Salvation, Sanctification

Throwback Thursday ~ Sinatra Saints and Developing Disciples

Originally published September 7, 2018

“I don’t get it. I just don’t get it.”

My friend, who’s also in women’s ministry, and I were discussing a phenomenon we’re seeing more and more among professing Christian women (and among men, too, I’m sure). I call it “Sinatra Sin-drome”.

Most of us are too young to be able to remember Frank Sinatra in his heyday, but one of the songs he was best known for was My Way. The lyrics open with a man who’s near death looking back over his life. He recounts his adventures and regrets, the good times and the bad, but no matter what came his way, he faced life on his own terms. “I did it my way,” is the refrain woven into the fabric of the entire song. The last stanza is especially telling:

For what is a man, what has he got?
If not himself, then he has naught
To say the things he truly feels and not the words of one who kneels
The record shows I took the blows and did it my way.¹

This man kneels all right. He kneels at the altar of self. Nobody else is going to tell him what to do. He’s going to do what he wants to do.

Most of the women my friend and I were discussing are either savvy enough or self-deceived enough that they would never dream of even thinking in these clear-cut terms, much less stating them so boldly. And yet, for many, their hearts beat to the rhythm of My Way.

One example of this kind of mindset – though it may have been an isolated incident in the lives of some women – came out in some of the comments on my recent Mailbag article, Should Christian women cover up while breastfeeding?. The sentiment behind the words from several women was, “What the Bible says about the shame of nakedness and denying self to serve others means less to me than: the law that says I have a right…the culture where I live that says it’s OK…my personal experience with the way my baby nurses that demands that I not cover up.”

It came out in a rather puzzling conversation I had with a reader, “B”, who sent me the link to my article on Priscilla Shirer and demanded to know why I think Priscilla is a false teacher (even though the article, which “B” claimed to have read, clearly demonstrates from Scripture why she’s a false teacher). It wasn’t that “B” didn’t have the information and Scriptures right in front of her, it was that she didn’t like what Scripture says about Priscilla. She loves Priscilla Shirer, so she’s willing to put her own feelings above what Scripture says.

It comes out constantly with the issue of women preaching to, teaching, and exercising authority over men in the church setting in violation of 1 Timothy 2:12. “I feel called to preach.” “It’s OK if I teach this co-ed Sunday School class because I have my pastor’s/husband’s permission.” “I can preach a sermon to a mixed audience at this event, because it’s not in a church, it’s at a Christian conference.”

And it always comes out when the topic is Christian women dressing modestly. “I can wear what I want! If men have issues with lust, that’s their problem. They can just avert their eyes.”

Now, let’s be clear, any time you or I or anyone else sins, we are – consciously or subconsciously – saying through that sinful thought, word, or action, “I don’t care what the Bible says about this, I want to do what I want to do.” I’m sure my own words and actions have shouted that rebellion against God loud and clear on many occasions.

But there’s a difference between…

A Developing Disciple
A Christian who is striving to do things God’s way, who occasionally stumbles into sin or gives in to a momentary weakness of the flesh. When confronted with what Scripture says on the subject, she sorrowfully repents and submits to God’s Word.

and

A Sinatra Saint
A person who claims to be a Christian and generally aligns with what the Bible says as long as it agrees with her. When confronted with what Scripture plainly says about her beliefs or actions, she doesn’t repent, but digs in her heels and attempts to justify herself, often with claims like, “Well that’s just your opinion/interpretation,” or “That’s not really what that passage means.”

Sometimes it can be hard to come to grips with a difficult passage of Scripture that challenges something you’ve believed or done your whole life. (Hey, I’ve been there. It’s no picnic.) But the difference between a Developing Disciple and a Sinatra Saint is that the Developing Disciple will grapple with the passage with an overall desire to properly understand and submit to that Scripture, even if it’s hard, while, for the Sinatra Saint, it’s a no-brainer. Her opinions, feelings, or personal experiences win. Because it’s not just that one isolated issue, it’s her whole outlook and approach to life.

Am I saying that a woman who thinks it’s OK to let it all hang out while she’s nursing her baby isn’t saved? Of course not. What I’m saying is that if your general approach to life is, “I’m doing it my way and if the Bible wants to align with me, fine, and if not, that’s fine, too,” you’d better start examining your heart pretty carefully against Scripture to discover whether or not you’re actually saved.

