Book Reviews, Guest Posts

Guest Post: A Review of Thomas Coutouzis’ “Agonizing for the Faith”

If your theology pretty much matches up with mine (as outlined in my “Welcome” and “Statement of Faith” tabs in the blue menu bar at the top of this page) and you’d like to contribute a guest post, drop me an e-mail at, and let’s chat about it.

(In case anybody might be confused, a few weeks ago, the author of this book, Thomas Coutouzis, reviewed Jackie Hill-Perry’s “Bible” study on Jude for us. Today’s review is a review of Thomas’ book on Jude by my friend Jason.)

A Review of Thomas Coutouzis’
“Agonizing for the Faith:
A Biblical Exposition of Jude”

by: Jason Marianna

If there is any book of the Bible that speaks directly to most of the issues faced by the 21st century church, that book is Jude. The 21st century church faces a unique problem: The proliferation of media, primarily the internet, not only gives everyone a platform, but it gives the impression that all who have a platform deserve it. Christians are pulled in many directions and overwhelmed by the sheer volume of media – with each content creator doing his or her best to convince the Christian what they teach is worthy of their audience’s time. It is a perfect breeding ground for false teachers to slip into the church unnoticed and unquestioned. In this media environment, they thrive on the ability to communicate their message as effectively as true teachers. Many of the people bringing a dish to pass at your church’s potluck (or “love feast”, if you will) are under their influence in a variety of ways, both directly and indirectly.

Thankfully, God has given us the book of Jude. To read Jude is to understand the grave importance of recognizing false teachers and the subtle traps they lay for God’s people. Much like the elect, false teachers do not walk around with a stripe on their back so you can recognize them. They are instead the proverbial wolves in sheep’s clothing. They go to church, they smile, they even talk a lot about the Bible. Nonetheless, the things that should honor God instead, for them, become a lure to separate you from your money, your joy, your holiness, and (if it were possible) your God. Jude wants God’s people to know these “hidden reefs” are all glitter and no gold – clouds without water. More than that, Jude wants you know how to answer them. He wants you to wage war against them, and all the while maintain a love, concern, and affection for saints under their influence. Jude asks you for nothing less than to “agonize” for the faith.

Yet, in my experience, Jude may be the most overlooked book of the New Testament. Never once have I heard a Christian remark to me that it was his or her favorite book. I never see it in the list of books that new Christians must read first. It is not ignored, but it is certainly not emphasized. In light of the aforementioned pitfalls of the 21st century environment, the church needs to know about the hidden dangers that lie just below the surface. Christians need to know now more than ever about the “unreasoned animals” that prowl around them so readily in our time. Today, perhaps more than ever, God’s people need the book of Jude.

Thank God that Thomas Coutouzis understands this. In his excellent commentary, Agonizing for the Faith, Coutouzis takes Jude’s 25 verses and causes them to blossom into a robust and substantial weapon in the hands of the believer. More than that, Coutouzis sounds the alarm about false teachers which, at times, sounds as much like a battle cry as it does a warning. He pulls no punches and takes no prisoners when it comes to the enemies of the faith; naming names and directing sharp, effective attacks. Yet, Coutouzis knows when to put the sword away and encourage loving concern and gentleness for the elect confused and oppressed by false teaching.

Biblical commentaries usually fall into three categories. The first is purely technical. These are commentaries on language, history, context, and culture. They say less about what the text means and more about what the text says. For teachers, these commentaries are invaluable as they help us understand the dead languages and the ancient situations that inform the idioms and peculiarities within the text. For the average believer just trying to understand what the Bible means, these commentaries are usually more hazard than help. Coutouzis in no way ignores the technical aspects of Jude. In fact, he not only demonstrates competence with the Greek language but also possesses the rare ability to explain it in plain, down to earth ways without sounding like an English teacher. Additionally, Coutouzis shows great skill in explaining the extra-biblical references Jude makes in verses 9, 14, and 15. Yet, it cannot be said that Coutouzis has written merely a technical commentary. Agonizing for the Faith is too readable and accessible for that.

The second kind of commentary is a devotional. The focus of these commentaries are application and practicality. Matthew Henry is the prime example of this type. Commentaries of this sort are helpful to the common believer and teacher alike. For the common believer, they are easy to read and speak directly to living the Christian life. For the teacher, they help to focus our lessons on how the believer can carry out what we teach after they leave the class or sermon. Agonizing for the Faith offers plenty of application. Coutouzis speaks to our present age and the real situations it presents for many believers. He often walks his reader through the everyday practical implications of what Jude is saying. Yet, it would be an empty compliment to call Agonizing for the Faith merely a good devotional book. Make no mistake, every believer will be edified to read it, but for reasons that go far beyond that of a typical devotional.

