them that completely drives out even the willingness to extend charity.

When people use character assassination and nit pick, applying the heresy label to Arminians and Charismatics, they’ve crossed a very dangerous line. Arminians and Charismatics hold to some doctrinal errors, to be sure. I’ve embraced Armimian and Charismatic teachings during much of my Christian life, and I well understand the dangers of those teachings.

But I absolutely do not believe those errors meant that I was a heretic. Furthermore, looking at the Scriptural criteria for genuine salvation convinces me that, despite accepting those errors, my salvation proved real. Therefore I grieve that people so quickly decide that our Armimian and Charismatic brothers and sisters aren’t truly saved.

Discernment encompasses so much more than discrediting those we disagree with. Yes, the wolves need to be rebuked and avoided, but in a way that draws sheep closer to the Shepherd Who feeds them in the green pastures of His Word.

For that reason this blog (while naming names when necessary) best teaches discernment by immersing women in God’s Word.

In a few weeks (probably March, to accommodate my personal Bible reading plan), we will begin studying Christ’s resurrection through 1 Corinthians 15. We’ll notice how the apostle Paul addressed a popular false teaching about the resurrection that circulated through the church in Corinth (hint: he did it without naming names) and we’ll learn how teaching doctrine in a positive manner can feed Christians effectively.

Mostly, we’ll focus on honoring Christ instead of dishonoring people.  I hope many of you ladies will join me in studying this wonderful Christian doctrine. May we all grow in the sort of discernment that truly honors the Lord Jesus Christ.

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$74.90 Will Never Adapt To Your Truth Of $7.49

Shopping List

“We each have our own truth.”

Really?  Try that line at your local supermarket when the cashier rings your total as $74.90 but you believe you should pay $7.49. Your truth isn’t going to impress the store manger when she sees that the register indeed totals your purchases at $74.90. Your truth must give way to the actual truth that the register, the cashier and the manger all verify. Your truth loses its authority.

Well, you say, the relative nature of truth applies to spiritual truth. For example, Buddhists have their truth, Christians have theirs, atheists have theirs and so forth. That’s the very last sentence I uttered before the Lord brought me to salvation 47 years ago, and it’s no more true now than it was that day.

I know because Jesus said that He is the Truth.

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. ~~John 14:6 (ESV)

As we said last week, Jesus’ resurrection proves His divinity, therefore making it imperative to believe everything He taught and claimed during His earthly ministry. Since He, as the only Human Being to rise permanently from the dead, calls Himself the Truth, He cancels out all other perceptions of truth. As a result, He allows no alternate way to God.

Most people balk at such an exclusive spirituality. Usually their unwillingness to accept it comes, not from intellectual objections, but from an instance on living according to their own terms. Instinctively, they realize that, if Jesus really is the Truth, He has the authority to rule their lives as He pleases.

Those who try to escape Christ’s authority develop their own truths because don’t like many of His commands. In most cases, they either want a spiritual system that affirms their self-esteem or they want sex without restrictions. Sometimes a combination of the two. So when Jesus commands faith in Him rather than sacraments and/or mysticism, they reject it. When He commands that we enjoy sex only within heterosexual marriage, we rebel.

The implications of Jesus being the only Truth disturb people so deeply that they develop their own truths. Truths that allow them to ignore the Lord or to redesign Him in conformity to their individual tastes. In so doing, they then erase any possibility of objective truth that would threaten their autonomy. We Christians are more than welcome to believe as we wish just as long as we stop saying that Jesus is the truth.

Self-made truths, of course, work about as well as paying $7.49 for $74.90 worth of groceries.

 

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Dividing From Sound Doctrine

Watch Out

Last night I listened to a sermon given at a Charismatic church. The curious mixture of references to “anointing”and allusions to low self-esteem had me looking for a wall to bang my head against. And the pastor inverted the Scriptural narrative (which he admitted to paraphrasing rather than reading), totally misapplying it to his congregation. He concluded by having everyone leave their seats to come forward to receive prayer and to have members of the prayer team anoint them with oil.

Thirty years ago, I would have scolded myself for feeling uncomfortable with the situation and then I would have submitted to the prayer team.  I would have assumed that my misgivings resulted from rebellion against the Holy Spirit and His work. In short, I  would have caved into peer pressure.

Churches like that depend on peer pressure. They may allow a certain amount of questioning behind closed doors, but they view open dissent as divisiveness.

Interestingly, Scripture’s warnings against divisiveness target those who deviate from sound doctrine, not those who speak out against aberrant teaching and practices.

17 I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. 18 For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive. ~~Romans 16:17-18 (ESV)

Today, I would leave the room while everyone else went up for prayer. If anyone asked my reasons, I’d explain each of my objections to the sermon, showing why it deviated from God’s Word. Next, I’d meet with church leadership and show them the problems with the sermon. Then I’d start praying for a new church home.

Sadly, Charismatic churches will only grow worse as time progresses, and they will utilize peer pressure to prevent anyone from challenging them on the basis of Scripture. Yet their influence, fueled largely by promising to help people understand how special God thinks they are, now creeps into non-Charismatic churches, opening people up to mysticism and experience based spirituality.

