Why I Wanted More Than Scripture

Victoria PaintingTo my shame, I like to talk about myself. Everybody does, I suppose, but I see it as one of my character flaws. Wouldn’t it be much better if my conversation revolved around the Lord and His Word?

Sometimes, however, talking about myself gives me the opportunity to tell people how the Lord has worked in my life. I’ve written several articles about the ways that evangelicals try to supplement God’s Word with mysticism and psychology, but perhaps I come across as not understanding why those practices attract so many professing Christians. Perhaps readers (especially those who haven’t read my Autobiography With Purpose posts) think I’m simply unaware of how God can use these practices to enhance Biblical principles. With such possibilities in mind, I’d like to tell you a little bit about my struggles with the sin of anger and my subsequent minimization of the Bible’s ability to address it.

Mostly in those years when I accepted Charismatic theology (but also in later years), I considered the Bible to be less than satisfying. Oh, with my mouth I’d insist that Scripture possessed everything Christians needed to know, but when I struggled with personal issues, I’d search its pages and find my heart yearning for something “deeper.” Prophecy, psychology, or “words of knowledge” promised to augment God’s Word.

My battle to tame my temper provides an example of my dissatisfaction with Biblical principles. I dutifully read all the passages condemning anger, as well as the ones encouraging self-control. Yet they didn’t seem to offer guidance on how to keep  from exploding into fits of rage when I’d feel irritated or threatened. I believed I needed to understand childhood trauma that caused my root of anger. Additionally, I went through “deliverance” from a demon of anger that had supposedly possessed me. I read Christian books and articles, looking for mystical experiences with Jesus that would free me from my anger and transform me into a woman of inexhaustible patience.

The magic bullet never materialized.

What I really needed, of course, was to obey the Holy Spirit, Who has given me a spirit of self-control (2 Timothy 1:7). I could choose to walk in the Spirit’s ways, which He outlined in the Bible, or I could choose to walk in the flesh. Walking in the Spirit doesn’t erase my fleshly feelings of indignation, but it trusts the Spirit’s power to help me respond to irritations as He would have me respond.

Obedience isn’t the easy way of dealing with sin. Often, it fails to change our feelings or remove our sinful desires. Instead, it requires us to deny the demands of our emotions, bringing them into submission to God’s commands. Certainly, the Holy Spirit empowers us to obey the Lord, but He doesn’t necessarily do so in ways that we find comfortable. And, frankly, we turn to mysticism and psychology precisely because we want a comfortable way of dealing with sin.

God’s Word not only teaches us what the Lord expects, but it points us to the power of God’s Spirit, Who enables us to obey. We need no “deeper” knowledge, nor do we need psychology. Scripture guides us to the risen Christ, Who in turn raises us from bondage to our sin natures. Really, what more could we possibly need?

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Saturday Sampler: June 4 — June 10

Bertucci Sampler
Sampler plate at Bertucci’s

Clint Archer posts Running for the  Reward: Comrades Marathon and the Bema Seat in The Cripplegate. Sometimes we Christians forget that rewards await us when we finish this life.

Reprising a column that she originally wrote in 2011, Marsha West of Berean Research chronicles the Purpose Driven dismantling of Christianity as  a testament to the many corrosive influences on the 21st Century church. Her comments on psychology particularly interested me.  In addition, she unmasks the resurgence of Gnosticism among evangelicals and explores Rick Warren’s affiliation with Robert Schuller.

Sometimes we ignore seemingly inconsequential sins, assuming the Lord also overlooks them. Tim Challies directs our attention to one such sin (grumbling about fellow Christians) in The King Is Within Earshot.

People commonly object to the doctrine of election because they infer that, if God elects some to heaven, He conversely elects others to hell. In The Cripplegate, Jesse Johnson writes Reprobation: Does God elect people to hell? as a way to demonstrate the logical fallacies of this argument. After you’ve read this piece, however, I strongly suggest that you read Reprobation Rejoinder by Mike Riccardi, also in The Cripplegate.

I’ve been disturbed, for the past few years, about the common perceptions professing Christians have regarding heaven. So it encourages me to read Heaven: The Biblical Version by Jennifer at One Hired Late In The Day. I feel less alone in my understanding of what the Bible teaches on the subject.

Denny Burk provides a sobering reminder that American Christians have already begun to face persecution. His article, Watch Bernie Sanders tell  a Christian that his faith disqualifies him from office, reminds me that we can no longer expect to be embraced by our culture. But Jesus repeatedly warned us that the world would reject us, so we really shouldn’t be surprised.

If you want to read something both fun and educational, look at The Mischievous Protestant’s Guide to Catholic Rome by Tim Challies. Now, why do you suppose my art history professor at Dominican University of California  (a school started by Catholic nuns) never mentioned the items in this piece.

