A Fun Little Song With Truth We Can Celebrate

It was a fun little song. It amuses me that, 47 years later, I still  remember both the lyrics and the upbeat tune. Especially since I really didn’t understand exactly what it meant.

Being good Charismatics, we predictably sang this ditty almost every time someone decided to lay hands on me for healing. After all, we assured ourselves,  we were merely claiming God’s promise in Romans 8:11. In our understanding, that fragment of Scripture taught that Christ’s resurrection guaranteed physical healing in this present life.

But looking at this verse in context, we see an entirely different meaning, and a meaning that gives us a correct way to apply Christ’s resurrection to ourselves. Let’s read this verse in its immediate context first, and then we’ll talk about how it fits into the apostle Paul’s overall argument.

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10 But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you. ~~Romans 8:1-11 (ESV)

Even here, we can plainly see that Paul is talking about personal holiness rather than physical healing. He contends that the same Holy Spirit Who affected Christ’s resurrection gives us Christ’s very righteousness, thereby empowering us to live in obedience to God’s law instead of following the dictates of our sinful inclinations.

You might wonder why Paul refers to the Holy Spirit as the Spirit Who raised Christ from the dead. To answer that question, we need to go back to Romans 6, where the apostle discusses our baptism as a way of identifying with Christ’s death, burial and resurrection.

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. ~~Romans 6:1-4 (ESV)

As the Spirit raised Christ literally, so He raises us figuratively in our present life to resist sin and to walk in righteousness. Going back to Romans 8:1-11, then, we understand that the same Spirit Who raised Christ from the dead gives us Christ’s life in order that we can live in Christ’s righteousness. Through the Lord’s resurrection, we have new lives, liberating us from the tyranny of sin.

Certainly His resurrection also carries the assurance of our physical resurrection at Christ’s return, as we’ll discuss in subsequent blog posts. Please don’t misunderstand me as saying that the benefits of Christ’s resurrection are limited to their implications in our present life. But also appreciate the wonderful truth that His resurrection allows us to enjoy a new life, even now, that permits us to experience His righteousness.

That little song based on Romans 8:11 is still fun to sing. Its proper context makes it even more fun as we celebrate the victory over sin that we enjoy because the same Spirit Who raised Christ from the dead dwells in us!

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The High Calling Of Discernment

Floating BalloonWhen people think of discernment ministry,  they usually think of calling out false teachers. And that’s certainly an important aspect of discernment. Jude’s epistle supports the task of identifying those who propagate false teaching, suggesting an urgency in doing so.

Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. ~~Jude 3-4 (ESV)

And regretfully, the visible church in our century swarms with more false teachers than I can keep track of. So we most definitely need people who have the courage to name names when they see a popular teacher consistently spouting error.

That said, it increasingly bothers me that we’ve apparently diminished the concept of discernment to this one area. Contending for the faith definitely has a part in discernment ministry — a vital part, as a matter of fact. But if we limit the role of discernment ministry to merely pointing out false teachers, I believe we miss the grander scope of what it means to be discerning.

Discernment, in its broadest sense, encompasses the ability to distinguish between right and wrong. This distinction necessarily includes distinguishing between truth and error. Therefore, identifying false teachers is obviously part of the process, but it shouldn’t be mistaken for discernment as a whole.

To properly discern whether or not someone teaches falsely, we first need to know true doctrine. Reputable discernment bloggers like Elizabeth Prata, Michelle Lesley, Leslie A and Amy Spreeman can tell you who the false teachers are, and even demonstrate why they’re false teachers. But unless you have a firm grasp on sound doctrine, you’ll likely replace the teachers they identify with other false teachers who are just as dangerous.

Therefore, true discernment requires regular and careful intake of God’s Word.

I hear some of you groaning, wishing I wouldn’t bring up something as dry and academic as studying Biblical doctrine. Isn’t it more interesting to pick apart Beth Moore’s latest sermon?

Yes, I agree picking apart her sermons provides hours of entertainment, but again, we still need to land on truth after examining her half-truths and falsehoods. We need to know what God really means, and how He really desires us to respond to Him. In a nutshell, ladies, we need to know truth.