Right now, I’m disgusted with this shoddy approach to Christianity. Some people in Charismatic churches may be genuinely saved. I’d go so far as to say that some Charismatic pastors may be genuinely saved. But the system, with its promises of self-esteem and anointing, locks people in to the deception and keeps them trapped through peer pressure.

Christians, we need to pray for the Holy Spirit to get good teaching to Charismatics so that His Word will free them from the real divisiveness. No Christian should be divided from the correct teaching of God’s Word and made to participate in silly shows like filling before prayer teams to be anointed with oil. We need to know the Bible well enough to identify such foolishness and to openly reject it.

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A Discernment Issue Leading To A Question For My Readers

Resurrection ButterflyEvangelical women typically flock to blog posts about sex, current events or the exposure of false teachers. The third item is generally thought of as discernment, and sometimes that’s a correct assessment. I appreciate those discernment bloggers who courageously name names. But I also know that true discernment bloggers are more concerned with promoting sound doctrine than with gossiping about popular evangelical celebrities.

One of the most basic Christian doctrines is the bodily resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. Ironically, it’s arguably one of the most ignored and least understood doctrines. To be honest, I’d been a Christian for over three decades before I started understanding its significance. So, at the risk of writing unpopular blog posts, I propose to step up my articles on this foundational topic, convinced that doing so will enhance your discernment abilities much better than simply identifying the latest false teacher.

While Christ’s resurrection most definitely provides concrete evidence for the truth of Christianity (as I explained last week), please take care not to reduce its significance to mere academic validation.  Paul begins 1 Corinthians 15 by demonstrating the historical reality of the Lord’s resurrection, but from there he moves into a beautiful discussion on the implications of His resurrection.

Obviously I  can’t work through all 58 verses of 1 Corinthians 15 in a single blog post, but I fully intend to write more essays on this wonderfully important subject from now on. I might consider writing a verse-by-verse Bible Study on 1 Corinthians 15. Although many other passages contribute to our understanding of Christ’s resurrection, this chapter supplies the most definitive handling of the occurrence and its implications.

Writing verse-by-verse studies requires much time and effort. Yet I would joyfully make the commitment if enough women (remember, men other than my husband and elders from First Baptist Church Weymouth, MA should not be reading my teaching articles) would read them. I truly believe that cultivating a Biblical understanding of Christ’s resurrection would go a long way in protecting us against false teachers.

Please use my Comments Section or my Outspoken TULIP Facebook page to let me know if you’d prefer a structured Bible Study series on the resurrection or less formal posts from time to time (FBCW elders, please weigh in too!) so that I’ll invest my time and energy in the wisest way possible. I want you to be excited about the resurrection, so I need help determining the most interesting way to approach it.

Discernment requires knowing at least the fundamentals of the Christian faith. Because the doctrine of the resurrection is so critical to the Gospel, and because false teachers often distort, downplay or disregard it, we dare not neglect it. Instead, dear sisters in Christ,  let’s grab on to its glorious promises and celebrate it.

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Of Cabbages And (The King Of) Kings

king-jesus

Cerebral Palsy has all sorts of interesting or annoying by-products (depending on one’s point of view), such as difficulty chewing food. As a result,  a shred of cabbage from a serving of coleslaw could slip down the throat prematurely, causing several hours of discomfort and pain on its journey down the upper GI tract. I rediscovered this unpleasant reality Saturday night.

As you can imagine, I didn’t sleep very well that night. At one point, I found myself pretty much ordering God to relieve my pain. Not asking with humble trust in a loving heavenly Father, but demanding with the self-centered attitude of a spoiled brat.

And before you charitably try to tell me that I judge myself too harshly, let me assure you that I know, quite well, the attitude of my heart at that particular moment. I viewed the Lord, just then, as a servant, expecting Him to cater to my wishes. Whether my perverted petition came from my Charismatic background or it merely exposed my sinful old nature, it clearly dishonored the Lord Who bought me with His blood and therefore has authority over me.

Jesus indeed came as a servant, demonstrating humility as an example for Christians to follow. And He commands us to pray for our needs, knowing that He will faithfully care for us because we belong to Him. But notice what I just said: we belong to Him! As such, we have the privilege of requesting things from Him, but not the right to demand His compliance.

Christ’s humility, while certainly giving us a pattern to emulate, directs our attention to His unique position as the king of Kings.

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. ~~Philippians 2:5-11 (ESV)

Despite His humility, the Lord Jesus Christ is our Almighty King Who will one day cause even His enemies to bow before Him. How dare we treat Him as if He has any obligation to answer our “prayers” according to our expectations! Shouldn’t we instead approach Him in grateful humility, asking Him for mercy and grace to honor Him whether He removes our trial or decrees that we go through it?

I didn’t exactly enjoy my experience with the cabbage Saturday night. But I treasure my experience of remembering that Christ is my King, not my slave.

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