Talking About The Gospel Ain’t Necessarily Explaining The Gospel

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:

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Flashback Friday: Why I See A Connection Between Charismatic Teaching And Occult Practices

Originally published May 23, 2019:

Growing up in the 1960s, I had exposure to many occult and New Age influences. My mom, although she in some respects had turned away from her Christian Science upbringing, introduced me and my sister to horoscopes, Ouija boards and yoga. The liberal Presbyterian church (PCUSA, of course) encouraged my fascination with occult and paranormal phenomena. On a youth group ski trip the pastor’s daughter read our palms.

Very soon after that ski trip, the Lord graciously brought me to Himself, and within a few months He allowed people to confront my interest in astrology. Over the next few months He helped me renounce other forms of occult and New Age practices.

But readers of my Autobiography With Purpose series will recall that I attended Pentecostal and Charismatic churches for the first 31 years of my Christian life. True, after 18 years the Lord showed me that the sign gifts ceased when the Canon of Scripture was completed, but He let me remain in the church for several more years. Throughout those 31 years, I occasionally observed random incidents that reminded me of my occult past.

At the height of my embrace of Charismatic teaching,  for instance, I read some books on inner healing to augment my ministry with Love In Action. One evening, as I poured over LeAnne Payne’s book, The Broken Image (which, just to be clear, I do not recommend), a  close friend and co-worker came by my house to deliver stuff from the office. (I worked from home because the office was up two flights of stairs.) Instead of greeting him properly, I looked up from the book and complained, “A bunch of her stuff reminds me of the occult.”

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MichelleLesley.com With (Obviously) Michelle Lesley

It doesn’t seem possible that anyone who regularly reads The Outspoken TULIP would need an introduction to Michelle Lesley and her blog. Of all the women bloggers in Reformed circles, she is probably the best known. Celebrity status? Well, not quite. But hardly some obscure housewife with a meager following!

That said, I want to recommend MichelleLesley.com in this concluding article of my series on trustworthy women Bible teachers because she offers Biblical wisdom that few women receive. On the off-chance that you’ve actually never heard of her, I take pleasure in making her blog available to you.

I suspect most people regard Michelle as a discernment blogger because she frequently writes about popular evangelical teachers. In fact, just today she published an article evaluating Jen Wilkin, explaining her reasons for not recommending Wilkin. Over her years of blogging, Michelle has written about several teachers women should avoid. such as Beth Moore, Priscilla Shrier, Lysa TerKeurst and Christine Caine. Michelle makes it clear that she doesn’t have time to research every teacher thoroughly (her primary ministries are to her husband and children), but she definitely documents her findings quite well. Her website includes a list of Popular False Teachers and Unbiblical Trends, as well as a list of Recommended Bible Teachers.

Discernment is only one aspect of Michelle’s online ministry, however. Her overarching goal is to disciple women. She rightly asserts that discernment is just one element of Christian discipleship, not an end in itself. Therefore her blog covers a wide range of subjects, all related to the three umbrella areas of discernment (which I’ve already discussed), church involvement and Bible Study.

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The End Time With Elizabeth Prata

When people ask me about Beth Moore, I immediately refer them to Elizabeth Prata. In her blog, The End Time, Elizabeth has the most comprehensive collection of articles on Beth Moore that I have ever seen. A former investigative journalist, Elizabeth has carefully researched Moore from many different angles, and therefore has written and compiled critiques that cover her topic thoroughly. In my estimation, Elizabeth is the foremost authority on this false teacher.

But The End Time is about so much more than just Beth Moore. In addition to reporting on a variety of false teachers, Elizabeth also writes about Biblical prophesy and practical aspects of Christian living for women.

Elizabeth came to Christ relatively late in life (I believe she was in her 40’s), but she has grown in maturity remarkably fast. Her writing shows that maturity in both her theological knowledge and her tone. She is unapologetic in confronting error, as she should be! At the same time, she writes with grace and compassion toward women who find themselves caught in deception. To top it all off, she displays beautiful humility in her willingness to receive correction.

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Growing 4 Life With Leslie A

Several years ago, I stumbled across a blog that (to my knowledge) doesn’t get as much recognition as it deserves. Yet the lady who writes it consistently offers Biblical wisdom and discernment that challenges me to examine myself before the Lord. So I want to begin this series on recommended women bloggers and teachers by introducing you to Leslie A and her blog, Growing 4 Life.

