Do You Use Thomas Jefferson’s Scissors?

Thomas Jefferson

Photo taken at Dreamland Wax Museum in Boston

Legend has that Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the United States of America, would use scissors to cut out portions of the Bible that he didn’t like. I’m not sure he literally did so, but almost no one believes he held to orthodox Christian theology. According to this article on The Jefferson Foundation website, he certainly made himself a judge over how much of Scripture we should believe.

Yes, I wrote an article on this topic only last Friday. But l didn’t get to really address the underlying problem with the attitude that we can determine which parts of Scripture to embrace and which parts to reject.

Humans have elevated themselves over the Word of God since the beginning of creation. Look again at Satan’s tactic in seducing Eve:

Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made.

He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths. ~~Genesis 3:1-7 (ESV)

“C’mon, Eve, God didn’t really say that! Oh He did? Well, surely you know He just wanted to keep you down! You can stand up to His oppression.  As a matter of fact, eating this delectable fruit (doesn’t it look yummy?) will make you as intelligent as He is. I mean, you can already outwit Him just by ignoring His ridiculous little command.”

Pride always assures us that we know better than to believe that the Bible is actually God’s Word. When something in its pages doesn’t square with our theology, we play with the original language, decide it’s no longer applicable or we ignore it altogether. Like Thomas Jefferson and Eve, we declare our ability to decide what parts of Scripture to believe and what parts to cut out.

Such pride exalts self over God.

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Beware Of Yeast — Not Really All That Cryptic

Worldly WiseIn my devotional reading today, I came across a familiar passage that made me think about my pride.

When the disciples reached the other side, they had forgotten to bring any bread. Jesus said to them, “Watch and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” And they began discussing it among themselves, saying, “We brought no bread.” But Jesus, aware of this, said, “O you of little faith, why are you discussing among yourselves the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive? Do you not remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? 10 Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? 11 How is it that you fail to understand that I did not speak about bread? Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” 12 Then they understood that he did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees. ~~Matthew 16:5-12 (ESV)

I realize that most of the disciples were tradesmen, and therefore lacking in formal education. Perhaps that fact accounts Continue reading

When We’re Too Discerning To Love Christ

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We seldom recognize our own idols. This spiritual blindness engulfs all Christians, it seems to me, but I think people involved in discernment ministry ought to be particularly mindful that our zeal to expose false teachers can actually distract us from loving the Lord.

A couple of years ago, I read a passage in Revelation 2 that really compelled me to ask myself some uncomfortable questions. Sure, I could make the case that loving Christ leads to a desire for doctrinal purity in His church. In many instances, that’s  entirely true. But look at what the Lord commands the apostle John to write to the church at Ephesus:

“‘I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. Yet this you have: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.’ ~~Revelation 2:2-7 (ESV)

In this letter, the Lord begins by commending the Ephesians for standing against false teachers. This point shows that discernment ministry definitely has its place. Indeed, several of the other churches in Revelation 2 and 3 receive harsh chastisement precisely because of their tolerance of false teaching. The Lord demands purity in His Church.

Yet the Ephesians focused so much on discernment that they abandoned their devotion to Christ Himself. They no longer had a zeal to serve Him in other ways. So, despite their stellar record in standing against false teachers, they had allowed their discernment abilities to eclipse their devotion to the Lord. In no uncertain terms, these discernment giants were ordered to repent.

Although this letter affirms discernment ministry, it also indicates that discernment can become an idol. How ironic is that? We can become so enamored with our skill in distinguishing truth from error that we read the Bible looking for ammunition that will help us expose whatever false teacher we happen to have in our cross-hairs at the moment. We forget Christ’s answer when asked about the greatest commandment:

37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. ~~Matthew 22:37-38 (ESV)

Let’s cultivate discernment, by all means! But let’s not limit discernment merely to calling out false teachers. Let’s also seek to discern from Scripture how we can best love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul and mind. The Ephesians forgot to maintain that type of discernment. We dare not.

