The Heart of the Hanegraaff Hubbub: Dethroning the God of Your Personal Experiences

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Hank Hanegraaff, the Bible Answer Man. If you hadn’t heard of him before, you probably have by now. President of the Christian Research Institute, author of over twenty books, and host of the popular Bible Answer Man radio call in show, Hanegraaff has been highly regarded in the field of apologetics for years.

Until recently, that is, when he publicly announced that he had been chrismated into the Greek Orthodox church he had been attending for about two years.

Why? Because the Greek Orthodox church holds many beliefs which conflict with Scripture in much the same way, and on some of the same issues, the Roman Catholic church’s beliefs conflict with Scripture.

Much ink and airtime has been dedicated to specific, unbiblical Greek Orthodox doctrines, and you can learn about those in the Additional Resources section at the end of this article, but I’d like to take a look at a statement Hank made during an interview about his decision to join Greek Orthodoxy:

His journey to Orthodoxy began with a trip to China, when “I saw Chinese Christians who were deeply in love with the Lord, and I learned that while they may not have had as much intellectual acumen or knowledge as I did, they had life,” he said.

On the flight back, Hanegraaff wondered if he was even a Christian. “I was comparing my ability to communicate truth with their deep and abiding love for the Lord Jesus Christ.”¹

There are two telling points in these remarks that I think we, as Christian women, would do well to examine and learn from:

Your feelings and experiences aren’t the biblical basis for decision-making.
Just taking Hank’s own words at face value, his feelings about salvation and what the Christian life “should” be like, and his experience with the Chinese Christians – not Scripture – were, at the very least, his first step away from a doctrinally sound church.

The Bible – which is what this whole Christianity thing we’re doing is based on – makes very clear that we can’t trust our feelings. We can’t trust that they’re real, rational, or biblically appropriate. And our experiences are notoriously unreliable as well. How many times have you acted, spoken, or made an assumption based on what you thought was happening right in front of you, only to find out later that your assessment of the situation was wrong, you had misunderstood, or you had jumped to the wrong conclusion?

That’s why God tells us that His written word – not our feelings and experiences – is the standard by which we live our lives and the basis for every decision we make. Our hearts and minds are sinful and fallible. God’s word is not. It can be trusted. It proves true every time it’s tried. God’s word is sufficient, and it – not our feelings and experiences – is our authority.

Most of us have heard the scenario of the woman who cheats on her husband and then says things like, “I think God is calling me to divorce my husband so I can be with my lover. I just feel like God would want me to be happy.” And most of us could point her to Scriptures that clearly refute her feelings- that God is not calling her to get divorced because He intended marriage to be for life, and that adultery is sin that needs to be repented of, despite how “happy” it makes her.

If we would give Scripture the preeminence over feelings in that kind of situation, why would we not give Scripture the preeminence over feelings when it comes to something as important as what we believe about God and the kind of worship He finds acceptable? One woman’s adultery is paltry in comparison to the nature of God and the doctrine and practices of Christ’s church. Yet, so often, we bow the knee to the god of what we think and feel and prefer rather than what the God of the Bible commands.

“Head” versus “heart” is a false dichotomy.
Their “love for the Lord” and “life” versus his “intellectual acumen or knowledge.” Their “deep and abiding love” for Christ versus his “ability to communicate truth.” And what hangs in the balance? Hank’s salvation.

During His earthly ministry, it was plain to see that no one had a greater intellectual grasp of Scripture and ability to communicate its truth than Christ. Yet, at the same time, no one had a greater love for God or a more vibrant relationship with Him.

Being a serious student of God’s word and loving Him with your whole being aren’t mutually exclusive. Jesus did not say, “Love the Lord with all your heart or all your mind.” He said:

And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. Mark 12:30

Notice that this verse doesn’t pit knowledge against love, it says that knowledge is one of the ways we love God. God calls us to multi-task when it comes to loving Him. And the great thing about this multi-tasking is that each “task” feeds off the others. The more you love God with your emotions, the more you want to love Him by learning about Him, which leads you to study His word. And the more you love Him through the study of His word, the greater your emotional love for Him.

One thing Hank didn’t mention about these particular Chinese Christians that’s often noted by missionaries in places where God’s word is prohibited or scarce is that the very Christians you see worshiping joyfully and tearfully crying out to the Lord for hours at a time are the same Christians who will do anything to get a copy of God’s word to study. These are not people who draw a line of distinction between loving the Lord with their hearts and knowing Him with their minds.

