From My Archives: In Eve’s Footsteps

3d383-ladies2bstudy2b03My schedule is a little different this week, therefore diminishing my time for blogging. Please enjoy this article  from May 2016:

Eve’s fatal encounter with the serpent and subsequent rebellion in eating the forbidden fruit is such a familiar narrative to me that sometimes I fail to comprehend all of its implications. But an article in the January/February 2016 issue of Modern Reformation sent me back to the text in Genesis 3. Simonetta Carr’s article, “East of Eden,” tells the story as if through Eve’s words, comfortably familiar (as I said) until I reached  this paragraph:

As wonderful as the Garden was, the serpent convinced me we could have much more, right then and there, without waiting for God’s timing. The serpent appeared to be our friend, but he was strange. He could speak our language and seemed to know more than we knew, but I didn’t give it much thought then. It was an enticing prospect of having our eyes opened, of being like God and knowing more than what God had revealed.

The story continues as she heartwrenchingly wrestles with the realization that Able died and Cain suffered banishment as a result of her rebellion in eating the fruit, and I don’t mean to misrepresent the point Mrs. Carr intended her article to convey. At the same time, the paragraph I just quoted sparked my thinking concerning women and our attraction to mystical adaptations of Christianity.

Specifically, the closing phrase of that paragraph captured my attention.”Knowing more than what God had revealed.” Was that Eve’s motivation? Had Satan promised her revelation beyond the words of God, insinuating that what God had spoken to her and Adam wasn’t sufficient? Fascinating questions! I went to my Bible to verify this interesting possibility. Genesis 3:6 had my answer.

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. (ESV)

That phrase, “the tree was to be desired to make one wise,” gave me confirmation Simonetta Carr had indeed offered a profound insight. Despite the intimate fellowship that she and Adam regularly enjoyed with God, Eve liked Satan’s suggestion that they could possess knowledge beyond what He had revealed to them.

That idea made me think of the mysticism that pervades many evangelical churches today. Although many men get sucked into this terrible trend, it appears to be the most pronounced in women’s ministry. Immediately I think of Beth Moore’s claims of revelations from God and Sarah Young’s book, Jesus Calling. I also remember countless women’s retreats and Bible Study meetings where leaders encouraged us to “allow” the Holy Spirit to reveal Himself, not in the pages of Scripture, but “personally” during times of “listening prayer.”

All too often, evangelical “Bible” teachers send the message that the Bible only goes so far in showing us what we need. Typically (and I speak from both personal experience  and first-hand observation), evangelical women receive subtle pressure to understand their psychological wounds and/or to  experience God emotionally. They may certainly start with a Bible verse that “ministers” to them (i.e., that gives them goosebumps), but they must then seek “more.”

One example of the mysticism evangelical teachers push on women comes in the form of “intimacy with God.” Jesus must be their “Lover,” especially if they’re single. Beth Moore and Ann Voskamp both urge women to enjoy “romance” with Him…with Voskamp  boldly advocating erotic expressions of such romance. Sometimes single women are actually shamed for wanting a flesh-and-blood husband when Jesus “offers” them emotional and even sexual satisfaction.

That spiritual rush, of course, exceeds the limitations of mere Bible study. As with other forms of evangelical mysticism, this intimacy with God suggests that we need more than what He has given us in His Word. But didn’t Eve plunge all of creation into decay and death precisely because Satan convinced her that she needed to digest the knowledge of good and evil? Didn’t he persuade her that God’s Word didn’t give her everything she needed?

Evangelical women fall for the same stale lie that Satan first told Eve. Thankfully, we can trust that God’s Word really does supply everything necessary for us to live on this side of heaven.

14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it 15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. ~~2 Timothy 3:14-17 (ESV)

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Book Review: Another Jesus Calling

another-jesus-callingWarren B. Smith of Lighthouse Trails, himself a  convert to Christ after heavy involvement in New Age philosophy and practice, wrote Another Jesus Calling: How False Christs Are Entering the Church Through Contemplative Prayer. For the most part, the book successfully critiques Sarah Young’s popular but heretical book Jesus Calling. I wanted to better equip myself to address Young’s false teaching, so I approached Smith’s book with great eagerness.