While it is important to remember that almost every commentary contains elements of all three types, it is the main thrust of the commentary that determines its category. Therefore, it is the third type of commentary where we must categorize Agonizing for the Faith. Coutouzis has written an expository commentary. An expository commentary is one that goes verse by verse and word by word to flesh out every aspect of the Biblical text. John MacArthur writes his commentaries in this way. The advantages of the expository method are on full display in Agonizing for the Faith. Coutouzis writes about every word and doesn’t allow himself to skip difficult passages. He goes where the text goes and allows it to speak for itself. Yet, Coutouzis’ perception and insight is on full display in the process. Jude is a densely packed seed of nutrition for the hungry believer. Under Coutouzis, it blossoms and grows.

While I have much good to say about Agonizing for the Faith, it was by no means a perfect book. On occasion, Coutouzis quoted from secondary sources when his text would have been bolstered by interacting with primary sources. While I don’t reject the usefulness of resources like CARM or the Encyclopedia Brittanica, citing them is beneath the high standard Coutouzis has set for himself. Once or twice I felt Coutouzis did not prove his point as thoroughly as he should have. On occasion, particularly chapter 4, it seemed he imposed upon his readers too much of his background research. Also, while I’m eternally grateful to every author that uses footnotes instead of end notes, Agonizing for the Faith has one glaring absence: A bibliography. Coutouzis misses an opportunity not only to give credence to the obvious great depth of his research but also to bless his reader with authors and books where they could learn more. It is my hope that subsequent printings will fix this – I consider it to be the book’s worst shortcoming.

Nonetheless, we should not expect every author to be perfect nor should we allow perfect to be the enemy of good – or in this case allow perfect to be the enemy of great! For while Coutouzis may have a few minor and forgivable shortcomings, he makes up for them several times over. Chapters 1 and 2 were exceedingly quotable. Chapters 5 and 6 were informative. I particularly found chapters 8 and 9 helpful in my own ministry, and chapter 10 was so rich that I made myself read it twice. In fact, as I flip through my copy, I find notes, highlights, and underlines on almost every page. This book blessed me, encouraged me, and just plain fired me up.

In particular, I want to point out one chapter that is the best display of Coutouzis’ excellence. Chapter 12 deals with verses 20-23 of Jude. When discussing verses 22-23, Coutouzis alerts us on page 142 “Every commentator that I have read believed that these groups are all unbelievers within the church…” and then goes on to make his most courageous and dangerous remark in the book “…while I don’t think that is the case for any of these three.” I remember pausing here to absorb what I had read. This is risky for an author, particularly in a book of this type. He was telling his reader “no one agrees with me”. He was asking his audience to trust him. Any author writing about Scripture who does this had better not only be right, he’d better prove it. It’s not as if “majority rules” when it comes to Scripture – truth rules – but a declaration that no one else agrees is to say that many intelligent and godly men who have gone before him are wrong.

What followed was not complicated nor elaborate. In fact, Coutouzis never once refuted the opposing viewpoints. Instead Coutouzis did what he had been doing the entire book: faithful exposition with rigorous exegesis offered with clever insight and humility. Step after step, word after word, idea by idea Coutouzis let Jude speak for itself; and in doing so he convinced me. He was right, and the cadre of commentators were wrong. Coutouzis does more than win an argument, he offers a convincing and consistent view that spurs his reader to love, concern, and caution for weaker brothers caught up in error. This master stroke of Coutouzis’ book should also be its legacy. We ought to rebuke false teachers, marking and avoiding them at all costs. Yet at the same time, our attitude toward Christians caught up in their error ought to be one that reflects our Lord’s: to love and endure much, and yet compromise nothing.

If my reader will indulge me, I wish to say a brief word about Christian literature and publishing. Agonizing for the Faith is a self-published book. What used to be called “vanity publishing” is typically exactly that – a vanity project. Most self-published books in the Christian world are not worth your time. While I’m glad there is an outlet for creative writers and other writers in niche interests, I also believe those in academic fields benefited from a vetting process that printers and publishers used to provide. Yet, Coutouzis serves as a reminder that the world of self-publishing is not entirely devoid of quality work. If the Christian publishing world can find time and money to publish garbage such as Joel Osteen and Beth Moore, some publisher somewhere should surely find the time to publish Coutouzis. Every Christian publisher that passes on him makes a mistake. He’s demonstrated through this book that he is worth their investment.

