The first thing we think about when we hear the word “purity” is sexual impurity. Maybe that results from our sex saturated culture. Or maybe it exposes the depth of our own preoccupation with sex. Either way, it is the first thing that comes to our minds, isn’t it?
Perhaps we do need to begin with that connection when the subject of purity comes up, precisely because sex permeates so much of our consciousness. Sexual purity has fallen out of favor even among evangelicals. For the first time in history, evangelicals openly live together outside of marriage and see nothing wrong with that practice. Obviously, fewer and fewer professing Christians believe that sexual behavior should be confined to marriage between one man and one woman until death. In this regard, I agree that purity in sexual conduct can’t be emphasized too often or too strongly.
Was the apostle Paul thinking about sexual purity when he told Titus how older women should mentor younger women?
3 Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, 4 so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, 5 to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored. ~~Titus 2:3-5 (NASB95)
Certainly, teaching women the importance of modesty and chastity would have been a key reason for women to teach other women. It would have caused incredible temptation for a man to counsel a woman on such intimate matters. Women can (and sadly do) fall into sexual sin just as easily as men do, making it necessary and crucial to address this type of impurity. Therefore, we cannot and must not neglect this area of instruction.
In the 1980s, Cyndi Lauper popularized the song, “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.” I’ve never listened to the song in its entirety, nor do I intend to do so. But from what I understand from briefly looking it up (so that I’d spell Cyndi Lauper’s name correctly) it’s about a young woman who resists advice to be sensible about her life. She reasons that she can be sensible later in life; at her age, girls just want to have fun.
Yet the apostle Paul instructed Titus that older women should encourage younger women to (among other things) be sensible:
3 Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, 4 so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, 5 to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored. ~~Titus 2:3-5 (NASSB95)
Okay, then what does it mean to be sensible? After reading several Bible Dictionaries, I learned that it pretty much means having the wisdom to control one’s passions (or emotions). Interestingly, most women’s Bible Study materials these days not only ignore this part of the text, but often encourage women to let our feelings dictate our behavior.
Quite often, you’ll hear Christians quote the phrase, “speaking the truth in love” (a phrase from Ephesians 4:15), as if it was a fully fledged point of doctrine. Moreover, you’ll hear them emphasize love, almost as if it truth holds little consequence. By implication, love requires us to make truth palatable, even if it means changing truth or covering it up.
In the early 21st Century, love demands that we never hurt someone’s feelings.
And that’s where discernment bloggers (even the legitimate ones) get in trouble. We call out false teachers and/or identify unbiblical practices, trying our best to be charitable. And even when we manage to be charitable enough that some people accuse us of fence sitting, we still have readers calling us self-righteous and arrogant. According to most people, speaking the truth is the antithesis of speaking in love.
Maybe we should look at Ephesians 4:15 in its context to see what the apostle Paul meant.
11 And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of 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 a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. 14 As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; 15 but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love. ~~Ephesians 4:11-16 (NASB)
Doesn’t it sound as if Paul emphasizes truth in this passage? He concedes that truth must be presented lovingly, but actually love compels us to present truth and refute error.
Obviously, you can speak truth unlovingly. We’ve all read discernment blogs that, although they pointed out the errors of a given false gospel with extreme accuracy, evidenced no desire to see either that teacher or the followers of that teacher repent and receive God’s mercy. We must acknowledge the sad reality that sometimes the truth is spoken without love.
Usually, however, we don’t detect the love that inspires a blogger to say the truth about a given false teacher. Many times, our anger and hatred toward falsehood — an anger and hatred that Christians should feel and express — makes it difficult to see the love for truth that motivates the blogger. Although their demeanor certainly appears unloving, love very much compels him or her to call out that false teacher.
It’s easy to throw brickbats when a discernment blogger names a false teacher. It’s much more difficult to investigate that blogger’s claims by measuring the false teacher against God’s Word.
Most discernment bloggers have done their research, and consequently know why a teacher threatens the doctrinal purity of the Church. Rather than vilify someone who loves Christ’s body enough to warn them about dangerous teachers. perhaps we ought to appreciate their courage. Perhaps we should thank them for loving us enough to speak the truth.
3 Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints. 4 For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. ~~Jude 3-4 (NASB95)
Have you noticed an increase in articles and podcasts lately discussing if, why and how Christians should address false teachers and doctrinal error? There seems to be a growing angst within Reformed circles regarding the topic, and not a great deal of consensus.
Regular readers of my blog know that I’ve struggled with this matter for years. I don’t know if that puts me ahead of the curve or what. And it doesn’t really matter if I was onto something before it was popular or not, does it? I guess I just find it reassuring that more and more people now question certain tactics and motives of some discernment ministries.