Furthermore, we need to know truth for its own sake, rather than simply so that we can refute false teachers. God is more concerned with our ability to worship and honor Him than with how many false teachers we can call out. His Word, more than anything else, teaches us how to love Him as He wishes to be loved. Discernment helps us understand how He wishes us to love Him properly.

Like every other spiritual discipline, discernment has the purpose of drawing us closer to the Lord. True discernment shows us how to live in ways that glorify Him. Yes, contending for the faith is one part of Biblical discernment, but I’d encourage you to remember the bigger picture. The Lord calls us to discernment for His glory. What a high calling!

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Don’t Use Discernment Ministry To Tear Apart God’s People

Discernment ScrollDiscernment ministry, particularly online ministry, has suffered increasing criticism in the last six or seven months. The scrutiny has intensified as a result of online squabbling between well-known discernment ministries on Twitter and Facebook.

To be sure, the bickering and anathematizing generates terrible confusion. I find myself scrambling to figure out who are the good guys and who are the bad guys. Just when I think I have a handle on it, one of the good guys will link to one of the bad guys, or one of the bad guys will speak at a conference that the good guys host. So I’m left doubting my own discernment abilities, and wondering if I’ve misjudged people.

There are, certainly, individuals and ministries I definitely avoid. Other people within Reformed circles have no problem with these individuals and ministries. I’ve learned to disagree quietly, aware that I may be off-base in my assessments. Just because I participate in discernment blogging doesn’t mean my judgments are infallible. They’re most assuredly not!

And maybe other discernment bloggers and podcast hosts need to remember that occasionally they could make mistakes in calling out people. Obviously, there are blatantly false teachers like Beth Moore and Rick Warren; anyone can easily document their errors. But sometimes waters get murkier, and discernment bloggers end up labeling people as false teachers based on minor differences or incomplete research.

The individuals and ministries I avoid may or may not promote false teaching. So I’m learning to remain silent, or at least express my reservations very cautiously. In the past six months, I’ve come the conclusion that naming names should be done rarely, and only when someone definitely teaches false doctrine on a consistent basis.

I do realize that we must take care not to partner with those who embrace false teaching (see 2 Corinthians 6:14-16 and 2 John 10-11). But I question whether or not we take this principle a bit too far. You realize, for example, that John Piper has spoken at both The Shepherd’s Conference and Passion 2018. That being the case, should we write off John MacArthur because he gave a platform to someone who shared another platform with Beth Moore at Passion 2017?

I’ve asked a thorny question here. Sadly,  there are other thorny questions discernment ministries must struggle with if we play the guilt-by-association card too fastidiously. Sometimes we call someone a wolf in sheep’s clothing when they’re simply a little naive about who they affiliate with. Because discernment bloggers and podcast hosts can judge too harshly and/or too quickly at times, we need to remind ourselves of the apostle Paul’s counsel:

13 For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another. ~~Galatians 5:13-15 (ESV)

People make mistakes. People in discernment ministries make mistakes too. Discernment bloggers can too eagerly call out others who, in reality, may be solid teachers with a few blind spots.

Discernment ministry does greatly serve the body of Christ. In no way do I believe we should shut down discernment ministries in general. But I implore bloggers and podcasters to dial back the name calling and balance the critical rhetoric with sound teaching that enables readers and listeners to discern for themselves. Furthermore, let’s bear in mind that sometimes even solid teachers have areas of disagreement. Let’s use discernment ministry to build each other up, not tear each other apart.

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Saturday Sampler: February 11 — February 17

Umbrella Sampler

Psychology has no place in the church, as Leslie A of Growing 4 Life shows us in What Should I Look for in a Biblical Counselor? It encourages me to see more Christians speaking up about the dangers of “Christian” psychology.

In addition to my own trials lately, I’ve watched a friend suffer through her husband’s terminal cancer. So Sarah Walton’s article, Why the Church Needs Suffering in Unlocking the Bible, refreshes my perspective by bringing me back to Scriptures and principles that I’d all but forgotten. See whether or not her words benefit you.

