Unequal Yokes Or Respectful Dialogues?

UnliberatedScripture tells us not to be unequally yoked with unbelievers.

14 Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? 15 What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? 16 What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said,

“I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them,
    and I will be their God,
    and they shall be my people.
17 Therefore go out from their midst,
    and be separate from them, says the Lord,
and touch no unclean thing;
    then I will welcome you,
18 and I will be a father to you,
    and you shall be sons and daughters to me,
says the Lord Almighty.” ~~2 Corinthians 6:14-18 (ESV)

Most Christians understand that this passage applies to much more than marriage. Those of you who follow my Tuesday series on the Reformation undoubtedly know that I by no means embrace ecumenical alliances. Furthermore, when I examine suspected false teachers, I often include looking at their associations in determining the legitimately of their ministry (though wrong associations, in and of themselves, don’t necessarily mean that a teacher is an apostate). God unequivocally calls us to separate from those who reject the Lord Jesus Christ.

That separation, however, never requires animosity, nor does it mean that we can’t learn from those who believe differently than we do. A public discussion of our differences (and even points of similarity) needn’t indicate that we have comprised the Gospel. Such compromise can happen, admittedly, but it doesn’t always occur.

Sometimes, properly understanding what Catholics, Muslims, atheists or Jehovah’s Witnesses (just to name a few examples) actually believe helps us witness more effectively, especially if we demonstrate a willingness to listen. Not all of us have the temperament to engage in such conversations, I realize. I can do it in writing, but not face-to-face (I consider my inability to do so as one of my many character flaws). But all of us ought to recognize the value in honest, respectful dialogue with people who embrace false beliefs.

Respecting someone enough to let them articulate their beliefs shouldn’t result in other Christians accusing us of violating 2 Corinthians 6:14-18. I may not have the grace to dialogue with someone of another religion in person, but I see tremendous value in extending that kind of respect to someone. Particularly if I want them to consider the claims of the Gospel!

Open, respectful dialogue, even when planned by both parties in a public setting, may not be the wisest course of action. But neither is it sufficient reason to accuse a brother or sister of compromising the Gospel. Before seizing on an isolated incident, examine the broader scope of that person’s teaching and overall ministry. It could just be that, precisely by having that dialogue, that person will make his or her separation from the world abundantly clear.

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Saturday Sampler: June 18 — June 24

Rose SamplerMark McIntyre writes Did he really say that? on his Attempts at Honesty blog primarily as an exhortation to men in pulpit ministry. But his words apply to all Christians as we proclaim the Gospel in face-to-face conversations and/or on social media. The truth, no matter how lovingly we present it, will always offend unbelievers.

How seriously do you take sin? According to R.C. Sproul of Ligonier, Sin is Cosmic Treason. Sproul gives a thorough explanation of sin’s nature and why God can’t tolerate it.

I completely agree with The Gospel Coalition Blog‘s Michael A G Haykin that Every Christian ought to be a good historian. Having enjoyed two years of a church history class in Adult Sunday School, I join Haykin in believing that church history displays God’s power and faithfulness to His people.

It’s wonderful to see Jessica Pickowicz blogging on Beautiful Thing after a long hiatus! Her blog post, The Not So Simple Life, evaluates the current trend of simple living by holding it up against practicality and ultimately against God’s Word. If you’re a busy mom, Jessica’s essay may be just the encouragement you need.

Denny Burk’s article, Mainstreaming fornication (a.k.a. “ethical non-monogamy”) saddens me.

In light of recent internet fights among well-known Christian apologists, I found Leslie A’s blog post, Engaging The Enemy on her Growing 4 Life blog, wonderfully balanced and refreshing. Biblical discernment doesn’t require us to win arguments; it simply enables us to stand on God’s Word.

Evangelism often means encountering people who, quite frankly, have no interest in the Lord. In his essay for Parking Space 23, Greg Peterson writes Excuses… Excuses… to counter some of the better-known objections to the Gospel. In addition to citing pertinent Scriptures for each argument, Peterson also provides links to helpful articles.

Mike Riccardi’s post, Ecumenical vs. Evangelical in The Cripplegate traces the fascinating history of the Ecumenical Movement. It’s a good caution against blurring the lines of doctrine for the sake of unity.

Although Herman Melville’s Moby Dick was by far my least favorite assigned reading in   college, I respect Elizabeth Prata’s delight in reading it. And I absolutely love the way she uses a passage from the novel to remind wives to use prudence in Exposing or ignoring the ignominious blemish in our husbands for The End Time. Interestingly, I gave similar counsel just this morning to a young friend who will be getting married a few months from now.

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Saturday Sampler: June 11 — June 17

Bezier Flower SamplerLike Michelle Lesley, I’d never heard of Karen Ehman, but based on The Mailbag: Did Jesus Really Teach Karen Ehman’s 3 Step Life Plan? I don’t think I’ll bother. In addition to examining questionable aspects of Ehman’s teaching, Michelle shows us the importance of keeping everything we read in context.

Praise the Lord that Jennifer at One Hired Late In The Day pays attention to her Bible! She supplies Some Encouragement for Marrieds & Parents in response to the Social Gospel and its call to radical living.

