Category Archives: Holy Spirit

Sometimes It Causes Me To Tremble

Intricate Boarder 01YouTube has almost everything! Including R.C. Sproul’s Holiness of God series, which John and I have been watching all weekend.

The Lord’s timing in getting me interested in watching this series couldn’t be more fascinating. Throughout 2017, I’ve opened my private prayer time by worshiping God for His holiness and recalling the opening scene in Isaiah 6.

 In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said:

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory!”

And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”

Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.” ~~Isaiah 6:1-7 (ESV)

Perhaps that’s a familiar passage to you. I hope so in the sense that I hope you read your Bible regularly and thoroughly. But I hope it’s not so familiar to you that you gloss over it without trembling at the description of God’s powerful, almost dreadful, holiness.

And yes, I realize I blogged about holiness less than two weeks ago, quoting this same passage. In that article I focused on how casual we are toward God in contrast to Isaiah and the apostle John. Although they trembled and fainted when they encountered God’s holiness, we consider Jesus our buddy who will overlook our sin and give us whatever we ask.

Today I want to briefly remark that truly coming into contact with the holiness of God confronts us with our sinfulness. When we recognize His absolute purity and see His separation from even the slightest degree of corruption, we can’t help but also see our wretchedness in comparison. Isaiah certainly saw the contrast, and immediately wailed over his unclean condition.

The Lord cleansed Isaiah by applying a burning coal to his lips. While we shouldn’t interpret Isaiah’s experience as allegorical to our own, may I suggest that cleansing us from our sin also requires pain. In our case, it’s often the pain of separating from sinful habits, relationships or situations that corrupt our souls.

Encountering God’s holiness demands that we repent of our unholiness. Thankfully, the Holy Spirit Himself empowers this repentance as we walk in obedience to Him. Our flesh won’t like this obedience any more than Isaiah liked the searing coal on his sensitive lips, but the joy of having the Lord make us holy is well worth it.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

An Uncomplicated Reason To Leave Charismatic Teaching

Out of Charismania

It may appear that I write so vigorously against the Charismatic movement with a vindictive attitude. Indeed,  one or two people have said to my face that they believe I reject Charismatic theology because of hurts I supposedly suffered during my years in Charismatic fellowships.

Fair enough, on one level. Several attempts at healing me from Cerebral Palsy probably did border on spiritual abuse, and it certainly would be understandable if I harbored bitterness over those experiences. Sure, such bitterness would be sinful, but most people would at least understand it. In a way, I suspect the friends I have in Charismatic circles might feel comforted by the thought that my current theological positions are just an overreaction to all I underwent.

But really, I turned away from Charismatic theology because, quite simply, it doesn’t line up with God’s Word.

Yes, I know all the verses Charismatics use to substantiate their teachings. I remember using those very verses in my disputes with non-Charismatics, actually. I believe that many Charismatics genuinely love God’s Word and honestly think the miracles of the four gospels and the book of Acts should be replicated today. I know why they hold such convictions. Their arguments carry a sense of plausibility that I have to respect.

But I have come to very different conclusions as I’ve studied Scripture and learned more about proper hermeneutics. Not that I’m smarter or better educated than they are. Rather, God graciously led me to more accurate teaching on the topic by His grace and for His glory.

Although I’m still far from being a Biblical scholar, the Lord has exposed me to good models of understanding His Word, consequently convincing me that the miracles of the New Testament weren’t meant as normative patterns for Christians after the First Century.

Hopefully I’ll write future articles detailing why we mustn’t apply First Century occurrences to present-day Christianity,  but that isn’t the purpose of this particular post. Today I merely want to communicate that I didn’t renounce Charismatic theology as a reaction to negative experiences, but instead because of my desire to remain faithful to the Word of God. Whatever spiritual abuse I may or may not have endured (and I’ll leave the Lord to make that determination), I only want my doctrine to line up with God’s Word.

My personal experiences are no more authoritative than the experiences of my Charismatic friends.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Saturday Sampler: October 29 — November 5

IMG_1785

An essay by Ryan Higginbottom in Knowable Word reveals One Temptation of Digital Searching that had never occurred to me. His admonition might spare you from misinterpreting God’s Word.

