Discernment

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

We had a huge storm come through yesterday that knocked out our power for almost seven hours, so I wasn’t able to finish up the new article I had planned for today, but I hope you’ll enjoy this article from the archives.


Originally published January 11, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1.
Rejecting the Authority of Scripture

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

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

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

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

2.
Failing to Argue from Scripture

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

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

3.
Mishandling Scripture

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

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

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

4.
Lying, or Denying Reality

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

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

5.
Displaying the Fruit of the Flesh

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

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

6.
The Bible Doesn’t Back You Up

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Basic Training, Church

Throwback Thursday ~ Basic Training: 7 Reasons Church is Not Optional and Non-Negotiable for Christians

For more in the Basic Training series, click here.

It’s a disturbing trend that’s spreading like the plague, especially among women who claim to be believers:

“I’m a Christian but I refuse to attend church.”

These aren’t women who can’t attend church due to health reasons, caring for an ill or disabled loved one, who have no other choice but to work on Sundays, or who live in an area with no reasonably doctrinally sound church to attend. They’re women who could get plugged in to a decent local church, but intentionally shun the body of Christ.

Usually, the decision to opt out of church boils down to one of two scenarios: a) a believer who was hurt by a previous church and yet isn’t ready to risk being hurt again or b) someone (often a false convert) who doesn’t grasp the concept that being joyfully joined to a local body of believers is part of what defines someone as a Christian.

I can tell some of y’all have already fired up your e-mail programs or mentally formulated a corrective comment. Hang on, and please read what I’m about to say so we’re all on the same page here. I am not saying, have never said, and will never say that attending church, joining a church, serving at a church, or being baptized into a church is what saves a person, even in part. Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian. Everybody with me? Scripture is clear that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, and that good works, such as church attendance, play zero part in a person’s salvation.

What I am saying is that one of the signs, or fruits, that someone is already saved is that she has a heartfelt love and affection for the things of God, which includes the gathering of the saints for fellowship, worship, encouragement, and edification. For a believer, love for the bride of Christ is a natural extension of loving Christ, Himself. She doesn’t have to be talked into attending church; there’s no place on earth she’d rather be.

We’ve all been in difficult situations with difficult people at church that can hurt, sometimes deeply – believe me, I’ve been there – and can leave us in need of taking a few Sundays off to recover, or possibly the need to change to a healthier church. But if you’ve harbored antipathy toward the church, as a whole, for years, have never taken joy in fellowshipping and worshiping with fellow believers, don’t see any particular need for gathering with the Body, or are generally apathetic in your attitude toward church, you’re in a very dangerous place, spiritually, and you need to question your salvation. Those are symptoms of being lost, not fruit of being saved.

For Christians, being joined to a local church is not optional and non-negotiable. Why?

1. God Says So

Just in case the entirety of the Bible isn’t clear enough that God wants His people meeting together for fellowship, worship, and the Word, He says so very bluntly in Hebrews 10:24-25:

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

The HCSB puts it this way: “not staying away from our worship meetings, as some habitually do,” and NASB says: “not forsaking our own assembling together.” God says we are not to neglect, stay away from, or forsake, the meeting of the church body. For anyone who claims to be a Christian, that reason alone ought to be good enough. When God tells us to do something, we do it. Period.

2. The Church is God’s Plan for Christians

God doesn’t need or want your help devising the best methodology for your life and growth as a Christian. He already has a plan. He already established that plan. That plan is the church. There’s no plan B or any cafeteria-style options. If you’re a Christian, God’s plan for you is to be a faithful part of a local body of believers. The Bible never suggests that it’s OK for you to be a “Lone Ranger Christian.” There are no explicit statements to this effect, nor even one example of a New Testament Christian who lived life apart from the church. The New Testament assumes Christians will be part of a church. If not, the majority of Matthew through Revelation would be moot. If you reject the church, you’re rejecting God’s word and His way in favor of your own way.

