Forgive — People Do Stupid Stuff

FortressA brother offended is more unyielding than a strong city, and quarreling is like the bars of a castle. ~~Proverbs 18:19 (ESV)

We offend each other. Sometimes we even do it in pubic forums, telling ourselves that we merely want to get to the truth. And I’ll admit that some situations actually do  necessitate stepping on toes in order to reprove sin or confront false teaching.Even in those instances, however, we should do our best to be as gentle and winsome as possible.

Regardless of our motives or intentions, the fact remains that we will do stupid stuff to offend our brothers and sisters in Christ. When that happens (as it inevitability will), we shouldn’t be surprised if the person withdraws from us. Haven’t we withdrawn from people who have offended us? Of course we have!

Proverbs 18:19 brilliantly describes the defensive posture of someone who has suffered an offense. He understandably barricades his heart against further hurt, usually feeling betrayed and vulnerable. The thought of forgiveness seems far too overwhelming! So he fortifies himself against further perceived abuse.

Although we understand such self-protective instincts, the Bible Continue reading

When Separation Reveals A Lack Of Discernment

Voice Of God

Why do we embrace division at the slightest hint of disagreement, eager to assign black hats instead of extending charity to people who disagree with us on isolated matters?  Definitely, we must separate from those who seriously deviate from sound doctrine. I don’t advocate partnering  with folks like Beth Moore or Rick Warren. And I’m cautious of certain people in the Reformed camp who make multiple compromises that suggest a doctrinal slide.

To some extent, division is necessary, and even commanded in Scripture. 1 Corinthians 5:11-13 and 2 Corinthians 6:14-18 clearly instruct us to distance ourselves from those who walk in contradiction to the Gospel. Several other passages support this practice. If you read many discernment blogs (even the reputable ones), you’ve seen all the classic verses on this topic.

And I’ll go on record as Continue reading

Flashback Friday: Self-Esteem And The Distortion Of Matthew 22:39

Originally posted October 7, 2015.

Mirror02Today, just let me vent about the notion that Christians should promote self-esteem. I will, in future posts, look at the origins of the self-esteem movement and the various ways it undermines Biblical Christianity, but today I simply want to express my frustration with its influence in evangelical circles.

I recall sitting in a Bible Study over 20 years ago and feeling my heart break as a young college student twisted these words of  Jesus:

 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. ~~Matthew 22:39 (ESV)

She explained, with the air of intellectual superiority so common to college sophomores, that Jesus taught in this verse the necessity of self-esteem in order to love one’s neighbor. When I countered that Jesus’ statement presupposed that people naturally love themselves quite well, she launched into a verbal dissertation about suicide, self-mutilation and the national “epidemic” of low self-esteem. The Bible Study leader, seeing that the girl had touched a nerve in me, wisely cleared his throat and resumed teaching.

I’ve heard others teach the same interpretation of Matthew 22:39 as that young college girl offered that night, and I still maintain that such an interpretation wrenches the verse completely out of context as well as reading a principle of pop psychology into it. If we look at the conversation in which Jesus made this statement, first of all, you’ll notice that neither Jesus nor the Sadducee lawyer ever mentioned self-esteem as a prerequisite for loving others.

34 But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. 35 And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” ~~Matthew 22:34-40 (ESV)

In his article, Why You Don’t Need More Self-Esteem, Stephen J. Cole of Dallas Theological Seminary writes:

The question Christians need to ask is, does the Bible teach this? Does it teach that we need to build our self-esteem? Those who say yes usually support it with the verse, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt. 22:39). They say that you must properly love yourself in order to love your neighbor. But that is not the meaning of the verse. It assumes that we all love ourselves just fine, thank you. If we would show the same regard for others that we do in fact show for ourselves, we would be loving them as God commands. Even those who go around dumping on themselves don’t need to focus on loving themselves. Their problem is precisely that they are too self-focused. They need to consider the needs of others ahead of themselves. The mark of biblical love is self-sacrifice, not self-esteem (see Eph. 5:25).

Even in the case of a suicidal person, the problem is not that he does not love himself. Rather, he loves himself more than he loves anyone else. He is not considering what his death will do to family or friends. He is only considering himself: he is in pain and he wants out of his pain.

And, while Dallas Theological Seminary is a little more liberal than I’d prefer, I believe Cole gets it right here. Jesus clearly spoke from the common understanding that human beings have no difficulty cultivating self-love, but need instruction in loving others. An honest reading of Matthew 22:34-40 simply doesn’t support the self-esteem interpretation. And I resent seeing people distort the Word of God for the purpose of advancing a man-centered system like psychology.

Instead of perverting Matthew 22:39 into  yet another excuse to pamper ourselves, why don’t we just obey it? I understand that obeying it may actually involve self-sacrifice, even forcing us to “hate” ourselves in order to truly love someone else. But Jesus modeled just that sort of love when He took our sins upon Himself.

