Category Archives: Spiritual Warfare

Saturday Sampler: September 10 — September 16

Fish SamplerHurricanes. Floods. Tornadoes. Earthquakes. Is it the birth pangs? asks Elizabeth Prata of The End Time. You’ll appreciate the Biblical and sensible way she addresses the eschatological concerns that natural disasters invariably raise.

Berean Research includes Amy Spreeman’s answer to an email lamenting, “I can’t find a solid church”. Sadly, fewer and fewer evangelical churches these days offer strong Biblical preaching and teaching, thus spawning malnourished Christians and false converts. Praise God for true believers like the one who reached out to Amy, who long for the Word of God.

Look at 1 Chronicles 21:1-2. Compare it to 2 Samuel 24:1-2. But instead of tearing your hair out trying to understand whether the Lord or Satan incited David to take the census of Israel, read Think These Biblical Passages Contradict? Not So Fast by Michael S. Heiser in Logos Talk to see how to resolve the discrepancy. Articles like this one highlight the value of good Bible study.

Lara d’Entremont points out that there’s Hope for the Indecisive in the Sufficiency of Scripture. Her blog, Renewed In Truth Discipleship, refreshes me by demonstrating how Biblical Counseling (rather than so-called Christian psychology) effectively ministers to people. I can’t recommend her blog enough!

According to E.J. Hutchinson, who authors The Calvinist International, Martin Luther’s famous stand on God’s Word at the Diet of Worms, though revolutionary in many respects, had roots in Augustine’s writing. Hutchinson’s article  entitled “Here I Stand:” The Patristic Roots of the Reformation helps us see how the Reformers, rather than breaking with church tradition, actually upheld Biblical Christianity and restored it to its original intent.

Do you need guidance on doing evangelism? Go to Growing 4 Life and read Leslie A’s On Sharing the Gospel. She works through 1 Thessalonians 1:1-12 to outline ten Scriptural principles to  aid us in witnessing to people.

Writing for Biblical Woman, Katie McCoy examines a disturbing trend among professing Christians. More Than Marriage: What’s Behind Polyamory in the Church? illustrates the moral disintegration that inevitably follows when people disregard the authority of God’s Word. Although this blog post is extremely uncomfortable to read, I include it here as a reminder that postmodern evangelicalism has turned away from the Bible, and that Christians must be resolute in our obedience to the Lord.

Michelle Lesley is really on fire with her article The Five Solas of the Protestant Deformation! John and I had been talking about how evangelicalism has turned away from the principles that the Lord restored to the Church just hours before this piece was published, so I really appreciate the confirmation that others see what I see. Thanks, Michelle!

In a blog post appearing in For The Church Pastor Casey Lewis answers the question From Where Does Bad Theology Come? with an appeal to Scripture. His assessment puts spiritual warfare in its proper perspective.

Some of my fondest memories go back to the years I wrote and directed plays in drama ministry, so reading John Ellis’ Drama Programs Do Not Belong in Church in PJ Media  hurts a bit. It hurts because I now believe he’s right. The fact that he builds his case from his knowledge of theater strengthens his credibility.

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Saturday Sampler: March 26 — April 1

Butterfly SamplerJohn Ellis’ piece in PJ Media, Teenage Boy Sues School Over Transgender Bathrooms is a political article rather than a specifically Christian one, but it serves as a reminder that our culture has chosen a path that degrades most of society. Christians must prepare to be marginalized as a new version of “morality” takes over.

Continuing her series on discernment at Growing 4 Life, Leslie A. writes Learn to Discern: Acknowledging the War. Find out how (and why) spiritual warfare fits into using discernment properly.

Does the Lord care how we worship Him? Rebekah Womble, blogging at Wise In His Eyes, believes He does. Her blog post, The Freedom of Worshipping God’s Way (she spelled worshiping with two p’s, not me), helps us understand why we must avoid self-styled approaches to worshiping a holy God.

Why Bargain With God?, a post that Kennedy Mathis wrote for Biblical Woman, brings back memories of my struggles as a single woman. But the principle she’s learned really applies  to any struggle Christians have.

As you can tell, I appreciate the series on cessationism that Jordan Standridge has been doing for The Cripplegate this month. His latest article, Three Reasons God is a Cessationist, employs arguments I’ve heard before, but they’re not common arguments. Please, if you have any Charismatic or continualist leanings, consider the points he makes.

