Flashback Friday: Charismatics Aren’t Like Joseph

Originally posted December 23, 2016:

bethlehem-dazzle-frameDuring my years as a Charismatic, I remember using all sorts of Scriptures as proof-texts to validate whatever spiritual experience I happened to be practicing at the time. Most of the Charismatics I knew did the same thing to greater or lesser degrees.

At Christmas time, Matthew’s nativity narrative gave me and my Charismatic friends excellent proof-texts to substantiate our claims that the Lord spoke to us personally. Three times in Matthew 1 and 2, the Lord sent Joseph dreams, in which He spoke very clearly to instruct Joseph. For example, look at God’s intervention when Joseph learned that his fiancee, Mary, was carrying a Child that he hadn’t fathered.

18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:

23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall call his name Immanuel”

(which means, God with us). 24 When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, 25 but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus. ~~Matthew 1:18-25 (ESV)

Naturally, we concluded that, since the Lord spoke to Joseph, we had good reason to expect Him to speak to us in dreams, visions, still small voices or what have you. Our conclusion certainly seemed reasonable at the time, granted, but let’s think through a few points regarding who the Lord generally spoke to in Scripture and why He spoke to them.

In the Old Testament, God spoke to prophets, or to people who would further the development of Israel (and the Messianic line). He didn’t speak to everyone in Israel, nor did He speak about inconsequential matters. He was building His nation, teaching them how to worship Him and to separate themselves from those who worshiped false gods and committed abominable sins.

Likewise, in the New Testament He spoke to apostles and prophets until His Word was written down by some of those same apostles and prophets. Those apostles and prophets, according to Ephesians 4:11-16, built the foundation of the Church by the revelations that the Holy Spirit gave them. That revelation (at least the revelation that we needed) has been preserved in the Bible’s canon.

The Lord spoke to Joseph because Joseph would serve as the legal father of Jesus, thus legitimizing His claim to David’s throne. In turn, this claim validated Jesus as the Messiah. Had Joseph divorced Mary, Jesus would not have had this legal claim. Therefore, God had to intervene by speaking directly to Joseph. Notice that His instruction that Joseph name the Child Jesus fulfilled prophecy.

God spoke two more times to Joseph (Matthew 2:13-15 and Matthew 2:19-23), both times to protect Jesus from an early death and, again, to fulfill prophecy. The Lord spoke to Joseph for specific purposes that resulted in Jesus growing to Manhood, demonstrating Himself to be God, dying on the cross to atone for the sin of those who would believe in Him and rising from the grave to break the power of sin. God’s words to Joseph held eternal consequences.

God’s words to Joseph were vastly different from the things that present-day evangelicals (particularly Charismatics) claim to receive. Joseph, like other key figures in Scripture, played a critical role in God’s plan of redemption. That being the case, 21st Century Christians need only the Bible in order to hear everything the Lord wants us to know.

Hebrews 1:1-2 says that, in these last days, God has spoken through His Son. Praise God He spoke to Joseph back then, so that we would have His Son’s Word for all eternity!

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Flashback Friday: Psychological Seduction

Originally published January 30, 2017.

The 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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Saturday Sampler: September 30 — October 6

Symetry Sampler

If you want to read something truly exquisite, go to The End Time to read Elizabeth Prata’s essay,The wind blows. It gives a beautiful illustration of the way the Holy Spirit works with believers.

Of course I love 14 Women of the Reformation That You Probably Never Knew About by Justin Holcomb for Core Christianity. Actually, you’ve probably heard about some of them (particularly Katherina von Bora), but most of them may surprise you. All of them, however, offer encouragement as we see how God used them to advance His kingdom.

Writing for Crossway Articles, Julie Melilli lists 10 Things You Should Know about Discipling People with Special Needs.

I Am Woman…I Don’t Have To Roar, declares Jillian McNeely in her post for Biblical Woman this week. You might take a look at how she handles 1 Peter 3:7. Christian women definitely need this perspective as egalitarian ideas increasingly infiltrate evangelical churches.

Are you single and wondering what to look for in a husband? SlimJim, a pastor who blogs at The Domain for Truth, counsels, Singles, Court Someone Who Loves God. His advice includes a reason that Christians seldom consider.

In an article for Ligonier, Michael Horton discusses the Two Planks of Sola Scriptura by drawing from the writings of Martin Luther. Before you dismiss this piece as  just another history lesson, consider the possibly that it could actually provide insight into the reasons we must stand for the sufficiency of Scripture.

