Facets Of Redemption

The hymn I’ve selected today has a simple melody, but a deep and profound theology of Christ’s redemptive work. I love the way it takes us through the various ramifications of salvation while keeping our attention squarely on the Lord!

As I listened to this hymn in preparation to post it, I thought of a beautiful diamond with all its intriguing facets. It reminded me that salvation involves so much more than sparing us from the torments of hell (although that alone would be wonderful). The more we see the different facets of redemption, the more we want to sing of our glorious Redeemer.

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White, Brown And Muddy Waters

Questions

Are you waiting for me to come out with an article about James White interviewing Michael Brown? If you follow me on Twitter, you know I have partially formed opinions on the matter, and that one or two of those opinions have a certain amount of  validity. You’ll also know that some Tweets from other ladies have forced me to reconsider some of my positions.

I’m trying to listen to all sides of this issue, mostly because John and I really like James White and want to believe his critics are categorically wrong 100% of this time. Maybe that’s idolizing Dr. White. Maybe, however, it’s because Dr. White  seems (at least to me — I’m not speaking for John here) to have a “you’re either with me or against me” mentality. At any rate, the whole situation leaves me struggling with whether or not I have very developed discernment.

Michael Brown, from my studies of him, shouldn’t be trusted. He may be genuinely saved, just as I believe I was genuinely saved when I was a Charismatic, but he tends to say what people want to hear in any given situation. As learned as he is in some areas (such as Hebrew texts), his claims of not researching Benny Hinn or Bill Johnson make me wonder if he’s qualified to defend Charismatic teaching. In a nutshell,  I don’t think Dr. Brown has a great deal of credibility.  (See this article by an Assemblies Of God pastor.)

My confusion is less about Michael Brown’s credibility than it is about James White’s willingness to partner with him. And on this point, waters are a great deal muddier than anyone wants to admit.

On the one hand, public personalities need to be very careful. Suppose, for example, that I found a Tweet by Beth Moore that, taken in isolation, actually communicated a Biblical principle (hey, it could happen). Suppose further that her Tweet reinforced something I felt strongly about. Even though I’d have right motives in retweeting Mrs. Moore’s words, people might mistake my retweet as tacit endorsement of Beth Moore. Particularly if they hadn’t read my many blog posts pointing out her false teaching!

Similarly, not everyone has watched the debates between James White and Michael Brown. Frankly, I haven’t, though I know they’ve debated several times. People who don’t realize that these men have debated might mistakenly assume that White is now giving Brown a pass on some very troubling issues. Indeed, people who are intent on destroying James White have been using Michael Brown as a weapon to undermine White’s ministry. For that reason I believe White would do well not to partner with Brown in an upcoming debate they plan (they’ll be debating as a team against two other men). I think their collaboration, at this moment in time, could cause a lot of people to stumble in a lot of ways.

On the other hand, it isn’t good to implicitly demand that James White declare Michael Brown a heretic, as some “discernment bloggers” are doing. Yes, Michael Brown teaches some serious error, but only the Lord really knows whether or not he’s genuinely saved. James White considers him a brother just as I consider friends from my Charismatic church back in California to be brothers and sisters in Christ.

What gives anyone the right to discredit James White on the basis of his friendship with Michael Brown? Perhaps White could be more circumspect in how he publicly conducts their friendship, but the mere fact that they’re friends shouldn’t mean that we should distrust his commitment to Reformed Theology.

Round and round the thoughts swirl in my head, causing me to doubt my discernment abilities. I want to keep listening. I also want to pray for Michael Brown to come out of Charismatic deception, and for James White to exercise more wisdom. May they both silence White’s critics.

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New Year’s Resolutions Remind Us

2018 ResolutionsLast year at about this time, I wrote a post explaining my reasons for not making New Year’s resolutions. In it, I made the point that repentance should be a daily practice for Christians rather than annual resolutions that we can’t keep anyway.  I still believe that’s the more Biblical attitude.

