Mailbag

The Mailbag: Potpourri (Bible study for the lost, good preachers, new Christian witnessing, Catholic statues, “The Chosen” update)

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


My daughter who is not yet saved wants to do a Christian book study with a friend. I am just thrilled that she even has that desire. She is thinking about doing one of Lysa TerKeurst’s books who I know not to have solid theology (among other problems with her).  Could you suggest someone who would be a good option?

 

I’m so glad your daughter seems to be gravitating toward wanting to read something biblical. If it were one of my children, I would be excited too. Thank you for protecting her from false doctrine.

But to answer your question, no. I’m afraid I can’t. I don’t recommend what I call “canned” Bible study books, DVDs, etc., on principle, even (maybe especially) for unsaved people. You can read more at the articles linked under “Can you recommend a good women’s Bible study?” above, but here’s the gist of my reasoning:

• Modern evangelicalism and Christian retailing has conditioned most Christians to believe that if they’re going to study the Bible, they have to use a pre-fab, packaged study instead of simply studying straight from the text of Scripture. There are a lot of super, doctrinally sound Christians who have no problem recommending these kinds of (solid) studies, and that’s great, but if I have to be the lone voice crying in the wilderness that we need to stop being dependent on Bible study books, I’m going to be that gal. And if I’m going to put my money where my mouth is, I can’t, in good conscience, recommend study books.

• The overwhelming majority of “canned” Bible studies, especially the ones written for women, contain false doctrine. Trying to find a “good” one is like trying to find three grains of salt in a bowl full of sugar. It’s much more efficient to recommend something we all know is completely trustworthy and inerrant – the Bible itself.

• God’s Word is sufficient for our every need. For thousands of years, people have gotten saved and sanctified simply by reading Scripture, and we need to get back to that.

• Most Christians (including me) who have done both book studies and studying straight from Scripture will tell you that studying straight from Scripture is far more rewarding. It creates a greater intimacy with God, the Holy Spirit illumines and applies Scripture to your life in the way you need it, and you learn so much more. It’s like the difference between watching someone else search for buried treasure, and searching for it, and finding it, yourself.

So here are a few options I’d recommend for your daughter instead of someone else’s book:

Look through some of the studies I’ve written at the Bible Studies tab in the blue menu bar at the top of this page to see if any of them would be of interest to her. My studies are designed to teach women how to study the Bible for themselves, so that once they get the hang of it, they won’t have to depend on anyone else’s materials any more, even mine.

At that same tab is a list of Bible reading plans. Your daughter probably isn’t ready for a “read through the Bible in a year” plan, but there are several links to much shorter plans – some as short as 1-3 weeks – that will take her through a topic or a book of the Bible.

Order her a gospel of John from Pocket Testament League, and encourage her to read about a chapter a day (or whatever she’s comfortable with). PTL actually uses the book of John as an evangelism tool. They have all sorts of unique designs and translations (I would recommend ESV), and a small, groovy looking little “booklet” might be less intimidating to her than the whole Bible. You can read more here.


Love your blog! I have read your list on ministries or preachers you write on and don’t recommend. I highly admire this. I would like to find ones that I could watch that you do recommend. Do you have a list of men preachers that would fall under this category with a thumbs up? Also any women’s Bible studies I could follow online as well.

Thank you so much for your kind words. I’m glad you’re finding the blog helpful.

If you’ve read the Popular False Teachers and Unbiblical Trends tab, you were soooooo close to finding what you were looking for! :0) Right next to that tab (in the blue menu bar at the top of this page) is a tab entitled Recommended Bible Teachers. You’ll find lots of great pastors and teachers there.

As I mentioned above, I highly recommend you study straight from the Bible itself. If you need a little help getting started, the (online) studies I’ve written will teach you how to do that. You can find them at the Bible Studies tab (also in the blue menu bar at the top of this page). Our current study is Ezekiel.


I’m recently saved, and I feel compelled to share the Gospel with a co-worker but I hesitate because of my past reputation at work. I worry that I will have no credibility. Yes, they’ve all seen the change in me but they’re waiting for it to ‘wear off’. Should I wait until I’m farther removed from my sin to share the gospel with him? Wait until they’re all satisfied that I’ve changed and am not going back to my old ways? Wait for someone else to step up and share with him? He has weighed heavily on my mind as of late and I want him to have the same living hope that I have experienced and to understand the importance of forgiveness. 

