Category Archives: Human Condition

Saturday Sampler: October 15 — October 21

Wing Ding Sampler

To discover A Surprising Barrier to Personal Bible Study, check out Knowable Word for Ryan Higginbottom’s interesting challenge. I pray that you’ll then accept his challenge. Believe me, you won’t regret doing so!

Read 5 Reasons Jesus Doesn’t Want us to be Like the Good Samaritan by Jordan Standridge of The Cripplegate. Your second grade Sunday School might be shocked by this article, but I believe Standridge has a grasp on the real point of this parable. Feel free to use my comments section to tell me whether you agree or disagree with him.

Those of us who don’t always appreciate the Bible’s restrictions regarding ministries women can perform will find comfort in Women Can Trust God’s Design for the Church by Candi Finch, a regular writer for Biblical Woman. It’s interesting what one learns from assembling bookcases.

Continuing her latest series on Do Not Be Surprised, Erin Benziger writes Acceptable Sins Not Excepted: Impatience. Does this woman read my diary? At any rate, she accurately handles the topic of impatience, skillfully applying Scripture as she deals with its many facets.

You moms out there might appreciate these Last Minute Reformation Day Resources for Kids courtesy of Jessica Pickowicz at Beautiful Thing. She offers a splendid selection of materials for both young children and teenagers.

Leslie A. of Growing 4 Life provides a wonderful, easily read, overview of the Reformation with her blog post, Remembering the Reformation: A Timeline. If you need help understanding the Reformation and its effects on Western Civilization, this is the article for you!

Okay, Michelle Lesley is quantitatively more conservative than Martin Luther, offering only 8 Theses for Women of the Modern Day Reformation, but her tips on how we can appropriately serve the Lord lay out a good track for us. As an added bonus, she begins her essay with an enticing book recommendation.

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Gnosticism: The Draw Of Psychology (Even Christian Psychology)

Little blonde angelI just did a Google search on “gnosticism and psychology,” naively thinking I’d find a simple article drawing a connection between the two. Instead, I found multiple pages of scholarly articles, many of which apparently celebrate psychology as the modern form of gnosticism. So okay, there definitely is a connection.

Gotquestions.org provides a brief overview of gnosticism, starting with its original teachings. If you read this article, you’ll notice that gnosticism promises secret knowledge, obtainable only to those who are initiated into the mystical circle. In our day in age, psychologists become those elite mystics, promising that their techniques will help us unravel the mysteries of our inner being. So-called Christian psychologists claim an even greater ability to do so, since they presume that the Holy Spirit will give additional revelation. Certainly, friends, psychology is nothing more than an updated form of gnosticism.

But Christians, rather than seeing the connection between gnosticism and psychology as cause for celebration, ought to recognize that many New Testament epistles were written in response to the seeds of gnosticism being planted in the First Century Church. The letter to the Colossians particularly addresses the gnostic heresy by drawing its readers away from human philosophies and back to Christ. I look forward to writing detailed blog posts on various portions of Colossians in the near future.

Today, however, I think I will spend a few moments demonstrating that psychology attracts both Christians and non-Christians by promising special insight into the human psyche. I’ll speak from personal experience, but I more than suspect that my attitudes were not unique, particularly among women.

When the church I attended in California began integrating psychological principles into its sermons and counseling, I delighted in the prospect of understanding myself more deeply. Oh, the thrill of going deeper than “mere” Scripture! Christian psychology offered something that the Bible, as much as I claimed to love it, couldn’t give me.

I knew I had problems with anger, but the Bible only admonished me to exercise self-control. Psychology promised that, by uncovering reasons for my anger (which my pastor divined most likely came from childhood trauma) I could overcome anger without needing to actively control myself. Counseling, I believed, would rid me of all angry feelings so that I’d automatically respond to any irritant in a sweet, Christlike manner.

Oh brother!

The Bible does teach that patience and self-control come from the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23), but it also holds Christians responsible to walk in obedience to the Spirit  (Galatians 5:25). The Spirit doesn’t magically remove our angry feelings; He just empowers us to choose not to act on them. No introspection. No analysis. Above all, no blaming our parents for childhood traumas which then excuse our sinful behavior.

Psychology, you see,  offers us an excuse to stay in our sin “while we work on it.” Usually, that means our counselor has at least two years of income as she finds all sorts of underlying issues for us to work through. But we believe her psychological training gives her deeper knowledge than Christians trained in the Bible possess, and we enjoy focusing on ourselves.