3. Jesus Values the Church

You claim to love and follow Jesus, right? Well, Jesus founded the church. Jesus is the head of the church. Jesus loves the church. Jesus died for the church. Jesus is the Savior of the church. Jesus nourishes, cherishes, and sanctifies the church. How could anyone claim to love and follow Jesus and yet cavalierly toss aside something He values so much that He laid His life down for it? If you really love Jesus, you’ll value the things He values, and, clearly, He values the church.

4. Being Joined to the Church Is an Indicator of Salvation

First John 2:18-19 makes no bones about it. Forsaking the church is an indicator that you’re not saved:

…now many antichrists have come…They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.

Want to make it plain that you’re not of Christ? Step one is to leave the church.

5. The Church is the Dispensary for the Word and the Ordinances

The preaching and teaching of God’s Word. Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. In order to preserve their purity and sanctity, God established a hierarchical structure of ecclesiastical authority and placed the responsibility for administering Scripture and the ordinances with the church, not isolated individuals. Do we have women’s Bible studies and Sunday School classes? Of course. But only under the oversight of our pastors and elders, as an outflow of, and in keeping with, the preaching and teaching ministry of the church. Do we share the gospel with the lost we encounter during the week? You bet! Our churches enable us to do so by training us in the Word, and we bring new believers back to our churches so that they may be discipled.

6. The “One Anothers”

Love one another. Comfort one another. Forgive one another. Serve one another. Bear one another’s burdens. Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another. Have you ever stopped to think which people “one another” is referring to? It’s easy to see when you look at these verses in context. It’s our brothers and sisters in Christ. All of the New Testament “one anothers” are written to the church. You need brothers and sisters to minister the “one anothers” to you, and your brothers and sisters need you to minister the “one anothers” to them. We cannot properly carry out the “one anothers” outside the church because they were meant to be practiced first and foremost within the church.

7. Sheep Need Shepherds

The Bible often uses sheep as a metaphor for God’s people. And since we know that God is the author of Scripture, we know God handpicked that metaphor to describe us. Ever notice that God never describes a sheep wandering off on its own as though that were a good thing?

All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way;
Isaiah 53:6a

I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek your servant,
Psalm 119:176a

When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.
Matthew 9:36

What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray?
Matthew 18:12

Sheep who leave the flock to make their own way in the world are in danger from wolves, the pitfalls of sin, and any number of other perils, especially the trials and tragedies of life. I can’t tell you how many e-mails I’ve received from distraught Christian women in dire personal circumstances who desperately need pastoral counsel. Sadly, when I tell them I’m not equipped to help them with such a complicated problem from so far away and that they need to make an appointment with their pastor for one on one, face to face counseling, the response is often, “I haven’t been going to church. I don’t have a pastor.”

We need the protection of the sheep pen, the brotherhood of the flock, and the leadership of our shepherds, our pastors, to help guide us. God knew we needed those things. That is one reason He established the church and created the position of pastor. Christ is our Good Shepherd, but until He returns, He has appointed godly men to watch over and protect the flock in His absence:

When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.
John 21:15-17

And he gave…the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,
Ephesians 4:11-12

So I exhort the elders among you…shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.
1 Peter 5:1-4

You can’t shepherd yourself. That internet pastor you listen to – even the most doctrinally sound one – can’t shepherd you. You need to be part of a flock led by a shepherd who knows you and cares for your soul.

Do you take joy in gathering regularly with your brothers and sisters in Christ for worship, the Word, the ordinances, building one another up, and serving one another? If not, the solution is not to leave the church altogether. The solution is to examine your heart against Scripture to discover whether or not you’re truly saved, and then to find a healthy church you can pour yourself into. Christ has given believers the local church as a blessing and a benefit, not a burden and a bore. Love and embrace this precious gift He has lavished on you.


