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 MichelleLesley1@yahoo.com, 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.


 

Book Reviews, Guest Posts

Guest Post: A Review of Jackie Hill-Perry’s “Jude: Contending for the Faith in Today’s Culture”

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 MichelleLesley1@yahoo.com, and let’s chat about it.


For more information on Jackie Hill-Perry, please click here.

A Review of Jackie Hill-Perry’s
“Jude: Contending for the Faith in Today’s Culture”

by: Thomas Coutouzis

There is an old adage that says, “You can’t judge a book by its cover”. The implication is that the outward appearance of a book is not a reliable indicator of the content. This can be true at times, however, I have found more often than not that you actually can judge a book by its cover, probably more today than ever. In the case of Jackie Hill-Perry’s study on Jude, you can indeed judge a book by its cover. I will tell you why shortly.

I was asked if I would read the Jackie Hill-Perry study on Jude and write a review since I have written a commentary on Jude. I have studied extensively in Jude and have a passion for defending the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints. Our Lord doesn’t need us to defend His truth or His name, but He chooses to use us and charges us to contend against false teaching.

I don’t know much about Ms. Perry. I saw her in the excellent documentary made by Brandon Kimber called, American Gospel: Christ Alone. In this documentary she and a multitude of other saints presented the tenets of the prosperity gospel and began to dismantle them piece by piece with Scripture until you could see the man-made anti-Christ teaching it really was. What was surprising is when she posted pictures on social media of her with a variety of false teachers. The first thought that immediately popped into my mind was, “How can you teach a study on Jude and then go and befriend those who preach a false gospel?” These two things cannot coexist together. After all, the apostle Paul said, “Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness?” 2 Corinthians 6:14. Not to mention that we should not even give a false teacher a greeting (2 John 10-11). My suspicion was that Ms. Perry didn’t fully understand the text and as I read and listened to our dear sister’s messages I found that this is most likely the case.

I started with looking over the cover first. As a person with an Ad Agency background I found that the cover missed the entire theme of Jude. Jude is a polemic epistle. Polemic comes from the Greek word πόλεμος (polemos), which means “war/battle/fight”. Thus Jude is a call to arms for the church to stand up and go to war with false teachers. In verse 3, Jude challenges the believer to contend for the faith earnestly (ἐπαγωνίζομαι – epagonizomai). It gives us our English word, “agonize”. The word denotes a struggle against a competitor or enemy. In this case, Jude is using the word figuratively to describe going to battle against an enemy. It is combat against a foe. The word is used in the present tense denoting that the believer is to constantly combat false teachers. False teachers will never rest spreading heresy, neither should we stop opposing them with the truth. With this said, the cover (image at the top of this article) was an intersection on a city street with three cross walks and various people making their way to and fro. This cover in no way encapsulates the theme of Jude. It is a misrepresentation of the message of this epistle. The theme of Jude is a fight against those wolves in sheep’s clothing who have sneaked into the church with the purpose of turning it away from God. My commentary has a shield with two swords on the cover. This sets the tone for what you are about to read. Unfortunately, the creative team at LifeWay and Ms. Perry missed the mark on the cover for this study.

In this study Ms. Perry did six teaching segments and one summary segment. That said, Her teaching segments skipped over verses 12-13 and 16-19 which are very significant to understanding the text. However, the book does cover these, but not in any depth. Ms. Perry is a godly woman who has a passion for her King. The Lord has saved her, like all of us, from a life of great rebellion. You can see the love and passion she has for Him as she presents each of her messages.

In listening to the first segment (Jude 1-2) Ms. Perry understands that Jude is starting off his letter gently for a reason. The words that follow are going to be strong so he wants to make sure that the elect understand that their faith is secure before he drops some hard words regarding apostates. She makes this point very clear. She also speaks to Jude reminding them that the elect’s faith is secure for all time.

What I believe was missing in her teaching and the book was the historical context for Jude. What ancient heresies were around when Jude wrote the book that would give insight to his remarks? How do we know Jude was Jesus’ brother and not Judas son of James? There are Scriptures that prove Jude was Jesus’ brother, but why were they not cited as proof to whom this was (Mark 6:3)? There are also Scriptures that point to Jude’s unbelief in Christ like John 7:5. These are all important not only in pointing to lineage and authorship, but that God redeemed him (Acts 1:14) from his unbelief and why he is so passionate to contend for the faith. How can we understand the book if we don’t understand the man’s roots?