If you consistently, long-term, have zero desire to read, hear preached, or be taught God’s word, or your heart is never stirred with love and affection for God, there’s some kind of spiritual problem there. You do need to examine yourself to discover whether or not you’re truly born again. But you need to examine yourself against Scripture, not against your feelings and your observations of others. Maybe you even need to change churches, but, again, you need to measure your current church and potential new churches against Scripture, not against what you perceive to be their emotional or intellectual love, or lack of love, for the Lord.

The bulk of the hubbub over Hank Hanegraaff has been focused on the false teachings of Greek Orthodoxy. But how does a person eventually get to that point of ignoring biblical doctrine in hopes of what he thinks is a more fulfilling worship experience? It starts at the throne of the heart. And the only only One who has a right to occupy that throne and issue edicts from it is the God revealed in Scripture, not the god of personal experiences.


¹Zylstra, Sarah Eekhoff. “‘Bible Answer Man’ Converts to Orthodoxy,” Christianity Today, April 12, 2017,
http://www.christianitytoday.com/gleanings/2017/april/bible-answer-man-hank-hanegraaff-orthodoxy-cri-watchman-nee.html.


Additional Resources

What Do We Do with Hank Hanegraaff? Todd Friel on Wretched TV

The Bible Answer Man Is No Longer Biblical? Gabe Hughes on When We Understand the Text

Can a Consistent Eastern Orthodox Believer Be the Bible Answer Man? James White on The Dividing Line

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Throwback Thursday ~ Pursue the Imperishable

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Originally Published June 30, 2010


3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,

4 to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you,

5 who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

6 In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials,

7 so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ;

8 and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory,

9 obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls.

13 Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance,

15 but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior;

16 because it is written, “YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY.”

17 If you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay on earth;

18 knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers,

19 but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ.

20 For He was foreknown before the foundation of the world, but has appeared in these last times for the sake of you

21 who through Him are believers in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.

22 Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart,

23 for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God.
1 Peter 1:3-9, 13-23

Luke 11:12 says that if we ask God for an egg, He won’t give us a scorpion. But sometimes, when I ask God for an egg, He gives me a Denny’s Grand Slam instead.

Such was the case with my Bible study this morning. I asked God to speak to me through His word about something that’s a concern for me right now, thinking He would lead me to one of those comforting passages that says that He cares for me (1 Peter 5:7, Matthew 11:28). I only ordered an egg, but God knew I needed something more filling and nutritious. Something I could chew on for a while. Something that would stick to my ribs.

So He served me up a heaping helping of the first chapter of 1 Peter.

I’ve been asking God to teach me to need Him more. No, not just “need”. NEED!!! And guess what I’ve learned– God delights to answer prayers like that. Guess what else I’ve learned– He doesn’t usually do it by waving a magic wand over your head and instantly making you the way you want to be. He brings circumstances or people into your life that you have to walk through and work through. Along the way, He’s quietly transforming your character to make you more Christ-like. It’s like nuclear physics homework, only not as easy or fun.

(Personally, I would prefer a magic wand. It’s easier, faster, and requires nothing on my part. On the other hand, Cinderella got the magic wand treatment, and where did that get her? She didn’t learn to sew a designer gown, shop for comfortable shoes, or make her own travel arrangements. How could she fend for herself the next time there was a ball? But I digress…)

So, I find myself in this situation where God is teaching me to really NEED Him. I’ve done literally everything I can do on my end. The only thing left is for God to move. And, boy, do I need Him to move. Like, yesterday.

So, I’m praying and praying and praying about this situation and God helped me understand that I’m missing the point. The whole point of this little exercise is not about the end result (the resolution of the situation). That’s temporal. It’s not going to last. The point is what God is teaching me as He walks me through it. That’s imperishable. Eternal.

And so, I pursue the imperishable.

Because I was redeemed –bought back– not with perishable seed (23) or with perishable things like gold or silver (18), but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ (19), and until I reach my inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled, and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for me (4),

I will forsake lusting after the perishable (14) and pursue obedience and holiness (15-16), which are imperishable.

I will greatly rejoice whenever I am distressed by perishable trials (6), because the proof of my faith –which is imperishable– even proof by fire, is more precious, more valuable than all the perishable gold or material things in this world (7).

