Mailbag

The Mailbag: Potpourri (“Potty Prayers,” Women as Children’s/Worship Pastors, Solid churches with heretical music, Eternal Security)

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


I know this is going to sound silly or troll-like, but I’m serious! I have a habit of praying a quick prayer when thoughts cross my mind, like “God, please help Aunt Pam to feel better from her cold today,” or “Lord, thank You for providing that salary bonus I needed.” Sometimes those same kinds of thoughts and prayers cross my mind when I’m using the bathroom. Is that wrong? Should I wait until I get out of the bathroom to think that little prayer? What about what Deuteronomy 23:14 says about using the bathroom, “that God may not see anything indecent among you and turn away from you”?

I don’t think that’s a silly or troll-like question at all, and I’ll bet there are bunches of Christians out there who do the exact same thing and now, after reading this question, are wondering the exact same thing.

First Thessalonians 5:17 instructs us to “pray without ceasing,” which means our hearts are to be constantly oriented toward prayer even though we’re not consciously praying every moment of the day. (Kind of like your compass’ needle always points north even if it’s just sitting in a drawer not being used.) For most Christians, that means we’re intermittently speaking to God, just like you described, throughout the day as things happen, as random thoughts cross our minds, as we see various things. And this becomes such a habit (a good one!) that it doesn’t occur to us to think about where we are or what we’re doing as we utter those prayers in our hearts. Honestly, I think that mindset of reflexive prayer is pleasing to God, because it embodies what it means to pray without ceasing.

Deuteronomy 23:12-14 is part of the Old Testament ceremonial law regarding, in this particular case, the way Israel was to set up camp. When you give the law a good, thorough reading, you’ll notice that the underlying principle of most of the laws is that Israel is to be set apart and holy – different – from the pagan nations surrounding them. And He gives them laws to this effect that touch every aspect of their lives so that, at every turn, throughout the course of their day, there are little reminders, through the law, to “Be holy for I am holy.” This law is just one more of those little reminders: Don’t act like animals like the pagan nations around you, Israel, and just potty willy nilly in the street or the front yard or wherever you take a notion to. Step it up and keep your camp to a higher standard, because God is with you and you are His people.

The Deuteronomy passage is not about offending God by relieving yourself. God has seen every single time every person on the planet has ever relieved himself/herself, because God is omnipresent. If that were offensive to Him, He would not have designed your body to work that way.

Although I don’t think “bathroom time” should be the only time you pray, I don’t see anything in Scripture indicating that God considers it offensive for you to reflexively pray even though you happen to be in the bathroom at that moment. However, if it offends your sensibilities, wait until you get out of the bathroom and then pray.


Would you read 1 Tim 3 1-7 to read women can’t be “overseers/leaders/official” as in they can’t be “Children pastors” or “Women Pastors” in the church with those actual titles or even as directors? The verses only say men and state guidelines on how to choose. I’ve noticed some red flags in my church with a woman Worship Leader, which I don’t agree with since she sometimes teaches in between songs, but they are also giving women the pastor title, but only for children and women.

If I’m understanding correctly, you’re asking:

  • Is it biblical for women to hold a position of leadership over the women’s ministry or children’s ministry of a church?
  • Is it biblical for a woman to be the worship leader of a church?
  • If so, is it biblical to give those women leaders the title of, for example: “Pastor of Women’s Ministry” or “Children’s Minister”?

Here are the fast and dirty answers. Below are a couple of links where I’ve discussed these issues in more detail.

Assuming the woman is doctrinally sound, has a godly character, her husband (if she’s married) is on board, and she’s otherwise qualified for the job, it’s fine for a woman to lead women or children in the church as long as the position she holds (which will vary from church to church) doesn’t require her to preach to or teach Scripture to men, or hold unbiblical authority over men.

No, it is not biblical for a woman to be the worship leader of a church. This is supposed to be a pastoral position.