Leslie A of Growing 4 Life takes a penetrating look at The Issues Behind the Issues. You’ll appreciate her straightforward candor and commitment to Biblical truth.

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How Discernment Gets Lost

img_4045How often have you lamented the obvious lack of discernment among evangelicals?  Very often, I should hope! From so-called Holy Yoga to claims that God speaks to us apart from Scripture, evangelicals practically wallow in unbiblical teachings and practices! Plainly, 21st Century Christians need to cultivate discernment skills.

I thought about this problem as John and I read the Bible together this morning.

11 About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. 12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, 13 for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. 14 But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil. ~~Hebrews 5:11-14 (ESV)

The Hebrews who originally received this letter had begun reverting to the Law of Moses, supposing that doing so would secure their salvation. They had forgotten the basic Gospel message of salvation because of Christ’s substitutionary work on the cross. As a result, they couldn’t handle deeper teaching, which would have provided the necessary discernment to avoid serious error.

Ladies, Biblical discernment doesn’t come from reading even the most responsible discernment blogs. Those blogs are undeniably helpful for identifying problems and problematic teachers, but genuine discernment comes only through learning right doctrine.

Oh, I know — studying Scripture and listening to expositional preaching isn’t nearly as fun as reading the latest dirt on Beth Moore or the Charismatic Movement. But without the underpinning of sound doctrine derived from reading and studying the Bible, you can’t really discern the Scriptural reasons for rejecting these things.

I’m all for reading Michelle Lesley, Elizabeth Prata and Leslie A. And the men at Pyromaniacs should by no means elude your radar! But the time is coming (perhaps sooner than we think) when the purveyors of the Internet will pull the plug on blogs that practice discernment. We won’t be a mouse click away to warn you of distractions from the Gospel.

You lose discernment by prizing exposes over Bible Studies. You lose discernment by considering doctrine boring and irrelevant. You lose discernment by expecting bloggers to spoonfeed you when Scripture gives you tools for discerning good from evil.

For that reason, reputable discernment bloggers will always encourage you to develop good Bible study habits and find churches that faithfully preach verse-by-verse exposition. You need the solid food of doctrine, not the junk food of surface level heresy hunters.

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Firm Foundations Last Forever

For over 30 years, “How Firm A Foundation” has been my favorite hymn.  It has brought me conviction about the sufficiency of Scripture, courage in times of fear, hope during heartbreak, comfort during trials and confidence regarding eternity.

Originally, I had planned to blog about specific instances in which the Lord used this hymn to minister to me. And perhaps some of you might have enjoyed that narration. (Or perhaps I flatter myself in thinking you’d enjoy it.) But in mulling it over, I couldn’t see how such a post would keep the focus on Jesus.

So as you listen to this hymn, I want you to think about His faithfulness in your lives rather than His faithfulness in mine. How has Scripture assured you? How has He strengthened you with His presence, blessed your sorrows, taken you through extreme difficulties and assured you that nothing will divide you from Him?

The foundation of His Word is firm enough to last. Eternally.

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Mary Knew Where To Sit

Learning

I know you’ve heard this Bible story a million times. Every women’s ministry gets to it eventually — usually with warnings against becoming like Martha.

38 Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. 39 And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. 40 But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” 41 But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, 42 but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” ~~Luke 10:38-42 (ESV)

But I’m not bringing the story up today to scold you if you’re an overly diligent housekeeper or pat you on the back if you neglect your house in favor of studying your Bible. Again, you’ve heard both those applications a million times, and you’re certainly not interested in hearing them from me. Furthermore, I’m equally not interested in writing about them!

But I thought about this passage in the context of our painfully evident preoccupation with Continue reading

But The Bible Doesn’t Address This

IMG_1892A little over a week ago, I wrote an article denying that my disability gives me license to cast myself in the role of an oppressed victim. If you read the Comments Section, you’ll notice a little pushback from a reader named Daniel, as well as my response that he overlooked the clause in my Comments Policy asking that disagreements with my positions be substantiated with Scripture.

I’m fallible. I well understand that I’m capable of misinterpreting portions of God’s Word, particularly on secondary matters. When (not if, but when) I’m wrong, I need faithful Christians to open the Bible and, using proper hermeneutics, help me see my errors.

I didn’t approve Daniel’s follow up comment because, as I told him in an email, I preferred to Continue reading