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: April 23 — April 29

Umbrella SamplerAs a Biblical response to Earth Day (a totally ridiculous celebration, anyway), John Ellis of PJ Media insists that Earth Day is Wrong: The Earth is Not Our Mother. It’s refreshing to see somebody take such a firm stand on this matter!

Women struggling with infertility rarely find helpful support from the church, as Rachel reminds us in her danielthree18 blog post, NIAW ’17: Sometimes? There’s Never a Pregnancy. Her heartbreaking article highlights the fact that theology based on positive thinking can cause incredible damage.

Learn to Discern: Philosophies in Opposition continues Leslie A’s series in her Growing 4 Life blog. Much of accepted evangelical thought has nothing to do with Biblical Christianity, and Leslie helps us see the contrast.

In an essay for Berean Research, Amy Spreeman writes about the Sufficiency of Scripture against 21st Century attempts to augment God’s Word. This piece walks us through Psalm 19:7-9 to demonstrate how the Bible speaks to every area of life.

Writing a guest post for Desiring God, 17-year-old Katherine Forster pleads, We Need More Bible in Youth Ministry. Kids know when adults shortchange them, so let’s stop entertaining them and start showing them respect. They really can study the Bible if we’ll just give them the chance!

Elizabeth Prata has no idea how some of her essays in The End Time speak to issues that have touched my life! Having spent 30 years in a church that constantly talked about “brokenness,” I read her blog post, I’m not broken, with great interest. You’ll appreciate Elizabeth’s Biblical approach to this matter.

I haven’t written about Hank Hanegraaff’s decision to join the Eastern Orthodox Church, but Michelle Lesley’s article, The Heart of the Hanegraaff Hubbub: Dethroning the God of Your Personal Experiences, captures the essence of the matter. Don’t miss this superb analysis of the situation!

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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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Perspectives In Titus: Holding Fast To Trustworthy Doctrine

Titus 1 v 9As we move along in our study of Paul’s letter to Titus, we find that Titus 1:9 really needs to be treated in its own blog post. Please don’t misunderstand me as saying that it stands in isolation from its context. Rather, there’s simply too much in it to discuss it in the same essay with verses 5-8, and verse 10 begins a new paragraph.

As always, let’s look at verse 9 in context, just to remind ourselves of Paul’s flow of thought.

5 This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you— if anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife, and his children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination. For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it. ~~Titus 1:5-9 (ESV)

Paul has been instructing Titus on the qualifications of an elder, and has just outlined the type of character a man must have in order to assume this office. Now he changes gears, ever so slightly, to a prospective elder’s ability to handle God’s Word.

An elder, Paul insists, must hold firm to God’s Word, not compromising it to accommodate the ideas of others. He needs an undivided loyalty to Christ and His teaching (see Matthew 6:24 and Luke 16:13). Even though Paul here is talking about much more than the tension between God and money, the principle of single hearted devotion still applies. Barnes elaborates on this concept by commenting:

This means that he is to hold this fast, in opposition to one who would wrest it away, and in opposition to all false teachers, and to all systems of false philosophy. He must be a man who is firm in his belief of the doctrines of the Christian faith, and a man who can be relied on to maintain and defend those doctrines in all circumstances.

So an elder must hold firm to Scripture. This exhortation brings us to the nature of Scripture, which makes it worthy of holding firmly. Paul calls God’s Word trustworthy. Elders, and Christians in general, can absolutely rely on it!

I want you to notice the phrase, “the trustworthy word as taught.” Vincent’s Word Studies  tells us that this phrase, “as taught” literally means “according to the teaching” and therefore communicates the idea of agreement with the teaching of the apostles. Embellishments to it, such as those Paul alludes to in verse 14, dilute it, turning people away from its pure principles.

An elder must hold firm to God’s Word  for the purpose of teaching his people sound doctrine. He doesn’t teach vague ideas or worldly wisdom, but the clear teachings of Scripture. He avoids seeker-sensitive models that incorporate popular ideas of the   world into the Gospel.

