Starting Discernment Out Right

463ca-ladies2bstudy2b01Although 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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Fear Might Be The Wisest Response

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I want to continue looking at the relationship between discernment and wisdom by examining Scriptures about wisdom. Naturally, my mind immediately goes to two familiar verses in Proverbs:

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge;
    fools despise wisdom and instruction. ~~Proverbs 1:7 (ESV)

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

To many people — including evangelicals, I’m sorry to say — the fear of the Lord seems terribly outdated. To make verses like Proverbs 1:7 and Proverbs 9:10 easier to swallow, we assure young Christians that the fear referred to here means nothing more than Continue reading

It’s Time To Rethink Discernment

Psalm 19V14 B&WYes, I’ve been beating this drum about the problems with discernment ministries (particularly online discernment ministries) for over two years now, and some of my posts pretty much say they same things. In truth,  I write most of these articles in an attempt to clarify my own thoughts on the matter. If I’m selfish for taking you along for the ride, please pray that the Lord would convict me.

The advantage of struggling with this publicly is Continue reading

The Justice That Focuses On God’s Glory

glory-cloudMy time in God’s Word yesterday fascinated me, particularly in light of the Social Justice Movement that evangelicals have adopted from secular progressives. Let me show you the passage I read and follow it with a couple thoughts for you to ponder.

After this I heard what seemed to be the loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, crying out,

“Hallelujah!
Salvation and glory and power belong to our God,
    for his judgments are true and just;
for he has judged the great prostitute
    who corrupted the earth with her immorality,
and has avenged on her the blood of his servants.”

Once more they cried out,

“Hallelujah!
The smoke from her goes up forever and ever.” ~~Revelation 19:1-3 (ESV)

In the previous chapter, the apostle John had just described really gruesome judgments that God executed on those who rejected Him. To our 21st Century minds, these judgments seem more like an occasion for mourning than for praising God, and yet the text unmistakably says that the multitude John saw glorified Him precisely because of His judgments.

Notice, first of all, that the attention is completely on the Lord. I can’t help seeing a vivid contrast between this heavenly celebration of God’s justice and the man-centered understanding of justice we see in the Social Justice Movement. God’s justice reflects His glory, causing His people to praise and worship Him.

Continue reading

Shaking Off Those Guilty Fears

Guilt is a wonderful thing!

You read that correctly. God created us with the ability to feel guilt so that we would know the discomfort of violating His perfect standards. He then uses that guilt to show us how desperately we need a Savior.

Even  after we become Christians, we often feel guilt when we sin. Again, these feelings can lead us to confession and repentance, thus restoring our fellowship with the Father. So in that sense, we can also praise Him for the capacity to feel guilty. Yes, dear sisters in Christ, guilt can be a wonderful thing!

But guilt can also be a dastardly thing. It can blind us to God’s grace, convincing us that we’ve abused His mercy once too often. It turns our focus away from the sufficiency of Christ’s work on the cross, pulling us back to the same old lie that our salvation ultimately depends on us.

It’s reassuring,therefore, to look back to Jesus, remembering that His blood completely atoned for our sins if we are believers. We can shake off guilty fears that try to condemn us. Hallelujah!

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Flashback Friday: Not Afraid To Fear The Lord

I originally published this article on May 19, 2017.

 

Serious Little Boy01Evangelicals in the past 50 or so years have carefully minimized (or avoided altogether) the subject of fearing God. When, in the course of a group Bible Study, they inadvertently encounter verses about fearing God, they cough out a few sentences about simply revering Him before rapidly moving on to more manageable verses.

Fearing God isn’t politically correct anymore, even among Bible-believing Christians. We much prefer dwelling on the Lord’s goodness, compassion and love. That way, we keep Him much more approachable, even when we persist in our pet sins. Even more to the point, we make Him more attractive (we think) to non-Christians when we evangelize them. Talking about fearing Him, we reason, makes Him less marketable.

