What Do I Know Of Holy?

Several years ago, a Contemporary Christian Radio station I listened to frequently played a haunting song entitled “What Do I Know Of Holy?” I no longer listen to much of Contemporary Christian music, preferring hymns (including modern hymns by the Gettys, Bob Kauflin and Stuart Townsend) that promote solid doctrine. But at the time, I was just beginning to practice discernment, and still allowed myself little compromises here and there. So I’d listen to that song, with it’s breathless female vocalist, agreeing that God’s holiness is more than even the most mature Christian can understand.

In one sense, I agree that we will not see the holiness of the Lord until we stand before Him in glory (1 Corinthians 13:12). Our earthly bodies simply aren’t equipped to see Him in all of His majesty, From that perspective, we certainly should have humility enough to say that we can’t understand His holiness. We can only anticipate that wonderful day when He takes us Home to be with Him.

At this point in my walk with the Lord, however, I have to rethink my assumption that we can’t comprehend holiness at all. Although the song once appeared to be a beautiful expression of humility, it now betrays an emphasis on personal experience. As I listened to the song again yesterday, I cringed at the absence of Scriptural understanding. So I’d like to demonstrate why I believe Christians can and must develop a robust understanding of holiness.

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How Did God Speak To You?

When someone says that the Lord told her something, it’s good to feel uncomfortable. Occasionally, but all too rarely, she means that she learned more about the Lord during her time in His Word. Usually, however, she means that she received a personal message from Him, quite separate from anything He said in the Bible. If people challenge her claim, she’ll usually counter that God spoke directly to Abraham, Moses and Paul. Since “Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8), it stands to reason that He would also speak to Christians now, she explains.

Well, God does speak to Christians now. He speaks every time we read His Word. Although many 21st Century evangelicals dismiss comments like that by adding that we mustn’t “put God in a box,” we should celebrate the wonderful truth that His Holy Spirit breathed His very words out through the pens of Old Testament prophets and New Testament apostles so that we could hear what the Lord would say to us.

Many people would concede that the Lord does speak to us through Scripture in a general way, but would then argue that the Bible alone doesn’t address specific circumstances. Therefore, they conclude, He augments His Word with personal revelations, just as He spoke personally to people in the Bible. And we need to challenge that line of thinking.

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Luther Didn’t Eat Worms, But The Diet Of Worms Feeds Us Today

If you use enough marinara sauce, a plate of worms might taste like spaghetti, but Martin Luther really didn’t eat the squiggly critters on April 16th through 18th of 1521. Nevertheless, his historic stand before the Diet of Worms on that date marked the return to the belief that Scripture is the final authority for Christian faith and practice.

According to GotQuestions.org:

Throughout the Middle Ages in the Holy Roman Empire, a “diet” was an assembly of governmental and/or religious leaders called together to settle a political or religious matter. The Diet of Worms was held in 1521 in Worms (pronounced “Vermz”), Germany, to discuss the teachings of Martin Luther. In 1517, Martin Luther had posted the 95 Theses on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. This was essentially the start of the Protestant Reformation. Between the posting of the 95 Theses and the Diet of Worms, four years later, the Protestant Reformation became a significant movement.

In 1520, Pope Leo X issued a papal bull against Martin Luther, declaring him to be a heretic. As a result, Emperor Charles V called the Diet of Worms as a court of inquisition and ordered Luther to appear and either affirm or renounce his teachings. Johann Eck, who was representing the Emperor, asked Martin Luther if he was ready to recant his heresies. After a one-day recess, Martin Luther responded, “Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Scriptures or by clear reason (for I do not trust either in the pope or in councils alone, since it is well known that they have often erred and contradicted themselves), I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted and my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and will not recant anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience. May God help me. Amen.”

What was the Diet of Worms? | GotQuestions.org

But all that happened 500 years ago. Why should we blog about it now?

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Flashback Friday — Journaling: The Pitfall We Should Recognize

Originally published May 16, 2018:

Little blonde angel

Between the autumn of 1977 and the spring of 1994, I kept a personal journal. I’d write about a wide variety of topics, ranging from Scriptures I’d read in my Quiet Time (frequently taken out of context and misapplied) to practical jokes I played on my friends. For the most part, however, I wrote about my disappointments, my frustrations and my fears. Toward the end of that 17-year period,  I realized that journaling served mainly to fuel my self-pity. For that reason, I abruptly quit writing it.

Perhaps some people can journal without focusing on themselves. Those people should certainly maintain journals! Their journals offer rich treasures to those who read them. But I suspect, especially in this culture that exalts feelings and believes in following psychological principles, that most people use their journals for the purpose of venting.

After 17 years of venting my feelings, I woke up to the fact that venting only keeps a person’s attention fixed on his or her problems. Venting through a journal is even worse, in my opinion, because the act of writing slows down the thought process, prolonging the focus on a subject. So when someone uses a personal journal to ruminate on their feelings, should it surprise us that we wind up wallowing in self-absorbtion?

