In Defense of Offense: Why Christians Need to Stop Worrying About Offending People

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“You’re a liar,” he said dryly, the passion in his eyes gleaming through.

“What?!?! HOW DARE YOU call me a liar!” his fellow church member fumed.

“You’re a liar, Joe. You show up at church for an hour a week and claim to be a Christian, yet you’ve been living with your girlfriend for over a year, you’ve told me you use pornography, and I’ve talked to five different people with incontrovertible evidence that you’ve cheated in your business dealings with them. When you say you’re a Christian, you’re lying. Just admit it.”

Have you ever had a conversation like this with someone? Have you ever witnessed a conversation like this?

Most of us would never dream of calling someone a liar who claims to be a Christian yet walks in disobedience to Christ. Goodness, no! It might offend the person or cause her to question her salvation! She might leave the church or walk away from the faith!

You know who wouldn’t be afraid of offending such a person or causing her to doubt her salvation? Someone who would dream of calling a professed Christian walking in disobedience a liar?

The Holy Spirit – via the Apostle John – that’s who.

Whoever says “I know him [Jesus]” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he [Jesus] walked.
1 John 2:4-6

Take a moment and let that really sink in. People who claim to be Christians yet habitually and unrepentantly make a practice of sinning are not saved.

To the Holy Spirit and John that’s as plain and simple and uncontroversial as saying, “The sky is blue, and water’s wet.” But to a false convert, them’s fightin’ words.

And we know it.

So we refrain from lovingly speaking hard, biblical truths to people who need to hear them, usually for one of a handful of reasons:

• We don’t want this person’s wrath aimed at us because it’s a hassle or because we don’t want to lose the relationship with her.

• We don’t actually believe the Bible and trust God’s sovereignty. We’d rather lean on our own understanding, desperately clinging to the irrational hope that this person is truly a Christian who’s hanging by a thread, and we don’t want to be the one responsible for saying anything that might clip that thread.

• We’re worried about how we’ll look to others and that they’ll accuse us of being unloving, unchristlike, and harming the unity of the church.

What do those reasons have in common?

Me. Me me me me me me me.

I want to keep my relationship with this person in tact. I don’t want others to blame me for this person’s reaction to biblical truth or call me unloving or divisive. I don’t want to deal with the aggravation of this person’s emotional blow up.

It’s not exactly the greater love of laying down one’s life for a friend, is it? We’re not even willing to lay down our comfort or our reputation in order to tell someone her walk doesn’t match her talk and call her to repentance. Is that love at all, or is it just plain, old fashioned selfishness? We bow and scrape at the idol of not hurting other people’s feelings while those people careen down the road paved with our good intentions straight toward the gates of Hell. How is that love? 

Love is valuing, and acting on, what is best for another person over and above our own self interests. You know, kind of like Jesus did during His life, death, and resurrection:

By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.
1 John 3:16

You know, it’s interesting that the Holy Spirit speaks a lot of hard, “you’re not saved if…” truths in a book (1 John) whose purpose is to give true Christians assurance of their salvation. The Third Person of the Trinity – the embodiment of perfect love – doesn’t seem to think it’s unloving to tell false converts they aren’t saved, while at the same time reassuring young, shaky-kneed saints.

But us? We can’t seem to get our act together and do both from a heart of love the way the Holy Spirit does.

We’ve focused so much attention on reassuring anyone who claims the label “Christian” of their eternal security that we’ve lost sight of the fact that there are a great many false converts in our midst who should be questioning their salvation. The gate is wide that leads to destruction, Jesus said. It is the narrow gate that leads to life, and few are those who find it. Test yourself to see if you’re in the faith. How will they know these things if we don’t tell them?

The Bible has hard, sharp edges. It’s a sword, for crying out loud, not a feather duster. The primary purpose of a sword is to cut.

The gospel divides. Jesus – the creator of Christian unity – said, “I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.” Jesus – perfectly kind, perfectly loving Jesus – called those claiming to be God’s people yet walking in disobedience hypocrites, vipers, and sons of the Devil. Jesus – the Jesus who was more compassionately evangelistic than we could ever hope to be – didn’t beg, plead, or hand-wringingly water down Kingdom requirements so the rich young ruler would keep a toe in the door of God’s house. Jesus held high the standard of the gospel and let him walk away. Jesus wasn’t a nerdy little wimp offering people a cheap plastic heavenly trinket if they would only be His friend. This almighty King demanded perfection, the highest love, loyalty unto death. And, by the way, you’d better count the cost before deciding to follow Him. Jesus wasn’t worried about offending people with biblical truth.

We need to stop worrying that the Bible is going to offend people who need to be offended by its demands, requirements, and judgments so that they might repent and be reconciled to Christ. Whether it’s a sinner in need of a Savior or a saint in need of sanctification, the ministry of reconciliation Christ has called us to begins with confronting sin.

Every person we would potentially approach with biblical truth is either saved or lost.

If a person is genuinely one of Christ’s sheep, she will hear the voice of her Shepherd calling to her from the truths of His Word, turn from her sin, and follow Him. It may take time. It may take help. It may take teaching and many tears. But sheep love the Shepherd and follow Him. They grow toward Him, not away from Him.

If a person is lost, she isn’t going to get any “loster” when you biblically call her to repentance. Lost is lost, even if that lost person claims to be, or thinks she is, a Christian. There’s no such thing as a genuinely regenerated Christian who’s just barely hanging on to Jesus by her fingernails and you come along and push her out of the faith by confronting her sin with biblical truth. Uh uh. If she abandons Christ in favor of her sin, she was never saved in the first place, I don’t care what she claims to the contrary.

All of this nonsense floating around these days about “de-converting” from Christianity, or “I used to be a real, genuine, bona fide Christian, but I’m not anymore.” Hogwash and poppycock. The Bible says if you leave the body of Christ, you were never a member of it to begin with. That God is greater than all (including you) and no one (not even yourself) is able to snatch you out of His hand if you belong to Him. That those who are saved will endure to the end. That Jesus will not lose a single one of those the Father has entrusted to Him. Dare we believe the words of sinners about themselves over what the Word of God says about them? No matter what you say or do, you don’t have the power to be responsible for someone leaving the faith. Whatever circumstance or person they might use as a scapegoat, people “leave” Christianity because they don’t know or love Christ and they’ve gotten tired of pretending like they do.

