As Long As It Doesn’t Contradict Scripture, Can’t These Thoughts Be God Speaking?

Modern evangelicals seem desperate to believe that God speaks to them personally. The moment anybody challenges that possibility, hackles rise, claws come out and defensive arguments commence. A mere 50 years ago, claiming to receive messages from God signaled mental illness, but today those of us who don’t believe God speaks outside of Scripture are considered unbalanced by our brothers and sisters in Christ.

How can we determine whom to marry, which job to take or what car to buy unless the Lord speaks to us? After all, He spoke to Abraham, Moses, Isaiah and Paul. We have the same Holy Spirit that they did, making it perfectly reasonable to assume that He can also speak directly to us. We can measure our thoughts, impressions, dreams and/or visions against Scripture. If they’re from God, His Word will confirm it. Right?

Before we discuss the problems with interpreting our experiences as messages from God, I’d like to relay an actual story. I personally knew the couple involved. but obviously need to hide their identities. The woman has given me permission to share their story.

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The Gateway To Error

Each morning Daddy struggled to put on my leg braces. In an effort to move my leg into position, my muscles would tense to the point of becoming rigid and all but impossible for him to get into the brace. When I explained that I just wanted to help, he’d bellow, “Quit helping me — you’re making it harder!” My seven-year-old mind reeled with confusion and hurt.

Then I’d be at the school for handicapped children, working on an arithmetic problem or an art project. The volunteer assisting me, out of the kindness of her heart (or maybe impatience to get the job done), would do just a little something that I could have done myself. Invariably, Mrs, G. (one of the aides that took care of our physical needs) would see the infraction and give me a big scolding for accepting unnecessary help.

So what was a seven-year-old to do? Should I obey Daddy or Mrs. G.? Was I supposed to relax and let able-bodied adults take over, or was I supposed to do whatever I could? I loved and wanted to please both these adults, and yet carrying over the principles one taught me seemed to violate the principles that the other taught. I tried to be obedient, but it was genuinely difficult to discern how they wanted me to behave.The two scenarios happened repeatedly, and neither adult had the slightest idea that I found their instructions contradictory.

At that age, I hadn’t yet been introduced to the concept of context.

But I am not writing about my childhood angst for the purpose of talking about myself, Rather, I want to use my experience to illustrate the importance of understanding things within their appropriate context. As adults, we chuckle at my childhood dilemma because we see that trying to help Daddy with my braces was vastly different from letting volunteers do things that Mrs. G. knew I needed to do for myself. Context should have shown me how to respond in each situation.

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What God’s Word Says Depends On What God’s Word Says

I once heard someone ask a pastor what to do when Bible reading seems dry. The pastor answered (quite seriously, I’m sorry to say), “Just keep reading until something jumps out at you.” He went on to explain that a verse that catches our attention is what the Holy Spirit has for us that particular day.

Never mind the context. Never mind the intent of the human author, or the way his original readers would have understood the verse. Above all, never mind that God spoke that verse very specifically, with a meaning that doesn’t change in order to accommodate our individual circumstances. All too often, professing Christians read the Bible with the expectation that they can arrive at a personal, subjective interpretation.

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“Be Still And Know That I Am God” Is NOT A Mantra For “Christian” Yoga

Hindu Shrine
Photo taken at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts

Years ago, when I first started researching Brooke Boon and Holy Yoga, I visited their website (which I won’t link to today, lest I inadvertently promote them). One of their suggested meditations used the first clause of Psalm 46:10 in the King James Version. The clause reads, “Be still and know that I am God.”

I won’t go into detail about how the writer used this Scripture fragment as a mantra. But part of the contortion involved the idea of stilling the mind so that the person reciting the mantra could experience deeper communion with God. Stilling the mind, the writer taught, eliminates thoughts that distract people from His presence.

During my personal time with the Lord this morning I worked through Psalm 46. I used the New American Standard Bible, which translates the original languages with greater accuracy than the King James Version does. You can read the full psalm here.

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Flashback Friday: Misapplying Matthew 18:15-24 Constitutes Poppycock

I originally posting this article on February 28, 2019. In response to some comments on the post I wrote yesterday, however, I believe it would benefit us all to read it again.