In the section of the book that covered Jude 1-2 I was perplexed as to why there was teaching about how the ancients wrote letters. The book displayed a letter from a Roman soldier named Apion and wanted the reader to compare them to Paul’s greetings in Ephesians 1:1-2, 1 Corinthians 1:1-3, and John’s greeting in Revelation 1:4-5. It struck me more as a filler to take up space rather than to help the reader to understand what this letter means.

In verse 3, Ms. Perry does not define the Greek word for “contend earnestly” (ἐπαγωνίζομαι – epagonizomai), but she does speak to one aspect of its usage which was regarding a struggle in athletic contests. Fighting to win the wreath. Indeed, the people of this time would be familiar with the Olympic games and the struggle to win, but that is not how Jude is using this word. Epagonizomai” combines the preposition “epi” meaning, “focused on” and “agon” which means “a contest”. In Greek, a preposition intensifies the meaning of the word to show the ferocity of the fight. In this case, Jude is using it figuratively for military combat. A fight in which your very life hangs in the balance and you must fight until the last breath. This is your enemy, not a competitor. You shake hands after a contest with a competitor. In battle, your enemy will gloat over your dead body because he seeks your destruction. Such are false teachers. They seek your destruction. The term is in the present tense which indicates that challenging false teachers is a constant. The Christian is to do this until he breathes his last.

Jude 3 is the cornerstone of the epistle. If you incorrectly interpret this verse, then the meaning of the rest of the book will crumble to the ground. Ms. Perry misses the militaristic intent. This term would indeed be recognized by the hearer in the context of Rome and its gladiators who would “epagonizomai”. This misunderstanding might be why Ms. Perry has associated with apostates like Jenn Johnson. She doesn’t see them as a threat to her or Christ. If you don’t see your enemy as a threat he is going to lure you in and destroy you.

To further show where Ms. Perry misses the mark on this verse, she rightly posits in the accompanying teaching video (#2) that those who contend with hatred in their hearts are wrong. There are infamous discernment blogs out there that excoriate both apostate and brethren alike, attacking their character more than the error. There is no civility. She gives an example of people holding up picket signs “outside”. It struck me as a reference to the infamous Westboro Baptist Church. They certainly are filled with hatred, thus in need of redemption. Ms. Perry states, “It might be that these people have contended for the faith wrong because they have taken the imagery of contending and divorced it from love.” I believe she is referring to these people with picket signs who have hatred in their hearts and not to the church to which Jude wrote his epistle. It was hard to tell. Right after saying this she posits that because Jude called these Christians “beloved” and said “may love be multiplied to you” that Jude is telling them that they are to contend for the faith in love. She further explains, “So when he (Jude) tells them to contend for the faith, love is to be assumed as an active participant in how they do it.”

First, she is reading something into the text that is not there. This is eisegesis (reading one’s own bias into the text that is not the author’s original intent). There is no connection with Jude’s greeting regarding his love for them and love being multiplied to them that would imply that he is exhorting them to contend for the faith in love, especially with his gut punch to them in verse 3. When I first heard this it almost sounded as if she was suggesting that the recipients of this epistle were not contending for the faith in love, but as I listened to it for context a few more times I don’t believe that she was drawing this conclusion.

Regardless, the aforementioned eisegesis of Jude exhorting the church to contend for the faith in love stands. The believers in Jerusalem were passive toward sin. These Christians were allowing false teachers to be a part of the church, thereby allowing in heresy, and turning believers away to a different Christ. Jude is emphatically calling believers to arms to fight against these heretics who have sneaked in. They are going to need to start church discipline immediately because when Jude’s letter is read, they will recognize these wolves. Some of these apostates might be their friends with whom they must now have hard conversations. Relationships will be severed and hearts will be broken.

Ms. Perry didn’t really explain in depth what contending for the faith in love looks like. We certainly should contend for the faith without maligning the character of others or abusive speech. Ms. Perry didn’t distinguish the line other than hatred, cynicism, and cruelty. I was under the impression that there is no room for stern reproofs for apostates. I believe Titus 1:13 and some of Paul’s stern reproofs (See 1 Corinthians 5, 2 Corinthians 12-13, and Galatians) would not side with her. You can be loving and stern in a rebuke, especially when someone is extremely hard-hearted. Ultimately, we should care so much about others’ well being that they see our kindness and care for them, but this doesn’t negate that there might be a time when words need to be stronger in order to penetrate a heart hardened by sin.

