The Reformation And Galatians

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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Lysa TerKeurst And The Challenge To Discernment Bloggers

Teardrop RoseAfter reading that Lysa TerKeurst has decided to divorce her husband, I wanted to follow Leslie A’s lead by sharing a few thoughts of my own. As I type, I pray that my words will honor the Lord Jesus Christ rather than generate vicious gossip. So I’ll begin this article by asking that all of us (myself included) pray for Lysa and her husband Art to search the Scriptures and (if at all possible) find ways of reconciliation.

My greatest fear in this matter has been that discernment bloggers would use this divorce as a “gotcha” moment. Indeed, I’ve been struggling with that very temptation all weekend. Lysa’s ministry has been more than questionable on several fronts, and this situation seems like a perfect opportunity to show her followers that she shouldn’t be trusted.

Well, she shouldn’t be trusted, but this isn’t the appropriate time to talk about the problems with her ministry. Again, I agree with Leslie A that it’s a time for compassion. Can you imagine how humiliating it must feel, after writing books on marriage and speaking to large audiences about having successful relationships, to publicly announce that you’ve initiated a divorce? In that respect, Lysa TerKeurst exercised tremendous courage.

Thankfully, I haven’t seen any discernment bloggers celebrating Lysa’s downfall, though I’ve heard that some of them have been a little giddy. Perhaps as this week gets going, some less scrupulous bloggers will emerge and write self-righteous blog posts about this divorce. They’ll quite probably rationalize that they’re simply showing people the truth about Lysa TerKeurst. But in reality they’ll be capitalizing on someone else’s suffering, just to demonstrate their supposed discernment skills.

To such bloggers, I’d issue a challenge. Please examine your hearts. Is discrediting Lysa TerKeurst at this particular point in time the most godly response to the situation? Would you consider praying, with sincerity and compassion, that the Lord would use this terrible tragedy to lead this woman into His Word so that He can purify her theology? And, like Leslie A, would you humbly look at your own marriages with the understanding that you might be just as vulnerable.

Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. ~~1 Corinthians 10:12 (ESV)

Discernment ministry can so easily lead us into pride, particularly as we point out false teaching that comes from popular teachers. But the news that Lysa TerKeurst is filing for divorce challenges me to use a different type of discernment. I must have wisdom regarding when to write about her errors and when to humbly pray for the Lord to gently lead her to repentance. And I must realize how easily  I fall into sin.

Lysa TerKeurst’s divorce is nothing we should gloat over. Nor is it, to paraphrase our last President, a crisis that discernment bloggers shouldn’t waste. It should grieve us, driving us to humility and compassion as we seek for God to glorify Himself through this sad turn of events.

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Mom Always Said “Two Wrongs Don’t Make A Right”

Bible RestoredI had today’s essay all planned. I wanted to demonstrate how professing Christians misuse a certain verse fragment to justify unbiblical approaches to prayer. I confidently typed out my introductory paragraphs, carefully setting the stage before I quoted the verse in context. I knew I was about to blow up arguments for using that particular verse as a defense for their practices.

A little too smugly for my own good, I put the passage up on my computer so I could copy and paste it into my blog post. I started reading from the beginning of the chapter. Oh my! I scurried into our bedroom, where John is lying down, and asked him to read the chapter. “Were we wrong?” I asked him.

We discussed the passage, and realized that we’d been interpreting it based on its immediate context, but not the context of the entire chapter. While we saw that it still doesn’t support contemplative prayer, neither does it contradict such practices as sharply as we had believed it did. As a matter of fact, we could understand how people would misapply it as a method of prayer.

I anticipate writing about the misapplication of the verse sometime in the future, but not until I study it more thoroughly. Obviously, I still don’t understand it as well as I thought I did. At least not in relation to prayer methodology. And quoting it out of context for the purpose of showing how others quote it out of context smacks of hypocrisy. The end never justifies the means.

This morning I read through several chapters of Proverbs. I kept running into verses about the importance of integrity. Let me quote just one of them:

Whoever walks in integrity will be delivered,
    but he who is crooked in his ways will suddenly fall. ~~Proverbs 28:18 (ESV)

Had I proceeded with my planned blog post, using only the immediate context of the verse in question to substantiate my point, someone would have discovered my dishonesty. Quite appropriately, they would have publicly exposed me. I’m aware, of course, that everybody makes innocent mistakes, but in this particular case I would have knowingly misrepresented Scripture.  As a result, I would have totally undermined my entire blog. Even worse, I would have dishonored the Lord Jesus Christ.

I set out to provide my readers with a lesson in Bible context. Instead the Lord gave me a much more profound lesson. Sisters, even when we stand against error, we have the responsibility to handle God’s Word properly and with reverence.