In summary, psychology attracts us with its promise to supply special insight into our natures. It deceives us into thinking that God’s Word lacks the ability to address our issues and free us from sinful behavior patterns. Like all forms of gnosticism, it shifts our attention from the Lord to ourselves.  And like all forms of gnosticism, it should be avoided.

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Saturday Sampler: October 8 — October 14

Saturday Sampler graphic

Mark McIntyre, in Attempts at Honesty, asks us to consider whether or not Christian on Christian crime apples to us. His comment on discernment ministries may prick a bit, but it alone makes the blog post worth reading.

Do you ever feel tempted to skip reading your Bible? I sure do! So I appreciate Michelle Lesley’s response in The Mailbag: I love the Bible, but I have to force myself to read it. (No, I didn’t submit the question.) Michelle answers this question with honesty and compassion while not compromising the truth in any way.

Not that Christians should still be confused on this matter, but the author of Unified in Truth answers the question, Can women teach or exercise authority over a man? with simple appeals to the Word of God. There’s really nothing to complicate the issue except our rebellion.

Ouch! Erin Benziger does some necessary, but painful, wielding of the Sword of the Spirit with her article Acceptable Sins Not Excepted: Gossip in Do Not Be Surprised. She also encourages those of us who struggle with this sin to remember God’s grace.

According to Scott Slayton of One Degree to Another, Before You Get Angry about a News Story you might want to ask yourself some probing questions. Our “righteous indignation” may not be as righteous as we think.

You’ll have to read Elizabeth Prata’s The Gathering Storm in The End Time all the way through to get what she’s saying, but I urge you to work through her crucially important essay. Believe me, this lady understands where our society is headed, and we need to pay attention.

Although I don’t have the time to sign up for the online Bible Studies that Lisa Morris offers, I enjoy reading the companion blog posts she features in Conforming to the Truth. Launching her study of James, Lisa writes Genuine Faith: Knows Considers and Asks Without Doubting in a manner that encourages us to walk through trials as disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. I believe you’d like reading her thoughts on James 1:1-5.

Usually I won’t include articles in Saturday Sampler if they quote someone I have significant disagreements with (like Michael Brown) or favorably reference unbiblical practices (like psychology). Walt Heyer’s article, The Transgender Matrix: It’s Time to Choose the Red Pill in Public Discourse is a necessary exception. Heyer lived as a transgendered woman for eight years, only to realize that his surgery couldn’t change his genetic makeup. His article challenges politically correct assumptions about transgenderism, and for that reason  I feel compelled to recommend it.

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Perspectives In Titus: Remember How Ugly We Used To Be?

Titus 3 3

Last Monday, dear sisters in Christ, we concluded our Bible Study with the apostle Paul’s exhortation to show perfect courtesy to everyone. Today we’ll talk about the primary motivation for treating people with such courtesy. But before we get into our discussion of Titus 3:3, we should read it in it’s 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)

To refresh your memory, Paul’s letter to Titus has the purpose of instructing Titus on ordering the churches in Crete. Chapter 3 continues the apostle’s specific directions to this young pastor.

In verses 1 and 2, Paul wanted the Cretan Christians to submit to civic authorities and to treat all people with respect. As we approach verse 3, we learn why the Lord calls us to this attitude. Essentially, each of us used to  be as wretched as the non-Christians God commands us to respect.

Remembering who we were and how we behaved prior to receiving God’s grace helps us approach non-Christians with the attitudes Paul prescribes in verses 1 and 2. This list speaks in generalities, of course, but it sums up a lifestyle apart from the Lord. Certainly, the Christians in First Century Crete had been this vile, reflecting the debauchery of that culture.

Paul begins by assuring them that their debauchery was in their past, and he will explain why it’s in their past in verses 4-6. Yet as Christians recall their lives before Christ, we constantly need the comfort of knowing that Jesus has cleansed us (see 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 and Colossians 2:13-15 as examples).

In describing our pre-conversion condition, Paul first of all says we were foolish. Matthew Henry defines this foolishness as “without true spiritual understanding and knowledge, ignorant of heavenly things.” Psalm 14:1 tells us, that a fool says in his (or her) heart “There is no God.” Foolishness lives without regard to the Lord’s authority.

Disobedience naturally follows foolishness. As Barnes points out, rebellion against authority is natural. Anyone who has been around small children has seen how readily they disobey. Adam Clarke indicates that the Greek word means “unpersuaded, unbelieving, obstinate, and disobedient.”

