This Happens When Amy Spreeman Does A Podcast

I first wrote this article over a year ago, but needed to temporarily suspend it for personal reasons.

 

OpenBible John 1I just listened to a thought-provoking podcast from Fighting for the Faith, in which Amy Spreeman, Steve Kozar, and Chris Rosebrough discuss Discerning Discernment. Ladies,  my head is spinning right now, as I continue struggling with whether or not I classify as a “discernment blogger.” And whether or not I want to classify as a “discernment blogger.” And, most importantly, whether or not the Lord wants me to classify as a “discernment blogger.”

Discernment blogging used to carry a certain prestige in Reformed circles, as we saw various trends and evangelical celebrities corrode the Gospel by handling Scripture incorrectly and/or adding to it with subjective experiences and worldly philosophies. My regular readers will recall from my Autobiography With Purpose series that many of these doctrinal aberrations hindered my spiritual development for roughly four decades, which explains my passion for exposing doctrinal error now.

Then earlier this year, bloggers whom I highly respect began pulling back from discernment ministry. They correctly pointed out that this type of blogging often degenerates into scandal mongering gossip which depends on sensationalism to attract readers.  Admittedly, I’ve sometimes put Beth Moore’s name in blog post titles knowing full well that doing so would boost my readership. Cheap trick, but it works like a charm.

Amy made a comment on that Fighting for the Faith podcast that gave me a sense of balance in this whole debate over the legitimacy of discernment ministry. She remarked that our goal isn’t so much to call out false teachers and unbiblical practices in the Church as is is to draw people back to the authority of Scripture. So many popular evangelical teachers and practices distract people from properly reading and understanding the Word of God that we need to call professing Christians (both false converts and legitimate believers) to examine everything against the standard of Scripture. Even more, we need to remind them that the Lord reveals Himself in His Word.

The debate over whether or not discernment blogging constitutes appropriate ministry will continue. It raises important questions too numerous to explore today, and my small blog certainly can’t cast any decisive verdicts.

But I do believe this 63-year-old housewife from Massachusetts can use her past experiences with doctrinal error to guide younger women to better study of God’s Word. I make no claim of infallibility (and in fact plead with you to hold my writing up against Scripture to make sure I present Biblical ideas), but I desire to encourage women toward properly understanding sound doctrine . I’ve learned that Biblical doctrine is the only way any of us can know the Lord as He has revealed Himself, and that worshiping Him in spirit and in truth (John 4:24) requires that we continually seek Him in the pages of Scripture.

Regardless of whether or not I can consider myself a “discernment blogger,” I pray that I can inspire women to open their Bibles and know the Lord Jesus Christ.  Discernment must have no other goal than to direct people to Him!

 

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Journaling: The Pitfall We Should Recognize

Little blonde angelBetween the autumn of 1977 and the spring of 1994, I kept a personal journal. I’d write about a wide variety of topics, ranging from Scriptures I’d read in my Quiet Time (frequently taken out of context and misapplied) to practical jokes I played on my friends. For the most part, however, I wrote about my disappointments, my frustrations and my fears. Toward the end of that 17-year period,  I realized that journaling served mainly to fuel my self-pity. For that reason, I abruptly quit writing it.

Perhaps some people can journal without focusing on themselves. Those people should certainly maintain journals! Their journals offer rich treasures to those who read them. But I suspect, especially in this culture that exalts feelings and believes in following psychological principles, that most people use their journals for the purpose of venting.

After 17 years of venting my feelings, I woke up to the fact that venting only keeps a person’s attention fixed on his or her problems. Venting through a journal is even worse, in my opinion, because the act of writing slows down the thought process, prolonging the focus on a subject. So when someone uses a personal journal to ruminate on their feelings, should it surprise us that we wind up wallowing in self-absorbtion?

Self-absorbtion, however,  is the antithesis of Biblical Christianity. Christ demands that His followers actually die to ourselves for His sake.

34 And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 35 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. 36 For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? 37 For what can a man give in return for his soul? 38 For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” ~~Mark 8:34-38 (ESV)

Popular evangelical teachers promise us “our best life now” and romantic dates with Jesus, urging us to get in touch with our feelings. They advise hurting women to stay home from church on Mother’s Day and write their feelings out “to the Lord.” What horrible advice!

Honestly confessing our feelings to the Lord is one thing. Job, David, Jeremiah and Jesus all had times of pouring their hearts out to God. But in so doing, they invariably wound up acknowledging His sovereign right to order their circumstances according to His will. They ultimately turned their eyes away from themselves and back to Him.

