Wanting God To Talk Less About Himself And More About Me

The person quite agreed:

Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust. ~~2 Peter 1:2-4 (NASB95)

Absolutely, he said — Scripture tells us everything we need to know about God. In that respect, he said, we need no further revelation. Most definitely, we can affirm the sufficiency of Scripture. But he clung to the popular idea that God speaks to people directly, giving personal guidance on decisions like which car to buy or whether to change jobs. In his mind, Christians can’t make these types of decisions unless the Lord speaks to them specifically. The thought that God speaks only through Scripture was simply unthinkable.

As I contemplated his position, I realized that this person cared more about having God talk about relatively inconsequential details of his life than about knowing Who God is and how to honor Him. Scripture wasn’t enough for him because it focuses on the Lord rather than on our daily lives.

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Flashback Friday: What Can I Say About The Gospel That Hasn’t Already Been Said?

Originally Published June 21, 2019:

cfce9-crossofresurection

Lately, evangelicals have been telling us that social justice is a “Gospel issue.” A recent comment on one of my blog posts suggested that the Gospel teaches us to have unity despite theological differences (a point worthy of its own article). These sentiments, as well as similar sentiments I’ve heard throughout the years,  prompt me to think that we need periodic reminders of what the Gospel actually is.

Most of you may decide not to read this article. Why waste time reading about something so basic? Do I have new insights into the Gospel? Perhaps a fresh take on it? Can I present it in a creative manner that makes it more interesting? More relevant?

No, I can’t. As a matter of fact, adding to the Gospel would lead me to damnation (Galatians 1:8). I have no interest in dressing it up for the purpose of making it more appealing and/or entertaining.

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A Portrait Of Humility That Speaks To

Years ago, a church John and I attended did a series on Christian marriage unlike any marriage teaching I’ve heard before or since. The pastor used passages about Christian relationships in general and applied then to marriage in particular. Although his approach seems novel, it actually makes a great deal of sense if we want to teach younger women how to love their husbands and children. Being childless, however, I’m uncomfortable saying much about dealing with children, so I’ll follow that pastor’s example by showing you a few Scriptures that you can use to love your husband in ways that reflect Christ.

In considering where to begin these discussions, I couldn’t get away from the familiar passage in Philippians 2.

Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.~~Philippians 2:5:11 (NASB95)

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Christ’s Resurrection Is To Die For

Paul traveled to Jerusalem knowing full well that he would be arrested. He correctly suspected that this arrest would eventually lead to His execution, though the Holy Spirit assured him that he would reach Rome before his death. During his introductory trial in Jerusalem, he explained the reason that the Jews demanded his execution:

But perceiving that one group were Sadducees and the other Pharisees, Paul began crying out in the Council, “Brethren, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees; I am on trial for the hope and resurrection of the dead!” ~~Acts 23:6 (NASB95)

In our still comfortable American culture, very few people would seriously consider putting Christians to death simply because we proclaim Christ’s resurrection. Sure, they might question our sanity, or ask us not to bother them with our “religious nonsense,” but generally they treat us with a condescending tolerance while they celebrate the holiday with mythical bunnies and colored eggs. The idea of Paul risking his life rather than renounce his belief in Christ’s resurrection seems a bit foreign to us.

It shouldn’t. Many of us already suffer mild persecution for speaking against popular forms of sin. Those of you who stay home to homeschool your children know the pressure exerted by feminists who assume you’re wasting your lives and allowing your husbands to coerce you into submission. Those of you who oppose abortion and/or the LBGTQ agenda have been called terrible names. Even now, when persecution is relatively mild, standing for Christ carries a cost.

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Introduction To Love

According to Titus 2:3-5, older women are to teach younger women to love their husbands and children. We may think that’s a rather strange instruction. In our culture, we almost universally marry for love, and we can’t help feeling an incredibly deep affection for our children. The Greek word translated “love” in Titus 2:4 does in fact mean to have feelings of affection, which makes us wonder about this imperative. Why on earth, then, would older women need to teach younger women to love the very people whom they would love quite naturally?

As I’ve pondered this matter, I’ve begun thinking about love in general, and Christian love in particular. Loving husbands and children as the Lord would have us love them must go beyond the ways non-Christians love their husbands and children, it seems to me. As believers, we learn how to love by studying the ways that our Lord expresses His love.

This Holy Week directs our attention to Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross — the most powerful display of love in human history. Although none of us can ever hope to love anyone as powerfully as He loves us (because of our inability to atone for the sins of another person), we can still develop an understanding of love that we can approximate to a lesser degree in our relationships.

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Does Titus 2:3-5 Ignore Single Women?

As my friends and I moved through our late 30s without double rings on the third fingers of our left hands, we harbored ambivalent feelings about what older women should teach us. On the one hand, we did want teaching on how to be godly wives and mothers. Maybe learning these skills would nudge God into bringing us husbands, we reasoned. At least, that was my reasoning. Additionally, I believed older women could teach me how to attract a godly man in the first place. Hunger for marriage certainly makes a young woman eager to learn the things Paul lists in Titus 2:3-5.

Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored. (NASB95)

On the other hand, single women can feel left out if women’s Bible Studies revolve completely around marriage and child rearing. Not every godly woman has the opportunity to marry. Sometimes the only available men aren’t Christians, in which case marriage would be an act of disobedience. Thus, sitting through continual instruction on marriage and motherhood would just pour salt on the gaping wounds of singleness. Speaking from years of experience as an unmarried woman (who desperately wanted to be married), I really didn’t appreciate lessons on domestic skills.

As I’ve stated earlier in this series, I agree that the primary thrust of Titus 2:3-5 focuses on marriage and motherhood. That emphasis sadly gets downplayed nowadays, which I believe is a terrible flaw in typical women’s ministries. At the same time, however, I also believe that we must offer ministry to women who (through no fault of their own) have no romantic prospects.

