A Warning From The SBC

SBC TrashJohn and I have been praying rather intently about the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention. As Michelle Lesley wrote recently, the Convention has several serious problems needing correction right now. We see a sad and disturbing compromise with the world that alarms Al Mohler. In my opinion, conservative Christians in every denomination should be concerned. The compromise that threatens our denomination today could easily threaten your denomination or independent church tomorrow.

Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. ~~1 Corinthians 10:12 (ESV)

Now is not a time for sanctimonious fingers to point, as if we’re somehow immune to the hypocrisy that, as I write, displays itself in Dallas this week. On the contrary, it’s a time for humility and prayer.

First, we must recognize our own flirtation with worldly ideas and philosophies. Let’s honestly admit that every one of us struggles with the temptation to bend Scripture to fit popular opinion. That temptation drives us to prayer and Scripture as we depend on the Lord to keep us from being double-minded.

You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.~~James 4:4-8 (ESV)

Clearly, the push to elect a woman (possibly Beth Moore) as SBC president shows affinity with worldly standards. A denomination known for revering God’s Word should not play semantics in order to elevate a woman to a position of authority over men. Even if Beth Moore was doctrinally sound (which she isn’t), electing her to the presidency would send the message that secular culture determines how we interpret the Bible.

Wrong message, SBC!

Faithful Christians who love God’s Word should absolutely speak out against all the compromises in the SBC. We should earnestly pray that God would bring people to repentance, causing our denomination to unite around solid Biblical teaching, not around worldly ideas that require us to manipulate Scripture. Whether you’re within the Southern Baptist denomination or not, we desperately need your prayers that we submit to God’s Word during this crucial week.

But as you and I pray, let’s maintain and attitude of humility, remembering how easily we feel tempted to conform to worldly standards. The compromises in the SBC this week must serve as a warning to all Christians. Only by God’s grace can we remain faithful.

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Why Christians Sing About The Cross So Often

Once I read a complaint that Christians sing about the cross too often. What an odd complaint! True Christians understand that Christ’s work on the cross was absolutely pivotal to our salvation.

We sing about the cross because we know how our sins used to dominate our lives, locking us into rebellion agency the holy God Who created us. Those sins kept us hostile to Him, setting us on a path that could only lead to an eternity in hell. No amount of contrition, confession or repentance could atone for our sins. Even or apparent good works were tainted by our sin nature.

We sing about the cross because Jesus, in His mercy, took our vile sins upon Himself, accepting the full force of His Father’s righteous wrath. We deserved that wrath, but our innocent Lord, after living a righteous life, willingly took the punishment on our behalf. He loves us that much!

We sing about the cross because, in taking our sins upon Himself, Jesus assigned His righteousness to us. Consequently, the Father will declare us righteous just as He declared Jesus guilty. We fear no condemnation, but instead eagerly look forward to an eternity in heaven with Jesus, where we’ll forever praise Him as we sing about the cross.

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Equal Grace For Homosexual And Heterosexual Attractions

Rainbow HeartWorking for an ex-gay ministry in the 80s and 90s, I believed my superiors (as well as my peers) that homosexual orientation was morally neutral. Homosexual desires became sinful, we taught, only when acted upon. After all, we reasoned, heterosexual attractions don’t carry  sinful connotations.

Concurrent with my time in that ministry, one of the women in leadership took it upon herself to counsel me in regard to my desire for marriage and my constant romantic attractions to guys in our ministry who hadn’t yet experienced victory over their homosexuality. My attractions, she indicated, were sinful because those men simply weren’t available to me.

Despite her obvious double standard, I completely agree that romantic and/or sexual attractions are absolutely not morally neutral. As a married woman, for example, I have no right being attracted to anyone other than my husband. I may be heterosexual, but I have a responsibility to actively reject even the most fleeting thought about other men. A seemingly innocent thought, encouraged by the knowledge that I have a heterosexual orientation, constitutes adultery, according to Jesus.

27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell. ~~Matthew 5:27-30 (ESV)

If it’s sin for me to entertain attractions to men other than John, why would same sex attractions be morally neutral? Do Christians who struggle with homosexuality have a special exemption from the principle laid out in Matthew 5:27-30 is supposedly morally neutral?

Look, after nearly 30 years of having close friends who battled same sex attractions, I’m not callous to their frustrations. Many of them genuinely hurt, hating their desires because those desires dishonor the Lord. My similar battles as a single woman continually falling for men I couldn’t have give me sympathy for them. Please realize that I honestly understand that their road isn’t easy or fun.

At the same time, we do them a great disservice by pretending that the Lord accepts their desires as morally neutral. Rather than leaving them with the false assurance that the Lord coddles them, we can assure them that He offers forgiveness and the power to walk  in repentance. He extends the same grace to them that He extends to us.