Cameras Buettel, writing for the Grace To You Blog, says You Might Be A Pharisee If… This essay helps us examine ourselves (and others) more effectively to make sure we remain faithful to the Bible.

Jennifer of One Hired Late In The Day writes Same Bible, different beliefs, showing how the Lord helped her work though a perplexing question. And while you’re on her website, please check out Deconstructing Absurdity: a discernment lesson to watch her tackle a recent Tweet by Rick Warren.

R.C. Sproul posts TULIP and Reformed Theology: Unconditional Election on the Ligonier blog. Appealing to Scripture, he both explains the doctrine of election and deals with the argument that election is unjust.

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Psychological Seduction

c5fbb-psychologyThe allure of  “Christian” psychology is twofold. First, it allows us to focus on ourselves without apology. Second, it promises wisdom over and above what the Bible gives us. As one might surmise, these two attractions intersect, offering us special understanding about ourselves. With the aid of a “Christian” therapist, we can unravel mysteries explaining why we continually fall into  sin (usually discovering that our sin patterns arise because someone or something caused us some type of trauma).

The more I learn about psychology (“Christian” or secular), the more I believe it betrays a propensity toward Gnosticism. We love thinking that we can “go deeper” than the Bible to explore the complexities of the human psyche. After all, not every Christian gets to understand the deep workings of the human mind, right? Psychology lets us join the spiritual elite.

Paul’s letter to the Colossians addressed false teachers who offered a deeper level of wisdom to Christians. Obviously, Freud and Jung hadn’t yet developed psychological models, but the principles Paul put forth regarding the source of wisdom and the necessity of rejecting proposed wisdom apart from that source speak just as well to the deeper wisdom of psychology as they did to the early seeds of Gnosticism in Paul’s day.

Paul roots his argument against looking for secret wisdom squarely in the supremacy of Christ.

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)

Did you notice verse 3? We find wisdom, not in the supposed enlightenment of humanity, but in Christ. And He reveals His wisdom through His Word. The apostle Peter made it clear that what we know of the Lord fully equips us for all the eventualities of the Christ 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. 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. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. 10 Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. 11 For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. ~~2 Peter 1:3-11 (ESV)

Not very esoteric, admittedly, but that’s precisely my point! In Christ, we have every resource we need in order to overcome sin. We don’t need psychoanalysis to help us identify the roots of our personality struggles. Unless our physician can find a medical reason for psychological problems (which can, and should, be treated with appropriate medication), we can find everything we need to combat recurring sin issues in the Word of God.

Gnosticism, in any form, denies the sufficiency of Christ and the sufficiency of Scripture. Girlfriends, we mustn’t succumb to that temptation. Don’t fall for psychology’s seductive lie that it will help you better understand yourself. Instead of desiring self-knowledge, seek to know the Lord by studying His Word.

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Hey Jude — How Should We Contend For The Faith?

Biblical UnityHappy New Year ladies! Isn’t it fitting that, as we pivot from 2016 to 2017, we’ve reached the point in Jude’s epistle at which he pivots from describing false teachers to explaining how true believers can contend for the faith (Jude 3). The two verses we’ll study today rather surprised me, since so many discernment bloggers have used Jude 3 as a rallying call to publicly expose and denounce false teachers. While other Scriptures certainly support such exposure and denunciation, Jude 20-21 proposes a different, more foundational strategy.

I’d really like you to prepare for this study by reading the entire epistle  (it’s only God 25 verses) to remind yourselves of the context. Click this link to make it easier. I know I’m always beating the context drum, but context helps more than I can say in sharpening Biblical discernment. When we view verses within their proper context, we get a much better sense of their intended meaning. So please, before you read any further in this blog entry, click the link and revisit Jude’s epistle.

Now, let me quote Jude 20-21 in its more immediate context.

17 But you must remember, beloved, the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. 18 They said to you, “In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.” 19 It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit. 20 But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. 22 And have mercy on those who doubt; 23 save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh. ~~Jude 17-23 (ESV)

Last Monday we saw that the First Century apostles had directly warned Jude’s immediate readers that false teachers would arise. Jude verified that the apostles spoke of the people who, because of their worldliness and lack of the Spirit, cause divisions in the church. Now Jude draws a contrast between such apostates and true believers by giving us four practical ways to stand against heresies.

Jude begins by exhorting us to build ourselves up in the “most holy faith.” Notice the plural pronoun. Jamieson, Fausset and Brown juxtapose building up the body with the false teachers in verse 19 who cause divisions.