Additional Resources

Six Ways Not to Forsake the Assembly 

7 reasons worshipers need the church at The Cripplegate

Mailbag #49: Home Groups Over Church at 9Marks

My Jesus, I Love You; Your Bride I Despise! at Reformation21

Why You May Be Tempted To Neglect Your Church by Tim Challies

Five Essential Reasons for Christians to Gather in Public Worship at Ligonier

Prioritize Your Church by Tim Challies

Is a “Churchless Christian” an Oxymoron? at Ligonier

The Plight of Churchless Christians at The Cripplegate

40 reasons to be part of a local church at The Cripplegate

Ezekiel Bible Study

Ezekiel ~ Lesson 2

Welcome, ladies! I’m so glad you’re here! I have received a lot of questions about the study that were answered in last week’s introductory lesson. Please do not skip Lesson 1 (link below). Not only will it answer any questions you may have about the study itself, but if you want to study Ezekiel properly, you must do the background work contained in Lesson 1.

 

Previous Lessons: 1

Read Ezekiel 1:1-3:15

Questions to Consider

1. Review your notes from last week’s introductory lesson. What are some things to keep in mind as you begin to study the text of Ezekiel today? Drawing from your notes and 1:1-3, imagine you’re a playwright and write the setting for the “script” of Ezekiel. Which phrases in verses 1 and 3 connect us to 2 Timothy 3:16?

2. Read 1:4-28. Does this passage remind you of any other biblical passages? Which ones, and why? Read through all of the cross-references and footnotes in this passage as well as any study Bible notes or commentaries you like on this passage in order to gain as good an understanding of it as you can. Why do prophetic visions of Heaven and the spiritual realm (apocalyptic passages) always seem so hard to understand? Is it OK if we read these passages and, despite our best efforts, don’t completely grasp all of the symbolism? Do you think Ezekiel understood everything he was shown?

What does 1:28b say that the main idea of 1:4-28a is? What was Ezekiel’s response to seeing the glory of God? (1:28b) How did being overwhelmed by God’s glory put Ezekiel in the right frame of mind and heart to receive and proclaim the message God subsequently gave him? (1:28b-2:2)

3. Read chapters 2-3.

Using your concordance, search the term “son of man“. Ignoring false results (ex: “son of Manasseh”), what are the main ways this term is used? How many times is Ezekiel called “son of man”? What other major Bible character is called the Son of Man? What is the difference between the reference to Ezekiel as “son of man” and Christ’s title “the Son of Man“?

To whom is God sending Ezekiel (2:3, 3:11), and why (2:4,7, 3:4,11)? How will Israel respond?(3:7) How would the pagans have responded if God had sent Ezekiel to them instead? (3:4-7) Explain the shame it should bring to God’s people – in Ezekiel’s day and today – when lost people respond to the preaching of God’s Word in repentance and faith, and those who claim to be His people do not.

Compare God’s charge to Ezekiel to speak His word to His people “whether they hear or refuse to hear” to God’s charge to pastors to preach the Word to His people “in season and out of season” in 2 Timothy 4:1-2.

Explain the metaphor of Ezekiel eating the scroll in 2:8-3:3. How does this apply to us as Christians today?

Why was it bad for Israel to be “hard headed” but good for Ezekiel to be “hard headed”? (3:7-9) Explain why a pastor, or any Christian, needs to be “hard headed” (yet soft-hearted) when dealing with Believers (or false converts) who are disobedient to God’s Word.


Homework

•If you’re artistic, illustrate part or all of the scene in 1:4-28.

•Are you familiar with the “heavenly tourism” books like Heaven Is for Real or 90 Minutes in Heaven that were popular a few years back? Read some of the descriptions of “Heaven” found in these books and compare them with Ezekiel’s, Daniel’s, and Revelation’s descriptions of heavenly scenes. How do they compare?

•From what I can tell, this church has horribly unbiblical theology, so don’t follow them or their beliefs, but I loved their choir’s rendition of Ezekiel Saw the Wheel. Listen carefully to the lyrics (or Google them). How closely do they match up to Ezekiel 1:4-28 and/or other passages of Scripture?


Suggested Memory Verse

Testimony Tuesday

Testimony Tuesday: Michelle’s Story

Michelle’s* Story

Literally the other day, I was set completely free. I’m still dancing!! And, I am not the dancing type!

About a year ago, my husband and I began attending a new church. I could not put my finger on what happened during that initial service, but I remember saying to my husband, “Whatever that was, I want more of that.”