No, churches should not give any woman on staff the title of “Pastor” or “Minister”, even if she isn’t violating Scripture in her position. Because Scripture doesn’t permit women to be pastors/ministers it is misleading and confusing, and will probably give people the impression that she is violating Scripture and that that’s OK. Neither should the converse be true – churches should not have women on staff in any capacity that violates Scripture (preaching to/teaching men, holding authority over men) and try to conceal that fact by giving her a title (instead of “pastor” or “minister”) like “facilitator,” “coach,” “associate,” “director,” etc.

Rock Your Role: Jill in the Pulpit

Rock Your Role FAQs (see #16, 21)


We have been searching for a doctrinally sound church in the area we moved to, and unfortunately it has not been easy! The few that we have found still use a Hillsong, Bethel or Elevation music. I usually cross a church off the list quickly if they sing from those artists. But like I said, now I am finding even doctrinally sound churches are throwing some of those songs in. Do you have any insight to this dilemma?

It can be really difficult to find a doctrinally sound church these days. Unfortunately even some churches that are fairly solid use music from these groups. The first thing I would recommend is that you check out the Searching for a new church? tab in the blue menu bar at the top of this page, just to make sure you haven’t overlooked any doctrinally sound churches in your area. There are lots of church search engines there and other resources that might help.

My counsel would be to find the most doctrinally sound church you possibly can (following your husband’s leadership, of course, if you’re married, {and assuming, in this particular case, that he’s saved}), attend for a while to get a feel for whether or not it’s a fit for your family, and set up an appointment with the pastor to ask any questions you might have (check out the articles under “What to look for in a church” at the “Searching…” tab for suggestions of questions you may want to ask). (I would recommend the appointment with the pastor regardless of how perfect the church seems.)

If the church uses Bethel, etc. music, this would be the time to gently and lovingly address it with the pastor, but let him know that this is a reason you’re a bit reticent about joining the church so he’ll understand the seriousness of the problem. I would approach the subject giving him the benefit of the doubt that he simply doesn’t know the problems with these groups (the vast majority of pastors are ignorant of things like this – they shouldn’t be, but it is what it is).

If he seems open, you might want to ask if you can send him some information. (You can find links on all three groups at the “Popular False Teachers & Unbiblical Trends” tab. Pick the 2 or 3 most convincing links for each group and send those rather than sending him the link to that tab. For someone who’s ignorant in the area of discernment, opening up that tab would be information overload, and he’ll tune it out.) If he says yes, send the links and then touch base with him again in a couple of weeks to get his reaction.

The only other counsel I would offer you is to remember that no church is perfect, and God may put you into a particular church to help it with those imperfections.

I would now like to take a moment to highlight this reader’s question for pastors and ministers of music. This is yet one more reason it is detrimental to your church to use music from Bethel, Jesus Culture, Hillsong, Elevation, any musician connected these groups, or any other musician who isn’t doctrinally sound (after you have thoroughly vetted him/her/them.) regardless of how biblical the lyrics of any particular song of theirs that you’re using might be. You could potentially be turning away solid, mature, discerning Believers who might otherwise be interested in joining your church. The woman who sent in this question is not the first to ask me something like this – not by a long shot. This issue is increasingly of concern to Christians looking for a solid church.

When a visitor walks into your sanctuary for the first time, your worship service is the “face” of your church to her. What kind of a first impression are you making? When you use music by doctrinally unsound musicians, it does not say, “We’re really a doctrinally sound church – honest! We only use songs from these groups whose lyrics are biblical.”. It says, “This church has leaders who aren’t discerning,” or “If this church uses music by these heretical groups, what other doctrinal problems does it have?”. Why put that stumbling block out there when there is plenty of music available with biblical lyrics written/performed by doctrinally sound musicians?

The Mailbag: False Doctrine in Contemporary Christian Music

Why Our Church No Longer Plays Bethel or Hillsong Music (or Elevation or Jesus Culture), and Neither Should Yours

Hillsong’s Theology of Music and Worship

The Mailbag: Should Christians listen to “Reckless Love”?