Reprising her March 3, 2017 blog post, Michelle Lesley of Discipleship for Christian Women lists 40 Things to Give Up for Lent. Number 1 is my personal favorite. What’s yours? Use my Comments Section to tell me.

I’m not the only blogger to reprise her article about the Fifty Shades of Grey Trilogy.  Erin Benziger of Do Not Be Surprised also resurrects  the article she wrote three years ago. Erasing the Grey definitely deserves your attention!

Those of you who are moms will appreciate Scott Slayton’s When You Lose Your Temper With Your Children on One Degree to Another. Even aunts and people in ministries to children can benefit from Slayton’s godly counsel. As a matter of fact, anyone with anger issues should apply the principles to all their interactions with children and adults.

In a second post written for Unlocking the Bible, Judy Allen suggests Five Questions to Ask About Entertainment. Each question has a corresponding Scripture to help us evaluate the media we consume in ways that honor the Lord.  I love the way she challenges us to think of what we read, watch and do in terms of spiritual merit.

Assisted suicide is not a pretty topic, but it’s something Christians will need to address. Jen Oshman discusses Five Reasons for Assisted Suicide (And Crucial Responses to Each One) to help us navigate conversations with those who honestly think this practice is a humane way to deal with human suffering.

The aggressive movement of the LBGTQ community has serious ramifications for Christians, as Is it okay for the state to take your child away because you won’t affirm his transgender feelings? by Denny Burk demonstrates.  I struggled over whether or not to include such a dark article in Saturday Sampler, but decided that I created The Outspoken TULIP to prepare women for the persecution that knocks at the door of the Western church. Therefore I believe it necessary to draw your attention to this matter. Scenarios like the one Burk narrates will only increase. We must prepare for them.

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Saturday Sampler: February 4 — February 10

Doily Sampler Pink the Sequal

More extreme Charismatics should read Question 6: Is it right or ok to command God? by Clint Adams on Faith Contender. It’s a good reminder to approach the Lord with an attitude of humility.

Using Jen Hatmaker’s embrace of LBGTQ issues as an example, Michael J. Krueger of Canon Fodder teaches a helpful lesson in discernment with The Power of De-Conversion Stories: How Jen Hatmaker is Trying to Change Minds About The Bible. His essay demonstrates ways that de-conversion stories undermine Scriptural authority. It’s an important read, particularly as evangelicals increasingly try to reinvent Christianity.

In a guest post for Unlocking the Bible, Jen Oshman reminds us that Your Christian Life Isn’t About You. Well, duh, you say. But before you dismiss her article as being too elementary, check it out. Her process of reasoning just might surprise you.

Jordan Standridge consistently writes outstanding posts for The Cripplegate, and Why You Desperately Need the Holy Spirit perfectly exemplifies this point.

Similar to John Chester, I always believed one ought to dress certain ways for church. His article, Why I Don’t Wear A Tie in Parking Space 23, comes at the question from a much different angle than I do, but he makes pretty much the same conclusions that I’ve made.

Leave it to Leslie A of Growing 4 Life to come up with A Lesson from Football to encourage boldness for Christ. I also enjoy her unabashed celebration of the Eagles’ Super Bowl victory. Leslie, rest assured that not everyone in Boston roots for the Pats.

Justin Bullington, writing for Things Above Us, introduces a new series with his post, 8 Reasons Why The Next Missionary Support Should Be A Cessationist – Part 1. He presents compelling arguments that never would have occurred to me. I can hardly wait for the next installment!

Most of you may know that I am having trouble with my power wheelchair right now. This in turn causes secondary problems. So Michelle Lesley’s post, Basic Training: 5 Ways to Face Tests and Trials Biblically on Discipleship for Christian Women, ministers to me tremendously. If you’re suffering right now, you need to read this piece!

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Neither Homosexuality Nor Anger (Nor Any Other Sin) Is Reason

Rainbow Bible02Currently, false converts are “leaving” the faith over the issue of homosexuality. Many claim to still be Christians, but a few have been honest enough to admit that they no longer believe the Bible.  Either way, they reject time-honored Christian teaching in order to practice or support this one particular sin.