Leslie shouldn’t be confused with Michelle Lesley, whom I plan to profile in a later article. Having said that, these two women have much in common, starting with their keen understanding of God’s Word and their desire to teach women how to apply it. Both firmly believe in the importance of Biblical discernment, and Leslie’s Learn to Discern series a few years ago provided excellent tools for developing discernment skills.

Discernment and an understanding of Scripture are essential to Christian growth. So Leslie, who runs a landscaping company with her husband, named her blog as both a homage to the landscaping industry and an encouragement to women as they grow in the Lord. As a result, she regularly challenges her readers to reject worldliness in favor of holiness.

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Calling Out False Teachers: Finding Love In Discernment Ministry

In Revelation 2 and 3, the glorified Christ commissions the apostle John to write letters to the seven churches in Asia Minor. As I read these letters earlier this week, the letter to the church at Ephesus grabbed my attention because of its warning to people involved in discernment ministry. Look at the passage with me, and then we’ll talk about some of its application to discernment ministry.

“To the angel of the church in Ephesus write:

The One who holds the seven stars in His right hand, the One who walks among the seven golden lampstands, says this:

‘I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance, and that you cannot tolerate evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false; and you have perseverance and have endured for My name’s sake, and have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place—unless you repent. Yet this you do have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God.’ ~~Revelation 2:1-7 (NASB)

The letter starts by commending the Ephesian church for its discernment. This church was characterized by its doctrinal purity and faithfulness to test false teachers. Verses 2 and 3 describe a church that Christians should emulate. God’s Word repeatedly commands both leaders and laity to stand against those who pervert the Gospel. Consider, for example, Paul’s instructions to Titus:

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Luther Didn’t Eat Worms, But The Diet Of Worms Feeds Us Today

If you use enough marinara sauce, a plate of worms might taste like spaghetti, but Martin Luther really didn’t eat the squiggly critters on April 16th through 18th of 1521. Nevertheless, his historic stand before the Diet of Worms on that date marked the return to the belief that Scripture is the final authority for Christian faith and practice.

According to GotQuestions.org:

Throughout the Middle Ages in the Holy Roman Empire, a “diet” was an assembly of governmental and/or religious leaders called together to settle a political or religious matter. The Diet of Worms was held in 1521 in Worms (pronounced “Vermz”), Germany, to discuss the teachings of Martin Luther. In 1517, Martin Luther had posted the 95 Theses on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. This was essentially the start of the Protestant Reformation. Between the posting of the 95 Theses and the Diet of Worms, four years later, the Protestant Reformation became a significant movement.

In 1520, Pope Leo X issued a papal bull against Martin Luther, declaring him to be a heretic. As a result, Emperor Charles V called the Diet of Worms as a court of inquisition and ordered Luther to appear and either affirm or renounce his teachings. Johann Eck, who was representing the Emperor, asked Martin Luther if he was ready to recant his heresies. After a one-day recess, Martin Luther responded, “Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Scriptures or by clear reason (for I do not trust either in the pope or in councils alone, since it is well known that they have often erred and contradicted themselves), I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted and my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and will not recant anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience. May God help me. Amen.”

What was the Diet of Worms? | GotQuestions.org

But all that happened 500 years ago. Why should we blog about it now?

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Discernment In A Time Of Persecution

John is graciously typing this blog post as I dictate to him from bed. Because I cannot type this entry myself, I will not include Scripture quotes or links to verses — doing so would be difficult to teach John. Please don’t interpret this absence of Scripture as an abandonment of God’s Word.

Regardless of your eschatology, you must admit that evil is escalating. The political situation in the United States indicates that Bible believing Christians will face varying degrees of persecution in the next few months. Regular readers of this blog know that I have been warning about this probability for the last five and a half years, yet I’m not sure any of us (including me) have really let the truth sink in.

It’s not a truth we want to face.

As Elizabeth Prata shows us in her recent post about James Coates, Canadian Christians have begun to experience real persecution. In our prayers for this pastor and his family, American Christians must keep in mind that our pastors may soon experience the same suffering that James Coates and his family are going through.

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Flashback Friday: Limiting The Reformation To October

I originally wrote this article on October 18, 2018. Regretfully. I didn’t take heed to myself. Maybe I’ll get better about it.