Great question! I’m so thrilled you want to share the gospel with someone!

You’ve explained in your e-mail to me that the nature of your relationship to this co-worker isn’t going to be problematic, but for any readers wondering about sharing the gospel with men, please see #11 here and always exercise wisdom and caution.

Take a moment to read the story of the woman at the well. She was zero minutes removed from her sin – in fact she may not have truly been a Believer yet – when she ran back to town urging her friends and neighbors, “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?”.

Or the blind man Jesus healed: “The man called Jesus made mud and anointed my eyes and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ So I went and washed and received my sight…One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.”

Honey, that’s you. You’re just one beggar telling another beggar where to find bread. You don’t have to be perfect and you don’t have to have all the answers, because you’re not the one who’s going to save this guy. Jesus is. He is perfect. He has all the answers. It’s OK to tell your co-worker that you’re new at all this and still learning…but tell Him about Jesus.

Tell him how Jesus washed all your sins away. Tell him how Jesus set you free and gave you peace. Tell him you want him to have the same living hope that you have experienced and to understand the importance of forgiveness. Tell him.


I just read your article about Nativity scenes, and I agree with you. This article makes me wonder, however: I’m curious about your take on the statues and various sacraments that are typical in a Catholic church. Do you think there is a line that has been crossed with such things, or do you think it depends on how an individual approaches and uses these items?

This is a super question – I really like the way you’re thinking this through!

Yes, a line has been crossed in Catholicism, but it’s much more foundational than most Christians realize. There’s no way to gently and, at the same time, clearly say this for those who may not be aware, so I’ll just say it: Catholicism is not Christianity. Even though it utilizes the Bible and Christian terminology, much like Mormonism, It is a different religion at its very core.

There are many reasons for this, and idol (statues) worship, as you’ve touched on, is only one of them. Positioning Mary as co-redemptrix with Christ is blasphemy. Purgatory blatantly contradicts both Christ’s sufficient atonement for sin and outright rejects Scripture’s teaching on God’s judgment after death. Re-crucifying Christ in the Mass along with transubstatiation is an abomination. Praying to (or in or through or with or whatever conjunction they want to use) dead people (the “saints” and Mary) is patently unbiblical. Infused righteousness rejects the biblical teaching of imputed righteousness. The teaching that one must be baptized into the Catholic “church” in order to be saved is anti-gospel.The Pope is not infallible as proved by all of the above and more. And don’t get me started on the Catholic “church’s” scores of brutal murders and imprisonments of Bible believing, Bible preaching, Bible translating, and Bible owning Christians during the Protestant Reformation. I could go on and on.*

But possibly the most egregious heresy Catholicism teaches is that anyone who believes this…

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. Ephesians 2:8-9

…is anathema – excommunicated from Catholicism and therefore damned to an eternity in Hell. This is just one of the many anathemas from the Council of Trent, which convened in 1545 to codify Catholic doctrine and repudiate Protestantism:

If any one saith, that by faith alone the impious is justified; in such wise as to mean, that nothing else is required to co-operate in order to the obtaining the grace of Justification, and that it is not in any way necessary, that he be prepared and disposed by the movement of his own will; let him be anathema.

According to Catholicism’s own doctrines, anyone who believes what the Bible says about being saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, and not by these plus accompanying works, is damned. If that’s not “another gospel,” I don’t know what is.

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. Galatians 1:6-9

So, to answer your question a little more directly, there is no right or “biblical” way for a Catholic to use statues, relics, sacraments, or any other accoutrements of Catholicism because the entire system is corrupt, anti-biblical, and is not Christianity.

Here are a few more resources that may be helpful if you’d like to read more:

Catholic Questions at Got Questions

Roman Catholicism at CARM

List of excommunicable offences from the Council of Trent at Wikipedia (I know, I know, it’s Wikipedia, but as of the date I’m posting this, it’s a pretty decent article.)

*Invariably, when I (or any other Protestant for that matter) address a well established doctrine or practice of Catholicism and how/why it isn’t biblical, a Catholic will argue: “That’s not what we really believe!”. If you’re a Catholic and you’re about to make a comment along those lines, here’s my response: That’s what your own “church” teaches, so it IS what Catholics are supposed to believe. If you don’t believe your own “church’s” doctrine, why are you still a Catholic?

