Basic Training, Bible

Throwback Thursday ~ Basic Training: The Bible Is Sufficient

Originally published March 10, 2017

For more in the Basic Training series, click here.

God said to me…/I heard God say…

Listen for God’s voice…

God spoke to me in a dream…

God gave me a vision of…

We hear things like this non-stop these days in pop-evangelicalism. And it’s not just in the whack job Word of Faith or New Apostolic Reformation movements, or in Charismatic churches, either. These words are coming out of the mouths of regular, every day Baptists and Methodists and Lutherans and Presbyterians, too. It’s largely due to the infiltration of Word of Faith and New Apostolic Reformation false doctrine into our churches via a) “Bible studies” from false teachers like Beth Moore, Joyce Meyer, Priscilla Shirer, Christine Caine, Lysa TerKeurst and others and b) individual church members who feed on a steady diet of “Christian” television such as TBN, CBN, Daystar, and GodTV. Christians are getting the false idea that they need to hear, or should be hearing, God speak to them instead of trusting in the sufficiency of God’s word.

The theological term for “God spoke to me/showed me in a dream/etc.” is extra-biblical revelation– words or revelations, supposedly directly from God, that happen outside the pages of the Bible. I’d like to share with you six reasons God’s word is sufficient, and extra-biblcal revelation is both unbiblical and unnecessary.

1. Extra-biblical revelation is not the method God has established for communicating with us.
Maybe you and I would prefer it if God would just talk to us and tell us, one on one, in no uncertain terms, what He wants us to do. But that’s not the way that God prefers to communicate with New Testament Christians this side of a closed canon. God chooses to communicate with us through His written word. He says:

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

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. Hebrews 1:1-2

Let’s bear in mind, it is God Himself who breathed out these words. These verses are God speaking to us, and He says Scripture is enough to make us complete and mature, and to equip us for everything He has for us to do.

When we insist on “hearing God speak” outside of Scripture, we’re essentially saying, “God, I reject Your way and demand you do things my way instead.” Remember, God set up this whole Christianity thing, and He gets to make the rules, not us.

2. What makes you so sure it’s God who’s speaking to you?
Just because you have a feeling, an urge, or an intense experience doesn’t mean that was God speaking to you. Maybe it was Satan. Maybe it was your own wicked heart. Maybe it was a temptation to sin. Maybe it was just an old memory resurfacing. How can you know, objectively (not based on your feelings, the intensity of the experience, etc.), beyond a shadow of a doubt, that it was actually God speaking to you? And if you can’t know for sure it was God, why would you put your trust in whatever “He said” to you?

As Christians, we can irrefutably know God is speaking to us when we read His word because we know He is the author of Scripture.

3. Extra-biblical revelation is redundant and unnecessary.
Even those (most of them, anyway) who believe God still talks to people will tell you that God will never say something to you that contradicts His written Word. So why not just bypass the whole “God spoke to me” thing and go straight to the Bible? Or as Puritan John Owen put it:

As God Himself has told us in His written Word, the Bible is sufficient instruction for every situation in our lives. We don’t need God to speak to us verbally. He has already spoken. Why aren’t we satisfied with that?

4. Insisting on extra-biblical revelation demonstrates a lack of trust in God and His ways.
James 1:5 says:

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.

And where do we get wisdom to handle the situations and decisions of life? Not from a voice from Heaven saying “do this” or “do that,” but from Scripture:

The unfolding of your words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple. Psalm 119:130

Let my cry come before you, O Lord; give me understanding according to your word! Psalm 119:169

The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; Psalm 19:7

and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 2 Timothy 3:15

We don’t need God to tell us what decision to make, we want Him to, because that’s easier than doing the hard work of digging into Scripture, studying the biblical principles that apply to our situation, making the best and most godly decision we can, and trusting God for the outcome. But that’s exactly what God wants us to do:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Proverbs 3:5-6

When we honor and trust God by looking to His written word for the Holy Spirit’s guidance, He has promised to give us wisdom to make godly decisions and make our paths straight.

5. What about being led by the Holy Spirit?
For some reason people often draw a distinction between being “led” by the Holy Spirit and studying the Scriptures He breathed out, as though they’re two different things. Studying, believing, and obeying the words the Holy Spirit inspired is being led by the Spirit.

6. Extra-biblical revelation sets up a class system within Christianity.
Why do some people “hear” from God and others don’t? The reason implied by the Christian leaders (or even your fellow church members) – who make sure you know they’ve personally heard from God – is that people God speaks to are, spiritually, a cut above. Special. More faithful. More favored by God than you are. It’s like a carrot dangling in front of a horse. It keeps you buying their books, attending their conferences, following them on social media, hoping against hope that one day you’ll become one of the spiritual elite.

But how does the idea that others are “hearing God speak” affect a Christian who isn’t hearing from God? She starts thinking maybe God isn’t pleased with her. Maybe she’s sinning against God in some way. Maybe she’s not being faithful enough, praying enough, giving enough. Maybe God doesn’t love her. Maybe she’s not even saved. It turns her into a second class citizen of God’s Kingdom and causes her to covet something she doesn’t have and God never promised her.