I enjoy pretty much everything Candi Finch writes on Biblical Woman, but Meet Katie Luther, One of the Protestant Reformation’s Leading Ladies has to be my all-time favorite piece I’ve read of hers. Once again,  we see that history can not only inspiring, but downright fun! I dare you to get through this piece without cracking a smile.

Writing for The Cripplegate, Jordan Standridge gives us The Cry of the Reformation: Jesus is our Sufficient Savior!  His article goes to the heart of the Reformation, directing us  back to the Lord Jesus Christ as all a sinner ever needs.

What should 21st Century evangelicals learn from the Reformers’ cry of Sola Scriptura?Michael J. Krueger of Canon Fodder answers that question with What is Sola Scriptura Protecting Us Against? More Than You Think. This article taught me a few things that deepen my appreciation for this doctrine of grace.

On her blog,  The End Time, Elizabeth Prata analyzes the state of present-day evangelicalism against the backdrop of the Reformation. Reformation Day 500 and counting! affirms the sad reality that the Reformation is far from over. Her essay will enhance your conviction that we absolutely must stand on God’s Word, using it as an instrument of discernment.

Reprising an article from Tabletalk Magazine (which I read all the time), the blog from Ligonier features The Holy Spirit’s Ministry by Sinclair  Ferguson. If you struggle with the idea that some of the Spirit’s gifts ceased with the close of the apostolic era, this piece may help you.

I’ve definitely sinned in my attempts to perform discernment ministry. So Lara d’Entremont’s blog post in Renewed in Truth Discipleship, Where Discernment Goes Wrong, rightly convicted me. Please take a look at the post yourselves and see whether or not the Lord would have you reconsider your approach to discernment.

Erin Benziger once again correctly uses Scripture to expose a sin that all of us fall into — usually without realizing it. In Acceptable Sins Not Excepted: Envy on Do Not Be Surprised, she illustrates the dangerous potential in this seemingly innocuous sin.

I’m including a second article from The Cripplegate because Jesse Johnson’s Semper Reformanda? addresses seven serious problems in 21st Century evangelical churches. My regular readers will notice that some of his concerns echo issues that I’ve been writing about for years. Please take a look at this thought-provoking blog post.

Commenting on events in the news, Jennifer of One Hired Late In The Day concludes that Sin makes people stupid, and explains the world we live in. Her essay matches the power of its title!

I struggle with sinful, self-centered anger.  But Michelle Lesley reminds of 6 Reasons to Recapture Righteous Anger. She makes very interesting and unexpected observations that most Christians overlook.

As someone who has been severely disabled since birth, I read Tim Challies’ essay,  No Better (Or Worse) Time To Be Disabled with tremendous interest. Although he specifies people with intellectual disabilities, don’t think for a moment that these ideas couldn’t eventually carry over to anyone with severe birth defects.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

How Not To Subdue Pink Elephants

Pink Elephant

Funny how growing in the Lord and getting Biblical teaching changes the way one views things. A little over twenty years ago I left my position as correspondence counselor for an ex-gay ministry, largely because of my personal circumstances. Sure, a few things about the ministry bothered me a bit, but for the most part I believed in what they did. I accepted no criticism of them from any quarter.

To be clear, I still believe homosexuality violates God’s intent for sexuality. Those who engage in it, even if their engagement never extends beyond fantasy, stand guilty of sin. Furthermore I still believe homosexuality can, like every other sin, be forgiven and forsaken through the blood of Jesus Christ.

 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. ~~1 Corinthians 6:11 (ESV)

Over the passage of twenty years, however, I’ve come to question the wisdom of building an entire ministry around one specific sin rather than around the Lord. When people meet together, and especially when they live together in a residential program, should we really be surprised when they fall back into the very sin that they’re seeking to escape?

A friend once counseled me, when I was single and struggling with desires for marriage, that simply telling myself not to think about marriage would invariably backfire. “It’s like trying not to think about pink elephants,” she said. “The harder you try not to think about pink elephants, the more you think about them.” She was right. Try not to think about pink elephants, and see what happens.

The answer to controlling my fantasies wasn’t in thinking about how sinful my fantasies were. Nor was it in gathering with other single women and talking about the struggles to control our desires for marriage. We thought praying together and asking the Lord for psychological insight into the root causes for our desires would eventually free us from our bondage to romantic fantasies.