Thank you so much for your ministry. I am truly blessed by it. In regards to The Chosen, I was listening to Todd Friel on Wretched and he said something very interesting about the producer. I have attached the link.

Thank you so much for bringing this to my attention. For those who might be unfamiliar, The Chosen is a made for streaming “TV show” drama on the life and ministry of Jesus, produced by Dallas Jenkins. It premiered earlier this year, the week before Easter. At that time, I wrote a review of the series, which you can read here if you like. I have added the following update to that article:

Update (7/12/20): Thank you to a kind reader who brought to my attention a recent interview of Dallas on a Mormon YouTube channel. Dallas seems to believe that Mormonism and Catholicism are both Christianity. You can listen to the short version (with Todd Friel’s commentary) here (starting at 45:00) or the entire interview here. You may also wish to compare (fairly, objectively, and discerningly) Dallas’ comments in the interview with his comments (below) at the end of this article. It is one thing to use the products and services of a non-Christian company. It is another matter to personally believe, as a Christian, that false religions are Christianity and that adherents of those religions are brothers and sisters in Christ. If these revelations of Dallas’ beliefs prevent you from watching The Chosen, that is certainly understandable, and I would encourage you not to sin against your conscience by watching it. However, these revelations do not somehow magically change the actual content of the episodes, nor my evaluation of said content. In other words, I biblically evaluated what I saw in the episodes, so the remainder of this review stands.


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.

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.

Basic Training, Evangelism

Throwback Thursday ~ Basic Training: The Great Commission

Originally published June 15, 2018

For more in the Basic Training series, click here.

Have you ever heard the phrase “The Great Commission“? Do you know what it means? If not, you’re not alone…


photo courtesy of barna.com

The Barna Group recently conducted a study asking churchgoers if they had previously “heard of the Great Commission.” In their report, 51% of Churchgoers Don’t Know of the Great Commission the results of the study were summarized thusly:

“…half of U.S. churchgoers (51%) say they do not know this term. It would be reassuring to assume that the other half who know the term are also actually familiar with the passage known by this name, but that proportion is low (17%). Meanwhile, ‘the Great Commission’ does ring a bell for one in four (25%), though they can’t remember what it is. Six percent of churchgoers are simply not sure whether they have heard this term ‘the Great Commission’ before.”

Now, if you know anything about statistics, you know how important it is to structure your questions carefully and get a representative sampling of the population you’re surveying in order to get the most accurate results. What does “churchgoer” mean? Is it possible people have never heard the term “The Great Commission” simply because churches don’t use this particular phrase any more? It’s important to take things like this into consideration because it affects the results of the survey. (You can find out more about Barna’s structuring process for this study at the end of the article linked above.) But even if the numbers of the Barna survey aren’t exact, I think it’s safe to say there are a lot of people out there in churchland who aren’t familiar with The Great Commission.

Just for fun, let’s see what the results would be if we surveyed readers of my blog:

The Great Commission refers to some of Jesus’ final words to the disciples before His ascension and is cited from Matthew 28:18-20:

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.’

With these words Jesus commissioned the eleven remaining disciples to go out into the world and carry on His mission. Since every Christian is a disciple, or follower, of Christ, this is our commission from Him as well. Let’s examine what it says.

All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me.
Before commissioning his disciples, Jesus reminds them that everything He’s about to say is founded on and imbued with His authority. Jesus alone has the divine authority to establish the church and to dictate the way in which His church is to be set up and to grow.

We 21st century Christians would do well to keep forefront in our minds and hearts the authority of Christ over His church. There is no need for churches to “cast vision” or come up with mission statements. Christ is the head of the church and has already given us His vision for it. The Great Commission is His mission statement for the church.

Go therefore
“Therefore” in this little phrase refers back to what Christ has just said about His authority. In other words, because all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me, I am telling you to go.

“Go” is a very generic verb in English. We can “go” into the kitchen or we can “go” to the moon or we can “go” out and conquer the world. We can “go” anywhere from our own personal microcosm to the edges of the known universe. And that is the same sense the Greek word πορεύω captures: as you “go your way,” as you “go forth,” as you “walk”, as you “pursue the journey on which [you have] entered.” Wherever life takes us, whether it’s across the street or across the world, we go as ambassadors of Christ, carrying the good news of the gospel with us.

All nations
Revelation 7:9 tells us that God will save people from “every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages.” So that’s who we share the gospel with as we go our way. Everybody. Regardless of where they’re from, what they look like, or how they talk. We are not to withhold the gospel from anyone, and we’re to make sure the church is proactively carrying the gospel to every populated geographical location on earth.