Poppycock

Several years ago, a friend of mine departed from Biblical Christianity, choosing to live in open rebellion against God’s Word. Concurrently, he began blogging about his changing understanding of Scripture, assuring others that “traditional” Christianity taught restrictive values that God never meant to impose on anyone.

I posted comments on a few of his posts, challenging his newfound theology that resulted in the life choices he embraced and advocated. In response, he emailed me demanding that I stop posting comments on his blog. That didn’t bother me in the sense that  bloggers have every right to control what happens on their Comments Sections.

But his follow-up demand indeed disturbed me. He accused me of violating the model for Biblical confrontation that Jesus outlined in Matthew 18:15-20. He said that the passage required me to first go to him privately rather than posting a correction on his  blog post. Therefore, he said, mine was the greater sin.

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A Few Thoughts About Thinking: When Our Thoughts Exalt Us

Several years ago, I had another blog. It was a great deal less focused than this one — mostly because it started as a way to showcase my writing and digital art.

Gradually, I found myself blogging more and more about the Lord. In one post, I quoted a friend of ours who said Christians need to be less concerned about what we think and more concerned about what God’s Word says. Of course he meant that we too often impose our ideas on a passage of Scripture rather than expecting Scripture to shape our ideas. But I quoted him as saying something like we think too much.

One of my readers latched on to that quote and wrenched it out of context. She understood it as putting forth the idea that Christians shouldn’t think, but instead should blindly follow religious teachers.

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Keys To Discernment: Why Paul Wrote To The Colossians (Reboot)

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Last Monday I explained that I’ll repost the few Bible Studies I wrote on Colossians before I injured my back in February. I’ll add a few remarks to these articles where I feel they need further comment, so you really might find it beneficial to read them again. Once we’ve reviewed those studies, we’ll continue working through the epistle.

As a young Christian, I would get impatient when Bible Study teachers would spend time talking about the background to whatever book they taught. I just wanted to grab verses here and there that I could shoehorn into my immediate circumstances. Textual context only mildly interested me; I had absolutely no use for historical or cultural background, thank you very much!

So if you’re groaning at the title of this post, anticipating a boring history lesson about First Century Colossae, I understand. It’s not what you expected from a study on discernment.

Don’t close this article yet, ladies! You need to know that I’m writing a little about the background to this epistle precisely because it will enable us to see how Paul taught discernment without once naming the false teachers that he refuted.

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Hearing God By Taking His Word Out Of Context? Only In Fiction

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I like watching our Little House On The Prairie DVDs. The stories are clean, sweet and moral — all rare attributes in the entertainment industry. Since my Cerebral Palsy makes it impossible to read or use my computer in bed, watching shows like Little House offers me a way to unwind in the evening.

Despite its reputation for being a spiritual show with Christian overtones, however, Little House On The Prairie fails miserably when it comes to sound theology. An episode I recently watched brought this fact home to me quite vividly, reminding me how important it is to read and apply Scripture in its context. Although the storyline celebrated the misuse of God’s Word, I want to caution against following the character’s foolish example.

In the episode, Caroline scratches her leg on a dirty nail, but forgets to clean the wound immediately. Naturally, an infection sets in, causing all sorts of complications. In desperation,  she opens her Bible. Wonderously, her eyes fall on Read More »

Who’s Being Divisive? A Lesson On Scripture Twisting To Silence Those Who Call Out Error

Titus 3 9 thru 11

Sometimes you’ve just got to laugh at the ways people use God’s Word to advance unbiblical ideas. I thought I’d heard all the Scriptures people employ in efforts to shame those who call out false teachers and/or expose erroneous doctrine, but someone recently broadsided  me with a passage I generally use to support calling out enemies of the truth. Look at the passage that she hurled at me:

But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. 10 As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, 11 knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned. ~~Titus 3:9-11 (ESV)

The application, of course, was that I am warped and self-condemned because I warn against teachers and teachings that compromise the Gospel. By warning against Beth Moore, Rick Warren, Holy Yoga, the Roman Catholic Church, etc, I am engaging in foolish controversies and stirring up division.