The people we love enough to lovingly, yet firmly, speak hard biblical truths to are either Christians who will come to love and embrace those truths (and love us for caring enough to speak them), or they’re lost or false converts who need to be confronted with the mirror of God’s Word so they can face up to the fact that they’re lost. Where the Bible speaks plainly and definitively, we must not be ashamed of the gospel and shrink from speaking plainly and definitively in agreement with it.

Stop being afraid of offending people by speaking hard, biblical truths. Sometimes the most loving thing you can do for someone is offend her.

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Throwback Thursday ~ Of Mega-Blogs and Molotov Cocktails

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Originally published January 30, 2014megablogs molotov

I Look Down on Young Women With Husbands and Kids, and I’m Not screaming-womanSorry, screamed the headline. Quite an attention grabber. It certainly grabbed mine. So, of course, I read the article.

It was brash. Extremist. Rude. Rather one dimensional and completely devoid of nuance. And it made me mad, too, since I used to be a young woman with a husband and kids. (“Used to be,” as in, I still have the husband and kids and I’m still a woman, but “young” would be a stretch at this point.)

I was all set to write a blog post in response about the value of wifing, mothering, and working outside the home. You know, whatever God has called you to. So as prep for my article, I read the article again. And again.

And, like a toddler yanking at the hem of my skirt to get my attention, an epiphany pushed and shoved its way into my consciousness.

It wasn’t real.

Or maybe I should say: I suspect it wasn’t 100% sincere.

Have you ever visited a mega-blog like Buzzfeed or Mashable? They churn out tons of cheap content every day, glasscandy-532959which means lots of hits on their web sites and lots of posts that go viral, which means lots of money from advertisers. (Nothing wrong with that, but it’s usually not terribly deep stuff. Sometimes people want a little mind candy, and that’s OK.)

Guess what? Lots of people want a piece of that pie and it’s easier to copycat than to innovate, so there are lots of other upstarts out there trying to become the next mega-blog. Like Thought Catalog, which published the aforementioned article on young women with husbands and kids.

As they say, there’s no such thing as bad publicity, and in a PR move that would make even Miley Cyrus chartreuse with envy, Thought Catalog threw out a Molotov cocktail of an article, stood back, and watched the crowd gather. Nearly a quarter of a million shares on Facebook. Almost 2000 re-tweets. Over 11,000 comments. From a PR standpoint, there’s pretty much no choice but to admire them.

Is Amy Glass, the author of the article, a real person? Maybe she is, or maybe it’s a pseudonym for someone who works for Thought Catalog as a content writer. If she’s a real person, are these her genuine thoughts and feelings, or did she throw in a hearty dose of hyperbole to push her readers into clicking, tweeting, sharing, pingback-ing, and writing response articles?

I don’t know.

There’s a lot of deception going on out there these days (I’m not saying Thought Catalog is being deceptive. Honestly, I haven’t poked around over there enough to know.) and it’s not just “out there.” It’s inside the walls of the church, as well.

joel_osteen-false_prophetThere are plenty of “Buzzfeed” pastors, leaders, and Christian authors who are throwing out cheap content and bombshells…

…2014 is going to be the year God turns everything around for you!
…Just say what you want! If you can say it, you can have it!
…God wants you to achieve all your dreams, so reach for the stars!

Joyce-MeyerThe glass breaks, the flames fly, and the crowd gathers. Their churches are overflowing with people. Their books become best sellers. They’re invited to speak at all the big conferences. And when the little guys start copying them and their methods, they know they’ve arrived.

But are they telling you the truth? And if you’re one of their devotees, how do you know whether or not they’re telling you the truth? Do you even want to know, or are you just happy with being entertained or being told what you want to hear?

There’s a way to find out. Get your Bible out and study it. Don’t just give it a surface reading– do the work and dig. Use the brain God gave you and pursue the knowledge of His word. Ask Him to open your eyes to understand the truth of Scripture. Love God with your mind, not just your emotions. Don’t be deceived.

Because they hated knowledge
and did not choose the fear of the Lord,
would have none of my counsel
and despised all my reproof,
therefore they shall eat the fruit of their way,
and have their fill of their own devices.
For the simple are killed by their turning away,
and the complacency of fools destroys them;
but whoever listens to me will dwell secure
and will be at ease, without dread of disaster.
Proverbs 1:29-33

Imperishable Beauty: Lesson 12- Beautiful Motherhood

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Previous Lessons: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11

Read These Selected Scriptures

In lesson 11, we looked at God’s design for women who are wives. Lesson 12 focuses on the beauty of being a godly mother.

Questions to Consider

1. In lessons 2 and 3 (links above) we took a look at some of the attributes of a godly mother that we can emulate. What are some of those attributes or character traits from Proverbs 31? In today’s lesson, rather than attributes to emulate, we’ll be focusing on God’s instructions to obey for mothers. We’ll examine how we’re to regard motherhood and our children, how we’re to train our children in godliness, how we’re to discipline our children out of ungodliness, and the example we’re to set for our children. Some of these instructions can also apply to childless women in their relationships with their spiritual children (i.e. younger women or children they disciple) and others. As you read over today’s passages, explain how childless women might apply some of these Scriptures.

2. Examine the first three passages (Psalm 127-Titus 2) together. What do these passages say about how we are to regard motherhood and our children? What should the attitude of our hearts be? In what sense are children a reward? How do we know that Psalm 127:3 does not mean that if you act in a way that pleases the Lord He will reward your good behavior with children? What does this verse mean? Is loving your children (Titus 2:4) simply a feeling of affection toward them? If so, why would young women need to be trained to love their children? When you finish today’s lesson, come back to Titus 2:4 and give a fully-orbed biblical definition of what it means to love your children.