It ought to be your ambition to read material that edifies, books that feed your soul, authors that faithfully teach the Word of God. In every sense, Coutouzis’ book fits the bill. Agonizing for the Faith belongs in your library. As you soak up what it has to offer, you’ll be better informed, better equipped, and (God willing) eager to put its teachings into practice. Not only will it serve you well in your own spiritual growth, I also feel it would make an excellent book for a women’s/men’s study or a Sunday school class. It’s the best commentary I’ve ever read of Jude’s precious book. I enthusiastically recommend it to you and pray it will fire you up, as it did me, to agonize for the faith.

Jason Marianna was saved solely by God’s grace when he was 16 years old.  When he’s not leading Bible studies and teaching children in his church, he works as an automation engineer in Pittsburgh PA.  Jason is a father of 4 and is married to a woman he doesn’t deserve.  He and his wife have a heart for orphans, particularly foster children, and have adopted 3 of the 5 children they’ve fostered so far.  Jason is a freelance writer who wants to write for your blog or publication.  You can follow his opinionated and eclectic Twitter feed, or connect with him on Good Reads.


Basic Training

Throwback Thursday ~ Basic Training: 5 Ways to Face Tests and Trials Biblically

Originally published February 9, 2018

For more in the Basic Training series, click here.


Your car breaks down and you don’t have the money to get it fixed.

Your child develops a behavior problem, and you have no idea how to help her.

Somebody royally messed something up at work and now you have to figure out how to fix it.

You’re smack dab in the middle of a tenuous situation at church instigated and exacerbated by THAT lady.

Anybody who tells you, “Come to Jesus and all of your problems will be over,” is selling something. The Christian life is not a stroll through a flowery meadow with never a bump in the road. In fact, sometimes it’s just one big pile of poo after another.

The truth is, if you come to faith in Christ, you’re going to continue to have some of the same kinds of general “that’s life” poo that you had before. People at work will keep messing up. Your child will still pour nail polish on your new white rug (Why do you have a white rug if you have children?). Your neighbor will back into your fence (again) and drag her feet about fixing it (again).

So what’s the point of coming to Christ if you’re just going to keep having problems?

Because the point of coming to Christ is not for Him to make all your problems disappear, it’s for Him to redeem you from your sin and propitiate God’s wrath against you. That’s why the symbol of Christianity is a cross, not a magic wand. So how does God want us to face those tests and trials of life in a biblical, Christian way?

Recognize God’s Purpose in Testing You

There are scads of blessings and benefits that come along with repentance and faith in Christ, and one of them is that poo now has a purpose. (I sense some of you have had enough of the word poo. OK, moving on…)

What is the purpose of all these aggravations, sorrows, and worrisome circumstances that keep coming your way?

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
James 1:2-4

Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,
Romans 5:3-4

Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
Hebrews 12:9-11

Those difficult situations we face in life – whether they come as a consequence of our sin, a consequence of our Christlikeness, or simply a consequence of living in a post-Fall world – are the tools God uses to make us more like Jesus. Obediently bearing up during hard times develops steadfastness and maturity, endurance, character, and hope, holiness, peace, and righteousness.

You want those Christlike characteristics, don’t you?

I do too. But I’ll be honest – my flesh is not crazy about the fact that God often pulls a chisel out of His toolbag instead of a feather duster. And once again, we’re back to the cross versus the magic wand. We want God to “abracadabra” us into Christlike character. God points us to the cross.

Look at Tests and Trials Through Jesus’ Eyes

…let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
Hebrews 12:1c-2

Jesus was not some crazy masochist who enjoyed being beaten, mocked, nailed to a cross, and having the wrath of God poured out on Him for our sin. That was not fun. It was not pleasant. It was such a unique kind of awfulness that a whole new word had to be invented to describe it: excruciating. It was such a horrifying specter that it caused Jesus to sweat blood as He prayed in Gethsemane, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me.”