Why? Because that’s what the Bible says. And if you claim to be a Christian, the Bible is your authority in life, not yourself.

And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.
Ezekiel 36:26

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
2 Corinthians 5:17

This isn’t just flowery, poetic language. When Christ saves a person, he literally changes that person into a new type of creature with a different way of thinking, different likes and dislikes, different goals, different responses.

Imagine if you had a magic wand and could change a house cat into an elephant. When the cat was a cat, he wanted to chase mice. Now that he’s an elephant, he’s afraid of mice. As a cat, he craved tuna, but as an elephant, he turns his trunk up at meat, preferring an herbivorous diet. No more baring his claws to scratch at an enemy; now he tramples and uses his tusks to ward off danger. The coziness of hearth and home? Nope. The elephant prefers the wide open savanna.

And all of that is nothing compared to the radical transformation that takes place in the heart of someone who has been genuinely regenerated by Christ.

Christ changes our mindset from the mind set on the flesh to the mind set on the Spirit:

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.
Romans 8:5-9

Christ changes our will – from desiring what Satan desires to desiring what God desires:

You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires.
John 8:44a

Now may the God of peace…equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.
Hebrews 13:20a,21

Christ changes our behavior from willful disobedience to joyful obedience:

“Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?”
Luke 6:46

If you love me, you will keep my commandments. John 14:15  Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. John 14:21a  For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. 1 John 5:3

Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him,
1 John 2:4

And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments.
1 John 2:3

Christ changes us from His enemies to His friends:

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

They are…haters of God
Romans 1:29b,30a

The friendship of the Lord is for those who fear him, and he makes known to them his covenant.
Psalm 25:14

You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.
John 15:14-15

Christ changes us from believing Satan’s lies to believing God’s truth:

Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me. Which one of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me? Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.”
John 8:43-47

Has there been a radical transformation like that in your heart and life as a result of repenting of your sin and placing your faith in Christ? You can be your own authority and have “I did it my way,” as the theme song of your life, but you can’t do that and be a Christian too. The two are mutually exclusive. It doesn’t matter if you’ve walked an aisle, made a “decision”, prayed a prayer, been baptized, joined a church, are a “good person”, and do all sorts of good deeds, if your heart and your desires aren’t generally oriented toward Christ, growing toward in Him and away from self, you aren’t saved.

But that can be remedied right now. The gospel is right there, ready for you to repent of your sins and believe. Take some uninterrupted time alone with God and measure your life and your heart against the plumb line of His Word. Is it “I did it my way,” or “I’ll do it Thy way.”?

Are you a Developing Disciple or a Sinatra Saint?


¹My Way. AZLyrics. https://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/franksinatra/myway.html
Church

It’s Time for a Reformation in the SBC – 3 Issues We Need to Set Right

I’m taking a short summer break this week. I hope you’ll enjoy this article from the archives. The annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention is also taking place this week. Will you please pray that God will bring conviction of sin, repentance, and obedience to God’s Word?


Originally published May 25, 2018

I don’t know the brother who said it, but I saw a remark the other day from a Presbyterian gentleman who said something to the effect of, “It’s time for all doctrinally sound Southern Baptists to leave the SBC.”

I get that.

When you have an organization as large, open, and widespread as the Southern Baptist Convention, problems – even major ones – are inevitable. At this point, there are many things the SBC is still getting right, biblically speaking…

There are many good and praiseworthy things going on in SBC life. We have hundreds of doctrinally sound pastors faithfully preaching the gospel week in and week out. Discernment and biblical literacy among Southern Baptist church members is slowly but steadily growing. The SBC takes a public, biblical stand on abortion and homosexuality while many other denominations do not. Our organizational structure for funding and sending out missionaries, while sometimes flawed in its execution, is without peer. Southern Baptist Disaster Relief is one of the finest relief organizations in the world. And there’s so much more. Find a godly Kingdom effort going on somewhere, and you’ll probably find a Southern Baptist involved in it. By the grace of God, while we’re far from perfect, we’re getting a lot of things right

…But for some individual Southern Baptists and Southern Baptist churches, the biblical error and other problems pervading the SBC have become too much to bear, and they have deemed it time to walk away from what they see as a system damaged beyond repair, seeking refuge in ARBCA, Bible, Independent, or non-denominational churches and networks instead.