But am I?

Let’s review the  Bible Study I wrote on this very passage back in 2017, shall we? Hopefully we’ll remember the historical context behind this passage and thus better understand Paul’s actual point.

Paul gave Timothy similar, more detailed, instruction in 1 Timothy 1:3-7, explicitly specifying that Timothy “charge certain persons” not to teach doctrine that differed from the teaching of the apostles. This parallel passage sheds light on Titus 3:9-11, so allow me to quote it here:

As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus so that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine, nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith. The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. Certain persons, by swerving from these, have wandered away into vain discussion, desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions. (ESV)

As with the 1 Timothy 1:3-7 passage, the Titus 3:9-11 passage aims squarely at teachers who deviate from sound doctrine. So let’s examine Titus 3:9-11 more carefully.

Firstly, Bible commentators Jamieson, Fausset and Brown explain that the genealogies mentioned in verse 9 weren’t simply looking up family trees. Rather, they involved systems that ultimately led to Gnosticism. Regarding this particular verse, The Complete WordStudy Dictionary explains: “These Jews were turning the entire historical substance into mere myth. The genealogies were not treated primarily as historical documents but instead were subjected to a highly symbolic interpretive scheme. Names, dates and places supposedly contained hidden meanings which became the basis for esoteric doctrines.”

To Paul’s remark that such controversies are unprofitable and worthless, John MacArthur comments that “Proclaiming the truth, not arguing error, is the biblical way to evangelize.” Errors, such as those infiltrating the churches under Titus’ care, are best refuted by sound doctrine.

Moving to verse 10, we learn that the person who causes division is, according to Jamieson, Fausset and Brown, one who chooses to follow his or her own way rather than than submitting to Biblical teaching. The Greek word means “to choose,” and it developed into the word “heretic.” The idea is that heretics choose their lies over God’s truth. In writing this command to avoid heretics, Paul definitely addresses the false teachers who disrupted the churches in Crete.

He issued a similar command in Romans 16:17, where he stated that divisive people oppose apostolic doctrine. Those who question things in a church that deviate from sound doctrine often get branded as being divisive, but Scripture makes it clear that true heretics divide themselves from God’s Word.

Paul tells Titus to give heretics a first and second warning (compare with Matthew 18:15-17). Barnes points out that these two warnings provide the offender with opportunity to explain his or her actions and to repent. Continued violation beyond that point demonstrates the person’s commitment to rebellion. Therefore, that person must be separated from the church.

Paul concludes in verse 11 with an explanation of why divisive people should be avoided. To put it bluntly, heretics who disregard warnings prove themselves to be warped. Vincent’s Word Studies defines the word here translated as warped to mean “turned inside out.” It communicates a sense of perversion. As a result, they live in a constant state of sin.

Furthermore, heretics condemn themselves by rejecting correction and sound doctrine. Whereas those whom God saves are justified by grace, false teachers condemn themselves by preaching salvation by works and/or by other deviations from Biblical teaching. The Lord Himself, in John 3:18, made it clear that failure to believe in Him puts a person under condemnation.

Applying Titus 3:9-11 people who call out false teachers and/or expose erroneous doctrine demonstrates a lack of Scriptural knowledge. In one sense, using this passage to silence people who stand against doctrinal error is laughable. But in another sense, it’s very sad.

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What Paul’s Warning Didn’t Mean –And How We Know It Didn’t Mean That

According to ScriptureThe meaning of 1 Corinthians 1:10 seems quite obvious, doesn’t it?

10 I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. ~~1 Corinthians 1:10 (ESV)

Pretty straightforward, right? As a spokesman for the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, Paul warned the Corinthian church against having divisions within its  members. He later described the church as a unified body with each member functioning in cooperation with all the other members (1 Corinthians 12:12-30). Such unity precludes criticizing each other, clearly.

Some use 1 Corinthians 1:10 to shame those who call out false teachers who appear to be genuine Christians. We, rather than the false teachers, receive accusations of causing division within the church, as if our discernment violates Read More »