Having known many friends who experienced same sex attractions, I really do know that nobody deliberately chooses homosexuality. During my 12 years as a correspondence counselor for an ex-gay ministry, I wrote to hundreds of men and women who struggled with desires that they didn’t want. So, before you accuse me of being a heartless bigot, understand that I actually realize some (and possibly a lot) of what LBGTQ  people go through.

But I also know that every Christian struggles with at least one sin that seems intrinsic to his or her very being. In my case, it’s anger. Try as I may to twist Scripture into qualifying my anger as “righteous indignation,” God’s Word relentlessly convicts me that it’s really nothing more than selfish pride.

Now, I could leave the Lord in favor of my sin of anger, either by manipulating Scripture to justify it or by turning my back on Christianity outright. I’ve considered both options at various points in my life, if you want to know the truth. Repentance seemed too difficult, and humility didn’t appeal to me at all.

Other pet sins in my life have also tempted me to part ways with Christ, either by returning to a liberal denomination or by chucking Him altogether. Usually the latter. But, like the Twelve when Jesus asked if they wanted to join the crowds who left Him, I had one answer:

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 6:68-69 (ESV)

I know denying homosexual urges is hard and painful. And I know from first hand experience that standing by Scripture’s teaching that homosexuality is sinful causes pain. As Western culture grows increasingly intolerant of Christians who stand against homosexuality, I expect that I’ll experience even greater hardship for failing to adjust my theology to LBGTQ demands.

LBGTQ issues have already exposed many false converts. These false converts would rather compromise or reject God’s holy Word than resist illicit sexual temptation or cultural pressure. Although I understand their predicament, however, I must remember Who has the words of eternal life. He is the One I must follow.

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Black Dresses And Moral Confusion

Old Fashioned GirlExcuse me, but the newfound morality of the secular world (led by Hollywood) confuses me just a bit. Maybe I’ve been a Christian too long, and consequently I tend to reason from Scripture, but it seems to me that the world tries to have moral standards without being confined by moral standards.

If that analysis doesn’t make sense, let me suggest that the liberal elitists don’t make sense.

I just looked at some photos from this year’s Golden Globes Awards. In solidarity with the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, most of the female actors indeed wore black gowns. A few of those gowns covered them well, but most were as revealing and suggestive as usual. I suppose the wearers would argue that men shouldn’t look at them as sex objects even when they show skin, and that a man’s unwillingness to control his sexual responses shouldn’t restrict them from dressing as they please.

Before I say anything further, let me be clear that the Lord does indeed hold men completely accountable for their sexual thoughts.

27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell. ~~Matthew 5:27-30 (ESV)

Men who allow their gaze to rest too long on women other than their wives will be guilty of adultery. (Incidentally, the same goes for women who fantasize about men other than their husbands.) Provocative attire by no means alleviates personal responsibility, no matter how high the hem or low the neckline. So please don’t read this post and assume that I think women who dress immodestly deserve to be sexually mistreated. They most assuredly do not!

But neither should they dress in ways that trigger such responses. Any woman who is honest with herself knows when her outfit will make men look. Granted, she may intend that her outfit attract only one specific man. But to suppose that other men won’t also look is highly naive.

Women aren’t that stupid.

And the same God who holds men accountable for their sexual responses also holds women responsible for tempting men to look at them inappropriately.

Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes! ~~Matthew 18:7 (ESV)

The black dresses at this year’s Golden Globes Awards sent two contradictory messages. Despite the demands for sexual misconduct to end, Hollywood also demands to flaunt their sexuality without limitation. Never mind that sexual predators are simply taking sexual freedom to its logical conclusion.

Did I begun this article by saying that Hollywood’s duplicity confuses me? As I think more deeply about the matter, perhaps the women on the red carpet at the Golden Globes suffer from more confusion than I do. They need to receive the Gospel, and to understand how to enjoy their sexuality as God intended it to be enjoyed.

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