I find the concept of New Year’s resolutions sort of interesting, though. Despite the fact that most resolutions concern themselves with superfluous matters with little eternal significance, the whole idea indicates a deep-down sense that we don’t quite live the way we should. We almost acknowledge that we have sin in our lives.

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, ~~Romans 3:23 (ESV)

We may even quote that verse in a self-justifying manner that implies we’re no more sinful than anybody else. Sure, we have a few character flaws, but doesn’t everybody? And our little New Year’s resolutions, even if we break them by January 20th (which we probably will), surely demonstrate a willingness to own up to our shortcomings.

Of course, by mid-January, life has resumed its dull rhythms, and we’ve all but forgotten those resolutions. We’ve also forgotten that we have flaws (really sins, though we’d prefer not to use such terminology) that require correction.

But perhaps the problem goes even deeper. If we’ve actually sinned, it follows that we’ve violated God’s standards. That premise leads to the idea of His authority to judge us. And if He does show us the mercy of forgiveness, He has a claim on us. Either way, He has us in His debt, and we don’t like it. New Year’s resolutions are much more comfortable than coming to Him as sinners in need of repentance.

Making New Year’s resolutions can be fun, so please enjoy your Christian liberty to make them as part of celebrating the holiday. But don’t use them as a substitute for dealing seriously with sin. The Lord will show mercy as we repent and trust Him to change us. Let’s resolve to live in repentance throughout the coming year.

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Welch Revivals, Bondage And Actual Obedience To The Lord

Bible Mask MedievalFor years, John and I have been getting DVDs from Netflix. For reasons that would distract from the point of this blog post, we’ll be closing our account soon, so we’re watching the last few movies on our queue.

A few nights ago, we watched a documentary about Evan Roberts, an evangelist during the Welch revivals in the early 1900s. I knew very little about either Roberts or the Welch revivals,  but I thought the movie might be interesting. And okay, I hoped to glimpse places I’d seen during my three months in Wales.

The movie definitely brought back memories (including memories of Wales), but not exactly the memories of lush green hills dotted with sheep or ruins of medieval castles that I’d anticipated. Instead, watching Roberts agony as he sought God through one spiritual experience after another while he burdened himself with the legalism of fearing to step outside of God’s  will reminded me of the Bible college I attended in Wales. And of Charismatic teaching in general.

I’d never really seen the connection between legalism and the dependence on spiritual experiences until I watched that movie, but the relationship struck me powerfully. Certainly we see it in 21st Century evangelicals (even those who don’t consider themselves to be Charismatics) as they urge us to expect personal revelation from God and warn us against “stepping out of God’s will.” I remembered the desperation to receive personal guidance, which caused me to wrench fragments of Scripture out of context, and pleading with God to speak to me lest I make a mistake and foil His plan.

What a sad way to go through life!

And what an affront to the sovereignty of God, as well as to His love! Yes, the Lord commands our obedience, but He calls us to obey what He clearly commands in His Word, not impressions or voices in our head telling us whom to marry or what job to accept. God’s principles outline what characteristics to look for in a husband. Marry whomever you please, as long as he possesses those characteristics and proposes to you. Take the job as long as the employer doesn’t ask you to violate Scripture. Don’t agonize unnecessarily, straining for some  mystical experience to offer confirmation.

People like Evan Roberts may appear quite spiritual, but their gnosticism never allows them to walk in the Spirit. Consider Paul’s words to the Colossians:

20 If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations— 21 “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” 22 (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? 23 These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh. ~~Colossians 2:20-23 (ESV)

Although I don’t recommend the documentary (which is why I won’t give the title), I’m glad I watched it because it clarified some of the dangers in Charismatic teaching. I certainly praise God for mercifully rescuing me from that bondage.

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Creator And Sustainer

Majestic Name

Colossians 1 may well be one of my favorite chapters in the Bible! This morning I read just one section of it, but I couldn’t stop taking notes and marveling at the depths of Who Jesus is and how absolute His power is. Look at the passage with me.

15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. ~~Colossians 1:15-20 (ESV)

Every time I read this passage, it thrills me! Even beyond being a compelling testimony to Christ’s deity (which alone excites me quite a bit), the idea that He personally created the entire universe, and now holds it together boggles my mind. The more I think about His centrality in sustaining every molecule of creation, the more astounded I am.

