Category Archives: Obedience

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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The Meditation Of My Heart And How To Make It Acceptable In God’s Sight

Psalm 19V14 B&W

I lay awake last night, letting my mind wander into places it had no business going. Not only did my disobedience rob me of sleep I really needed, but much more importantly it grieved the Holy Spirit by dishonoring the Lord. Thankfully, God brought me to repentance fairly quickly, and I drifted off to sleep.

When I awoke this morning, I again confessed my sin to the Lord. As I prayed about it, I remembered Psalm 19:14.

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
    be acceptable in your sight,
    O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. (ESV)

Even though the meditation of my heart had been decidedly unacceptable in the sight of the Lord, I felt a desire to  change that course. So I started pondering about ways to keep my thoughts on things that please the Lord. John MacArthur’s radio broadcasts these last two weeks came to mind, as I recalled him saying something about filling our minds with Scripture so that our thoughts would honor God.

From there, I remembered that an earlier portion of Psalm 19 actually talks about Scripture’s impact on people.

The law of the Lord is perfect,
    reviving the soul;
the testimony of the Lord is sure,
    making wise the simple;
the precepts of the Lord are right,
    rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the Lord is pure,
    enlightening the eyes;
the fear of the Lord is clean,
    enduring forever;
the rules of the Lord are true,
    and righteous altogether.
10 More to be desired are they than gold,
    even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey
    and drippings of the honeycomb.
11 Moreover, by them is your servant warned;
    in keeping them there is great reward. ~~Psalm 19:7-11 (ESV)

It follows, seems to me, that keeping God’s Word constantly in mind would guard us against dwelling on sinful thoughts. If my heart’s meditation revolves around His Word, naturally it’s acceptable in His sight. Clearly, it leaves no room for entertaining unclean ideas.

Maybe what I’m writing isn’t particularly novel. But sometimes we forget foundational truths. Sometimes it helps to nudge our memories back to things we’ve known for years. We get caught up in the finer points of doctrine, or in serving the Lord, and suddenly lose sight of fundamental attitudes that Christians need.

My mental activities last night most assuredly were unacceptable. But the Lord showed great mercy in using my sin to direct me back to His Word. For that great mercy, I praise His wonderful Name!

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Perspectives In Titus: A Reminder Of Christian Behavior

Titus 3 1&2

Believe it or not, ladies, we’re actually starting Chapter 3 of Titus today! Even more incredible, we’ll actually cover two entire verses! As soon as you recover from the shock, please prepare for today’s Bible Study by reading all of Titus 3 to familiarize yourselves with the context. Also, bear in mind the verse we studied last Monday.

Declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you. ~~Titus 2:15 (ESV)

As we said last week, the apostle Paul (writing under the authority of the Holy Spirit) commanded Titus to declare the instructions and doctrines that preceded verse 15. But Titus would also need to declare the instructions and doctrines we now find in our current chapter. So Paul begins with addressing how the Cretan Christians should respond to those in civil authority.

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. ~~Titus 3:1-2 (ESV)

Paul wanted Titus to remind the Cretan Christians of several responsibilities. Though they knew these fundamental attitudes, the pressures of the surrounding heathen culture had the potential of distracting them and drawing them into compromise.

Firstly, Paul wanted Titus to remind them to submit to secular authorities. Paul’s letter to the Romans issued a similar injunction (Romans 13:1-7). Submission requires a willing subordination instead of grudge obedience.

They were to submit to civic authorities. Their allegiance to God’s kingdom didn’t excuse them from being good citizens, especially in a society characterized by rebellion.

According to Jamieson, Fausset and Brown, this obedience didn’t necessarily imply spontaneous obedience (since the authorities might demand actions contrary to the Gospel). They instead posit that obedience generally tends toward the good works that civil leaders generally encourage.

Barnes adds that Christians should have a readiness to do good works, rather than needing to be coaxed. This readiness allows us to regard opportunities to do good as a privilege instead of a burden.

But verse 2 broadens  the scope of  people Christians must respect. Titus also must teach the Christians not to speak evil of anyone. This idea includes the avoidance of slander, but it extends further. We must take care not to put anybody in a bad light. Maybe Paul particularly meant that they should speak respectfully of secular authorities, but he by no means restricted the command to our attitude toward civil authority.

Paul also wanted the Cretan Christians to avoid quarreling and instead treat others with kindness and consideration. Additionally, they were to behave gently, in contrast to the brutal demeanor of the unsaved Cretans, treating Christians and non-Christians alike with perfect courtesy.

Although Paul’s  letter specifically addresses Titus and how the Lord wanted him to pastor the churches of First Century Crete, don’t neglect the fact that the Holy Spirit included this epistle in the Canon of Scripture for all Christians of every generation to read. Therefore, the principles Titus must teach his flock apply to us. As we meditate on Titus 3:1-2 this week, perhaps the Lord will encourage us in showing courtesy to those we meet.

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Perspectives In Titus: A Pastor’s Duty

Titus 2 v 15

Forgive me for skipping last Monday’s Bible Study. John and I went to the Museum of Fine Arts with dear friends from church as a homeschool field trip for their kids (the dad had the day off work). But I’m here today, so let’s remind any gentlemen (other than my husband and elders from First Baptist Church Weymouth MA) that these studies are for ladies only and dig right in to our text.

