Category Archives: Pride

Smelly Preaching Wanted

A friend from church posted this picture on his Facebook feed a few years ago. It definitely contrasts the seeker-sensitive posture of 21st Century churches. In our day, we minimize the seriousness of sin (if we mention it at all), sometimes even denying that certain behaviors should even be considered sinful in the first place. After all, we reason, we must make the Lord attractive, so people will actually want to come to our churches (and, as a result, fill our offering plates).

Making church appealing to our friends and family may be good salesmanship, but it doesn’t fulfill the Great Commission. Jesus never told us to sign up young, potentially affluent, wage-earners to fund our building projects. He instead commanded us to make disciples by passing on His doctrine and calling others to obey Him (Matthew 28:16-20). Part of making disciples necessitates helping people acknowledge their sin and move toward repentance.

Such demands repel those people whom the Lord has not called to salvation. But the elect, who mourn over their sin because they know how deeply it offends the Savior, will embrace such preaching as a portal to eternal life. Indeed, Paul and his co-workers observed this very principle, and mentioned it to the church in Corinth:

14 But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. 15 For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, 16 to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things? ~~2 Corinthians 2:14-16 (ESV)

Preaching, whether in a church setting or in personal evangelism, can’t afford to coddle sin. God’s servants don’t sell a product; we proclaim the truth–including the fact that the Lord, being perfect in Holiness, cannot and will not tolerate sin among His people. Wondrously, He shed His blood to atone for the sin of those who believe, providing us the grace to live in holiness!

Those who don’t understand their desperate need for salvation find the Gospel to be odious. The very suggestion that the Lord would dare to condemn them simply because they refused to depend on His righteousness rather than their own, is a stench in their nostrils. But for those of us who know the weight of our sin, nothing could possibly smell as sweet as the Gospel! May we have the courage to declare the whole Gospel, trusting the Holy Spirit with the results.

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Should Evangelicals Observe Lent?

img_4045I know I said we’d talk more about Peter Waldo today, but since then it dawned on me that Lent begins tomorrow. What a perfect opportunity to demonstrate the necessity of the Protestant Reformation.

In the last few years, I’ve noticed evangelicals (including some I know personally) talking about giving up things for Lent. This trend disturbs me, and all the more as I learn the history of the Reformation. I can’t understand why those who have been liberated from the legalism of Catholicism would willingly return to one of its rituals, thinking that a forty day fast would somehow impress God.

As I mentioned in my latest Saturday Sampler, The Cripplegate ran Jesse Johnson’s article on Lent last Wednesday. If you haven’t read it yet. I implore you to at least read the section on the history of the tradition. Johnson explains how a tradition that began as a way to prepare new Christians for baptism degenerated into false spirituality at best and hollow ritual at worst.

Like most Roman Catholic rituals, observing Lent focuses on human works. Penance, fasting and almsgiving enable one to attain greater sanctification, thus becoming yet another means of making oneself acceptable to God. By performing these rites during the six weeks leading up to Easter, one supposedly draws closer to God because of these sacrificial acts of self-denial. The emphasis, as usual, falls on human effort rather than on the Lord Jesus Christ and His finished work on the cross.

Some would argue that Lent teaches us how to practice self-denial. Giving up Facebook, for example, shows us how to die to our addiction to social media. Lent, they insist, helps us develop self-control, therefore making us more godly. Interestingly, the apostle Paul wrote to the Colossians, cautioning them against outward displays of self-righteousness.

20 If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations— 21 “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” 22 (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? 23 These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh. ~~Colossians 2:20-23 (ESV)

Certainly, self-control is a fruit of the Spirit that Christians should exercise, but it’s a result of salvation rather than a means to it. The Reformers all insisted on returning to the Biblical doctrine that faith alone justifies a person. Lent returns us to a system that the Reformers fought long and hard against. It takes our eyes off the finished work of Christ, bringing us back to man-made religion.

As evangelicals, we must honor the efforts of the Reformers, who extricated us from the legalism of Catholicism. Reverting to the demands of Catholic rituals disregards both the Reformation and (of more serious consequence) the Gospel itself. Dying to self for the Lord is so much more (and so much different) than giving up Facebook or rich food for forty days each year. Please don’t sacrifice your freedom in Christ simply to follow a tradition of human origin.