3. Examine the next five passages (Proverbs 22-Ephesians 6) together. Why does God want us to train our children in godliness? Explain the phrase “in the way he should go” (Proverbs 22:6). How does the gospel figure in to training your child? Look carefully at the three Old Testament passages. At what age should we begin training our children in godliness and the Scriptures and how long should this training continue? Is Proverbs 22:6 an iron-clad guarantee or promise from God that if we raise our children in a godly home they will definitely get saved and turn out to be godly adults? Why not? (Scroll down to the Deuteronomy 21 passage if you need help.)

To whom are the Colossians and Ephesians verses addressed? Does this mean they don’t apply to mothers or that it’s OK for mothers to provoke their children, but not fathers? If they apply to both parents, why are they addressed to fathers? How are we not to deal with our children according to these verses? What does it mean to provoke your children? Why are we not to provoke them (Colossians), and how are we to deal with them instead (Ephesians)? Compare Ephesians 6:4b to the Old Testament verses in this section. How are they similar?

3. Examine the next three passages (Proverbs 29-Deuteronomy 21) together. What is the purpose of godly discipline? What are the biblical definitions of the words “discipline” and “reproof”? Are discipline, reproof, and training the same as punishment? Why or why not? What are some of the consequences of disciplining your child? The consequences of refusing to discipline your child? According to Proverbs 13:24, what motivates someone to discipline her child? What motivates someone to refuse to discipline her child? Are “love” and “hate” simply emotional feelings in this verse or an attitude, posture, or orientation of mindset toward the child? Look closely at Deuteronomy 21:20. Is this passage most likely talking about a very young child or an older child/teenager? According to the Deuteronomy 21 passage, does godly discipline always result in an obedient son or daughter, or can there be exceptions to the rule?

Why is it important to both train your child in godly ways and discipline him out of ungodly ways? Explain how this fits into the “put off the ungodly, put on the godlymodel of biblical sanctification.

4. Examine the last five passages (Deuteronomy 21-Matthew 10) together. What do these passages teach us about the godly example we need to set for our children?

Sometimes we see implicit instructions to parents in passages that explicitly teach children how to treat and regard their parents. For example, if there were a verse that said, “Children, love your parents,” we could learn from that verse that we need to act in a way (lovable) that makes it easier for our children to obey that Scripture. Considering this concept, look at the Exodus 20 and Proverbs 1 passages. If your children are to honor you, in what manner should you behave? What should your teaching be like if your children are not to forsake it and to consider it a “graceful garland” and a “pendant”?

What is the context of Ezekiel 16? To whom is the parent/child metaphor in this  passage addressed? Explain the phrase “like mother, like daughter”. Why is it important to set a good example for our children with our own behavior, and why was this a good metaphor for God to use in addressing Israel’s unfaithfulness to Him?

Examine the Deuteronomy 21 and Matthew 10 passages together. What is to be a mother’s highest priority – her relationship with her child, even the life of her child, or her love for, obedience to, and loyalty to Christ? Do you love Christ more than your child? If you had to choose between your child and Christ, whom would you choose? What message does it send to our children when we show and tell them that we love Christ more than we love them? How can you demonstrate to your child that your highest love and loyalty is reserved for Christ?


If you’d like to discuss this lesson with other women who are participating in the study, join our  Imperishable Beauty Bible Study Discussion Group on Facebook.


Homework

Examine each of the instructions in Deuteronomy 6:6-9. Make a list of practical ways your family could put each of these instructions into practice and discuss it with your husband. Together, pick one of these practices and implement it with your children this week.


Suggested Memory Verse

Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.
Matthew 10:37

Favorite Finds ~ January 14, 2019

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Here are a few of my favorite recent online finds…

It’s a few years old, but this excellent episode of the Issues, Etc. radio show: This Week in Pop-American Christianity: Priscilla Shirer on Hearing the Voice of God recently came across my news feed. Many false teachers (in this case, Priscilla Shirer) twist or misunderstand John 10 to mean that, if you’re a Christian, God will speak to you audibly. That’s not what it means, as anyone who takes the time to read the passage in context can attest. Pastor and podcaster Chris Rosebrough explains simply, carefully, and biblically, why this teaching is wrong and what John 10 actually means.

 

“I get dozens of emails each month from parents whose teens are leaving the church or being swept away by a false version of Jesus and the gospel…In this list I’ve compiled ten critical topics for the modern teen.” Great for youth directors and parents of teens, but the adults in your church probably need to read this too. Check out Ten Theological Topics for Parents of Modern Teens by our friend Costi Hinn on his blog, For the Gospel.

 

Pornography is usually addressed as a “men’s problem”, but, increasingly, women are succumbing to this insidious temptation. Stephanie offers pastors three suggestions (these would be helpful for anyone) for counseling and discipling women who participate in the sin of pornography in her 9Marks article Helping Women Who Struggle with Pornography.

 

Thoroughly and knowledgeably written by Denny Burk (head of CBMW), What Does It Mean That Women Should “Remain Quiet” in Church? (1 Timothy 2) from Crossway is one of the best commentaries I’ve ever read on 1 Timothy 2:11-14. I’ve added it as a resource to my own article on that passage: Rock Your Role: Jill in the Pulpit.

 

Fasting mirrors the hunger we should have for Christ. Do Christians Fast Because Food and Drink Are Bad? from Crossway explains more.

The Mailbag: Do You Recommend Angie Smith (“Seamless”)?

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If you are considering commenting or sending me an e-mail objecting to the fact that I warn against false teachers, please click here and read this article first. Your objection is most likely answered here. I won’t be publishing comments or answering emails that are answered by this article.

mailbag

I get lots of questions about particular authors, pastors, and Bible teachers, and whether or not I recommend them. Some of the best known can be found above at my Popular False Teachers tab.

Generally speaking, in order for me to recommend a teacher, speaker, or author, he or she has to meet three criteria:

a) A female teacher cannot currently and unrepentantly preach to or teach men in violation of 1 Timothy 2:12. A male teacher or pastor cannot allow women to carry out this violation of Scripture in his ministry. The pastor or teacher cannot currently and unrepentantly be living in any other sin (for example, cohabiting with her boyfriend or living as a homosexual).

b) The pastor or teacher cannot currently and unrepentantly be partnering with or frequently appearing with false teachers. This is a violation of Scripture.

c) The pastor or teacher cannot currently and unrepentantly be teaching false doctrine.