Where false teachers divide the church, we must edify the body of  Christ instead of tearing it apart. And, according to Jude, we build each other up in the “most holy faith.” By this phrase, he means specifically the Christian faith as opposed to the unbiblical ideas of false teachers. And how do we build each other up in the “most holy faith?” MacArthur comments that this building up happens through the ministry of God’s Word  (Acts 20:32). So we contend for the faith by bringing each other back to the truth of Scripture, which shows us the false teaching of apostates.

In addition to building each other up with sound doctrine, Jude instructs us to pray in the Holy Spirit. I could, with probably way too much relish, write an entire article on the topic of praying in the Spirit, basing it on the ways that Charismatics use this verse fragment to support their practice of speaking in tongues. However, I will restrain myself and simply say that praying in the Spirit means nothing more than praying according to the Lord’s revealed will in Scripture.

Rather than distract ourselves with a debate on Charismatic misinterpretations of this phrase, let’s concentrate on Jude’s point. Again,  Jamieson, Fausset and Brown draw a contrast between praying in the Holy Spirit and the apostates being devoid of the Spirit. Contending for the faith requires that we align our prayers with God’s Word. In so doing, we keep ourselves in His Spirit.

Next, Jude calls us to keep ourselves in the love of God. Those of us with Calvinist sensibilities understandably bristle at this clause, which clearly teaches a synergistic dynamic. But Philippians 2:12-13 helps us understand that any efforts on our part ultimately depend on God’s work in us. Remember also that Jude 1 stated that God keeps us for Jesus Christ.

Here Jude encourages the obedience that results from true faith. Jesus made a similar connection between faith and obedience in John 14:21. Since Jude has been  highlighting the permissiveness of false teachers, he directs us to combat their ungodly influence by living in obedience to godly principles.

Finally, Jude tells us to wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ. The commentaries I read didn’t belabor this point except to say that it refers to Christ’s return. After Jude’s repeated warnings about the judgment awaiting false teachers, he assures us that we can expect mercy!

Contending for the faith really boils down to basic Christian living that contrasts the rebellious lifestyle of apostates. Next week we’ll discover ways to minister to friends and family who have been deceived, or at least influenced by false teachers.

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Hey Jude — Final Words About False Teachers

463ca-ladies2bstudy2b01Ladies, are you tired of slogging through Jude’s rather vitriolic description of  false teachers? Are you starting to wonder how to apply everything he’s written so that you can contend for the faith as  Jude enjoins us to do in verse 3? The three verses we’ll study today offer a final description of false teachers, in order that we can begin to apply everything we’ve learned about false teachers. We’ll round the corner by introducing Jude’s closing paragraph.

Please prepare for this study by reading the entire 25 verses of Jude’s epistle (click this link to make it easier). I’ll quote today’s verses in the context of the closing paragraphs they introduce.

17 But you must remember, beloved, the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. 18 They said to you, “In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.” 19 It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit. 20 But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. 22 And have mercy on those who doubt; 23 save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh.

24 Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 25 to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen. ~~Jude 17-25 (ESV)

As you can see, in verse 17 Jude pivots his attention from false teachers to his readers, urging that we remember the predictions that the apostles made. Obviously, Jude’s immediate readers had known the apostles personally, as verse 18 suggests. But those of us living in the 21st Century have access to those same predictions through Scriptures such as 1 Timothy 4:1-4. Jude quite firmly reminds both groups that, indeed, we have been put on notice.

Precisely for that reason, we shouldn’t be surprised by the false teachers and false teaching that permeates the visible church today. The apostles, speaking through Scripture, have prepared us to expect people  (even within our own ranks) to distort God’s Word.

Moving to verse 18, Jude specifically reiterates the apostles’ warnings, as if to solidify them in our minds. Right away, he quotes their assertion that the apostasy would occur in “the last times,” which Biblical scholars take to mean the period between Christ’s First and Second Coming.

Jude further reminds us that the apostles said that the false teachers (in many cases) would be scoffers. 2 Peter 3:4 expands on this idea by explaining that some of them would mock us for believing in the Second Corning. This idea fits Jude’s teaching earlier in this epistle regarding the sensuality of these teachers.

The scoffers mock the Second Corning, according to the apostles Jude quotes, because of their sensuality and worldly lusts. The quotation here doesn’t elaborate on this idea, so Jude interjects his own clarification in verse 19 by making two brief observations.