At that time, I was a Christian, but a struggling one. I had not yet come to understand what being free in Christ meant. I was struggling physically with un-diagnosable chronic physical pain. I was on a downward spiral of acute insomnia coupled with not only the physical pain, but also fear and anxiety. I read my Bible. I went to Bible studies. My friends were almost all self-professing Christians. I grew up in a churched family. No one shared with me the truth I was about to hear and understand.

No one shared the truth with me…

About 18 months ago, after exhausting all of my options for treatment, I felt even more anxious that I (keyword, I) couldn’t do anything further to fix this. It was then that God brought an amazing woman into my life to teach me what a true and vibrant personal relationship with the Living Christ was … I bombarded her with questions. What she was teaching me and what I was learning at church on Sunday lined up with each other seamlessly. I have never met this woman face-to-face, she was introduced and referred to me through long-distance friends. Come to find out, she knew the pastor of my new church years back through a family member. Through her, God confirmed the difference was this church was under the leadership of a true Christ-follower. Praise God for people who know their identity in Christ and continue referring you back to Him.

God brought an amazing woman into my life…

As I continue to study, I’m really beginning to wonder if I ever was a Christian. I mentioned that I was a Christian, but a struggling one. And I did read my Bible, and go to countless Bible Studies.

Whether or not I was I guess is not important, because now I am – I get it, oh thank you, Jesus, that I get it. I didn’t get it before. I was under the assumption that since God’s will is for everyone to be saved, then anyone who wanted to be saved and prayed the prayer was saved forever and that could not change. In fact, my uncle recently passed away and we were not close but I talked to someone about this and I was assured of “once saved always saved.”

Oh, thank You, Jesus, that I get it.

A fire has now been lit under me that screams most people I know are likely false converts and they have no idea. I’d never heard of the idea that God saves you in His timing. I thought that as soon as you prayed that prayer, boom, that was it. Your address for eternity had permanently changed. I was never convicted of sin to the point of complete repentance and I don’t recall ever being corrected on this – in fact, I only remember being assured over and over again that I was saved. I was sorry for my sin, I didn’t like my sin, I knew Jesus died for my sin. All good, but I wasn’t changed. But now, the Truth has set me free.


*This is from a reader who shares my first name. This is not my (Michelle Lesley’s) testimony.

Ladies, God is still at work in the hearts and lives of His people, including yours! Would you like to share a testimony of how God saved you, how He has blessed you, convicted you, taught you something from His Word, brought you out from under false doctrine, placed you in a good church or done something otherwise awesome in your life? Private/direct message me on social media, e-mail me (MichelleLesley1@yahoo.com), or comment below. Your testimony can be as brief as a few sentences or as long as 1500 words. Let’s encourage one another with God’s work in our lives!

Mailbag

The Mailbag: Potpourri (Paul’s gospel, National repentance, Pastor search committee, Pastor’s wife teaching men)

Welcome to another “potpourri” edition of The Mailbag, where I give short(er) answers to several questions rather than a long answer to one question. I also like to take the opportunity in these potpourri editions to let new readers know about my comments/e-mail/messages policy. I’m not able to respond individually to most e-mails and messages, so here are some helpful hints for getting your questions answered more quickly. Remember, the search bar (at the very bottom of each page) can be a helpful tool!

In these potpourri editions of The Mailbag, I’d also like to address the three questions I’m most commonly asked:

“Do you know anything about [Christian pastor/teacher/author] or his/her materials? Is he/she doctrinally sound?”

Try these links: 
Popular False Teachers /
 Recommended Bible Teachers / search bar
Is She a False Teacher? 7 Steps to Figuring It Out on Your Own
(Do keep bringing me names, though. If I get enough questions about a particular teacher, I’ll probably write an article on her.)

“Can you recommend a good women’s Bible study?”

No. Here’s why:
The Mailbag: Can you recommend a good Bible study for women/teens/kids?
The Mailbag: “We need to stop relying on canned studies,” doesn’t mean, “We need to rely on doctrinally sound canned studies.”.