Just to be clear, “not recommended” is a spectrum. On one end of this spectrum are people like Nancy Leigh DeMoss Wolgemuth and Kay Arthur. These are people I would not label as false teachers because their doctrine is generally sound, but because of some red flags I’m seeing with them, you won’t find me proactively endorsing them or suggesting them as a good resource, either. There are better people you could be listening to. On the other end of the spectrum are people like Joyce Meyer and Rachel Held Evans- complete heretics whose teachings, if believed, might lead you to an eternity in Hell. Most of the teachers I review fall somewhere in the middle of this spectrum (leaning toward the latter).

 

Angie Smith– Not recommended. Wife of Todd Smith of the Christian music group, Selah, Angie started out as a blogger, then blossomed into a Christian author and speaker. Her best known book to date is a women’s study: Seamless: Understanding the Bible as One Complete Story. 

While all of Angie’s currently scheduled speaking engagements appear to be for women’s events, she has preached at least one Sunday morning sermon (to a congregation of men and women)- at Cross Point Church.

Angie is on the leadership team of Jennie Allen’s IF:Gathering conference (along with false teachers Jen Hatmaker, Ann VoskampRebekah Lyons, Bianca Olthoff, and Christine Caine), has been a featured speaker at IF several times, and is scheduled to speak again at IF:Gathering 2019. Angie’s first speaking engagement of 2019 is at a Methodist “church” at which nearly all the ministerial staff are women, including the senior and associate “pastors”. She’s speaking at three Women of Joy conferences alongside false teachers Sheila Walsh and Lisa Harper. Angie partnered with Lysa TerKeurst to offer an online version of her study, Seamless, through the Proverbs 31 website. Angie partnered with Christine Caine for the Women of Faith Conference, and has appeared on Priscilla Shirer’s The Chat.

It’s humorously played up, but Angie’s devotion to Beth Moore is a bit over the top. She calls herself “a little bit of a crazy stalker fan supporter of Beth Moore” and says her “favorite Bible teachers are Beth Moore and Priscilla Shirer,” adding, “I’m pretty sure they will both have special chairs very near to Jesus in heaven,” and “I have a little area of my house devoted to Beth Moore. Okay, that’s a lie too, but if it wasn’t idol worship, I probably would. At least a little candle or something? framed pictures? A life-sized cardboard cutout? Such a delicate balance between admiration and a restraining order…”

Space doesn’t permit me to list all the times Angie has partnered with false teachers nor all the false teachers she has partnered with. As I’ve previously mentioned, not only does surrounding yourself with false teachers influence your doctrine, it is impossible to be endorsed by so many false teachers unless your doctrine is acceptable to them, and they do not put up with sound doctrine.


The comments section on this article is closed because I am going merge the information above into my article The Mailbag: Do you recommend these teachers/authors? Volume 2 and then delete the post you’ve just read within the next week or so. If you would like to comment on the information about Angie, please click the link and comment at that article.

If you’d like to link to the information about Angie, the “Volume 2” article link will be the best link to use.

6 Ways Your Credibility is Crushed When You Defend a False Teacher

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It’s so predictable it would be almost comical if it weren’t so wearisome and worrisome. Every time I write an article about a false teacher or mention on social media that someone is a false teacher, her disciples come out of the woodwork to defend her.

And every time, their arguments and defenses are formulaic. In fact, I wrote my article Answering the Opposition- Responses to the Most Frequently Raised Discernment Objections primarily because I was getting the same comments again and again and it was getting cumbersome to keep repeating the same answers again and again.

Not only are the same arguments raised repeatedly, but they’re raised in the same ways, ways which leave the person who’s making the argument without a shred of credibility. And if you want your argument to be believed, the first thing you’ve got to be is credible.

Lawyers know this. That’s why, when they select witnesses to testify in their cases, they prefer to choose people who are morally credible and/or factually credible. A morally credible witness is someone who’s likely to be believed based mainly on her reputation as an honest, upstanding person. A nun. A judge. A sweet little church-going grandma. A factually credible witness’ personal reputation might not even be at issue. She’s someone who’s believable because of the airtight factual information she’s able to present. Maybe she’s an expert in the field in question, or she’s in possession of receipts or videos or some other form of tangible irrefutable evidence.

When it comes to biblical doctrine and apologetics, there is only one witness who is morally and factually credible: God. You and I don’t have a moral leg to stand on because we’re sinners, so we can’t expect others to take our word for it in doctrinal debates simply because we’re such swell gals. And as far as the facts and truths of Christianity go, God is the ultimate expert witness, because He is the Author of those facts and truths.

So when we’re engaged in a discussion about what is Christian and what is not, our only feasible and credible position is to put God’s written Word – His testimony – center stage, stand off to the side, point a finger at it, and declare, “Thus saith the Lord.” It’s an open and shut case.

But people who defend false teachers can’t do that because if they did, they would be agreeing with God that the person they’re defending is a false teacher. So they offer their own testimony in other ways. And that’s where the wheels fall off – of their arguments and their credibility. Here are six ways your credibility can be crushed when you’re defending a false teacher.

1.
Rejecting the Authority of Scripture

This is a very real, serious, and pervasive problem among many professing Christians today. You’re fine with obeying Scripture – right up to the point where it disagrees with you or interferes with something you want to do. That’s not obedience, and that’s not Christianity. That’s the religion of you: you being your supreme authority, the lord of your life, the arbiter of what’s right and wrong.

Christianity is about surrendering everything about yourself to Christ and doing what He says to do in every circumstance. If He says, “Go,” you go. If He says, “Don’t,” you don’t. If He says, “Jump,” you say, “How high?”, and then you jump. You don’t call the shots. He does. You don’t get to have opinions and preferences that differ from His.

It’s clear that you’re not submitting to the authority of Scripture when you’re presented with, for example, 1 Timothy 2:12, and video evidence of your favorite teacher violating that Scripture, and your retort is, “But that’s the only place the Bible says that!”. (It’s not, but even if it were, how many times do you demand that God must say something before you’ll believe or obey it? Two? Seventeen? Ninety-three?) Or you attempt brush that Scripture aside as, “That was only an instruction for that particular time and culture,” when verses 13-14 make clear that it’s not.