God does not require you to enjoy pain, suffering, inconvenience, stress, or aggravation any more than He required Jesus to enjoy it. What Jesus did was to focus on “the joy set before Him” – the results of His suffering and the great and glorious things it would accomplish – to help Him endure the suffering. That’s what God wants us to pattern our approach to suffering after – Jesus. We don’t look at the circumstance itself. We look past the circumstance to how God is going to be glorified, how He’s going to grow us in Christlikeness, what we’re going to see Him do in answer to prayer, and whom He might save as a result of the circumstance. We look at the finish line. The winner’s circle. We focus on those things to help us get through the pain and exhaustion.

Remember the Nature and Character of God

Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!
Matthew 7:9-11

God is not some nasty bully sitting up there in Heaven arbitrarily messing your life up for His own personal entertainment like a kid setting ants on fire with a magnifying glass on a sunny day. He’s your Father. He loves and cares for you. Like any good parent, He wants what He knows is good for you more than He wants you to be fat and happy. He’s in complete control of what happens or doesn’t happen to you.

If something unpleasant comes into your life, go back to what you know to be true of God. God is not trying to harm or punish you. He has sovereignly allowed or caused this thing to happen because He is your Father who loves you and wants to do something good for you. He wants to work in your heart and life for your benefit, the benefit of others, and to glorify Himself through this circumstance.

Don’t Worry

Yeah, right. If you’re anything like me, your first thought when faced with a problem is “Oh no. I’ll never get through this one. What if this happens? What if that happens?” Suddenly, in your mind, you’re ten miles down the road in Armageddon-land.

God does not sovereignly put circumstances into your life to give you a platform for worrying. It is never God’s will for you to worry. It is always God’s will for you to trust Him. If you’re worrying about your circumstances, you are not doing God’s will. God puts difficult circumstances into our lives to give us the opportunity to exercise our “trust muscles”. Worrying is just another way of saying, “God, I don’t trust you in this. I don’t believe you’re in control in this situation. I’ve got to be the one to figure this out and handle it.” If God is big enough and powerful enough to save you, He is big enough and powerful enough to carry you, protect you, provide for you, comfort you, and reassure you through whatever He places in your path. Trust Him.

(And a special note to my fellow Reformed brothers and sisters – as I preach this to myself – if anybody shouldn’t worry, it’s us. We are the “God is sovereign over everything” people! It is utterly ridiculous to believe that God is sovereignly in control of every aspect of salvation, that He providentially foreordains the activity of every atom of the universe, and then turn around and worry that He can’t or won’t handle something as measly as a repair bill or a surly co-worker.)

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.
Proverbs 3:5

Fear Not: 9 Biblical Ways to Trade Worry for Trust

An Opportunity for Obedience

In the same way that God doesn’t place situations in your life as an opportunity to worry but as an opportunity to exercise trust in Him, He does not place situations in your life in which you have no choice but to disobey Him, but rather, as opportunities to stretch, trust Him, and obey His Word in spite of how difficult it might be. Anybody can be obedient when things are awesome. Obedience during the hard times is what grows you.

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.
1 Corinthians 10:13

In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.
Hebrews 12:4

In all your ways acknowledge him,
    and he will make straight your paths.
Proverbs 3:6

Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act.
Psalm 37:5

Can’t find a doctrinally sound church nearby? Yes, that’s difficult, but God is not OK with you sitting down and resigning yourself to disobeying Him by giving up the search just because it’s hard. No man will step up and lead at church? They might be disobeying God, but we ladies don’t have God’s permission to violate His Word by teaching or exercising authority over the men of the church just because it would be a lot more convenient to do so.

Convenience, comfort, and smooth sailing are not the be all end all of life. The character that God wants to build in you, the glory He wants to bring Himself, the good He wants to do to others through your obedience during hard times is far more important. But you’ll never experience those amazing things if you take the easy way out by sinning. Have you stood against sin to the point of bloodshed? Have you prayed that God would provide you a way to resist temptation and obey Him? Are you committing your way to the Lord and trusting Him to work everything out? If you want God to accomplish His purposes through the sticky situations of your life, you’ve got to stand firm and obey Him no matter how great the challenge.

Basic Training: Obedience: 8 Ways To Stop Making Excuses and Start Obeying Scripture


We may not like difficult situations very much, but for those of us who know Christ, we can rejoice in knowing that God has a purpose for them. The highest purpose – to make us more like Jesus. He does that for us because He loves us. And while we might still wish for Him to bop us with a magic wand and instantly make us patient or steadfast or peaceful, God created us, and He knows that suffering and difficulties are the best way to accomplish those things. So just as Christ endured the cross for the joy set before Him, we can endure any difficult situation God blesses us with, knowing that He’s doing it for our good and His glory. And that’s definitely something to rejoice about.


