Category Archives: Obedience

Psychology Is More Than We Need

If you’ll look at the archives to the right on this blog, you’ll find several essays that detail the various reasons that Bible-believing Christians must completely reject psychology. Although I may revisit some of those objections in future posts, today , let’s talk about the underlying issue. When we join psychoanalysis to Scripture, we very openly admit our belief that God’s Word lacks the ability to address a person’s spiritual needs.

Okay, I put that point bluntly. And, if you must know, I did so very deliberately because most evangelicals honestly don’t realize how deeply their reliance on psychology attacks the doctrine of Scripture’s sufficiency. In fact, I suppose that the vast majority of evangelicals who combine psychology with God’s Word sincerely believe that the Lord uses the “science” of psychology to “go deeper” than the Bible without contradicting it.

They would regard psychology as a provision the Lord has given us so that, in better understanding ourselves, we can more effectively apply Biblical principles to our daily lives. Of course, they assume that “Christian” psychology will ultimately eliminate temptation so that they can honor and obey the Lord without effort…which perhaps explains why they feel such an urgent need for something “more.”

In my younger years, I often articulated to myself (but never to others) that  I wanted “more” than the Bible offered in dealing with my sin of anger. The Bible simply says to put anger away and walk in patience and humility. I wanted, however, to understand the  “root causes” of my anger, thinking that such an understanding would eliminate the emotion and in turn eradicate the temptation.

Sounds wonderful, until you realize that the focus shifts from self-denial and trust in God’s authority to my own comfort.

Something that happened a number of years ago might help to demonstrate a more Scriptural approach to anger. Just as I needed to complete my PCA’s time sheet and print it for her to sign (we needed to  fax all the time sheets before she returned the following Monday), Adobe Reader froze. When I restarted it, Dell started installing 29 updates. I knew my PCA didn’t feel well and wanted to go home, which pressured me. Obviously, she couldn’t wait around while my computer updated itself.

John got on his computer and opened my second email address where (praise God) I daily backed up time sheets. He found hers, but it printed improperly, forcing him to retype the entire two-week time sheet from scratch. As he struggled typing in all the numbers, I vented my rage and frustration without restraint. Finally, he commanded me to stop.

I immediately thought of Scriptures about wives submitting to husbands and about controlling anger. Although I felt like continuing my temper tantrum, I simply obeyed God’s Word. I didn’t fall back on psychological explanations for this latest tirade. I simply acknowledged my sin and repented. Knowing the Lord’s will that I exercise self-control was sufficient.

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. ~~2 Peter 1:3-8 (ESV)

The Lord has taught me that, as Scripture deepens my knowledge of Who He is and how He sees things, I don’t need the man-made discipline of psychology. His Word tells me everything I need to know.

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Perspectives In Titus: Purity Polluted

Titus 1 15&16Fasten your seatbelts, ladies. Today we’ll finish Chapter 1 of Titus, so we’ll go a bit longer than we usually do. Verses 15 and 16 are really rich, though, so I want to take time to go over them carefully. Let’s begin by reading them in their immediate context.

10 For there are many who are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision party. 11 They must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach. 12 One of the Cretans, a prophet of their own, said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.” 13 This testimony is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith, 14 not devoting themselves to Jewish myths and the commands of people who turn away from the truth. 15 To the pure, all things are pure, but to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but both their minds and their consciences are defiled. 16 They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work. ~~Titus 1:10-16 (ESV)

In verses 15 and 16, Paul continues his description of the false teachers in Crete by elaborating on their corrupt personalities. He begins by affirming that all created things are intrinsically pure. Remember that many of the false teachers in Crete tried to impose Old Testament Jewish law on the Gentile converts, and therefore most likely would have taught that certain food were unclean.

Paul argues that God created all things pure. As a result, those who have been purified through the blood of Christ Jesus regard everything as pure. Such people feel perfect liberty to enjoy whatever the Lord places before them. 1 Timothy 4:1-5 expands on this point by saying that “doctrines of demons” lead false teachers to demand abstinence from certain foods and from marriage.

Barnes wisely cautions against using this verse as a license for sin, arguing that it primarily refers to food. He reminds us of Paul’s injunction in Colossians 2:16  not to let anyone judge  us in regard to rituals.

Paul goes on to explain that nothing is pure to them because their very minds and consciences are defiled.  To those defiled by the sin of false doctrine, everything is corrupted by their pride and self-indulgence. Their supposed devotion to God’s Law actually covers up their internal wickedness. Therefore, nothing is pure for them; they pollute everything by their evil natures.

Moving to verse 16, we see exactly why Paul declares false teachers to be impure, False teachers, though claiming to know the Lord, have a false testimony. In fact, as false teachers they often claim to have special revelation from God. But Paul insists that they actually deny Him by their works of self-indulgence (see verses 10-12) and their works of teaching legalistic salvation. Their conduct exposes them as false converts.

