Discernment: Knowing God’s Will

Untitled-1Other bloggers and social media mavens are currently (and finally) pointing out the problems of “discernment ministries” being hyper-vigilant in calling out orthodox Christians with whom they disagree on secondary matters. As tempting as it is to throw my hat into that ring, however, I believe it’s more edifying to continue my series on how discernment applies in everyday Christian life.

I know — I’d attract more readers by blogging about the first topic.  Too bad! Sometimes writing about the things that reflect God’s priorities takes precedence over building my readership. On the other hand, if everyone else is sounding the alarm, I don’t need to add my voice, now do I?

You’ll remember that back in December I began writing about using discernment according to Biblical prescriptions. Certainly, discernment includes distinguishing truth from error and occasionally calling out false teachers (I want to be clear that I support such uses of discernment when appropriate), but I believe we should recognize that discernment Continue reading

Has Anybody Seen The Opportunity That I Misplaced?

Dark WisdomSo John came into the bedroom with his laptop, offering to let me dictate a blog post to him. (I am a blessed woman!) As soon as he opened it, all my brilliant ideas fluttered out of my head and refused to be retrieved. Consequently, I lie here feeling frustrated and disappointed that I can’t fully take advantage of this opportunity.

I hate missed opportunities. I especially hate having an opportunity to share the Gospel, only to sit there with the words rumbling around in my throat and not coming out of my mouth. Until recently, I would fear that the person would spend eternity in hell because I failed to tell him or her about Jesus.

Certainly, Christians have a responsibility to proclaim the Gospel to whomever we can. God has ordained evangelism as the means of bringing people to salvation. Furthermore, a failure to speak on His behalf constitutes disobedience on our part.

That said, none of us should presume to think that a person’s salvation depends solely on our obedience. If somebody is elect, He will be faithful to make sure that the person hears and responds to His Word. Trusting His sovereignty relieves us of believing that we have responsibility for a person’s eternal destiny.

So should we feel guilty if we miss (or neglect) opportunities to present the Gospel to others? Yes and no.

Any disobedience should cause us to feel guilt. Christ has blessed us in abundance with salvation and the hope of eternity with Him! The grace He has given us should motivate us to obey all of His commands, including the command to go into all the world and make disciples, teaching them everything He has taught us. Our silence is a sin against His grace.

At the same time, we should not sin by presuming that we are ultimately responsible for anyone’s salvation. Heavenly days, we can’t even take credit for our own salvation – what makes us think that we can effect salvation in somebody else’s heart? Do we really think that the Lord is totally dependent on whether or not we share the Gospel?

Please.

We must remember that all of His elect will come to salvation regardless of our obedience to witness. He has determined who will enter His Kingdom, and our disobedience (even though it is sinful) isn’t strong enough to sabotage His will.

Lost opportunities indeed frustrate and disappoint us, especially when those opportunities involve bringing the Gospel to people who need Christ. But when we lose opportunities, we need to remember that God hasn’t lost His control. He knows who belong to Him, and He will save those people regardless of our actions. Rest in this assurance.

*Thanks to John for typing this post at my dictation.

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Saturday Sampler: December 9 — December 15

Snowmen Sampler

So often, Leslie A writes things in Growing 4 Life that make me want to jump out of my wheelchair, do a happy dance and shout “YES!” at the top of my lungs. To see a blog post that gives me such a giddy reaction, read Is There More Than One Way to Interpret Scripture?

Speaking of posts that resonate with me, go over to Possessing the Treasure and read The Believer’s Supreme Act of Spiritual Worship by Mike Ratliff. He accurately diagnosis major problems among evangelicals and prescribes the remedy.

Elizabeth Prata also has me ready to do a happy dance because of her essay, Another good reason to develop discernment, which appears in The End Time. It’s incredibly refreshing when a well-known discernment blogger writes an article like this! But my poor wheelchair is beginning to look awfully empty!

One of the reasons I love living near Boston is its rich literary history. Several years ago, John took me to Longfellow’s house in Cambridge to celebrate my birthday. So I appreciate Barry York’s A Lesson Learned in Longfellow’s Home in Gentle Reformation. I don’t know if Longfellow truly knew Christ,  but the poem still has tremendous power.

The lady who blogs at Biblical Beginnings writes Movie Review — Polycarp. After reading her review, I got my husband to pull this movie up on Amazon Prime. Except for the hokey lighting behind Polycarp’s  head during one of his prayers, it’s an excellent film. And as we see persecution approach Christians in the United States, this movie offers wonderful encouragement.

Having a range of personal struggles and sorrow over the death of my former prayer partner, I appreciate Jessica Jenkins’ When Christmas Doesn’t Feel Merry in Biblical Woman this week. If you’re hurting, please make time to read this piece.

Allen Nelson IV, writing for Things Above Us, shows us How Not to Be a Heretic this Christmas as we contemplate the Incarnation. Don’t miss this short but comprehensive look at five common errors in understanding Christ as 100% God and 100% Man.

Do you need 5 Reasons To Read The Bible When You Feel Absolutely Nothing? Then Stephen Altrogge’s blog post in The Blazing Center is perfect for you!

