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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Lysa TerKeurst And The Challenge To Discernment Bloggers

Teardrop RoseAfter reading that Lysa TerKeurst has decided to divorce her husband, I wanted to follow Leslie A’s lead by sharing a few thoughts of my own. As I type, I pray that my words will honor the Lord Jesus Christ rather than generate vicious gossip. So I’ll begin this article by asking that all of us (myself included) pray for Lysa and her husband Art to search the Scriptures and (if at all possible) find ways of reconciliation.

My greatest fear in this matter has been that discernment bloggers would use this divorce as a “gotcha” moment. Indeed, I’ve been struggling with that very temptation all weekend. Lysa’s ministry has been more than questionable on several fronts, and this situation seems like a perfect opportunity to show her followers that she shouldn’t be trusted.

Well, she shouldn’t be trusted, but this isn’t the appropriate time to talk about the problems with her ministry. Again, I agree with Leslie A that it’s a time for compassion. Can you imagine how humiliating it must feel, after writing books on marriage and speaking to large audiences about having successful relationships, to publicly announce that you’ve initiated a divorce? In that respect, Lysa TerKeurst exercised tremendous courage.

Thankfully, I haven’t seen any discernment bloggers celebrating Lysa’s downfall, though I’ve heard that some of them have been a little giddy. Perhaps as this week gets going, some less scrupulous bloggers will emerge and write self-righteous blog posts about this divorce. They’ll quite probably rationalize that they’re simply showing people the truth about Lysa TerKeurst. But in reality they’ll be capitalizing on someone else’s suffering, just to demonstrate their supposed discernment skills.

To such bloggers, I’d issue a challenge. Please examine your hearts. Is discrediting Lysa TerKeurst at this particular point in time the most godly response to the situation? Would you consider praying, with sincerity and compassion, that the Lord would use this terrible tragedy to lead this woman into His Word so that He can purify her theology? And, like Leslie A, would you humbly look at your own marriages with the understanding that you might be just as vulnerable.

Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. ~~1 Corinthians 10:12 (ESV)

Discernment ministry can so easily lead us into pride, particularly as we point out false teaching that comes from popular teachers. But the news that Lysa TerKeurst is filing for divorce challenges me to use a different type of discernment. I must have wisdom regarding when to write about her errors and when to humbly pray for the Lord to gently lead her to repentance. And I must realize how easily  I fall into sin.

Lysa TerKeurst’s divorce is nothing we should gloat over. Nor is it, to paraphrase our last President, a crisis that discernment bloggers shouldn’t waste. It should grieve us, driving us to humility and compassion as we seek for God to glorify Himself through this sad turn of events.

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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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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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Saturday Sampler: May 21 — May 27

Bows SamplerReflecting on her personal study of Titus 3, Leslie A. of Growing 4 Life reminds us that For So We Once Walked. Her insights help us have humility toward God and compassion toward non-Christians.

16-year-old Squid,  purveyor of Squid’s Cup Of Tea, is wise beyond her years. Her recent post, Not a Bad Temptation, offers a fascinating take on Eve’s disobedience in the garden. Why didn’t I have the caliber of discernment she has when I was young?

In a creative, but pointed essay in The End Time, Elizabeth Prata shows us how the Bible might read If Jeremiah, John the Baptist and Paul were Armimian… This piece is entertaining, and yet it wonderfully demonstrates the sovereignty of God in electing us to salvation.

Examining tongues, prophecy and healing as present-day Charismatic churches practice them, John Chester explains Why Our Church Isn’t Charismatic in Parking Space 23. As a former Charismatic, I appreciate his clarity in demonstrating how the current interpretation of these gifts differs from their Scriptural functions.

Jennifer at One Hired Late in the Day responds to the timely question How do we love and engage with our unbelieving friends without compromising our testimonies? In this era of political correctness and unbridled sexuality, Jennifer’s advice offers encouragement and wisdom.

Recycling an essay she wrote two years ago, Michelle Lesley ministers to those who need to find a new church, either because they’ve relocated or because their present church fails to uphold Biblical doctrine and practices. Throwback Thursday ~ Six Questions for a Potential Church includes links to three other posts that list important things to ask pastors or elders before joining a church.

Along those lines, Nichols T. Batzig, in his blog, Feeding on Christ, writes The Weight of the Church as encouragement to factor in the availability of solid churches when considering a move or a college.  Batzig provides an excellent perspective.

Infamous abortionist Kermit Gosnell falsely believes himself to be a Christian, and has recently published a manifesto attempting to defend his actions from Scripture.  In 5 verses used to justly abortion, Jesse Johnson of The Cripplegate exposes Gosnell’s wrong use of God’s Word. This blog post both shows that abortion can never be defended as a moral act and affirms the importance of properly using the Bible.

Reformation 500 has been steadily posting daily history lessons highlighting various events of the Protestant Reformation. In their article, Ignatius Loyola, they present a powerful discernment lesson by comparing and contrasting Ignatius Loyola and Martin Luther. The article applies so well to evangelicals in 2017.

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Tolerance, Embracing And Making Proper Distinctions

Rainbow Bible02When did the definition of tolerance change? It used to mean putting up with disagreeable circumstances or people despite your personal feelings about them. As a child with Cerebral Palsy, for example, I was taught that, even though I didn’t like my leg and back braces, I needed to tolerate them during school hours. I didn’t have to celebrate them. As a matter of fact, I had perfect freedom to voice my distaste for them as often as I wished. But I had to tolerate them by wearing them. Even to church and Sunday School.

Tolerance in the 21st Century, apparently, means something far different. Particularly with respect to the LBGTQ community, tolerance now requires enthusiastic agreement with their lifestyles, even to the point of finding new ways of interpreting God’s Word in order to embrace those lifestyles.

Meanwhile, of course, those who stand firm on Scriptures that call homosexuality a sin don’t deserve any tolerance from society. We must be corrected, marginalized or silenced. Our pastors must be threatened with prison if they preach forgiveness for anyone who repents of same sex relationships. Christians who refuse to participate in same sex weddings have been successfully sued, with some actually losing their businesses because they wouldn’t compromise their convictions.

To those readers who belong to the LBGTQ community, please understand that I (and the vast majority of Bible-believing Christians) accept you, just as we accept heterosexuals who engage in sexual sin. We call your behavior sin, certainly, just as we call premarital sex, adultery and divorce sin, but we affirm that Christ can cleanse you as thoroughly as He has cleansed us.

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. ~~1 Corinthians 6:9-11 (ESV)

Apart from Christ, I am sexually immoral, an idolater, greedy and a reviler. I hardly have the moral superiority to look down my nose at lesbians, transgendered people or homosexuals when I remember my own sins. And if you don’t want the Lord to take you out of your sin, I’ll still accept you. I can tolerate your lifestyle. I can enjoy your company, and might even treat you to lunch in Boston.

But I can’t condone anyone’s sin, regardless of whether you’re gay or straight. I’ll love you enough to say that you need to repent as much as I need to repent. Although I tolerate your lifestyle, I must lovingly warn you that, when Jesus returns, He won’t tolerate anyone’s sin.

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