Like I said, I get that, and I don’t blame them one little bit. Believe me, I’ve had leaving on my mind more than once. And if the SBC continues its downward spiral, it’s an inevitability for nearly all of us who hold to sound doctrine.

But there are still plenty of us crazy, “glass half full” doctrinally sound optimists out there who, like Luther, don’t want to abandon the SBC to the rubbish heap if it can be avoided, but would rather see it reformed (little “r”), renewed, and restored to the glory of God.

If you’ve ever labored through the entirety of the Old Testament (and if you haven’t, stop denying yourself that blessing, and study it), you know that God exercised patience with Israel through centuries of idolatry, rebellion, and paganism of the vilest sorts, sending them prophet after prophet, warning after warning, discipline after discipline, lovingly calling, urging, and commanding them to repent and be reconciled to Him before finally executing judgment on them.

I’m just not sure we’re quite at the point of exiling the SBC… yet. I think maybe these are the days of Elijah. And Jeremiah. And Isaiah. And even Luther. A time for godly Southern Baptist men and women to stand firmly on the written Word of God and speak prophetically, chapter and verse, into their beloved churches and denomination, “Thus saith the Lord.”

And in that same spirit of the prophets of old, we don’t speak from a position of “I’m right and I’m here to prove it,” or because we’re haters, or because we’re power-hungry. It’s because we’re cut to the heart over the sin and idolatry we see among our brothers and sisters. We’re grieved that those things dishonor our precious Savior and bring His judgment and discipline upon those who participate in and propagate them. We deeply desire that our denomination and our churches experience the joy that comes with being spiritually healthy and biblically submitted to Christ.

So, while there are probably at least ninety-five theses that could be nailed to the doors of the Executive Committee in Nashville, here are three that would be a good start.

1.
The Authority and Sufficiency of Scripture

Nearly forty years ago, Southern Baptist movers and shakers in the conservative resurgence went to war for the inerrancy of Scripture. It was a long, hard battle, but they won. Now it’s time to fight for the authority and sufficiency of Scripture in the SBC.

The Bible is our authority as Christians, not the ideas, opinions, and traditions of denominational leaders, SBC celebrities, pastors, or any other person. The Bible. If the Bible commands us to do something, we do it. If the Bible commands us not to do something, we don’t do it. We don’t formulate our own programs and methods and try to squish the Bible in to make it fit. We start with the Bible. We stay with the Bible. We end with the Bible.

Because the SBC does not always submit to the authority of the Bible, we have leaders, celebrities, and pastors looking to, and promoting, sources outside the Bible for direction instead of simply trusting and obeying God’s written Word. We have influential “Bible” teachers who stand on stages in front of thousands and dare to proclaim, “God told me…”, functionally denying the sufficiency of Scripture by relying on supposed extra-biblical revelation (and teaching their followers to do the same). We have pastors and denominational leaders who look to polls and surveys to decide how to conduct their worship services or which social issues need to be addressed and how to address them. We have church growth gurus teaching our pastors to adopt all manner of worldliness that “works” to get sinners in the doors of their churches.

If the Southern Baptist Convention is to survive as an entity of biblical Christianity, the authority and sufficiency of Scripture is the number one issue that must be dealt with.  If this issue is properly addressed and corrected, it will alleviate or minimize nearly all other problems facing the SBC. We must submit to God’s written Word and give Scripture its proper place – first place – in our denomination, our individual churches, and our personal lives.

Basic Training: The Bible Is Our Authority

Basic Training: The Bible Is Sufficient

2.
False Doctrine and False Teachers

If the SBC truly regarded the Bible as authoritative and sufficient, the cancer of false doctrine and false teachers that is slowly killing us would be cured or in remission. Indeed, the aforementioned false teaching of extra-biblical (God told me, showed me in a dream, spoke to me, etc.) revelation is probably the most pervasive false doctrine accepted among Southern Baptists.