 

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It’s Time To Rethink Discernment

Psalm 19V14 B&WYes, I’ve been beating this drum about the problems with discernment ministries (particularly online discernment ministries) for over two years now, and some of my posts pretty much say they same things. In truth,  I write most of these articles in an attempt to clarify my own thoughts on the matter. If I’m selfish for taking you along for the ride, please pray that the Lord would convict me.

The advantage of struggling with this publicly is Continue reading

According To Scripture: Study #17 On The Resurrection

According to Scripture

Okay ladies, we’ve reached the final installment of our Bible Study on 1 Corinthians 15. It’s been a thrilling study, but today’s section might well be the most exciting part of all! So let’s look at this closing passage of our chapter and see what gems we can excavate from the Holy Spirit’s words through Paul.

50 I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. 53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:

“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
55 “O death, where is your victory?
    O death, where is your sting?”

56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

58 Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. ~~1 Corinthians 15:50-58 (ESV)

Last Monday we learned that the Christians who haven’t died when Christ returns will receive transformed bodies when the dead receive their resurrection bodies. Now, in verse 54, Paul turns to the topic of the new heavens and the new earth. When the perishable body puts on the imperishable and the mortal puts on immortality, we will at last witness the full accompaniment of God’s plan.

He paraphrases Isaiah 25:8, which promises that the Lord will swallow up death forever. Hebrews 2:14-15 illustrates this triumph over death. And Revelation 21:4 proclaims that when Christ finally establishes the new heavens and new earth, death will be permanently abolished.

Moving to verse 55, we see that Paul quotes Hosea 13:14 as evidence of Christ’s victory over death. (So much for Andy Stanley unhitching the resurrection from the Old Testament!) Death had been victorious over mankind since Adam’s sin, as we’ve seen earlier in this chapter, but Christ’s resurrection and its consequent assurance of our resurrection supplanted death’s victory with an infinitely greater victory!

Paul elaborates on this point in verse 56. Death stings because it is the full consequence of sin. It brings us all before God’s judgment throne. Those who die apart from Christ suffer the eternal pain brought about by sin.

Sin has such tremendous power because it violates God’s law. Romans 2:14-16 demonstrates that all people, whether they’ve read the Bible or not, instinctively know His law. Furthermore, as Paul testifies in Romans 7:8-10, knowing the law has a funny way of increasing our desire to sin.

God alone deserves thanks for this victory over death. With verse 57, Paul makes sure his readers never lose sight of the Lord’s centrality in salvation.

God doesn’t give this victory to just anyone; He reserves it for Christians. He gives us the victory, as Barnes makes clear. Notice that he never bothers to address the eternal bodies of unbelievers in this section, preferring to concentrate on the wonderful hope we have as believers.

Regarding this wonderful hope, Jamieson, Fausset and Brown point out the present tense of the word here translated as “gives,” calling the victory “a present certainty.” More than the cherished hope of believers, this victory is an accomplished fact.

Most importantly, God gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Going back to verses 3 and 4, we remember Christ’s atoning death that paid the penalty for our sin and His triumphant resurrection. Our resurrection happens only because of what He did.

In conclusion, Paul urges them to stand fast in the doctrine of resurrection, not allowing skeptics to sway them from their faith. Verse 58, in fact, provides the practical application of everything he’s said in this chapter. He wants them to be firm in their faith so that false teachers (such as those who deny bodily resurrection) can’t sway them from the Gospel.

Further, he encourages them to abound in their work for the Lord. Since Colossians 3:23 tells servants to work as if they’re serving the Lord, I believe we can infer that all our work is for Him. Yet there’s a special sense of work in furthering the Gospel. The promise of resurrection assures us that such work isn’t wasted.

Whew! We’ve made it through 1 Corinthians 15! I don’t know about you, but I have a much richer understanding of both Christ’s resurrection and ours as a result of this Bible Study. We’re going to take an indefinite break from Monday Bible Studies while I rest and reevaluate whether or not to keep writing these studies (very few people read them). If we do another study, however, I have my eye on Colossians. Tell me what you think.

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Looking At The Cross Costs Something

When you first heard that Jesus died for your sins, how did you respond? Did you shrug it off as a somewhat perplexing idea? Maybe you felt a measure of relief, but didn’t really think the knowledge of His sacrifice required more than a thank you and a smile from you. Perhaps you thought you needed to augment His work on the cross, making yourself worthy of salvation.

Or maybe you had comprehended the true weight of your sins against a holy God, and therefore received the message of the cross with an attitude of grateful amazement. You wondered why the Lord would bestow such grace on you. And, although you realized your total inability to pay Him back for His grace and mercy, you wanted to show your  gratitude by acknowledging His claim on your whole life.

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Pointing Fingers, Naming Names And Condemning False Teachers Isn’t All There Is To Discernment

Burning False TeachersYeah, I get it. Evangelicals flock to popular false teachers because few pastors identify these false teachers clearly. Furthermore, the leaders of far too many women’s “Bible” study groups use material from evangelical celebrities who routinely mishandle God’s Word. Certainly, we need to be deeply concerned.

John MacArthur often says that the biggest problem in the church today is the incredible lack of discernment. Even churches with solid pastors who rightly handle the Word of God have people who listen to radio teachers known for compromising truth. Women in doctrinally sound churches persist in claiming that God spoke to them personally.

So I definitely see the need for discernment bloggers. In fact, the Lord used several discernment blogs to Continue reading