This leads me to my next point. In terms of the depth of the study and application, I found this study to be severely lacking. The book’s subtitle is, “Contending for the Faith in Today’s Culture”, but there are no examples of modern day apostasy. Jude clearly points out the attributes of apostates. These were not taught in the teaching video, but the book did scratch the surface of some of these attributes. Many of the study questions asked, “What do you think…?” instead of “What does the text mean?” The “What do you think?” questions lead to subjective answers rather than objective. The line between truth and error is blurred with subjective questioning. When we read a text we want to discern what God actually means.

Here are more examples:

Regarding Jude 6 and the angels that were having sex with women and spawning a super race: “Do you think God should have judged them? Why or Why not?”

Why would you ask that question? Of course they should have been judged!

What was so surprising is that there was no application as to how this relates to identifying an apostate. The study showed the demons in the abyss as a clear judgment from God, but did not relate it to the coming judgment of apostates who are like these demons. The book and teaching didn’t make the correlation that these demons went outside of God’s sexual boundaries that he established in Genesis 2:24. One of the easiest things to discern is that apostates live to go outside the boundaries that God sets with His Law. In this case, and in the case of Sodom, Jude is showing that apostates are the foremost of the sexually immoral. Where there is a sex scandal in the church, you will find an apostate. They will break every one of God’s sexual boundaries, whether heterosexual sex outside of marriage, homosexuality, polyamory, pedophilia, incest, rape, etc. Sexual sin is a judgment from God, but that is never discussed, nor pointing out that men and women in the church venturing outside of God’s sexual boundaries are most likely unregenerate.

Regarding Jude 8 when Jude refers to apostates as dreamers, Ms. Perry gives the transliterated word “enupniazomai”, but doesn’t define it. Why would you give the Greek word that Jude uses and no definition? It means “in a dream state/in a dream while asleep.” Jude is obviously using this term figuratively to denote that apostates are daydreamers. They daydream about sex, money, fame, luxury, and even revenge. Daydreams are a form of self-exaltation. Apostates will go to whatever end to get these things that they lust after; thus they defile their flesh. False teachers do declare divine revelation through dreams, but that is not what they are doing here because these dreams that Jude speaks of lead them to defile their flesh.

Regarding Jude 12-13, questions were asked like:

“What four elements of nature did Jude use to describe the ungodly teachers?” Questions like this will not aid the reader in understanding what Jude means when he says apostates are “autumn trees without fruit, doubly dead, uprooted;”.

There are many more examples that I could give, but it is not necessary. I don’t believe this study will thoroughly equip you for battle against apostates, not all of which are infamous false teachers like Steven Furtick or TD Jakes. Many are small town church pastors or congregants in our own churches that are either dormant or actively working to lead people away from God. They are regular church attenders like you and me.

With this study we can judge a book by its cover. It is not that the study is heresy, rather it barely scratches the surface of a potent book. I can only speculate as to why Ms. Perry after teaching a study on Jude would associate with those who meet all the criteria Jude gives for apostasy. This epistle should aid in our discernment of counterfeit Christians. If it doesn’t, then we are not heeding the necessity with which Jude wrote this book and commands us to contend earnestly for the faith until we are called home.


Thomas Coutouzis is the author of Agonizing For The Faith: A Biblical Exposition of Jude as well as an epic fantasy series that is partial allegory called Athanasia (The Great Insurrection (part 1) and The Unknown Lands (part 2)). Thomas resides in North Carolina with his wife and two children, is an expositional Bible teacher at his church. He welcomes you to follow him on Twitter.


Book Giveaway: Thomas would like to bless two readers with a copy of his book Agonizing For The Faith: A Biblical Exposition of Jude. To enter the giveaway, drop Thomas an e-mail at thomascoutouzis@gmail.com before 11:59 p.m., Friday, April 24 and let him know something you liked or learned from his review of Jackie Hill-Perry’s book. Thomas will choose the winners and notify them by e-mail.

Guest Posts

Guest Post: I’d Rather Be with You: An Open Letter to My Children

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 MichelleLesley1@yahoo.com, and let’s chat about it.

 

I’d Rather Be with You:
An Open Letter to My Children

by Courtney Feulner

In a world where children are seen not as a blessing, but an inconvenience, I want you to know:
I’d rather be with you, my darlings.