When Hilkiah found the Book of the Law in the temple (Imagine a house of God in such a shambles of idolatry that people had to dig and search for the actual Scriptures. Selah.), and Shaphan read it to Josiah, Josiah tore his clothes in grief and began to set God’s house and God’s people in order. After covenanting together with the people to obey God’s Word, the very first thing Josiah did was to have the altars and vessels of false gods carried out of God’s house and destroyed. If the SBC would follow in Josiah’s footsteps we would see things like:

LifeWay would immediately remove and destroy any and all materials by Beth Moore, Andy Stanley, Priscilla Shirer, TD Jakes, Lysa TerKeurst, Sarah Young, Christine Caine, Bethel Music, Jesus Culture, Hillsong, and all other false teachers and promulgators of false doctrine.

There would be no more conferences, simulcasts, or leadership training seminars featuring false teachers, and false teachers would certainly not be invited to speak in any capacity at the annual Southern Baptist Convention.

Pastors, authors, and speakers who attempted to build a career inside the SBC by teaching false doctrine would be subject to church discipline for their sin, not turned into celebrities or appointed or elected to denominational leadership positions.

Messenger voting privileges at the Convention would be revoked for churches which habitually and unrepentantly welcome false teachers.

If the Bible were to become our sufficient authority for both orthodoxy and orthopraxy, our eyes would quickly be opened to the enormity of the hold false doctrine has on our denomination, churches, and individuals, and we would act accordingly and biblically.

A Naked Emperor in the Southern Baptist Convention

10 Things I Wish Southern Baptists Knew About Southern Baptists

The Peterson Predicament and LifeWay’s Peculiar Policies

3.
Disfellowshipping Errant Churches

Earlier this week, the Southern Baptist Convention severed ties with the District of Columbia Baptist Convention (DCBC- an association of Southern Baptist churches in the Washington, D.C. area) for refusing to disfellowship one of its member churches, Calvary Baptist, which had called a legally “married” lesbian couple to serve as its co-“pastors” over a year ago.

It was absolutely the right thing to do (the SBC has disfellowshipped several churches that embrace homosexuality), and I’m glad that this standard remains in tact, but…lesbian co-pastors…? That’s how bad it has to get before the SBC can, or will, act to remove a church? What about churches that are embracing sins other than homosexuality?

There are plenty of apostate Southern Baptist churches, and we have no mechanism in place for kicking them out of the SBC.

This is a verbatim quote from the FAQ section (5th question from the top) of the SBC’s web site:

“According to our constitution, if a church no longer makes a bona fide contribution to the Convention’s work, or if it acts to ‘affirm, approve, or endorse homosexual behavior,’ it no longer complies with the Constitution of the Southern Baptist Convention and is not permitted to send messengers to the annual meeting. These, however, are the only explicitly stated instances in which the SBC has the prerogative to take action.”

What does that mean? As long as your church doesn’t affirm homosexuality and gives to the Cooperative Program, you’re in. Never mind if your pastor twists God’s word until it’s unrecognizable. Or lets women and false teachers get behind the pulpit like Steven Furtick does. Or plays AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell” on Easter Sunday and says he probably wouldn’t have strippers on stage like Perry Noble does. Or any of the other ridiculous and blasphemous shenanigans so many of the seeker sensitive types in our denomination pull. Nope, as long as you give your money and stand on the right side of homosexuality, you’re good to go.² ³

I’ll be the first to admit, it would be a difficult standard to set and implement, but look at the standards the New Testament required of churches. We’ve got to set the bar higher than a homosexuality litmus test and an offering for a church to be in good standing with the SBC. Doctrine and practices simply have to be a factor.

 

Can there be another conservative resurgence that brings reform to the SBC? I believe there can.

The Bible says “nothing will be impossible with God.” I believe that. I believe that the God who spoke the universe into existence from nothing, who opened sealed tombs and barren wombs, who parted seas and walked on water and turned water into wine can change the hearts of Southern Baptists and the trajectory of the Southern Baptist Convention.

By His grace. For His glory. For our good.


¹A Naked Emperor in the Southern Baptist Convention
²10 Things I Wish Southern Baptists Knew About Southern Baptists
³This verbiage has been removed from the FAQ section of the SBC website. See “Susan’s” comments and my replies in the comments section for more info.

Speaking Engagements

Reliance on God and His Word Conference Audio

 

It was my joy, recently, to speak at the Reliance on God and His Word conference at Princeton Bible Church.

