Unequal Yokes Or Respectful Dialogues?

UnliberatedScripture tells us not to be unequally yoked with unbelievers.

14 Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? 15 What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? 16 What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said,

“I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them,
    and I will be their God,
    and they shall be my people.
17 Therefore go out from their midst,
    and be separate from them, says the Lord,
and touch no unclean thing;
    then I will welcome you,
18 and I will be a father to you,
    and you shall be sons and daughters to me,
says the Lord Almighty.” ~~2 Corinthians 6:14-18 (ESV)

Most Christians understand that this passage applies to much more than marriage. Those of you who follow my Tuesday series on the Reformation undoubtedly know that I by no means embrace ecumenical alliances. Furthermore, when I examine suspected false teachers, I often include looking at their associations in determining the legitimately of their ministry (though wrong associations, in and of themselves, don’t necessarily mean that a teacher is an apostate). God unequivocally calls us to separate from those who reject the Lord Jesus Christ.

That separation, however, never requires animosity, nor does it mean that we can’t learn from those who believe differently than we do. A public discussion of our differences (and even points of similarity) needn’t indicate that we have comprised the Gospel. Such compromise can happen, admittedly, but it doesn’t always occur.

Sometimes, properly understanding what Catholics, Muslims, atheists or Jehovah’s Witnesses (just to name a few examples) actually believe helps us witness more effectively, especially if we demonstrate a willingness to listen. Not all of us have the temperament to engage in such conversations, I realize. I can do it in writing, but not face-to-face (I consider my inability to do so as one of my many character flaws). But all of us ought to recognize the value in honest, respectful dialogue with people who embrace false beliefs.

Respecting someone enough to let them articulate their beliefs shouldn’t result in other Christians accusing us of violating 2 Corinthians 6:14-18. I may not have the grace to dialogue with someone of another religion in person, but I see tremendous value in extending that kind of respect to someone. Particularly if I want them to consider the claims of the Gospel!

Open, respectful dialogue, even when planned by both parties in a public setting, may not be the wisest course of action. But neither is it sufficient reason to accuse a brother or sister of compromising the Gospel. Before seizing on an isolated incident, examine the broader scope of that person’s teaching and overall ministry. It could just be that, precisely by having that dialogue, that person will make his or her separation from the world abundantly clear.

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Saturday Sampler: June 18 — June 24

Rose SamplerMark McIntyre writes Did he really say that? on his Attempts at Honesty blog primarily as an exhortation to men in pulpit ministry. But his words apply to all Christians as we proclaim the Gospel in face-to-face conversations and/or on social media. The truth, no matter how lovingly we present it, will always offend unbelievers.

How seriously do you take sin? According to R.C. Sproul of Ligonier, Sin is Cosmic Treason. Sproul gives a thorough explanation of sin’s nature and why God can’t tolerate it.

I completely agree with The Gospel Coalition Blog‘s Michael A G Haykin that Every Christian ought to be a good historian. Having enjoyed two years of a church history class in Adult Sunday School, I join Haykin in believing that church history displays God’s power and faithfulness to His people.

It’s wonderful to see Jessica Pickowicz blogging on Beautiful Thing after a long hiatus! Her blog post, The Not So Simple Life, evaluates the current trend of simple living by holding it up against practicality and ultimately against God’s Word. If you’re a busy mom, Jessica’s essay may be just the encouragement you need.

Denny Burk’s article, Mainstreaming fornication (a.k.a. “ethical non-monogamy”) saddens me.

In light of recent internet fights among well-known Christian apologists, I found Leslie A’s blog post, Engaging The Enemy on her Growing 4 Life blog, wonderfully balanced and refreshing. Biblical discernment doesn’t require us to win arguments; it simply enables us to stand on God’s Word.

Evangelism often means encountering people who, quite frankly, have no interest in the Lord. In his essay for Parking Space 23, Greg Peterson writes Excuses… Excuses… to counter some of the better-known objections to the Gospel. In addition to citing pertinent Scriptures for each argument, Peterson also provides links to helpful articles.

Mike Riccardi’s post, Ecumenical vs. Evangelical in The Cripplegate traces the fascinating history of the Ecumenical Movement. It’s a good caution against blurring the lines of doctrine for the sake of unity.