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Correction Must Come From God’s Word

baaa1-stainedglass03I got a little pushback on yesterday’s blog post. That’s fine.  Because I’m human, and therefore fallen, I certainly can get things wrong. May God give me the humility to accept correction when I publish articles that misrepresent His character and/or violate the teachings of Scripture. In fact, I beg my readers to show me any doctrinal errors in my writing!

31 The ear that listens to life-giving reproof
    will dwell among the wise.
32 Whoever ignores instruction despises himself,
    but he who listens to reproof gains intelligence.
33 The fear of the Lord is instruction in wisdom,
    and humility comes before honor. ~~Proverbs 15:31-33 (ESV)

You should worry about me if I show a resistance to receiving correction that’s grounded in God’s Word. The Lord does not permit anyone to exalt human wisdom over the authority of Scripture, least of all a housewife with a blog! If I make the mistake of thinking that I am somehow above the ability to insert error into my writing, I definitely need godly people to rebuke me from Scripture.

Notice, please, my emphasis on the Word of God as the standard for correcting me. The challenges I received to yesterday’s post (both on my Comments Section and on social media) appealed to personal experience, misapplied Bible verses (at least that person tried — initially — to reason from Scripture), ad hominem attacks and worldly philosophies.

Colossians warns Christians to be careful about worldly philosophies.

Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.

See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, 10 and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. ~~Colossians 2:6-10 (ESV)

We receive faith through the Word of God, according to Romans 10:17. From there, Scripture fully equips us in all spiritual matters, as we see in 2 Timothy 3:16-17 and 2 Peter 1:3-5. Rather than being persuaded by the philosophies invented by human wisdom and subjective experience, Christians cling to God’s Word as our ultimate authority.

Furthermore, we don’t add to His Word by observing religious regulations or spiritual practices. Going back to Colossians, we see the folly of depending on human wisdom and tradition for godliness.

16 Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. 17 These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. 18 Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, 19 and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God.

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 2:16-23 (ESV)

So, while I welcome correction and will happily retract any and all blog posts when I’m shown that I’ve distorted or contradicted clear Biblical teaching, I reject arguments that don’t come from Scripture. As a Christian, I have a responsibility to maintain a humble and teachable attitude, but I have an even greater responsibility to keep God’s Word as the standard for distinguishing truth from error.

Please don’t hesitate to correct me using the Comments Section at the end of each blog post I write. Public error demands public rebuke. But make certain that, in offering correction, you appeal to His Word as your basis for correcting me. Anything less dishonors Christ.

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Beth Moore Knows Better, But She’s Choosing To Disobey

Apparently, Beth Moore is scheduled to preach in an SBC church on Mother’s Day.

Beth Moore Preaching Tweet

It isn’t the first time she’s filled a pulpit, nor will it be the last. But I don’t believe she’s preached at a church belonging to the Southern Baptist Convention before, which makes this occasion so disturbing.

Beth Moore used to be a complimentarian. Or so she claimed,  She began her ministry career teaching the Bible in a Sunday School class for women, but when men started attending she shrugged her shoulders helplessly and explained that she couldn’t keep them out.

As time progressed, she maintained that her ministry focused on women, although she never seemed to mind having men in the audience. Then she attended last year’s MLK50 Conference, where she suddenly became Woke. That experience led to her infamous Letter to my Brothers, in which she complained about not being taken seriously and made vague allegations of sexual harassment. Finally she admitted what her critics have known all along: she’s not content to minister exclusively to women.

In other words, she refuses to obey Scripture.

12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve; 14 and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.  ~~1 Timothy 2:12-14 (ESV)

This woman boasts of her love for God’s Word, often writing and tweeting about her diligent study of it. Surely that diligent study has included an examination of 1 Timothy 2:12-14, and basic hermeneutics would have shown her that Paul’s appeal to Adam and Eve indicates that male leadership was meant for all time. The prohibition against women teaching men was not specific to First Century Ephesus!

Beth Moore’s blatant rebellion against Scripture serves as a reminder that all of us can compromise God’s Word to suit our selfish agendas. Rather than throw stones at such an easy target as Beth Moore, perhaps we should first ask the Lord to show us instances in which we flagrantly disobey God’s commands. Perhaps we also twist, ignore or outright violate the very Scripture we claim to love.