PBC was so kind to record audio of the main sessions of the conference:

I hope you’ll enjoy my two sessions…

Relying on God and His Word

 

Be Ye Doers of the Word and Not Reliers Only

 

You can also listen at PBC’s website and hear Amy Spreeman’s wonderful sessions as well!

If your church is ever in need of a speaker for a women’s event, I’d love to come share with your ladies as well. Click here for more information.

Christian women, False Doctrine

Throwback Thursday ~ 8 Unbiblical Notions Christian Women Need to Be Set Free From

Originally published June 2, 2017

Your recent article on prayer really helped me. I was always taught that prayer was a two-way conversation. For years, I would talk to God and wait for Him to talk back to me, but He never did. I thought it was because there was unknown sin in my life, or that I didn’t have enough faith, or that God just wasn’t interested in me. It’s so freeing to know the truth.

Comments like this from readers are always bittersweet for me. It makes me practically giddy to hear from Christian women who have been set free from false doctrines they’ve been taught, but it also grieves me deeply to reflect on the years they spent thinking they were somehow deficient as Christians or doubting God’s love for them simply because they were taught, and believed, unbiblical notions and ideas.

Let’s see if we can dispel a few of those today:

1. Prayer is this big, complicated, mystical thing.
Nope. Prayer is simply talking to God about whatever is on your heart. What’s made prayer complicated is the unbiblical teachings that have grown up around it such as praying in “tongues,” listening prayer, contemplative prayer, sozo prayer, soaking prayer, etc.

8 Things You Need to Know about Prayer

2. “Women’s Ministry” equals fluff and silliness.
There’s nothing wrong with having a little fun from time to time. Hey, we all need to blow off steam, right? But if cookie exchanges and teas and painting parties and dress up parties and sleepovers and makeup parties and fashion shows and movie nights are all your women’s ministry does, it’s unhealthy. And it’s not really a ministry, either. If something is a “ministry” it should exist to point people to Christ and disciple them once they get to Him. Your women’s ministry should include ministry of the Word, discipleship, Titus 2-type mentoring, evangelism, comfort ministry (to the ill, shut-ins, new moms, new members, etc.), serving the church, encouragement, supporting your pastor and elders, and so on.

Mary and Martha and Jesus and Women’s Ministry
How to Survive a Wimpy Women’s Ministry

3. Women’s Bible study- great balls of fire, don’t get me started.
♦ A Bible verse (or half a Bible verse) plus an inspiring story from the author’s or someone else’s life is not Bible study. Bible study is picking up your Bible and studying it.

Bible Study
Bible Studies

♦ If you’re hosting a women’s Bible study, you do not have to use books and DVDs written by someone else. In fact, I would recommend against doing so. Get someone who is able to teach – yes, it could even be a man – and study a book of the Bible from beginning to end.

You’re Not as Dumb as You Think You Are: Five Reasons to Put Down that Devotional and Pick Up the Actual Bible

McBible Study and the Famine of God’s Word
Can you recommend a good Bible study for women/teens/kids?

♦ One reason I recommend against using “canned” women’s Bible studies is that the vast majority of them (95% in my estimation- not an exaggeration) teach false doctrine. When you walk into LifeWay the first thing you’ll see is the best sellers shelf, and the majority of those books are written by false teachers such as Beth Moore, Priscilla Shirer, Christine Caine, Lysa TerKeurst, Sarah Young, and others.

Popular False Teachers

♦ If you do decide to occasionally do a book study, you do not have to use one written by a woman. In fact, if you want a book that’s doctrinally sound, you have a much better chance of finding one written by a man than by a woman, sad to say.

A Few Good Men: 10 Doctrinally Sound Male Teachers
A Few MORE Good Men: 10 Doctrinally Sound Male Teachers

4. Faithful church attendance isn’t that important.
If you think you don’t need church or that you can skip it whenever something more fun comes along, your thinking isn’t biblical. God thinks it’s important enough for His people to gather regularly for worship that He emphasizes it throughout the entirety of Scripture- Old and New Testament. Get your heiney in the pew every week, honey, and find a place to serve.