In addition to our past foolishness and disobedience, we were led astray by both our inherent inclination towards sin and by false teaching. As we’ve seen throughout this study of Titus, the Cretans definitely allowed their lusts to deceive them, and the Judaizers were deceived by their false gospel. 2 Corinthians 4:4 plainly states the Satan blinds the eyes of unbelievers, thus keeping them in deception

Deception, in turn, makes unbelievers slaves to their passions and pleasures. And weren’t we all there? John Gill describes non-Christians (and therefore us before conversion) as “servants of sin, vassals and slaves to their own corruptions.”

Finally, says Paul, we lived in malice and envy, causing others to hate us and us to hate them. Vincent’s Word Study Commentary quotes Calvin’s definition of malice as ” viciousness of mind opposed to humanity and fairness.” Unbelievers can’t love each other with the love that 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 describes; even their supposed love for each other is selfish compared to godly love.

Come to think of it, might we not say that godly love on our part compels us to remember that we used to be just like the non-Christians God calls us to respect?  And doesn’t remembering who we once were (and indeed, who we still would be without the grace of Jesus Christ) give us greater compassion for those who don’t know Him?

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Saturday Sampler: October 1 — October 7

Fantasy Flowers Sampler

Fall has arrived, meaning that the time all too quickly approaches when cold New England winters will prevent John and me from going anywhere. Including church. We grieve that many able-bodied evangelicals don’t appreciate the privilege of weekly church attendance. Perhaps Scott Slayton’s post, What You Miss When You Don’t  Gather With Your Church in  One Degree to Another, can give you a different perspective on the importance of meeting with your church as often as possible.

In Growing 4 Life, Leslie A. lists Five ways to know that you are too in love with yourself. Gulp! Her insights don’t  comply with psychological principles, but they definitely agree with God’s Word. Please make this one a high priority on your reading list!

I love Rachelle Cox’s Let’s Get Real About Women’s Discipleship in Gospel-Centered Discipleship. This article puts forth some unexpected thoughts about ways women disciple each other, and I think those thoughts might encourage some of you. See what you think.

For an accurate and concise explanation of Revelation verses Illumination, please visit Unified in Truth and start using the two terms Biblically. If you still believe that the Lord gives revelation now, you may need to rethink your theology.

Some of you are probably married to elders in your church. If so, you might appreciate An open letter to elder’s wives by Andrew Gutierrez in The Cripplegate. I find it also instructive to those of us who are friends with women married to elders. Let’s not place these ladies in awkward positions.

As an introduction to a new series in her Do Not Be Surprised blog, Erin Benziger writes about The Lie of ‘Acceptable’ Sins. This series, she promises, won’t be comfortable, but it will lead us to find comfort in the Gospel of God’s grace. I’m looking forward to it, knowing that Erin writes with fidelity to the Scriptures and with reverent passion for the Lord.

For a truly intriguing discussion on a perplexing passage in Genesis, you shouldn’t miss Mercy, Hope, and The Tower of Babel by the author of A Narrow-Minded Woman. She brings out a variety of points that I’ve never noticed, making the incident much more compelling and applicable. I especially like her emphasis on the sovereignty of God.

In an article for Meet the Puritans, Joel Beeke enumerates Ten Lasting Fruits of the Reformation. Those who consider history to be boring and irrelevant should read this piece, if only so that they can see why geeks like me keep writing about the Reformation as if it actually matters.

Have you been sending positive thoughts to Las Vegas this week? In Why Your Positive Thoughts Are Not Helping Anyone, Josh Buice of Delivered By Grace explains why Christians err when they speak of sending positive thoughts. He also tells us how we can actually help hurting people.

I want to close this week’s edition of Saturday Sampler by sharing the video below of the sermon my pastor, Jeremy Garber, preached at First Baptist Church in Weymouth, MA last Sunday. The reminder to use discernment fits so seamlessly with the purposes of this blog that I believe I must include it.

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One Small Argument Against The Doctrine Of Free Will

IMG_5209Let me begin this blog post with the obvious: a single essay can’t possibly address all the variables in arguing against the popular notion of free will. As surely as I write this piece, some Catholic or Armimian will raise objections that I would need to respond to by writing a entirely separate post.