In one respect, Another Jesus Calling disappointed me, largely because it lacked focus and repeated many points unnecessarily. Smith went off on tangents about other New Age teachers, leaving me a bit frustrated. I wanted to read about Sarah Young’s book,  not about teachers that don’t even claim to be Christians. At points, I almost literally felt my eyes glaze over as I waded through passages about Smith’s pre-Christian experiences with meditation and self-deification. Although his comparisons of Jesus Calling to New Age ideas were necessary to Smith’s thesis, he prolonged them so much that they ended up distracting me.

In short, Smith’s writing skills need work.

Having voiced my problems with Another Jesus Calling, allow me to say that the book did supply many helpful examples of how Sarah Young presents a false Christianity that actually leads readers into New Age beliefs. In Chapter 2, for instance, Smith lists several terms that Young repeatedly employs throughout her book.

So much of God Calling is permeated with metaphysical/New Age terminology and thinking. The following is just a sampling of the occult/New Age terms that continually jump out at the reader—Universal Spirit, Supreme Being, Divine Powers, Great Divine Heart, Divine Forces, Spirit Forces, God-Power,spiritual plane, channels, Spirit-consciousness, heart-consciousness, Spirit Sounds, Spirit-communication, Divine Mind, Secret of Prosperity, Law of Supply, Law of Discipleship, Sonship, spiritual level, path of initiation, order out of chaos, soul-balance, oneness, and many others.

As Smith points out, none of these terms is Biblical. Yet Young claims that she has written down words that Jesus spoke directly to her. I join Smith in finding it curious that Jesus would choose New Age vernacular over the terminology He used in His Word. These phrases should alert Christian readers that there’s something dreadfully wrong with Young’s writing.

Smith demonstrates (using the King James Version) that Sarah Young’s counterfeit Jesus contrasts with the true Jesus by elevating his presence over Scripture.

The true Jesus Christ tells us: Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away. (Matthew 24:35)

God is always present with us—a presence that will never be magnified above His Word. If we choose to put experiencing God’s presence above His Word, we are leaving ourselves open and vulnerable to the visits of a counterfeit presence.

For the “Jesus” of Jesus Calling, experiencing His presence is everything. This is his invitation:

Open yourself to My loving Presence, so that I may fill you with My fullness. I want you to experience how wide and long and high and deep is My Love for you, so that you can know My Love that surpasses knowledge. This vast ocean of Love cannot be measured or explained, but it can be experienced.

Taste and see that I am good. This command contains an invitation to experience My living Presence. It also contains a promise. The more you experience Me, the more convinced you become of My goodness.

Notice that Sarah Young’s Jesus never encourages people to look for Him in the Word of God? For Young, Scripture lacks sufficiency to give us everything we need for living godly lives (1 Timothy 3:15-16, 2 Peter 1:3-4). In addition, the emphasis on experiencing his presence allows people to imagine him any way they want. The true Jesus gives us His Word, expecting us to discern Who He is  from what is written.

If you want good writing, Another Jesus Calling will probably disappoint you. But if you need evidence that Sarah Young’s Jesus Calling contradicts Scripture, I highly recommend that  you read Smith’s book and carefully consider his points. Please make sure that you listen to the Jesus of the Bible rather than a New Age imposter.

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What is ‘Bridal Mysticism’? And why is it so prevalent?

As my regular readers know, I suffered during my single years, longing to be married. Several woman in my church encouraged me (if you can call it encouragement) to let Jesus be my Husband. I sincerely tried to follow their advice, and felt condemned when couldn’t sustain romantic feelings toward Him.

Praise God for Elizabeth Prata’s excellent post exposing the false teaching that we can experience romantic and even erotic relationships with the Lord! Please read her essay to understand the unbiblical origins of this dastardly teaching and how it contrasts with the true Gospel.