Is The Bible A Love Letter From God? Stephen Altroggie of The Blazing Center says no. Find out why he disagrees with this popular view of God’s Word.

Lysa TerKeurst is, from what I’ve read, a false teacher. I’m still researching her, but I know enough about her to be very wary of her. Sadly, she’s announced this week that she’s decided to divorce her husband, alleging he’s been unfaithful. In response, Leslie A. of Growing 4 Life has written Some thoughts on ending a marriage. I appreciate Leslie’s balanced, compassionate approach to this matter. This is not a time for self-righteousness or glee, but a time to pray for Lysa’s repentance.

Highlighting two very different incidents from Martin Luther’s life, Allen Cagle writes If he is inviting me to my death, then I will come for Parking Space 23. Even if you don’t normally like history, this article is an inspiring portrayal of courage. Don’t cheat yourself out of it!

As a woman with a disability, I resonate with Elizabeth Prata’s Two or more good things about having a disability in The End Time. It’s not a typical Elizabeth Prata essay, but I love the way she points to the Lord’s goodness and sovereignty in giving us various trials.

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More Than Mere Opinion

At times, I’ve wrongly characterized blog posts I’ve written about Christian doctrine as my personal opinion. Perhaps I did so to soften offensive statements. After all, Bernie Sanders showed us recently that stating the truth that those outside of Christ will not enter heaven disqualifies someone from holding public office. Clearly, speaking with certainty about even the most basic tenets of the Christian faith has become highly dangerous. Couching those tenets as mere opinion at least offers a buffer against the world’s animosity (or so we tell ourselves).

Our postmodern culture insists that truth depends on personal interpretation. “What’s true for you may not be true for me.” The only absolute I see in postmodern philosophy is that Bible-believing Christians require silencing. If the culture fails to silence us outright, then it must characterize the Gospel as no more than opinion…and misguided, antiquated opinion at that. Once this characterization establishes itself, people have no difficulty dismissing the Lord and replacing Him with spiritual systems tailored to their own preferences.

Postmodern thought, however, really goes back to the same old humanistic rebellion against the Lord that mankind has perpetrated since Adam and Eve defiantly ate the forbidden fruit. Each of us, unless the Holy Spirit intervenes, trades God’s truth for the ideas that we concoct for ourselves.

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.
24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. ~~Romans 1:18-25 (ESV)

Certainly, I hold very strong opinions on a variety of matters ranging from the alt-left’s reaction to last November’s presidential election to women covering their heads in church services. And I recognize that such matters are legitimately open to debate. But when it comes to the clear teaching of Scripture, I refuse to regard my fidelity to it as subjective opinion.

I undoubtedly misunderstand passages of Scripture here and there. When I do, the last thing I need is for people to indulge my opinion! I need people to correct my error by showing me how my ideas deviate from God’s word. Remind me that Scripture must be properly understood and interpreted in context so that I’ll correctly discern the Lord’s truth and apply His truth in accordance with His will. Don’t let me settle for my own meager opinion when I need the  firm foundation of His truth.

Senator Sanders’ clear persecution of Russell Vought signals increasing persecution of American Christians. Will we react by minimizing our beliefs as nothing more than personal opinion that we can amend if it becomes inconvenient? Or will we stand firm in our convictions, convinced that Jesus is the Truth? If Jesus indeed is the Truth, we must declare His Gospel boldly, confident that our faith goes far beyond mere opinion.

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Summer Wardrobes And Stumbling Brothers

Young Couple 02At the outset, let me say that a man bears complete responsibility for lustful thoughts and actions, regardless of how a woman dresses. As you read this blog post, please don’t mischaracterize me as excusing rape, sexual harassment or even lustful fantasies. Men must, in all circumstances, remain pure in their interactions with women, even when a woman dresses provocatively.

Have I made myself clear? If not, close this article right now, and maybe read Scriptures on the importance of sexual purity for both men and women. But if you understand that I by no means condone rape, sexual harassment or lustful fantasies in men, please keep reading. And remember, this blog is directed specifically at women, making it unnecessary (and kind of ridiculous) for me to address men on how to deal with scantily clad women during the summer months.

But ladies, I certainly can talk to you about our responsibility toward our brothers in Christ. The fact that the Lord holds them responsible to control their responses when they see too much skin or silhouette doesn’t negate our responsibility to dress modestly and carry ourselves in a manner that doesn’t call undue attention to our sexuality. Our brothers in Christ deserve the same respect from us that we want from them.

Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister. ~~Romans 14:13 (ESV)

God created men to respond to visual stimuli, just as He created us to respond to emotional attention. When I was single, I was constantly falling for guys who, out of  compassion for my disability, treated me tenderly. They didn’t intend to communicate romantic interest, but they almost always set my heart fluttering.

I failed to control my fantasies when those brothers gave me emotional attention. I had the responsibility to guard my heart, and I very well knew that I shouldn’t have read things into their actions that they never intended to convey. But they needed a man to teach them how women are wired. They needed to understand that their behavior (although well-meaning) led me into sin.