Self-absorbtion, however,  is the antithesis of Biblical Christianity. Christ demands that His followers actually die to ourselves for His sake.

34 And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 35 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. 36 For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? 37 For what can a man give in return for his soul? 38 For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” ~~Mark 8:34-38 (ESV)

Popular evangelical teachers promise us “our best life now” and romantic dates with Jesus, urging us to get in touch with our feelings. They advise hurting women to stay home from church on Mother’s Day and write their feelings out “to the Lord.” What horrible advice!

Honestly confessing our feelings to the Lord is one thing. Job, David, Jeremiah and Jesus all had times of pouring their hearts out to God. But in so doing, they invariably wound up acknowledging His sovereign right to order their circumstances according to His will. They ultimately turned their eyes away from themselves and back to Him.

If you keep a personal journal that revolves around your disappointments, frustrations and fears, please consider the possibility that it may be locking you into patterns of self-absorbtion. If possible, turn your journal into something your descendants can read to find Christ. Let them see that, no matter what your circumstances, He remains faithful and deserves the glory.

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I’d Almost Forgotten That People Still Think God Speaks To Them Directly

Maybe a blessing of the current controversies about John MacArthur opening his church and feminism creeping into Reformed churches is that I haven’t been hearing as many claims about personal words from God. I spent decades in churches and parachurch ministries where such expectations were normative, making it kind of surprising that I’d now be shocked to come across them. But when a friend on Facebook shared a word that God had supposedly spoken to her, it indeed caught me off guard.

In a way, I’m glad it surprised me. How refreshing to think that people depend on the Bible rather than personal revelation to hear the Lord speak! He certainly speaks to me each morning as I open His Word and work through it in context. In the past few years that I’ve approached Scripture using proper hermeneutics, the Holy Spirit has taught me more about spiritual things than I’d ever learned when I believed God spoke to me apart from Scripture.

Apparently I’ve grown accustomed to hearing Him speak through His Word.

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We’d Rather Read About False Teachers, DebbieLynne

Okay, I read my blog stats. Monday’s post reintroducing the Colossians Bible Study hasn’t received much attention, whereas yesterday’s post about a tweet Beth Moore “Liked” is soaring to over four times as many views as the Colossians post got.

I can understand this discrepancy in two ways.

Firstly, I can deduce that my readers already study the Bible on their own, and therefore don’t need another study to work through. Truth be told, I don’t go through the studies that Michelle Lesley posts each Wednesday for that very reason. When I met her in person three years ago, I explained that reasoning to her, and she graciously understood my position. She says other readers have told her the same thing.

I dearly hope that my readers forego the studies I write for the same reason. I hope each of you spends time going through God’s Word each day, reading and studying it in context. If so, I have absolutely no problem with you skipping my studies.

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Unnecessary Complications To God’s Work

Even before my first engagement failed, I knew I had sabotaged the relationship with my anger, just as he had sabotaged it with his sin patterns. Understanding that I could only take responsibility for my end of the impasse, I moved (temporarily, I thought) back to California in hopes of finding the root cause of my anger.

I knew I wouldn’t have a successful marriage to that man as long as I couldn’t manage my anger. (The marriage would have failed anyway because he was a false convert, but at the time I wouldn’t acknowledge that fact.) I honestly believed I’d fix the relationship by fixing myself.

I wanted psychological counseling with Christian undertones.

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They Taught Him To Love Jesus

In Paul’s second letter to Timothy, the apostle prepares his young disciple to assume the role of pastor to the church at Ephesus. In encouraging Timothy, he makes a tender appeal reminding the young man of his spiritual heritage handed down from his mother and grandmother.

I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well.~~2 Timothy 1:5 (ESV)

Further on in the letter, Paul specifies what Timothy learned from these women.

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)

Lois and Eunice, I believe, taught young Timothy more than a mere academic knowledge of the Old Testament. Their faith in Yahweh prepared him to receive the Gospel and to love the Lord Jesus Christ.

Whether or not you were raised by a godly mother, knowing Scripture will reveal Christ to you. The more you see Him in His Word, the more you will never love Him as Timothy’s grandmother and mother did. Truly, they taught him to love Jesus.

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Throwback Thursday: Psychology And The Source Of Knowledge About The Human Soul

Originally published April 27, 2017:

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 Read More »

Do You Realize What You’re Reading?

God's Megaphone

Justin Peters famously says, “If you want to hear God speak, read your Bible. If you want to hear Him audibly, read it aloud ” Justin uses that pithy saying to combat the growing expectation evangelicals have that the Holy Spirit should speak personally, apart from the Bible.

I’ve written several blog posts demonstrating the sufficiency of Scripture, and I wouldn’t be surprised if I wrote more in future posts. As evangelicals increasingly believe that God speaks to them in a still, small voice or in visions and dreams, we must sound the alarm against this false teaching!

Lately, however, I’ve been considering another aspect of the Lord speaking through the Bible. For all I’ve written and said about this matter, I find myself sometimes Read More »