Mailbag

The Mailbag: Resources for Pastor Appreciation Month

 

Do you have any suggestions for things my church can do for our pastors during Pastor Appreciation Month?

October is Pastor Appreciation Month (PAM). It always sneaks up on me, so big thank yous to the reader who recently wrote in with a question related to PAM and jogged my terrible memory. We don’t want to forget our wonderful pastors!

Normally, I rerun the articles below every year on separate days near the end of September, but because I didn’t get it in gear this year, you’re getting all of them at once. Sorry about that. But at least you have the whole month of October to implement any of these ideas that would be a fit for your pastors and your church, and most of them require very little planning time.

Top 10 Ways to Appreciate Your Pastors During Pastor Appreciation Month

I’m so glad somebody thought up the idea of Pastor Appreciation Month and made it a thing. If you’ve never been a pastor (or been married to one), it’s difficult to adequately convey just how simultaneously challenging, joyful, devastating, frustrating, and fulfilling it can be. If you have a good pastor, who rightly divides God’s Word and is a man of godly character, you are very blessed. Here are ten ways you can show your pastors your gratitude, appreciation, and encouragement…

A Word Fitly Spoken: 11 Ways to Encourage Your Pastor

Are you thankful for your pastor and a church that rightly handles God’s word? Are you telling anybody you’re thankful? Are you telling your pastor? Here are eleven ways you can encourage your pastor…

7 Ways to Encourage Your Minister of Music

The pastor isn’t the only person on your church’s staff who needs your support. So does your minister of music. And, having been married to one for over twenty years, I can tell you there aren’t many articles out there letting you know how church members can encourage their ministers of music. Ready to show some love? Here are seven ways you can be an encouragement to your minister of music…

Is it OK if I print out and copy one (or more) of these articles?

Yes! You are always welcome to print out and make as many copies as you like of any article, Bible study, etc., you find here at the blog. (My article, Top 10 Ways to Pray for Your Pastor might make a nice bulletin insert during PAM.) All I ask is that you not change the content of any article, and that you stick my name (Michelle Lesley) and web address (MichelleLesley.com) on there somewhere. I’ve explained the reasons for this as well as tips for printing articles here (3rd section).

Just a few more points about PAM:

All three of these articles make this point, but I want to reiterate it here. If you’re going to do a big hoopla for PAM, please be sure all efforts are coordinated, none of your pastors are left out, and that there isn’t a huge discrepancy in the gifts you present various staff members (e.g. you get the pastor a new car and the minister of music gets a Hallmark card).

My husband was once on staff at a church as minister of music. There were only two other staff members, the pastor and the youth pastor. At the end of worship service one Sunday in October, the congregation as a whole ceremoniously presented the pastor with a gift for PAM. Then some of the youth called the youth pastor up to the front and presented him with a gift for PAM from the youth group and their parents. And nothing was said about, or done for, my husband. It was extremely discouraging to him, not because he didn’t get a gift, but because he felt ignored and unappreciated. Make sure you handle PAM sensitively and appropriately. You don’t want what started out as an act of encouragement to end up discouraging any of your pastors.

If you get your pastor a book or decide to send him to a conference, be sure to vet the author, speakers, and conference organization for sound doctrine first. I would recommend books and materials by any of the men listed at the Recommended Bible Teachers tab at the top of this page. Some super, doctrinally sound conferences you might consider: the G3 ConferenceShepherds’ Conference,Founders Conference, one of Ligonier’s Conferences, or  Cruciform Conference(And if you do decide to send him to a conference, make sure he’s actually able to attend before purchasing anything that’s non-refundable.)

Don’t just encourage and appreciate your pastors during the month of October. They need it all year long! If your church can’t afford to do something big and expensive for PAM (or even if it can) make October the kick-off month for a year full of encouragement for your pastors – have church members commit to pray regularly for your pastors from October 2019 to October 2020 (and then have them re-up next year!), make October the dedicated month for church members to sign up to serve your pastors in some way during each of the next 12 months. (Maybe in 2019-2020 various families sign up to bring each of the pastors a meal a month. In 2020-2021, maybe it’s monthly yard work or babysitting or house cleaning, etc.)

Let’s be sure to appreciate and encourage our pastors during PAM and all year long!


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.

Special Events

Cruciform Conference Special Discount!

 

Ladies, Cruciform is almost upon us, and in order to encourage more women to attend, the conference organizers have graciously extended a 50% discount on tickets to you!