The tension between human responsibility and God’s sovereignty is huge, and writers far more capable than I have spent centuries trying to explain why the fact of human responsibility doesn’t translate into an argument that God created human beings with free will. Martin Luther wrote an entire book, The Bondage of the Will (which I quit reading halfway through because my puny mind couldn’t wrap around all Luther’s points), in an attempt to disprove the whole idea. Arminians certainly have pet verses that they use to substantiate their view, and dealing with each verse would take quite a chunk of time.

That said, the question of free will mustn’t be ignored. Arminians are not heretics for holding to this doctrine, but I believe they hold it at great risk of minimizing God’s sovereignty.

The topic of free will predictably comes up in conversations about situations like the massacre in Las Vegas. Attempts to assure people that this horrific tragedy didn’t occur apart from the Lord’s control are invariably met with protestations that the gunman exercised free will when he pulled that trigger. Apparently, the doctrine that God is sovereign even in situations like this one must be mitigated.

I guess we need to protect God’s reputation.

And yes, the Lord will hold this gunman responsible for his sin, dear readers. God’s sovereignty in no  way excuses sin…on any level!

I think of how God used Judas Iscariot to accomplish Christ’s crucifixion on the Passover. It seems a small detail, until you remember that the Passover feast symbolized the Lamb of God Who would bring His chosen people out from the bondage of sin. According to God’s plan, Christ would have to be crucified on Passover.

Of course, the Pharisees feared that, because the people loved Jesus to the extent that they greeted Him with shouts of Hosanna when He entered Jerusalem, crucifying Him at Passover would be political suicide. The Lord used Judas Iscariot to force their hand, thus ensuing that His supreme Passover Lamb would die at precisely the right moment.

Judas Iscariot, however, bore complete responsibility for betraying the Lord. He wasn’t elected to salvation, yet he knew the Truth. God holds that man responsible for his act of betrayal, most assuredly. Yet Jesus chose Judas as a disciple in order to bring about God’s perfect plan of redemption. In that very important respect, I join Martin Luther in arguing that Judas Iscariot did not have free will.

As I said earlier, there’s no way I can offer a complete refutation of the doctrine of free will in one solitary blog post. But I invite you to seriously think about God’s sovereignty in using Judas to accomplish Christ’s crucifixion. Because of Judas Iscariot’s evil behavior, salvation is now available to all who believe in Jesus Christ. Praise God that, in His sovereignty, the perceived free will of one greedy little man brought about history’s most monumental event!

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Holding The Lord Accountable For The Massacre In Las Vegas

Who Are WeA couple days ago, in response to a Tweet I wrote saying that the mass shooting in Las Vegas shows the urgency of preaching repentance, a non-Christian retorted (using unnecessary language that I won’t repeat) that those who died that night probably demanded that God account for His apparent absence and negligence. As shocked as I was that someone who knows me personally would post a vulgar word on my timeline, I was primarily troubled by the sheer arrogance of requiring the Lord to give an account to people He created.

I shouldn’t have been shocked. When John had cancer five years ago, I did a little fist shaking at the Lord myself. My arrogance horrified me even then, and I earnestly pray that I’ll never speak to Him defiantly again.

If I did such a blasphemous thing as a Christian, why should I be shocked that someone who doesn’t know the Lord would say something similar?

At the same time, I tremble for that man. Unless the Holy Spirit mercifully brings him to repentance and faith, he will spend eternity experiencing God’s wrath. He may think now that God owes us explanations for all the terrible things that happen in the world. He may even think God owes him explanations for the truly unjust things that he has endured throughout life. But sadly, he doesn’t understand that God owes us nothing, and that He will ultimately judge us rather than submitting to our judgment of Him. Scripture, in fact, warns us against presuming to question the Lord.

19 You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” 20 But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” ~~Romans 9:19-20 (ESV)

Rightly, Americans should feel outrage over Sunday night’s massacre. That gunman, in blatant rebellion against the Lord and His commandments, also shook a defiant fist at his Creator. His arrogant disregard for people created in God’s image ought to fill us with righteous indignation.

But let’s not presume that the Lord deserves our wrath. Let’s remember that we all, like that gunman, have sinned against a holy God Who will one day demand us to give an account for our rebellion against Him. If you haven’t repented and believed in the Lord Jesus Christ Who bore the wrath of God for all who trust in Him, please do so now. Please don’t be arrogant toward Him. As 59 people in Las Vegas learned Sunday night, you never know when He’ll call you to face Him.

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