Snatch them From the Flames Online Conference



One of the silver linings to quarantine has been the number of quality Christian conferences and webinars that have been made available online. I hope you’ve been able to take advantage of some of them.

This Saturday, May 30, another one is coming your way, absolutely free. Snatch Them from the Flames will feature Andrew Rappaport and Justin Peters teaching on properly handling Scripture, false teachers, and other biblical topics:

Saturday, May 30, 2020

10am – 6pm EST / 1pm – 9pm PST


Session 1: The Sufficiency of Scripture

Session 2: Interpreting Scripture


Session 3: Discerning False Teachers

Session 4: Identifying False Teachers

Session 5: Questions and Answers

There is no charge for the conference, but you do need to click here to register. (I don’t know whether or not a recording of the conference will be available after the event. Please contact Andrew to find out.) Enjoy!


The Mailbag: Why no COVID weigh-in?


Just out of curiosity, is there a reason you (like many other leaders/public figures) are choosing not to take a stand [on churches not gathering during this time, when the “right time” to open the doors again would be, etc.] one way or another, publicly? I feel as though now more than ever, we are looking to our leaders, pastors, etc for guidance on navigating this current situation and there is hardly any to be had. Why are so many choosing not to discuss it? I know that you have a large following, which is why I was wondering why you weren’t being more vocal.

This question was posed by one of my dear Facebook followers last week, and I thought it would be a good question to answer in The Mailbag. 

She is quite right. Other than this episode (Church Was Never Meant to be Remote: Reuniting After COVID-19) of A Word Fitly Spoken, I haven’t really addressed any of the specific issues surrounding COVID-19 nor taken sides on things like wearing masks, opening up the economy, when is the “right time” for churches to start meeting in person again, etc.

I cannot speak to why other people with platforms have or haven’t addressed any or all of these issues. I can only speak for myself. Others may have some of the same reasons I’m about to share, or they may have different reasons. If you want to know what someone else’s reasons are, you’ll have to ask him or her. Here are the reasons I haven’t publicly addressed these issues:

😷¹ I am not your leader. (I know the lady who asked the question knows that, but I think it’s important to clarify this point in case it might be fuzzy to others.) I am a content creator. My job is to provide you with doctrinally sound leisure time reading and listening material to bolster what you should already be receiving at church². Think of this ministry as an optional, nutritious, between-meals snack, and your local church as your essential three square meals a day. You should not be looking to me or any other online personality for leadership or shepherding. That’s your pastor’s and elders’ job at the church level, your parents’ job if you’re a minor living in their home, or your husband’s job if you’re married. As I often say, it is my joy to serve you in Christ. That’s what I am to you – a servant, not a leader.

😷 I’m global. For reasons He hasn’t disclosed to me, God has chosen to make my content available on every continent on this planet except Antarctica (although I actually have one follower who has been to Antarctica – does that count? :0) That means, if I “took a stand” on various issues surrounding COVID, it would go out to all kinds of different countries and areas with all kinds of different cultures, laws, and governmental leaders. All I know is America, Louisiana, Baton Rouge. That’s what molds the way I think and form opinions about these issues, and that’s not only not necessarily applicable to someone in Pakistan, or Venezuela, or Eritrea, it could be discouraging to people in those countries, or even dangerous for them to act on my America-centric pronouncements. I mean, my goodness, my Louisiana viewpoint and advice on these issues probably aren’t even applicable to people in New York or Nebraska or Oregon.

😷 It’s political. COVID-related issues are saturated with politics. You can’t divorce one from the other. And if you’ve followed me for any length of time, you may have noticed that I don’t get involved in political or legal issues unless they intersect directly with Scripture. I’m a “stay in my lane” kind of gal, and politics and policies are not my lane. For me, personally, for this particular ministry and what I’m trying to accomplish here, politics is an unnecessary distraction. My focus (and I realize it’s a narrow focus, and I’m OK with that) is helping to build spiritually strong, biblically literate Christian women who can strengthen their local churches and evangelize and disciple other women and children at the local church level. We’re all different body parts here, ladies. I’m going to focus on being an ear and let somebody else focus on being an eye. (If you’d like to listen to a solid Christian content creator whose focus is politics, I highly recommend Allie Beth Stuckey’s podcast, Relatable.) 