If you keep a personal journal that revolves around your disappointments, frustrations and fears, please consider the possibility that it may be locking you into patterns of self-absorbtion. If possible, turn your journal into something your descendants can read to find Christ. Let them see that, no matter what your circumstances, He remains faithful and deserves the glory.

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The First Thing Worth Seeing

Do you ever anticipate your first moments in heaven?  If so, what do you imagine?

Fanny Crosby, the prolific hymn writer who went blind in childhood, looked forward to seeing the face of her beloved Savior when  she first opened her eyes in heaven. Of course she knew about all the other wonderful blessings promised to believers in eternity, and she also felt an eagerness for them. But they took a very distant second place to Jesus as far as Fanny was concerned.

She wrote a delightful hymn detailing her anticipation of heaven. Maybe her lyrics will challenge you in how you think about your eternal home.

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The Forgotten Reason For Salvation

Holiness

Lately I’ve encountered a few unrelated comments about sanctification being God’s will for Christians. The Bible says as much. The first clause of 1 Thessalonians 4:3 reads, “For this is the will of God, your sanctification…”

In context, 1 Thessalonians 4:3 relates to avoiding sexual immorality, and certainly that’s an important aspect of sanctification. But sanctification extends far beyond our sexual behavior, doesn’t it? The Lord calls His people to be holy in all areas of life, and He even supplies the grace we need to do so.

11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. ~~Titus 2:11-14 (ESV)

Okay,  I realize I quote that passage frequently on this blog. It actually comes up in my prayer time every day as I confess my sins and pray for help in resisting temptation. This passage reminds me that God’s grace in saving me had a greater purpose than merely keeping me out of hell. The Lord gave me His saving grace so that He might purify me as His possession.

21st Century evangelicals have grown accustomed to viewing Christianity as a means to gratify themselves. I have fallen into that deceptive attitude more than once.  So naturally we rarely think about grace having the purpose of glorifying God. Holiness sounds fine in the lyrics of Contemporary Christian Music, but we don’t seriously think He saved us for the purpose of sanctifying us.

Maybe we’d better start thinking seriously.

God’s will isn’t nearly as much about our earthly comfort and happiness as it is about our sanctification.  Why? Because in our sanctification, we increasingly grow to reflect His character. We prepare for an eternity of giving Him the praise, honor and glory that rightfully belongs to Him.

Only as holy vessels, cleansed and purified from the pollutants of sin and worldliness, can we give the Lord the quality of worship that He deserves. He wills our sanctification so that we can properly and freely offer Him pure worship. Consequently, we must follow Him into sanctification, delighting to do His will.

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It Depends On Who Gets The Glory

Old Fashioned Girl

Our first installment of the 1 Corinthians 15 Bible Study is on its way. At present, I’m working through verses 1-11, sticking my nose in some commentaries, taking notes and fishing through cross-references. Don’t worry: my husband advised me against quoting a lot of my sources this time around, and I plan to follow his counsel.

I mention my preparation today because John MacArthur’s notes on verse 2 brought up the topic of false converts, using the parable of the talents as a cross-reference. This parable is obviously too lengthy to quote in a blog post, so I encourage you to click this link or grab your Bible and read it, even if it’s familiar to you.

I had never made the connection that the wicked servant who buried his one talent had never really been saved, but look with me at his interaction with his master:

24 He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, 25 so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here, you have what is yours.’ 26 But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? 27 Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. 28 So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. 29 For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 30 And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ ~~Matthew 25:24-30 (ESV)

This man honestly thought he served his master, just as false converts honestly think they serve Jesus. But he refused to use the talent because he knew it would profit his master instead of him.

Before I continue, let me remind you that parables shouldn’t be read as strict allegories, with every detail representative of something. Therefore I don’t believe it matters what the talent represents. It could be anything a false convert believes the Lord has given him or her. Jesus’ point is merely that a false convert cares more about selfish gain than about honoring the Lord.

This wicked servant cheated his master because he had a warped idea of his master’s character. Yes, the master would benefit from how his servants invested his money. But as you saw by reading the entire parable, the servants who used their talents wisely received ample rewards. Clearly, the wicked servant didn’t really know his master, and consequently his behavior showed that he had no desire to honor him.

What about us? Do we seek to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ, or do we use what He gives us to bring honor to Him? Do we accuse Him of unfairness for accepting the praise for our hard work, or are we filled with wonder and adoration that He promises to reward us for simply obeying Him? Our heart attitudes might reveal whether or not we genuinely belong to Him.