Grab your tickets fast, gather up your husband or your friends, and join me in Indianapolis the weekend of October 18-19. You won’t want to miss this wonderful time of cross-centered preaching and teaching and some awesome fellowship with your brothers and sisters in Christ.

And as a special treat for the ladies, I will be teaching two breakout sessions just for women:

Faithfully Fighting Feminism:
Fighting the Good Fight by Walking Out Biblical Womanhood
and
Hooked on a Feeling: Living by God’s Word Instead of Our Emotions

I hope to see you there!

Discernment

Sheila Walsh

If you are considering commenting or sending me an e-mail objecting to the fact that I warn against certain 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.

 

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. The teacher below is someone I’ve been asked about recently, so I’ve done a quick check (this is brief research, not exhaustive) on her.

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.

I am not very familiar with most of the teachers I’m asked about (there are so many out there!) and have not had the opportunity to examine their writings or hear them speak, so most of the “quick checking” I do involves items a and b (although in order to partner with false teachers (b) it is reasonable to assume their doctrine is acceptable to the false teacher and that they are not teaching anything that would conflict with the false teacher’s doctrine). Partnering with false teachers and women preaching to men are each sufficient biblical reasons not to follow a pastor, teacher, or author, or use his/her materials.

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).

If you’d like to check out some pastors and teachers I heartily recommend, click the Recommended Bible Teachers tab at the top of this page.


Sheila Walsh
Not Recommended

Sheila is a women’s Bible study and children’s book author, speaker, and singer. Formerly a co-host of The 700 Club for several years, she now co-hosts Life Today with James Robison. Life Today routinely features false teachers as guests, including Joel OsteenJoyce Meyer, Paula White, T.D. Jakes, Kim Walker-Smith (Jesus Culture), and Beth Moore, among others.

Sheila habitually yokes in ministry and fraternizes with false and problematic teachers in other venues as well. Space does not permit me to list every incidence of Sheila doing so, but the following examples are representative.

In 2014, Sheila joined Beth Moore, Christine Caine, Priscilla Shirer, Victoria Osteen, and Lisa Harper for the Unwrap the Bible conference at Joel Osteen’s Lakewood “Church.”

Sheila is a contributor at Hillsong’s web site, spoke at Hillsong’s 2015 and 2018 Colour Conference, and has preached the Sunday sermon at Hillsong, saying, “I love pastors Brian and Bobbie [Houston] so much…”.

She gave an enthusiastic Instagram recommendation of an event at which Bobbie HoustonChristine Caine, and Sarah Jakes Roberts (T.D. Jakes’ daughter) were the featured speakers.

Sheila is one of the Women of Joy stable of speakers, which also includes Lysa TerKeurst, Lisa Bevere, Margaret Feinberg, Bianca Olthoff, Chrystal Evans Hurst, Christine Caine, Lisa Harper, Jennie Allen, Angie Smith, Karen Kingsbury, and Jennifer Rothschild. Sheila regularly speaks at WOJ conferences with these speakers.

Jennifer Rothschild’s Fresh Grounded Faith conference organization also counts Sheila as one of its featured speakers alongside Lysa TerKeurst, Angie Smith, Karen Kingsbury, and Ann Voskamp.

Sheila regularly and unrepentantly preaches to men including her aforementioned Sunday sermon at Hillsong, the Sunday sermon at another Hillsong campus, the Sunday sermon at Rick Warren’s Saddleback, a pastor’s conference she mentions in this video, the Sunday sermon at James River Church (which is co-“pastored” by a woman), the Sunday Sermon at NewHope Baptist Church, the Sunday Sermons at Emmanuel CC, and the Sunday Sermon at Transformation Church (also co-“pastored” by a woman), just to cite a few examples.

Interestingly, none of these events at which Sheila is preaching the Sunday morning sermon or otherwise preaching to or teaching men/co-ed audiences was listed on the calendar of events at Sheila’s website. She only lists women’s events she’ll be speaking at. As I continue to research evangelical women speakers, I’m seeing this trending more and more. Many only list on their websites women’s events they’re speaking at, and don’t list the events where they’ll be preaching the Sunday sermon or speaking at co-ed events. It is only speculation on my part, so I’m not making accusations or assumptions, but as I keep seeing this happen, I can’t help but wonder if it is to hide the fact that they are preaching to men in order to maintain a semblance of being doctrinally sound, and to avoid reproof for this sin.