I respond to this majestic description of the Lord by worshiping Him. Really, what other response possibly corresponds to His preeminence?

Please run Colossians 1:15-20 through your brain for a few minutes. Think about its richness in portraying the Lord Jesus Christ as the Creator and Sustainer of this universe, from the vastness of outer space to the complexity of a single cell. Then remember that He became a Man in order to shed His blood on the cross to pay for our sins. I believe those thoughts will propel you into worship too.

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False Teachings Or Simply Disagreements?

Bible AloneWho is a false teacher? Sadly some popular “discernment” ministries are currently throwing out accusations of heresy against other well-known Christian apologists, largely over matters of how they approach their ministry.  Occasionally they also use non-essential points of doctrine as reason to anathematize people, but generally the battles boil down to pride.

A reader recently expressed her concern that “discernment ministry” types have been indiscriminately calling anyone they disagree with a false teacher.  In many instances, I must concur. The article she sent me, A Call for Theological Triage and Christian Maturity by Al Mohler,  certainly offers a helpful guideline in determining what issues should divide Christians and when we can disagree without breaking unity. I encourage each of you to read it.

As helpful as Mohler’s article is, however,  perhaps Scripture provides an even better measurement. Some doctrines (such as women not teaching men within a church setting) are clearly stated in Scripture. Other principles (such as women writing Bible Studies on blogs that men will read) lend themselves to more ambiguity. In the first case, I will divide. In the second, I’ll give the benefit of the doubt. The second merely violates my personal convictions; the first violates God’s Word.

Paul addresses Christian liberty in a number of passages. Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 8 directly speak to the necessity of avoiding judgmental postures over matters of individual conscience. Just because I believe, for instance, that I should wear hats to church doesn’t give me the right to insist that my sisters in Christ wear hats. But neither does their freedom to attend church bareheaded give them the right to judge me as being legalistic.

Suppose, however, that I devoted this entire blog to head coverings,  asserting that women who failed to cover their heads in church were in blatant rebellion against God’s Word. Suppose I wrote, in no uncertain terms, that head coverings were necessary to salvation. Ladies, if I did anything like that, I would most definitely be a false teacher. Furthermore, you would have a responsibility to contact First Baptist Church Weymouth to alert the elders that I promoted heresy. That sort of divisiveness must never be tolerated within the Body of Christ!

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)

As Christians, we must know Scripture well enough to distinguish between simple disagreements with our brothers and sisters in Christ and false teachings that worm their way into the church. In our zeal for doctrinal purity, let’s take care that we divide only from those who truly pervert the Word of God.

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Insights Resulting From A Haircut

Window View Lace CurtainsDo you ever have one of those days where you just didn’t structure your time efficiently? I knew my friend was coming to give us haircuts this morning, and I knew she’d come later than expected. But rather than using the time going through emails or (ahem!) reading my Bible, I experimented with my digital art program.

After she left, I did read my Bible and I went through most of my emails. That, of course, left little time for blogging. Especially about the topics that have been rumbling around in my head lately.

Knowing that I’ll be taking most of next week off from blogging (my sister is coming from California to visit) increases the pressure I feel to blog today. That’s probably not healthy. I should be disciplined in blogging, yes — but not legalistic! This blog exists to honor the Lord, not to keep me under tyranny.

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. ~~Galatians 5:1 (ESV)

Even through blogging is my ministry, the Lord never intended that I become enslaved to it. It’s a tool for serving Him, not a means of maintaining His favor. Shame on me for allowing such a wonderful way of serving Him to morph into a thing of bondage!

Yes, I should have organized my time better. But God’s grace is sufficient, even for that. And perhaps that’s the whole point of this blog post. Perhaps some of you feel driven, especially as he holidays approach, to be Ms. Perfect, doing everything you expect yourselves to do in order to keep the Lord happy. Maybe all of us needed this reminder that He’s already clothed us in His righteousness.

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