First he states that apostate teachers cause divisions within the church. We can easily name several present-day evangelical celebrity teachers and speakers/authors who have this effect. They divide the Church by tweaking God’s Word ever so subtlety so that the distortions appeal to our flesh. They then garner the loyalties of their followers, who in turn react violently to Scriptural evidence of their pet teachers’ error.

Second Jude says once more that false teachers are “worldly people, devoid of the Spirit.” This remark perhaps summarizes everything he’s written in this epistle about apostate teachers. Their worldliness, which Jamieson, Fausset and Brown understand as “animal-souled,” underscores the thought that their rejection of the Holy Spirit reduces them, as he’s written in verse 10, to unreasoning animals.

Next week we’ll finally start looking at ways to deal with the victims of false teachers, remembering that apostate teachers have already incurred judgment  (Jude 4-7). As the epistle turns its attention away from false teachers, we will discover practical ways to contend for the faith.

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Saturday Sampler: December 4 — December 10

Heart Sampler 01

Are You Ready to Die? asks Rachel of danielthree18. Few people want to consider this question. Each of us should. And while you’re on her blog, be sure to read How to Study the Bible: Part Five: Dig a Little Deeper (Part B), which concludes her Bible Study series.

I’ve experienced my share of Facebook battles over false teaching, as have many of you. So Michelle Lesley’s blog post, The Mailbag: Contending for the Faith on Social Media, offers me some godly counsel on the matter. Maybe it will help you too.

Insanitybytes22 asks on See, there’s a little thing called biology…, Spiritual Warfare Kit? When I told John I want one for Christmas, he just laughed. Yeah, well.

Writing with great care and sensitivity towards those who have differing convictions, Kari Dent of living in paradise until He comes explains Why We Don’t Do Santa. Whether or not you agree, I’m sure you’ll appreciate her desire to honor the Lord.

In preparation for Christmas, Erin Benziger of Do Not Be Surprised writes What’s In A Name? A Child Born, A Son Given. Please enjoy this splendid devotional on Who Christ is.

I really appreciate Jennifer at One Hired Late In The Day. Her blog posts consistently provide sound theological content and relevant subject matter. For instance, her post, Understanding Biblical Unity clears up some major misunderstandings on what should unite (as well as what should divide) Christians.

Kim Wine’s piece in She Disciples, Marriage is Hard Because Sin is Easy, powerfully helps us understand the real issue in marital conflict. I found myself saying “Amen” to each of her points.

Elizabeth Prata of The End Time gives us a Christmas treat with her blog entry, Linus dropped the blanket, Hallelujah the Lord is come. I’m not telling you anything about this piece. No ma’am, you’ll have to check it out for yourself!

 
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The Twofold Grace Of Trials

When I go through trials (particularly ones that threaten to impose major consequences on my ability to live independently), the Lord  calls me to look to the cross, rather than to myself, remembering both the doctrine of human depravity and the doctrine of atonement. Actually, sometimes even minor trials expose my sinful attitudes and therefore my desperate need for a Savior. I’m quite sure that the Lord, wanting to remind me of His grace, places various trials in my life to help me look at the depth of my sin.

In seeing how hopelessly ingrained sin is in me–how it permeates every fiber of my being, I well understand the anguish of the apostle Paul.

14 For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. 15 For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. 17 So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.

21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. 22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 23 but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. ~~Romans 7:14-25 (ESV)

Like Paul, I do desire to live in obedience to the Lord, and too see evidence of His Spirit’s fruit in my life. Sadly, trials generally serve to expose my carnal nature, manifested (of course) in a variety of sinful attitudes and behaviors that, quite frankly, turn my stomach. In summary, I can’t escape the fact that I am completely and thoroughly vile.

Yet Paul, in verse 25, shifts the spotlight away from himself and on to Christ. Christ took the punishment for Paul’s incessant sin, as well as for mine. So often, I’ve written about the atonement. And when the Holy Spirit confronts me with my sins, He also wants  me to remember that I must rest in the Gospel. My attitudes and behavior assuredly stink, but they bring me back to the very heart of the Gospel, showing me my absolute dependence on His cleansing blood! He alone liberates me from the judgment I deserve because He bore my judgment when He hung on that cross.

Nobody enjoys going through trials. I’m no different. But The Lord uses our trials to accomplish two purposes. First, He uses them to show us that our old sin nature rebels against our new birth in Christ. And second, He again calls us to rest in Christ’s finished work on the cross. What a gracious God we serve!

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