Pursue the imperishable things of God. They are more precious than food, shelter, safety, family, money, reputation, things. They are eternal.

Mark: Lesson 1

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Welcome to our new study- Mark: God’s Good News for the Gentiles. “Tell me the story of Jesus,” Fanny Crosby wrote in her timeless hymn, and that’s just what the Gospel of Mark does. From John the Baptist’s preparing the way of the Lord to Jesus’ triumph over the grave, we’ll be examining the story of Jesus, up close and personal, over the next few months.

Let’s get started!

Introduction to the book of Mark:

Before we begin studying a book of the Bible, it’s very important that we understand some things about that book. We need to know…

Who the author was and anything we might be able to find out about him or his background.

Who the audience of the book is: Jews or Gentiles? Old Testament Israelites or New Testament Christians? This will help us understand the author’s purpose and approach to what he’s writing.

What kind of biblical literature we’re looking at. We approach books of history differently than books of wisdom, books of wisdom differently than books of prophecy, etc.

What the purpose of the book is. Was it written to encourage? Rebuke? Warn?

What the historical backdrop is for the book. Is Israel at war? At peace? In exile? Under a bad king? Good king? Understanding the historical events surrounding a piece of writing help us understand what was written and why it was written.

When the book was written. Where does the book fall on the timeline of biblical history? This is especially important for Old Testament books which are not always arranged in chronological order.

So this week, before we start studying the actual text of the book of Mark, we need to lay the foundation to understanding the book by finding the answers to these questions.

Read the following overviews of the book of Mark, taking notes on anything that might aid your understanding of the book, and answer the questions below:

Bible Introductions: Mark at Grace to You

Overview of the Book of Mark at Reformed Answers

Gospel of Mark – Bible Survey at Got Questions

1. Who wrote the book of Mark? What was his relationship to Paul? Peter? What is an amanuensis? Does this term describe Mark?

2. What is the approximate date Mark was written? About how long after Jesus’ ascension was this?

3. Who is the intended audience of the book of Mark? What evidence is there that this was the case?

4. Which genre of biblical literature is the book of Mark: law, history, wisdom, poetry, narrative, epistles, or prophecy/apocalyptic? What does this this tell us about the approach we should take when studying this book versus our approach to books of other genres?

5. What is the theme or purpose of the book of Mark?

6. Who are the main characters in the book of Mark? Was Mark one of the twelve apostles? Does Mark make an appearance in his own book?

7. Where do the events in the book of Mark take place? Where was Mark when he wrote this book? (Sometimes, a good Bible map like this one and this one can be helpful.) What was the political situation in this area at the time Mark was writing his gospel?

8. What else did you learn about Mark or the setting of this book that might help you understand the text of the book better?

Retraction: Sorry, y’all – I made a mistake

 

Oops. I goofed, messed up, wrote something amiss, erred, and made a mistake. My bad.

In yesterday’s edition of The Mailbag- The Mailbag: Children’s Bible Recommendations, I recommended the NIV/NIrV Adventure Bible. I am now retracting that recommendation (as well as my recommendation of any other NIV/NIrV Bible) due to gender neutral/inclusive language in current editions of this translation. Click the hyperlink above and scroll to the end of the article for a more detailed explanation. I have also updated my article: The Mailbag: Which Bible Do You Recommend accordingly.

I do, sincerely, apologize and hope I haven’t caused any of y’all any alarm, confusion, or inconvenience. Big thank yous to Julie, a reader who caught the error and kindly brought it to my attention.

And Rebuke Those Who Contradict It

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“We have to be clued into the popular false teachers and know why we disagree with them,” says Pastor Casey Lewis in his excellent article, How Do We Lovingly Guide Church Members Away From False Teaching?

And, indeed, we do, pastors as well as as those of us in the pew. People ask me all the time why pastors don’t warn their church members about false teachers. This is why. Most of the time, they simply aren’t clued in. Pastors are extremely busy and stressed by their duties at church. They often don’t have time to research false teachers and the latest fads in false doctrine.

Your pastor might find Pastor Lewis’ article helpful, and there are a few things you as a church member can do to “hold his arm up” in this area:

1. Make sure your church isn’t placing so many demands on your pastor that he doesn’t have time to both preach sound doctrine and rebuke those who contradict it (Titus 1:9).