7 Reasons Church is Not Optional and Non-Negotiable for Christians

5. I am woman, hear me roar.
♦ Beth Moore and many other female teachers who rebel against Scripture by preaching to and teaching men in the church say that they are doing so “under their husband’s and/or pastor’s authority”. Neither your husband nor your pastor has the OK from God to allow you, or any other woman, to teach men in the church. God says women aren’t to teach or hold authority over men in the church, and when God says no, no one has the authority to say yes. Furthermore, there isn’t a single passage of Scripture that allows any man to give any woman this type of “under my authority” dispensation to teach men. To say that it’s permissible for a woman to teach men “under her husband’s/pastor’s authority” is just as biblically absurd as saying it’s OK for a woman to lie, commit adultery, gossip, or steal “under her husband’s/pastor’s authority.” Sapphira sinned under her husband’s authority and look what happened to her.

Fencing Off the Forbidden Fruit Tree
Jill in the Pulpit

Ten Things You Should Know About 1 Timothy 2:11-15 and the Relationship Between Men and Women in the Local Church at CBMW

Egalitarians are often so vehement in their insistence that women should teach men and hold authority over men in the church, that they are essentially saying that the only way a woman’s service or leadership in the church can have any value is if it’s exercised over men. I’ve heard many of them turn up their noses at the idea of teaching women and children and other forms of service (that don’t involve teaching or authority over men), in a haughty “we’re better than that” kind of way.

No way.

Have you seen the garbage women and children are being taught in the church under the guise of “Sunday School” or “Bible study”? Women’s and children’s classes at your church are in desperate need of women who are doctrinally sound and able to teach. What about the need to visit church members who are in the hospital or shut-ins? How about record-keeping, working in the sound booth, welcoming visitors, serving on committees, mowing the church’s lawn, participating in outreach activities, fixing a meal, chaperoning youth activities, hosting a visiting pastor or missionary? There’s a ton of important and valuable work for women to do in the church. We don’t have time to worry about teaching and holding authority over men. Let the men worry about that.

Servanthood
Let Me Count the Ways: 75 Ways Women Can Biblically Minister to Others

6. My feelings and opinions reign supreme.
Uh uh. Not if you’re a Christian, they don’t. That’s how lost people operate. If you’re a Christian, you’re not entitled run your life or make decisions by any opinion other than that of your Master. What He says – in His written word – goes. Period. Regardless of how you feel about it or whether or not you agree with it. That means if a “Bible” teacher you really like is teaching things that conflict with Scripture, you dump her. You love Mr. Wonderful and want to marry him, but he’s not saved? Nope. You’re a woman who’s certain God has called her to preach? No way. Your husband has said no about something, but you want to do it anyway? Forget it.

The Bible is our Authority
Bad Fruit, Diseased Trees, and the Authority of God’s Word

7. If something or someone claims to be a Christian, it is.
I suppose at some point in Christian history, there might have been a time when, if someone handed you a “Christian book,” it was a pretty safe bet it was doctrinally sound. Or if someone said she was a Christian, you could be fairly certain she was truly born again.

Not so much these days.

You cannot take at face value that someone who says she’s a Christian is using the Bible’s definition of Christianity and has been genuinely regenerated. You cannot trust that just because something is sold at LifeWay or another Christian retailer that it’s doctrinally sound. You can’t assume that just because someone is a “Christian” celebrity, writes “Bible” studies, speaks at “Christian” conferences, and has a large following, that she’s handling God’s word correctly (or at all) and teaching you biblical truth. There’s just too much false doctrine running rampant in evangelicalism and too many people who believe and teach it.

Don’t be a weak and naïve Christian woman. Jesus Himself said, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of Heaven…” There are many people who draw near to God with their lips, but their hearts are far from Him. It is God’s will for you to be a good Berean and to test everything according to Scripture. We will know the truly Christian from the false by their fruits, not their platitudes.

8. Sugar and spice and everything nice- that’s what Christian girls are made of.
That’s not a Bible verse, but rather and unspoken rule among most Christian women. Somewhere we’ve gotten the idea that Christian unity or love means “being nice” to people. We’re always smilingly sweet and never say anything that might hurt someone’s feelings or could rock the boat at church.

Are we to be kind? Yes. Are we to do our best not to hurt others? Of course. Should we be making waves over every little thing that rubs us the wrong way? Absolutely not.

