Category Archives: Discernment

Saturday Sampler: October 8 — October 14

Saturday Sampler graphic

Mark McIntyre, in Attempts at Honesty, asks us to consider whether or not Christian on Christian crime apples to us. His comment on discernment ministries may prick a bit, but it alone makes the blog post worth reading.

Do you ever feel tempted to skip reading your Bible? I sure do! So I appreciate Michelle Lesley’s response in The Mailbag: I love the Bible, but I have to force myself to read it. (No, I didn’t submit the question.) Michelle answers this question with honesty and compassion while not compromising the truth in any way.

Not that Christians should still be confused on this matter, but the author of Unified in Truth answers the question, Can women teach or exercise authority over a man? with simple appeals to the Word of God. There’s really nothing to complicate the issue except our rebellion.

Ouch! Erin Benziger does some necessary, but painful, wielding of the Sword of the Spirit with her article Acceptable Sins Not Excepted: Gossip in Do Not Be Surprised. She also encourages those of us who struggle with this sin to remember God’s grace.

According to Scott Slayton of One Degree to Another, Before You Get Angry about a News Story you might want to ask yourself some probing questions. Our “righteous indignation” may not be as righteous as we think.

You’ll have to read Elizabeth Prata’s The Gathering Storm in The End Time all the way through to get what she’s saying, but I urge you to work through her crucially important essay. Believe me, this lady understands where our society is headed, and we need to pay attention.

Although I don’t have the time to sign up for the online Bible Studies that Lisa Morris offers, I enjoy reading the companion blog posts she features in Conforming to the Truth. Launching her study of James, Lisa writes Genuine Faith: Knows Considers and Asks Without Doubting in a manner that encourages us to walk through trials as disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. I believe you’d like reading her thoughts on James 1:1-5.

Usually I won’t include articles in Saturday Sampler if they quote someone I have significant disagreements with (like Michael Brown) or favorably reference unbiblical practices (like psychology). Walt Heyer’s article, The Transgender Matrix: It’s Time to Choose the Red Pill in Public Discourse is a necessary exception. Heyer lived as a transgendered woman for eight years, only to realize that his surgery couldn’t change his genetic makeup. His article challenges politically correct assumptions about transgenderism, and for that reason  I feel compelled to recommend it.

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What John Calvin And Martin Luther Say To Rick Warren And Beth Moore

Medieval Tower

Yesterday I tried to demonstrate that today’s popular teachers who promote new paradigms and/or claim to receive personal revelations from God are completely different from the Reformers of the 16th Century. I noted that, while these present-day teachers distract us from Scripture, the Reformers called Christians back to God’s Word.

So why should we bring up 500-year-old people instead of tackling Beth Moore, Rick Warren and the others directly?  How does understanding a group of religious dissenters from the Renaissance help us combat the false teachings that permeate 21st Century evangelicalism? Most Christians (even those who have excellent discernment abilities) ask such questions.

And in some respects, the people asking those questions have a point. Yet many of the errors that Beth Moore, Rick Warren and others make run parallel to errors that Martin Luther, John Calvin and the other Reformers had to correct.

For example, Beth Moore often bases her teachings on visions and personal revelations she claims to have received from the Holy Spirit. A simple Youtube search on “beth moore visions from god” will document this fact. One of the reasons discernment bloggers warn so strenuously against Beth Moore is precisely because of her extrabiblical revelations.

But did you know that John Calvin devoted Chapter 9 of his seminal book, The Institutes of the Christian Religion, to the very topic of extrabiblical revelations? It’s a short chapter, which you can read by clicking this link, but it offers a Scriptural argument (as long as you know that he understands prophecy to mean the Canon of Scripture) against personal revelations.

On a wider scope,  Rick Warren’s statement that Catholics and Protestants have the basic doctrines of Christianity in common probably would have perplexed an older Martin Luther. Hadn’t Luther risked his very life refuting Rome’s teaching that grace came through the sacraments and through purchasing leftover merits accrued by Mary and the saints? Hadn’t he insisted that justification comes through faith alone?