Once again, you are in the driver’s seat, not God and His Word. You have no moral or factual credibility of your own. Why should someone believe you over God?

2.
Failing to Argue from Scripture

When someone says to you, “Scripture says X. Your favorite teacher says Y on page 252 of her book,” you can’t defend her by saying, “You’re just a mean old doody head!” or “But she’s so nice and she’s had such a positive influence on my life!”. It would be just as effective to say, “But she’s from Montana!” or “She flosses her teeth so nicely!” So what?

Maybe I am a mean old doody head. Maybe I’m not. Maybe she has had some positive influence on your life, or maybe you only think she has because your definition of “positive influence” is your definition, not God’s. That’s not the issue. The only issue is whether or not she is walking blamelessly and teaching what accords with sound doctrine as measured by rightly handled, in context Scripture. And to argue that she is, you have to get into your Bible, study it, and present your case from God’s written Word. In other words, the fact that you like her or she’s nice doesn’t prove that what she’s teaching is biblical. And arguing those things as though they do shows that you either don’t know or don’t care what the issue is; what you care most about is your personal feelings and preferences – not a strong argument for believing anything you have to say about her being a good teacher.

3.
Mishandling Scripture

I appreciate it when people at least try to defend a teacher or doctrine by using Scripture. I really do. If nothing else, it shows you know that teachers and doctrine are supposed to be in alignment with Scripture and that Scripture is our authority as Christians. And those are two very important biblical concepts.

But when you attempt to defend a teacher with Scripture and it’s obvious you don’t understand the passage, have taken it out of context, or are twisting it, you’re making my argument for me that you should not be sitting under that teacher. Because if she were as great of a Bible teacher as you say, and you’ve learned so much from her, you wouldn’t be mangling God’s Word. She would have taught you how to handle it properly.

It’s hard for me to believe your argument when you’re making mine for me.

4.
Lying, or Denying Reality

I’m not sure which one is worse when it comes to defending false teachers. Increasingly, I will mention that, for example, Priscilla Shirer is a false teacher, and one of her followers will pipe up and demand that I provide evidence to back up this assertion. I provide this article, which contains copious amounts of both Scripture and video, audio, and text evidence of how Priscilla violates these Scriptures. The person then comes back and brazenly says I have provided no evidence and no Scripture. Not that she disagrees with the Scripture and the evidence I’ve presented, but that it isn’t there.

I guess I shouldn’t be so dumbfounded that this keeps happening, but I am. Because when you make a statement like that, there are only two possibilities: a) you’re lying – saying you’ve read the article when you haven’t, or b) you are denying the existence of something that’s in black and white in front of your own eyes. I’m not really sure how to handle that in Christian apologetics. If you’re clearly lying, you’re not believable, and there’s no common ground for reasoning and discussion. And if you’re denying reality – well, when I was getting my degree in psychology, we were taught that you needed to be medicated. All I can say is that neither speaks in favor of your credibility.

5.
Displaying the Fruit of the Flesh

We all know what the fruit of the Spirit is: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. But frequently, people (who profess to be Christians) do not present their defense of a false teacher with an accompanying display of that fruit. Quite the opposite, in fact. Their argument is presented in hatred, anger, bitterness, fear, unkindness, impatience, harshness, and with wanton abandon. We’re not talking a polite disagreement, here. We’re talking name-calling, profanity, threats, and verbal evisceration. From people who claim to be Christians. In defense of someone they don’t even know personally.

When you act that way, I’m hard put to even believe you’re a Christian, much less that you have a valid, biblical argument, or that this teacher is doing a bang up job of teaching you the Bible so you can be conformed to the image of Christ.

6.
The Bible Doesn’t Back You Up

This is the most significant reason people who claim to be Christians yet defend false teachers lack credibility. The Bible doesn’t find them credible either.

Take a moment and read John 9:1-10:31 (I know it’s long, but you need the context.) This passage is about knowing and following Christ (not, as so many false teachers like to claim, that if you’re a Christian you’ll be able to hear God speaking to you audibly). “Thieves”, “robbers” (10:1), “strangers” (10:5), and “wolves” (10:12) are all false teachers who do not enter the sheepfold by the door (Jesus – 10:1,7) but sneak in some other way. Jesus is very clear in this passage that if you’re truly His sheep, you will follow only Him, not a false teacher:

A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers. (10:5) … All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. (10:8) … I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, (10:14) … but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. (10:26-27)

First Corinthians 2:14 says that if you’re not saved, you won’t be able to understand the true, biblical things of God. The will seem like foolishness to you and you will reject them:

The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.

In other words, Jesus says that following and defending false teachers doesn’t match your claim to be one of His sheep (a Christian). And rejecting incontrovertible biblical truth because you consider it to be foolishness is a symptom of someone who isn’t saved. Either you’re a genuinely born again Christian who embraces biblical teaching and rejects false teachers or you embrace false teachers and reject biblical teaching because you’ve never truly been born again. The Bible says you can’t do both at the same time.

 

God has made things pretty simple for us. He has given us His written Word as the standard for our beliefs and practices. All we have to do is hold it up, like a yardstick, next to every doctrine and teacher who comes our way and throw out anyone and anything that doesn’t measure up. It’s when professing Christians try to use another standard or fudge the measurements that problems arise. Credibility lies with those who believe and hold high the standard of God’s written Word – not because of anything within themselves, but because they stand behind and glorify the Author of truth.