The End Time

In 2005, Beth Moore was interviewed by Today’s Christian Woman magazine. They asked Moore:

Q. What led you to Jesus?

A. Beth Moore’s [2005] answer:

My Sunday-school teacher would hold up pictures of Jesus, and he looked so nice. I needed a hero, and Jesus seemed like one. I’d lie on the grass, stare up at the sky, and wonder what Jesus was like. Even as a child, I fell in love with him. After my freshman year in college, I was a camp counselor for sixth-grade girls. Early one morning, as the girls were sleeping, I sensed God’s presence enfold me. There were no audible words, no bright lights. But suddenly I knew, without a doubt, my future was entirely his. You are now mine, he told me. (source)

If that sounds familiar, it’s because it is very much like many other false teachers’ conversion stories.

It’s a…

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Saturday Sampler: October 23– October 29

salsa-samplerOn her DiscernIt blog, Kim Olsen shares That’s Not Jesus Calling by Jeremiah Johnson. Johnson evaluates Sarah Young’s book, but he also warns of the larger danger that this book represents. Ladies, I pray that this article will help you understand the sufficiency of Scripture.

Women do tend to struggle with guilt differently, and perhaps more intensely, than men do. Abigail of Hope and Stay writes about our battle in her blog entry, Unraveling Guilt With God’s Holiness. I love her Biblical perspective on this matter!

As part of her current Bible Study series, Lisa Morris of Conforming to the Truth asks Do We Have a Paul Heart for the Lost? Her challenging post serves as an overview of Romans 10. For deeper study, sign up from within the blog post to participate in Lisa’s online study of Romans.

I’d never heard of Ted Dekker. And after reading Ted Dekker’s The Forgotten Way: Book Review and a Discernment Lesson by Elizabeth Prata of The End Time, I gather that I’m not missing anything. Elizabeth teaches us valuable principles of evaluating books, and for that reason  I want to recommend this blog post as a practical example of how (and why) women should exercise discernment.

In For The Church, Zach Barnhart shows us the 2 Words That Kill Effective Bible Study. His points can’t be overstated!

Mark McIntyre has been writing daily posts bringing us through the questions of the Westminster Shorter Catechism on his blog, Attempts at Honesty. His treatment of Question 6, How many persons are in the one God?, emphasize the marvelous mystery of the Trinity. After reading this post, you might want to read the whole series!

Wow! Michelle Lesley has written the absolute best commentary on this year’s election that I’ve read to date! Revival: In America We Trust turns our minds back to the Lord Jesus Christ. But Michelle does it with a level of passion that bloggers rarely manifest, leaving me shaking my head in delighted admiration. Wow!

Monday, October 31, 2016 will mark the accepted 499th anniversary of the Reformation. In recognition of the occasion, the Ligonier blog features W. Robert Godfrey’s article, Why Did the Reformers Conclude that Reformation Was Urgent and Necessary in the 16th Century? Godfrey provides wonderful historical background to explain key theological reasons for the Reformation.

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On Exploiting Scandal (And Claiming Discernment)

Bible Mask MedievalErin Benziger created quite a stir last week with her soul-searching blog post, Please Don’t Call Me A Discernment Blogger.I’ve spent this past week thinking about her comments on the matter, hoping to develop perspective on my approach to The Outspoken TULIP. Although I haven’t yet come to any hard and fast conclusions, I wanted to present  a few of the thoughts I’ve had thus far.

For starters, I most definitely agree that many so-called discernment blogs show anything but Biblical discernment. Having tangled, a few short months ago, with a self-proclaimed discernment blogger who believed John MacArthur, Al Mohler and Steve Lawson deserve to be denounced as false teachers with questionable affiliations (largely basing her claims on rumors that have either been debunked or never had credible substantiation to begin with), I can attest that discernment blogs often devolve into gossip tabloids. Additionally, I subscribe to a couple blogs that go overboard in their attempts to serve as watchmen against heresy, and sometimes I wonder if they honor Christ. Sensationalism sells, and bloggers know it.

I know it!

Like Erin, I’ve noticed that I attract the most readers when Beth Moore or Rick Warren appear in the title of an article. And yes, I’ve exploited their names whenever I wanted more hits. As much as I’d like to shift the blame to my readers’ apparent appetite for scandal, I need to take responsibility for whetting that appetite. Am I much different than Barak Obama, who never lets a crisis go to waste? (What a chilling comparison!)