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Saturday Sampler: May 14 — May 20

Butterfly Sampler 02Doug Wilson, posting in Blog & Mablog, provides familiar, yet frequently ignored, advice in his article, Decluttering Your Marriage I. Using Scriptural principles from Galatians 6, Pastor Wilson encourages each spouse to take responsibility before trying to fix the other. In his closing paragraph he explains the key to this sort of humility.

So, you want to study the Bible, but you don’t know which curriculum to use. Consider Michelle Lesley’s advice in The Mailbag: Can you recommend a good Bible study for women/teens/kids? If asked, I’d make the same recommendation.

One of my most dedicated readers is a 16-year-old girl who writes under the penname Squid. In a recent blog post for Squid’s Cup of Tea, she writes Being Truly IN the Word as a wonderful (and somewhat convicting ) reminder that we need to immerse ourselves in the Bible. This young lady shows remarkable Christian maturity; I think you’ll be impressed by this article.

Another blog post serving as a good reminder comes from Jesse Johnson of The Cripplegate. His essay, What does the Bible teach about abortion?, doesn’t really tell us anything new, but it organizes the Biblical arguments against abortion nicely. I look forward to using it as a reference tool.

Truth isn’t always pretty, but it must be faced. Rebekah Hannah does just that in her piece, Women Use Porn Too, which she writes for The Gospel Coalition Blog. She raises interesting points about ways churches inadvertently deny ministry to women who struggle with this type of sexual sin.

Being childless, I don’t offer a great deal to moms who read The Outspoken TULIP. Our Bible Study on Titus 2:3-5 is convicting me about that omission.  So let me begin reparations by directing you to Peter Krol’s article You Can Read the Bible to Your Kids in Knowable Word. I believe this man is on target with this idea!

As usual, Michelle Lesley has an insightful essay based squarely on Scripture. When God Says No challenges the popular notion that we should have big dreams for God.

Speaking of the big dreams for God philosophy, Tim Challies says that Nobody Respects a Blogger. Sisters, I  have no aspiration of being anything other than a blogger! Clearly, I don’t dream very big dreams for God. Oh well!

In a guest post for Pulpit & Pen, Jodie Jensen reviews the latest book by Beth Moore in The Quest of Beth Moore. According to Jensen, Moore promises that we can achieve intimacy with God through journaling, talking about our feelings with other women and spending time in our prayer closets. Okay… Skip reading Beth Moore’s book, by all means, but be sure to read this insightful essay.

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Does Bible Journaling Mark Good Bible Study?

Journalig BibleThe other day, I came across a blog post about ways to do Bible journaling. Now, the very concept of Bible journaling strikes me as strange to begin with, and seems even stranger when I realize that the term currently refers to coloring and drawing in one’s Bible. The blog post I read featured several enormous photos of a Bible (presumably belonging to the author) almost totally covered with pastel highlights, post-it notes and pink comments written in the margins.

As I looked at photo after photo of the Bible, with all its artistry, my mind went back to a guest preacher who once spoke at the church I belonged to in California. During the early portion of the service, he sat across the aisle and one row up from me, making it easy for me to glimpse the open Bible on his lap.

The Bible was quite well-worn, with pages that had obviously been handled many, many times. Verses were highlighted and underlined, and copious notes filed the margins. I gazed at the man with admiration, thinking, “This guy really knows the Word!”

When he got up to preach, however, he handled Scripture so badly that I left the church in tears. I’d never heard anyone twist God’s Word that severely in my life! He totally misinterpreted the passage, making points exactly opposite to the text in order to promote a heretical agenda that he hoped our church would adopt. For all the markings and notes he’d made in his Bible, his Biblical illiteracy was astounding.

Ladies, a well-worn Bible laden with markings and notes doesn’t necessarily indicate that its owner properly understands correct doctrine. Those brilliantly colored phrases may or may not be understood in their proper context.

I have absolutely nothing against marking one’s Bible. A good, consistent color code can help you in studying, as long as you don’t overdo it. Turning your Bible into a coloring book, however, distracts from serious Bible study.

Do you notice a similarity between the blogger in my opening paragraph and the guest preacher with the open Bible on his lap (during a part of the service when nobody else had their Bible open)? Both gave onlookers an opportunity to admire their evident devotion to God’s Word. Of course, only the Holy Spirit can judge their motives, but I can’t help wondering why they made it so easy for people to see their Bibles.

In pondering this whole subject, I thought of something Jesus said in His Sermon on the Mount.

Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.

“Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

“And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. ~~Matthew 6:1-6 (ESV)

Is it possible that this Bible journaling fad is more about showing others how much attention we give our physical Bibles than about learning and obeying the Word of God? It depends, obviously on each individual. Not every woman who marks her Bible does so for the purpose of showing off, and those who don’t practice Bible journaling must be careful not to judge. But, and pay attention here, it’s extremely easy to mark up our Bibles with secret hopes that someone will happen to see those brightly colored highlights and admire our spirituality.