Scripture, however, never seems all that concerned with the Lord’s marketability, nor with keeping us comfortable even in our disobedience. Even the beloved book of Psalms, which often consoles false converts with poetic assurances of God’s love and mercy, insists that we need to fear Him.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom;
    all those who practice it have a good understanding.
    His praise endures forever! ~~Psalm 111:10 (ESV)

Does fearing God mean feeling literally afraid of Him? Well, yeah. Sometimes such fear is highly appropriate, actually. Such fear acknowledges His authority to establish His standards of how Christians ought to behave, and to discipline us when we violate His standards.

In considering the fear of the Lord, we must clarify that genuinely saved Christians can fear Him without doubting His love for us. Hebrews 12:6 explains that, as our heavenly Father, He disciplines the ones He loves. I realize that postmodern parenting, influenced by psychological models, often consider it unhealthy for children to fear parents, but God graciously allowed me to grow up in a time when I both knew the security of my mom’s love and feared her discipline.

I was a willful child (and, to my shame, I’m still very willful). In school, I had no problem defying a certain teacher. If he chose to punish my disobedience, I was perfectly fine with that. But I always begged him not to tell my mom. He always did, once even going to her workplace! And, although she really wasn’t as harsh with me as he was, I feared her discipline far more than I feared his.

Fearing God helps me obey Him more consistently. I know He won’t revoke my salvation because of my sin, but I also know that facing Him in judgment and accounting for ways I squandered opportunities to serve Him will be painful. I fear dishonoring Him, even as I rejoice in knowing that I will spend eternity with Him.

Fearing God gives me discernment to live in a manner that pleases Him. It teaches me holiness. Maybe fearing Him isn’t fashionable in the 21st Century, and maybe psychologists would disapprove of my fear of Him, but the Bible recommends this holy fear. It calls it the beginning of wisdom.

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Should We Compile Lists Of Questions To Ask The Lord In Heaven?

QuestionsBack in high school, college and the early years of adulthood, my friends and I used to speculate on various theological questions. When we failed to locate satisfactory answers in the Bible, we’d advise each other to add the questions to our list of things to ask Jesus when we get to heaven. Do young Christians still talk about such lists?

Lately, I’ve been remembering those remarks about having lists of questions for the Lord, and I’ve felt kind of squeamish about the concept. Perhaps reading Job a few weeks ago triggered my reactions, since God basically reprimanded Job for daring to demand explanations from Him. I think, in part, that my current distaste for entering heaven with a list of things to ask Him comes from my fear that He would administer the same rebuke to me that He administered to Job.

That’s a healthy fear. As I age, I increasingly realize the value of maintaining a fear of the Lord.

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

What gives any of us the right to question our Creator? Do we really fancy that we can hold Him accountable to us? Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t see the humility in requiring God to explain any of His decisions to us. He’s not an adolescent schoolboy who took the car keys and violated curfew. In heaven, He will interrogate us, not visa versa.

Fearing God, then, should be reason enough to shred our silly lists. But I can think of an even more compelling argument against the notion of expecting answers from Him.

When we see Jesus in heaven, will our questions really matter anymore? Or will His splendor overwhelm us so completely that our questions will totally vanish from our minds?  As I read the Bible’s descriptions of the Lord Jesus Christ, I grow more and more aware that His magnificence will dispel our earthly concerns.

15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. ~~Colossians 1:15-19 (ESV)

We forget, in our preoccupation with this life, how majestic and preeminent Christ the Lord actually is! We forget that all  creation revolves entirely around Him, and therefore that our questions take a back seat to our worship and adoration of Him.

Maybe our questions seem important now. Maybe the trials loom so large that we want to understand why He allows us to suffer. Or maybe His creation bewilders us, and we simply want to know why He made things as He did. The possible questions are almost limitless from a human perspective.

But I encourage you, dear sisters, to forget your lists of questions in favor of worshiping the Lord Jesus Christ. Think about His glory, and His worthiness to receive our praise. Anticipate an eternity of adoring Him for Who He is and delighting to see all creation worship Him fully. Looking at it that way,  will our questions really matter? I don’t think mine will.

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