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Worthiness: Ours Or His?

Rich In Mercy

The logic goes that Jesus died for us because He saw something in us worth saving.  That perspective certainly sounds reasonable, and I’d venture to say that every one of us would love to believe it. Doesn’t it thrill you to think that the Lord saw something special and valuable in you? That you were worth saving?

Once again,  however, this interpretation of Christ’s death subtly shifts attention from Christ’s mercy and grace to us. It neglects the wretched condition of our souls by insinuating that we actually deserved God’s notice.  In fact, it pretty much implies that He had an obligation to save us. Could we even say that He is lucky to have such magnificent people in His kingdom?

As much as the idea that we possess something of intrinsic value appeals to us, nothing in the Bible supports it. On the contrary, God’s Word repeatedly emphasizes our unworthiness as a backdrop to His wondrous grace.Let me take you back to Ephesians 2:1-10 for a moment.

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. ~~Ephesians 2:1-10 (ESV)

Verses 1-3 paint a particularly nasty picture of us, don’t  they? By  nature, it says, we were children of wrath. What value could a child of wrath, dead in sin and ruled by fleshly passions, possibly have? Why would a holy God have any compelling reason for shedding His innocent blood for any of us?

Verses 4-7 answer that question. The Lord lavished His salvation on us in order to display the riches of His grace and kindness. Our salvation points, not to any imaginary worth on our part, but to His generosity in saving such undeserving sinners.

The purpose of our salvation, then, is to showcase the Lord’s character. What a wonderful God He is to extend that degree of compassion on worthless sinners who merit nothing but His wrath. Although nothing about us commends us to Him, Jesus willingly went to the cross to accept the Father’s wrath — wrath that we deserved! His atoning sacrifice highlights His graciousness and compassion, revealing what a loving God He is!

He is the worthy one, not any of us. Worship (which means the ascribing of worth) goes totally to Him. How utterly magnificent that He would choose to love vile creatures like us! The more we understand that we had no value in and of ourselves, the more we want to worship Him for His inexplicable mercy and grace.

Verse 10 completes the beautiful picture of God’s grace in saving us, declaring that He regenerates us into His workmanship. Though we have no worth of our own, Christ gives us His worth, graciously using us as His agents of good works. At this mercy, we can only praise Him.

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When Discernment Blocks Devotion

Discernment Cross

The apostle John, in the book of Revelation, begins with letters from the Lord to seven churches in Asia Minor. He addressed the church in Ephesus first.  As someone interested in discernment ministry, I believe this particular letter especially challenges me, so I decided to blog about it in hopes of benefiting any of you who share my interest in this field.

I’ll quote the whole letter in order to provide proper context.

To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: ‘The words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands.

“‘I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. Yet this you have: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.’ ~~Revelation 2:1-7 (ESV)

At first glance, this church sounds like a discernment blogger’s dream! They definitely didn’t tolerate false teachers, and bore persecution with an enviable steadfastness. They cared passionately about truth and devoted themselves to contending for the faith. Surely such zeal for God’s truth deserves abundant praise and admiration!

And the Lord indeed did praise them for their commitment to His truth. Yet He also called them to repentance, threatening to shutdown their church unless they did so.

In their zeal for truth, the Ephesians had forgotten to love Him.

Discernment ministry had become an idol, distracting them from Him. Oh sure, they worked tirelessly to uphold His name, but they focused so intently on defending truth and refuting false doctrine that they inadvertently lost their sense of awe and wonder over Christ Himself.  They forgot Him!

Of course, that pitfall could happen with any ministry. I’ve gotten so busy with various church activities that I’ve neglected to delight myself in the Lord for His own sake. Perhaps most Christians have. This sin isn’t unique to discernment ministry.

That said, John did write this letter to the Ephesians in the specific context of standing against false teachers, indicating that those of us who engage in discernment ministry need to exercise greater vigilance. We can assure ourselves that we contend for His faith precisely because we love Jesus, and in many cases that’s quite true. In many other cases, however, we’ve fallen in love with discernment ministry for its own sake, just as the Ephesians did.

Reading Revelation 2:1-7 has caused me to examine my heart on this matter. Frankly, I squirmed more than a little as I read it. I pray for God’s grace to keep my heart fixed exclusively on Him. That way, whatever discernment He graciously gives me will cause me to love Him all the more.

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