Although Herman Melville’s Moby Dick was by far my least favorite assigned reading in   college, I respect Elizabeth Prata’s delight in reading it. And I absolutely love the way she uses a passage from the novel to remind wives to use prudence in Exposing or ignoring the ignominious blemish in our husbands for The End Time. Interestingly, I gave similar counsel just this morning to a young friend who will be getting married a few months from now.

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Why I Wanted More Than Scripture

Victoria PaintingTo my shame, I like to talk about myself. Everybody does, I suppose, but I see it as one of my character flaws. Wouldn’t it be much better if my conversation revolved around the Lord and His Word?

Sometimes, however, talking about myself gives me the opportunity to tell people how the Lord has worked in my life. I’ve written several articles about the ways that evangelicals try to supplement God’s Word with mysticism and psychology, but perhaps I come across as not understanding why those practices attract so many professing Christians. Perhaps readers (especially those who haven’t read my Autobiography With Purpose posts) think I’m simply unaware of how God can use these practices to enhance Biblical principles. With such possibilities in mind, I’d like to tell you a little bit about my struggles with the sin of anger and my subsequent minimization of the Bible’s ability to address it.

Mostly in those years when I accepted Charismatic theology (but also in later years), I considered the Bible to be less than satisfying. Oh, with my mouth I’d insist that Scripture possessed everything Christians needed to know, but when I struggled with personal issues, I’d search its pages and find my heart yearning for something “deeper.” Prophecy, psychology, or “words of knowledge” promised to augment God’s Word.

My battle to tame my temper provides an example of my dissatisfaction with Biblical principles. I dutifully read all the passages condemning anger, as well as the ones encouraging self-control. Yet they didn’t seem to offer guidance on how to keep  from exploding into fits of rage when I’d feel irritated or threatened. I believed I needed to understand childhood trauma that caused my root of anger. Additionally, I went through “deliverance” from a demon of anger that had supposedly possessed me. I read Christian books and articles, looking for mystical experiences with Jesus that would free me from my anger and transform me into a woman of inexhaustible patience.

The magic bullet never materialized.

What I really needed, of course, was to obey the Holy Spirit, Who has given me a spirit of self-control (2 Timothy 1:7). I could choose to walk in the Spirit’s ways, which He outlined in the Bible, or I could choose to walk in the flesh. Walking in the Spirit doesn’t erase my fleshly feelings of indignation, but it trusts the Spirit’s power to help me respond to irritations as He would have me respond.

Obedience isn’t the easy way of dealing with sin. Often, it fails to change our feelings or remove our sinful desires. Instead, it requires us to deny the demands of our emotions, bringing them into submission to God’s commands. Certainly, the Holy Spirit empowers us to obey the Lord, but He doesn’t necessarily do so in ways that we find comfortable. And, frankly, we turn to mysticism and psychology precisely because we want a comfortable way of dealing with sin.

God’s Word not only teaches us what the Lord expects, but it points us to the power of God’s Spirit, Who enables us to obey. We need no “deeper” knowledge, nor do we need psychology. Scripture guides us to the risen Christ, Who in turn raises us from bondage to our sin natures. Really, what more could we possibly need?

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Discernment Ministry Does More Than Expose False Teachers

Biblical UnityOur Monday Bible Studies in Titus may be suspended for the summer, but I’m still thinking quite a lot about Paul’s charge to Titus regarding the responsibilities of older women.

Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled. ~~Titus 2:3-5 (ESV)

As a blogger, I am in an unofficial teaching position, hopefully teaching younger women how to honor the Lord. Thus far, I’ve written little about marriage and even less about raising children, mostly because I married late in life and consequently missed out on motherhood. But I certainly can teach what is good in terms of Christian doctrine and discernment.

Without rehashing specifics, recent arguments among well-known figures in discernment ministry cause me to wonder if I should focus my teaching more on discerning how to exhibit a character that reflects the Lord Jesus Christ and less on calling out false teachers. To be sure, those false teachers need to be identified, especially because women tend to gravitate to ones that use humor, psychology and emotional mysticism to lure us into doctrinal error. But, as I’ve said many times, blogs like mine can easily degenerate into tabloid gossip mills.