Until the Catholic Church rescinds the Council of Trent, which stridently condemns the doctrine of salvation by faith alone, Protestants must recognize that Catholics preach another gospel. Therefore we cannot accept Rick Warren’s embrace of Roman Catholicism. The very Reformation itself exposes Rick Warren as, at best, a seriously compromised evangelical.

Of course, we must ultimately measure truth by the Bible, not by the Reformers. Calvin and Luther had a few blind spots of their own. But the Reformers teach us how to apply Scriptural principles to teachers like Beth Moore and Rick Warren. Studying the Protestant Reformation enhances our discernment. Don’t underestimate its value.

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Saturday Sampler: October 1 — October 7

Fantasy Flowers Sampler

Fall has arrived, meaning that the time all too quickly approaches when cold New England winters will prevent John and me from going anywhere. Including church. We grieve that many able-bodied evangelicals don’t appreciate the privilege of weekly church attendance. Perhaps Scott Slayton’s post, What You Miss When You Don’t  Gather With Your Church in  One Degree to Another, can give you a different perspective on the importance of meeting with your church as often as possible.

In Growing 4 Life, Leslie A. lists Five ways to know that you are too in love with yourself. Gulp! Her insights don’t  comply with psychological principles, but they definitely agree with God’s Word. Please make this one a high priority on your reading list!

I love Rachelle Cox’s Let’s Get Real About Women’s Discipleship in Gospel-Centered Discipleship. This article puts forth some unexpected thoughts about ways women disciple each other, and I think those thoughts might encourage some of you. See what you think.

For an accurate and concise explanation of Revelation verses Illumination, please visit Unified in Truth and start using the two terms Biblically. If you still believe that the Lord gives revelation now, you may need to rethink your theology.

Some of you are probably married to elders in your church. If so, you might appreciate An open letter to elder’s wives by Andrew Gutierrez in The Cripplegate. I find it also instructive to those of us who are friends with women married to elders. Let’s not place these ladies in awkward positions.

As an introduction to a new series in her Do Not Be Surprised blog, Erin Benziger writes about The Lie of ‘Acceptable’ Sins. This series, she promises, won’t be comfortable, but it will lead us to find comfort in the Gospel of God’s grace. I’m looking forward to it, knowing that Erin writes with fidelity to the Scriptures and with reverent passion for the Lord.

For a truly intriguing discussion on a perplexing passage in Genesis, you shouldn’t miss Mercy, Hope, and The Tower of Babel by the author of A Narrow-Minded Woman. She brings out a variety of points that I’ve never noticed, making the incident much more compelling and applicable. I especially like her emphasis on the sovereignty of God.

In an article for Meet the Puritans, Joel Beeke enumerates Ten Lasting Fruits of the Reformation. Those who consider history to be boring and irrelevant should read this piece, if only so that they can see why geeks like me keep writing about the Reformation as if it actually matters.

Have you been sending positive thoughts to Las Vegas this week? In Why Your Positive Thoughts Are Not Helping Anyone, Josh Buice of Delivered By Grace explains why Christians err when they speak of sending positive thoughts. He also tells us how we can actually help hurting people.

I want to close this week’s edition of Saturday Sampler by sharing the video below of the sermon my pastor, Jeremy Garber, preached at First Baptist Church in Weymouth, MA last Sunday. The reminder to use discernment fits so seamlessly with the purposes of this blog that I believe I must include it.

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How Could Understanding Sola Scriptura Apply To 21st Century Evangelicals (Or Does It?)

sola-scriptura-02October 2017 has arrived, bringing more intensified blog posts and podcasts about the Protestant Reformation. Hopefully a few evangelicals will gain interest in this watershed moment in church history (indeed, in world history) as the conversation escalates.

Sadly, most probably won’t.

History in  general bores most people. I’ve mentioned before that one friend of mine prefers to concentrate on the mess in the 21st Century Church rather than study what happened 500 years ago. To her, the Reformation seems largely irrelevant. And I definitely agree that the visible Church has very serious problems that Christians should address vigorously. Sitting in an ivory tower memorizing the Five Solas seems ineffectual when people like Beth Moore, Jen Hatmaker and Lysa TerKeurst are actively promoting false teaching and obscuring the truth.