Paul makes a play on words by calling them detestable, since they teach Old Testament regulations of foods that were detestable under ceremonial law. Essentially, the Lord regards false teachers, rather than mere foods, detestable.

Furthermore, these false teachers were disobedient to God in both their sinful lifestyles and their spreading of perverse doctrine. Their disobedience made them unfit for any good work. In other words, worthless.

Barnes reminds us that the disobedient lifestyles of the Cretans,  coupled with the false teachers trying to add Mosaic law to the Gospel, motivated Paul’s concern that Titus appoint men of godly character to serve as elders. As we proceed to Chapter 2 next week, we’ll see Paul’s strategy of dealing with the problems in Crete.

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The Grace Of Absolute Truth

2th 3v5The continued exodus from Biblical Christianity doesn’t shock me as much as it used to, but it saddens me. Friends whom I once greatly respected as sterling examples of Christians, both for their doctrinal fidelity and their moral purity, have been embracing liberal theology and/or moving into blatantly sinful behavior patterns. A few, but only a very few, are honest enough to acknowledge that they aren’t following the Lord. Most, however, foolishly believe that He has led them to make these tragic choices.

“There, but for the grace of God, go I.”

There have been far too many times I’ve looked down my sanctimonious nose at erring friends, not so secretly congratulating myself that I would never go into sin like they did. Really? In my eagerness to judge them, I’d conveniently forget the times I’ve tried to rationalize certain beliefs, attitudes and behaviors with the Bible, knowing full well that I violated God’s standards.

At other times, I admitted my deviation from the truth, and seriously considered turning my back on Jesus in favor of following my selfish desires. Sometimes I still feel that way. No room for self-righteousness here!

But I always come back to the Lord, repentant and convinced that He is my only hope of salvation. You see, when all is said and done, I actually believe everything the Bible says. As a result, I believe I’d spend eternity in hell if I embraced my sinful desires in rebellion against Him.

I’d also miss the joy of fellowship with Him and His people. Sin just doesn’t offer the deep satisfaction of a right conscience before Him. Sacrificing my relationship with Christ for the transient pleasures of sin simply isn’t worth it. I’ve seriously tried to compromise my faith, and I’ve tried to abandon it altogether, but I’ve always come back to wanting the Lord and knowing that He is the Truth.

I can’t leave Jesus, even when I’d very much prefer going my own way, nor can I reassemble my understanding of Him to accommodate my rebellion. Despite the prevailing philosophy that all truth is relative, I am sure that Jesus is the Truth. His Word, the Bible, is absolute, and therefore not subject to personal interpretation. Simply stated, Jesus has a hold on me.

As I watch dear friends pervert Scripture and distort their lives, I must credit the Lord for keeping me anchored in Him. Why He hasn’t given me over to deception puzzles me. I can’t take credit for my steadfastness, though I’d like to believe I’m that much of a spiritual giant. Jesus keeps me following Him, however imperfectly, by convincing me that Truth is exclusively in Him.

66 After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. 67 So Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” 68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, 69 and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” ~~John 6:66-69 (ESV)

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Perspectives In Titus: Harshness And Hope

Titus 1 13&14Last Monday we examined a quotation that the apostle Paul got from Epimenides, a poet from Crete. Epimenides didn’t exactly flatter the people of Crete in his words, as you’ll probably recall. Today, I’d like us to look at Paul’s reasons for quoting such a harsh indictment against the very people he wanted Titus to reach with the Gospel.

This explanation comes out of verses 13 and 14 of Titus 1, which I’ll quote in context.

10 For there are many who are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision party. 11 They must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach. 12 One of the Cretans, a prophet of their own, said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.” 13 This testimony is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith, 14 not devoting themselves to Jewish myths and the commands of people who turn away from the truth. 15 To the pure, all things are pure, but to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but both their minds and their consciences are defiled. 16 They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work. ~~Titus 1:10-16 (ESV)

Paul uses Epimenides’ condemnation of the Cretans to demonstrate the degenerate condition of the false teachers who had infiltrated the churches of Crete. But simply applying the invective to these teachers did little to instruct Titus in dealing with them. Therefore Paul elaborates on the saying.

Notice, as verse 13 opens, that Paul affirms the saying of Epimenides regarding the character of the Cretans.  He wants Titus to appoint  godly elders precisely because the Cretans exhibited such a corrupt character.

The false teachers among the Cretans were so invested in their sinful lifestyles that only  sharp rebuke would penetrate their consciences. The Greek word here rendered “sharply” denotes severity, as if cutting them off. In other words, Paul did not want Titus to tolerate any part of their deviations from the truth.

Verse 13 goes on to reveal that Paul’s goal in sharply rebuking the Cretans was to restore them to sound faith. Barnes says, “That they may not allow the prevailing vices to corrupt their views of religion.”Believers Bible Commentary points out that rebuking the Cretans meant that there was actually hope for their  repentance. What an encouraging thought!