Throwback Thursday ~ Clinging to the Golden Calf: 7 Godly Responses When Someone Says You’re Following a False Teacher

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 Originally published January 16, 2015

false teacherEver heard of Jeroboam? If you’ve read your Old Testament, the name probably rings a bell, but, let’s face it, it’s hard to keep all those Jeroboams, Rehoboams, Ahinoams, and Abinoams straight, right? Well, let’s read a little bit about Jeroboam:

And Jeroboam said in his heart, “Now the kingdom will turn back to the house of David. 27 If this people go up to offer sacrifices in the temple of the Lord at Jerusalem, then the heart of this people will turn again to their lord, to Rehoboam king of Judah, and they will kill me and return to Rehoboam king of Judah.” 28 So the king took counsel and made two calves of gold. And he said to the people, “You have gone up to Jerusalem long enough. Behold your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.” 29 And he set one in Bethel, and the other he put in Dan. 30 Then this thing became a sin, for the people went as far as Dan to be before one. 31 He also made temples on high places and appointed priests from among all the people, who were not of the Levites. 32 And Jeroboam appointed a feast on the fifteenth day of the eighth month like the feast that was in Judah, and he offered sacrifices on the altar. 1 Kings 12:26-32a

The Kingdom of Israel had just split into the southern kingdom of Judah and the Northern kingdom of Israel. Jerusalem, where the temple is located, is in Judah. Jeroboam (king of Israel) figures that if his people continue traveling to Jerusalem for feasts and sacrifices, they will eventually turn their loyalty back to the the kingly lineage of David (aka: Judah, 26-27) and he’ll lose both his kingdom and his head. So, in order to keep the people inside the borders of Israel and control them, he makes a couple of golden calves (which somebody should have remembered turned out badly the last time that was tried {Exodus 32}) for them to worship at either of two convenient locations, Bethel, in the southern part of Israel, and Dan in the northern part. Jeroboam, leading the way, had the Israelites simply transfer their feasts and sacrifices that they would have offered to God to these golden calves. It’s a fascinating story that you can read more about here if you’re interested.

So why am I going on and on about Jeroboam?

Because Jeroboam’s story is so similar to something that is happening in the visible church today. He was a well known personality who led God’s people to worship an idol which he told them was God. And God’s people went along with it, transferring their worship from the one true God to the golden calf called “God.”

There are a ton of Jeroboams out there today. Some of you reading this might be following one of them and worshiping the idol their false theology tells you is the God of the Bible. And in the same way that a man of God came along and rebuked Jeroboam for his blasphemy, a man or woman of God might come along and call out the Christian celebrity you’re following, or take you aside -out of love and concern- and let you know that person is a false teacher.

I hope you won’t respond like Jeroboam did. He was so angry, he tried to kill the prophet. But sadly, I have seen this type of response (at least verbally) many times, especially from women, when faced with the fact that their favorite Bible teacher or author is preaching a false gospel.

So, what’s a godly way to respond when someone tells you you’re following a false teacher?

1. Consider the source and Listen.

If you know the person who’s telling you this, think about her godliness and character. Is she generally a godly person? Does she know her Bible well? Does she show love and concern for others? Is she trustworthy? A godly person of good character has no reason to toss out wild and unfounded accusations, especially if you’re her friend and it might offend you. In fact, she’s probably scared to tell you.

But even if it’s a stranger on a blog saying Celebrity Bible Woman is a false teacher, hear her out and make sure you understand what the issues are. Remember, what she’s saying might be true, but you’ll never know if you immediately write her off.

2. Listen for content, not tone.

There are some discerning people out there who will bring you flowers and candy and hold your hand as they gently tell you the person you’re following is a false teacher, and then there are discerning people whose tone or manner might rub you the wrong way as they’re delivering the news. Don’t let the way something is said turn you off to the content of what is being said. Don’t sacrifice truth on the altar of tone.

3. Keep your emotions in check.

It’s tempting to let our feelings take charge when we’re receiving bad news, but you aren’t going to be able to evaluate the content of what the person is saying if you’re consumed by rage or hurt. It might help to remind yourself of your relationship to the teacher/author in question. Do you even know her personally? It’s not like someone is leveling accusations against your child, spouse, or best friend. Put your emotions aside and let reason and clear thinking rule the day.

4. Don’t blindly believe the messenger.

You don’t have to -nor should you- believe everything you hear just because it quotes a Bible verse or wraps itself in the label “Christian”. That applies to both the person who tells you you’re following a false teacher and the alleged false teacher herself. Listen carefully to what the person has to say, make sure you understand it, then get out your Bible and get to work. Are the issues the person has raised biblical? What does God’s word have to say about these issues? Is the person you’re following violating Scripture? If so, choose to stop following the false teacher because the Bible -not a person- tells you to do so. People are fallible. God’s word is not.

5. Don’t shoot the messenger.

It’s been my experience that women who are loyal devotees of false teachers can be some of the most vicious people in the world if you dare to question their idol. I have had women verbally rip me to shreds, threaten me, call me names, accuse me of “judging,” and tell me I’m what’s wrong with Christianity for politely pointing out from Scripture that someone is teaching false doctrine. Ladies, we give Christian women as a whole a bad name when we act like that. More importantly, that kind of behavior is a reproach to Christ, and never appropriate for someone who calls herself a Christian.

6. Defend from Scripture, not opinion, emotion, or personal preferences.

It is downright embarrassing when a person is shown that Celebrity Bible Woman is violating a certain Scripture, and her only argument is, “But I just LOVE her! She’s such a great teacher and helps me understand the Bible so well!” If it were really true that Celebrity Bible Woman is such a great Bible teacher, her followers ought to be able to  prove -from Scripture- that what Celebrity Bible Woman is doing and teaching isn’t unbiblical. The bottom line is that Scripture is our ultimate authority, not our opinions, not our personal preferences, not how much we love a certain teacher. For a Christian, if something comes up against the Bible, the Bible wins. Period. So, if you’re going to defend Celebrity Bible Woman, defend her from Scripture. And if you can’t, why are you still following her?

7. Love Christ more than you love your favorite teacher.

If someone shows you from Scripture that your favorite teacher, author, or pastor is teaching false doctrine and you ignore that warning because you are so enamored with that teacher, then what you’re saying is that you love that teacher more than you love Christ and His word. Jesus said:

Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. Matthew 10:37

Your parents. Your children. They’re the people you love most in the world. If Jesus says you can’t love them more than you love Him, do you think it’s going to be OK with Him if you love your favorite Bible teacher more than you love Him? It’s not. Love Christ above all else, and cut that false teacher out of your life.