He also must hold firm to God’s Word  in order to rebuke those who contradict it. In context, Paul apparently means false teachers. We’ll see the application of this clause next Monday as we look at the group of false teachers who disrupted the church in Crete.

Elders aren’t the only Christians who need to hold firm to God’s Word, however. You and I also bear a responsibility to cling tenaciously to the sound doctrine of the Bible, teaching it to our children and to other women. For that reason Titus 1:9 applies to each of us. We can join our elders in holding firmly to the trustworthy Word of God, confident that it will never fail.

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Saturday Sampler: March 5 — March 11

Lollipop SamplerElizabeth Prata, blogging in The End Time, echoes my sentiments in her article, A note of encouragement: Don’t be discouraged about the Internet. With so much animosity on social media these days, her perspective refreshes me.

If you haven’t been reading Leslie A.’s fascinating series on developing discernment in Growing 4 Life,  please start. This week she writes Learn to Discern: What Is Your Paradigm? What a helpful and insightful blog post!

Oh yes, in my 46 years as a Christian I’ve watched plenty of my friends turn away from Christ. Some of these defections hurt worse than others. So I appreciate Jordan Standridge’s 4 Thoughts About People who Walk Away from the Lord in The Cripplegate this week.

In Not Your Mom’s Prosperity Gospel, Rebekah Womble of Wise In His Eyes discusses ways that evangelicals try exploitative tactics in attempts to manipulate the Lord Jesus Christ. Don’t try these at home.

Tim Challies’ piece, Stop Calling Everything Hate, uses good common sense. Although that type of sense grows less common by the day, evidently.

An assignment in her Moral Theology class prompted Kim Shay to write Ethical Adventures for Out of the Ordinary. Writing about the evils of abortion isn’t as simple as she thought it would be.

Challenging the stereotypes of Calvinism,  Steve Altroggie of The Blazing Center writes 5 Reasons I’m A Calvinist. Notice how he roots each reason firmly in Scripture.

Praise God for Michelle Lesley writing Basic Training: The Bible Is Sufficient to remind us that we no longer need personal revelations from God. I wish such essays were unnecessary, but I appreciate people like Michelle who boldly stand for the sufficiency of Scripture.

 

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Silly Putty Or Hard Truth?

Distorted BibleReading my blog, I suppose, might lead readers to think I dislike Catholics, Charismatics, Gay Christians, those who believe in Christian psychology and people in seeker-sensitive churches. Okay, I understand how readers might reach such conclusions. I’ll even admit to feeling a certain level of anger toward leaders who promote such distortions of Christianity. Truth shouldn’t be treated as a plaything, manipulated to suit our expectations, and it upsets me to see it stretched and pulled like Silly Putty.

But most of the people who fall victim to these theological aberrations honestly believe they follow the Lord. Some are genuine Christians, as I was. Yes, they need correction. So did I. But those who really want to know the truth will listen to correction and go to Scripture in an attitude of prayer. Consider the apostle John’s remarks, referring to the apostolic teaching preserved in the New Testament.

They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error. ~~1 John 4:5-6 (ESV) 

I see a terrible trend among evangelicals to make compromises with various worldly philosophies, and those compromises distress me. Sometimes my frustration boils over, and I fail to temper my zeal for truth with compassion and understanding. I forget where I’ve come from in my own walk with the Lord, or else I get so annoyed with the deceptions I once believed that I lose sight of the fact that they ensnare precious children of God who desperately need proper teaching.

So, to be clear: I hate teachings that distort God’s Word. I hate teachings that make salvation dependent on human effort, and I hate teachings that deny God’s authority to determine what behaviors constitute sin. I hate teachings that mix Biblical principles with worldly philosophies. I hate these things because I love the Lord Jesus Christ and His Word enough to want people to conform to His Truth.

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