Hello there. I read your blog about Priscilla Shirer being a false teacher. Read some parts of your blog. Found your recommended preachers with sound doctrine. I don’t know what denomination you’re in. But I just wanted to ask if you believe if we can lose our salvation?

Hi there! I’m a Reformed Southern Baptist. You can read more about my denomination and my beliefs at the Statement of Faith tab and the Welcome tab (both in the blue menu bar at the top of this page.

No, I do not believe genuinely regenerated Christians can lose their salvation because that’s not what the Bible teaches. I discussed this at length, including the relevant Scriptures, in my article The Mailbag: Can unforgiveness cause you to you lose your salvation?.


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.

1 John Bible Study

Am I Really Saved?: A First John Check Up ~ Lesson 9: Wrap Up

1 John Study

Am I Really Saved? A First John Check Up
Lesson 9: Wrap Up

Previous Lessons: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8

Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!
2 Corinthians 13:5

It’s been quite a journey through the book of 1 John! I hope you have taken the time to honestly examine your heart and your behavior against Scripture to discover whether or not you are truly in Christ.

I want to be sure that I stress once again that the checkpoints we’ve covered in the previous lessons are not things to strive to accomplish in order to earn salvation or to work your way onto God’s good side. You can’t do that. It’s impossible. Salvation is by grace through faith in Christ alone. All of the things we have looked at are the naturally occurring fruit of a person who has already been born again. (Remember our little oak tree/apple tree illustration from lesson 3?)

If you think you might be unsaved or a false convert (someone who thought she was saved, or claimed to be saved, but actually isn’t), you can know Christ as Savior today. Confess to God that you are a sinner, and turn away from your sin. Ask Christ to forgive you for your sin. Believe in Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection as payment for your sin so that you would not have to pay for it yourself with an eternity in Hell, and ask God to save you. You might wish to watch this video and the “Good News” video in the sidebar to your left. And, of course, you’re welcome to contact me with any questions.

I also want to be sure to stress to those who genuinely are born again that you are not going to be perfect in any of these areas this side of Heaven. And that doesn’t mean you aren’t saved. John’s intent in writing this letter was not for you to freak out over the sin you committed yesterday or the fact that your progress in one area seems to be slower than in other areas. He wants you to look back over the direction of your life since you were saved and see if you’re generally growing in holiness and towards more Christlikeness.

I’ve mentioned before that, when I was a kid, a popular question for youth leaders to ask was, “If you were arrested for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?” I think that’s a good schematic to use for 1 John. As you come to the conclusion of the study, realize that you aren’t “convicted” on the basis of one or two isolated checkpoints. Rather, ask yourself, does the preponderance of the “evidence” gleaned from the checkpoints point me, beyond a shadow of a doubt, to a verdict of “saved” or a verdict of “not saved”? How would you vote if you were on the jury that was deciding the case of “Am I Really Saved?”

Here, for your convenience, are the 19 checkpoints we’ve looked at in the previous lessons:

Checkpoint 1: Do I walk in the light or the darkness? (1 John 1:6-7)

Checkpoint 2: Do I confess or deny my sin? (1 John 1:8-10)

Checkpoint 3: Do I keep God’s commands? (1 John 2:3-6)

Checkpoint 4: Do I hate others? (1 John 2:9-11)

Checkpoint 5: Do I love worldliness? (1 John 2:15-17)

Checkpoint 6: Do I want to be faithful to a doctrinally sound church? (1 John 2:18-20)

Checkpoint 7: Do I believe in the Jesus of Scripture? (1 John 2:21-25)

Checkpoint 8: Do I practice righteousness? (1 John 2:29)

Checkpoint 9: Do I make a practice of sinning or righteousness? (1 John 3:4-10)

Checkpoint 10: Do I love my brothers? (1 John 3:10-15)