 

It can be difficult to hear that you’re following a false teacher. You like her. She makes you feel good. You think you’re doing great in your walk with the Lord. It’s hard to give all that up. But we must be careful that we never put our feelings for a person above Christ and His word. If someone tells you you’re following a false teacher, don’t brush her off or attack her. She’s most likely coming to you out of love and concern for you and for the body of Christ. Check out what she’s saying against the Bible. And if she turns out to be right, stop following that false teacher and thank her. Because a person who rescues you from an enemy of Christ is truly your friend.


Check out my friend Pamela’s great article on this same topic called The Christian Woman’s Guide to Conversing with Bereans.

Imperishable Beauty: Lesson 11- A Beautiful Wife

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Previous Lessons: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10

Read These Selected Scriptures

Lesson 10 focused on our role as godly daughters. In lesson 11, we’ll be examining God’s design for women who are wives.

Questions to Consider

1. In lessons 2 and 3 (links above) we took a look at some of the attributes of a godly wife that we can emulate. Because Proverbs 31 mainly zeroes in on godly character, most of that passage easily applied to most women regardless of marital status. In today’s lesson, rather than attributes to emulate, we’ll be focusing on God’s instructions to obey for wives. Some of these instructions can also apply to unmarried women. Read over today’s passages and explain how unmarried women might apply some of these Scriptures. Why is it important for unmarried women to study passages about married women and vice versa?

2. Examine the Genesis 2 passage. What are the main points God is making about wives and marriage in this passage? What word does this passage use (18,20) to encapsulate a woman’s role in marriage? What does it mean for a woman to be a helper “fit for” or “corresponding to” her husband? Whom did God create first, man or woman? Second? Whom did God create to be the helper, man or woman? How do these two things point to and undergird male headship in marriage? Does the Genesis passage mean that all women have to marry or that the only purpose for which women were created was to be wives?

3. Look at the Ephesians and Colossians passages together. Explain how the relationship between husband and wife is a picture of the relationship between Christ and His church. Write a character sketch of a godly husband and a character sketch of a godly wife according to these passages. Why does God instruct husbands to “love” their wives, but wives to “respect” their husbands? (33) What is the difference, and why doesn’t God give the same instruction to husbands as to wives? What should motivate a wife to submit to her husband? Pretend you are discipling a newly married, newly saved woman who has never read these passages. How would you explain biblical submission to her? How is it “fitting in the Lord” (3:18) to submit to your husband?

4. Study the 1 Peter passage. In verse 1, what is the spiritual state (lost or saved?) of the wives Peter is addressing? The husbands? Imagine Peter wrote this part of his letter to answer a question he had been asked by some of the women of the church. What was the question they asked? Carefully examine the end of verse 1. Does this mean a wife should never share the gospel with her unsaved husband and that he can be saved simply by watching her good behavior? What does it mean? How is biblical submission an aspect of holiness? (5) Some women believe they only have to submit to their husbands if their husbands are saved or if their husbands are acting in a godly way. How does this passage answer that misconception?

What does “adorning” (3-4) mean? Why and how do women usually adorn themselves? How are godly women to adorn themselves? For whom? Why? Explain external adorning versus internal adorning. Which do you think is more winsome to your husband? Compare 3-4 with 1 Samuel 16:1-13. Which is more important to God, the external or internal? Why?

Explain what it means to have a “gentle and quiet spirit“. (4) Can a woman with an outgoing, vivacious personality still have a gentle and quiet spirit? How? How is your spirit different from your personality? How should a godly spirit inform a godly personality? Explain why a gentle and quiet spirit is beautiful and how that beauty is imperishable. Why is a gentle and quiet spirit precious in God’s sight?

5. Make a list, in your own words, of God’s instructions about a husband’s and wife’s sexual relationship found in the 1 Corinthians 7 passage. God considered these instructions important enough to include in the Bible. Why? How is the marriage bed a protection against sexual temptation and sin? (2) How does this passage teach and emphasize the mutuality of the sexual relationship? Is this mutuality limited to the bedroom, or does it extend to other aspects of marriage? Explain the terms “rights” (3) and “authority” (4) in the context of this passage. In our culture, we most often think of sex in terms of pleasure or recreation. Is pleasure or recreation the main concern of this passage? What adjective would you choose to describe the perspective of this passage toward sex?


If you’d like to discuss this lesson with other women who are participating in the study, join our  Imperishable Beauty Bible Study Discussion Group on Facebook.


Homework

Consider the concepts each of today’s passages addresses: the husband’s headship, the wife’s role as helper, respecting your husband, submitting to your husband, your marriage imaging the relationship between Christ and the church, witnessing to an unsaved husband, external adornment vs. internal adornment, the sexual relationship, etc. Pinpoint one aspect you need growth in. Repent of any sin in this area, and spend the next week praying that God will grow you to more Christlikeness in this area. You may even wish to memorize and meditate on a verse you found particularly helpful.


Suggested Memory Verse

Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.
1 Peter 3:3-4

My “Life Verse”

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Have you ever heard someone say, “Such and such a verse is my ‘life verse'”? It’s a trend that has become popular over the last several years.

I think people’s hearts are usually in the right place when they embrace the idea of a life verse. They want to cling to God’s word and have it govern their lives, and that desire is good, godly, and biblical.

The concept of a life verse isn’t biblical, though. The Bible doesn’t say anywhere that we’re to choose a particular verse as our life’s slogan or mantra. There might be times in our lives when a particular verse is especially meaningful, but Christians are people of the Book, not people of the verse. Paul speaks about proclaiming “the whole counsel of God.” (Acts 20:27) Psalm 119:160 says, “the sum of Your word is truth.” Psalm 139:17 declares: “How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them!”

The Bible can’t be boiled down to one verse. We need all of the Bible for all of life, not one life verse. So let’s make sure we’re doing the hard work of studying the entire Bible and applying it correctly to the various situations that arise in our lives.

The Mailbag: My word for the year is…

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I can’t seem to find information on one topic that keeps coming up with women I am friends with. “One word” for the year. They are all waiting to “hear” from God what one word they need to focus on for the year. I have been asked what my word for the year is. I just think… the Word Of God is my word for every year. Do you happen have any links, resources, or input?

I wish there weren’t any links or resources on this, but, unfortunately, it looks like a small cottage industry – both secular and evangelical – is growing up around this unbiblical concept. (I’m not going to give anyone free advertising and website hits by providing their links.)