But even if the false teachers themselves resisted correction, rebuking them would have an impact on the other Christians in Crete. I think of similar instructions Paul issued to Timothy as Timothy established the church at Ephesus:

As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear. ~~1 Timothy 5:20 (ESV)

Verse 14 continues Paul’s thought by showing exactly how Titus should rebuke the false teachers. His mention of Jewish myths brings us back to verse 10, where Paul alludes to “those of the circumcision party.” Paul had no patience for false teachers who tried to make salvation contingent on human performance.

Jamieson, Fausset and Brown take the view that  the Jewish myths, while at this point were  merely diversions that  didn’t advance godliness, opened the door to Gnosticism. The Judaizers in Crete evidently  imposed religious rituals to augment Christ’s work on the cross, suggesting that it wasn’t sufficient.  Colossians 2:23 cautions against turning to man-made rules and regulations that merely give an appearance of spirituality.

The Judaizers, by encouraging the Gentile Christians to observe Jewish customs, actually turned them away from the Gospel truth that Jesus met the demands of the Law through His death on the cross. Paul, as an apostle to the Gentiles, saw that such teachings would divert people from trusting Christ alone for salvation, thus nullifying the entire message of the Gospel.

At the same time, Paul appreciated true holiness. In denouncing the works  based righteousness of the Judaizers, he in no way intended to support the self-indulgence of the Cretans in general. Paul wanted to see Titus lead the churches of Crete into true holiness, as we’ll see in coming weeks.

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Saturday Sampler: March 19 — March 25

Flower SamplerContinuing her series in Growing 4 Life, Leslie A. writes Learn to Discern: Who Do You Follow? She raises several important points that women should seriously consider as we pray to develop our discernment .

Unbelief doesn’t need one more miracle says Jennifer at One Hired Late in the Day. I’d been considering writing a similar article, but I really couldn’t improve on hers. If you want a solid explanation of the doctrine of justification, Jennifer’s blog post certainly gives it clearly.

“Authentic” seems to be the latest buzzword among evangelicals. In Has “Be Authentic” Replaced “Be Holy”? Rebekah Womble explains what postmodern people mean by authenticity, contrasting their understanding of the characteristic with the holiness that Christ calls us to practice.

Dinitatians typically believe in the Father and the Son, but not the Holy Spirit. In his blog post, Are Cessationists Dinitatians? Eric Davis of The Cripplegate refutes the popular notion that non-Charismatics don’t believe in the Holy Spirit. I love his list of 20 things Cessationists believe about the Holy Spirit.

Do you sometimes wonder what you should pray in praying for your pastor? Steve Altroggie, blogging on The Blazing Center, enumerates 8 Prayers You Should Regularly Pray For Your Pastor to offer us good direction in the matter.

John Ellis’ article, How NOT to Argue Online in adayinhiscourt convicted me. But it also encouraged me in arguing my case in ways that honor the Lord .

Responding to one of Beth Moore’s recent Tweets, Elizabeth Prata writes How does the Holy Spirit lead us? in her blog, The End Time. Her essay is lengthy, admittedly (and perhaps could have been broken into two separate ones), but her point is so crucial to Christian women that I strongly recommend it as essential reading.

In Don’t Get Your Theology from Movies, Michelle Lesley explains why even Movie Subscription Services that advertise themselves as Christian fail at helping us negotiate life’s issues. I’ve never seen anyone address this matter quite this comprehensively before, but Michelle does an excellent job.

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Hus Did What For The Sake Of The Gospel?

Okay, I confess. I didn’t do my homework. I’d intended to write about John Hus today, finishing my little sub-series on the pre-Reformation reformers. Instead of studying, however, I spent time learning a different digital art program that I’d bought three years ago and subsequently neglected. I do need to invest time in my art, yes. But we can only celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation once.

October 31st isn’t that far away, and we should start covering people who actually shaped the Protestant Reformation in the 16th Century. As important as John Hus was to church history, I must forgo writing about him, looking forward to introducing John Calvin next Tuesday.

But since Hus holds such a vital place in paving the way for Martin Luther, John Calvin and the other 16th Century Reformers,  I decided to post this 4 minute video summarizing his life, ministry and martyrdom.

Like Peter Waldo and John Wycliffe, Hus preached that the Bible had greater authority than Roman Catholic tradition and that justification comes through faith alone. Unlike these two men, Hus actually died for preaching Biblical Christianity. The very church that claimed to represent the Lord Jesus Christ ordered his execution, falsely convincing him of heresy.

Many more people would suffer martyrdom for espousing the Biblical tenets of the Reformation. In our own own century, when Pope  Francis declares that the Reformation is over, we need to remember why the Reformation happened and what it cost the men and women who stood for the true Gospel. Hus, and many Christians after him, chose death rather than recanting Biblical doctrine. If we now accept the Pope’s declaration, we certainly negate everything the Reformers suffered for the sake of the Gospel.

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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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