Checkpoint 11: Am I bearing the fruit of love? (1 John 3:18-22)

Checkpoint 12: Do I keep the ultimate commandment? (1 John 3:23-24)

Checkpoint 13: Do I follow false teachers? (1 John 4:1-6)

Checkpoint 14: Is my motivation for love Christocentric? (1 John 4:7-12)

Checkpoint 15: Do my words and actions confess Christ? (1 John 4:13-15)

Checkpoint 16: Am I afraid of God’s judgment? (1 John 4:16-21)

Checkpoint 17: Do my love for God and my love for His people testify to each other? (1 John 5:1-3)

Checkpoint 18: Have I “overcome the world”? (1 John 5:4-5)

Checkpoint 19: Do I have God’s testimony of Christ and eternal life in my heart? (1 John 5:6-12)

It’s my prayer that, as you walk away from this study today, you will do so in full assurance and joy that you do, indeed, know Christ as Savior. Remember, that’s the whole point of the book of 1 John:

I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life. 1 John 5:13

Additional Resources:

How can we know if our faith is real? by John MacArthur

How Do You Know If You’re Really Saved? by Costi Hinn

Assurance: “How Can I Know I’m Really Saved?” at Things Above Us

1 John Bible Study

Am I Really Saved?: A First John Check Up ~ Lesson 8: Testimony

1 John Study

Am I Really Saved? A First John Check Up
Lesson 8: Testimony
Please Read: 1 John 5

Previous Lessons: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7

Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!
2 Corinthians 13:5

1 John 5:1-3

Am I Really Saved? Checkpoint 17: Do my love for God and my love for His people testify to each other?

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. 

John starts off chapter 5 by reminding us of the central truth of the gospel (which we covered in lesson 4): only those who believe that Jesus is the Messiah, as defined by Scripture, are truly born again. Before anything else matters, you’ve got to get that right, or you’re not a Christian.

John then moves our focus back to yet another facet of love that characterizes a Christian: the intertwining, inseparability of love for God and love for His people.

  • According to the last half of verse 1, all who love the Father also love whom? According to verse 2, how do we know we love God’s people? Do these two verses demonstrate circular reasoning or an unbreakable connection between loving God and loving His people? How?
  • What are some ways your love for God is shown by the way you love others, and vice versa?
  • Why is obeying God’s commandments evidence that we love Him and are saved? (3)
  • What does it mean that Christ’s “commandments are not burdensome”? (3) How can we understand this statement in light of Matthew 24:1-4 and 11:28-30?

1 John 5:4-5

Am I Really Saved? Checkpoint 18: Have I “overcome the world”?

For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?

  • What does it mean to “overcome the world”? How can these verses shed some light on the meaning of this phrase? Does this mean Christians will always be victorious over temptation?
  • How does our faith enable us to overcome the world? (4) How, and from whom, do we get faith? Who is the object of our faith?
  • According to verse 5, is it possible for non-Christians to live in a condition of victory over sin?
  • Think back over your spiritual history. Can you see evidence of growth in the area of resisting temptation and putting sin to death? Do you give in to the same temptations now, and as often, as you did when you were first saved?

1 John 5:6-12

Am I Really Saved? Checkpoint 19: Do I have God’s testimony of Christ and eternal life in my heart?

This is he who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ; not by the water only but by the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. For there are three that testify: the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three agree. If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater, for this is the testimony of God that he has borne concerning his Son.10 Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself. Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning his Son. 11 And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.

Think about all the things you’ve read about Jesus in the Bible, particularly, in the four gospels. Whose testimony about Jesus are you reading and believing? For the most part, we’re reading the eyewitness testimony of the apostles – human beings – that Jesus was indeed the Christ. Wouldn’t it be great if we also had some testimony about Jesus’ deity and authority from God, personally, first hand? Well, we do, as John explains in this passage. We find God’s testimony to the deity and authority of Jesus externally, through His baptism (water) and through his death, burial, and resurrection (blood).

