Category Archives: Compromise

One Passage, Preached In Opposite Directions

Treasured BibleIn two months, I would leave that church anyway, since marrying John necessitated moving from San Rafael, California to Boston, Massachusetts. Even so, the rambling, 80-minute message by the guest speaker left me literally weeping.

Most of the people at that service found this speaker highly offensive. The guy who had invited him tried, rather unconvincingly, to distance himself, clearly embarrassed by the whole fiasco. His delivery, which included physically humiliating our pastor, offended pretty much everybody. The exhibition felt more like a circus than a worship service, and people began wandering out to the lobby because of their impatience with his incoherence and his theatrics.

Sadly, however, I seemed to be the only one who objected to the actual content of what he taught.

He chose Ephesians 4:11-16 as his text:

11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. (ESV)

Sadly, he followed the Scripture-twisting script of extreme Charismatics in order to make this passage say that doctrine must be rejected for the sake of unity. Did he, in his efforts to promote the New Apostolic Reformation, realize that he taught precisely the opposite idea of what Paul meant in this passage?

I wept because, even though my friends were deeply disturbed by his methodology, they accepted his actual message as being perfectly Biblical. They completely missed the fact that his sermon made a diametrically opposite point to the text!

About three years ago, one of the elders from our current church preached on this same text. At first, remembering that horrible evening twelve years earlier, I flinched as John opened my Bible. Would this elder also try to teach that doctrine destroys unity?

But to my relief, the elder taught the passage correctly, presenting unity as a result of proper teaching. Unity, he affirmed, doesn’t require a minimization of doctrine. On the  contrary, God provided First Century apostles and prophets, followed by evangelists, pastors and teachers since then, to teach us how to be the Church.

Uniting over the foundational doctrines of the First Century apostles and prophets as faithful evangelists, pastors and teachers minister God’s Word to us keeps the Church from  fragmenting over doctrinal error. Proper doctrine aligns us under Christ’s leadership because faithful men explain His Word and enable us to access His Word for ourselves. (Faithful women can teach other women, as well as teaching children.)

The elder’s sermon three years ago offered tremendous comfort, assuring me that I could trust my new church to handle God’s Word properly. The leaders understand that right doctrine forms the very basis of Christian unity. Rather than casting doctrine aside, as the guest speaker that night suggested (for 80 long minutes), Christians must rally around true doctrine, carefully mining Scripture and treasuring every nugget and gem.

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Saturday Sampler: April 16 — April 22

Blend SamplerHave you been following Leslie A’s excellent series on developing discernment on her Growing 4 Life blog? Even if you haven’t, Learn to Discern: Preparing Your Heart and Mind is very much worth your time and attention. She lays a Biblical foundation for cultivating discernment.

Jennifer at One Hired Late In The Day writes Jen Hatmaker, the ‘Christian Machine’, and Genuine Orthodox Christianity in response to Hatmaker’s Good Friday post comparing the backlash to her support of same sex marriage to Christ’s sufferings on the cross. Please,  Ms. Hatmaker,  grow up!

Michelle Lesley has a passion for teaching women how to study the Bible for themselves. Her article, Bible Book Backgrounds: Why You Need Them and Where to Find Them, provides an excellent resource for studying God’s Word.

I so appreciate Rebekah Womble of Wise In His Eyes for her balanced and Biblical perspective in Beware the Lies of Emotionalism. Our culture has wrongly influenced the visible church that feelings, rather than God’s Word, lead us into a right relationship with the Lord.

Writing for Parking Space 23, Allen Cagle encourages church music leaders to ask, Should We Sing That Song? Those of us in the pews might also benefit from these guidelines for evaluating worship music.

The newest trend in evangelical circles exalts “authenticity” and “brokenness.” As Joe Carter of The Gospel Coalition Blog says in his piece, Beware of Broken Wolves, false teachers often use these postures as a means of spreading deceit to the rest of Christ’s Body.

 

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Psychology Is More Than We Need

If you’ll look at the archives to the right on this blog, you’ll find several essays that detail the various reasons that Bible-believing Christians must completely reject psychology. Although I may revisit some of those objections in future posts, today , let’s talk about the underlying issue. When we join psychoanalysis to Scripture, we very openly admit our belief that God’s Word lacks the ability to address a person’s spiritual needs.

Okay, I put that point bluntly. And, if you must know, I did so very deliberately because most evangelicals honestly don’t realize how deeply their reliance on psychology attacks the doctrine of Scripture’s sufficiency. In fact, I suppose that the vast majority of evangelicals who combine psychology with God’s Word sincerely believe that the Lord uses the “science” of psychology to “go deeper” than the Bible without contradicting it.

They would regard psychology as a provision the Lord has given us so that, in better understanding ourselves, we can more effectively apply Biblical principles to our daily lives. Of course, they assume that “Christian” psychology will ultimately eliminate temptation so that they can honor and obey the Lord without effort…which perhaps explains why they feel such an urgent need for something “more.”