But neither is it loving to see a Mack truck bearing down on an oblivious sister in Christ and refrain from yanking her out of harm’s way because it might dislocate her shoulder. It is not unity to see Satan deceiving a friend through sin or false doctrine and not plead with her to turn to Christ and His word because she might think we’re rude. And that’s the situation we often find ourselves in at church or with Christian friends.

Was Jesus – our perfect example of love – being unloving, unkind, hateful, or divisive when He rebuked the Pharisees, cleared the temple, or said, “Get behind Me, Satan!” to Peter?

Love for the brethren isn’t “being nice.” It’s caring so much about a fellow saint that we want what’s best for her in Christ. Sometimes that requires being firm, confrontational, or demonstrating “tough love.” People’s eternities and spiritual health are at stake. How loving is it to stand aside and let a sister waltz into Hell or struggle for years on end in her walk with the Lord because she’s living in sin or believing false doctrine? “Being nice” isn’t a fruit of the Spirit. It’s time we stop being nice and start being biblical.

I Can’t Sit Down, Shut Up, and Play Nice
Discernment: What’s Love Got to Do with It?

Do you believe any of these unbiblical notions? If so, set them aside, repent, and believe and practice what Scripture says. Any time we believe something that’s in conflict with God’s word, it’s a hindrance to the abundant life and growth in Christ that He wants to bless us with.

False doctrine enslaves. It places a yoke of confusion, anxiety, and “try harder” on the shoulders of those who embrace it. Christ did not set us free from sin so that we might turn right around and become captives to a new, pseudo-Christian type of sin: false teaching. It is for freedom and a healthy spiritual life that Christ has set us free.

Salvation, Sanctification

Sinatra Saints and Developing Disciples

“I don’t get it. I just don’t get it.”

My friend, who’s also in women’s ministry, and I were discussing a phenomenon we’re seeing more and more among professing Christian women (and among men, too, I’m sure). I call it “Sinatra Sin-drome”.

Most of us are too young to be able to remember Frank Sinatra in his heyday, but one of the songs he was best known for was My Way. The lyrics open with a man who’s near death looking back over his life. He recounts his adventures and regrets, the good times and the bad, but no matter what came his way, he faced life on his own terms. “I did it my way,” is the refrain woven into the fabric of the entire song. The last stanza is especially telling:

For what is a man, what has he got?
If not himself, then he has naught
To say the things he truly feels and not the words of one who kneels
The record shows I took the blows and did it my way.¹

This man kneels all right. He kneels at the altar of self. Nobody else is going to tell him what to do. He’s going to do what he wants to do.

Most of the women my friend and I were discussing are either savvy enough or self-deceived enough that they would never dream of even thinking in these clear-cut terms, much less stating them so boldly. And yet, for many, their hearts beat to the rhythm of My Way.

One example of this kind of mindset – though it may have been an isolated incident in the lives of some women – came out in some of the comments on my recent Mailbag article, Should Christian women cover up while breastfeeding?. The sentiment behind the words from several women was, “What the Bible says about the shame of nakedness and denying self to serve others means less to me than: the law that says I have a right…the culture where I live that says it’s OK…my personal experience with the way my baby nurses that demands that I not cover up.”

It came out in a rather puzzling conversation I had with a reader, “B”, who sent me the link to my article on Priscilla Shirer and demanded to know why I think Priscilla is a false teacher (even though the article, which “B” claimed to have read, clearly demonstrates from Scripture why she’s a false teacher). It wasn’t that “B” didn’t have the information and Scriptures right in front of her, it was that she didn’t like what Scripture says about Priscilla. She loves Priscilla Shirer, so she’s willing to put her own feelings above what Scripture says.

It comes out constantly with the issue of women preaching to, teaching, and exercising authority over men in the church setting in violation of 1 Timothy 2:12. “I feel called to preach.” “It’s OK if I teach this co-ed Sunday School class because I have my pastor’s/husband’s permission.” “I can preach a sermon to a mixed audience at this event, because it’s not in a church, it’s at a Christian conference.”

And it always comes out when the topic is Christian women dressing modestly. “I can wear what I want! If men have issues with lust, that’s their problem. They can just avert their eyes.”

Now, let’s be clear, any time you or I or anyone else sins, we are – consciously or subconsciously – saying through that sinful thought, word, or action, “I don’t care what the Bible says about this, I want to do what I want to do.” I’m sure my own words and actions have shouted that rebellion against God loud and clear on many occasions.