2. If you’re a faithful, trustworthy member of your church, offer to be a “research assistant” for your pastor. Let him know that if he ever needs somebody to vet an author or speaker you’ll be glad to do the legwork and report back to him so he can make informed decisions.

3. Pray regularly for discernment for your pastor and others in leadership at your church. Discernment is a gift only the Lord can bestow upon a person.

The pastorate can be a very demanding job. Love your pastor by doing what you can to help him.

The Mailbag: Children’s Bible Recommendations

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Do you have any recommendations for a trustworthy Bible for children? My son is almost 6 and still learning to read well. I’m looking for a Bible that he might be able to grow with and use until he’s 10 or so. We’d love to get him in the practice of bringing his own Bible to church. I saw you have a large family so I thought you might have some insight.

Getting your kids started on Bible ownership and reading at an early age is definitely something Christian parents should be doing, and finding a great Bible for young readers can take some searching.

I do have six kiddos, but my youngest is almost fourteen- a little above the age bracket you’re looking at. I couldn’t remember which kids’ Bible we had most recently used with our own kids, so I asked my almost fourteen year old and my fifteen year old. They both reported that we had given them the **NIV Adventure Bible when they were around six or eight. It contains the entire text of Scripture and it looks like the current edition has a lot of good study features. You might also want to take a look at the NIrV Adventure Bible for Early Readers version depending on his reading level.

My friend Rachel over at danielthree18 recently wrote a helpful review of the ESV Following Jesus Bible she and her husband bought their son for Christmas. It wasn’t available when we were Bible shopping for our own kids, but if it had been, it’s probably the one we would have chosen.

As I was gathering links for this article, I stumbled across a couple more kids’ Bibles that, while I haven’t read them, look like they might be worth checking out: the ESV Grow Bible and the ESV Children’s Bible. I can’t personally vouch for either of them, so examine them carefully, but ESV Bibles generally have a reputation for being trustworthy.

If you’d rather get your son a simple, non-child themed, no frills Bible, I’d recommend an **NIrV (New International Reader’s Version- It’s the NIV in simpler language), an NIV, or an ESV. If you’d like to examine these or any other translations, you can “try before you buy” at BibleGateway.com. They have numerous Bible versions you can take a look at online for free. There’s even a side by side comparison feature:

You can also check your church’s library or your local public library and examine their children’s Bibles to see what’s available out there, and what your child likes, before purchasing him a Bible.

For our readers with smaller children, I’d like to suggest two Bible storybooks. They do not contain the full text of Scripture, but can be a good introduction to the Bible for your little ones. I have not personally read either of these, but they both come highly recommended by reliable sources. Still, remember, no matter how reliable the source, you must do the work of comparing everything you read, and read to your children, to Scripture to make sure it’s biblical.

Tim Challies reviewed The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones. His take: “We gladly commend it to families with young children and have purchased the curriculum for use in some of our children’s programs at Grace Fellowship Church. It remains one of my top picks in its genre.”

Kevin DeYoung is a solid, trustworthy pastor and teacher of God’s word, not to mention a dad of young kids. In 2015, he released The Biggest Story: How the Snake Crusher Brings Us Back to the Garden, a children’s “overview of the Bible’s entire redemptive storyline—beginning with creation, ending with new creation, and centering on Jesus, the ‘Snake Crusher’.”

On a “wear and tear” note- we’ve purchased both soft cover (paperback) and hard cover Bibles for our elementary-aged kids, and both seem to get torn up pretty easily. (Or maybe my kids are just tough on Bibles!) With soft covers, the front and/or back cover can get ripped clean off, and with hard covers, the binding tends to detach. The only solution I can think of for this is to purchase a hard cover edition and some sort of case to keep it in (maybe one made of whatever those airplane “black boxes” are made out of). Perhaps training your child to keep his Bible in a certain place (on his dresser, the coffee table, etc.) whenever he’s not reading it might help. We neglected to do this and I often found Bibles on the floor, in the toy box, at the bottom of the closet, and other places conducive to Bible destruction. Anyway, keep the duct tape handy is all I’m saying.

The main thing, when you’re looking for a Bible for your kids is to find a good translation, avoid paraphrases, and be on the lookout for false doctrine, which has, unfortunately, trickled down into kids’ Bibles and devotionals (such as the kids’ versions of Jesus Calling – click on the Popular False Teachers tab at the top of this page for more information). You might find my article Which Bible Do You Recommend? (for selecting an adult Bible) helpful.


