Keys To Discernment: Why Paul Prays For Their Wisdom (Reboot)

As I’ve mentioned before, I had started posting these Bible Studies back in January. At the end of February, a compression fracture in my back forced me to discontinue it. About a month ago, I felt well enough to resume it, and I decided to run the original installments again just to reestablish some continuity. However, I’m augmenting these reruns with a few additional comments to provide clarification or because I missed something earlier.

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Although we’re getting into the meat of Paul’s letter to the Colossians today, our text will demand that we look at some background information on the false teachings that he addresses. I aim to demonstrate how he uses sound doctrine, rather than direct discussion of the errors at hand, to steer the Colossians away from faulty theology and practices.

We’ll most likely only get through two verses in this installment of our study, but (as usual) I’ll quote the whole passage for the sake of context.

And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; 11 being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy; 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. 13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. ~~Colossians 1:9-14 (ESV)

If you take verses 9 and 10 at face value, you could get a fairly accurate interpretation of them. Definitely, Christians should pray for each other along these lines, getting beyond the superficial prayers for health, finances, marriages and other temporal matters.  Therefore these two verses encourage us to pray for each other far more deeply than we generally do.

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Discernment Blogging Doesn’t Have To Name Every Name Out There

Praise God for bloggers like Elizabeth Prata and Michelle Lesley who tirelessly research popular teachers and warn against the ones who mishandle Scripture. Sometimes we need to identify people and call them out. Early in the development of this blog, I joined them in writing about false teachers who routinely seduce women with their doctrinal errors.

I haven’t entirely abandoned that practice. At times, women need to be told directly that the teacher they follow so adoringly is failing to offer them healthy spiritual food. In such instances, I have absolutely no problem writing articles exposing such teachers.

That said, I believe we think of discernment ministry much too narrowly. Usually people associate discernment exclusively with calling out false teachers, forgetting that true discernment encompasses so much more than simply naming names of evangelical celebrities to avoid.

Fully developed discernment requires the hard work of studying God’s Word and learning its great doctrines.

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Keys To Discernment: The Prominence Of God’s Word (Reboot)

I began this Monday Bible Study series on Colossians in January, but stopped it after suffering a compression fracture in my back at the end of February. Rather than picking up where we left off, I’ve been reposting each installment again to keep everything in context. I’ve also added new comments here and there, so even if you read the series when I originally published it you can find additional insights.

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Let me begin with a gentle reminder that I intend my blog as a whole, and my Bible Study posts in particular, for women. I want to obey 1 Timothy 2:11-14 and Titus 2:3-5  by avoiding any possibility of teaching men. Dear brothers, unless you’re my husband or an elder at First Baptist Church Weymouth, I respectfully ask you not to read this Bible Study series. Thank you.

Okay ladies, shall we continue looking at Paul’s introductory remarks to the church at Colossae? We’ve been noticing that Paul uses this opening section of his letter to set the tone for the main points he wants to convey. I’ll show you the full section for the sake of context before we jump into the second part of verse 5.

We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel, which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and increasing—as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth, just as you learned it from Epaphras our beloved fellow servant. He is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf and has made known to us your love in the Spirit. ~~Colossians 1:3-8 (ESV)

Last week we learned that Paul capitalized on the hope of the resurrection and eternal life to draw his readers’ attention away from worldly concerns. In so doing, he set the stage for the practical application of his teaching (see Colossians 3:1-4 and Colossians 3:16). In the second part of verse 5 (which we’ll discuss today), he explains that the Colossians gained this hope through hearing the Word of truth — the Gospel.

Paul focuses on the Word of truth because he will shortly begin dismantling the errors that have wormed their way into the Colossian church. He could have simply named the false teachings and left everyone to figure out how to refute them, but he instead gives them tools for future discernment.