But the problem becomes complicated by the glaring lack of discernment in churches that claim to be Bible-believing and conservative. Evangelicals in the 21st Century do need to be warned about popular teachers and trends that deviate from the clear teachings of Scripture. Neither Erin nor I contest that point. Like her, I draw on Jude 3-4:

Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. (ESV)

Just yesterday I listened to a podcast that lamented a disturbing trend engulfing young evangelicals. Quite rightly, the guest and co-hosts attributed the popularity of this trend to the ignorance of doctrine that leads to the lack of discernment that opens people up to unbiblical worldviews. I nodded in agreement with most of what they said…until they promoted a conference featuring a speaker who is known for doctrinal error in her own right. For all their talk about how discerning they are, the hosts and their guest flabbergasted me with their eagerness to sit under this false teacher.

So yes, we need bloggers brave enough to  speak out against false teachers and doctrinal error. Admittedly, the Church has always battled perversions of the Gospel,  and it has faced darker days than it faces now (remember the Middle Ages, when Roman Catholicism denied people access to Scripture). Yet today’s Biblical illiteracy, which is   much less excusable, proliferates over the Internet with astounding force. Obviously, we desperately need Christians who will stand firmly against deception in the Church.

But, dear sisters in the Lord, there’s a big difference between contending for the faith and using Beth Moore to attract readers. I regret doing so, not because Erin’s article exposed my sin, but because I’ve acted in a manner that dishonored the very God I claimed to represent.

Again, let me be clear: Beth Moore, Joyce Meyer, Rick Warren, Sarah Young and many other false teachers need to be called on the carpet for ways that they deceive evangelicals. I’m not finished writing about them, because people aren’t being warned. Likewise, I have more to say about Holy Yoga, Charismatic churches, contemplative prayer, the evangelical embrace of psychology and other disturbing trends. As I said earlier, these very serious problems must be addressed.

But they must be addressed for the right reasons. I know that my blog’s stats  always skyrocket when I type Beth Moore’s name in the title. I also know that they plummet when I blog about Jesus Christ. And while that certainly says something sad about my readers, it says something even worse about me! It says that I’m willing to  capitalize on false teachers and doctrinal error for the sake of making a name for myself.

The Outspoken  TULIP exists, first and foremost, to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ by equipping women to stand for Him as the Church faces increasing persecution. Discernment is part of that equipping. But Biblical discernment goes much deeper than exposing false teachers and doctrinal error. Ultimately, we develop discernment by studying and obeying God’s Word. Maybe I’ll never be a big-name blogger by deciding against using Beth Moore as bait to hook readers, but hopefully the Lord will tell me, when I stand before His throne, that I served Him well.

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Growing 4 Life– Danger Zone

Monday, Leslie at Growing 4 Life wrote an article entitled Danger Zone, in which she examines the caliber of books that Christian bookstores typically feature. Her blog post made several important observations about some of the popular evangelical writers that I’ve been warning my readers to avoid, so I wanted to share what she’s written. She has graciously given me permission to reblog it here.


Danger-600x450I had an idea of what I wanted to buy for a graduation gift but time got away from me and the other day I realized that it was too late to order it. I groaned within, as I realized this meant I would have to buy it at my local Christian bookstore.

I have generally tried to avoid any bookstore labeled “Christian” over the last five or so years because I find them most disheartening to walk through. But that day I had little choice.

And so I headed off to the store to once again be dismayed and disgusted by the heresy and false teaching that is promoted and sold in “Christian” bookstores.

The first display I saw–just like the last time I was there and the time before that– featured Jesus Calling. You can read here why this book goes against scripture and why Christians should not be reading it. How long will that book be in the stores? I cannot believe it is still actually selling. It has had an incredibly long shelf-life compared to most books.

Then I headed to the Bible section. There I found both the good and the bad. One has to use great wisdom in picking out a Bible these days. We should always do our research before purchasing one. All Bible versions are not equal.

I headed next to the Bible Study section. There I was dismayed to find a whole section by Beth Moore. She has made some seriously wrong doctrinal turns in the recent years and, yet, it doesn’t seem to have affected her sales in any way. You can find good biblical articles refuting Beth Moore here and here.