“You shouldn’t be warning against [popular false teacher] for [X,Y,Z] reason!”

Answering the Opposition- Responses to the Most Frequently Raised Discernment Objections


Didn’t the risen Christ give Paul the Gospel of salvation by grace through faith? Paul called it “my gospel”? Is the Great Commission the same as Paul’s gospel? Thanks!

Not exactly, but it’s great that you’re noticing those little details as you study God’s Word!

“Paul’s” gospel…

Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel, 2 Timothy 2:8

…is the biblical gospel of salvation that Paul preached – the good news of what Christ did to save sinners through His death, burial, and resurrection – and the call to repentance and belief.

The Great Commission…

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20

…is the church’s (and individual Christians’) “marching orders” to share that gospel with sinners and disciple them to maturity in Christ. It is God’s main purpose for the church.

So, in a nutshell, the gospel is what Christ did. The Great Commission is what we’re supposed to do with the gospel.


I got into quite the discussion with people today who feel that prayers of repentance for our national sins are not only unnecessary, but an affront to them because THEY did nothing wrong. I cited Daniel who prayed prayers of repentance for his nation, though he led a righteous life. They got all confused with Old Testament sacrificial law and that Christ was the ultimate sacrifice so we only need repent of our OWN sins. Could you address this, please?

Well…depending on exactly what they were saying, they may have been at least partly right. We can certainly pray that God will lead individuals in our nation to repent of whatever sins they may have committed, but we cannot repent on behalf of another person or of a nation. God does not hold us responsible for the sins of others, and we cannot repent for the sins of others. (see Ezekiel 18).

If you’re referring to Daniel’s prayer in Daniel 9, if you’ll read very carefully, you’ll notice he is confessing the sin of his people, lamenting over the sin of his people, and asking God to pour out His mercy on his people despite their sin, but he is not repenting on their behalf.

It is impossible to repent for someone else’s (let alone a whole nation’s) sin because repenting is more than:

  • confessing that sin has occurred,
  • admitting that someone is guilty for having committed that sin,
  • feeling sorrowful over sin,
  • asking forgiveness for sin, or
  • asking God to be merciful toward the sinner.

Repentance means to turn away from your sin, to forsake it, to stop doing it because you want to obey God instead. Although I’m sure he wished he could have, Daniel could not turn away from someone else’s (the nation of Israel’s) sin. And, he specifically says in verse 13: “we have not entreated the favor of the Lord our God, turning from our iniquities”.

Another thing to remember is that Daniel is interceding for God’s covenant people. They belonged to Him. They had agreed to follow Him. America is not in a covenant relationship with God. For a Christian today, interceding for the church and praying that God would lead Christians to repentance would be more analogous to what Daniel was doing.


We lost our pastor almost a year ago and are struggling to find a new one. Do you have any suggestions of where we could send the information about our church and the position in hopes of finding a suitable candidate?

I would suggest sending your information to:

The Master’s Seminary’s Pastor Search page

Founders Ministries Minister Search page

Expositors Seminary

I hope you’ll find a wonderful, godly pastor very soon!

Now, although this might not be possible for your particular church, I would like to throw something out there for the consideration of any pastor or church member who might be reading this. The most biblical model of leadership for the local church is that it be led by a plurality of elders.¹ For that primary reason, I would encourage every church that doesn’t already have this leadership structure in place to look into it and give strong, prayerful consideration to transitioning into leadership by a plurality of elders.

However, secondarily, there are practical benefits to your church being led by a plurality of elders, and avoiding being “pastorless” is a huge one. My own church recently welcomed a new pastor after being without one for two full years. That two years was a struggle. The interim pastor was a stranger to us and we were strangers to him. He did not know the ins and outs of life at our church or the strengths and weaknesses of our church. As affable as our interim pastor was, it was always in the back of everyone’s mind that he was temporary. This was not our pastor and everyone knew it. And then there were some other issues that arose during his tenure that awaited the new pastor’s arrival.