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Saturday Sampler: December 3 — December 8

Bell SamplerAfter resolving to be truthful with your children about Santa Claus, you still face the sticky issue of what they tell their little friends. Michelle Lesley tackles that awkward dilemma in The Mailbag: My kid knows the truth about Santa. What if he tells his friends who don’t? Michelle puts forth some thought-provoking arguments that maybe we need as we navigate this question.

Biblical Sexuality Isn’t a Stump You Can Mow Around insists Mike Leake in a blog post for Borrowed Light. He looks at reasons we’re tempted to compromise our position on homosexuality, and explains why we mustn’t compromise.

Mike Ratliff of Possessing the Treasure reminds us of The Cross and its offense. Although it should be Christianity 101, most evangelicals seem willfully oblivious to this basic part of the Gospel.

Forgiveness doesn’t come easily when people hurt us. Writing for The Cripplegate, Eric Davis challenges our tendency to hang onto offences with Love & Hurt Feelings — Refresher. This isn’t exactly a “feel good” article, I realize, but it brings us back to a basic principle of Christianity.

The current focus on homosexuality and transgenderism somewhat obscures the seriousness of sexual sins among heterosexuals. SlimJim of The Domain for Truth goes back to fundamental Christian teaching on sexual purity by posting Pre-Marital Abstinence Makes the Married Heart Grow Stronger. Sadly, I think many professing Christians have forgotten the importance of waiting until the wedding night.

I couldn’t agree more with Don’t Be Just Another Fan by Leslie A in Growing 4 Life. Her insightful article leads me to ask you to always evaluate each blog post I write in light of Scripture.

In his moving piece, Planned Parenthood Sings Hush, Little Baby, Samuel Sey objects to the notion that abortion is best for unwanted babies. Appearing in his blog, Slow to Write, this article traces the experiences of two unplanned pregnancies that were in God’s plan all along.

Elizabeth Prata’s essay, Love Thy Neighbor? That’s only half of it, refutes the growing idea that love means ignoring sin in another person. You’ll find her insightful piece in The End Time.

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Discernment Begins With Wisdom

Waterfall Lattice Arch FrameAlthough discernment differs from wisdom in the sense that it makes distinctions between good and evil, true and false, etc., it is closely linked with the more general term of wisdom. That being the case, perhaps we should spend a few posts (today, Monday and Tuesday, for starters) looking at various Scriptures on godly wisdom. From there, we might have a solid foundation for determining the definition and use of Biblical discernment.

Right away, I thought of the passage in James that contrasts godly wisdom with earthly wisdom, and I’d like to apply the principles in that passage to Continue reading

Saturday Sampler: October 7 — October 13

Symetry Sampler 02Looking at how believers should handle personal sin, Mike Ratliff of Possessing the Treasure rhetorically asks, Do genuine Christians need to confess their sins and seek forgiveness and cleansing? You undoubtedly know the short answer, but Ratliff provides Scriptural substantiation for that answer.

As happens every October, Reformed writers turn their attention to the 16th Century. You’ll see plenty of articles about Luther and Calvin, which makes Steven J. Lawson’s Zurich Revolutionary: Ulrich Zwingli so refreshing. You can find this article on the Ligonier blog.

Leslie A, in Growing 4 Life, passionately declares I’m Not the One Who Moved. She addresses quite a few problems in present-day evangelicalism, rightly tracing them back to an abandonment of three of the five Solas.

As the owner of Berean Research, Amy Spreeman is Holding On to Scripture as she reevaluates the role and implementation of discernment ministry. Join me in praying for Amy and her blogging partner Marsha West as they go through this season of searching God’s Word for wisdom.

Complementing Amy’s post, SlimJim of The Domain for Truth writes Beyond cage stage: Beware of being a Nurmagomedov rage phase Calvinist/Apologist. Given the angry climate on social media these days, all of us could probably benefit from his counsel.

I’m happy to share Who will separate us from the love of Christ? by Mike Ratliff. Although I’ve already placed an article of his in this edition of Saturday Sampler, the Perseverance of the Saints is taught so seldom that I adamantly believe as many people as possible need exposure to this encouraging doctrine.

C.T. Adams of Faith Contender answers a question about Universal Consciousness with a compelling argument for loving God with our minds.

Reflecting on an encounter she had with morning glories, Elizabeth Prata reprises Why can’t they see she’s a false teacher? One reason: “Deception by investment” in The End Time. If you’ve ever experienced backlash for warning someone about a popular teacher, this essay will encourage you.

History really doesn’t have to be boring. And even church history can include a little romance. Don’t believe me? Then check out Simonetta Carr’s Anne Bohemia and her Multilingual Scriptures on Place for Truth and prepare to enjoy a wonderful love story. As an added bonus, you’ll learn some lesser known tidbits about things leading up to the Reformation.

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