The idea is pretty simple. You pick (or God “speaks” to you) a word that represents some sort of change you want to see in your life and you focus on that word, especially during situations when you want to see that change manifest itself, for the remainder of the year. For example, if you want to be a more peaceful person, you might choose “peace” as your word for the year. You find some way to think about or meditate on the word “peace” every day, but especially in worrisome or chaotic situations, and that’s supposed to make you a more peaceful person by the end of the year.

The only problem with this is – as with so many things in pop evangelicalism – the Bible.

You will not find this practice taught, endorsed, or even mentioned in the Bible. In fact, I suspect this idea traces its roots back to some form of Eastern mysticism. It’s a modern day twist on repeating a mantra. And somebody thought it would be a good idea to “Christianize” it – so she slapped a thin coat of “this is how God can speak to you and work in your life” paint over the surface of it.

That’s not how this works. That’s not how any of this works. You don’t just get to make up Christianity as you go along. That’s God’s job, not ours, and He already set it up exactly the way He wants it – in the Bible.

We know that God is not going to speak a certain “word for the year” to people for two reasons. First of all, extra-biblical revelation is unbiblical. God speaks to us through His all-sufficient written Word, not audibly. Which brings us to reason number two. Because God speaks to us through His written Word, and there’s nothing in His written Word about getting a word for the year, we can be certain that He’s not going to be whispering a word for the year in anybody’s ear.

OK, so let’s take the extra-biblical revelation component out of it. What if we go at it from a sanctification angle? Maybe I’ve noticed that I tend to worry too much, so I decide, for the sake of my own spiritual growth, that my word for the year is going to be “peace”, and I’m going to focus on that word this year?

Still not biblical. Not just because it’s not taught in the Bible (although that’s certainly reason enough), but for a host of other reasons as well.

For starters, we are not in charge of our sanctification, God is. He is the one who gets to decide what work He’s going to do in our hearts, and how He’s going to do that. And that’s a really good thing because He is infinitely wiser and more powerful than we are and He knows our hearts much better than we do. You probably won’t hear many of your girlfriends choosing words like “suffering”, “humility”, or “repentance” as their word for the year, but God knows that areas like these – the ones we often push back against with the greatest resistance – are the ones we usually need the most work on.

Next, sanctification isn’t linear. You don’t tackle peace, master it, then move on to patience, master it, and then move on to whatever’s next. And that’s how this “word for the year” thing is set up. This year, you choose the word “peace”. Next year, maybe you’ll choose “patience”, and so on. But what do you do when you get to the end of the year and you know you haven’t mastered peace yet? What then? Do you choose the word “peace” again? Give up on peace and choose another word?

Biblical sanctification is more like a big bowl of spaghetti noodles. Everything is all tangled up and inter-connected. At any given time, God could be working on one or five or a dozen different aspects of your character. And while you’ll rejoice when you occasionally look back over how much you’ve grown, you’ll never “master” any aspect of Christlikeness this side of Glory.

Finally, God has already prescribed our role in sanctification, and meditating on a particular word for the year is not even a little part of it. Our role in sanctification is to abide in Christ. How? We learn the “how” of abiding in Christ from studying our Bibles. John 15 offers us a little glimpse:

V.1: I [Jesus] am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Recognize that, as I mentioned, God is the vinedresser – the one who prunes, waters, fertilizes, harvests – not you.

V.2: …every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Bear up under pruning as God conforms you to the image of Christ. Cooperate with whatever He’s trying to do in your life by obeying Him, thanking Him, and realizing that He’s doing it to make you more fruitful.

V.4: As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. Recognize and practice your dependence on Christ and His work for you and in you, not on a word you meditate on. You can’t be a fruitful Christian by coming up with your own way to grow in Christ. You can only do it His way.

V.7a: If you abide in me, and my words abide in you… To abide in Christ is simply to live for Him and commune with Him day by day. One of the ways we do that is to study “His words” – the Bible – so that those words will live in us. We ingest the words of Christ by studying our Bibles at home, with our Sunday School or Bible study class at church, sitting under good preaching at our church, and consuming other biblical materials during the week.

V.7b: …ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. If you’re abiding in Christ and His Word is abiding in you – what kinds of “whatever you wish” things do you think you’ll be asking Him for? Your foundational prayer to anything else you might ask for will be for God to be glorified and for Him to make you more like Christ. “Father, please heal me, but only if that will glorify You and make me more like Christ.” “Lord, I’d like You to take away this difficult situation at work, unless letting it continue would grow me to be more like Christ. Help me to glorify You no matter what.” Prayer is one of God’s prescribed methods of sanctification.

V.8: By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. Glorify God by bearing the fruit of the Spirit, displaying the fruit of obedience, harvesting the fruit of evangelism, and by doing so, displaying for the world what a real disciple of Christ looks like in order to point them to Him.

V.10,12,14: If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love…This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you…You are my friends if you do what I command you. Obey Christ’s commands and love one others the way He loves you. That’s the heart of your role in sanctification. It’s an outward focus on how you can bring Him glory in any situation by obeying Him and loving others with a die-to-self love rather than a navel-gazing, self-centered, inward focus on “How can I be a better me?”.

V.11: These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. Don’t forget the joy! What joy is there in a word that you focus on? How can you quantify whether or not you’re a better person at the end of the year and derive joy from that? Sanctification God’s way offers instant, daily gratification in the joy department. Joy dwells in us because the Holy Spirit dwells in us. Joy wells up when we see the hand of God at work in our hearts and lives, when He answers prayer, even just from spending time with Him in His Word, worship, and prayer. Joy is communion with a Person, not satisfaction over a job well done of pulling yourself up by your own boot straps.

 

This “word for the year” thing is not necessary, it’s not biblical, and it kicks God out of His rightful place of authority in sanctification and attempts to put self in the driver’s seat. You’re on the right track with your thinking. When someone asks you what your word for the year is, just hold up your Bible and tell her, “All of these.” After all, Christ gives us abundant life. Why would we limit ourselves to one measly little word when we can study all of God’s words?


If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.