Titus 2:15 constitutes its own paragraph in English translations, so to establish its context (which is absolutely necessary in understanding this verse) I really need you to either open your copy of Scripture or click this link to read the chapter before we proceed. Once you’ve read the chapter, look at verse 15:

Declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you.

You may be tempted, as I usually am, too skim over this verse. After all, as women, none of us will be pastors like Titus. Yet older women do have a responsibility to teach younger women, as we see in Titus 2:3-5. In that respect (though certainly to a lesser degree), we might apply this verse to our own ministries.

Paul instructs Titus to declare the things contained in this chapter, and perhaps especially verses 11-14. Matthew Henry remarks that, in contrast to the Jewish fables and traditions that the Judaizers tried to impose on the Cretan Christians, Titus is here (as in verse 1) charged to preach and teach sound doctrine and godly ways of living.

He commands Titus to exhort the Cretans. Exhortation demands impassioned speech that both encourages and urges hearers towards obedience to God’s Word. Strong’s Hebrew and Greek Dictionaries says that the Greek word denotes a “calling near” to comfort, beseech or entreat. While it doesn’t compromise, exhortation has an aspect of gentleness.

Along with exhortation, Titus has a duty to rebuke. According to Vines New Testament Dictionary, the Greek word here means to convict or reprove. Thus it lacks the gentleness of exhortation. Rebuke specifically confronts sin in a manner which then calls for repentance.

Paul tells Titus to exhort and rebuke “with all authority.” God gives pastors authority over those they shepherd because, in preaching God’s Word, they represent the Lord Himself. Earlier, in Titus 1:13, Paul alluded to Titus’ pastoral authority by directing him to rebuke the Cretans “sharply.” Such sharpness comes only when someone has authority.

Furthermore, the Greek word translated “authority” here carries the sense of commanding speech, free of ambiguity of compromise. According to Barnes, Paul’s point here is that Titus’ words shouldn’t come across as mere advice, “but as the requirement of God.”

Because God has given Titus pastoral authority, Paul counsels him not to permit anyone to disregard him. He gave Timothy similar counsel in 1 Timothy 4:12, where he elaborates by saying Timothy should set an example for believers. You’ll recall that Paul wants Titus to be a model of Christian living (Titus 2:7).

In addition to encouraging us in our ministries to other women, today’s verse can also remind us of the incredible responsibilities our pastors bear. Sisters, our pastors need us to pray for them regularly as they do difficult work, quite often behind the scenes, standing for righteousness in a culture much like the Cretan culture of Titus’ time. Use this study as motivation to pray for your pastors.

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Maybe This Is A Discernment Blog After All

Discernment ScrollLooking over my blog stats, I easily see that readers gravitate toward articles on discernment. This tendency both frustrates and encourages me.

My frustration comes because I believe that most evangelicals make a correlation between discernment and outing false teachers. And, while sometimes we in fact do need to name names and expose trends that subtly contradict the Bible, discernment bloggers run the risk of branding orthodox believers as heretics merely because of small areas of disagreement. Really, we don’t need to die on every hill. Much less should we crucify each other each time we believe we see a hill. Turning discernment blogs into yellow journalism never honors the Lord.

The interest in discernment encourages me, however, when readers desire discernment in order to please Christ. Scripture teaches that we must grow in knowledge (and therefore discernment) for the purpose of pleasing Him. A passage I read just this morning reinforces the relationship between Scriptural knowledge and holy behavior.

And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; ~~Colossians 1:9-10 (ESV)

The term, “spiritual wisdom,” essentially means “discernment,” making it plain that Paul prayed for the Lord to fill Christians with the ability to recognize His truth and apply it accurately. But verse 10 expands on that idea by revealing the reason believers need discernment. Biblical discernment enables us to please the Lord.

I know I wrote about the relationship between discernment and personal holiness only last week, but a variety of circumstances in the past few months have convinced me that there’s a huge disconnect among people who claim to be discerning. From what I see, people regard discernment as nothing more than an ability to spot false teachers, totally ignoring the purpose of true spiritual wisdom and understanding in their own conduct.

Because of this disconnect, I hope to write more articles challenging you (and challenging myself as well) towards developing Biblical discernment that we can then apply to our daily lives. These articles won’t be a series. Rather, I’m proposing a direction for The Outspoken TULIP.

This direction isn’t exactly new, but it will become more defined from this point onward as we examine Biblical discernment and its practical implications. Occasionally we will continue calling out false teachers and unbiblical trends that derail evangelicals from the truth, but even then we will do so with the aim of promoting personal holiness that honors the Lord. Essentially, ladies, we’ll discourage the shallow view of discernment as a tool for hunting down heresy in favor of encouraging godly wisdom that produces godly behavior.

If you want “discernment” articles that merely expose false teachers, this blog isn’t for you. But if you want to develop Biblical discernment in ways that help you become godly women, please stay with me. We’ll learn together, as I know I still need to work on areas of sin in my life. But we’ll definitely learn discernment in ways that lead us to honor the Lord Jesus Christ. And that’s the purpose of discernment.