Read the rest here

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In Eve’s Footsteps

Bible ShadowEve’s fatal encounter with the serpent and subsequent rebellion in eating the forbidden fruit is such a familiar narrative to me that sometimes I fail to comprehend all of its implications. But yesterday morning an article in the January/February 2016 issue of Modern Reformation sent me back to the text in Genesis 3. Simonetta Carr’s article, “East of Eden,” tells the story as if through Eve’s words, comfortably familiar (as I said) until I reached  this paragraph:

As wonderful as the Garden was, the serpent convinced me we could have much more, right then and there, without waiting for God’s timing. The serpent appeared to be our friend, but he was strange. He could speak our language and seemed to know more than we knew, but I didn’t give it much thought then. It was an enticing prospect of having our eyes opened, of being like God and knowing more than what God had revealed.

The story continues as she heartwrenchingly wrestles with the realization that Able died and Cain suffered banishment as a result of her rebellion in eating the fruit, and I don’t mean to misrepresent the point Mrs. Carr intended her article to convey. At the same time, the paragraph I just quoted sparked my thinking concerning women and our attraction to mystical adaptations of Christianity.

Specifically, the closing phrase of that paragraph captured my attention.”Knowing more than what God had revealed.” Was that Eve’s motivation? Had Satan promised her revelation beyond the words of God, insinuating that what God had spoken to her and Adam wasn’t sufficient? Fascinating questions! I went to my Bible to verify this interesting possibility. Genesis 3:6 had my answer.

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. (ESV)

That phrase, “the tree was to be desired to make one wise,” gave me confirmation Simonetta Carr had indeed offered a profound insight. Despite the intimate fellowship that she and Adam regularly enjoyed with God, Eve liked Satan’s suggestion that they could possess knowledge beyond what He had revealed to them.

That idea made me think of the mysticism that pervades many evangelical churches today. Although many men get sucked into this terrible trend, it appears to be the most pronounced in women’s ministry. Immediately I think of Beth Moore’s claims of revelations from God and Sarah Young’s book, Jesus Calling. I also remember countless women’s retreats and Bible Study meetings where leaders encouraged us to “allow” the Holy Spirit to reveal Himself, not in the pages of Scripture, but “personally” during times of “listening prayer.”

All too often, evangelical “Bible” teachers send the message that the Bible only goes so far in showing us what we need. Typically (and I speak from both person experience  and first-hand observation), evangelical women receive subtle pressure to understand their psychological wounds and/or to  experience God emotionally. They may certainly start with a Bible verse that “ministers” to them (i.e., that gives them goosebumps), but they must then seek “more.”

One example of the mysticism evangelical teachers push on women comes in the form of “intimacy with God.” Jesus must be their “Lover,” especially if they’re single. Beth Moore and Ann Voskamp both urge women to enjoy “romance” with Him…with Voskamp  boldly advocating erotic expressions of such romance. Sometimes single women are actually shamed for wanting a flesh-and-blood husband when Jesus “offers” them emotional and even sexual satisfaction.

That spiritual rush, of course, exceeds the limitations of mere Bible study. As with other forms of evangelical mysticism, this intimacy with God suggests that we need more than what He has given us in His Word. But didn’t Eve plunge all of creation into decay and death precisely because Satan convinced her that she needed to digest the knowledge of good and evil? Didn’t he persuade her that God’s Word didn’t give her everything she needed?

Evangelical women fall for the same stale lie that Satan first told Eve. Thankfully, we can trust that God’s Word really does supply everything necessary for us to live on this side of heaven.

14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it 15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. ~~2 Timothy 3:14-17 (ESV)

 

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Jesus Doesn’t Need To Keep Calling

Image1Over this past week’s celebration, I saw a Christian from a solid, Bible-believing church (the church I attend, actually) give someone a set of  Jesus Calling books for Christmas. Admittedly, this lady hasn’t been attending the church very long, but all the same, her lack of discernment troubles me.

