It’s Time To Rethink Discernment

Psalm 19V14 B&WYes, I’ve been beating this drum about the problems with discernment ministries (particularly online discernment ministries) for over two years now, and some of my posts pretty much say they same things. In truth,  I write most of these articles in an attempt to clarify my own thoughts on the matter. If I’m selfish for taking you along for the ride, please pray that the Lord would convict me.

The advantage of struggling with this publicly is Continue reading

Buffet Restaurants And Bible Reading

Ribbon CrossMy three months at the Bible College in North Wales sadly taught me little about the Bible. I did learn — from painful experience — the importance of maintaining a regular quiet time, but the classroom itself didn’t teach me proper methods of Bible interpretation.

I remember one of the instructors trying to encourage us in our daily Bible reading. One of us asked what to do if nothing we read on a certain day popped out at us. As I think back on it, that happened at around the time of year that most reading plans have people struggling through Leviticus. Leviticus rarely produces the feelings of spirituality that most Charismatics run on.

Instead of telling us that Bible reading isn’t primarily meant to produce feelings of exhilaration, the instructor answered, Continue reading

Saturday Sampler: November 4 — November 10

Flower Outline Sampler

What causes so much compromise in the church? Mike Ratliff raises the possibility that much of it results from a disdain for God’s Word. His article, Bible Inspiration, appears in Possessing the Treasure as an encouragement to remember the very Source of Scripture.

Have you ever tried to understand God’s holiness? As Allen S. Nelson IV shows us in his post for Things Above Us, Comprehending Holiness is a daunting and wonderful duty for all believers.

Reformation 21 runs The Statement on Social Justice and the Gospel Explained: Sexuality and Marriage by James White. In our social climate, his common sense is sadly lacking as well as necessary.

I’m not a parent, and I’m only an honorary grandmother, but I have definite beliefs about child rearing. So I appreciate Denny Burk for his Biblical response in his post, Pediatricians say spanking is bad. Are they right? Remember, the world opposes God on every level.

Sinclair Ferguson examines Apostasy and How it Happens on the Ligonier blog. Having watched many of my friends turn away from the Lord over the years, I find this article quite helpful in understanding their actions.

Do you know what I admire about Michelle Lesley? She bases her reasoning squarely on Scripture. Throwback Thursday: Can a False Teacher be Saved? is a splendid example of drawing conclusions through the study of God’s Word.

Who Is Jesus? Leslie A of Growing 4 Life distinguishes between the popular conception of Jesus and what the Bible actually teaches about Him.

Some missionaries I know often email me requesting that I pray for Jesus to reveal Himself to Muslims in their area through dreams. I absolutely refuse to do so, of course, but I couldn’t figure out why Muslims seem to have these dreams. Praise God for Elizabeth Prata’s essay Blasphemy: Jesus is not Isa, Isa is not Jesus in The End Time. Elizabeth explains this disturbing phenomenon well, showing why Christians should never celebrate it.

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Pointing Fingers, Naming Names And Condemning False Teachers Isn’t All There Is To Discernment

Burning False TeachersYeah, I get it. Evangelicals flock to popular false teachers because few pastors identify these false teachers clearly. Furthermore, the leaders of far too many women’s “Bible” study groups use material from evangelical celebrities who routinely mishandle God’s Word. Certainly, we need to be deeply concerned.

John MacArthur often says that the biggest problem in the church today is the incredible lack of discernment. Even churches with solid pastors who rightly handle the Word of God have people who listen to radio teachers known for compromising truth. Women in doctrinally sound churches persist in claiming that God spoke to them personally.

So I definitely see the need for discernment bloggers. In fact, the Lord used several discernment blogs to Continue reading

Throwback Thursday: No Need To Choose

Originally posted on October 21, 2015, this article seems even more relevant now.

Cross and Bible 3A few years ago, someone scolded me on Facebook for holding to the “dead letter of a book” rather than enjoying a “living relationship” with God through His Spirit. I thought of her reprimand a couple days ago when one of Tim Challies’ links to a Kindle deal providentially misdirected me to Tom Olson’s January 22, 2015 blog post, Is It Possible for Christians to Idolize the Bible?

Olson produced helpful arguments as he reasoned from 2 Timothy 3:16 and 2 Peter 1:21 (please read both verses). He maintains that Scripture is breathed out from the Holy Spirit. That being the case, it makes little sense when people try to represent Scripture and the Spirit as being mutually exclusive (as my Facebook critic suggested). Olson explained that God’s Word, as given through the agency of the Spirit, facilitates our relationship with God.

Consider the primary descriptions of Scripture from the Bible itself:

  • All Scripture is breathed out by God” (2 Timothy 3:16)
  • For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” (2 Peter 1:21)

Add to this that one of the favored names of Jesus Christ is “The Word,” and you have a Trinitarian testimony that the Bible is not divorced from the Godhead, but is the tangible work of the Trinity in perfect harmony speaking to us.