Make disciples…teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you
Notice the language Jesus uses here. He doesn’t say “make converts” or “make Christians”. He says “make disciples.”

Think about what the disciples did while Jesus was on earth. First, they answered His call to follow Him. Then, they began the journey of following Him wherever He went. He trained and equipped them day and night. They loved Him and worshiped Him. They imitated the things He did and said. They carried on His work after He ascended. Jesus is saying to the disciples, and to us, “Replicate yourselves. Make more like you.”

That means that the Great Commission starts with sharing the gospel with a lost person, but it doesn’t end there. There’s more to our mission than just evangelism. We are to train and equip Christians to follow Jesus daily, to love and worship Him, to imitate Him in obedience, and to carry on His work.

Baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit
After salvation, baptism is the first step a new Christian takes on the road of discipleship. It is not optional. Baptism publicly identifies a person – to the church and to the world – as a Christian, and is a personal pledge to follow Christ obediently all the days of one’s life.

Being baptized “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” carries several layers of meaning.

💧Again, pay careful attention to the language in this phrase. Jesus does not say “in the nameS” – plural. He says, “in the name” – singular. This is a boldly Trinitarian statement directly from two of its members: Jesus, who spoke these words to the disciples, and the Holy Spirit, who breathed them out through the pen of Matthew. This is God Himself telling us who He is. Jesus spoke these words to good Jewish boys who were born and bred on the shema: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.” There was to be no confusion for new Believers back then, Believers today, or to the onlooking world, as to who these Christians are following. They are not following three different gods. They are following the one true God in three Persons: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit – the whole ball of wax.

💧Names meant far more in biblical times than they do to us today. We see God changing people’s names – Abram to Abraham, Jacob to Israel, Simon to Peter, etc. – when He commissioned them for a new mission or phase of life. Being baptized “in the name of” the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit echoes that tradition of God changing people’s names. You are no longer your own, you are Christ’s. You are no longer “Sinner”, you are “Saint”. You no longer go forth in your own name, but in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as their emissary, endowed with the power and authority of God to live for Him and to proclaim the gospel to a lost and dying world.

💧Because Christians are, by definition, Trinitarians, and because baptizing a Believer is commissioning her to go forth into the world as a representative of Christ, it’s appropriate for pastors to take this verse literally when performing a baptism and verbalize its words: “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

Basic Training: Baptism

And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.
What a sweet promise, both to the disciples and to us today. Obediently following Christ in our daily lives, sharing the gospel, and making disciples can be lonely, exhausting, and discouraging at times. But we don’t have to do it alone, and we don’t have to do it in the flesh. Christ is with us and He knows all too well how hard it can be. God has given the Holy Spirit to indwell and empower Believers to live for Him and to carry out The Great Commission.

Additional Resources

What is the Great Commission? at Got Questions

The Great Commission by John MacArthur

The Great Commission by Burk Parsons

Evangelism at Theology Gals

Apologetics, Bible

Without Apology: 7 Reasons Not to Be Ashamed of the Hard Parts of the Gospel

Originally published November 4, 2016

7-not-ashamed

I am not ashamed of the gospel…

Romans 1:16 is such a great verse, isn’t it? And one of the things that’s great about it is that we can all agree on it. I mean, no self-respecting Christian would dream of saying she’s ashamed of the gospel, would she? It’s a rallying cry for evangelism and for standing against persecution. Of course we’re not ashamed.

In theory. But in practice?

You see, the gospel is the good news of salvation. And, while we don’t tend to share the entire Bible when we share the gospel with someone, the good news starts in Genesis with a holy God who created a perfect world, and moves on to the first people who messed everything up with their sin, a whole bunch of subsequent people who couldn’t be faithful to God and keep His Law, Christ and His redemption of sinners, and the Revelation of the hope of His return at the end of time. So, “the gospel” really stretches from the front cover of your Bible to the back cover.

Are there any parts of it you shy away from in evangelism, discipleship, or teaching?

What about the atheist you’re witnessing to who denigrates your God for committing genocide in the Old Testament?

Were you afraid to speak up the last time you were the only Creationist in a room full of evolutionists?

Have you ever seen some poor pastor or male teacher tiptoe his way through the minefield of a passage on marital submission or the biblical role of women in ministry lest the wrath of church ladies befall him?