While others are getting their eight hours of blissful slumber, and I wake for the third time with tired groans (and bags under my eyes), secretly,
I’d rather be with you.

When you greet me before the first morning light with sleepy eyes and wobbly steps, and other moms are off to their morning work-outs, I know this time is fleeting, so
I’d rather be with you.

While other kids your age are carted off from one activity to another, I know your time will come, but for now,
I’d rather be with you.

While other couples are trekking across the globe and taking adventurous trips, just the two of them, I look out and see you playing without a care in the world, and I smile because I know my time will come, and if given the choice,
I’d rather be with you.

When my name is on the invitation, and yours are not,
I’d rather be with you, my loves.

While career-woman chases financial freedom and grasps for the next rung, I consider her little ones who foot the bill. Money can’t buy what I have, so
I’d rather be with you, my sweet babies.

When you throw tantrums, big and stubborn like your personality, I laugh and cry because you’re cute and naughty, but I remember that this is all shaping who you are and who you will become. Even on the days when my wherewithal has been through it all, still,
I’d rather be with you.

When you make messes that I’ve cleaned up a million times already, and oh the piles of laundry, I recall how empty and vain it was before, and my heart knows that
I’d rather be with you.

When you come running with your ceramic mugs shouting, “Tea! Tea!” as I just sit down to enjoy my only-hot-for-so-long coffee,
I’d rather have it lukewarm and be with you.

When your eyes grow wide with excitement over a big story, and I try to hide my laughter and take you seriously (but I can’t because you’re too funny!), yes,
I’d rather be with you.

You see, the transient things, they come and they go, but you are a priceless gift! Without you I wouldn’t know the true satisfaction, the lasting blessing, the deep joy that comes from dying to self and living for others. You help me to see the gospel more clearly.

When I look into your wonder-filled eyes, when I truly take the time, and realize how much older you look than yesterday, oh my, how
I’d much rather be with you!

So, my little sweethearts, when the world doesn’t welcome you, this one thing I need you to know:
I’d always rather be with you.


Courtney is a homeschooling, stay-at-home-mama of two children. She received her degree in Elementary Education from Moody Bible Institute where she met her husband, Greg, and discovered her passion for teaching children. Together they are pursuing adoption.

Guest Posts

Guest Post: Be Part of the Solution – Preach the Whole Counsel of God

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 MichelleLesley1@yahoo.com, and let’s chat about it.

 

Be Part of the Solution:
Preach the Whole Counsel of God

by Andy de Ganahl

“If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.”

An honest assessment of what passes for Evangelicalism today is depressing. Individual Christians are vastly ignorant of the Scriptures, churches that teach verse-by-verse are few and far between, and whole denominations are apostatizing left and right. The reason for this massive downgrade is simple: once a departure from Scripture’s authority has commenced, total destruction is imminent.

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths. – 2 Timothy 4:3-4

We are even now living in a time when “Christians” desperately desire to have their ears tickled. They want people to tell them what they want to hear and have no stomach for anything outside of that small circle.

We conservatives are quick to point the finger at men like Joel Osteen or Steven Furtick who deny redemption from sin in favor of redemption of personal circumstances. The damning errors of Beth Moore and Rachel Hollis who preach empowerment instead of submission are easy pickings. These are ear-ticklers who have a vast following. But what are we doing about it?

The cancer of heresy is easy to spot once it manifests, but we must address the source of this sickness rather than only treating the symptoms. Generally speaking, we know the problem. We have departed from the Word of God. When you confuse the gospel of grace with personal wealth and individual independence, you’re clearly off the reservation. But where did this start? How far back do we have to go before we find the root of this problem? At what point did we become those who desire to have our ears tickled? It is my opinion that this sickness has infected many more of us than you may suspect.

What Is The Problem?

If you’re like me, you may associate that phrase “wanting to have their ears tickledwith heresy. Clearly what Paul is talking about is a gross misrepresentation of the gospel that might include things like:

  • Denying Christ’s divinity
  • Denying Christ’s humanity
  • Denying the need of repentance
  • Denying human inability in salvation

We could go on and point out the heresies of various cults and false teachers, but Paul’s point is broader than that. All that the phrase means is that people want to be told what they want to hear at the expense of everything else. This does not mean that the thing that people want to hear is necessarily contrary to Scripture.