Reformation

From November 1, 2016 to October 31, 2017 I blogged every Tuesday about the Protestant Reformation in anticipation of its 500th anniversary. Whether or not readers appreciated that series,  I believed they needed to understand the Reformation’s ties to Biblical discernment. The 16th Century Reformers indeed set the standard for discernment ministry, so they have much to teach 21st Century evangelicals. And several of my Tuesday posts made that connection.

When October 31, 2017 had come and gone, I succumbed to the temptation to put the Reformation on the back burner in favor of writing articles that might attract more readers. I know — utter pragmatism!  The very thing I rail against when writing about Rick Warren and the Church Growth Movement, huh? But oh, those climbing stats felt good!

I assured myself that I would continue writing about the Reformation throughout the ensuing year. Maybe not every week. Certainly not on a rigid schedule! But I’d have frequent articles about Zwingli, Knox, the Council of Dort and Bloody Mary. I’d show my readers how the Reformers bravely stood against persecution for the sake of God’s Word, and how they used God’s Word to discern truth from error.

Yeah, well. Here we are in the second half of October 2018, and I realize how little I’ve written about the Reformation in the past eleven months.  The confetti from the celebration had been swept up, brand new controversies rocked evangelical circles and no one really cared what a silly German monk nailed to a Wittenberg church door on October 31, 1517. I guess I got caught up in Beth Moore’s letter to her brothers, the Southern Baptist Convention and the Woke Movement.

I’m not alone.

As October 31, 2018 approaches, a handful of Reformed bloggers have started spitting out the obligatory posts about the Protestant Reformation. I’m hopping on the sparsely populated bandwagon, as I do every October, which is probably better than nothing. But it shames me that a calendar had to nudge me into writing about it.

The Protestant Reformation was monumental in restoring the Word of God to the Church. After the First Century Apostolic era, it was the greatest move of God in the history of Christianity! Besides serving as a model for discernment ministry, it brought God’s Word back to His people, liberating us from an apostate religious system.

This Reformation shouldn’t be politely dusted off each October, only to be packed away in November to make room for Thanksgiving decorations. It should be joyfully proclaimed throughout the year, encouraging us to praise God for His mercy in the 16th Century and to emulate their zeal for the Bible. Hopefully I’ll do better at writing about it all during the coming year.

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Flashback Friday: Starting Discernment Out Right

Originally published January 24, 2019:

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Although I taught children’s Sunday School for several years,  I can’t recall once teaching the basic Bible lessons that I heard as a child (in a liberal denomination, at that). “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” “‘Love your neighbor as yourself.” “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”

Evangelicals generally have an aversion to teaching children to fear the Lord. Frankly,  we don’t even teach it to ourselves. Yet the Bible explicitly states:

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,
    and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight. ~~Proverbs 9:10 (ESV)

That standard Sunday School verse taught in the 1950s shouldn’t be downplayed, explained away or outright ignored the way it is in our postmodern evangelical culture. Perhaps a main reason that we now equate discernment strictly with polemics comes from our hesitancy to embrace the idea of fearing God.

Yet both the Old and New Testaments contain several verses urging people to fear God. Holy fear doesn’t require feeling terrorized by Him, nor does it negate His love for us. At the same time, His love for us doesn’t negate our proper response of approaching Him with an acute awareness of His holiness and our sinfulness. The apostle Paul told us to work out our salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:13).

I loved my mother. Until my late teens, I pretty much thought she could do no wrong. But when I misbehaved at school, the absolute worst punishment my teacher could inflict was telling Mom what I’d done. She never treated me harshly, but that initial look of anger and disappointment always shook me to my core. Loving her compelled me to fear her.

Loving God, then, should compel Christians to fear disappointing Him. The fear of the Lord actually encourages us to love Him by keeping His commandments (John 15:10). Rather than avoiding  talk of fearing God, we should cultivate holy fear and let it teach us to live in ways that please, honor and glorify Him.

The fear of the Lord leads us to the wisdom that helps us discern His will from the pages of Scripture. Fearing Him, as an aspect of loving Him, develops discernment in our day-to-day lives.

If we desire to be women of discernment, we must begin by developing a healthy fear of the Lord. Maybe our churches and Sunday Schools need to return to teaching this basic principle.

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