Could The Person Who Calls You A Pharisee Actually Be The Real Pharisee?

Those of us who stand for the Word of God frequently get accused of being Pharisees, particularly by Charismatics, egalitarians and progressive evangelicals. The very thought that Scripture alone is authoritative and sufficient for directing our lives and our worship rankles their nerves so deeply that they scramble for a way to put us in our place. Thus, remembering the constant rebukes Jesus leveled against the Pharisees during His earthly ministry, they eagerly hurl this term at us. In doing so, they want us to bow in humble contrition, admitting that we’ve been too rigid in interpreting the Bible.

Occasionally, we deserve the accusation. None of us should allow pride to keep us from asking the Holy Spirit to examine our hearts to expose any self-righteousness we may harbor. Even when we proclaim all the right doctrine, we run the danger of proclaiming it with a sanctimonious attitude. So let’s not automatically dismiss an accusation without taking it to the Lord.

That said, the vast majority of our accusers have a simplistic understanding of who the First Century Pharisees were and why Jesus opposed them so fiercely. For the most part, people equate them with self-righteousness legalists who adhered so tightly to Scripture that they couldn’t (or wouldn’t) recognize God’s activity.

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Saying The Right Things Doesn’t Necessarily Prove Genuine Christianity

How should we determine the authenticity of another person’s Christianity? If he or she rattles off a statement of faith that measures up to basic Christian orthodoxy, should that confession of faith be enough to satisfy us? I recently saw such a confession, written by someone known for open rebellion against certain portions of Scripture as well as for repeatedly slandering a Christian pastor over teachings that are unpopular with progressive evangelicals.

I affirm Jesus as the God-man, born of a virgin, who made atonement for sin, performed supernatural miracles to authenticate His claims, was crucified, died, was buried and rose again.

Okay, each of these affirmations is entirely Biblical. Every true Christian would agree wholeheartedly with each point. I’d venture to add that a denial of even one of these points would indicate that a person either doesn’t know Christ or is a very new convert. One cannot be a true Christian without believing all of these truths about Jesus.

At the same time, merely affirming these basic tenets of the faith doesn’t necessarily indicate genuine fidelity to the Lord. James, the half-brother of Jesus, stated in no uncertain terms that the ability to positively recite a Biblical affiliation of basic principles doesn’t always guarantee true Christianity.

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Saturday Sampler: April 2 — April 8

In a short devotional, Blake Long of Theology & Life leads us to Proof of God’s Love by explaining whom God loves and the beautifully personal nature of His love. See Blake’s other Holy Week devotionals while you’re on his website.

The Crucifixion Stories Are Embarrassing, and That’s a Good Thing claims Robby Lashua on the Stand To Reason blog. He takes us through some lowlights of that terrible experience, showing us how the weaknesses of the men involved actually strengthen the case for the authenticity of the Bible.

Mike Ratliff translates a passage from Ephesians, and from there meditates on one often overlooked phrase. He seated us in the Heavenlies with Christ beautifully explains an aspect of salvation that we don’t notice enough. Mike blogs at :Possessing the Treasure, where he sometimes makes his own careful translation from the Greek New Testament. His studies, while requiring us to do a little work, invariably give us more insight into God’s Word.

A former member of of the LBGTQ community writes Why I no longer use Transgender Pronouns — and Why You shouldn’t either for the Reformation 21 blog. Her piece demonstrates her repentance for acquiescence to public pressure, therefore encouraging us to stand on the authority of Scripture. Please consider her thoughtful arguments as we face increasing demands to compromise truth.

In preparation for Resurrection Sunday, Leslie A shares lessons she’s gleaned from reading Mark 14. This post, On the Way to the Cross isn’t a typical Growing 4 Life article, but Leslie’s thoughts will challenge and encourage you. And it’s a magnificent prelude to tomorrow’s celebration.

Elizabeth Prata gives us a different perspective on what it means to Surrender to Christ in an essay for The End Time. If I say much about it, I’ll steal her thunder and you won’t read it. So I’ll just say that this is a gem that you really shouldn’t miss.

If the message of the cross seems overly familiar to you, a meditation on Isaiah 53 as a prophecy of Christ’s death might help. Thankfully, Michelle Lesley shares her own meditation on this magnificent chapter in Christ – the Suffering Servant to develop our understanding of everything Christ did on the cross. Set aside some time to read her beautiful devotional in honor of Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday. I promise you – you won’t regret doing so.

Some mistakes can’t be smoothed over by a shrug and an apologetic “Oops!” Getting the details wrong can have extremely serious consequences. SlimJim has a post inThe Domain for Truth based on a shocking blunder in Boston Wednesday night. Sermon Illustration #85: Doctrinal Details Matter and FBI busted into the wrong hotel room during a training exercise and held a Delta pilot handcuffed uses this news story as a springboard for evangelism.

Even though Good Friday has passed, don’t ignore Good Friday and the Lamb of God by Robb Brunansky in The Cripplegate. He uses Isaiah 53:7 to show how Jesus indeed served as the Lamb of God that Isaiah prophesied 700 years earlier. The writing alone is exquisite, but the message behind the writing is far more wonderful.