Might I suggest that you have two Bibles? Use one for your private times with the Lord, marking it in whatever way genuinely helps you study and properly understand God’s Word. If your husband and kids happen to see you marking it, okay. But don’t go out of your way to show it to them. Keep it between yourself and the Lord. Take the second Bible to church and Bible Study, marking it very seldom. Your Father Who sees in secret will reward you.

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How Self-Esteem Undermines The Gospel

dark-bibleThe concept of self-esteem dominates psychology and psychotherapy. Even a cursory Google search on self-esteem will reveal the strong relationship between the two. Psychotherapy aims at helping boost a client’s self-esteem, showing them their supposed inherent value and importance. Ultimately, it teaches the client to love herself, frequently adding that self-love is absolutely foundational to good mental health and healthy relationships.

This emphasis on self-esteem, however, directly contradicts the basic Gospel message. John MacArthur, in his sermon, The Gospel: Self-love or Self-hate?, demonstrates from Scripture that the person clinging to self-esteem can never benefit from the Gospel because she can’t truly face the truth of her sinful condition and utter dependence on Christ as her only source of righteousness.

The Bible, in stark contrast to psychology’s emphasis on self-esteem, teaches that salvation comes only as we recognize our depravity and consequently come to hate ourselves. Jesus said, in no uncertain terms, that feeling good about ourselves would automatically prevent us from receiving God’s mercy.

He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: 10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” ~~Luke 18:9-14 (ESV)

I know some of you are objecting that this parable talks about pride, not self-esteem. But if you think about it, isn’t self-esteem simply a socially acceptable description of  pride? Look at the Pharisee and the tax collector again. Wouldn’t you agree that the Pharisee had pretty high self-esteem and the tax collector suffered from low self-esteem? And yet Jesus said that the tax collector was justified by God, Who looked on the man’s humility with favor.

The Gospel asserts that every human being, with the exception of the Lord Jesus Christ, is a sinner by nature and by choice. As sinners who habitually violate God’s Law, we rightfully deserve eternal punishment in hell. Because of our helpless condition, Jesus came to earth as a Man (without ceasing to be God) to live a sinless life. He suffered a criminal’s execution on a Roman cross, shedding His innocent blood in payment for the sin of all those who would believe in Him. On the third day He rose again, proving that God the Father accepted His sacrifice and will therefore raise believers to eternal life.

The first component of the Gospel, you’ll notice, focuses on our sinfulness, which in turn verifies our desperate need for a Savior. Self-esteem, however, denies the gravity of our sinfulness, falsely assuring us what we have something to contribute to our salvation. As a result, we skew the Gospel, diminishing Christ’s work while subtly claiming some of the glory for ourselves.

Psychology, precisely because of its relentless promotion of self-esteem, rips away the very foundation of the Gospel. As Bible-believing Christians, we must categorically reject psychology because of its integral ties with the self-esteem movement. By recognizing psychology’s unbiblical underpinnings, we embrace the biblical teachings on sin which prepare us for the Good News of Jesus Christ.

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Saturday Sampler: April 30 — May 6

Sping LaceI’ve been angry at God. I admit that terrible fact with shame, grateful that He has forgiven my arrogance toward Him. So I wholeheartedly agree with Denny Burk’s blog post, It’s never right to be angry at God. Ever. His Biblical approach to this issue leads to practical counsel on dealing with suffering.

Rachel Miller, who authors Daughter of the Reformation, writes Policing the Blogosphere? We’ve Been Here Before as an intriguing response to the idea that women bloggers need more church oversight. I’m still weighing her assertions, but I found her parallels to the Reformation absolutely fascinating! Invest some time in this essay; you won’t regret it.

In her hard-hitting essay, “Sorry I Never Knew You” – Should we sing about God’s judgments?, Elizabeth Prata of The End Time challenges the prevailing reticence to preach and sing about eschatology. She includes the song, “Sorry I Never Knew You” by The Sego Brothers & Naomi. Even if Southern Gospel Music isn’t ordinarily your preference, please listen to this important song and consider the points Elizabeth makes.

Writing for The Cripplegate, Eric Davis enumerates Reasons to Avoid Churches Who Will Not Practice Church Discipline. He raises issues I’d never consciously considered, but that make perfect sense.  His article again assures me that I’m in a healthy, Biblical church with leadership that shepherds me well.

Like most Christians, I fight the temptation to take credit for my salvation. Tim Challies provides a wonderful antidote to that temptation. If Only I Had Been Saved By Merit! demonstrates how our corrupt natures would pervert God’s grace if we actually had a hand  in saving ourselves. I think I’m glad the Lord did all the work!

It’s fashionable to speak about social media with a hint of disdain in your voice. But Michelle Lesley, in 9 Ways Social Media Is a Blessing to Believers, reminds us that the Lord uses the Internet to do some pretty amazing things. Of course, I may be a tad biased regarding this topic — I met my husband online!

 

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