Category Archives: Discernment

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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Why I Regret Using Hillsong’s Music As Part Of My Wedding (And Why You Should Avoid The Group)

9af2c-deviationThe song, as far as I could tell, focused on the Lord’s incomparable greatness and sought His help to worship Him with everything in me. It reminded me that not even the wonderful man next to me could ever mean as much to me as Christ. Although I committed myself to John that day, I maintained a higher commitment to my Savior. Therefore I believed the song fit our wedding perfectly!

At the time, I had no idea that Hillsong, the supposedly Christian group that wrote and popularized the song, represented Hillsong Church, an extreme Charismatic church that promotes Word of Faith teachings. Sadly, I have since learned the truth about the church, and have consequently been convinced to categorically avoid their music.

Over the almost 15 years since my wedding, I’ve had more exposure to Hillsong’s music through the church we attended early in our marriage, and some of those songs betrayed the group’s aberrant theology.  As my exposure to their songs increased, I also began coming across articles about the church, its beliefs and finally its ambiguous posture toward homosexuality.

The difficulties with Hillsong can’t be contained in a single blog post, particularly when I’ve just spent an hour rummaging through Google searching for a definitive article that would conveniently consolidate all the documentation I want in one handy place. I can only urge you to research Hillsong Church for yourselves, asking why they have women pastors, why an unrepentant homosexual serves on the worship team of their New York church and why their music never mentions repentance or God’s wrath.

Notice that I have trouble making a distinction between Hillsong’s music and their church. This overlapping is precisely the reason we must avoid their music. Music has tremendous power over human emotions, which in turn inform how we think. The doctrinal imprecision of Hillsong’s lyrics, coupled with the hints of Word of Faith ideology, lower a listener’s resistance to their church’s message. For that reason Bible-believing Christians must regard their music as highly damaging.

We live in an age that celebrates emotion at the expense of Biblical doctrine. Hillsong’s music thrives on this tendency, subtly pulling people in to its Prosperity Gospel. As discerning Christian women, however, we must recognize the dangerous influence of Hillsong’s music, and the even more dangerous teachings of their church. Buying their music only finances their spread of false teaching. Using their music in our weddings, whether intentional or not, endorses doctrinal error that might cause others to deviate from sound teaching. And we just can’t take those risks.

 

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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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Saturday Sampler: April 2 — April 8

Three BeautiesLeslie A., who blogs at Growing 4 Life, writes Learn to Discern: Living in the Light to instruct and encourage those of us who are labeled as negative for our interest in discernment.

In her latest blog post for Biblical Woman, Candi Finch answers the question, Did I Educate Myself Out Of Marriage? She gently takes us back to the Word of God to correct worldly ideas about attracting a man as well as about marriage in general.

Although Denny Burk’s article, Why the Church Needs More Gray Hair, specifically addresses men, we “women of a certain age” can also benefit from his comments.

I love it when other bloggers address my pet peeves. In His Name is Yahweh, Jesse Johnson of The Cripplegate addresses the superstitious avoidance of using God’s Name — even in English Bible translations.

What does it mean to teach by allegorizing the scriptures? asks Elizabeth Prata of The End Time. Elizabeth helps us understand appropriate rules of interpreting and applying the Word of God.

KrizSummer artfully contrasts the world’s view of love with the Biblical definition of it in her post, Love is NOT Like That. Besides reminding us of basic points,  she adds thoughts that few people (including Christians) consider.

 

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A Sinful Disagreement

Open Bible 03A woman speaking at a retreat I attended years ago shocked me by stating: “I don’t agree with Paul concerning the roles of women.” Now, it’s one thing to dislike the gender roles delineated in Paul’s epistles, and I admit to struggling with the prohibition against teaching in terms of this blog. (I don’t know how many men read it, but I try to discourage them from doing so.)

In disagreeing with Paul, this speaker was actually disagreeing with Scripture. Her comment disturbed me then, and it has continued to disturb me throughout the years. The entire Bible, whether we like it or not, is God’s Word. As such, it claims authority over us and leaves no room for dissension.

16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. ~~2 Timothy 3:16-17 (ESV)

If God Himself has breathed out Scripture, then the gender roles it prescribes obviously reflect His intent for men and women. For that matter, the Word of God reflects His intent in regard to a wide variety of issues. When we elevate our opinions over Scripture, daring to disagree with certain parts, we betray our arrogance.

Let me clarify why I call it arrogance. If we don’t believe the Bible to be God’s Word, then we subjectively determine our own moral and ethical standards, thereby making ourselves God. And if we claim to believe the Bible is God’s Word, then any disagreement with its human writers is actually disagreement with God. Either position makes me shudder!

A friend of mine often says, “It’s not about what we think; it’s about what God says.” His maxim doesn’t mean (as some have misinterpreted) that Christians ought to disengage our intellect. On the contrary, studying Scripture and accurately applying its teachings in practical ways (such as a woman blogging about the things of the Lord) requires discernment, and discernment is an intellectual exercise. My friend’s point is that our opinions don’t matter as much as what God clearly says.

Yes, God says many things that I, in my flesh, really don’t like. It would feel good to support gay marriage, indulge in sex outside of marriage, brag about my “accomplishments,” spend money exclusively on myself, and be a woman pastor, but all those pursuits disregard Biblical instruction. How I feel about those matters must bow to the Lord’s wisdom. He is, after all, both Creator and King, having full authority to determine how things should function. How can a Christian possibly disagree?

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Saturday Sampler: March 26 — April 1

Butterfly SamplerJohn Ellis’ piece in PJ Media, Teenage Boy Sues School Over Transgender Bathrooms is a political article rather than a specifically Christian one, but it serves as a reminder that our culture has chosen a path that degrades most of society. Christians must prepare to be marginalized as a new version of “morality” takes over.

Continuing her series on discernment at Growing 4 Life, Leslie A. writes Learn to Discern: Acknowledging the War. Find out how (and why) spiritual warfare fits into using discernment properly.

Does the Lord care how we worship Him? Rebekah Womble, blogging at Wise In His Eyes, believes He does. Her blog post, The Freedom of Worshipping God’s Way (she spelled worshiping with two p’s, not me), helps us understand why we must avoid self-styled approaches to worshiping a holy God.

Why Bargain With God?, a post that Kennedy Mathis wrote for Biblical Woman, brings back memories of my struggles as a single woman. But the principle she’s learned really applies  to any struggle Christians have.

As you can tell, I appreciate the series on cessationism that Jordan Standridge has been doing for The Cripplegate this month. His latest article, Three Reasons God is a Cessationist, employs arguments I’ve heard before, but they’re not common arguments. Please, if you have any Charismatic or continualist leanings, consider the points he makes.

Cameras Buettel, writing for the Grace To You Blog, says You Might Be A Pharisee If… This essay helps us examine ourselves (and others) more effectively to make sure we remain faithful to the Bible.

Jennifer of One Hired Late In The Day writes Same Bible, different beliefs, showing how the Lord helped her work though a perplexing question. And while you’re on her website, please check out Deconstructing Absurdity: a discernment lesson to watch her tackle a recent Tweet by Rick Warren.

R.C. Sproul posts TULIP and Reformed Theology: Unconditional Election on the Ligonier blog. Appealing to Scripture, he both explains the doctrine of election and deals with the argument that election is unjust.

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