Are you reluctant to be known as someone who believes and will unequivocally say that homosexuality and other deviant sexual behavior is a sin?

Hey, we’ve all been there and failed. These are tough passages for sinners to hear, after all! When they come up, we should certainly approach them wisely and lovingly with people, but we should take care never to wish these things (and others) weren’t in Scripture, feel embarrassed about them, apologize for them, or act as though we have to make excuses for God about them. We need to be just as willing, bold, kind, and comfortable saying, “The world did not evolve, God created it,” and “You must repent of homosexuality along with all your other sin,” as we are saying, “God is love.” Why?

1. The Bible is God’s word.

Scripture is the very words of the God of the universe. It’s not a storybook or a policy and procedure manual dreamed up by men. Scripture is God speaking to us. To be ashamed of any part of His word is to be ashamed of Him, what He has done, and who He is. We dare not.

2. The Bible glorifies God.

The mere existence of Scripture brings honor and glory to God. No other god has spoken personally, so magnificently, and in a living and active book, to his people. The Bible brings glory to God when His people believe and obey it. We exemplify His goodness and holiness to a watching world. And even when the Bible isn’t believed and obeyed, God is glorified by showing us in His word that His way is right and perfect and man’s way is not.

3. The Bible is perfect.

God didn’t leave anything out of the Bible or put anything extra in that shouldn’t be there. The Bible is perfect just the way it is. God doesn’t need us to help Him out by editing it. If He wanted it to say something different, it already would.

4. The Bible is right.

When God’s word says something is a sin, it is right. When God’s word tells us He, in His holiness, did something we think is unfair or distasteful, it is right. When God’s word requires us to do something, it is right. When someone balks at what the Bible says, it’s not the Bible that’s wrong. It’s that person’s sinful flesh that thinks it knows better than God what is good, appropriate, loving and fair. If a person comes up against the Bible, the Bible does not bend. That person bends. The knee. To God. If you are standing on the rightly divided word of God, you can be confident that you are in the right because the Bible is right. There’s no need for reticence.

5. The Bible is a blessing.

If you’ve ever studied the history of how you got the Bible sitting on your coffee table, you know just how amazing it is that you own one. Thousands of years, scores of writers, so many people who were martyred for penning it, protecting it, and translating it. How could we be ashamed of such a precious gift from God Himself?

6. The Bible is good for us.

God put those tough passages in the Bible because they’re good for you. And they’re good for the person who’s foaming at the mouth over the one you’re trying to explain to her, right now, too, she just doesn’t know it yet. God is a kind and loving Father who always does what is best for us. Those difficult passages would not be in the Bible if God didn’t want them there to benefit us in some way.

7. The Bible is useful.

 I can’t say it better than Scripture itself does:

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17

God uses every verse of Scripture – even the hard ones – to save us, grow us, conform us to His will, equip us, and reveal Himself to us. Why would we deny those saving, growing words to people who desperately need to hear them by shying away from them just because they’re difficult to say or unpleasant to hear?

Steve Lawson once said, “The Bible is not hard to understand. It is just hard to swallow.” And he’s so right. It’s not difficult to understand the concept that wives should submit to their husbands or that the God who sovereignly gave people life has every right to take it away. What’s difficult for us is to humble ourselves and cede control to Someone else. We think we know best. We want to run things and make the rules. We don’t want to submit to God’s authority.

In the end, there really aren’t any tough passages. There are only passages that come up against tough hearts. Tough hearts that need to be broken by the gospel, that they might repent of their sin and be forgiven by a great and merciful God.

And that’s nothing to be ashamed of.

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Suffering

Throwback Thursday ~ God’s Good Purposes in Suffering

Originally published June 16, 2017

In my previous article True or False: Is Your Theology of Suffering Biblical? we examined some unbiblical ideas and approaches Christians often have toward suffering. Why is it important to have a biblical view of suffering? Because suffering is painful enough without piling on things like, “God is punishing me,” or “This wouldn’t be happening if I just had more faith,” that aren’t even true. The biblical view of suffering frees you from from the additional agony of inappropriate guilt, the mindset that God is harsh or unloving, and the burden of striving to appease a God who’s not asking you to. A biblical view of suffering sets you free to rest in Christ and trust Him.