Paul contrasts ear-tickling with sound doctrine. The Greek literally means healthy/wholesome teaching. It brings the idea of a complete and filling spiritual and theological diet. There is no room in a whole diet for sweets and fluff. But we also need more than only steak, only bread, only broccoli (Praise Him!).

Christians must hold certain convictions with an iron grip. There are many things that a true Christian will never budge on. But that iron grip must hold the totality of God’s Word and not only those convictions that we personally adore more than others.

Some beloved believers, while holding fast their biblical convictions, are ignorant to other important doctrines. Not only are they ignorant, they’re indifferent. They’ve no time for these matters nor do they desire to submit to them. They only wish to hear about the things that are most concerning to them.

We hot-blooded Protestants are eager to rally to the cry of Sola Scriptura! Yet that slogan means that we stand on the totality of Scripture alone, not that we only stand on our favorite passages and doctrines.

I’ve noticed a trend in the various posts that I write. The majority of my writing reflects a careful exposition of Scripture. I write like I preach, verse by verse. But occasionally it is necessary to address issues and topics in light of current events (case in point). Those topics are still presented and studied under the light of Scripture, but they remain topical in nature. It is these kinds of posts that receive the most attention, views, and shares on social media. This trend follows the trajectory of the larger problem. In general, the people of God are more interested in topical discussions that tickle their ears than enduring wholesome teaching. If I am honest, I find this discouraging.

If I were to write something rather controversial like the clear demonic influence of the Democratic National Convention or the apostasy of the Southern Baptist Convention, these sensational topics would likely be well circulated. But these are crumbs. The truths of these propositions are so utterly basic to the Christian faith. To feast on these things is to ensure spiritual starvation. To prefer sensational topics to steady exposition is the very definition of wanting to have our ears tickled.

Please understand me. I am not suggesting that pastors should not address topics that intersect with our surroundings. The sheep need to hear the clear voice of the Shepherd in all things. But it grieves me that there is a genuine lack of appetite for meat while the crumbs are quickly gobbled up. The true child of God loves all of the Word of God and not only the parts he finds to be sensational.

This is a problem of our own making. It has become the standard operating procedure of most churches to completely avoid vast portions of Scripture. We are grieved when we see churches adopt atheistic presuppositions about the origins of the universe and deny God’s literal creation. We marvel and shake our heads when we hear that churches no longer teach homosexuality is sin in both practice and desire. We are shocked when we see mainstream denominations promote blatant violations of 1 Timothy 2:12. But all of these are only the fruit. The root is much deeper.

We have been giving lip service to the inerrancy and sufficiency of Scripture while practically denying that “all Scripture is God-breathed and is profitable for teaching, reproof, correction, and exhortation” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

In plain language, the problem is a departure from the totality of Scripture.

What Is The Solution?

The solution is as simple as the problem. We must cling to and submit under the totality of Scripture. But what does that simple solution look like?

As a people, we must soundly reject the false understanding of doctrinal triage. We cannot survive another decade if we continue to treat the church like a 1950’s dinner party where are certain topics are off limits. There is simply no such thing as secondary or tertiary doctrines that pale in significance or even lapse into insignificance when placed alongside “primarydoctrines. The biblical authors never divide the Word of God into degrees of significance and neither should we. The solution to biblical fidelity will never be found in arbitrary divisions of biblical teaching. If we’re not part of the solution, we’re part of the problem.

As a church, our pulpits must proclaim the full counsel of God and not only the portions that are palatable. The teaching must be only the Word and must consist of the totality of the Word. Careful verse-by-verse exposition takes a very, very, very long time. It took John MacArthur almost 50 years to preach through the New Testament. But there are still 39 books in the Old Testament that need to be taught. Precise verse-by-verse exposition is the only way to preach. But that means the church must provide more than only the pulpit ministry. The people need the whole story. Their diet must contain the totality of God’s bounty. The solution to biblical fidelity requires the totality of the Bible to be taught. If we’re not part of the solution, we’re part of the problem.

As an individual, you must feast upon the totality of Scripture on a daily basis. There are many Bible reading programs out there. I have my opinion as to how to make your daily Bible reading and communion with God most profitable, but at the end of the day you must be familiar with your ENTIRE Bible. When is the last time you read through Leviticus, or Habakkuk, or Philemon, or (heaven forbid) Revelation? If you own a Bible and possess the ability to read, there is no excuse to be biblically malnourished. This is akin to starving do death with a full pantry. The solution to biblical fidelity requires that we are familiar with our Bibles. If we’re not part of the solution, we’re part of the problem.