Yet I would argue that false teaching proliferates precisely because most evangelicals have ignored, neglected and/or forgotten the Five Solas and other legacies of the Protestant Reformation. Sola Scriptura (Scripture alone), for example, would go a long way in correcting most of the errors in present-day evangelicalism.

By 1517, the Roman Catholic Church had devolved into a religious system that suppressed the Gospel for the sake of political power. Popes depended on the unquestioning obedience of the laity, and consequently they developed a theology that made people rely on works and religious taxation (as exemplified in the sale of Indulgences) in order to retain their hold on people.

Keeping the Bible and the Mass in Latin helped them maintain control over everyone. By making God’s Word inaccessible to all but the highest levels of clergy, the Roman Catholic Church avoided questions about its unbiblical doctrines and practices. As you might expect, therefore, the Reformers’ emphasis on preaching the Word and translating it into languages that people could read for themselves posed a substantial threat to Rome.

Today, the Bible is readily available in an astounding variety of formats, and most false teachers will encourage their followers to study it. They obscure it, however, by promoting supplemental teaching, mystical experiences or self-centered interpretations that cause people to follow them. They discourage proper hermeneutics and rush to annex psychology,  Charismatic gifts and/or mysticism to Bible Study, thus distracting people from the clear teaching of Sacred Text.

Studying the Protestant Reformation, and observing how the Reformers drew people back to the Bible, would go a long way in correcting many flaws in the present-day church. As we see how Luther, Tyndale, Calvin and other 16th Century Reformers insisted on Sola Scriptura and the other Solas, we learn to resist error and cling to the truth. If ever a generation needed to study the Reformation, it’s this one.

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The Negation Of Reason By Sensuous Minds

49575-before2bthe2bcrossThrough a variety of circumstances, I’ve recently been exposed to young women in the Millennial generation. With one notable exception, I don’t really like what I see. The irresponsibility and self-centeredness appalls and saddens me. This generation, from what I see, exchanges reason for experience and pragmatism, paying little attention to long-term ramifications of their decisions. They pay even less attention to how their behaviors affect others.

In short, they possess poor reasoning skills. As a result, they exercise poor judgment, and then cast themselves as innocent victims when they face the consequences of that poor judgment. Between the immediacy of social media and the indoctrination of liberal colleges and Hollywood, Millennials have never learned to think for themselves.

To be fair, those attitudes have definite roots in my generation: the Baby Boomers. We set the example of selfishness and exaltation of feelings over facts. We implicitly taught them to use their emotions and desires as standards, insisting that moral absolutes depend on what their personal experience tells them.

Interestingly, after dealing with some of these women over the past couple weeks, my personal study of Colossians today brought me to a passage that, in part, applies to the deterioration of reasoning skills that I see in these women.

18 Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, 19 and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God. ~~Colossians 2:18-19 (ESV)

In context, these two verses warn against false teachers who claim special revelation from spiritual experiences they supposedly have. In future posts, maybe we can discuss these verses in that light. But today it occurred to me that a sensuous mind (whether or not it leads to a person becoming a false teacher) invariably leads someone away from clear reason.

A sensuous mind celebrates feelings over truth. It depends on personal experience and desires to direct its course, making truth dependent on the person’s subjective impressions rather than on God’s Word. It certainly rejects Christ as the Source of wisdom.

As I said earlier, Millennials don’t have a corner on living in response to sensuous minds; Boomers and Gen Xers taught them that life revolves around what they feel and want. They simply believe what we’ve modeled for them.

Naturally, those who don’t know Christ first need to hear the Gospel. They need to understand that truth exists apart from them instead of being determined by their feelings and desires. And even those who profess to know Him require guidance back to Scripture, learning to reason from its truths. We owe these young ladies nothing less.

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Teachers Need To Tremble

Negative GirlAs Bible-believing Christians, we certainly have a responsibility to confront sin in our Christian brothers and sisters, as well as in our culture at large. In no way do I want my readers to infer by today’s essay that I’ve done a 180 regarding this matter. Biblical discernment often requires taking a visible stand against ideas and people that contradict sound doctrine.

Furthermore, discernment necessitates making judgments based on the Word of God. So yes, there’s an appropriate time and place for judging sin within the Body of Christ (see, for example, 1 Corinthians 5:9-13). In our exercise of discernment, however, that same Word of God commends us to confront sin in an attitude of humility and reverent fear.