God’s purposes toward you, His child, are always good, even when He permits difficult things into your life. Let’s think about Romans 8:28 for just a second:

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

It doesn’t say all things are good. It says that God uses all circumstances for good for His people – even the difficult ones – because He is good and His plans and goals are good.

Even Joseph saw this, way back in Genesis. After everything his brothers put him through, he said,

As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good,

As parents, sometimes we give our child ice cream to eat and sometimes we give him Brussels sprouts. Do we give ice cream because we love him and Brussels sprouts because we hate him? No. Both are done out of love, the ice cream because it brings him joy, and the Brussels sprouts because it has the nutrients he needs to be strong and healthy. It would not be loving for a parent to give only ice cream or only Brussels sprouts. In the same way, it would not be loving for God to give us only blessings or only difficult times. Everything God does in our lives, He does for His glory and our good.

So what are some of God’s good purposes in our suffering?

1. To bring glory to God
We touched on Job’s story in the previous article and saw how his suffering glorified God. Another great passage that talks about God being glorified through suffering is John 9:1-3:

As he [Jesus] passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3 Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.

If you thought suffering was God’s punishment for sin, you’re in good company- the disciples thought so, too! But Jesus was about to do something amazing in this guy’s life that would showcase God’s glory, and it would not have happened had he not suffered.

2. Suffering can be a witness to the lost
When we suffer without forsaking Christ and trust Him to carry us through it, it’s a testimony to others – especially lost people – that God is faithful and worthy of
their faith and trust. Your suffering might open the door to sharing the gospel with someone.

3. The logical consequences of sin
In the previous article, we dealt with the topic of suffering we “deserve,” and how, even though it’s painful, it’s easier to come to grips with that kind of suffering. That’s because we’re made in the image of God, and one of God’s attributes that is reflected in us is justice. We have this innate sense of wanting to see justice done. And when we, or anyone else, suffer the natural consequences of our sin, that points to God being a just God.
We tend to lump all suffering into the one basket of “that’s unfair!” but this is the kind of suffering that is just.

4. Discipline

Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.
Revelation 3:19

And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?
“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
   nor be weary when reproved by him.
6 For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
   and chastises every son whom he receives.”
7 It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 9 Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. 11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
Hebrews 12:5-11

When we stray off into a pattern of sin, God can use suffering (often the natural consequences of our sin) to correct us and point us back to the Christlike direction we ought to be heading. He does that because He loves us.

5. Suffering can teach us humility and dependence on God
“Independence” is pretty much a motto for us here in the United States. Independence from England, rugged individualism, pull yourself up by your own bootstraps…Guess what? God doesn’t want you to be independent. He wants you to be
dependent- on Him. And nothing can grow that dependence and humility like suffering. Paul said in 2 Corinthians 12:7:

So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited.

6. Suffering can grow us in spiritual strength and maturity
Romans 3:3-4 says:

Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,

Endurance, character, hope. These are all aspects of Christian character that God wants to build in each of us, and even though we wish He would just hit us on the head with a magic wand and instantly give us these things, that’s not the way He does it. He often produces these things in us by way of suffering.

7. Experiencing suffering gives us compassion for others, and equips us to help them

[God] comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.
2 Corinthians 1:4

God doesn’t do anything, including putting you through suffering, for no good reason. It could be to glorify Him. It could be to do something in you. Or, it could be to help someone else (or all three). God never wastes an experience in your life. If you’ve been through something, God can use that “been there, done that” experience to equip you to minister to someone else who’s going through the same thing.

8. Suffering can cause the lost to cry out to God for salvation
Remember the parable of the prodigal son? Sadly it’s a common tale. Some people basically have to hit rock bottom in their lives before they finally give it up and surrender to Christ, just like the prodigal son.

And how about the story of Jesus healing the woman with the issue of blood? Sometimes life is great. You don’t need Jesus, you’re doing life just fine on your own…until something devastating happens that you can’t handle, and you get desperate. Mark 5:26-28 tells us she

had suffered much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was no better but rather grew worse. 27 She had heard the reports about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his garment. 28 For she said, “If I touch even his garments, I will be made well.”

She was desperate. And God can use desperation and suffering to turn the heart of a lost person to Himself for salvation.

 

God is a good God, and His purposes in our suffering are always good. So the next time you’re suffering, think of those 8‘s in Romans 8:28, and remember these 8 good purposes God has for your pain, purposes that bring Him glory, work out His good plans, grow us in good ways, and enable us to do good to others.