Certainly, we must stand against egalitarianism within God’s Church. And as we take that Biblical stand, we must also stand against our own sin, certain that the Lord will graciously respond to our repentance.

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Flashback Friday: Giving Permission To The King

Originally posted August 9, 2017.

Cinderella's  ClosetThroughout the bulk of my Christian life, I’ve heard the following sentiments:

“God is a Gentleman; He won’t violate your will.”

“Give the Lord permission to work in your life.”

“You need to get out of the way in order for God to work.”

“Let go and let God.”

You’ve undoubtedly heard these same ideas, and maybe you’ve even said them. They sound very reasonable, and even a bit spiritual. Many celebrity evangelicals routinely teach them, urging us to partner with God as if He’s helplessly wringing His hands as He waits for us to participate in whatever He’s doing.

Now, I understand that the Lord chooses to work through human beings much of the time. He calls Christians to obedience, especially in regard to proclaiming the Gospel to all creation. The same letter of Paul that declares God’s sovereignty in determining who should be numbered in the elect (Romans 9:6-26) also pronounces His decree that the elect should come to faith by means of evangelism (Romans 10:13-17). In that sense, He indeed uses our obedience as the means of accomplishing His purposes.

But we make a grave mistake if we assume that a lack of cooperation on our part in any way hinders or prevents the Lord from carrying out His will. In truth, He has all power. Nothing any of us does, even at our highest points of rebellion, can possibly block Him from doing exactly what He wills.

From the time Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, men and women have tried to claim control over God. We cherish the notion that we somehow allow Him to have His way in saving us and then in working in our lives. Proudly, we believe He stands immobilized, waiting patiently until we grant Him permission to move.

Look again at Romans 9.

19 You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” 20 But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” 21 Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? 22 What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— 24 even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles? ~~Romans 9:19:24 (ESV)

Who do we think we are? Do we seriously believe the sovereignty of God depends on our will or behavior? Does the King of kings and Lord of lords bow in subjection to us? Scripture certainly never portrays Him as such a dependent weakling, nor does it suggest that He gives us authority over His dealings in our lives.

We need to repent of our arrogant attitudes. Let’s stop flattering ourselves that anything God does hinges on our attitudes or actions. If sovereignty really belongs to Him (and it does), then He will do anything He wants to do with or without our permission.

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What’s The Purpose Of Discernment?

Discernment ScrollThis past Sunday I asked people on Facebook and Twitter what they believe the purpose of discernment is. Happily, several people responded, and all of them had excellent answers.

Most respondents emphasized that discernment enables us to distinguish between truth and error. Several elaborated that discernment protects the Church from false teaching. I wholeheartedly agree, and I praise God for giving us such a wonderful shield against deception. So many theological aberrations compete for our attention that discernment cannot be optional.

Two friends delighted me by going a bit deeper. One noted that discernment was, at the bottom line, for God’s glory. Her answer got to the very heart of what I wanted to say in this essay. If we consider discernment as having its purpose apart from glorifying Him, we make the disastrous mistake of once again placing ourselves in the center of God’s purposes.

The other friend expanded on the first friend’s answer by citing Scripture:

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)

He added that discernment helps us serve and love God better. My heart definitely did a happy dance when I read his comment because he so closely resembled my daily prayer concerning discernment.

As I come to my time in God’s Word each day, I ask the Lord to increase my discernment through its doctrines. But immediately I sense impure motives for that prayer request. I feel a strong temptation to make the request so that I can excel as a discernment blogger. Confessing that horridly self-serving motive, I discipline myself to instead ask for discernment in order that I might worship Him in spirit and in truth.

It appears to me that people frequently label themselves as discernment bloggers so that they can establish their authority. Not all commit this sin, I realize, but I’d hazard a guess that even those who don’t commit it experience the temptation, at least occasionally. If we pretend not to feel that pull, we put ourselves in tremendous danger.

Discernment is necessary in navigating the Christian life, especially with so much false teaching creeping into even the best churches. By all means, pray to be discerning! But please make sure you ultimately seek this attribute for God’s glory rather than your own purposes.

 

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