Each morning Daddy struggled to put on my leg braces. In an effort to move my leg into position, my muscles would tense to the point of becoming rigid and all but impossible for him to get into the brace. When I explained that I just wanted to help, he’d bellow, “Quit helping me — you’re making it harder!” My seven-year-old mind reeled with confusion and hurt.
Then I’d be at the school for handicapped children, working on an arithmetic problem or an art project. The volunteer assisting me, out of the kindness of her heart (or maybe impatience to get the job done), would do just a little something that I could have done myself. Invariably, Mrs, G. (one of the aides that took care of our physical needs) would see the infraction and give me a big scolding for accepting unnecessary help.
So what was a seven-year-old to do? Should I obey Daddy or Mrs. G.? Was I supposed to relax and let able-bodied adults take over, or was I supposed to do whatever I could? I loved and wanted to please both these adults, and yet carrying over the principles one taught me seemed to violate the principles that the other taught. I tried to be obedient, but it was genuinely difficult to discern how they wanted me to behave.The two scenarios happened repeatedly, and neither adult had the slightest idea that I found their instructions contradictory.
At that age, I hadn’t yet been introduced to the concept of context.
But I am not writing about my childhood angst for the purpose of talking about myself, Rather, I want to use my experience to illustrate the importance of understanding things within their appropriate context. As adults, we chuckle at my childhood dilemma because we see that trying to help Daddy with my braces was vastly different from letting volunteers do things that Mrs. G. knew I needed to do for myself. Context should have shown me how to respond in each situation.
Michelle Lesley and Amy Spreeman host A Word Fitly Spoken, which is definitely my favorite Christian podcast for women. Every episode makes me think Biblically about the topics they cover, even on those rare occasions when I disagree with them. Ladies, even if podcasts aren’t your thing, please make an exception for this program. I promise that the Lord will minister to you through them!
A recent episode particularly challenged me regarding my struggle over how to warn people about false teachers and dangerous “Christian” practices within evangelical circles. The graphic below this paragraph contains a link to the episode in its tittle, and I encourage you to give it a listen.
In this episode, Michelle made the point that, no matter how nicely you try to call out error, people will always accuse you of being snarky, judgmental or hateful. She explained that many of her critics say that they agree with her statements, but object to her tone. When she traces their social media feeds, however, she often discovers that they actually disagree with her! She made the conclusion that they would find fault with her no matter how gently she makes her case.
Obviously, Christians must be as respectful as possible in confronting error. The Bible instructs us to present truth gently and with humility (1 Peter3:15). Being intentionally rude and offensive certainly doesn’t fails to display a Christlike character.
If you’re a mom sending your child off to college, undoubtedly you’re worried about him or her being pressured to abandon Scriptural values in favor of philosophies that seem more enlightened and scientific. If you’re a college student, you may wonder if you’ll be able to withstand the constant assaults on Christianity. Even many Christian schools offer liberal doctrine that draws people away from sound Biblical teaching.
I well understand those concerns. In fact, I believe they’re valid. Even when I went through college in the 1970s, I struggled to maintain my Biblical views in the face of ideological challenges. The second semester of my sophomore year, in particular, caused me tremendous spiritual turmoil when I took both a philosophy class and a psychology class. Thankfully, Paul’s counsel to the Colossians served as my anchor during the semester. As far as I’m concerned, every college student should make Colossians 2:8 her motto.
Several years ago, John and I sat in an adult Sunday School class where the teacher asked if anyone could explain the Gospel. The church heavily emphasized evangelism, and sponsored a food pantry for the specific purpose of sharing the Gospel along with groceries. They also regularly visited a local nursing home as an evangelistic outreach. The wall of that Sunday School classroom sported a poster detailed the Romans Road. And those who had gone through the membership class had been required to share the Gospel with a friend or relative outside the church.
You would think people in that class would be stepping all over each other to answer the teacher’s question.
The silence was awkward, if not embarrassing. Finally someone answered, correctly using 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 as the basis for her response. The teacher expressed his relief that somebody knew the answer, though later he confessed to me his discouragement and frustration over the obvious confusion people exhibited when he asked a question that he assumed each of us could readily answer.
Sometimes I wonder whether or not most evangelicals could explain the Gospel. Frankly, I seriously doubt they could. Popular teachers like Rick Warren, Joel Osteen and Beth Moore have mangled it so badly with false teaching and worldly additives that few professing Christians remember what the Bible says.
I’ve included pages entitled Statement Of Faith and What Is The Gospel, Anyway on this little website, and I pray you’ll look at them once in a while. Before ladies can develop discernment, or even grow in doctrine, we need to understand the Gospel basics.