Blogging as a Christian places me under an obligation to keep my doctrine pure. An elder from my church monitors The Outspoken TULIP for that very reason, as does my husband. But right doctrine is only half the battle, dear sisters in Christ. Remember that the Pharisees in Jesus’ day had right doctrine. But they used their right doctrine to cover up their sinful lifestyles.

If, in exposing false teachers, I use this blog to generate gossip, I stand guilty of dishonoring the Lord I claim to represent. On one level, I teach younger women to cultivate discernment regarding popular teachers and trends within the evangelical community (which is sometimes necessary), but on a deeper level I teach by example that discernment depends on gossiping about others.

Recent events in the evangelical world have caused me to consider the type of character I want to model as I emblazon words on the internet. Do I demonstrate godly attitudes even when I warn my readers against false teachers? Do I encourage my readers to pray for people who fall victim to doctrinal error, and do I point them back to the Word of God? Or do I act like a talebearer who enjoys the sport of character assassination?

Older women, Paul says, must teach what is good. Teaching what is good, in turn, necessitates living in conformity to sound doctrine. The current nastiness in the name of discernment, by God’s grace, admonishes me to be careful as I write my blog posts, knowing that the example I set can either encourage sinful attitudes or lead ladies to honor the Lord.

 

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Saturday Sampler: June 11 — June 17

Bezier Flower SamplerLike Michelle Lesley, I’d never heard of Karen Ehman, but based on The Mailbag: Did Jesus Really Teach Karen Ehman’s 3 Step Life Plan? I don’t think I’ll bother. In addition to examining questionable aspects of Ehman’s teaching, Michelle shows us the importance of keeping everything we read in context.

Praise the Lord that Jennifer at One Hired Late In The Day pays attention to her Bible! She supplies Some Encouragement for Marrieds & Parents in response to the Social Gospel and its call to radical living.

Is The Bible A Love Letter From God? Stephen Altroggie of The Blazing Center says no. Find out why he disagrees with this popular view of God’s Word.

Lysa TerKeurst is, from what I’ve read, a false teacher. I’m still researching her, but I know enough about her to be very wary of her. Sadly, she’s announced this week that she’s decided to divorce her husband, alleging he’s been unfaithful. In response, Leslie A. of Growing 4 Life has written Some thoughts on ending a marriage. I appreciate Leslie’s balanced, compassionate approach to this matter. This is not a time for self-righteousness or glee, but a time to pray for Lysa’s repentance.

Highlighting two very different incidents from Martin Luther’s life, Allen Cagle writes If he is inviting me to my death, then I will come for Parking Space 23. Even if you don’t normally like history, this article is an inspiring portrayal of courage. Don’t cheat yourself out of it!

As a woman with a disability, I resonate with Elizabeth Prata’s Two or more good things about having a disability in The End Time. It’s not a typical Elizabeth Prata essay, but I love the way she points to the Lord’s goodness and sovereignty in giving us various trials.

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Summer Wardrobes And Stumbling Brothers

Young Couple 02At the outset, let me say that a man bears complete responsibility for lustful thoughts and actions, regardless of how a woman dresses. As you read this blog post, please don’t mischaracterize me as excusing rape, sexual harassment or even lustful fantasies. Men must, in all circumstances, remain pure in their interactions with women, even when a woman dresses provocatively.

Have I made myself clear? If not, close this article right now, and maybe read Scriptures on the importance of sexual purity for both men and women. But if you understand that I by no means condone rape, sexual harassment or lustful fantasies in men, please keep reading. And remember, this blog is directed specifically at women, making it unnecessary (and kind of ridiculous) for me to address men on how to deal with scantily clad women during the summer months.

But ladies, I certainly can talk to you about our responsibility toward our brothers in Christ. The fact that the Lord holds them responsible to control their responses when they see too much skin or silhouette doesn’t negate our responsibility to dress modestly and carry ourselves in a manner that doesn’t call undue attention to our sexuality. Our brothers in Christ deserve the same respect from us that we want from them.

Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister. ~~Romans 14:13 (ESV)

God created men to respond to visual stimuli, just as He created us to respond to emotional attention. When I was single, I was constantly falling for guys who, out of  compassion for my disability, treated me tenderly. They didn’t intend to communicate romantic interest, but they almost always set my heart fluttering.

I failed to control my fantasies when those brothers gave me emotional attention. I had the responsibility to guard my heart, and I very well knew that I shouldn’t have read things into their actions that they never intended to convey. But they needed a man to teach them how women are wired. They needed to understand that their behavior (although well-meaning) led me into sin.

