Unforgiveness Hurts Others More Than It Hurts You

Forgiveness ButterfiesSomewhere in the 1960s, when evangelicals became enamored with psychology, teachings on forgiveness started emphasizing the benefits of forgiveness on the person doing the forgiving. If they had left the discussion at Matthew 6:14-15, that would have been fine.

To their shame, they didn’t leave it there. No, they elaborated that when someone refuses to forgive those who hurt her, she imprisons herself in bitterness. Therefore, they reason, she Continue reading

Drinking From A Fire Hydrant Is Difficult, And It Could Drown People

Fire HydrantPopular false teachers give bloggers plenty of material to keep us busy. And when a false teacher has a Twitter account, he or she becomes the gift that keeps on giving.

I do understand the sense of urgency that compels people to call out these false teachers. Over the years, I’ve used this very blog for that purpose, and I certainly don’t rule out doing so again. As evangelicals grow more and more Biblically illiterate, false teachers gain greater power to spread their deception.

But in our urgency to warn our brothers and sisters against false teachers, we can stumble into a variety of pitfalls that could potentially undermine our message. For example, we could overload Continue reading

There’s Nothing Shameful About Crutches Or Wheelchairs

Image1I feel no shame for needing a wheelchair, nor should I. Instead, I feel gratitude that I live in a time and place that allows me to have a power wheelchair. My wheelchair helps me get around the apartment, travel between Adult Sunday School and church services, and roam around downtown Boston. Crutches and wheelchairs provide marvelous freedom to people who would otherwise be bedridden.

So I can’t help laughing when someone accuses me of using Jesus as an emotional crutch. During my high school years, people hurled that line at me quite a bit, always with the implication that I should be ashamed of leaning on Him. Such people proudly imagine that they don’t need the Lord — that they have all the psychological resources necessary to get through life.

Maybe so. But that outlook assumes that this life only has a material dimension and that nothing exists after death. It seems to me that it also requires Continue reading

Changing Plans And A Steadfast God

TypingLast night I posted on The Outspoken TULIP  Facebook page that I wouldn’t be blogging today because John and I had a family funeral to attend. Circumstances made it necessary for John to stay home today (don’t worry, he’s all right precisely because he opted to stay home and rest), leaving me with time to blog.

So hi. I’m here!

The change in plans initially hurt my pride. After dramatically announcing that I wouldn’t be able Continue reading

It’s Not Really About Either John MacArthur Or Beth Moore

Todd Friel asked for a pithy answer. John MacArthur’s reply was witty, funny and a lot  more controversial than it should have been.  If you’ll listen to the following clip from Friday’s Q&A at the Truth Matters Conference in its context, you’ll realize that MacArthur went on to defend his position Biblically.

Maybe the “Go home” crack was unnecessary. Maybe it gave egalitarians an excuse to Continue reading

I Didn’t Do Anything

How many times have you heard your kids object to discipline by protesting, “I didn’t do anything,” when it’s all too clear that they’ve done something wrong?  How many times have you made the same declaration?

We all want to escape personal responsibility.

Yet when we do something right (or appear to do something right), we do our best to make sure people know about it. In those cases, we’re perfectly happy to claim as much responsibility as we possibly can. Especially when it comes to our salvation.

But the truth humbles us as we see Christ’s complete mastery over our salvation. From beginning to end, He provides the grace. He even gives us the ability to believe in Him! As a result, He receives all the praise and glory. We didn’t do anything!

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Flashback Friday: The Reformation And Galatians

Originally posted June 27, 2017:

Whittenberg DoorThe Lord used the apostle Paul to bring the Gospel to the gentiles in Galatia. Sadly, after he left that region, representatives of a group known as the Judaizers descended on that fledgling church, teaching that they needed to augment their faith in Christ by following Jewish law. They especially insisted that gentile converts undergo the rite of circumcision.

Paul was infuriated that the church he had founded had so quickly abandoned the Gospel of faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross in favor of a counterfeit gospel that required human effort to assure salvation. He wrote a scathing letter, scolding them for adulterating the Gospel with doctrines of men. We see the reasons for his frustration most clearly articulated in Chapter 5 of his epistle to the Galatians.

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.

You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? This persuasion is not from him who calls you. A little leaven leavens the whole lump. 10 I have confidence in the Lord that you will take no other view, and the one who is troubling you will bear the penalty, whoever he is. 11 But if I, brothers, still preach circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been removed. 12 I wish those who unsettle you would emasculate themselves! ~~Galatians 5:1-12 (ESV)

I imagine Martin Luther found this passage helpful as he broke free from the demands of the Roman Catholic Church. Luther rightly saw that  Rome’s elaborate system of sacraments, Purgatory, Indulgences and Papal authority produced a gospel quite different from the Good News that Jesus Christ fully paid for the sin of whoever believes in Him by His death on the cross. Like Paul, Luther sought to turn Christians back to focusing on Christ’s work instead of imagining that they could supplement it through their cooperation.

Notice specifically Paul’s firm assertion that a Christian who supplements his faith in the Lord by depending on legalistic rituals actually nullifies the effects of faith in salvation through Christ’s work on the cross. At that point, a person essentially declares that salvation ultimately lies in our power, not in what Christ accomplished on our behalf.

The sacramental system of the Roman Catholic Church, despite their denials, easily parallels the false teaching of the Judaizers. As a matter of fact, the Judaizers claimed to follow Christ, just as the Roman Catholic Church does. In many respects, the Judaizers presented themselves as genuine Christians, thereby convincing the Galatians to accept their doctrinal error. Not surprisingly, then, the Catholic Church managed to convince Christians of similar errors.

But Paul’s firm refutation against the system of righteousness by works enabled Luther and the other Reformers to stand against Rome’s numerous conditions for salvation. Just as Paul proclaimed that circumcision had no bearing on anyone’s standing before God, so the Reformers proclaimed that sacraments couldn’t add to what Christ had already done. The Reformers returned to the Biblical teaching that Christ Jesus fully satisfied the Law by dying as our substitute.

Roman Catholicism gets some doctrines right, such as the Trinity, but it adds conditions for salvation in much the same way that the Judaizers did. These conditions made humans responsible for sustaining their salvation.

Human centered salvation, however, takes the glory away from the Lord Jesus Christ. It demands that He share His glory with us. Paul recognized that danger among the Christians in Galatia, and he refused to tolerate such a corruption of the Gospel! He therefore set a pattern for the Reformers to follow once they could read God’s Word and understand that Rome had corrupted the Gospel. His passion for Jesus Christ to receive all the glory inspired the Reformers to also develop that passion.
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