Saturday Sampler: December 3 — December 8

Bell SamplerAfter resolving to be truthful with your children about Santa Claus, you still face the sticky issue of what they tell their little friends. Michelle Lesley tackles that awkward dilemma in The Mailbag: My kid knows the truth about Santa. What if he tells his friends who don’t? Michelle puts forth some thought-provoking arguments that maybe we need as we navigate this question.

Biblical Sexuality Isn’t a Stump You Can Mow Around insists Mike Leake in a blog post for Borrowed Light. He looks at reasons we’re tempted to compromise our position on homosexuality, and explains why we mustn’t compromise.

Mike Ratliff of Possessing the Treasure reminds us of The Cross and its offense. Although it should be Christianity 101, most evangelicals seem willfully oblivious to this basic part of the Gospel.

Forgiveness doesn’t come easily when people hurt us. Writing for The Cripplegate, Eric Davis challenges our tendency to hang onto offences with Love & Hurt Feelings — Refresher. This isn’t exactly a “feel good” article, I realize, but it brings us back to a basic principle of Christianity.

The current focus on homosexuality and transgenderism somewhat obscures the seriousness of sexual sins among heterosexuals. SlimJim of The Domain for Truth goes back to fundamental Christian teaching on sexual purity by posting Pre-Marital Abstinence Makes the Married Heart Grow Stronger. Sadly, I think many professing Christians have forgotten the importance of waiting until the wedding night.

I couldn’t agree more with Don’t Be Just Another Fan by Leslie A in Growing 4 Life. Her insightful article leads me to ask you to always evaluate each blog post I write in light of Scripture.

In his moving piece, Planned Parenthood Sings Hush, Little Baby, Samuel Sey objects to the notion that abortion is best for unwanted babies. Appearing in his blog, Slow to Write, this article traces the experiences of two unplanned pregnancies that were in God’s plan all along.

Elizabeth Prata’s essay, Love Thy Neighbor? That’s only half of it, refutes the growing idea that love means ignoring sin in another person. You’ll find her insightful piece in The End Time.

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Flashback Friday: A Right Proclamation Of The Gospel

93a68-wordjudgesheart

Originally posted on February 17, 2017.

Yesterday I watched a YouTube video featuring people I personally know from my Charismatic days. I managed to get past their “God told me” claims by remembering how often I used to phrase my own experiences in those words. In listening to Charismatics, I want to keep in mind that many of them, though deceived, are genuinely my brothers and sisters in Christ. After all, I walked in those same deceptions for most of my Christian life.

Toward the end of the video, however, they invited unsaved members of their audience to begin their “adventure” with Christ. They assured people that Jesus Christ offers freedom from sin (which He does) and personal fulfillment. According to them, Jesus waited, hoping people would reach out to Him and receive all that He had for them. They read a prayer that made vague reference to being a sinner and committing their lives to Christ. Those who said that prayer were instructed to sign a copy, write the date and keep it in their Bibles in case Satan questioned their salvation.

They never mentioned Christ’s death on the cross.

Not once.

Hopefully they’ve given more complete Gospel presentations at other times. Certainly, I must guard against judging the entirety of their ministry based on one isolated video. But it made me think that perhaps I should periodically present the Gospel in this blog, making sure that any new readers (particularly those who don’t know Jesus as their Lord and Savior) really understand it Biblically.

Paul proclaimed the Gospel in its most basic form in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4.

3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, (ESV)

To Paul, nothing was more important to preach than Christ’s death as a substitute for our sin, His burial and His bodily resurrection. The Gospel revolves around His atoning work to pay for our sin, and His resurrection that proves the Father’s acceptance of His sacrifice. Paul elaborates in Ephesians 2:1-10.

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (ESV)

Our sins violated God’s holy standards, making us deserving only of His wrath. But in His mercy, Christ expressed His love by dying for our sin (Romans 5:6-9 and 1 John 2:1-2). Then He raised us from our spiritual death, graciously allowing us to believe in Him and providing us with opportunities to serve Him.

The Gospel focuses on Christ’s glory first. Indeed, He gives us tremendous joy in serving Him, as well as in knowing that we will spend eternity with Him. In those ways, the Gospel most definitely offers fulfillment. But we must never proclaim a gospel that focuses on self and neglects Christ’s death, burial and resurrection.

I do not question the salvation of my friends in that video. But it broke my heart to watch them mishandle an opportunity to present the Gospel in a Biblical manner. Rather than criticize their techniques, however, let me learn to faithfully declare it when God gives me opportunities to do so. The Gospel is too precious, and too important to handle in any other way.