But there’s a difference between…

A Developing Disciple
A Christian who is striving to do things God’s way, who occasionally stumbles into sin or gives in to a momentary weakness of the flesh. When confronted with what Scripture says on the subject, she sorrowfully repents and submits to God’s Word.

and

A Sinatra Saint
A person who claims to be a Christian and generally aligns with what the Bible says as long as it agrees with her. When confronted with what Scripture plainly says about her beliefs or actions, she doesn’t repent, but digs in her heels and attempts to justify herself, often with claims like, “Well that’s just your opinion/interpretation,” or “That’s not really what that passage means.”

Sometimes it can be hard to come to grips with a difficult passage of Scripture that challenges something you’ve believed or done your whole life. (Hey, I’ve been there. It’s no picnic.) But the difference between a Developing Disciple and a Sinatra Saint is that the Developing Disciple will grapple with the passage with an overall desire to properly understand and submit to that Scripture, even if it’s hard, while, for the Sinatra Saint, it’s a no-brainer. Her opinions, feelings, or personal experiences win. Because it’s not just that one isolated issue, it’s her whole outlook and approach to life.

Am I saying that a woman who thinks it’s OK to let it all hang out while she’s nursing her baby isn’t saved? Of course not. What I’m saying is that if your general approach to life is, “I’m doing it my way and if the Bible wants to align with me, fine, and if not, that’s fine, too,” you’d better start examining your heart pretty carefully against Scripture to discover whether or not you’re actually saved.

Why? Because that’s what the Bible says. And if you claim to be a Christian, the Bible is your authority in life, not yourself.

And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.
Ezekiel 36:26

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
2 Corinthians 5:17

This isn’t just flowery, poetic language. When Christ saves a person, he literally changes that person into a new type of creature with a different way of thinking, different likes and dislikes, different goals, different responses.

Imagine if you had a magic wand and could change a house cat into an elephant. When the cat was a cat, he wanted to chase mice. Now that he’s an elephant, he’s afraid of mice. As a cat, he craved tuna, but as an elephant, he turns his trunk up at meat, preferring an herbivorous diet. No more baring his claws to scratch at an enemy; now he tramples and uses his tusks to ward off danger. The coziness of hearth and home? Nope. The elephant prefers the wide open savanna.

And all of that is nothing compared to the radical transformation that takes place in the heart of someone who has been genuinely regenerated by Christ.

Christ changes our mindset from the mind set on the flesh to the mind set on the Spirit:

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.
Romans 8:5-9

Christ changes our will – from desiring what Satan desires to desiring what God desires:

You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires.
John 8:44a

Now may the God of peace…equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.
Hebrews 13:20a,21

Christ changes our behavior from willful disobedience to joyful obedience:

“Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?”
Luke 6:46

If you love me, you will keep my commandments. John 14:15  Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. John 14:21a  For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. 1 John 5:3

Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him,
1 John 2:4

And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments.
1 John 2:3

Christ changes us from His enemies to His friends:

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

They are…haters of God
Romans 1:29b,30a

The friendship of the Lord is for those who fear him, and he makes known to them his covenant.
Psalm 25:14

You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.
John 15:14-15

Christ changes us from believing Satan’s lies to believing God’s truth:

Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me. Which one of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me? Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.”
John 8:43-47

Has there been a radical transformation like that in your heart and life as a result of repenting of your sin and placing your faith in Christ? You can be your own authority and have “I did it my way,” as the theme song of your life, but you can’t do that and be a Christian too. The two are mutually exclusive. It doesn’t matter if you’ve walked an aisle, made a “decision”, prayed a prayer, been baptized, joined a church, are a “good person”, and do all sorts of good deeds, if your heart and your desires aren’t generally oriented toward Christ, growing toward in Him and away from self, you aren’t saved.

But that can be remedied right now. The gospel is right there, ready for you to repent of your sins and believe. Take some uninterrupted time alone with God and measure your life and your heart against the plumb line of His Word. Is it “I did it my way,” or “I’ll do it Thy way.”?

Are you a Developing Disciple or a Sinatra Saint?


¹My Way. AZLyrics. https://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/franksinatra/myway.html