😷 It’s a local church issue. When to start meeting again, whether or not to go to multiple services to spread everybody out, whether or not masks and hand sanitizer will be required, even whether or not to accept a loan from the government…these are all things (and more) that the pastor and elders of each local church will have to decide for that particular church. Every church is different. Every pastor is different. Different decisions will need to be made for different churches because these types of things are not mentioned in Scripture, they’re issues of adiaphora (Christian liberty). What difference does it make what I think if that’s not what your pastor has decided for your church? All that does is set me up in opposition to your pastor forcing you to choose between him and me. You don’t need that kind of tension in your life, and your pastor certainly doesn’t need it in his church. I’d rather say this: Whatever your pastor decides for your church, as long as it’s in keeping with Scripture, I support him, and I encourage you to joyfully submit to his leadership. That’s way more constructive and biblical than offering you my personal opinion.

Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.
Pray for us, for we are sure that we have a clear conscience, desiring to act honorably in all things. I urge you the more earnestly to do this in order that I may be restored to you the sooner. Hebrews 13:17-19

😷 I’m not the bandwagon type. Usually. Every once in a while, I’ll weigh in on whatever the hot topic du jour is, but when I do, I normally try to address an aspect of it that hasn’t been addressed by others. If I have nothing to say except the same thing everybody else is saying, I figure, “What’s the point?”. At that point, I’m just adding noise to the clamor and it’s boring. And that’s the case here- I have nothing new to add to the conversation about masks, when to go back to church, etc.

Also, I figure if I’m sick of hearing about a particular topic, you’re probably sick of hearing about it too. Several weeks ago, I posted a question on Facebook asking whether y’all wanted me to write something about COVID or write about something else. I didn’t do the math, but I got dozens of responses and it looked to me like about 98% of y’all were begging me to, “please write about something else, anything else!”. So I figured y’all are just as sick of hearing about COVID-related issues as I am.

😷 I hate dumpster fires. There aren’t words in the English language to express to you how deeply I detest social media fights (especially over non-scriptural issues) between professing Christians. Honestly, some of y’all are worse than my kids when it comes to arguing. You can’t just politely state your position, let others state theirs, and move on. No, you’ve got to argue the issue to death even when it was clear 20 comments ago that the other person wasn’t going to change her mind. If you want to do that on your social media page, have at it. But remember, when you do it on my social media page, I’m the one who has to read through all the ugly comments, feel all the angst and anger, and end up blocking people who can’t behave like godly adults. And I know that if I took sides on some of these COVID issues that’s exactly what my social media, blog comments, and e-mail would turn into- one great big dumpster fire of arguing. I know this because I’ve posted far more innocuous things and people have started arguments over those issues and even issues completely unrelated to the original topic. By refraining from offering my opinion on COVID-related issues, I prevent the distraction from and derailing of my ministry, and I keep strife, arguing, and unnecessary division off my platforms. 

😷 Because…the Bible. As I was writing this article, a few passages of Scripture came to mind:

A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion. Proverbs 18:2

Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome… 2 Timothy 2:23-24a

…and charge them before God not to quarrel about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers. 2 Timothy 2:14b

When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent. Proverbs 10:19

Now, not all of these verses apply directly to the issue at hand. But I think they do enlighten us to some general biblical principles:

  • God don’t like ugly.
  • God doesn’t want us arguing. Yes, sometimes we have to contend for the faith, but that’s completely different from quarreling over opinions and issues the Bible doesn’t address.
  • Sometimes the wisest thing a Believer can do is keep her mouth shut.


These are the reasons I have chosen not to share my position on the various controversial issues surrounding COVID-19 (as well as several other issues over the years). If you want to know what do do about a particular issue, read up on it from a reliable source, compare what you read to rightly handled Scripture and reject anything that contradicts it, ask your pastor, and follow his leadership.

¹The masked emojis are not my way of subtly “taking a stand” one way or the other on masks. I just find basic bullet points boring, and that was the most relevant emoji I could find for this subject.😆
²I am assuming, for the purposes of this article, that you are in a doctrinally sound church, with a solid, trustworthy pastor. If you’re not, you have bigger problems than not hearing my opinions on COVID issues. Please see the “Searching for a new church?” tab in the blue menu bar at the top of this page.

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.

Sanctification, Sin

Guilt and Shame- Burden or Blessing?