A recent episode of Apologetics Live from Striving For Eternity made an interesting point about how good discernment ministries can take a wrong turn. Host Andrew Rappaport explained that the vast majority of discernment bloggers start out with right intentions. They see false teachers or erroneous practices among professing Christians, and they write articles correctly addressing those problems. But when those articles get lots of clicks, likes and shares, many bloggers realize that calling out the bad guys enhances the popularity of their website. So they produce more articles, sometimes cutting corners on research and ignoring context in order to convince their followers of their position. In the end, they forfeit whatever discernment they have for the sake of notoriety.
I’ve shared in this blog before that a friend of mine once dismissed my interest in church history by insisting that she cared more about the current mess in evangelical churches than about church history. The articles I wrote each Tuesday between November 1, 2016 and October 31, 2017 about the Protestant Reformation struck her as boring and irrelevant. She preferred, perhaps, to have me call out false teachers and erroneous trends.
Lately her remarks have come back to me in an unexpected way. Recently, John gave me a subscription to AGTV, an online streaming service that offers high quality Christian teaching and commentary. My favorite series so far is Steve andPaulette’sPlace, hosted by Steve Kozar of The Messed Up Church and his wife Paulette. In this series, the Kozars examine eras of Church History as those eras influence present evangelical trends.
The Kozars encourage me to keep studying and writing about Church History, even though few people care for such articles. Many bloggers (including me) feel hesitant to write about Church History after the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. 2017 taught us the discouraging lesson that our readers don’t care about church history. About any type of history. Like my friend, they are more concerned about how to fix the problems in today’s messed up church.
I know you’ve heard this Bible story a million times. Every women’s ministry gets to it eventually — usually with warnings against becoming like Martha.
38 Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. 39 And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. 40 But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” 41 But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, 42 but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” ~~Luke 10:38-42 (ESV)
But I’m not bringing the story up today to scold you if you’re an overly diligent housekeeper or pat you on the back if you neglect your house in favor of studying your Bible. Again, you’ve heard both those applications a million times, and you’re certainly not interested in hearing them from me. Furthermore, I’m equally not interested in writing about them!
But I thought about this passage in the context of our painfully evident preoccupation with secondary matters. Most of those matters desperately require attention, just as managing a household requires attention. Longtime readers undoubtedly know that I believe it’s absolutely crucial to examine trends within evangelicalism that seriously damage the Church and distort people’s understanding of Who Christ is.
All the issues we look at on this blog, from the problems with false teachers to the Social Justice Movement, are as important as cleaning the bathroom and serving nutritious meals. Neglecting them causes problems that usually harm us spiritually. Poor Martha only wanted to attend her legitimate responsibilities, just as Christians who address hot-button topics only want to attend to legitimate concerns.
But sometimes we get so caught up in dealing with secondary matters that we obscure the Lord from our conversation. When that happens, we need the same rebuke that the Lord gave Martha.
If we’re too busy with whatever issue dominates our thinking to open our Bibles and enjoy God’s revelation of Himself, we’ve made a lesser choice. Martha was, after all, giving her all to serve Jesus because she genuinely loved Him, but Mary chose to sit at His feet and soak in His teaching.
I don’t want you to neglect the issues that cause trouble in the Church today. But neither do I want those matters to end up distracting you from the Lord Himself. Mary knew where to sit. Do you?
Several years ago, John and I sat in an adult Sunday School class where the teacher asked if anyone could explain the Gospel. The church heavily emphasized evangelism, and sponsored a food pantry for the specific purpose of sharing the Gospel along with groceries. They also regularly visited a local nursing home as an evangelistic outreach. The wall of that Sunday School classroom sported a poster detailed the Romans Road. And those who had gone through the membership class had been required to share the Gospel with a friend or relative outside the church.
You would think people in that class would be stepping all over each other to answer the teacher’s question.
The silence was awkward, if not embarrassing. Finally someone answered, correctly using 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 as the basis for her response. The teacher expressed his relief that somebody knew the answer, though later he confessed to me his discouragement and frustration over the obvious confusion people exhibited when he asked a question that he assumed each of us could readily answer.
Sometimes I wonder whether or not most evangelicals could explain the Gospel. Frankly, I seriously doubt they could. Popular teachers like Rick Warren, Joel Osteen and Beth Moore have mangled it so badly with false teaching and worldly additives that few professing Christians remember what the Bible says.
I’ve included pages entitled Statement Of Faith and What Is The Gospel, Anyway on this little website, and I pray you’ll look at them once in a while. Before ladies can develop discernment, or even grow in doctrine, we need to understand the Gospel basics.