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Perspectives In Titus: A Meaningful Salutation

purple-bibleFor a few reasons, we’ll continue our Titus Bible Study by remaining in verse 4 of Chapter 1 today. Primarily, we’ll do so because last Monday we used this verse to introduce Titus rather than exploring how it fits in with the rest of Paul’s salutation. Its context makes going on to verses 5-9 awkward since we didn’t really examine it last week.

As I’ve just mentioned, verse 4 concludes Paul’s salutation to Titus. This salutation can’t be skipped over lightly because of its rich doctrinal content. Most of this epistle centers around the practicalities of church structure and function, leaving Paul little opportunity to proclaim doctrinal truths, which probably frustrated him just a bit. For that reason, he took full advantage of the chance to pack theology into every crevice of his letter to Titus that he could find. You see, Paul proclaimed doctrine as a way to express his worship of Christ.

Let’s look at the entire salutation, remembering the great doctrines of God’s sovereignty and His election of believers that we saw in our study two weeks ago.

 Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the sake of the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth, which accords with godliness, in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began and at the proper time manifested in his word through the preaching with which I have been entrusted by the command of God our Savior;

To Titus, my true child in a common faith:

Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior. ~~Titus 1:1-4 (ESV)

Paul has just introduced himself as a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, stating his mission of bringing the Gospel of eternal life to the elect. Notice how he delights in the details of God’s sovereignty? But now he realizes that he needs to finish his salutation, so he greets Titus by calling him “my true child.”

That phrase conveys far more than mere affection. Most commentators believe that Paul led Titus to the Lord. They base their assertion on the fact that Paul uses similar language to describe Timothy (1 Corinthians 4:17) and Onesimus (Philemon 10). The apostle reminds Titus of the spiritual bond they share.

But he quickly erases any thought that he’s spiritually superior to Titus by adding the phrase “in a common faith.”  Here Paul suggests that Christians have a faith shared by both Jews and Gentiles,  common to all believers regardless of their position within the Church. As an apostle who is ethnically Jewish, Paul considers this Gentile convert as his equal

This phrase also may allude to the Council of Jerusalem, where the possible presence of Titus may have demonstrated the erasure of distinction between Jews and Gentiles. If indeed Titus had been present at the Council, this allusion would have served to encourage Titus in the genuineness of his ministry. Such an affirmation would help Titus in exercising his pastoral authority in Crete.

Paul’s epistles often open by wishing the recipients grace and peace, so this occurrence of that phrase shouldn’t surprise us. Since none of the commentators I read said much about it, I will simply remark that grace and peace come through Christ Jesus our Savior. In the previous verse, God is called Savior, implying Christ’s shared deity with the Father. Both Father and Son impart grace and peace.

As we close today’s study, perhaps we can think about the wonderful truth that, by God’s grace, each of us participates in a common faith. By grace, we stand before the Lord as equals with each other. Therefore we must avoid attitudes of spiritual pride, accepting each other in love and humility. As we progress through the book of Titus, we’ll discover how such love and humility plays out.

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What I Didn’t Say About Discernment

truth-in-lovePerhaps because I have a severe speech defect, I have a deep aversion to being misunderstood. I’ve been thinking over Friday’s essay, fearful that I might have inadvertently left people with the impression that I oppose discernment blogs and discernment ministry. Maybe I’m being overly cautious here, but I’d like to clarify my essay by affirming that I appreciate discernment ministry as being essential to the Body of Christ.

Friday I wanted to point out that many people who bill themselves as discernment bloggers aren’t really as discerning as they claim to be.They vet pastors and teachers on the basis of secondhand information without also vetting the source of that information. Case in point: using an article by a Charismatic writer who’s desperate to discredit John MacArthur as substantiation that MacArthur has ties to Freemasonry. Really? That’s the only documentation she could find? I’m sorry, but that approach shows a lack of real discernment.

What about my recent article on Joni Eareckson Tada, then? Am I guilty of trying to dig up evidence to brand her as a false teacher? To be honest, I’ve experienced that temptation in researching her. By the grace of God, however, I think I’ve avoided that sin, and I’ve approached my concerns about her with much fear and trembling (as well I should!).

As it stands now, I just have concerns about Joni. Those concerns don’t come from outside sources; they come from reading her writing, listening to her speak (in person as well as YouTube) and noticing various details that cause me some alarm. You’ll kindly observe my reticence to disclose those details. That reticence comes because I frankly don’t know whether I’m discerning actual problems or if I’m nit-picking. Therefore, I won’t write further about Joni until I’m certain that I’m genuinely discerning actual problems.