In my younger years, I often articulated to myself (but never to others) that  I wanted “more” than the Bible offered in dealing with my sin of anger. The Bible simply says to put anger away and walk in patience and humility. I wanted, however, to understand the  “root causes” of my anger, thinking that such an understanding would eliminate the emotion and in turn eradicate the temptation.

Sounds wonderful, until you realize that the focus shifts from self-denial and trust in God’s authority to my own comfort.

Something that happened a number of years ago might help to demonstrate a more Scriptural approach to anger. Just as I needed to complete my PCA’s time sheet and print it for her to sign (we needed to  fax all the time sheets before she returned the following Monday), Adobe Reader froze. When I restarted it, Dell started installing 29 updates. I knew my PCA didn’t feel well and wanted to go home, which pressured me. Obviously, she couldn’t wait around while my computer updated itself.

John got on his computer and opened my second email address where (praise God) I daily backed up time sheets. He found hers, but it printed improperly, forcing him to retype the entire two-week time sheet from scratch. As he struggled typing in all the numbers, I vented my rage and frustration without restraint. Finally, he commanded me to stop.

I immediately thought of Scriptures about wives submitting to husbands and about controlling anger. Although I felt like continuing my temper tantrum, I simply obeyed God’s Word. I didn’t fall back on psychological explanations for this latest tirade. I simply acknowledged my sin and repented. Knowing the Lord’s will that I exercise self-control was sufficient.

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. ~~2 Peter 1:3-8 (ESV)

The Lord has taught me that, as Scripture deepens my knowledge of Who He is and how He sees things, I don’t need the man-made discipline of psychology. His Word tells me everything I need to know.

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Saturday Sampler: April 9 — April 15

Tulip Sampler 01Stephen Altroggie of The Blazing Center enumerates 9 Glorious Things The Resurrection Means To Us as a preparation for our Resurrection Sunday worship. Please enjoy this encouraging piece.

Having adopted New England as my  home, I’ve often felt saddened and troubled by this region’s departure from its Biblical foundation. So I appreciated Elizabeth Prata for writing New England’s mission drift in The End Time. She shows the destructive power of compromise.

While you’re on Elizabeth’s website, be sure to read O to see ourselves as others see us. Or maybe not… I think it’s one of her finest essays.

I’m not overly fond of Mortification Of Spin, and have been thinking about canceling my subscription. But Todd Pruitt’s article, Bit-O-Vinegar on his 1517 blog, has made me reconsider. He encourages people like me who tend to be less than gentle about confronting error.

Over at Biblical Woman, Dorothy Patterson writes Ms. Independence Gets Married in response to one of her readers who married later in life (although it amused me, since I married at age 48, that her reader considered the late 20s marrying late). Patterson gives Scriptural advice that any bride should read.

On her blog, Wise In His Eyes, Rebekah Womble asks, Are Reformed Christians “All Head, No Heart”? She handles this common criticism with fairness and grace.

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The Grace Of Absolute Truth

2th 3v5The continued exodus from Biblical Christianity doesn’t shock me as much as it used to, but it saddens me. Friends whom I once greatly respected as sterling examples of Christians, both for their doctrinal fidelity and their moral purity, have been embracing liberal theology and/or moving into blatantly sinful behavior patterns. A few, but only a very few, are honest enough to acknowledge that they aren’t following the Lord. Most, however, foolishly believe that He has led them to make these tragic choices.

“There, but for the grace of God, go I.”

There have been far too many times I’ve looked down my sanctimonious nose at erring friends, not so secretly congratulating myself that I would never go into sin like they did. Really? In my eagerness to judge them, I’d conveniently forget the times I’ve tried to rationalize certain beliefs, attitudes and behaviors with the Bible, knowing full well that I violated God’s standards.

At other times, I admitted my deviation from the truth, and seriously considered turning my back on Jesus in favor of following my selfish desires. Sometimes I still feel that way. No room for self-righteousness here!

But I always come back to the Lord, repentant and convinced that He is my only hope of salvation. You see, when all is said and done, I actually believe everything the Bible says. As a result, I believe I’d spend eternity in hell if I embraced my sinful desires in rebellion against Him.

I’d also miss the joy of fellowship with Him and His people. Sin just doesn’t offer the deep satisfaction of a right conscience before Him. Sacrificing my relationship with Christ for the transient pleasures of sin simply isn’t worth it. I’ve seriously tried to compromise my faith, and I’ve tried to abandon it altogether, but I’ve always come back to wanting the Lord and knowing that He is the Truth.

I can’t leave Jesus, even when I’d very much prefer going my own way, nor can I reassemble my understanding of Him to accommodate my rebellion. Despite the prevailing philosophy that all truth is relative, I am sure that Jesus is the Truth. His Word, the Bible, is absolute, and therefore not subject to personal interpretation. Simply stated, Jesus has a hold on me.

As I watch dear friends pervert Scripture and distort their lives, I must credit the Lord for keeping me anchored in Him. Why He hasn’t given me over to deception puzzles me. I can’t take credit for my steadfastness, though I’d like to believe I’m that much of a spiritual giant. Jesus keeps me following Him, however imperfectly, by convincing me that Truth is exclusively in Him.