I agree with what you’re saying, I’m just afraid it might arouse guilt and shame in newer believers, as well as those with sensitive consciences,” a follower recently said in response to a statement of biblical truth I posted on social media. I’ve been pondering that ever since she said it. It was good food for thought.

Guilt and shame are not subjects we often talk about outright. Rather, they seem to be a taboo silently woven into the fabric of our collective consciousness in 21st century Western culture – even in evangelicalism. It’s an unspoken law with the direst of consequences: “Thou shalt never say or do anything that causes anyone to feel guilty or ashamed for the choices she has made or the way she lives her life.” If you do, cancel culture will hunt you down and publicly eviscerate you. You’ll be shunned, and you can kiss your reputation goodbye. Why? Because our society tells us that guilt and shame are the absolute worst things someone can feel.

But is that really true? Or could it be that the prince of the power of the air is lying to us yet again?

While the church has historically done a stellar job of sharing the good news that Christ took away our guilt and shame on the cross, it has not always done a good job of explaining what the emotions¹ of guilt and shame are or the proper function they are to serve in the lives of both Believers and unbelievers.

There are two kinds of emotional guilt and shame: biblically appropriate and biblically inappropriate. Biblically appropriate guilt and shame is when you feel guilty and ashamed as a result of doing something wrong. Biblically inappropriate guilt and shame is when you feel guilty and ashamed when you haven’t done anything wrong.

Biblically appropriate guilt and shame are good gifts from God. They are like a fever that tells you you’re sick and need to take some medicine. Lost or saved, new Believer or seasoned Saint, sensitive conscience or not, if someone is sinning, she should feel guilt and shame, because she has transgressed a holy God. For the lost person, that guilt and shame is an internal reminder that she stands forensically (legally) guilty before God and needs a Savior. For the Believer, that guilt and shame is the conviction of the Holy Spirit leading her to repent and obey Christ instead of sinning. Biblically appropriate guilt and shame are biblically appropriate because your feelings about what you’ve done match the facts of what you’ve done. You feel guilty and ashamed because you are guilty of doing something shameful: sin.

The warning sign of guilt and shame is a blessing from a good, kind, and merciful God calling us to repent immediately and return to Him before we dig ourselves into a deeper pit of sin. Like a loving father who starts with a stern look when his child first misbehaves and then progressively moves on to increasing levels of discipline, God does not pour out the full fury of His wrath at our first bobble toward sin. He starts with the “stern look” of guilt and shame.

Have you ever read the Old Testament and explored some of the more drastic warning signs God had to send His people, and the pagans they lived among, when they sinned and hardened their hearts against the guilt and shame He blessed them with? Have you contemplated the horrors of eternal conscious torment in Hell, lately? When we consider…

  • how dangerous sin is for us in this life,
  • how petrifying the prospect of what God could do to us, has every right to do to us in His anger over our sin if He were so inclined,
  • how the heart of God is not to punish and destroy, but to redeem and reconcile

…it is much easier to recognize biblically appropriate guilt and shame as an act of unfathomable love from God.

If a professing Christian doesn’t normally feel guilt and shame when she has clearly sinned, she should be extremely concerned. That is usually the fruit of someone who is unregenerate, not someone who is saved, and she would do well to follow Scripture’s mandate to examine herself against rightly handled Scripture to see if she is indeed in the faith.

But what about experiencing biblically inappropriate shame and guilt? In the life of a genuinely regenerated Christian, biblically inappropriate shame and guilt mainly takes one of two forms:

  • feeling shame and guilt for your own pre-salvation sins, or post-salvation sins you’ve already repented of
  • feeling shame and guilt for someone else’s sin or for something else outside your control

This kind of shame and guilt is inappropriate because it is misapplied. God intended shame and guilt to bring you to repentance for your sin, not to haunt you for sin you’ve already repented of or for someone else’s sin or something outside your control.

If you have bowed the knee to Christ in repentance and faith that His death on the cross, burial, and resurrection paid the penalty for your sin, then God’s good gift of guilt and shame has done its job. It’s over. Christ took your guilt and shame and sin, nailed it all to the cross – and it died there. It did not come down off the cross with Jesus, and it was not resurrected with Him. You have the glorious privilege as one robed in the righteousness of Christ, to rebuke those feelings of guilt and shame over past sins any time they rear their ugly heads, armed with the knowledge that you are forgiven and free. Christ paid with His blood to give you the right not to have to feel those feelings. Send them packing by praising God for His wonderful gift of grace and mercy to you in Christ.

