One Passage, Preached In Opposite Directions

Treasured BibleIn two months, I would leave that church anyway, since marrying John necessitated moving from San Rafael, California to Boston, Massachusetts. Even so, the rambling, 80-minute message by the guest speaker left me literally weeping.

Most of the people at that service found this speaker highly offensive. The guy who had invited him tried, rather unconvincingly, to distance himself, clearly embarrassed by the whole fiasco. His delivery, which included physically humiliating our pastor, offended pretty much everybody. The exhibition felt more like a circus than a worship service, and people began wandering out to the lobby because of their impatience with his incoherence and his theatrics.

Sadly, however, I seemed to be the only one who objected to the actual content of what he taught.

He chose Ephesians 4:11-16 as his text:

11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. (ESV)

Sadly, he followed the Scripture-twisting script of extreme Charismatics in order to make this passage say that doctrine must be rejected for the sake of unity. Did he, in his efforts to promote the New Apostolic Reformation, realize that he taught precisely the opposite idea of what Paul meant in this passage?

I wept because, even though my friends were deeply disturbed by his methodology, they accepted his actual message as being perfectly Biblical. They completely missed the fact that his sermon made a diametrically opposite point to the text!

About three years ago, one of the elders from our current church preached on this same text. At first, remembering that horrible evening twelve years earlier, I flinched as John opened my Bible. Would this elder also try to teach that doctrine destroys unity?

But to my relief, the elder taught the passage correctly, presenting unity as a result of proper teaching. Unity, he affirmed, doesn’t require a minimization of doctrine. On the  contrary, God provided First Century apostles and prophets, followed by evangelists, pastors and teachers since then, to teach us how to be the Church.

Uniting over the foundational doctrines of the First Century apostles and prophets as faithful evangelists, pastors and teachers minister God’s Word to us keeps the Church from  fragmenting over doctrinal error. Proper doctrine aligns us under Christ’s leadership because faithful men explain His Word and enable us to access His Word for ourselves. (Faithful women can teach other women, as well as teaching children.)

The elder’s sermon three years ago offered tremendous comfort, assuring me that I could trust my new church to handle God’s Word properly. The leaders understand that right doctrine forms the very basis of Christian unity. Rather than casting doctrine aside, as the guest speaker that night suggested (for 80 long minutes), Christians must rally around true doctrine, carefully mining Scripture and treasuring every nugget and gem.

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Saturday Sampler: March 12 — March 18

Flower mask samplerMichelle Lesley often receives questions from the ladies who read her blog. Responding to a frequently asked question, she writes The Mailbag: Should Christians drink alcohol? She keeps her response, as always, thoroughly grounded in the Word of God.

Speaking of Michelle, be sure to listen in as she discusses The New Apostolic Reformation with Andy Olsen on Echo Zoe Radio. She explains what the movement is and how its teachings are worming their way into even sound churches.

In his post, How Jesus Called Out False Teachers and Deadly Doctrine, Tim Challies reminds us that our Lord never sacrifices truth in the name of love.

Those of you who read the Monday Bible Studies on this blog know I sometimes include word studies. Hey, I’m a writer — I like words! But most of you also know I firmly believe in interpreting the Bible in context. For that reason, George H. Guthrie’s piece, How Word Studies Go Bad: A (Slightly Funny) Example both amuses and teaches us to be careful when we do word studies.

Guthrie’s article inspired Peter Krol of Knowable Word to write Bible Word Studies Gone Bad to help us determine when it’s advantageous to study an individual word in a Scripture passage.

Take time to read The “Vaguely Christian But Still Cool” Starter Pack that Rebekah Womble has on her Wise In His Eyes  blog. Her words are clever as well as sobering.

Tom, who blogs at ExCatholic4Christ, gives us Creeds, Confessions, and lists of beliefs to make us think a bit. I disagree with him about the Nicene Creed as to its level of sophistication, but over all I believe he makes some valuable points.

In Losing my salvation, Elizabeth Prata of The End Time reveals something that she and John MacArthur have in common. Actually, you and I share this trait with them, whether we admit it or not.

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Saturday Sampler: January 22 — January 28

Bezier Flower SamplerReflecting on the violent protests surrounding Trump’s Inauguration on January 20, Mark McIntyre of Attempts at Honesty writes On the peaceful transfer of power, an article that really needs to be widely read. Alas, the people who most need to read it probably won’t.

Like Ryan Higginbottom,  I love e-Sword Bible software. (Scroll down for a link to download it on my right sidebar.) So I appreciate his review of it, e-Sword: Bible Study Software for Everyone, in Knowable Word. He highlights all my favorite features of e-Sword, as well as others. His closing word of caution also deserves attention.

Featuring a brief but informative video by Todd Friel of  Wretched Radio, Michelle Lesley responds to a question from one of her readers in The Mailbag: What is the New Apostolic Reformation? As a former Charismatic who has seen the dangerous ideas of the NAR seep in to my former Baptist church, I can attest that Michelle’s answer hits the nail on the head.