In addition to yoking with false teachers and preaching to men, I noticed a few other things while researching Sheila.

There is no clear statement of faith or gospel presentation on Sheila’s website, but the home page of her website greets the reader in bold print with GOD IS FOR YOU (which she says is “her message”). Underneath, a caption says,

“Your destiny isn’t determined by your history. No matter what you’ve gone through or where you’ve been, God is inviting you to take the next step.”

Below this caption are two clickable buttons, “About Sheila,” (which, as you might guess, links to a page with Sheila’s bio), and “Start Again.”

“God is for you!”, the subsequent caption, and “start again” might cause the reader to think that clicking the “Start Again” button will lead to a page outlining the plan of salvation, but it doesn’t. It links to the About page of Sheila’s site which gives eight steps to…I’m not sure what. It is definitely not the gospel. Nothing is mentioned about sin, repentance, faith in Christ for salvation, the cross, the resurrection, or anything else you might expect in a gospel presentation. Also, there isn’t a single Scripture cited.

I honestly don’t understand if this is supposed to be aimed at lost people or saved people (Maybe she’s addressing backslidden Christians? I can’t tell.), but either way, it’s not about what Christ did to save us or how He sanctifies us, it’s a works-righteousness litany of all the things you have to do to pull yourself up by your bootstraps and “start again” (whatever that means). And it lists all these things you need to do (“we have to change the way we think,” “step out in faith,” “rise above disappointment,” etc.) but it doesn’t explain how to do them. There’s no mention of repentance, placing your faith in Christ for salvation, studying your Bible, prayer, or joining with a doctrinally sound local church. She mentions “the hope we have in Him” but doesn’t explain what that hope is or how to get it, which, in a sad irony, leaves the reader hopeless.

What’s more, there is Christian-ish vernacular that lost people are not going to understand: “Walk with Him in the garden,” “Christ redeems every drop of our suffering,” “find your hiding place under the shelter of God’s wings”…I’m not sure I even totally understand what she means by all of these things.

And the entire “God is for you,” posture of Sheila’s message, writing, and speaking give the sense that God’s main function is to be your magic Band-Aid to make all your owies go away. Certainly, God loves us, helps us, comforts us, and wants what’s best for us, but God isn’t for us – to serve our every desire and salve our every hurt. We were made for Him – to glorify, honor, and serve Him.

Sheila’s blog posts – though they are blog posts not Bible studies – reflect the current trend in women’s “Bible” study: personal stories from the author’s life with a few Bible verses sprinkled in here and there. Perhaps most of the Bible study books Sheila writes are in a different format and focus on the proper exegesis of Scripture (as I said, these are blog posts, not Bible studies), but if she writes all of her Bible studies in the same way and style in which she writes her blog posts, they should be avoided in favor of studying the actual Bible.

I have not had the opportunity to read all Sheila has written, but if the introduction and first chapter of her most recent book, It’s Okay Not to Be Okaywhich is marketed as a “Bible study,” are indicative of the way she writes these studies, the style is, indeed, very similar to her blog posts: personal stories with a few Bible verses (some from the completely unreliable paraphrase The Message) sprinkled in. (And the endorsement page of this book reads like a laundry list of contemporary false and problematic teachers such as: Lisa Bevere, Ann Voskamp, Christine Caine, Jennie Allen, Lisa Harper, Roma Downey, Bobbie Houston, and Karen Kingsbury.)

Furthermore, echoing her website’s ambiguous eight steps to…something, the first part of It’s Okay seems to muddle the line between saved and unsaved, sinner and saint. The thrust of this opening material and the theme of the book seem to be: “God’s love for you isn’t dependent on your striving for perfect behavior,” which is absolutely true, and something many Christian women need to grasp. However, in the midst of this “it’s okay to stop striving for perfection and rest in God’s love for you” talk, she refers back to the Fall:

The story continues in verse 10, when God asks Adam where he is: “He replied, ‘I heard you walking in the garden, so I hid. I was afraid because I was naked.'”

There you have it!
Shame.
Fear.
Covering up.
Hiding.
…and we’ve been doing it ever since.¹

While a Christian striving for perfection rooted in fear of losing God’s love and a lost person’s willful disobedience may both be displeasing to God, they are not the same thing and should not be conflated in this way. It is right and good for a sinner to feel shame and guilt for rebelling against God, because she is guilty, she is covered with shame, until she repents and trusts Christ as Savior. But this is a completely different animal from someone who has already had the guilt and shame of all of her sin (including any lack of trust in God’s love for her) washed away by the blood of Christ, and who is striving to please Him, albeit imperfectly. It is concerning that Sheila does not clearly differentiate between the two.