Simply put, the Bible is the voice of God. The Father breathes out the Word. The Son is the Word incarnate. The Holy Spirit carried along the biblical authors so that they would speak “from God”. The Bible is the voice of God – not just the red letters – the whole Bible. As such, the question “Is it possible for Christians to idolize the Bible?” is inaccurate, because it forces us to drive a false wedge between God and his voice. Prioritizing God’s voice is prioritizing God, and thus prioritizing his voice cannot be thought of as idolatry.

Please know, I get it. The Scriptures and Jesus Christ are different entities. The Bible and the Spirit are unique from one another. But that does not mean we can or should treat them as such, divorcing them from one another.

So why did my love for and reliance on the Bible’s authority offend the woman on Facebook? I can’t judge her motives for certain, nor should I try to do so, but I can think of two possible reasons. Usually, people who accuse Christians of bibliolatry operate from one of two positions.

The less prevalent of the two (I hope) comes from a desire to accommodate sin without outright rejecting God. If we can minimize Scripture’s authority by hearing from “God” as we imagine Him, perhaps we can wiggle out of some demands that the Bible imposes on us. Maybe translators made mistakes, or maybe culture has advanced beyond the antiquated notions of the prophets and apostles. Surely God wouldn’t confine His expectations of us to a 2000-year-old book!

Typically, however, the people who make that accusation believe that the Holy Spirit speaks to people directly. They do agree that the Bible is God’s inerrant Word, and they’ll even say that it’s the final authority for Christians. Furthermore, they actually do wish to live in obedience to its precepts. But they also insist that “relationship” with Jesus must extend beyond the Bible through personal communication from Him. They want to feel His presence and to believe that they have unique relationships with Him.

Yet His Word does retain its authority and it is able to speak to us personally.

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. ~~Hebrews 4:12 (ESV)

As we read these precious Spirit-breathed words, He shows us how they apply to us in the 21st Century. Far from being a dead book, the Bible overflows with more treasures than we know what to do with! In holding the Bible in high esteem, we use it as a vehicle to worship its Author in spirit and in truth.

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Jesus As The First And Greatest Being Created By God?

Have  you seen The State of Theology survey put out by Ligonier and LifeWay (strange bedfellows) last week? While not the most scientific poll ever conducted, most of its findings probably reflect the general spiritual condition in the United States of America.

Warning: This blog post starts out a little dry, but fairly soon you’ll be screaming, “Yo mama — Continue reading

What You Think Doesn’t Matter, But It Matters That You Think

Twisting ScriptureLongtime readers have read this story before, but I want to tell it again in a slightly different context. In my freshman year of college, I took a Shakespeare class.

My Shakespeare professor scowled as I told him what the passage he’d set before our class meant to me personally. He found my comment entirely too subjective, and therefore not acceptable in the context of scholarly discussion. I tried to appeal to a 1974 mindset by explaining that my Bible Study group used that method to interpret Scripture, but he wouldn’t consider such a perspective. “What matters is not what what the passage says to you,” he explained, “but what Shakespeare intended when he wrote the play.”

That incident sobered me, teaching me one of the most important lessons in my Christian life. All too often, professing Christians read the Bible with the expectation that they can arrive at a personal, subjective interpretation. Just as I showed disrespect to Shakespeare by presuming that I could make his plays and sonnets say whatever I imagined them to say, so we show disrespect to the Holy Spirit by conforming His Word to our personal experiences and biases.

What you and I think Scripture says to us personally may be vastly different from what the Lord intended when His Spirit inspired the Old and New Testament writers to record His Word. We dare not treat it like a piece of putty that we can stretch and mold according to our preferences and ideas.

19 And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, 20 knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. 21 For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. ~~2 Peter 1:19-21 (ESV)

So, interpreting God’s Word isn’t determined by our subjective thoughts and opinions. What we think it says must be subordinated to what the Holy Spirit purposes it to mean.

Having said that, reading and obeying the Bible requires us to think Biblically. Rather than viewing verses as isolated fragments, we need understand Scripture as a whole. Interpreting Scripture, it turns out, takes the same kind of analytical thought that I learned to utilize in studying literature and art.

My Shakespeare professor taught me to analyze a play’s passage by examining its use of language, its historical context and (more importantly) to the context of the play itself. Additionally, it helped to study how people used certain words in 16th Century England, as well as knowing some biographical information about The Bard himself. Finally, familiarity with literary history offered insight.

Understanding Shakespeare’s intent, in other words, took work. But it could be done. And I had to do the same work in studying Homer, Virgil, Malory, Chaucer, Donne, Byron, Browning, Frost and all the writers in between. In art history, I had to do the same with Leonardo, Michelangelo and Carravargio.

How much more should Christians study Scripture in order to understand what the Lord says through it. Engaging our minds is mandatory in order to rightly understand God’s Word. As I’ll show you in my next blog post, however, a large number of evangelicals fail to use their minds in talking about God.

Imposing your opinions on Scripture is infinitely worse than imposing them on a few Shakespearean couplets. But perhaps we make such impositions precisely because we don’t bother to think carefully about what we read. It doesn’t matter what we think any given verse means to us personally,  but it matters a great deal that we think carefully about what God’s Word really means.

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