In What Is The Gospel, Anyway I wrote:
In order to understand the Good News of the Gospel, we must first understand the bad news that all human beings (except Jesus) are sinners by nature and by choice (Romans 3:10-20, Ephesians 2:1-3). As such, every person rightfully deserves to spend eternity in hell (Revelation 20:15).
God, to rescue us from His own wrath, came to earth in the Person of Jesus Christ and shed His innocent blood on the cross to atone for the sins of all who trust in Him (1 John 4:9-10, John 3:16). But He rose again, displaying His victory over sin and death (1 Corinthians 15:20-26).
The Lord calls us to respond to His death, burial and resurrection by turning from sin (Acts 2:38) and by placing our faith in Him (Romans 10:9). Jesus bore all of God’s wrath on the cross so that we could be considered righteous (Romans 5:6-11).
Once someone becomes a Christian, we can expand on the Gospel by teaching the doctrines of election, the Incarnation and so forth, helping her grow in her application of the Gospel. We can join her in studying the variety of implications involved in receiving the Gospel, sharing our wonder at God’s incredible grace. Truly, the Gospel launches innumerable topics to explore and apply!
Sadly, we can often get so caught up in the glorious ramifications of the Gospel that we lose sight of the Gospel itself. We mention it on social media and in conversations rather casually, without considering whether or not our readers and hearers understand what we mean. I know that I refer to it in nearly every article on this blog, but I seldom take time to make sure my readers know what I’m talking about.
Of course I can’t explain the Gospel in every post I write. Especially if I link to every Scripture that teaches it. Most of the time, I need to operate on the assumption that my readers know the Gospel themselves and can pull up their big girl panties. And that’s usually true.
But I get emails notifying me of new readers all the time. Occasionally, these new readers are clearly not believers, and I suspect some might be false converts. These women may have never heard a solid presentation of the Gospel, particularly if they follow people like Rick Warren, Joel Osteen and Beth Moore. They may need help understanding their need for salvation, and what the Lord has done in order to provide that salvation. Consequently, it doesn’t hurt to go back and reiterate the Gospel from time to time.
Romans 1:16, the theme verse for this blog, calls the Gospel “the power of God to salvation.” With that being the case, Christians had better know what the Gospel really is and how to articulate it accurately. All sorts of people make reference to it — including false teachers. Good discernment, as well as good evangelism, therefore depends on understanding it well enough to explain it to other people. Only the Gospel of Jesus Christ has the power to bring sinful souls to new life in Him.
Talking about the Gospel is wonderful. All of us should do it more often. But in so doing, all of us must explain it now and then.
Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, ~~Titus 2:3 (NASB95)
My mom dated a few men after Daddy died, which was definitely understandable. She was only 49 when she began dating — much too young to forget about romance. My sister and I correctly sensed that the first one didn’t like children, which was undoubtedly why we didn’t like him.
But we absolutely adored his mother! At age 75, she had flaming red hair, which she styled in one of the trendy short cuts so popular in 1965. I still remember her leopard print mini skirt and her thigh high brown leather boots. Why couldn’t our own grandmother dress like that? Best of all, she shared our enthusiasm for the Beatles! Mom taught us the word “flamboyant,” using it to describe her. And I so hoped that I would be as flamboyant when I got that old.
That lady amused us. We’d laugh at her obvious attempts to appear young and with it, aware of the incongruity between her age and her demeanor. As much as we delighted in her mini skirts and embrace of our music, something deep down told us that she wasn’t behaving with the dignity befitting an elderly woman.
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.
As the Internet shrinks the world, exposure to false teachings grows more common than ever. Just Google “Women’s Bible Study” and you’ll immediately be hit with Beth Moore, Priscilla Shirer and Anne Graham Lotz. There are also lesser known teachers whom I haven’t researched, many of whom more likely than not mishandle God’s Word at some level. I’m not saying that all women Bible Study teachers are false teachers (Susan Heck and Martha Peace are certainly trustworthy women), but by and large it’s much easier to find doctrinal error than to find solid teaching.
So it’s more crucial than ever to follow Jude’s example of contending for the faith (please see Jude 3). Offering correction when we see doctrinal error, although it usually seems harsh and unloving, is really one of the most compassionate acts a Christian can perform. Sometimes we’ll actually convince someone to turn away from heresy and embrace Scriptural truth.
In no way should we minimize the value of contending for the faith!
At the same time, we must recognize our potential to contend in an argumentative attitude. All too often, I’ve been guilty of feeling my oats to such a degree that I have sought out devotees of Beth Moore simply so that I could pick a fight. I stayed in those verbal battles, determined to show my opponents my superior debating skills. In short, I contended with impure motives.