Southern Baptists should be aware that, despite the fact that Sheila unrepentantly preaches to men, yokes with false teachers, and seems to be somewhat ambiguous on the gospel, LifeWay does carry her materials.

Sheila is a charming woman who lavishes great passion and love on her audiences, but, unfortunately, I cannot recommend her to you as a biblically trustworthy teacher you should follow.


¹From chapter 1 of It’s Okay Not to Be Okay. Taken from Amazon’s free Kindle excerpt of the book, which has no page numbers. This quote looks to be a page or two before the end of the chapter.
Sanctification, Sin

Throwback Thursday ~ Wise to the Ways of the Worldly: 4 Ways Worldliness Sneaks In, and the Scriptures to Slay It

Originally published August 31, 2018

Lately, every time I turn around, I keep bumping up against the same biblical concept. It’s showing up in my personal Bible study time. In Sunday School. In sermons. Even in a revival my husband and I served at this week.

Worldliness, and the need for Christians to be set apart.

What is worldliness? It’s thinking, acting, and “attituding” the way lost people think, act, and attitude. It’s taking everything in through a fleshly filter instead of a biblical one and putting yourself out there through a fleshly filter instead of a biblical one. It’s dealing with the world around you in any way Jesus wouldn’t.

God has called His people to be set apart from the world from day one. (OK, day six, if you want to get all technical about it.) You can’t be more set apart than living at an address God personally designed for you and plopped you down in the middle of.

The whole purpose of the Promised Land, the Law, driving out the pagan nations and destroying them, depending on God to miraculously win wars and conquer the enemy, was for God to set apart a people for Himself. To raise up a nation that the rest of the world could look at and say, “Hey, those Israelite folks are different, and their God is different, too. What’s their one God got that our pantheon doesn’t?”.

Jesus reminded God’s people what it looked like to be different and set apart from the world. So did His disciples. And the New Testament is chock full of passages in which the apostles exhort Christians and the church to be holy and distinct from the world in heart, mind, and behavior.

Why? Because being different, and holy, and counter-cultural is weird, and counter-intuitive, and attention-grabbing to the world. And once we’ve got their attention, we’ve got an opportunity to share the gospel with them.

Yes, sister, God has called you to be a weirdo for Jesus.

And you’re going to have to fight the flesh to do it, because worldliness is insidious and subtle. Just like that sneaky, slimy serpent slithered in to paradise with no alarm bells ringing, we modern day Eves often don’t even notice worldliness has slipped in and tempted us to think and act in ways it has never even occurred to us aren’t godly. Sure, we don’t drink, and we don’t chew, and we don’t go with boys who do. And we don’t rob banks or murder people. But is that all there is to it? Avoiding the big, bad, behavioral no-no’s?

Before Eve ever extended her hand to pluck the fruit off the tree, Satan had already won several skirmishes with her heart. He had gotten her to doubt God’s character, disbelieve God’s word, and disregard God’s desires in favor of her own. And isn’t he still doing that with us today? Jesus warned us:

The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks. Luke 6:45

As we look at these four ways worldliness can tiptoe into our actions unannounced and unnoticed, let’s also think about how our actions are merely the fruit of what’s going on in our hearts.

What are some of those sneaky snakes of worldliness, and how can we mortify those sins and respond in a godly way?

1.
Being quick to take offense

It’s getting to the point where you can hardly carry on a mundane, “Nice weather we’re having,” conversation any more without being accused of racism, gender bias, or having some sort of “privilege”. Even compliments and positive comments are likely to be twisted and heard by the easily offended as insults or condescension.

Think of the way Jesus endured and responded to the verbal abuse and false accusations intentionally and maliciously hurled at Him. Can you imagine Him freaking out at an innocent, offhand remark, someone’s tone of voice, or somebody unintentionally sticking her foot in her mouth?

Neither can I, yet this form of worldliness is probably my biggest area of weakness. It’s just the pride of life, pure and simple. (Well, not pure, I guess.) How dare anyone ruffle my feathers!