Helpful Suggestions

Find a church: The individual Christian is never truly an individual but a member of a larger body. If you find yourself floating from church to church, or just not going to church, then repent of your sin and attach yourself to a faithful body. But be wise to what you attach yourself. There is only one thing that should look for: does this church teach the Bible? Sequential exposition is not just an effective way to preach, it is the only way to preach. The style of music, the quality of the sound system, and the presence (or lack of) children’s church does not amount to a hill of beans. Does the pastor open up his Bible, read it, explain it, and then exhort obedience to it? Find a church that does this, attach yourself to her, bless her and be blessed by her.

Redeem the time: There are portions of our day when our minds a free to wander. Whether we are driving to work, getting in a work out at the gym, or doing some mindless chore around the house. These are fantastic opportunities to engage the mind as well as the hands. We live in a day when we have countless resources full of sound teaching at our fingertips. Many faithful ministries have apps free to download on your phone (Search for Grace to You and S.L.J Institutes in the app store). Stop wasting your time with pointless and Godless music or simply allowing your mind to wander and feast upon the Word of God.

Be selective: Make a conscious decision between what’s good and what’s best. There are many teaching resources out there that seek to teach biblical truth, but are not necessarily teaching the Bible. Is it good to learn about God’s good creation and the scientific discoveries that assume Genesis 1 is true? Is it good to listen to men discussing current events from a biblical worldview? Absolutely. But what is best is to feast on the Word itself. Why waste your time listing about the Bible when you can hear the Bible being taught?

Conclusion

Apostasy and heresy are running rampant in our land and we are partly to blame. We have the audacity to be shocked at the fruit of unbelief when the root of biblical infidelity has been growing for decades. What did Paul command Timothy before he warned him? Preach the Word! (2 Timothy 4:1-2)

He doesn’t say, preach the primary” doctrines, or when it’s convenient. Preach the whole counsel of God and preach it all the time. There’s no room here for private convictions held within small circles. He says reprove (give correction), rebuke (call out sin), exhort (call for obedience) with great patience (people need to hear it over and over again) and instruction (TEACH IT!).

The problem with the church today is that we have neglected the totality of Scripture. As a result we must be chained to, immersed in, and fully submitted under all of Scripture.

This is our battle cry. This is what Sola Scriptura means. This is the path of fidelity. This is the solution to the problem. But if we’re not part of this solution, then we’re part of the problem.


Andy de Ganahl is a graduate of The Master’s Seminary and pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Burley Idaho. Andy’s burning desire is for the people of God to know the Word of God so that they can more accurately worship the God of the Word. You can check out If You’re Not Part of the Solution, Then You’re Part of the Problem (from which this guest post was excerpted), and other articles by Andy, at The Pastor’s Brief

Guest Posts

Guest Post: A Letter to Christians Feeling Weak

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 MichelleLesley1@yahoo.com, and let’s chat about it.

A Letter to Christians Feeling Weak
by Emma

Dear Christian,

Yes, it’s true. You are not enough.

Your strength is minimal. Your capacity is limited. Your ‘peak’ is not sufficient.

You may try again and again, however, left to your own devices, you are liable to fail just as many times. You can attempt to effect change, but self-reliance will ultimately leave you with an inferior result.

This news doesn’t sound especially cheerful or positive, does it? I know. I feel the weight of it, too.

The last couple days have reconfirmed the truth of these statements to me. They are not pleasant to hear, much less acknowledge.

In my prideful flesh, I do not enjoy being humbled. It can be rather disheartening to realize once again that I am not perfect, that I actually don’t have things all together, that my life is not yet in exemplary order.

Things likely appear miserably bleak at the moment and I assure you: they are. If we remain trusting in ourselves and placing our hope upon our own performances, we are going to be disappointed. That is what being cursed by sin entails.

Though, before you leave, before you click away from this thusfarcomfortless blog post, please hear this…

We are not enough, but Christ is. He is more than enough!

Our efforts alone will never be sufficient, never totally satisfactory. We have not been promised that we’ll never experience failure; quite the opposite is true actually.

Sin means falling short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). It guarantees that we will fail, at the very least, to live up to God’s standards (which are perfect, good, and beneficial for us).