Consider, please, the account of Martha and Mary.

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Let’s Ask Why

Titus 2:3-5 gives pretty straightforward instructions on older women teaching younger women, doesn’t it? And like it or not, Paul emphasizes teaching younger women domestic duties in the context of marriage and motherhood. Look again with me at the passage:

Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored. (NASB95)

As I wrote last week, that phrase “what is good” does broaden the scope of what older women can legitimately teach our younger sisters. Soon after I wrote that post, I saw another blogger post a quote from a lesser known Bible commentator reasoning that, since the Titus 2:3-5 passage lists predominantly duties of wives and mothers, older women shouldn’t presume to teach anything outside that sphere. Obviously, I believe that his assertion too narrowly interprets this Scripture.

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Teaching What Is Good — Comma, Colon Or Both?

I nearly failed Latin in college, so I easily decided against taking classes in Classical Greek. Therefore, I don’t claim to know much about the Greek manuscripts of the New Testament. As I write this series on Titus 2:3-5, I sort of wish I did know Greek, since the construction of the sentence would probably deepen my understanding.

Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored. (NASB95)

Verse 3, after describing the character qualities older women should exhibit, commissions us to teach what is good. The translators of the New American Standard Bible 1995 indicate that teaching what is good includes the topics listed in verses 4 and 5 by using the phrase, “so that.” This rendering helps us determine that the primary purpose for older women to teach younger women to focuses on encouraging those younger women to be wives and mothers who honor the Lord. Most definitely, we should maintain this goal at all cost!

But does this passage limit us to teaching domestic skills? If Paul had written Titus 2:3-5 in present day American English, would he have placed a comma or a colon after the word “good?”

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Flashback Friday: The Gospel Can’t Be Shared Often Enough

Originally posted August 28, 2010:

Heavenly Cross

No matter how long, or how deeply, we walk with the Lord, we never outgrow the need to hear that Jesus Christ took our place on that cross, shedding His innocent blood in payment for our sins. As we mature in Him, of course we will pay attention to many other issues that Christians must face, as well we should. But we must keep the Gospel central in our hearts and minds as we glorify the Lord for His grace in saving us.

Some of you might disagree with this assessment.  You might even show me Hebrews 6:1-3.

Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, and of instruction about washings, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And this we will do if God permits. (ESV)

Of course, that passage actually refers to professing Christians in the First Century who wanted to return to Judaism while still identifying as Christians. By no means is the writer suggesting that believers reach a point at which we no longer need reminding that Jesus died for our sins, rose again and saves those who repent and believe in Him.

Yes, most of my readers know the Gospel. Some may not, but the majority of you do. However, ladies, none of us can hear or read it too often. We all need to remember that we are saved, not because of anything we’ve done, but because Jesus Christ offered Himself to bear the wrath of God that rightfully belonged to us.

The apostle Paul reiterates the Gospel in almost all of his epistles. As much as I’d like to take you through each reference, time dictates that I limit myself to just one.

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. ~~Romans 5:6-11 (ESV)

Did you notice that Paul addresses this passage to Christians? He preaches this very rudimentary message to people who have already experienced God’s saving grace, even though this passage can definitely be used in evangelism. Evidently the Holy Spirit inspired Paul to remind the Roman Christians of the Gospel, despite the fact that they had already been saved.

Remembering the basic Gospel keeps us humble as we recall the staggering weight of our sin and then the enormous beauty of God’s grace. When we allow other points of doctrine to relegate the Gospel to the background, we can easily start patting ourselves on the back. We begin secretly thinking of ourselves as God’s little darlings, even supposing that He saved us because we were worthy of salvation.

The Gospel redirects the praise and honor back to Christ. As we recount His grace in shedding His innocent blood for us, we can’t resist praising Him. We marvel that such a holy God would condescend to sinners like us.  Indeed, each time we think about Him on the cross, paying the price for our rebellion against Him, we adore Him all the more!

Finally, we should realize that we will spend eternity worshiping Him as the Lamb slain for us.

And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. And he went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne. And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying,

“Worthy are you to take the scroll
    and to open its seals,
for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God
    from every tribe and language and people and nation,
10 and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,
    and they shall reign on the earth.”

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!” ~~Revelation 5:6-12 (ESV)

If the Gospel will be proclaimed throughout eternity, what makes us think that we’ve grown beyond the need to hear it now?

We can never hear the Gospel too often! Let’s cherish it now, knowing that we’ll cherish it forever.

I No Longer Think I’m Moses Jr.

During my years in Charismatic churches, I frequently heard that Christians possess the same Holy Spirit that worked through the Old Testament prophets and the New Testament apostles. I quite agree. The way we applied that belief, however, now troubles me. We expected that His presence in our lives meant that we had the power to perform miracles, and certainly that God would speak to us personally. Long after we abandoned the miracle idea, we clung to the conviction that God augmented Scripture with personal words.

In the past 30 years, the idea of hearing directly from the Lord has seeped into non-Charismatiic churches. In the 90s, Henry Blackaby’s book, Experiencing God, swept through Southern Baptist churches, insisting that all believers needed to hear from God regularly. In fact, the book said, failure to hear direct and personal words from God indicated definite problems. Beth Moore introduced Blackaby’s ideas to her audience, which transcends denominational boundaries, and now it’s almost universally assumed that every Christian should hear from God independent of the Bible.

This trend disturbs me for a number of reasons, causing me to write more posts about it than I can count. I’m dumb enough to think that people will see how unbiblical this teaching is. Sadly, I periodically bump into the reality that people don’t want to surrender their perceived experiences.

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