None of this is biblical. There are no first tier and second tier Christians. A lot of the people God actually spoke to in Scripture were hardly paragons of spiritual awesomeness: BalaamSaul, and Moses, just to name a few. And God measures “spiritual awesomeness” not in strutting your closeness to Him before others, but in humility, servanthood, and crucifying self.

Ladies, God’s written Word is sufficient for our every need. We can trust that the words of Scripture are directly from the lips of God Himself. No one can say that with any certainty about extra-biblical revelation. Trust God to direct your paths and give you biblical wisdom to make godly decisions as you grow in the knowledge and understanding of His word.


Additional Resources

Where is it written that God doesn’t speak audibly any more? at Naomi’s Table

Listening to God Without Getting All Weird About It by David Appelt

How God Speaks To Us Today by Tim Challies

Basic Training, Bible, Bible Study

Throwback Thursday ~ Basic Training: The Bible is Necessary

Originally published March 17, 2017

For more in the Basic Training series, click here.

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But he answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
Matthew 4:1-4

I have not departed from the commands of His lips; I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my daily food.
Job 23:12

More to be desired are [the words of God] than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb.
Psalm 19:10

I have a question for you. Try to answer it within three seconds.

Where’s your Bible? (Not the one on your phone or computer- your real Bible.)

Were you able to answer in three seconds because you read it today and remember where you left it when you were finished? Because it stays on your night stand and rarely gets opened? Did it take longer than three seconds because you frequently carry it around with you and can’t remember where you most recently left it?

The point of the question isn’t really where your Bible is in geographical relationship to you, but where you are in relationship to your Bible.

David said God’s word was more valuable to him than gold, even much fine gold.

Job said he treasured God’s word more than his daily food.

Jesus hadn’t eaten a bite in over a month, and He still valued every word that comes from the mouth of God over bread.

If someone put a stack of fine gold in front of you and said you could have it as long as you hardly ever read your Bible, would you take it?

What if you had gone without food for forty days and someone offered you a loaf of bread in exchange for your agreement to put your Bible away and open it only rarely? Could you withstand the temptation?

I’d like to believe I would choose God’s word over a stack of gold or even life-sustaining food. But when I think about all the lesser things I sometimes choose to do instead of setting aside time to study God’s word…

…television
…social media
…reading
…sleeping
…hobbies

…well, I can’t help but wonder:

Do I really value God’s word as deeply as He wants me to?

We need God’s word. It is more necessary to us, spiritually, than food is to us, physically. Yet many Christians unintentionally starve themselves spiritually, thinking a “meal” or two of Scripture at church every week (if they actually attend every week, that is) is enough to sustain them. It’s not. We need to feast on God’s written Word every single day.

We need to know who God is

Saved people are in a one-on-one, personal relationship with God. But how can you have a relationship with someone you don’t really know? How can you love Him, please Him, or enjoy spending time with Him if you know nothing about Him? His character, His attributes, His likes and dislikes, the way He operates – these are all integral to knowing this God who created and saved us. And in His infinite love, God has chosen to reveal all these things about Himself in a book we call the Bible.

We need to know who we are

Just as an employee can’t rightly relate to her employer if she doesn’t understand her role, her place, and her responsibilities, we can’t rightly relate to God unless we understand both who He is and who we are in relationship to Him. We need to understand that He is God and we are not. That He is perfect in holiness and righteousness and we are depraved from the womb. That we are sinners in need of a Savior, created for the purpose of bringing glory to God, servants of the most high King. The only place to learn all of this, and more, about who we are, and where we stand with God, is in the pages of His word.

We need to know what God wants from us

What does God want me to do with my money? How can I be a godly wife if my husband is unsaved? Does God think it’s important for me to go to church? Is it always a sin to lie? Is it wrong to watch pornography? In addition to being a revelation of the nature and character of God, the Bible is also an intensely practical book, instructing Christians on issues of every day life and helping us to understand how God wants us to think, act, and speak. God knows we have questions and in His kindness and mercy has provided all the answers we need in Scripture.

We need to hear from God

While the idea and practice of “hearing God’s voice” is unbiblical, the desire to commune with God- to visit with Him as a loved one – is not. We only have to look back to the Garden of Eden to see that God’s perfect design was for people to fellowship with Him. Because of the Fall, we can’t do that face to face this side of Heaven. For now, we talk to God through prayer and worship. He talks to us through His written Word. Constant communion with God deepens our love for Him and increases our Christlikeness.

More than daily food. More than gold. More than any earthly pleasure, wisdom, or experience, we need God’s word. And we need it every day, all the days of our lives.

Bible Study

A Hard Bible for Hard Times

These days, popular women’s “Bible” studies tend to be seven lessons of fluff, feelings, and false doctrine.

This is the “anti-study”.

Roughly 20 lessons of digging into the text of what can be a challenging passage of Scripture.