In her essay for The Gospel Coalition Blog, Kendra Dahl shares The Lesson That Saved My Marriage to help us adjust our expectations of our husbands. I definitely needed to read her wisdom this week!

 

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Not Afraid To Fear The Lord

Serious Little Boy01Evangelicals in the past 50 or so years have carefully minimized (or avoided altogether) the subject of fearing God. When, in the course of a group Bible Study, they inadvertently encounter verses about fearing God, they cough out a few sentences about simply revering Him before rapidly moving on to more manageable verses.

Fearing God isn’t politically correct anymore, even among Bible-believing Christians. We much prefer dwelling on the Lord’s goodness, compassion and love. That way, we keep Him much more approachable, even when we persist in our pet sins. Even more to the point, we make Him more attractive (we think) to non-Christians when we evangelize them. Talking about fearing Him, we reason, makes Him less marketable.

Scripture, however, never seems all that concerned with the Lord’s marketability, nor with keeping us comfortable even in our disobedience. Even the beloved book of Psalms, which often consoles false converts with poetic assurances of God’s love and mercy, insists that we need to fear Him.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom;
    all those who practice it have a good understanding.
    His praise endures forever! ~~Psalm 111:10 (ESV)

Does fearing God mean feeling literally afraid of Him? Well, yeah. Sometimes such fear is highly appropriate, actually. Such fear acknowledges His authority to establish His standards of how Christians ought to behave, and to discipline us when we violate His standards.

In considering the fear of the Lord, we must clarify that genuinely saved Christians can fear Him without doubting His love for us. Hebrews 12:6 explains that, as our heavenly Father, He disciplines the ones He loves. I realize that postmodern parenting, influenced by psychological models, often consider it unhealthy for children to fear parents, but God graciously allowed me to grow up in a time when I both knew the security of my mom’s love and feared her discipline.

I was a willful child (and, to my shame, I’m still very willful). In school, I had no problem defying a certain teacher. If he chose to punish my disobedience, I was perfectly fine with that. But I always begged him not to tell my mom. He always did, once even going to her workplace! And, although she really wasn’t as harsh with me as he was, I feared her discipline far more than I feared his.

Fearing God helps me obey Him more consistently. I know He won’t revoke my salvation because of my sin, but I also know that facing Him in judgment and accounting for ways I squandered opportunities to serve Him will be painful. I fear dishonoring Him, even as I rejoice in knowing that I will spend eternity with Him.

Fearing God gives me discernment to live in a manner that pleases Him. It teaches me holiness. Maybe fearing Him isn’t fashionable in the 21st Century, and maybe psychologists would disapprove of my fear of Him, but the Bible recommends this holy fear. It calls it the beginning of wisdom.

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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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The Glory Of Failure: Please Don’t Build My Self-Esteem

Floating BalloonA friend of mine posted on Facebook that he felt like a failure. Predictably, several people responded with well-intentioned comments aimed at making him feel better about himself, assuring him that God doesn’t see him that way and encouraging him not to let his frustrations define him. As I pondered their remarks, I recognized that they wanted to bolster his self-esteem.

Maybe he needed such bolstering, but the conversation just didn’t square with Scripture. In my 46 years of reading and studying the Bible, I’ve never come across any instances of the Lord telling people to feel good about themselves. Yes, He told them that He loved them, and even that He would work through their weaknesses and failures for His glory, but He never so much as suggested that we have any worth apart from Him. As a matter of fact, the apostle Paul wrote about the things that, prior to his conversion, gave him a sense of self-esteem as if they deserved only contempt.

For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh— though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.  ~~Philippians 3:3-11 (ESV)

Despite all the reasons Paul had to pat himself on the back, he knew that he’d be better off dwelling on the righteousness that Christ had given him. His pedigree and accomplishments made him successful in the sight of his First Century Jewish culture, but he disdained them in the light of the Lord.

I don’t enjoy facing my many failures, admittedly. Such confrontation hurts my pride! But that pride needs to be wounded, and in fact that wound must  be mortal! Self-esteem will keep me from acknowledging my dependence on the Lord, therefore robbing Him of the glory. It will prevent me from looking to Him in my failures and therefore watching Him turn my failures into His successes. Please…if I feel like a failure, don’t decide that you’ll best demonstrate compassion by building up my self-esteem. Instead, direct me back to the Savior.

 

 
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Psychology And The Source Of Knowledge About The Human Soul

Lady Reading BiblePsychology makes my blood boil, especially when people try to integrate it with Christianity! Although commonly considered a science, the discipline actually is comprised of theories that haven’t been proven (and really don’t lend themselves to scientific verification). The vast majority of the theories incorporate acceptance of evolution, humanism and occult ideas.