When a church is led by a plurality of elders, many of these issues can be avoided or lessened. When a lead teaching elder dies, moves, or steps down for whatever reason, there is, ideally, already another elder available to step in and take over. This elder already knows the church and the people and they know him. There’s no need to assemble and train a pastor search committee, launch a nationwide search, wait on resumes to arrive, interview candidates, present them to the church for a vote, and then hire a stranger about whom you know virtually nothing except what’s on his resume and whatever he says in his interview. The transition from elder to elder is smoother and immediate with little upheaval and relational trauma to the church body.

Just something to think about.

¹I’m not saying that churches which aren’t elder-led are apostate or intrinsically sinful, I’m just saying that if you want to get as close to the biblical model as possible, go with a plurality of elders.

I am a relatively new (about one year old –  but growing in discernment!) Christian, and I attend a small Baptist church of about 15 people in the remote area in which I live. The pastor’s wife leads both men and women in a “Bible” study group using popular (biblically questionable at best, such as Max Lucado) books instead of reading Scripture. I choose not to attend these studies, but because the church is so small, my absence is obvious and noticed. People comment that they have not seen me at “Bible” study. 

Everything else that happens in the church, the sermons, worship, prayer, are all on point biblically, thus far. My pastor is a godly man as far as I can tell, so my only issue to date is these co-ed, led by a woman, “not-Bible” studies. Should I take my concerns to my pastor? I’m already on a bit of shaky ground with the pastor’s wife. I’m reluctant to upset the apple cart any more. However, if the right thing to do is to address it and deal with potential consequences (shunning, whatever) then I want to do the right thing by my Lord and Savior. How would you guide me in this situation?

I know this is a really difficult situation to be in and I’m sorry it’s making you uncomfortable at church. Yes, when we see sin in the camp, we must speak up, so you should begin preparing to address this situation. Normally, I encourage women to go to the person most directly in charge of the issue first, which in this case would be the pastor’s wife, but I’m guessing that if you’re on “shaky ground” with her it’s because you’ve already tried to address this with her. The next step is to go to the pastor.

I would encourage you to spend a little time studying through the book of Esther, realizing that she was in a somewhat similar situation to yours: God revealed to her an ungodly situation that would harm His people, and she – at great personal risk – had to go to the man in charge and implore him to right the situation, not knowing how he would respond. It could be that God has specifically placed you in this church “for such a time as this”.

Notice that Esther asked that her people be gathered to pray for her. If you have any like-minded friends or loved ones who will pray with you as you prepare your heart to talk to your pastor, that would be beneficial. I have already prayed for you, and I am asking everyone reading this to stop and take a moment to pray for you as well.

If the pastor tells you you’re wrong or doesn’t rectify the situation, and there’s another, better church you could join, even if it’s not as convenient as this one, prayerfully consider moving your membership there. If, as you said, everything else at your current church really is doctrinally sound, and you have no other options for a doctrinally sound church to attend that’s within achievable driving distance of your house, my counsel to you would be to stay at this church, continue not to attend the “not-Bible” study, and fervently pray for God to change the hearts of your pastor and his wife.

If you stay and people continue to say, “We missed you at ‘Bible’ study!” all you have to say is, “Thank you!” or “It’s nice to be missed,” or something like that. I can’t speak for everyone, but when I say, “I missed you at _____,” to someone, it’s not a demand to know why she wasn’t there, it’s to let her know that I love her and missed fellowshipping with her. Hopefully, that’s all your fellow church members mean by saying that. If a nosy Nelly asks why you weren’t there, keep in mind that you’re not required to give her that information just because she asked. You can say something like, “I have a conflict and can’t attend,” which is truthful (you have a biblical conflict and can’t, in good conscience, attend), yet gives no one the opportunity to say that you were gossiping or trying to stir up division in the church. If she continues to pry, look her dead in the eye and keep repeating, “I have a conflict and can’t attend” until she comes to her senses and realizes it’s none of her business why you weren’t there.

Here are some resources I hope will help you:

Rock Your Role: Jill in the Pulpit

The Mailbag: How should I approach my church leaders about a false teacher they’re introducing?

Searching for a new church?


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.