Later in the day, I commented that God speaks to us exclusively through the Bible. She agreed enthusiastically, although fifteen minutes earlier she had been talking about a sign God had given her in response to a prayer. I shook my head, both grieved and frustrated by the obvious disconnect in her thinking. She needs good discipleship.

Sadly, she can’t understand my speech and she gives me reason to think that she believes I have intellectual disabilities (she’s not online, so she doesn’t read my blog). Additionally, she’s older than I, and therefore I wonder if she’d have the humility to accept instruction from me if I wrote her weekly letters? Maybe. Doing so would mean not blogging as often, but it might help her develop discernment.

As I see it, the Number One need Christian women have is Biblical discernment. (Men also need it, but I know Scripture limits me to teaching women.) Although I don’t believe women are stupid, I do think that we tend to let emotions affect our reasoning. As a result, we gravitate to mystical experiences as supplements to the Bible.

We forget that God’s Word needs no supplement. Consider the apostle Peter’s claim:

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)

And lest we suppose that we can arrive at”the knowledge of God” through personal experiences, Peter insisted that even his very real experience of witnessing Christ’s Transfiguration found validation only in the “sure word” of Scripture.

16 For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17 For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” 18 we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. 19 And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, 20 knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. 21 For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. ~~2 Peter 1:16-21 (ESV)

According to verse 3, then, God has already finished speaking with the completion of the Bible. Therefore, we must approach things like Sarah Young’s book by asking ourselves why we need a new word from the Lord.

Sarah Young’s book, Jesus Calling claims that Young wrote down words as she “listened” to Jesus. In an October 25, 2013 article in The New York Times entitled “A First-Person Defense of Writing in Jesus’ Voice,” Mark Oppenheimer demonstrates Young’s double-speak in trying to uphold Scripture as a closed canon while representing her words as His.

“I decided to listen to God with pen in hand, writing down whatever I believed He was saying,” Ms. Young writes in the book’s introduction. She qualifies her project by writing, later, “The Bible is, of course, the only inerrant Word of God; my writings must be consistent with that unchanging standard.”

But then she tacks back the other way: “I have written from Jesus’ point of view; that is, the first person singular (‘I,’ ‘Me,’ ‘Mine’) always refers to Christ. ‘You’ refers to you, the reader, so the perspective is that of Jesus speaking to you.”

Either way, the average reader will most likely accept the Jesus Calling books as the actual words that Young heard from Jesus.  In future posts, I hope to compare a few passages from Jesus Calling to Scripture, but for now it’s enough to ask whether or not we should read a book that suggests that it contains new revelation from the Lord.

I submit, dear sisters in Christ, that the possibility of Jesus speaking personally to us (whether through Sarah Young’s books or in our own prayer time) appeals to our flesh. But if Peter’s correct, the Lord has already given us everything we  need to live godly lives. I pray for the lady from my church to understand this truth.

Why Do We Want Jesus?

Closed Bible and crossThe teachings on romance with Jesus stem from a greater problem within evangelical circles, as yesterday’s post on The Cripplegate reminded me. The Dangers of Man-Centered Theology demonstrates (in quite convicting ways) how easily we make the Gospel all about us. We may give lip-service to the fact that Jesus deserves all the praise, honor and glory, but honesty forces us to admit that most of the time we follow Him with the expectation of receiving goodies.

I can’t help thinking of this passage:

25 When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” 26 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. 27 Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.” 28 Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” 30 So they said to him, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform? 31 Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” 32 Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” 34 They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”

35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. 36 But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. 37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” ~~John 6:25-40 (ESV)

The crowd wanted Jesus because He met their temporal needs, not because He deserved their adoration. He fed the 5000 to reveal Himself as the Almighty Creator, but the people chose to focus on Him as a cosmic Waiter Who bore the responsibility of satisfying their appetites.

We do pretty much the  same thing now. Maybe most of us have enough delicacy to avoid the blatant Name-It-And-Claim-It teachings of people like Joel Osteen, Joyce Meyer and Benny Hinn, but how many of us fall for Beth Moore, Rick Warren and Sarah Young as they offer a watered-down Jesus that romances us, gives us purpose and whispers in our ear? Instead of physical bread, this man-made Jesus lets  us feel special about ourselves.