Over the past 40 years, evangelicals have embraced psychology as an augmentation to pastoral ministry, assuming that the Bible falls short of addressing the mental and emotional needs of humans. That assumption should make the hair on the back of your neck bristle! Essentially, “Christian” psychology boldly declares God’s Word to be impotent, while at the same time more than implying that psychologists and licensed counselors possess a special knowledge inaccessible to those of us who “merely” read the Bible.

The attitude that psychologists have a deeper understanding of human nature than the Holy Spirit (Who, after all, authored the Bible) smacks of modern-day Gnosticism.

To grasp the significance of equating psychology with Gnosticism, let me briefly review the basic premise of Gnosticism, and the apostle Paul’s response to it. In the late First Century and early Second Century, Gnostics taught that they held special knowledge over and above what most Christians had. Access to that knowledge required initiation into their group, but promised deeper wisdom into life’s mysteries.

In his letter to the Colossians, Paul argued that Christ alone is the Source of wisdom. Notice how directly he made his claim in the following paragraph.

For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you and for those at Laodicea and for all who have not seen me face to face, that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. I say this in order that no one may delude you with plausible arguments. For though I am absent in body, yet I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good order and the firmness of your faith in Christ. ~~Colossians 2:1-5 (ESV)

Look carefully at verse 3. Wisdom and knowledge, in their entirety, are hidden in Christ, not in philosophical systems developed by people like Freud (an atheist influenced by Charles Darwin) and Jung (who depended on a demonic spirit called Philemon). And Christ gladly reveals Himself through Scripture.

The Apostle Peter insists further that knowing the Lord Jesus Christ gives us everything we  need to navigate through life.

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. ~~2 Peter 1:3-4 (ESV)

Remembering that the Lord gives us knowledge of Himself through His Word, this passage in 2 Peter clearly teaches that we simply don’t need the special knowledge that psychology pretends to offer us. Not only can we pass up this modem-day Gnosticism by standing on the sufficiency of Scripture, we have an obligation to do just that!

Psychology may appear erudite and sophisticated because of it’s claims to understand the inner workings of the human soul, but Christians have access to the One Who created that soul. Why should we waste our time on foolish human philosophy when the Bible is right there, ready to provide all the answers we need?

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Psychology Is More Than We Need

If you’ll look at the archives to the right on this blog, you’ll find several essays that detail the various reasons that Bible-believing Christians must completely reject psychology. Although I may revisit some of those objections in future posts, today , let’s talk about the underlying issue. When we join psychoanalysis to Scripture, we very openly admit our belief that God’s Word lacks the ability to address a person’s spiritual needs.

Okay, I put that point bluntly. And, if you must know, I did so very deliberately because most evangelicals honestly don’t realize how deeply their reliance on psychology attacks the doctrine of Scripture’s sufficiency. In fact, I suppose that the vast majority of evangelicals who combine psychology with God’s Word sincerely believe that the Lord uses the “science” of psychology to “go deeper” than the Bible without contradicting it.

They would regard psychology as a provision the Lord has given us so that, in better understanding ourselves, we can more effectively apply Biblical principles to our daily lives. Of course, they assume that “Christian” psychology will ultimately eliminate temptation so that they can honor and obey the Lord without effort…which perhaps explains why they feel such an urgent need for something “more.”

In my younger years, I often articulated to myself (but never to others) that  I wanted “more” than the Bible offered in dealing with my sin of anger. The Bible simply says to put anger away and walk in patience and humility. I wanted, however, to understand the  “root causes” of my anger, thinking that such an understanding would eliminate the emotion and in turn eradicate the temptation.

Sounds wonderful, until you realize that the focus shifts from self-denial and trust in God’s authority to my own comfort.

Something that happened a number of years ago might help to demonstrate a more Scriptural approach to anger. Just as I needed to complete my PCA’s time sheet and print it for her to sign (we needed to  fax all the time sheets before she returned the following Monday), Adobe Reader froze. When I restarted it, Dell started installing 29 updates. I knew my PCA didn’t feel well and wanted to go home, which pressured me. Obviously, she couldn’t wait around while my computer updated itself.

John got on his computer and opened my second email address where (praise God) I daily backed up time sheets. He found hers, but it printed improperly, forcing him to retype the entire two-week time sheet from scratch. As he struggled typing in all the numbers, I vented my rage and frustration without restraint. Finally, he commanded me to stop.

I immediately thought of Scriptures about wives submitting to husbands and about controlling anger. Although I felt like continuing my temper tantrum, I simply obeyed God’s Word. I didn’t fall back on psychological explanations for this latest tirade. I simply acknowledged my sin and repented. Knowing the Lord’s will that I exercise self-control was sufficient.

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. ~~2 Peter 1:3-8 (ESV)

The Lord has taught me that, as Scripture deepens my knowledge of Who He is and how He sees things, I don’t need the man-made discipline of psychology. His Word tells me everything I need to know.

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