For another Biblical perspective on the protests over President Trump last weekend, you might want to visit Growing 4 Life to read Leslie A.’s insightful blog post, Love Trumps Hate?

Battling sins of the tongue keeps me humble. I don’t think I’m alone in this struggle. So Jon D. Payne’s article in Reformation 21 serves as a reminder that Christians have a responsibility to speak in ways that honor the Lord. Check out Words Matter: Recovering Godly Speech in a Culture of Profanity.

Rebekah Womble, in her Wise In His Eyes blog, warns us to be discerning about those popular women’s books in the Christian bookstore. The Pretty, the Sweet, and the Deceptive:  On Book Covers and “Girl Talk” encourages us to compare everything we read to Scripture. And while you’re on her website, take a look at Mysticism, We Don’t Need You.

When They Walk Away by Nicholas Batzig on Feeding On Christ offers advice and comfort to those of us who go through the anguish of watching people reject our efforts at discipleship or evangelism. He reminds us that Jesus also watched people walk away from Him.

Here’s one that I’d like Charismatics to read! Jennifer at One Hired Late In The Day writes How are we led by the Spirit? How do we know God’s will? Jennifer’s message isn’t really new, but it desperately bears repeating as often as possible!

Traditionally, Christians dread reading Leviticus. I don’t. And Elizabeth Prata of The End Time joyfully confesses that she’s been Surprised by Leviticus. You might change your mind about this book of the bible after reading Elizabeth’s essay.

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Misunderstood Tactics Of Spiritual Warfare

At The CrossIn September of 2015, I did  a blog post called Warfare, Without Presumption that launched a nasty exchange regarding how much “authority” present-day Christians have over demons. I’d based the article on  reviews of the movie War Room, which equated spiritual warfare with rebuking Satan and his demons. This view of spiritual warfare is, I admit, exciting. As a young Christian caught up in Charismatic circles, I certainly fell prey to teachings about “deliverance,” and I often “commanded” Satan to flee “in the Name of Jesus.”

The person challenging points I made in that essay asked some difficult questions, not so much from a genuine desire to understand the perspective I hold as from a determination to win an argument. Perhaps one day I’ll write a post addressing his challenges, though the links I provided more than adequately answer his objections to the position I took.

As I reflect on the conversation, as well as on the topic of spiritual warfare in general, however, I become more and more convinced that evangelicals tend toward a limited (if not distorted) view of spiritual warfare. Yes, Ephesians 6:12 flat-out says that we battle spiritual forces rather than people, but that passage in no way instructs us to fight the enemy by rebuking him or ordering him back to hell.

I first wrote about the context of Ephesians 6:12 back in April of this year (click here for that article), but I’d like to revisit the point I made by again quoting the passage and then commenting  on it briefly.

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, 19 and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak. ~~Ephesians 6:10-20

Do you see anything in this passage about rebuking Satan or taking authority over demons? It seems to me that, if spiritual warfare consisted of that sort of activity, this would have been the logical place for  Paul to explain how to engage in such warfare.

Actually, ladies, he does offer explicit instructions on how to conduct spiritual warfare in this very passage. We must stand against the demonic realm through faithful commitment to the Lord, ultimately trusting in His strength. In other words, we fight the enemy by everyday Christian living as we believe God’s Word, depend on the righteousness Christ gives us and intercede for our brothers and sisters.  We don’t need to say a word to Satan or his minions; we simply need to stand firm in Christ.

It occurs to me that Satan enjoys enticing Christians to rebuke him, break “generational curses,” pray “hedges of protection” and all the other silliness that Charismatics do in the name of spiritual warfare because those activities distract us from the Lord Jesus Christ. They inflate our ego as we become proficient in various techniques, none of which are taught without a “special knowledge” of key Bible verses taken out of context (of course).

I have a great deal more to say on true spiritual warfare, which we successfully fight by keeping Jesus as our center of attention. Today, I merely wanted to train our minds away from popularized notions of spiritual warfare so that we can conduct  the real battles in a Biblical that honors Christ.

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Saturday Sampler: August 20–August27

Rose SamplerAlthough Amy Spreeman wrote The Six Hallmarks of a NAR Church for Pirate Christian Radio’s blog, The Berean Examiner, back in June, I just came across it this week. Amy provides clear characteristics of this unbiblical movement that’s infiltrating evangelical churches, giving Bible-believing Christians tools for discernment.

Joel James continues his series on The Cripplegate blog by writing The flawed theory of “social” missions and 8 biblical objections to social-work as ministry.He rightfully questions whether or not this approach to ministry obscures the true Gospel message, while conceding that missionaries in closed countries may needed to enter those countries as humanitarian workers (I personally know several missionaries who have had to do so). Joel’s concluding post, Acts and answers: what is the mission of missions, redirects us to positive ways of fulfilling the Great Commission.