And how do I respond? Maybe the same way you do. I get my back up and strike back, fighting fire with fire. I rarely take a moment to step back and think that maybe this person didn’t intend for her tone to sound like that, or maybe to her that word means something different than what it means to me, or maybe she’s just PMS-ing today, or maybe I misheard or misinterpreted what she actually said. I don’t think, “How can I respond in godly love to this person?”. I don’t think at all. I just vomit my fleshly emotions all over her. Instead, I’m to respond in patience, kindness, and love, even if the situation calls for standing firm on Scripture without budging.

The Serpent Slayer:

Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. 1 Peter 3:9

Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Romans 12:16-18

2.
Being “Tolerant”

The world has been torturing this poor word “tolerant” for at least a few decades now. The definition has morphed from its actual meaning of “peacefully putting up with something that bothers you” to “embracing and celebrating any and every behavior and ideology (except biblical Christianity) as worthy and valid.” You’re not even allowed to think someone else’s worldview or behavior is wrong. You have to think it’s good or you’re a terrible person.

Now, of course, most Christians would not go around blatantly proclaiming that any old religion is just fine or that sexual immorality and perversion are perfectly acceptable or that abortion is a valid health care choice. But what about shying away from sharing the gospel with our Muslim neighbor for fear of appearing to be an Islamophobe? What about attending the homosexual “wedding” of a friend or loved one in order not to offend him and to maintain the relationship? What about failing to stand up for what’s right at work when unethical practices are the industry standard?

The Bible is very clear that following Christ and loyalty to His Word divides people. It divides family members from one another. It divides friends from one another, and it divides God’s people from those who claim to be God’s people and from the rest of the world. Jesus came to unite repentant sinners to God, not to unite unrepentant sinners to saved people. We must do what is right and biblical, refusing to participate in sinful and worldly activities, and lovingly, yet firmly, calling sinners to repentance and faith in Christ, even if it costs us family members, friends, our reputations, our churches, or our jobs.

The Serpent Slayer:

“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. 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. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. 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. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” Matthew 10:34-39

You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God…Submit yourselves therefore to God. James 4:4,7a

3.
Being Flippant or Consumeristic about Church

The world has no reason to think going to church is important. Why would they? They’re lost. And if they do darken the door of a church, it’s not because they love Christ and want to worship Him, it’s ultimately for self-centered reasons. To assuage their guilt, to get Mom or the wife off their back, to feel better about themselves, to satisfy their curiosity.

Gathering to worship God is what genuinely regenerated Christians do. We have a God-given craving for fellowship with brothers and sisters in Christ and approaching His throne in prayer, praise, and the study of His Word together. Skipping church at the drop of a hat, shopping around for a church with all the slappy happy bells and whistles that make you comfortable, demanding that your church cater to your feelings, opinions, and preferences, strolling in with a “what’s in it for me” attitude? Uh uh. Those are worldly, self-centered attitudes, and might even indicate that you’re not saved.

Christians see faithfully attending and serving at church as vital to their relationship with Christ and other Christians. It’s not, “What’s in it for me?” but “How can I serve you?”. It’s not, “What did I get out of the worship service?” but “How can I wholeheartedly throw myself into the worship of Christ?”.

The Serpent Slayer:

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. Hebrews 10:24-25

even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. Matthew 20:28

So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith. Galatians 6:10

Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, Hebrews 12:28

4.
Being Defiant

If ever there were a generation of Americans who treated defying authority as the national pastime, this is it. Have you seen all the videos of people pulled over by the police who refuse to comply with their every request, sometimes even turning violent? How about the way wives these days run their marriages and treat their husbands like children? And the way children are allowed to rebel at school and at home? What about the rioting in the streets we’ve seen over the last few years?

The more I study the New Testament, the more passages I find instructing Christians to submit to the authorities in our lives. I’m not sure if I’d call it a major theme of the New Testament, but it sure isn’t a minor one. We’re to submit to the government, governing officials, earthly “masters” (literally if we’re slaves, figuratively – bosses, supervisors, etc. – if we’re not), wives are to submit to our husbands, children are to submit to their parents, and church members are to submit to our pastors and elders. Every human institution.

God’s people are a submitting people. Submitting to the authorities in our lives paints a picture for the watching world that one day every knee will bow in submission to the ultimate authority – God. And because God is our ultimate authority, the only time we disobey the human authorities in our lives is when what they’re asking us to do would cause us to disobey or dishonor God. Otherwise, we humble ourselves and joyfully and graciously submit.