Similarly, we need to understand that God created men to respond to visual images. Within marriage, they quite appropriately respond when they admire the bodies of their wives. God designed them that way.

But precisely because God designed them to respond to visual stimuli, women bear a responsibility to dress in ways that discourage men (other than their husbands) from looking at us in inappropriate ways. Certainly, I get that some men will look no matter how modestly we dress, and they will have to answer to the Lord for doing so. That said, that same Lord holds us accountable if we deliberately dress for the purpose of attracting attention to our bodies.

I’m not suggesting that we dress like frumps. Rather, I want to remind you to be careful, during these hot summer months, not to expose our body parts in ways that could cause our brothers to stumble. Our wish to stay cool, while important, mustn’t supplant their need to remain pure.

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Perspectives In Titus: Of Employees And Slaves

Titus 9 & 10Slavery is difficult to talk about, particularly for Americans who continue to live with shameful memories of our nation’s cruelty to black slaves. So I approach this weeks passage with a degree of reticence, not wanting to offend anyone.

At the same time, I don’t want to get sidetracked from our study with a lengthy discussion on the differences between 1st Century slavery in the Roman Empire and the early American institution of slavery. Nor do I want to spend time and blog space exploring possible reasons that Paul neither condemned nor condoned slavery in his culture. This study has been going slowly enough without that rabbit trail.

So, dear ladies, let’s read the first ten verses of Titus 2  before we zero in on verses 9 and 10, just to keep the context fresh in our minds.

But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine. Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness. Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled. Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled. Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us. Bondservants are to be submissive to their own masters in everything; they are to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, 10 not pilfering, but showing all good faith, so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior.  ~~Titus 2:1-10 (ESV)

The best way to apply Titus 2:9-10 is to substitute the word “employees” for “bondservants,” even though its not an exact parallel. Employees are the modern-day equivalents to bondservants. At least, they should have that sort of attitude. Strictly speaking, the Greek word describes someone subservient to another. For that reason  Paul describes himself as a bondservant of the Lord Jesus Christ.

So, although modern-day employees serve their employers voluntarily, they ought to have the humility of a bondservant.

Bondservants, says Paul in verse 9, should submit to their own masters. He has made similar pleas in Ephesians 6:5-6, Colossians 3:22 and 1 Timothy 6:1. Jamieson, Fausset and Brown assert that, because Christian slaves enjoyed spiritual equality with their Christian masters (Galatians 3:28), they might forget their rank on the social  level.

Submission means to recognize someone’s authority over us. In that sense it is voluntary; it involves our attitude toward that person.

Notice that Paul specifies submission to their own masters rather than to masters of other bondservants. A minor point, perhaps, but it would protect slaves from being taken advantage of by the public at large.

Paul continues by explaining what submission should look like. First, they must please their masters. Instead of performing tasks grudgingly, doing the bare minimum, they should try to work in ways that delight their masters. Barnes cautions that this pleasing does not includes submitting to anything that contradicts God’s Law.

Part of working this way necessitates that they avoid arguing and backtalk. This clause may even extend, as one commentator suggests, to the servant advancing his own opinions.  I’m not sure I completely agree with that point (and I’m an employer over my PCAs), but the idea here is that bondservants act in attitudes of submission.

Additionally, verse 10 tells us, bondservants must not pilfer from their masters. The idea here is that bondservants should not use the property of their masters for personal benefit.  Such pilfering could take the form of secretly taking money or material goods, but it might also mean taking time for themselves when they should be attending to business.

In contrast to pilfering, bondservants must show themselves trustworthy.  They should take care of the property and responsibilities entrusted to them. MacArthur states that the phrase, “showing all good faith,” indicates loyalty.

In summary, Paul commands this submission for one purpose. Like the other four groups he’s addressed throughout this chapter, he calls bondservants to behave in ways that are in line with the Gospel. As he puts it, their attitudes and actions must adorn the Gospel. The Cretans would scrutinize Christians, looking for signs of hypocrisy, which made it crucial that even bondservants show lives of integrity. Jamieson, Fausset and Brown conclude by writing, “Even slaves, low as is their status, should not think the influence of their example a matter of no consequence to religion.”

 

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