If I wanted to establish myself as a discernment blogger, I might turn my concerns about Joni into an arsenal of stink bombs to use against her. And surely some of my readers would admire my apparent gift of discernment. Thankfully, others would see that I would be tearing the woman down for the purpose of building my reputation as a woman of discernment.

That, my friends, was my point Friday. True discernment never attacks another person for the purpose of enhancing one’s own credentials. Consider the apostle Paul’s remarks to the Corinthians who thought they were masters of discernment.

Now concerning food offered to idols: we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up. If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. But if anyone loves God, he is known by God. ~~1 Corinthians 8:1-4 (ESV)

When discernment bloggers write for the purpose of displaying their supposed wisdom, they make it painfully evident (to everyone except themselves) that their knowledge has grossly inflated their egos. This self-serving attitude has absolutely no place among God’s people. Rather, whatever discernment God gives us should be used to cultivate personal holiness and to build up other Christians by steering them towards the Lord and His Word.

So in cautioning you against presumptive declarations of having gifts of discernment, I by no means want to imply that Christians shouldn’t cultivate personal discernment. And I fear that some of my readers might have inferred that I no longer endorse calling out false teachers or exposing aberrant practices in evangelical circles.  Please know that I would never make such a commitment.

The Bible clearly teaches Christians to contend for the faith. We just spent a few months studying the epistle Jude wrote, and we learned that all Christians bear a responsibility to practice discernment. The fact that some bloggers misuse the term “discernment” to slander people and/or to promote themselves doesn’t negate the necessity of Biblical discernment.

I pray daily that this blog will, more than anything else, honor and glorify the Lord Jesus Christ. That means that it must never degenerate into a “discernment blog.” But it also means that, when necessary, we must look at teachings that deviate from Scripture. When those occasions arise, may the Holy Spirit enable me to address matters in humility, seeking only to direct women back to Christ.

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Claiming Discernment Doesn’t Mean You Have It

Dark WisdomWe all like to believe that we have good discernment. I’ve noticed, however, that a fair number of evangelicals who claim to possess discernment fall for teachers and practices that actually violate God’s Word. Mostly, I’ve observed this phenomenon in Charismatic circles, but occasionally I also see Reformed believers claiming discernment as they embrace error.

For instance, I’ve been personally attacked by a self-proclaimed discernment blogger who took issue with a video I posted. The video presented the Gospel, begging non-Christian viewers to repent and turn to Christ for salvation. The blogger adamantly believed that, by posting the video, I denied God’s sovereignty in bringing people to salvation.

This blogger had evidently embraced hyper-Calvinism, which insists that God saves people without requiring any sort of human responsibility (perhaps I should do an article on hyper-Calvinism at a later date). But in reading her blog, I found that she made allegations about John MacArthur and Al Mohler that had long since been proven false. Furthermore, on her blog’s sidebar she had links to conspiracy theory websites.

Obviously, neither John MacArthur nor Al Mohler are above question, and I checked out her claims about each of these men as thoroughly as I possibly could. Her sources, it turned out, were unreliable and had axes to grind. Sadly, the blogger failed to use discernment in researching the allegations against these men.

Scripture, certainly, admonishes Christians to exercise discernment.

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. ~~1 John 4:1 (ESV)

And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, 10 so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. ~~Philippians 1:9-11 (ESV) 

But in our efforts to practice discernment, may I suggest that we also cultivate attitudes of humility? Sometimes we tout whatever discernment skills we have with a subtle attitude of pride, supposing that we have inside knowledge to dispense to “average” Christians who desperately need our expertise.

We forget that Biblical discernment encompasses so much more than calling out false teachers and warning other Christians against aberrational practices. True discernment moves Christians toward living in holiness and obedience to the Lord. Rather than than pointing to our presumed abilities at “rightly dividing the truth,” our exercise of discernment should draw attention to the Lord Jesus Christ in ways that honor and glorify Him. It should encourage us to know and obey His Word for His glory.

Am I discerning? I hope so. Do I bill myself as a discernment blogger? Um, no. Instead, I pray daily that, as I read and study the Bible, the Holy Spirit will grant me discernment. Not so I can have an edgy discernment blog with oodles of followers praising my apparent wisdom. I request discernment so that I can worship the Lord in spirit and in truth.