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Not One Tiny Bit Of Credit

Ephesians 2 8&9Christians, even genuinely born-again Christians who love God’s Word and have a commitment to discernment, often struggle with the teaching that God takes complete responsibility for their salvation. We desperately want to believe we’ve played even a teeny tiny microscopic part in receiving His grace. In fact, a major reason people despise Reformed Theology (or Calvinism) stems from an unwillingness to relinquish the idea of human participation in salvation.

Believe it or not, I understand that objection. Until very recently, I told my testimony in a way that afforded me the dignity of having “accepted” Jesus. Sure, I conceded, He did all the heavy lifting, but I believed I made the final decision to become a Christian.

As a result of my years of embracing the doctrine of free will, I can’t dismiss Arminians as false converts. None of us should. Unless taken to the extreme of Pelagianism, we should give the benefit of the doubt to brothers and sisters in Christ who have been taught that they chose the Lord. After all, none of us has absolutely perfect theology. While right doctrine is essential, all of us are growing towards it a step at a time.

Having voiced my understanding of those who believe in free will, let me now challenge their belief that God won’t save anyone against their will. I have to question the presupposition that anyone, prior to the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit, would even desire the God of the Bible. Someone might desire a god who conforms to their notion of spirituality, but Scripture clearly states that no one (apart from the influence of the Holy Spirit) has the slightest interest in the true God.

What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, 10 as it is written:

“None is righteous, no, not one;
11     no one understands;
    no one seeks for God.
12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
    no one does good,
    not even one.”
13 “Their throat is an open grave;
    they use their tongues to deceive.”
“The venom of asps is under their lips.”
14     “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”
15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood;
16     in their paths are ruin and misery,
17 and the way of peace they have not known.”
18     “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” ~~Romans 3:9-18 (ESV)

Notice verse 11, ladies. Despite popular rhetoric about so-called seekers, Paul asserts that no one seeks for God. Free will seeks for a spirituality that feeds the ego, always ending in making us feel good about ourselves, but it cannot choose the Lord Who rightly deserves all the glory. We can’t choose the God Who demands our repentance because we don’t really want to live without our pet sins.

In fact, our natural inclination toward sin deadened us to the Lord, rendering us incapable of voluntarily seeking Him. We needed the Holy Spirit to fill us with life, thereby giving us the faith to receive His grace.

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)

I wish time permitted me to quote all the Scripture passages that God used to convince me that I played no part in coming to Christ. The realization of my utter dependence on His grace humbles me. I liked believing that I could take some credit for choosing to follow Him. But the more I read His Word, the more I understand that He saved me by His grace. He alone deserves the praise.

 

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Sufficient, But Needing Augmentation?

Spirit and Word

Most evangelicals would probably assert that they believe in the sufficiency of Scripture. They would nod vigorously if you quoted:

16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. ~~2 Timothy 3:16-17 (ESV)

Even Charismatics would affirm the sufficiency of Scripture without batting an eye, as I did during the 18 years that I embraced Charismatic teaching. And throughout the years that I incorporated psychological principles into my correspondence counseling ministry, I would have insisted that the Bible was all my counselees needed to overcome their problems.

Evangelicals rationalize that, although Scripture is enough, sometimes the Lord must augment it with a direct revelation or psychological therapy. Or a combination of the two. God, they reason, isn’t limited to His Word, and consequently has the ability to work through any means He chooses. When someone counters that He chooses to limit His revelation to the pages of Scripture, most evangelicals dismiss such an idea as legalistic and narrow-minded. Scripture is enough, the say, but sometimes we need more.

So which is it?

And why is Scripture sufficient and impotent at the same time?

Evangelicals who supplement God’s Word with spiritual experiences, psychological models or anything else need to give this matter serious consideration. Yes, such honest evaluation may be painfully humbling. It has been for me. But humility opens us up to God’s grace, does it not?

If Scripture is truly God’s Word, why would Christians require anything in addition? Because each word of Scripture comes through the breath of the Holy Spirit, it carries His power in ministry.

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. ~~Hebrews 4:12 (ESV)

Ladies, that’s quite a bit of power! How much more power could we possibly need? Anything that can make a division between soul and spirit has got to be incredibly powerful and precise, it seems to me!

Evangelicals have many serious problems in the 21st Century, largely as a result of compromise with worldly approaches to spirituality. All these problems need addressing, and I praise God for godly discernment ministries that faithfully deal with the people and issues that create these problems. In addressing these problems, however, we  must constantly bring the conversation back to the sufficiency of Scripture.

Please think hard and long about the ways you try to hear from the Lord. Ask yourselves if you depend on anything in addition to the Bible as a way of hearing His voice. If so, ask yourselves if you honestly believe that Scripture is sufficient. And if you discover that you’re looking to anything to augment Scripture, please humble yourselves and turn to God for His grace. Remember that He loves to show grace.