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Perspectives In Titus: The Liberating Grace And Its Obligation To Serve

Titus 2 v 14

Ladies, God got me really excited as I prepared today’s Bible study on Titus that I want to dive right in! So let’s look at our passage and then enjoy working through verse 14.

11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. ~Titus 2:11-14 (ESV)

Last Monday, after we talked about Christ’s appearing, we noticed Paul’s boldness in proclaiming His deity. Now we circle back to the theme of God’s grace. Specifically, Paul’s words to Titus reveal God’s grace as a means to accomplish His purpose in establishing the churches in Crete, as well as the Church as a whole.

Verse 14 continues a complex sentence that begins in verse 11, and centers on the purpose and result of God’s grace. It immediately follows the assertion that Christ is indeed God with a further assertion that our great God and Savior Jesus Christ gave Himself. At the risk of distracting you from the primary point of this passage, I want to say a bit about the idea that our great God and Savior Jesus Christ gave Himself.

In John 10:18, Jesus explicitly declared that He would lay down His life of His own accord. Neither the Sanhedrin nor the Romans ultimately caused His crucifixion. Even God the Father didn’t force Him to the cross. True, His human nature asked for another way (Mark 14:35-36), yet He went voluntarily, focusing on the joy set before Him (Hebrews 12:2).

Furthermore, He gave Himself on our behalf. As Jamieson, Fausset and Brown put it, redemption means to deliver from bondage by paying the price of blood. He took pity on our enslavement to sin, and bought us back by shedding His precious blood. See 1 Peter 1:18-19 for an appreciation of the value God places on Christ’s blood. Acts 20:28 teaches that He bought us as a church, not merely as individuals, although we must keep in mind that individuals make up the church. In relation to the verse before us, the emphasis is on the precious blood that Christ shed as a payment for His church.

Jesus redeemed us from lawlessness itself, rather than merely the penalty of sin. As verse 12 has already said, God’s grace trains us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions — redemption gives us the ability to say “NO!” to our sin nature. Barnes emphasizes that the Lord’s principle objective in redeeming us is our purity (or holiness), citing Hebrews 9:14 as a cross-reference.

He also redeemed us to make us a people belonging to Him. This point reminds us that redemption signifies His ownership of us (see 1 Corinthians 6:19-20). Although we most definitely benefit from our liberation from our own sin natures, that wonderful liberation obligates us to serve Him in gratitude for His mercy.

Paul once again emphasizes a distinction between Christians and the world, especially because of the well-known lawlessness of Cretans. But Christians in all places and eras must separate from the corrupt cultures that surround us. Therefore, He had to purify us, since no sin can exist in His presence.

The Lord also redeemed us to be zealous to do good works. Ephesians 2:10 echoes this thought by stating that we are created, at regeneration, to walk in good works that God has already prepared for us. Please notice that redemption gives us the zeal; the good works don’t cause us to be redeemed. God’s grace so fills us with gratitude that we no longer want to engage in the lawless behaviors that characterized the Cretans (and indeed characterize our postmodern culture). Instead, grace gives us the zealous eagerness to please Christ.

Titus 2:11-14 depicts God’s grace as a conduit for honoring Him, as we’ve seen over the past  few weeks. I pray that each of us might apply His grace when temptation calls us to indulge our selfish desires. How wonderful of the Lord to give us this liberating grace that frees us to serve Him!

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A Sin All To Common

Pure WordsBefore I say anything else, let me confess that I’ve recently sinned in the area I want to address today. The Holy Spirit has graciously convicted me of using crude language (in my case, as humor), and He has brought me to repentance. Therefore I can’t write this essay from a self-righteous posture. Instead, I write with the attitude that I’ve been forgiven of a serious sin that I hope to help you avoid.

Scripture forbids Christians from using impure language.

But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. ~~Ephesians 5:3-6 (ESV)

I well understand that we live in a culture where even the President of the United States of America uses foul language in his public speeches. And I know we can’t go anywhere in public without hearing words that should offend us because they offend the holy Lord. Facebook overflows with horrible language that should make a sailor blush — often on the Timelines of lovely young women. So yes, I know that we face tremendous temptation to let impure words flow from both our mouths and our keyboards.

As Christians, however, we have an obligation to live differently from the world. I’m not advocating a legalistic morality that breeds self-righteousness, but rather a commitment to purity that honors the Lord. As His daughters, we want to reflect His holiness, even in our speech and writing.

Yesterday I came across a blog post by a Christian (at least, this person claims to be a Christian) that contained expletives in the first three paragraphs. At that point, even though I wanted to read the rest of the author’s thoughts, I felt convicted that I shouldn’t deliberately expose myself to language that I struggle to avoid using. I also felt sad that the writer would use those corrupt words repeatedly in a blog that claims to be written for the Lord.

Again, I realize that our culture treats filthy language as normative. But it also treats a whole host of other sins as normative. The Lord, however, calls us to honor Him, not to imitate non-Christians. He faithfully forgives us when we confess to using filthy language, but His grace should inspire us to then use our words for His glory.

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