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. ~~Galatians 6:1-3 (ESV)

This passage encourages us to address sin in fellow believers. But I want you to particularly notice the emphasis on then admitting our own vulnerabilities to the very sins we call out in others.

Sometimes, we can think we’re pretty hot stuff. We see the ways that other professing Christians dishonor the Lord, and we know all the Scriptures to use in urging them to repent. But we forget that we also cave into temptation — many times the same temptation that we just corrected in that other person. When that happens, the person we corrected has every right to judge our hypocrisy.

Of course I’m not saying that we have to be perfect in order to confront sin in others. Actually, I’m saying something almost opposite. In correcting someone, we must be aware of our own propensity to sin. Therefore we must approach the issue knowing that we also need God’s grace as we aspire to live in obedience and holiness. The same Lord Who demands holiness in others also demands holiness in us.

This responsibility particularly weighs on those who teach. The Lord’s half-brother James points this principle out in his epistle:

Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. ~~James 3:1 (ESV)

As a blogger (and perhaps even a discernment blogger), I tremble a bit at passages like Galatians 6:1-3 and James 3:1. Bloggers, in essence, serve as role-models to our readers, even if we blog simply for the purpose of thinking out loud. The act of blogging automatically transforms us into teachers. So when I write posts instructing my readers towards holy living and obedience to God’s Word, the Lord holds me responsible to live consistently with my writing.

Please understand, therefore, that I write with a profound sense of responsibility to align my thoughts, attitudes and behaviors with the Biblical principles that I set before you each time I blog. If I address a sin in others or advocate personal holiness in a specific area, rest assured that my husband and the leadership of my church watch me carefully. More importantly, the Lord watches. I write with the understanding that I can be tempted.

May all of us cultivate that type of understanding and keep watch on ourselves.

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Judge Not, But Be Discerning?

Judge NotBefore we examine ways that Biblical discernment directs our actions, leading us to personal holiness, let’s look at the relationship between discernment and judging. Certainly, discernment is an aspect of judging ourselves, others and the surrounding culture by the standard of God’s Word.

Some of you are probably objecting to what I just typed, frantically wanting to remind me that the Lord Jesus Christ specifically taught against passing judgment. Even the most militant non-Christians believe that verse, which they’ll quote without hesitancy. And of course, I can’t deny that Jesus did, in fact, command us not to judge. But looking at the verse in context helps us understand what He actually meant.

 “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.

“Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you. ~~Matthew 7:1-6 (ESV)

And later in the chapter:

15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. 18 A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus you will recognize them by their fruits. ~~Matthew 7:15-20 (ESV)

In the first passage, Jesus condemns hypocritical judgment, commanding that we judge ourselves before judging someone else. Once we’ve properly addressed our own sin through confession and repentance, however, we can discern sin in others. That discernment, in turn, enables us to correct our brothers and sisters in Christ. It also helps us determine when someone wouldn’t receive godly correction (and therefore should be left to God’s judgment).

The second passage goes even further by commanding us to judge whether or not someone is a false teacher by evaluating that person’s teachings and conduct. In essence, the Lord tells Christians to judge those we listen to and read to see how their teachings and conduct lines up with Scripture.

In making judgments, we must first judge our own teachings and conduct. No, we don’t have to be perfect before we judge someone else, but we do need to humbly admit our sin with an attitude of repentance. We can’t coddle our sin, especially if we then condemn the very same sin in another person. We must be willing to turn from that sin through the grace God gives us.

If we self-righteously judge someone for (as an example) dressing immodestly when we’re flirting with somebody at the gym, we need to readjust our focus and deal with our own immodesty before we address that gal who shows too much cleavage. Once we’ve stopped our immodest banter with the guy at the gym (do we really need to work out during the time he goes?), then maybe we can talk to our friend about her wardrobe, acknowledging the struggle both of you have in the area of purity.

Discernment is a good thing, unless we dispense it hypocritically. Jesus calls us to make judgments between good and evil, truth and error and obedience and sin all the time. But discernment must begin with a willingness to judge ourselves first.

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