Since we inhabit sin-tainted bodies in a condemned world, we are imperfect, weak, inadequate, and incapable of attaining everlasting peace by our own meagre human power.

That is why we need our Saviour.

He is our all-powerful Lord, God Almighty, the One Who cannot be thwarted, defeated or humiliated by anyone. His strength is abundant, limitless, beyond comparison, and He has made it accessible to us!

When we experience regeneration through His Holy Spirit, God supplies us with super-natural strength — the power of Christ, Who is now dwelling within us.

As we take on His life as our own, dying to ourselves, crucifying our old sinful ways and walking in righteousness, He sustains, strengthens, and emboldens us by His awesome might. In fact, it is His power that even keeps us saved.

Whether we are feeling weak or not, He is strong.

His “weakness” is always stronger than our strongest (1 Corinthians 1:25b) and He is forever reliable. We can trust Him when all others forsake us, when we mess up (for the trillionth time), when life seems to be falling apart, when depression threatens to overcome us, when this world disappoints, etc.

Brothers & sisters, may I ask: Along with this weakness you’re feeling, are you lacking self-esteem?

Yes? Good! That is exactly as it should be.

Our confidence needs to be founded in Christ, not ourselves.

So, instead of making further desperate attempts to build up your self-confidence, hold Him in high esteem. In reality, He is the One — the only Sovereign One — Who deserves such praise and adoration. We are less than pitiful, puny little ants compared to the Lord, our mighty, wondrous King.

He must be the solid Rock upon which we stand.

He must be our living, Heavenly, eternal Hope when the temporary pleasures of this earth fade.

He must be the One Who inspires and motivates us to persist upon the road less-travelled.

He must be our All in All.

Please, let me leave you with some precious treasures from Scripture (relating to the issue at hand)

…from the Old Testament:

Exodus 15:2

2 Samuel 22:33

1 Chronicles 16:11

1 Chronicles 29:12

Psalm 18:1-2

Psalm 18:32

Psalm 21:13

Psalm 28:7-8

Psalm 29:11

Psalm 33:20-21

Psalm 34:1-5, 18

Psalm 46:1

Psalm 59:16-17

Psalm 68:19, 35

Psalm 73:26

Psalm 89:15-18

Psalm 105:4

Psalm 118:14

Psalm 119:28

Isaiah 12:2

Isaiah 33:2

Isaiah 40:28-31

Isaiah 41:10, 13

Isaiah 58:11

Jeremiah 17:5-8

Micah 5:4-5

Habakkuk 3:19

 

…from the New Testament:

Ephesians 3:16-21

Philippians 4:11-13

Colossians 1:10-12

Colossians 2:6-7

1 Thessalonians 3:13

2 Thessalonians 2:16-17

2 Thessalonians 3:3, 5

1 Peter 4:11

1 Peter 5:6-7, 10-11

2 Peter 1:3-7

Jude 24-25

Select a handful of these passages and look them up in your Bible. They were super encouraging for me to meditate on as I compiled this list. I hope you will benefit significantly from them as well.

And, if you have time, consider undertaking your own word study (via a website such as Bible Gateway, or by referring to the concordance in the back of your Bible). Read the verses you find within their greater context to properly understand the message that is being conveyed. Search the Scriptures; and be pointed to Christ.

Lastly, don’t forget to pray!

Go firstly, to the Lord with your weakness. (After all, He has the most authority to help you; He is the sovereign Ruler of the universe.) Acknowledge it before Him and ask for His redeeming power to be seen through your imperfections.

Talk with the One Who is your Strength, your Refuge, your Defender, your Stronghold, your Prince of Peace.

Draw from the deep, soul-satiating well of God’s Word to fortify your prayers and choose to rely upon His lovely, trustworthy promises.

Rest your life entirely upon those sure words because the LORD our God is the epitome of faithfulness.

As you live in Christ, be strengthened in Him also, dear Christian! He will not ever fail you.

Sincerely, your fellow recipient of grace upon grace (John 1:16),

Emma

But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Corinthians 12:9-10 ESV


Emma is a Reformed Christian blogger who is on a mission to discover what it means to do entrepreneurship in a truly Biblical way. You can find more of her writings (specifically on blogging & entrepreneurship from a uniquely Christian perspective), and sign up for her newsletter, at My Redemption for His Glory. Emma also loves to connect with fellow believers on Instagram.