Similarly, we need to understand that God created men to respond to visual images. Within marriage, they quite appropriately respond when they admire the bodies of their wives. God designed them that way.

But precisely because God designed them to respond to visual stimuli, women bear a responsibility to dress in ways that discourage men (other than their husbands) from looking at us in inappropriate ways. Certainly, I get that some men will look no matter how modestly we dress, and they will have to answer to the Lord for doing so. That said, that same Lord holds us accountable if we deliberately dress for the purpose of attracting attention to our bodies.

I’m not suggesting that we dress like frumps. Rather, I want to remind you to be careful, during these hot summer months, not to expose our body parts in ways that could cause our brothers to stumble. Our wish to stay cool, while important, mustn’t supplant their need to remain pure.

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Saturday Sampler: June 4 — June 10

Bertucci Sampler
Sampler plate at Bertucci’s

Clint Archer posts Running for the  Reward: Comrades Marathon and the Bema Seat in The Cripplegate. Sometimes we Christians forget that rewards await us when we finish this life.

Reprising a column that she originally wrote in 2011, Marsha West of Berean Research chronicles the Purpose Driven dismantling of Christianity as  a testament to the many corrosive influences on the 21st Century church. Her comments on psychology particularly interested me.  In addition, she unmasks the resurgence of Gnosticism among evangelicals and explores Rick Warren’s affiliation with Robert Schuller.

Sometimes we ignore seemingly inconsequential sins, assuming the Lord also overlooks them. Tim Challies directs our attention to one such sin (grumbling about fellow Christians) in The King Is Within Earshot.

People commonly object to the doctrine of election because they infer that, if God elects some to heaven, He conversely elects others to hell. In The Cripplegate, Jesse Johnson writes Reprobation: Does God elect people to hell? as a way to demonstrate the logical fallacies of this argument. After you’ve read this piece, however, I strongly suggest that you read Reprobation Rejoinder by Mike Riccardi, also in The Cripplegate.

I’ve been disturbed, for the past few years, about the common perceptions professing Christians have regarding heaven. So it encourages me to read Heaven: The Biblical Version by Jennifer at One Hired Late In The Day. I feel less alone in my understanding of what the Bible teaches on the subject.

Denny Burk provides a sobering reminder that American Christians have already begun to face persecution. His article, Watch Bernie Sanders tell  a Christian that his faith disqualifies him from office, reminds me that we can no longer expect to be embraced by our culture. But Jesus repeatedly warned us that the world would reject us, so we really shouldn’t be surprised.

If you want to read something both fun and educational, look at The Mischievous Protestant’s Guide to Catholic Rome by Tim Challies. Now, why do you suppose my art history professor at Dominican University of California  (a school started by Catholic nuns) never mentioned the items in this piece.

In her essay for The Gospel Coalition Blog, Kendra Dahl shares The Lesson That Saved My Marriage to help us adjust our expectations of our husbands. I definitely needed to read her wisdom this week!

 

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Saturday Sampler: May 28 — June 3

48a60-fourjoyfulladies“God never gives us more than we can handle” is a cliche that drives me up the wall! Mark McIntyre, in his blog, Attempts at Honesty explains why this popular saying contradicts Scripture by writing More than I can handle. He makes precisely the same points that I would.

Elizabeth Prata will never know how providential her essay Does God speak to us? Should I expect Him to? in her The End Time blog was for me! Charismatics just love arguing with me on Facebook!

If summer activities threaten your time in the Word of God, go to Knowable Word and read Ryan Higginbottom’s suggestions for reading and studying Scripture in The Summer of the Bible. He includes a plethora of links to other Knowable Word articles that can jump start your time in the Bible.

I love the fact that women now openly admit to enjoying sports. And I love how Terri Stovall, guest posting for Biblical Woman, uses stats of athletes as the lead-in to her blog post, How to Live Life Without an (*). Even if you’re not a sports enthusiast, you’ll learn some helpful spiritual principles.

What Is Inductive Bible Study? asks Kim Shay of Out of the Ordinary. Her article is only a brief overview of the method, but it can introduce you to the concept.

If you’d like to read a thought provoking piece on evangelism, Mike Leake’s post in Borrowed Light should give you an interesting challenge. What If Unbelievers Aren’t Miserable? questions popular assumptions about when we should proclaim the Gospel to those around us.

Michelle Lesley doesn’t pull any punches in her article, 8 Unbiblical Notions Christian Women Need to Be Set Free From. She touches on a wide range of topics, providing links to more in-depth posts she’s written on each one. This post serves as a helpful refresher on basic areas where women must use discernment.

Here’s an interesting news item from Tom, the author of excatholic4christ. He writes Catholics, Charismatics, and Pentecostals unite in Rome for week-long celebration. Too bad I’m busy that week. NOT!

In her post, What’s Wrong with Women’s Bible Studies, Cindy Koch of 1517 The Legacy Project points out the main reason such groups fail to provide the spiritual nourishment that ladies need. Sadly, she’s spot-on.

Oh yes! Jared C. Wilson, writing for The Gospel Coalition Blog, bats 1000 with Division Begins With the Departure from the Truth. Before you accuse someone of being divisive, you might want to read this piece.

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