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Will I Be Pretty In Heaven?

debbielynne-as-queenIt’s probably natural to wonder what heaven will be like, as well as what we’ll be like when we’re there. Vain woman that I am, I often catch myself hoping I’ll look young again. And beautiful, of course.

As I grow in my love for Christ, however, the Holy Spirit convicts me of my shallow, self-focused attitude.  Ever so subtly, my imaginations of heaven revolve around me, not around the Lord Jesus Christ. That selfishness comes primarily from my sinful fresh, to be sure. But poor teaching from so-called Christian writers, pastors and teachers reinforce it.

In contrast, the Bible says very little about our state in heaven. 1 John 3:2 offers the most direct answer to questions about our eternal state:

Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. (ESV)

Admittedly, that response doesn’t satisfy us. But, my beloved sisters in Christ, may  I suggest that such dissatisfaction only betrays the fact that our affections still remain upon ourselves rather than on Jesus?  We don’t like considering the possibility that our preoccupation with self really goes that far. But maybe we need to let the Lord examine our hearts on this matter.

The Holy Spirit describes heaven most vividly in the book of Revelation. I don’t have time to cite  all the passages in today’s little essay, but let me show you just one example.

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever. ~~Revelation 22:1-5 (ESV)

Do you notice that the passage keeps the emphasis on the Lamb? John 1:29 and John 1:36  identify Jesus as “the Lamb of  God Who takes away the sin of the world.” Clearly, then, Jesus is the focal point, not us. Through He bestows His love on us by saving us from sin and bringing us into His Kingdom, He doesn’t build His Kingdom around us. He receives our worship, still calling us His servants.

I’m 63 now, and most of my earthly life has passed (boy, it goes by quickly). As a result, I think more seriously about heaven than I did as a young woman. And a lot of my thoughts reject speculations concerning what I will be and do in the Kingdom. I realize, more and more, that I simply won’t care whether I look young or pretty, or even about having a body that’s free from Cerebral Palsy. I’ll be in the Lord’s presence, worshiping Him freely. Will anything else matter?

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My Alternative To New Years Resolutions

2017-resolutionsDo you make New Years Resolutions? I don’t. For one thing, I’m like most people, breaking them well before the page of the calendar turns to February. Like the Mosaic Law, New Years Resolutions basically function as painful reminders of my total depravity. They confront me with the truth that I can’t even live up to my own standards, let alone God’s!

But also, I believe that Christians should make resolutions every time the Lord convicts us of sin. We call such resolutions “repentance.”

I practically hear you moaning, “Oh DebbieLynne, please don’t bring up repentance on a holiday weekend!” And I agree that the idea of New Years Resolutions is much more palatable than the thought of actual repentance.

New Years Resolutions, to be honest, generally deal with surface behaviors like smoking, overeating or not exercising enough. These are, of course, serious issues that have tremendous health implications, but even so, they usually only address outward symptoms.  Okay, resolving to read the Bible daily or pray regularly for a loved one’s salvation is getting a little more spiritual, but those practices still can degenerate into legalism. In short, New  Years Resolutions point to our achievements rather than than our obedience to the Lord.

Repentance, on the other hand, insists on aligning our hearts with God’s Word. We confess thoughts, attitudes and behaviors we have as violations of His righteous standards, accepting full responsibility for those violations. Further, we now regard those violations as ugly things that break the heart of God. Thus, we change our direction, running away from sin in order to pursue holiness.

Do we repent perfectly? Only in our dreams! But our repeated repentance continues melting our hearts into conformity with His heart, so that we honestly desire for Him to change us. In other words, Biblical repentance transforms our hearts instead of merely reforming our outward behaviors. To our frustration, the outward behaviors may die slowly, but our hatred of those behaviors shows the beginning of true repentance.

So then, repentance differs from New Years Resolutions because it goes beyond surface behaviors to change our hearts. Rather than pointing to our supposed good works, repentance draws attention back to the Lord as the One Who both motivates and facilitates our transformation as a work of His grace.

Some of you may enjoy the fun of making New Years Resolutions, and I celebrate your Christian liberty to do so. But I prefer daily repentance, trusting that the Lord uses it toward my sanctification. Whether you make New Years Resolutions or not, I encourage you to repent promptly and joyfully throughout the New Year for the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ.

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