I believe you’re up for the challenge, ladies. Let’s study.

A couple of days ago, I launched Ezekiel – our new Bible study here on the blog – with these introductory remarks on social media. I made it pretty clear, both in my social media remarks and the introduction to the study itself that this wasn’t going to be your typical walk-in-the-park women’s “Bible” study designed to make you feel better about yourself.

Ezekiel is a long book. There are parts of it that are going to be hard to understand. There are parts of it that, to our flesh, are going to be boring. There are cubits. Lots and lots of cubits. This is a Bible study that’s going to require extra work – probably with commentaries and study Bibles. And I’m not making any “feel good” guarantees.

And yet, I was overwhelmed by the response from so many readers: “I’m in!” “Sign me up!” “Looks like a good time!” “Excited is an understatement!”

All this about….a hard text? More work? Even as we endure Corona and quarantine, separation from loved ones, the shuttering of our churches, economic hardship, increasing persecution, racial strife, rampant crime, rioting, anarchy, and God only knows what’s next?

Yeah. Want to know why?

It’s the same reason that being bone-weary after a long day of hot, sweaty yard work feels better than the mind-numbed sleepiness you feel when you’ve been binge-watching Netflix in your pajamas all day. The same reason you feel better after a satisfying, well-balanced meal than after snarfing a dozen Oreos.

It’s what we need.

It’s what’s good for us.

It’s accomplishing something lasting.

We need a hard Bible in these hard times.

Think about the hard times the first century Christians of the New Testament went through. For refusing to offer a pinch of incense in worship to Caesar, for declaring that Jesus alone – not Jesus plus the pantheon – is Lord, they were fed to the lions for sport, burned and boiled alive, crucified, beheaded, speared, beaten, stoned, whipped, exiled, and considered “the scum of the world, the refuse of all things.”

And for most of that first century, the bulk of the Scriptures Believers had access to was the Old Testament. The part that soft, milquetoasty, “I want a God made in my own image” evangelicals today want to “unhitch” from precisely because it’s hard.

While fearing for their very lives for following Christ, our forefathers in the faith studied the God who flooded the earth for its rebellion against Him, who wiped out pagan nations for their idolatry, who sent horrific plagues upon those who defied Him, and who poured out His wrath on His own people for their sin and spiritual whoredom.

They had a hard Bible during their hard times.

To be sure, they saw, and we also see, the God of mercy, love, and grace who spared Noah, who provided His children with a land flowing with milk and honey, who rescued the Hebrews out of slavery, and who blessed all who were faithful to Him. And we know that all of Scripture – the hard to swallow parts and the easy to embrace parts, the “dig in and study hard” parts and the simple and sweet to the soul parts – all of Scripture is profitable.

But we need a hard Bible for hard times.

Because hard passages that make us stop and spend extra time and effort build discipline, endurance, and patience into our spirits. They make us do the hard work of digging for the nature and character of God and reward us with the treasure of knowing Him more intimately. They show us who God is in a unique way that the easy passages do not.

Feelings, fluff, and false doctrine can never accomplish those ends. They do not prepare us to endure suffering and persecution with strength and dignity, but to whine and complain and focus on the hurt. They do not teach us who God truly is in our trials and temptations, but that we can create a custom-made idol we’re comfortable with and call it “God”. They do not lead us to trust and obey God when the going gets tough, but to abandon His Word and His statutes in favor of worldly means and methods of dealing with difficulties.

Most evangelical women today are spiritually flaccid because no one – not their denomination, nor their church, nor their pastor, nor their Sunday School teachers, nor their women’s ministry leaders, nor their favorite “Bible” study authors – has ever made them do the hard work of wrestling with challenging Scriptures, overcoming them, and adding that victory to their inventory of joy in Christ.

We need to raise the bar.

We need to expect more, not less.

We need to encourage the pink side of the pew to do hard spiritual things, and cheer them on and help them as they try.

The Kingdom doesn’t need weak women who don’t know their Bibles because all they’ve been taught – and all they’ve been taught to hunger for – is feelings, fluff, and false doctrine. Because those women crumple in the face of controversy. They fall away rather than stand and fight.

The Kingdom needs strong, godly women who apply their hearts and minds to knowing and understanding God’s Word and reach down to help their weaker sisters do the same.

Hiding God’s Word in our hearts doesn’t just mean we learn the surface-level do’s and don’t’s, giving us a spiritual Post-It note reminder not to lie and steal. In order to hide something, we first have to possess it. Own it. And to own God’s Word we have to plunge in and swim in it. Breathe it in and out. Drink deeply of it. Eat the honey-sweet scroll. Let it so penetrate our souls’ DNA that when the rooster begins to crow, and the accusers point and say, “I know you. You were with Jesus,” we can plant our feet firmly and mean it when we boldly declare, “Yes. And though others may fall away because of Him, I will never fall away. Even if I must die for Jesus, I will not sin by denying Him.”

Because those hard times are coming.

Indeed, they are already here.

And we need a hard Bible for hard times.

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.

ps-19-7-9

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.