It doesn’t seem possible that anyone who regularly reads The Outspoken TULIP would need an introduction to Michelle Lesley and her blog. Of all the women bloggers in Reformed circles, she is probably the best known. Celebrity status? Well, not quite. But hardly some obscure housewife with a meager following!
That said, I want to recommend MichelleLesley.com in this concluding article of my series on trustworthy women Bible teachers because she offers Biblical wisdom that few women receive. On the off-chance that you’ve actually never heard of her, I take pleasure in making her blog available to you.
I suspect most people regard Michelle as a discernment blogger because she frequently writes about popular evangelical teachers. In fact, just today she published an article evaluating Jen Wilkin, explaining her reasons for not recommending Wilkin. Over her years of blogging, Michelle has written about several teachers women should avoid. such as Beth Moore, Priscilla Shrier, Lysa TerKeurst and Christine Caine. Michelle makes it clear that she doesn’t have time to research every teacher thoroughly (her primary ministries are to her husband and children), but she definitely documents her findings quite well. Her website includes a list of Popular False Teachers and Unbiblical Trends, as well as a list of Recommended Bible Teachers.
Discernment is only one aspect of Michelle’s online ministry, however. Her overarching goal is to disciple women. She rightly asserts that discernment is just one element of Christian discipleship, not an end in itself. Therefore her blog covers a wide range of subjects, all related to the three umbrella areas of discernment (which I’ve already discussed), church involvement and Bible Study.
In Revelation 2 and 3, the glorified Christ commissions the apostle John to write letters to the seven churches in Asia Minor. As I read these letters earlier this week, the letter to the church at Ephesus grabbed my attention because of its warning to people involved in discernment ministry. Look at the passage with me, and then we’ll talk about some of its application to discernment ministry.
“To the angel of the church in Ephesus write:
The One who holds the seven stars in His right hand, the One who walks among the seven golden lampstands, says this:
2 ‘I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance, and that you cannot tolerate evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false; 3 and you have perseverance and have endured for My name’s sake, and have not grown weary. 4 But I have this against you, that you have left your first love. 5 Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place—unless you repent. 6 Yet this you do have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. 7 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God.’ ~~Revelation 2:1-7 (NASB)
The letter starts by commending the Ephesian church for its discernment. This church was characterized by its doctrinal purity and faithfulness to test false teachers. Verses 2 and 3 describe a church that Christians should emulate. God’s Word repeatedly commands both leaders and laity to stand against those who pervert the Gospel. Consider, for example, Paul’s instructions to Titus:
Quite often, you’ll hear Christians quote the phrase, “speaking the truth in love” (a phrase from Ephesians 4:15), as if it was a fully fledged point of doctrine. Moreover, you’ll hear them emphasize love, almost as if it truth holds little consequence. By implication, love requires us to make truth palatable, even if it means changing truth or covering it up.
In the early 21st Century, love demands that we never hurt someone’s feelings.
And that’s where discernment bloggers (even the legitimate ones) get in trouble. We call out false teachers and/or identify unbiblical practices, trying our best to be charitable. And even when we manage to be charitable enough that some people accuse us of fence sitting, we still have readers calling us self-righteous and arrogant. According to most people, speaking the truth is the antithesis of speaking in love.
Maybe we should look at Ephesians 4:15 in its context to see what the apostle Paul meant.
Every December we sing “Hark, The Herald Angels Sing” with Charlie Brown and the Peanuts gang. The familiar lines slide easily from our mouths — usually so easily that we barely give them serious thought.
“God and sinners reconciled” is one such line. How often do we reflect on the truth that Jesus, Who is God in human flesh, brought reconciliation between us and the Father? For that matter, how often do we reflect on the truth that we actually needed to be reconciled to the Father?
Colossians 1:21-23 helps us understand the necessity of reconciliation, as well as the wonderful effects of that reconciliation. In so doing, it also refutes errors that make people think they can accomplish reconciliation through their own efforts. As a cherry on top, it also assures believers that this reconciliation is permanent. Let’s look at this passage for a moment, and then talk about it.
As Christians, we often wonder how we can please the Lord. And we definitely ought to read Scripture with the expectation of learning how to bring pleasure to Him.
But Scripture also shows us that God has done things for the purpose of pleasing Himself. I don’t think about that idea nearly as much as I should, and I’m not sure many of us do. Thankfully, the two concluding verses of the magnificent passage we’ve been studying these past few weeks adjusts our attention back to to the truth that God does everything with the ultimate goal of pleasing Himself.
For the sake of context, let’s once again look at our passage as a whole before we talk about verses 19 and 20.