In a sobering but necessary blog post for her blog, The End Time, Elizabeth Prata discusses The Drumbeat Warning of Divine Judgment on the USA. Like Elizabeth, I believe the Lord is definitely judging our country, and persecution isn’t very far away.

I’m not sure whether or not I completely agree with 7 Dangers of Embracing Mere Therapeutic Forgiveness by Mike Leake of Borrowed Light, but I definitely like his premise that we forgive out of obedience to God rather than for our own psychological benefit. Should we forgive those who don’t repent?  That’s where I question his line of reasoning.  But I’m glad his article gives me food for thought.

You Are Not the Bride of Christ writes Ryan of A Small Work. He lists several reasons for rejecting the concept that individual Christians can (or should) think of the Lord Jesus Christ in romantic terms. Praise God for this wonderful essay!

Michelle Lesley reminds us, in Weeping with Those Who Weep, that somehow saying the right things can be the wrong thing to to do.

 

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Autobiography With Purpose: Leaning To Discern

Dark WisdomIt’s really just as well that I can’t recall all the details about the church John belonged to prior to our wedding. No doubt, the specifics would attract more readers  (which I’d definitely like), but I believe leaving things vague would, in this particular case, be most honoring to Christ.

In that church the offices normally called elders and deacons were called, respectively, deacons and trustees. From what I understand, the deacons held authority comparable to that of the pastor, working with him in governing the church. If memory serves correctly, John had begun the second year of his three-year term on the board of deacons. This leadership position obviously gave him knowledge about various things going on in the church.

Perhaps, during those phone calls and internet chats between Massachusetts and California that year, John said more than he should have about church politics, but our sovereign God used those conversations to give both of us a conviction that the church seriously deviated from Scripture. Certainly, though they’d hired a man as their full-time interim pastor, women held unbiblical leadership positions. During that year, in fact, they elected a woman to chair the board of deacons.

In the early months of our engagement, we believed that God wanted to use us as stealth missionaries to it, certain that we could, by prayer  and example, offer a refining influence. I saw that as an exciting prospect.

But as time went on, John’s narratives of deacon meetings became increasingly discouraging. Repeatedly, the others rejected his suggestions. At the same time, they demonstrated definite leanings toward more liberal theology. John, having a more optimistic nature than I have, continued trusting that the Lord would use him to turn things around. I became skeptical.

Our arguments over whether or not to remain in that church (even though I still lived in San Rafael), dominated our conversations as spring arrived. I’d be moving to Randolph in August, three weeks before our wedding, and I no longer saw the point of ministering to a church that had little interest in Biblical Christianity. At length, I realized that I couldn’t marry John if he remained there.

Some of my friends at Church of the Open Door told me that my unwillingness to join John in what he believed God had called him to do evidenced a lack of submission. Yet I wasn’t his wife at that point. Engagement, as I saw it, provided a time for making sure that the Lord had called us together. If a couple found problems, a broken engagement would be a lot less devastating and dishonoring to Christ than a bad marriage that might end in divorce.

Although I’d told John that I couldn’t be a part of his church, I didn’t break the engagement because I saw signs that he had begun to agree with me. Shortly after I’d informed him of my inability to “marry into” his church, his pastor confided in him that someone in leadership lived in sexual immorality. The pastor had no intention of removing the person from leadership, hoping that a gentle reprimanded would eventually produce repentance.

John left.

Within two months he found Brookville Baptist Church, which became our church home. We both praised God for helping us discern that we belonged in a church that upheld God’s Word.

But the Lord evidently wanted to show me a little more of my budding discernment abilities before I moved to Massachusetts. Late that May, Church of the Open Door hosted its annual Missions Conference with all the other Open Door churches in the San Francisco Bay Area. The guest speaker, flamboyant and long-winded, spent almost two hours delivering a message as he used our pastor as a visual aide by placing him in humiliating poses. Quite rightfully, everyone was exasperated and offended.

Sadly, however, no one I spoke with seemed alarmed that this man took Scripture completely out of context as he promoted  ideas from the New Apostolic Reformation.Even though I wouldn’t discover for two more days just how serious his error was, his repeated statements that doctrine didn’t matter, and in fact caused division that harmed churches, broke my heart. By the end of the service, I was weeping openly, grieved that people appeared to be embracing his theology…or lack of theology.

After it was over, I spoke with the wife of one of the other Open Door pastors. With sorrow I told her that I was glad to be leaving if the Open Door movement was indeed going to embrace this type of doctrine. She appeared baffled by my sorrow, and could only say, “If you feel that we’re heading in the wrong direction, pray for us.”

In researching some of the people that the speaker named, I saw clearly that indeed he represented the NAR. As I begged my friends to critically examine the content of his message, they could only find fault with his methods. It saddened me that no one had any inkling of the dangerous things he promoted.

Still, it was difficult to leave a church that I had been with my entire adult life. At the same time, I could see God’s hand in providing a husband 3,000 miles away and a church that both of us believed offered sound Biblical teaching. I praised God that He taught us  both to be discerning and that He led us out of churches that we could never influence for good.
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