Certainly, the Lord loves His people, and He graciously cares for our needs. He does so, not because we deserve His mercy (we don’t), but because He is amazingly kind and generous in the face of our unworthiness. His kindness shouldn’t stimulate our greed, so that we constantly dream up new ways for Him to shower us with blessings. Quite the contrary, those blessings ought to cause us to shower Him with praise and adoration. They should place our attention back on Him.

Who Makes The Box?

God In A Box“You can’t put God in a box” sounds quite irrefutable, especially when one considers His infinite nature (see 2 Chronicles 2:6, Jeremiah 23:24 and Acts 7:45-50). He is the Ruler of Heaven and earth, Who does whatever pleases Him (see Psalm 135:6, Isaiah 46:10 and Romans 9:19-21). The Scriptures I’ve just cited fill me with reverence as I think about His majesty and His authority, realizing that His greatness demands conformity to His ways. If anything, His sovereignty puts us in a box because He has the right to dictate how we should conduct our lives and (more importantly) how we should hear from Him.

Recently, however, I once again heard about a woman who defended the extra-biblical “revelations” claimed by Beth Moore and Sarah Young by declaring, “In my years as a Christian, I’ve learned not to put God in a box.”  In pondering the context of her pronouncement, I figured out that this woman actually meant she didn’t want to be confined to Scripture when she might have access to a  deeper, more personal, word from God. For her (though she most likely would never admit it), the Bible simply isn’t enough to give her a feeling of “intimacy” with Him.

Yet 2 Peter 1:3-4 insists that the knowledge Scripture provides gives us all the resources necessary to live godly lives. Couple that passage with 2 Timothy 3:16-17, and you’ll find that the Holy Spirit speaks through His Word to every situation a Christian might face. Furthermore, the Lord gives a very stern warning in Revelation 22:18-19 against adding to God’s written Word. God, in His sovereignty, limits us to His Word.

In fact, I noticed the context of Jeremiah 23:24 (which I cited earlier), and found it interesting that the Lord’s comment on His infinite Being justified His condemnation of prophets who add to His Word.

23 “Am I a God at hand, declares the Lord, and not a God far away? 24 Can a man hide himself in secret places so that I cannot see him? declares the Lord. Do I not fill heaven and earth? declares the Lord. 25 I have heard what the prophets have said who prophesy lies in my name, saying, ‘I have dreamed, I have dreamed!’ 26 How long shall there be lies in the heart of the prophets who prophesy lies, and who prophesy the deceit of their own heart, 27 who think to make my people forget my name by their dreams that they tell one another, even as their fathers forgot my name for Baal? 28 Let the prophet who has a dream tell the dream, but let him who has my word speak my word faithfully. What has straw in common with wheat? declares the Lord. 29 Is not my word like fire, declares the Lord, and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces? 30 Therefore, behold, I am against the prophets, declares the Lord, who steal my words from one another. 31 Behold, I am against the prophets, declares the Lord, who use their tongues and declare, ‘declares the Lord.’ 32 Behold, I am against those who prophesy lying dreams, declares the Lord, and who tell them and lead my people astray by their lies and their recklessness, when I did not send them or charge them. So they do not profit this people at all, declares the Lord. ~~Jeremiah 23:23-32 (ESV)

The Lord, in this passage, clearly directed attention to His Word and away from self-proclaimed prophets who lead His people away from sound Biblical teaching. He made it abundantly clear that, precisely because He does fill heaven and earth, those who tamper with His Word, especially by claiming revelations that He hasn’t given, cannot hope to escape His notice. He also said in  no uncertain terms that He is against such people.

Far from putting God in a box, those of us who stand for the sufficiency of Scripture joyfully accept the boundary His Word places on us. We appreciate its unfathomable depths, marveling that anyone would feel a need to supplement it. Those of us who rest in the satisfaction that the Lord gives us everything we need to hear from Him in the Bible find wonderful freedom and safety within its boundaries.

44 I will keep your law continually,
    forever and ever,
45 and I shall walk in a wide place,
    for I have sought your precepts. ~~Psalm 119:44-45 (ESV)