Easter: The Same Ol’ Same Ol’

As we approach another Resurrection Sunday, some of us may feel a little tired of hearing the same accounts of Christ’s death, burial and resurrection. We may be genuine Christians who honestly love the Lord. We may cherish what Jesus did on the cross and we may embrace the hope of His resurrection. But, truth be told, at this time of year sometimes talking about those great events can feel forced and contrived. Precisely because talking about them is expected at Easter, we shy away from the subject.

I know I experience an awkwardness as I anticipate blogging during Holy Week. And I’m sure most pastors experience the same awkwardness. Maybe it’s wrong to feel as if we must present the Gospel in a new and fresh way each year, but perhaps it’s right to humble ourselves and admit it! We still love the Gospel — we just don’t appreciate the sense of obligation to write about it on this particular week.

And that’s a shame!

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So That The Word Of God Won’t Be Dishonored

Blasphemy is a rather archaic word in 21st Century society, perhaps because we’ve lost the sense that God deserves honor and reverence. I once had a conversation with an obvious non-Christian who said quite flippantly, “Oh yes, Jesus is my Buddy!” (Happily, this woman has since come to Christ.) Her remark reminded me of how little people regard the Lord as Someone worthy of reverence.

Even more disturbing, many evangelicals lack reverence for the Lord. Hymns that exalt Him as the Sovereign Ruler of all creation have been replaced by soft rock songs focused on self, often depicting Jesus as a cosmic Boyfriend or a Butler poised to fulfill our slightest wish. We quote Scripture out of context to assure ourselves that God exists to ensure our happiness and to give us abundant lives. Like the non-Christian woman I spoke with. most of us demote the King of kings down to the level of being our Buddy.

I bring this matter up as I conclude my loosely organized series working through Titus 2:3-5. We’ve discussed the various attributes that God commands of older and younger women, and now we arrive at the purpose of those commands.

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Saturday Sampler: March 26 — April 1

Wall in Boston’s Barking Crab restaurant

Think you know everything about Israel’s journey through the Red Sea? Test your knowledge against Ryan Higginbottom’s Overlooked Details of the Red Sea Crossing. These details, according to him, can teach us more about the importance and purpose of this famous miracle. Ryan blogs for Knowable Word each Monday.

Even Christians balk at the thought of describing themselves as wretches. I speak from the experience of having a sister in Christ harshly reprimand me years ago for posting an article calling myself a wretch. But The End Time author Elizabeth Prata writes Am I a wretch? to show how liberating it actually is to accept our true condition. How much better to enjoy the wonder of God’s grace!

Better voices than I have commented on the mass shooting in Nashville. One such voice belongs to Slave to the King blogger Chris Honholtz. Audrey Hale and Culturally Acceptable Violence discusses the tragedy from an unexpected but necessary perspective. I appreciate Chris for bringing attention to the complexities of this particular situation. I don’t think those complexities will be unique.

In Growing 4 Life, Leslie A offers Encouragement for the Lonely Believer because she herself has endured the loneliness of standing for truth in a time when even professing Christians want to adjust the Bible to culture. If you’re getting weary of holding to God’s Word when people ridicule you for doing so, let the verses she shares minister to you.

Ligonier offers many wonderful resources to help us think through various aspects of our faith. What Are Atheism and Secularism? provides a comprehensive overview of these two related philosophies and compares them to Biblical Christianity. As a bonus, thus article concludes with tips on how we can enter into evangelistic conversations with people who hold these views.

Looking at the account of the Triumphal Entry in Jesus Wept, Michelle Lesley takes a look at the crowd who so joyously shouted “Hosannah!” Why did they express such adoration for Him? And why, when people finally acknowledge Him as the Messiah, did Jesus weep? Michelle explores these questions and then asks us a very serious question.

Michelle doesn’t have a corner on Palm Sunday posts, however. In his contributing article for The Cripplegate, Robb Brunansky expands on Palm Sunday: Deity on Display by showing us how Mark’s gospel narrates the events of that day.

Let’s have another post from Knowable Word, this time by Peter Krol. Why Strife is so Complex uses selected Proverbs to navigate through the minefield of human interactions, especially when arguments break out. He finds some helpful principles for dealing with conflict, and shows us how to apply them.

Flashback Friday: Proudly Discerning

Originally published January 5. 2017:

Bible context

Have you ever noticed that women in particular like to claim that they possess the gift of discernment? I can remember, during my years in Charismatic circles, various women pronouncing judgments on “spiritual forces,” usually with a knowing nod and a solemn expression. Typically, they insisted that the Holy Spirit had given them a special revelation.

I envied their evident abilities to peer into the spirit world. My unquestioning respect for them influenced me to blindly accept whatever declarations they made. I remember one “discerning” friend warning me to avoid a neighbor of mine because my neighbor had a “demonic look in her eyes.” Of course, in retrospect I realize that my neighbor wore extremely thick glasses that magnified her eyes and gave them a slightly glazed appearance. But at the time, I submitted to my friend’s “discernment,” trusting that God had given her special insight that I needed to heed.