Remember what happened right after Jesus’ baptism?

And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; 17 and behold, a voice from heaven said,“This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” Matthew 3:16-17

We see the testimony of the Holy Spirit as His presence rests on Jesus, and we hear the verbal testimony of God the Father authenticating and commending Jesus. The third Person of the Trinity, Jesus Himself, testified to His own deity and messiahship by living a perfect life, dying a perfect death on our behalf, and rising again, conquering death. These are all tangible, observable testimony from God about who Jesus is. Everyone can witness this external testimony from God- both Believers and non-believers. All you have to do is read the Bible. But what about internal testimony, inside our hearts and spirits?

  • Look at the first sentence of verse 10. How does God’s testimony move from the merely external to internal and personal? What does the remainder of verse 10 say about who can experience having the testimony of God about Jesus “in himself”? Does everyone have this inner witness, or only Christians?
  • According to verse 11, what is the culmination of believing in “the testimony that God has borne concerning his Son”? Who has eternal life (12), Believers or non-believers?
  • Do you have the internal testimony of God about Jesus? Are you confident you have received the eternal life God promises Believers? (Note: This is very subjective. Most false converts are certain they are Believers possessing eternal life based on what they “feel” in their hearts or spirits. This checkpoint focuses on the negative aspect of this issue rather than the positive. In other words, if you know you do not believe in the external testimony about Christ and have no internal testimony from God about Christ or security about your eternity with Him, there is no reason to think you are a Believer. The “feeling” that you are a Christian and that you have eternal life, by itself, is not proof that you are actually saved.)

1 John 5:13-20

In these last few verses, John is giving final instructions, wrapping it up, and bringing it on home. He beautifully restates his reason for writing the epistle in verse 13:

I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.

God wants Christians, those who believe in the name of the Son of God, to know that we are safe and secure in Christ. He doesn’t want us to be afraid of His wrath or wonder if we will spend eternity in Heaven or Hell. He wants that settled and for us to be at peace.

When we’re settled in that knowledge and peace, we can be confident that God hears us when we pray and answers us when we pray in accordance with His will.

Additionally, when we are secure in Christ, we are able to intercede and intervene when our brothers and sisters are caught in sin. Sadly, sometimes a genuine Believer can be so entrenched or caught up in willful, unrepentant sin that God – at His own sovereign discretion – will take her life in order to protect His holy name, her victims, the church, or for other reasons known only to God. This is the “sin leading to death” that John mentions.

Blessedly, this is usually not the case for Believers – John, again, reminds us that Believers don’t make a practice of sinning – and we can pray for that person, help her get out of her sin (not leading to death), and help restore her to a right relationship with Christ and the church.

Finally, when have assurance of our salvation, we have the understanding that we are from God and that the world is under the power of Satan. Therefore, we should not take part in idolatry, but, rather, “know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.”

 

This week we’ve looked the final three checkpoints in our “Am I Really Saved?” study (But don’t go anywhere, our last lesson is next week!):

Do my love for God and my love for His people testify to each other?

Have I “overcome the world”?

Do I have God’s testimony of Christ and eternal life in my heart?

Saved people’s love for God is reflected in their love for His people, and their love for His people is evidenced by their love for, and obedience to God. Their God-given faith in Christ, gives them the victory over sin and worldliness. God gives them peace and security by testifying in their hearts that Jesus is the Christ and that they have eternal life.

Unsaved people cannot genuinely love God’s people because they do not love God. Since they have no faith in Christ, they are part of the world’s system, and it is impossible for them to live in victory over sin. Despite any emotional experiences or feelings they may have, unsaved people do not have the testimony of Christ in their hearts or the assurance of eternal life.

Additional Resources:

1 John 5– Matthew Henry’s Commentary

Victory in Jesus by Kevin DeYoung

The Sin Unto Death by John MacArthur

True or False? A Study in 1 John– at Naomi’s Table (lessons 17-20)