66 After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. 67 So Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” 68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, 69 and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” ~~John 6:66-69 (ESV)

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Perspectives In Titus: Harshness And Hope

Titus 1 13&14Last Monday we examined a quotation that the apostle Paul got from Epimenides, a poet from Crete. Epimenides didn’t exactly flatter the people of Crete in his words, as you’ll probably recall. Today, I’d like us to look at Paul’s reasons for quoting such a harsh indictment against the very people he wanted Titus to reach with the Gospel.

This explanation comes out of verses 13 and 14 of Titus 1, which I’ll quote in context.

10 For there are many who are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision party. 11 They must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach. 12 One of the Cretans, a prophet of their own, said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.” 13 This testimony is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith, 14 not devoting themselves to Jewish myths and the commands of people who turn away from the truth. 15 To the pure, all things are pure, but to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but both their minds and their consciences are defiled. 16 They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work. ~~Titus 1:10-16 (ESV)

Paul uses Epimenides’ condemnation of the Cretans to demonstrate the degenerate condition of the false teachers who had infiltrated the churches of Crete. But simply applying the invective to these teachers did little to instruct Titus in dealing with them. Therefore Paul elaborates on the saying.

Notice, as verse 13 opens, that Paul affirms the saying of Epimenides regarding the character of the Cretans.  He wants Titus to appoint  godly elders precisely because the Cretans exhibited such a corrupt character.

The false teachers among the Cretans were so invested in their sinful lifestyles that only  sharp rebuke would penetrate their consciences. The Greek word here rendered “sharply” denotes severity, as if cutting them off. In other words, Paul did not want Titus to tolerate any part of their deviations from the truth.

Verse 13 goes on to reveal that Paul’s goal in sharply rebuking the Cretans was to restore them to sound faith. Barnes says, “That they may not allow the prevailing vices to corrupt their views of religion.”Believers Bible Commentary points out that rebuking the Cretans meant that there was actually hope for their  repentance. What an encouraging thought!

But even if the false teachers themselves resisted correction, rebuking them would have an impact on the other Christians in Crete. I think of similar instructions Paul issued to Timothy as Timothy established the church at Ephesus:

As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear. ~~1 Timothy 5:20 (ESV)

Verse 14 continues Paul’s thought by showing exactly how Titus should rebuke the false teachers. His mention of Jewish myths brings us back to verse 10, where Paul alludes to “those of the circumcision party.” Paul had no patience for false teachers who tried to make salvation contingent on human performance.

Jamieson, Fausset and Brown take the view that  the Jewish myths, while at this point were  merely diversions that  didn’t advance godliness, opened the door to Gnosticism. The Judaizers in Crete evidently  imposed religious rituals to augment Christ’s work on the cross, suggesting that it wasn’t sufficient.  Colossians 2:23 cautions against turning to man-made rules and regulations that merely give an appearance of spirituality.

The Judaizers, by encouraging the Gentile Christians to observe Jewish customs, actually turned them away from the Gospel truth that Jesus met the demands of the Law through His death on the cross. Paul, as an apostle to the Gentiles, saw that such teachings would divert people from trusting Christ alone for salvation, thus nullifying the entire message of the Gospel.

At the same time, Paul appreciated true holiness. In denouncing the works  based righteousness of the Judaizers, he in no way intended to support the self-indulgence of the Cretans in general. Paul wanted to see Titus lead the churches of Crete into true holiness, as we’ll see in coming weeks.

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A Wrinkle In Theology

Robin Olsen PortraitSocial media definitely gives me a wealth of subject matter! Consider this quotation:

Joy is the infallible proof of the presence of God.  ~~Madeline L’Engle

When that quote showed up on my Twitter feed a few years ago, I vacillated between laughing, crying and throwing up. I have fond childhood memories of Madeline L’Engle’s book, A Wrinkle In Time, but I rather wish she’d confined her writing to children’s fiction and left theology alone. That quote sounds pretty and poetic, admittedly, but it positively oozes with the sloppy theology that permeates today’s visible church.

L’Engle elevates the subjective emotion of joy as “infallible proof” that God is present. This “reasoning” reminds me of so many professing Christians who validate things like the Gay Christian Movement because they interpret the enthusiasm among “gay Christians” as an indication that He sanctions their misinterpretation of Scripture.

But truth must never be at the mercy of fleeting experience. People often feel great joy in the midst of extremely sinful behavior. Yet God, being holy, neither will nor can grace sinful  behavior with His presence. The joy at a college drinking party may, in some instances (such as celebrating the end of finals), be quite genuine, but any true presence of the Lord would bring the revelers to repentance in short order. Indeed, His presence brought the prophet Isaiah to humility.

In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said:

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory!”
And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” ~~Isaiah 6:1-5 (ESV)
 
Throughout the Bible, actually, God’s presence frequently evoked fear and trembling as people saw the contrast between their sinfulness and His holiness. Sometimes, joy followed. And we definitely will have joy in heaven, where those of us who are born again through His Spirit will be in His presence forever. But humility and repentance serve as much more reliable indicators of His presence for now.
 
Hopefully Madeline L’Engle ironed out her theology before she died.

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