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According To Scripture: Study #4 On The Resurrection

He Is Risen

Okay, sisters in Christ, we lost last week in terms of this Bible Study series, so let’s not waste any more time in our study of 1 Corinthians 15. To refresh our memories and maintain a sense of context, I’ll once again quote the first eleven verses of the chapter in preparation of discussing verses 8-11.

Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. 11 Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed. (ESV)

Last time, we looked at Paul’s impressive catalogue of eyewitnesses to Christ’s resurrection, but now we turn to a final witness: Paul himself. Immediately in verse 8, the apostle shows his humility by emphasizing that he hadn’t walked with Jesus during His earthly ministry as all the other eyewitnesses had. For this reason, he compares himself to an aborted child.

I’m going to be really honest here and admit that I don’t understand why he uses a word that means an aborted child. Every commentary I read spent time highlighting the definition of the Greek word in this verse, but none of them adequately explained its significance beyond the concept that it demonstrates Paul’s humility. He acknowledges that he didn’t spend time with Jesus in the way the others had, and that fact makes him feel awkward about claiming to be an eyewitness to the resurrected Christ.

He maintains, however, that the risen Lord did in fact appear to him (Acts 9:3-18, 2 Corinthians 12:1-6).  As awkward as he feels in numbering himself among men who followed the Lord throughout His earthly ministry, Paul refuses to waver from his testimony that, just like the others, he qualifies as an eyewitness to Christ’s resurrection.

His awkward feelings become compounded in verse 9 as he confesses that, prior to his conversion, he actually persecuted Christians. He accepts God’s grace in calling him to be an apostle, but he readily admits that he doesn’t deserve such an honor. His humble attitude serves as a powerful example to those of us who might boast about our salvations. Paul remembers his past and therefore has an acute awareness of God’s grace toward him.

His past convinces him of his unworthiness to be called an apostle (one qualification of apostleship was being an eyewitness to the resurrected Christ). He resolutely remembers what he’d done against God’s church before receiving God’s gracious gift of salvation.

In fact, he points directly to the grace God has shown him in verse 10. Having just confessed his unworthiness, he firmly acknowledges that God’s grace has indeed made him an apostle (Ephesians 3:7). His unworthiness doesn’t negate God’s calling on his life. To the contrary, his untimely spiritual birth coupled with his history of persecuting Christians increase his appreciation of God’s grace.

Notice, in verse 10, that Paul has responded to the grace he’s been shown by working more extensively than the other apostles. His youth (relative to theirs) and the broader scope of his missionary journeys naturally resulted in a heftier resume. Therefore, God’s grace had enabled him to work harder. He presents this fact simply.

Yet he quickly adds that his work comes, not from himself, but as a  consequence of God’s grace. He insists that the Corinthians look to Christ rather than to him. Recall, if you please, that Paul opened this passage by emphasizing the primary importance of the Gospel. The last thing he wants is to shift attention back to himself! God’s grace, and only God’s grace, permitted Paul to see the resurrected Christ.

Verse 11 strengthens his resolve to direct attention away from himself and back to the Gospel that he outlines in verses 3 and 4. As helpful as eyewitnesses are, they mustn’t distract us from the Gospel itself. And because the Gospel requires center stage, Paul considers it immaterial to care about the pedigree of who preaches it. Whether the original disciples preach or he does, he wants people to hear the Gospel and believe it.

This point brings us to our next section: a detailed discussion on why the doctrine of resurrection matters. As I mentioned last week, we’ll take a two-week break before tackling that section, but I wouldn’t mind if you read the whole of Chapter 15 between now and then, paying particular heed to verses 12-19. Please use the Comments Section here or on The Outspoken TULIP  Facebook page to ask questions or raise issues in these eight verses that you’d like me to address.

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My Sin, Dwarfed By Grace

Lately, the Lord has allowed me to see the instances when I sin a bit more frequently. Not that I’ve been sinning more frequently. Rather, I’m less blinded to my sin than usual, so I can confess more often and more specifically.

Although I’ve been praying for a greater sensitivity to my sin, I can’t say I exactly enjoy being confronted with my wretchedness. I don’t like knowing that I’ve displeased the Lord or that I’ve acted unbecomingly. I like to maintain a high opinion of myself, and I like others (especially God) to share that high opinion.

But by seeing the ugliness of my sin, I also get to see the astounding beauty of God’s grace. As today’s hymn demonstrates, that grace is ever so much more powerful than any sin I commit. And it’s more powerful than any sin you commit. So, as the Lord faithfully allows us to look at our sins, let’s rejoice in the opportunity to experience His grace to forgive and cleanse us.

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