And what about feeling guilt and shame for someone else’s sin? Perhaps you did your best to raise your child in a godly way, but he grew up to become a rapist or murderer, and you feel guilty. Maybe someone committed the sin of abuse against you and you’re dying of shame inside. If I just hadn’t done this, or if I had only done that, he wouldn’t have done what he did. It’s my fault.

May I make a suggestion? Do a good, long, hard study of Ezekiel 18. God is crystal clear – in such a loving and comforting way – that He does not hold you responsible for anyone’s sin but your own. You are – not as a matter of subjective opinion or feelings, but as a matter of forensic, objective fact – not guilty of that person’s sin. So if you’re feeling guilt and shame, your feelings don’t match the facts. Your feelings are boldly and brashly lying to you in the face of what God says is true about you. He says you’re not guilty. Your feelings say you are. Who are you going to believe?

That’s why it’s incredibly important that we believe God’s objectively true written Word over and above our feelings. It’s also why it makes me so angry when seeker driven churches and women’s “Bible” study materials focus on your personal feelings, opinions, preferences, and life experiences instead of properly teaching you the Bible. How can you believe God’s Word over your feelings if you don’t even know God’s Word? When all you know is your raw emotions and not what God says, that leaves you trapped, a slave to your con artist feelings, when you could be completely set free from the shame and guilt God never intended for you to feel for someone else’s sin.

And, finally, you could be feeling biblically inappropriate guilt for an accident or something else outside your control. If we had just bought a different house, we wouldn’t have been living in this one when the tornado hit, and my husband would still be alive. If I had just taken a different route, I wouldn’t have encountered that unexpected traffic accident and missed my daughter’s senior recital.

There’s a key truth all Christians need to come to grips with here: God is sovereign over every atom and event in the universe. You are not. God knows the future. You do not. God is God. You are not. When you feel guilty for things you had no way of knowing, preventing, or avoiding, you are essentially saying you should have God’s omnipotence and omniscience. You’re feeling guilty for not being God.

And your feelings of guilt over something like this are also saying that God was wrong for allowing what happened to happen, because if you were God, you wouldn’t have let it happen. Take a moment and let that sink in. Your feelings of guilt over something unforeseen and unavoidable say that you think you could do a better job of being God than He can. Well, let me tell you what we both already know. You can’t.

God determined from the foundations of the earth exactly which day, and how, and where, your husband was going to die. If it wasn’t God’s will that he die in a tornado on that day, in that house, he wouldn’t have. If God wanted you at your daughter’s recital, you would have been there.

You don’t have control. Control is an illusion. God has control. (And that’s good. Because God knows faaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaar better than we do the right thing to do in every situation.) And if you don’t have control, then you didn’t do anything wrong. And if you didn’t do anything wrong, feeling guilty is biblically inappropriate, a) because God’s purpose for guilt is to draw you to repentance over your sin, not for failing to achieve Godhood, and b) because your feelings (“I’m guilty!”) don’t match the facts (you’re not).

God is sovereign. He always does what is right and best in every situation, even if you can’t see it and don’t understand. And because He always does what is right and best, you can trust Him in those terrible incomprehensible situations. Take some time to study what God’s Word says about trusting Him.


A major problem in evangelicalism today is that we have followed the world’s lead and made people’s feelings into a god. We are more worried about hurting people’s feelings than providing them actual biblical help. And we all, including me, need to repent of that and stop it. It is infinitely better to fleetingly hurt someone’s feelings with biblical truth that leads her to Christ, than to allow her feelings to be an untouchable idol that keeps her in sin.

There has to be something higher, more important, than protecting someone from feeling biblically appropriate guilt and shame. There has to be something lofty enough to rescue people out of biblically inappropriate guilt and shame.

There is: God and His Word.

Exalting God and His Word to their proper and deserved place of preeminence and authority, and submitting to them in our hearts, minds, churches, and relationships is not simplistic, it’s foundational. And when it comes to the veneration of people’s feelings (and far too many other issues) we have become the foolish man who has traded a foundation on the rock of God’s truth and His ways for one on the enticingly sandy beach of worldly “wisdom”.

And, y’all…

…it’s starting to rain.


¹There is also a forensic definition of guilt. For example, if you rob a bank, you are forensically (legally), objectively guilty of the crime of robbery regardless of how you feel about it. This article deals mainly with the emotion of guilt– feeling guilty, or having a guilty conscience.