Think of it this way: you can read blog post after blog post decrying Beth Moore as a false teacher. But how much better to read posts helping you understand sound doctrine so well that you can identify her errors for yourself? The Word provides stability for Christians, as we depend on the apostles’ teaching to guard us against the winds of false doctrine (Ephesians 4:11-16).

Verse 6 beautifully articulates how the Word of God has already taken root in the Colossian church. Indeed, Paul assures them, it has borne fruit in the whole world. The Colossians have been so transformed by the Gospel that it’s bearing the same fruit in them that it’s bearing throughout the rest of the known world. This glorious increase happens through the grace of the Holy Spirit, as Jesus illustrated in Mark 4:26-29.

Since God’s Word has already been firmly planted in Colossae, Paul will later encourage the church to walk in Christ Jesus (Colossians 2:6-7) in accordance with the teaching they have received. Verse 7 of our current chapter tells us that they received the ministry of Epaphras. Since Paul describes Epaphras as a faithful minister, we can safely assume that he faithfully taught them the Word of God.

Verse 8 reveals that Epaphras has reported back to Paul regarding the Colossians’ love in the Spirit. Their love gives evidence that God’s Word has begun to work in them.

Do you see how Paul’s seemingly standard opening comments prepare his original readers for the epistle? Similarly, this section gives us a little preview of what we’ll learn in the coming installments of our Bible Study. Next Monday, Lord willing, we can finally get into the doctrine that Paul uses to teach the Colossians — and by extension us — discernment. I look forward to having you join me then.

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The Stubborn Facts About My Would-Be Idol

Me with Abigail and John Quincy Adams January 2013

Over 30 years ago, I sat in San Rafael, CA, hunched over a biography of Abigail Adams that my mom had given me.

In the early chapters, I thrilled to descriptions of Abigail Smith running through the woods of Braintree, Massachusetts to meet John Adams — the man she would soon marry. Reading on, I admired the support and sacrifices on her part as her husband served in establishing the United States of America. In short, I struggled a little with the temptation to idolize Abigail Adams.

Years later, marriage brought me to a town in Massachusetts that borders Braintree. The day after our wedding, John and I had supper in a restaurant in Braintree. I reminder sitting outside the restaurant, looking at the woods and wondering if Abigail had seen those same trees 200 years earlier.

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Frustrations Of A Christian Female Blogger (Probably Not The Frustrations You’d Expect)

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Normally, professing Christian women chafe at the idea of limiting their teaching ministry to other women and small children. They follow the world in insisting that we have a contribution to make to the whole church, and that our female perspective must be heard. As they see it, the Word of God cannot be fully represented without the female voice.

Huh?

Where does Scripture ever say such a bizarre thing? If the Word of God is breathed out by the Holy Spirit (2 Timothy 3:16), why would a female perspective be necessary? Shouldn’t we scratch our heads in bewilderment at the suggestion that men need to hear female voices before they can fully understand what the Bible says?

I can’t help wondering if some men — even Reformed men — have started buying into the idea that female voices need to join the conversation. Logging on to my Twitter Notifications today, I found two tweets by Reformed men, proudly proclaiming that they read The Outspoken TULIP.

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Thoughts About Thinking: Thinking With Renewed Minds

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During an argument over politics several years ago, someone dismissed my convictions with the remark, “Well, your faith informs your thinking.” The implication was that I let my pastor dictate how I vote. Never mind that no pastor I’ve ever had would do such a thing. Apparently my Christian convictions rendered me incapable of thinking for myself.

In reality, the person arguing with me was heavily influenced by academia and liberal media. Her world told her what thoughts were acceptable and what thoughts should be rejected. I could have easily countered that her social circles informed her thinking.

Does anyone really think for herself? Maybe to a point, but outside influences always shape our thinking. We just need to decide whether we want those influences to come from a worldview that rebels against God’s values and purposes or whether we want those influences to come from the Word of God.

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A Few Thoughts About Thinking: When Our Thoughts Exalt Us

Several years ago, I had another blog. It was a great deal less focused than this one — mostly because it started as a way to showcase my writing and digital art.