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Looking At The Cross Costs Something

When you first heard that Jesus died for your sins, how did you respond? Did you shrug it off as a somewhat perplexing idea? Maybe you felt a measure of relief, but didn’t really think the knowledge of His sacrifice required more than a thank you and a smile from you. Perhaps you thought you needed to augment His work on the cross, making yourself worthy of salvation.

Or maybe you had comprehended the true weight of your sins against a holy God, and therefore received the message of the cross with an attitude of grateful amazement. You wondered why the Lord would bestow such grace on you. And, although you realized your total inability to pay Him back for His grace and mercy, you wanted to show your  gratitude by acknowledging His claim on your whole life.

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Who Made An End To All My Sin

When I sin, I typically question whether or not I’m truly saved. I reason that a saved person, while not perfect, really ought to exhibit some evidence that the Holy Spirit has transformed her. Usually, I momentarily conclude that I must be a false convert.

(Those episodes must drive my husband crazy.)

But eventually I come to my senses and remember that Jesus took care of my sin by His death on the cross. Yes, I should walk by the Spirit more than I do. Yes, my sin dishonors Him. And yes, in those moments I’m failing to reflect His holy nature. But even so, I need to focus on Him rather than on myself.

Last Sunday the Lord encouraged me through the second verse of “Before The Throne Of God Above” by shifting my gaze from the despair of having sinned yet again to the joy that Jesus paid the final cost for my sin! He made an end to it! Although He still calls me to repentance, He has freed me from the death sentence that sin requires.

Join me in looking upward to Christ. If you belong to Him, He’s made an end to all your sin, too!

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Throwback Thursday: I Make A Decidedly Putrid Message (And So Do You!)

Putrid works

This post first appeared on July 5, 2017.

In recent years, the notion that we can “be the message” has resurrected the old cliche, “Preach the Gospel–if necessary, use words.” The social gospel movement, in particular, capitalizes on this cliche for the purpose of using works of charity almost in place of preaching the Gospel. They rationalize that, because of their acts of service, people will ask what motivates them to serve, thus opening the door for evangelism.

In an effort to discern the validity of this popular idea, we need to examine it in light of what the Word of God teaches. I’ll refer to several Scriptures, so please click the links; quoting so many of them directly in one blog post might put me in danger of violating the ESV copyright permission.

I agree that a person’s behavior, in general, demonstrates his true beliefs. James 2:14-26 indeed maintains that “faith without works is dead.” Jesus Himself warned that He will reject those who call Him Lord while actively disobeying His commandments (Matthew 7:21-27). The proponents of the social gospel must be commended, therefore, for their desire to address the obvious disconnect between what evangelicals profess to believe and how we actually live. The non-Christian world sees our hypocrisy, and uses it as an excuse to reject Christ.

That said, our good behavior, in and of itself, can only (at best) lead people to ask us about the Lord (1 Peter 3:15). Of course, we should remember the broader context of this verse. 1 Peter 3:8-22 offers guidelines to Christians in the midst of suffering for their commitment to Christ. The First Century believers to whom Peter originally wrote amazed their critics by clinging to Jesus when simply renouncing Him would have liberated them from persecution. They did far more than live good lives. They proclaimed Christ in an empire that made such proclamations punishable by death.

Their potential martyrdom went far beyond “right living.” Good behavior certainly reflects God’s standards for personal holiness, but without accompanying words about the grace of God that transforms a sinner, such good behavior degenerates into self-righteous morality that the Lord considers putrid (see Isaiah 64:6).

As a matter of fact, dear readers, not one of us leads a life that replaces the need to articulate the Gospel. We are declared righteous by virtue of the Lord’s death, burial and resurrection rather than by our deeds, meaning that our lives continue to be tainted by our proclivity to sin (see Romans 7:7-24). We should, of course, walk in obedience to the Lord, but we dare not entertain the notion that social justice is enough to win anyone to Christ.

The Gospel requires that you and I actually talk about sin, hell, repentance and the fact that only Jesus provides salvation from God’s wrath. We can dig wells, help children with disabilities and run food pantries all we want, but unless we accompany those activities with a clear proclamation of the Gospel, people will see no difference between us and members of the Elks club. And they’ll be looking at us, not at the Lord Jesus Christ.

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When I’m Less Controversial

ControversyWe all flock to articles about the latest controversy, especially if they expose the failures and hypocritical behaviors of people. Bill Cosby’s conviction as a sexual predator fascinates us precisely because it contradicts the wholesome image he projected in the 80s. Warnings to avoid yoga fascinate us because we’ve been conditioned to view it as healthy exercise.

Between Cosby’s sentence yesterday and the expected testimony of Kavanaugh’s accuser tomorrow, I could write Continue reading

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