The Serpent Slayer:

Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Philippians 2:9-11

Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution. 1 Peter 2:13a

But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men.” Acts 5:29

 

There are so many more ways Satan tempts Christians to act like the world. We put our faith in politicians to fix things rather than in God. We approach the world with a posture of entitlement and demand our rights instead of laying them down to serve others. We lash out in bitterness at those who have hurt us, holding grudges and cutting them out of our lives instead of forgiving as Christ has forgiven us. The list could go on and on.

But however worldliness manifests itself, it all has the same serpentine root in the heart: doubting God’s character, disbelieving God’s Word, and disregarding God’s desires. And when our hearts become ambivalent about God, and we push His desires and directives aside, the void that’s left has to be filled with something.

That “something” is the idol of self. I want to do what I want to do and I don’t want anybody standing in my way. This thing, or person, or idea makes me happy and comfortable, and keeping it is more important to me than what God says about it. That’s ultimately what’s going on in our hearts when we think, speak, and act in worldly ways.

out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks

Submit to the Scriptures. Be subject to the Savior. Slay the serpent of worldliness.


What are some other forms of worldliness that can sneak into our lives,
and what Scriptures can we use to combat them?

Prayer Bible Study

Sweet Hour of Prayer: Lesson 5

Previous Lessons: 1, 2, 3, 4

Read 2 Samuel 11:1-12:25, Psalm 51

David’s Prayer of Repentance

Questions to Consider

1. Are you familiar with what is going on in the history of Israel and in the life and reign of David at this time? If not, use this synopsis (or another Bible Book Background) to bring you up to speed. Second Samuel 11:1-12:25 is provided above for the context of Psalm 51. Today’s questions pertain only to Psalm 51.

2. What is the overall theme of David’s prayer? Briefly explain the events in David’s life that led to his need to repent.

3. Compare David’s prayer to the prayers of the Pharisee and the tax collector in the New Testament. What are the similarities and differences? Is every prayer pleasing to God? How would you describe the heart of David and of the tax collector? What does Jesus say about the person who prays this kind of prayer? What does Jesus mean when He says the tax collector was “justified” (Luke 18:14). How do we become justified in God’s sight?

4. Sometimes people tend to think “Old Testament God” is strictly wrathful and mean, that He’s just sitting around waiting to smite people for any little infraction (as opposed to “New Testament God” who’s nice and sweet and lets people do what they want). Is that how David sees God? Carefully work your way through each verse in this chapter, listing the attributes of God that David mentions or calls upon. God called David “a man after My own heart.” How does David’s prayer point to the heart of God? Why is it fitting and beneficial to focus on and declare God’s attributes when we pray?

5. Notice the motif of “washing” and “cleansing” in this prayer. How many times does David mention the concept of becoming “clean” or “washed”? Explain the meaning and significance of this motif in David’s prayer and in your own prayers of repentance. Can you think of any New Testament passages that also deal with washing or cleansing from sin?

6. What can we learn from David’s prayer about sin and about praying in repentance and for forgiveness? List the verse(s) – and explain how they apply – that demonstrate…

•David’s understanding that there’s nothing he can do to fix or make up for his sin. He must throw himself on the mercy of God to cleanse, forgive, and restore him:

•David doesn’t attempt to finesse, hide, or make excuses for his sin. He boldly admits and confesses it:

•David understands that sin (though it may cause collateral damage to people) is, fundamentally, rebellion against God Himself:

•God is right and David is wrong:

•We have a sin nature from the moment of our conception:

•God desires that His people walk uprightly and blamelessly:

•The need to be restored to a right relationship with God after we sin:

•After contrition, cleansing, and restoration comes joy:

•We are to deal with our own sin first, before teaching or biblically judging others:

•Praise is an appropriate response to and natural outflow of being cleansed and restored:

God wants our hearts. We can’t impress or fool Him with empty good works or rituals, but He delights in worship that springs from a heart grateful for His forgiveness:

7. There are a few verses in this passage that people sometimes misunderstand. How would you help someone understand these verses in the context of David’s prayer and our own prayers of repentance?

4- Does this verse mean that when we sin, we don’t need to repent to the people we have sinned against, we only need to repent to God?

5- A few people understand “in sin did my mother conceive me” to mean that sex (even within marriage) is sinful or dirty. Is that what David meant by saying this?

11- Does this verse mean a genuine Christian can lose her salvation by sinning?


Homework

The next time you pray a prayer of repentance, pray the words of Psalm 51 back to God.


Suggested Memory Verse