Gradually, I found myself blogging more and more about the Lord. In one post, I quoted a friend of ours who said Christians need to be less concerned about what we think and more concerned about what God’s Word says. Of course he meant that we too often impose our ideas on a passage of Scripture rather than expecting Scripture to shape our ideas. But I quoted him as saying something like we think too much.

One of my readers latched on to that quote and wrenched it out of context. She understood it as putting forth the idea that Christians shouldn’t think, but instead should blindly follow religious teachers.

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Truth, Not Emotion, Must Guide Christians

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Because I still struggle with my sin nature (as Paul did in Romans 7:7-25), I have gone though times of wanting to walk away from Christ. In those times, I understood that He wouldn’t allow me to play with my sin in His holy presence.  And in those times, I had to admit that I preferred my sin to fellowship with Him.

And yet, even as I made that admission, I knew I would ultimately run back to Jesus in repentance. Even though I enjoyed my sin, I knew that truth can only come through Him. I always thought of the time during His earthly ministry when the demands of His preaching alienated most of His followers.

66 After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. 67 So Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” 68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, 69 and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” ~~John 6:66-69 (ESV)

Peter got a lot of things wrong during those three years before Christ’s resurrection, but this response was surprisingly on target. He stayed loyal to the Lord based on truth, not mere emotion.

Don’t misunderstand me: Peter loved Jesus with astounding passion. As Jesus prepared to go to the cross, Peter declared his willingness to die for Him (John 13:37). Clearly, emotion played a major role in Peter’s devotion to Jesus, just as it should play a major role in our devotion to Jesus. Jesus said that the first and greatest commandment is to love the Lord with our entire being (Matthew 22:37).

But passion alone can’t keep anyone from abandoning Christ. Our love for Him must be firmly grounded in the conviction that His Word is truth.

Love apart from truth wavers in the face of opposition. Those disciples who turned and walked away from Jesus in John 6 had experienced some degree of emotion, even if that emotion resulted from their selfish expectations that He would create more miraculous meals for them. When they realized that He would make demands on them, their love vanished with amazing speed.

The Twelve remained with Jesus because they knew the truth of His Word. Confidence in His truth held them to Him. They knew that they had nowhere else to go.

I know it too.

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That Nagging Awareness That Something Doesn’t Line Up With Scripture

c5fbb-psychologyIt wasn’t only in the Women’s Ministry. The church at large embraced psychological models to help us identify the root causes of our besetting sins. I just noticed the problem more during those women’s meetings.

One evening in particular stands out in my memory. The women leading the meeting instructed each of us to think of an instance when our parents wounded us. They explained that we couldn’t properly forgive them unless we first “worked through” the pain that we had suffered at the hands of our moms and dads.

One lady found the exercise to be perplexing. She honestly couldn’t think of anything she held against either of her parents. Instead of admiring her purity, however, the leaders accused her of failing to deal with her past. I could see their frustration as she continued to maintain that she had wonderful parents — that she couldn’t remember anything they had done to hurt her.

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Shall We Reduce Scripture To Ashes?

Untitled-1For the past few years, I’ve groaned a little on Ash Wednesday. Not in anticipation of giving up something for Lent — I have never observed Lent and will never observe it. I groan at the thought of evangelicals observing such an unbiblical practice.

As I explained in a blog post I wrote two years ago, “my objection to Lent boils down to the same problem I have with Roman Catholicism in general: it rejects the sufficiency of Christ’s finished work on the cross. For all the talk of Lent enhancing our devotion to Him and drawing us to deeper repentance, we can’t escape its emphasis on human good works. As usual, the attention shifts from what Christ did for us to what we credit ourselves as doing to earn His favor.”

That deviation from  the sufficiency of Christ’s atoning work on the cross is the most disturbing aspect of Lent, of course. But there’s another aspect that is closely Continue reading