We ignored a simple principle from Scripture.

16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.~~Galatians 5:16-17 (ESV)

Walking by the Spirit means nothing other than filling our minds with God’s Word and ordering our lives in conformity with His teaching. It does require discipline, yes, and admittedly self-denial causes emotional pain. But the more we delight in the Lord, the less we want things that offend Him. Walking by the Spirit isn’t easy,  but it is certainly simple.

The Bible never advises us to surround ourselves with people who struggle with the same sin we do. Instead, it encourages us to look to Christ with a commitment to glorify Him.  In so doing, we really do experience victory over whatever pink elephants we battle.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

500 Years Later, And Why We Dare Not Forget

ancient-church-01

So it’s the week before the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation’s official start, and I’ve been blogging almost every Tuesday since November 1, 2016 about it. I’d hoped, when I first started this series,  to get well past Luther in order to show the Reformers who actually surrendered their lives for the sake of God’s Word.

I didn’t meet that goal.

Daily blogging left me little time to research the men and women of the Reformation.  I had good intentions, mind you, but I just couldn’t budget my time appropriately. For that reason, a few months ago I shifted my focus to merely trying to keep the Reformation before you. In recent months,  I tried to demonstrate that the Reformation impacts Christian thought today, and that ignoring its emphasis on faith alone and Scripture alone places us in grave danger of repeating the apostasy that the Reformers protested in the first place.

As I’ve written countless times throughout this series, the Reformers each stood against the distorted teachings and practices of Roman Catholicism as a result of reading the Word of God. Once they saw how far Rome had deviated from the Bible, they sought to make Scripture available to everyone both through preaching and through translating it into common languages.

Of course,  I’ve oversimplified matters. The Reformation was far more complex,  and years passed before Reformed Theology reached its full development. As a Reformed Baptist (admittedly something that would have made Calvin’s skin crawl), I appreciate the move away from infant baptism, for example. Most 16th Century Reformers actually persecuted the Anabaptists for refusing to baptize their babies, and they probably would be quite perplexed that some 21st Century Baptists claim the Reformed tradition.

I hope any Presbyterian women reading that last paragraph won’t write me off!

Anyway, my point is that,  although I realize how varied the issues involved in the Reformation are, the two primary issues of justification by faith alone and the exclusive authority of Scripture remain the watershed issues that divide Protestants from Catholics. And evangelicals dare not compromise on either.

Sadly,  we indeed have compromised. For the most part, professing Christians regard the Roman Catholic Church as simply another Christian denomination. That perspective, while it certainly seems charitable, forgets the Reformers who risked (and sometimes gave) their lives in order to stand against the erroneous teachings and practices of Roman Catholicism. The dividing lines that they once drew in reverence for the Gospel,  we now blur for the sake of a unity with those who follow a different gospel.

The Reformation, 500 years ago, brought Christians back to the Bible, which in turn lead people to the Gospel of justification by faith alone. If I continually plead with you to remember the Reformation, I do so because the purity of the Gospel depends on it. Well after next Tuesday (a glorious day of celebration), I will continue periodically blogging about the Reformation. I pray you’ll continue thinking about it and that you’ll stand firmly for the Gospel that motivated the Reformers.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Perspectives In Titus: Grace, Justification And So What?

Titus 3 7

During this week leading up to the October 31st celebration of the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, we’ll be reading a lot about justification by faith and God’s  grace. Interestingly, the verse we’ll study today discusses both topics, and then shows us how to respond to them.

Before I begin, may I offer a friendly reminder? Scripture teaches that women mustn’t teach men. I’m aware that gentlemen other than my husband and elders from my church are reading these Bible Studies, therefore placing me in a position of violating God’s Word. Gentlemen, please don’t do so. While my husband and elders from my church provide spiritual oversight for me, you do not. I respectfully ask, dear brothers, that you leave me to teach my beloved sisters in good conscience. Thank you for your understanding and cooperation.

Now, sisters, let’s begin our study of Titus 3:8 by looking at it within its immediate context.

Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people. For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. ~~Titus 3:1-7 (ESV)

Again in verse 7, Paul underscores the fact that God justifies us, not on the basis of anything we do, but because of His grace. Justification is a legal term that implies acquittal. Although we are guilty in practice, the Lord judges us as being innocent on the basis of Christ’s death on the cross. For that reason, we attribute our justification solely to God’s grace, as described in verses 4-6.

The Complete WordStudy Dictionary defines grace, in part, as being “A favor done without expectation of return; the absolutely free expression of the loving kindness of God to men finding its only motive in the bounty and benevolence of the Giver; unearned and unmerited favor.” Paul hammers home the concept of justification by grace so that the church entrusted to Titus would maintain an attitude of humility amid Cretan society. Present-day Christians likewise must keep in mind that the Lord justifies us only by grace.

Justification causes us to become heirs of God’s promises. Romans 8:17, as John MacArthur points out, calls Christians “heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ.” He cross-references 1 Peter 1:3-4 as documentation. According to Ephesians 1:13-14, the Holy Spirit Himself acts as the guarantee of our inheritance!

In regard to the phrase, “according to the hope of eternal life,” Jamieson, Fausset and Brown state that the position of the Greek words would be better understood as “agreeably to the hope of eternal life.” The idea is that the promise of eternity should influence how we live in the present world. Not that “being good” earns salvation, but that salvation motivates how saved people behave.

You may recall Titus 1:1-2, where Paul stated that the Lord had commissioned him to minister to the elect “in the hope of eternal life.” In that passage, Paul already made the connection between teaching that accords with godliness and that hope of eternal life. Indeed, their understanding of this phrase is consistent with the overall purpose of Paul’s letter. Since the Cretan Christians were heirs of God’s kingdom, their conduct needed to reflect that hope of inheritance.

So, although we neither earn or maintain our justification as a result of good works, God’s grace causes us to behave in good manner that reflects His holiness. In that way, we stand in contrast to the non-Christians around us. Next Monday we’ll see that the Lord, through the apostle Paul, desires us to demonstrate His grace by performing good works.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

The Meditation Of My Heart And How To Make It Acceptable In God’s Sight

Psalm 19V14 B&W

I lay awake last night, letting my mind wander into places it had no business going. Not only did my disobedience rob me of sleep I really needed, but much more importantly it grieved the Holy Spirit by dishonoring the Lord. Thankfully, God brought me to repentance fairly quickly, and I drifted off to sleep.

When I awoke this morning, I again confessed my sin to the Lord. As I prayed about it, I remembered Psalm 19:14.

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
    be acceptable in your sight,
    O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. (ESV)

Even though the meditation of my heart had been decidedly unacceptable in the sight of the Lord, I felt a desire to  change that course. So I started pondering about ways to keep my thoughts on things that please the Lord. John MacArthur’s radio broadcasts these last two weeks came to mind, as I recalled him saying something about filling our minds with Scripture so that our thoughts would honor God.

From there, I remembered that an earlier portion of Psalm 19 actually talks about Scripture’s impact on people.

The law of the Lord is perfect,
    reviving the soul;
the testimony of the Lord is sure,
    making wise the simple;
the precepts of the Lord are right,
    rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the Lord is pure,
    enlightening the eyes;
the fear of the Lord is clean,
    enduring forever;
the rules of the Lord are true,
    and righteous altogether.
10 More to be desired are they than gold,
    even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey
    and drippings of the honeycomb.
11 Moreover, by them is your servant warned;
    in keeping them there is great reward. ~~Psalm 19:7-11 (ESV)

It follows, seems to me, that keeping God’s Word constantly in mind would guard us against dwelling on sinful thoughts. If my heart’s meditation revolves around His Word, naturally it’s acceptable in His sight. Clearly, it leaves no room for entertaining unclean ideas.

Maybe what I’m writing isn’t particularly novel. But sometimes we forget foundational truths. Sometimes it helps to nudge our memories back to things we’ve known for years. We get caught up in the finer points of doctrine, or in serving the Lord, and suddenly lose sight of fundamental attitudes that Christians need.

My mental activities last night most assuredly were unacceptable. But the Lord showed great mercy in using my sin to direct me back to His Word. For that great mercy, I praise His wonderful Name!

Follow my blog with Bloglovin