That wasn’t discernment. That was spiritual pride. In essence, Charismatics who profess to have gifts of discernment generally demonstrate a gnostic attitude.

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Blogging Fatigue: Why Christian Bloggers Can’t Give Up

A few of the bloggers I read regularly have been reposting old articles — as have I. Some of us are posting less often. Many have abandoned blogging altogether.

For some of us, health concerns and schedule changes have played a major role in this decreased productivity. That’s largely why I’ve been less active in the last few years. Like it or not (and I definitely don’t like it), we’re getting older and slowing down, therefore we just don’t have the energy we had a few years ago. As a result, we see how much energy maintaining a blog really takes. In our younger days, we may not have realized how hard we worked, but now we understand the toll of cranking out posts five to seven days a week. For several of us, our poor bodies can’t handle the workload anymore.

In my case, however, the fatigue has another layer that I wonder if my fellow bloggers also feel. I began this blog with a zeal for hunting out false teachers and exposing them. That purpose has merit, certainly, and I still see a need for that type of ministry. But that type of ministry takes a lot of time and effort, especially if a blogger wants to report with integrity.

A few days ago, as I scrolled through Facebook, my heart sank as a friend excitedly reported having gone to hear Joyce Meyer preach. It made me start mentally planning a blog post comparing one of Joyce Meyer’s better-known teachings to Scripture in a way that would help readers evaluate teaching for themselves. Sounds good, right?

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Saturday Sampler: March 19 — March 25

If we’re honest, we’ll admit that we don’t always appreciate the plans God has for us. Tim Challies puts a fictional scenario before us in If God Would Outsource His Sovereignty to expose our reluctance to accept the more difficult gifts God dispenses. Do we really mean it when we sing hymns consecrating our lives to Him?

Most Christians probably ask Is it Okay to Doubt? at some point in their lives. Nathan Eshalman, in his Gentle Reformation post, draws on his experience of counseling young people to talk about the various reasons for doubt as well as how to bring those doubts under the control of faith. If you struggle with doubt on any level, his words will give you tremendous encouragement.

With Psalm 37 as her starting place, Cindy Matson writes A Better Way: Responding to the Darkness in Bible Study Nerd. The advent of social media obviously has escalated anger in the public square, she notes, but Scripture still offers direction on managing that anger in a godly manner. Cindy shows us some of those Biblical principles.

Do you subscribe to Growing 4 Life by Leslie A? If not, you’re missing out on some remarkable articles like Can You Argue Against Experience? This topic has been near and dear to my heart for decades. Although I’ve never discussed this subject with her, she organizes my thoughts quite nicely. If you only have time to read one item from this collection this week (I hope you’ll read more), make it Leslie’s.

What Do You mean, Relevant? wonders Kevin Bauder in a post for the G3 Ministries Blog. Taking us through the various applications of the term “relevant,” he explains when relevance furthers the Gospel and when it obscures the Gospel.

Covid-19 restrictions have eased up for quite some time, concedes Robb Brunansky in a post for The Cripplegate. But we must learn from the government attempts to close churches during the early phases of that pandemic. Robb reminds us that governments will grow increasingly hostile to Christian worship as we get nearer to Christ’s return. Therefore we must stand our ground in believing that Church is Essential.

Attempts to discredit John MacArthur get sillier all the time. When Ron Henzel, who ordinarily isn’t a particular fan of MacArthur, writes an article in Midwest Christian Outreach, Inc. to refute recent claims that MacArthur adopts the rigid authority structure of Bill Gothard, you know such claims should be disregarded. Everyone I Don’t Like is Literally Gothard gives a solid synopsis of Gothard’s teachings on authority and contrasts them with MacArthur’s sermons.

Contrasting the Prosperity Gospel of Joel and Victoria Osteen with the Biblical principles that sustained the apostle Paul, Elizabeth Prata explains what The “good” in God’s plan for you really is. This essay in The End Time reorients our thinking, bringing it in line with the actual teaching of Scripture. And isn’t that what we want?

Flashback Friday: The Drudgery And Privilege Of Prayer And Bible Reading

I’d very much hoped to write fresh content today instead of yet another Flashback Friday post. I understand that people prefer reading something new — I certainly prefer it! But my last article took longer than anticipated to write, leaving me with too little time to come up with a fresh article. I’m hoping this post from January 14, 2020 will encourage you.


We’ve all had those days. We grudgingly open our Bibles because we know we should, but we’d really rather finish that crafts project or read another chapter in that novel.

If I can publicly admit to having days that I simply don’t want to spend time with the Lord, the least you could do is privately confess it to Him. After all, He already knows your secret thoughts.

Of course we feel guilty about approaching our devotions as if they were a chore like cleaning the oven. And I have no intention of alleviating our guilt. We need to come to terms with the fact that we fail to love the Lord our God with all our hearts, souls and minds (Matthew 22:37). That guilt needn’t condemn us, mind you, but the Holy Spirit will use it to lovingly lead us to repentance.

Once we repent of regarding our time with the Lord as drudgery, we’re ready to adopt a right perspective on coming into the Lord’s presence. I usually begin with a sense of awe at His holiness. In the back of my mind, I remember Isaiah’s vision of the Lord.

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