**I am retracting my recommendation of the NIV/NIrV Adventure Bible (and any other NIV or NIrV Bible). As you may be aware, in 2005, Zondervan revised the trustworthy 1984 translation of the NIV to include gender neutral/inclusive language. It was called the T(Today’s)NIV. In response to completely appropriate backlash from the Christian community, Zondervan again revised the NIV in 2011. Unfortunately, they did not revise out the gender neutral/inclusive language, but, rather, essentially merged the NIV with the TNIV, dropping the “T,” and simultaneously took the 1984 NIV and the TNIV out of print. The current editions of the NIV/NIrV Adventure Bible contain the 2011 gender neutral/inclusive text of the NIV.

For a better grasp of the problems with the gender neutral/inclusive verbiage of the 2011 NIV, please read: A fair analysis of the new NIV.

Here is an excerpt from the preface of the current edition of the NIV Adventure Bible. (Click on “look inside” at the upper left of the page for the entire preface.):

I apologize for any confusion or inconvenience my mistake may have caused my readers. I assure you it was a simple error due to the fact that we purchased the Adventure Bible for our children before gender neutral/inclusive language was an issue, and it didn’t occur to me to check the current edition for the 2011 revisions.

Maybe my mistake can serve as a reminder to us all that just because something or someone was once biblically trustworthy doesn’t mean it will remain that way. Always be a good Berean and check everything.


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

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For more in the Basic Training series, click here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. God Says So

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

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

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

2. The Church is God’s Plan for Christians

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

3. Jesus Values the Church

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

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

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

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

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

5. The Church is the Dispensary for Word and Sacrament

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

6. The “One Anothers”

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

7. Sheep Need Shepherds

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Additional Resources

Six Ways Not to Forsake the Assembly 

7 reasons worshipers need the church at The Cripplegate

Mailbag #49: Home Groups Over Church at 9Marks

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

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

Throwback Thursday ~ With the First Fruits (and all the subsequent ones, too)

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Originally published July 22, 2010

Honor the LORD with your wealth
and with the firstfruits of all your produce;
Proverbs 3:9

Ouch. God really convicted me of something yesterday. The verse above, in its proper context, is clearly talking about honoring God with our material increase: our money, our possessions, the tangible fruit of our labor.

I’m a stay at home mom. My paycheck does not come in the form of dollars and cents, but in hours and minutes. My wealth is time, and lately, I haven’t been honoring God with it.

I confess, I have workaholic tendencies. I hit the ground running when I get up and don’t stop until I go to bed. We just moved into a new house. There’s a mountain of work to be done, and that’s how I’ve been spending my wealth of time. I have squeezed God in when it was convenient for me. I have given God the leftovers of my time; the scraps from the table He Himself has seen fit to bless me with. I have pushed Him aside and lavished my wealth on work.

I don’t want to “make time for God” any more. I want Him to so consume my heart, my mind, and my spirit that I can’t tear myself away. I want to be engulfed in passion for communion with Him. He is only honored when I give Him what He is rightfully due– everything.

Bible Book Backgrounds: Why You Need Them and Where to Find Them

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I’m not quite settled on which book of the Bible or biblical topic we’ll be tackling for our next weekly study, so I’m taking a few more days to pray and think about it. In the meantime, I hope this will help as you study God’s word.

It’s time for your daily Bible study. You’ve decided to study Habakkuk or Philippians or Lamentations.

When you pick up a random book of the Bible to study it, how do you know…

…what’s going on in biblical history at the time the book was written
…when the book was written and by whom
…who the intended audience was
…where, geographically, the action takes place
…cultural aspects of the period that will help you better understand allusions and customs?

Unless you’ve done a considerable amount of study in the field of biblical history and the ancient Middle East, the answer is: you probably don’t know all of those things. And, as a result, your study of the book you’ve chosen probably isn’t going to be as fully-orbed as it could be.

Not having done any advanced study in those areas myself, I learned a while back to rely on those who have, and who have taken the time to share their knowledge with the rest of us. When I study, teach, or write a study on a book of the Bible, I always start out by delving into the “story behind the story.” How?

Macro Bible Study 

Reading every book of the Bible is the best way to get a good grip on the meta-narrative of Scripture. Because the books of the Bible aren’t always arranged in order of the events they contain and because many books overlap in their events and timing, I highly recommend a chronological read-through of the Bible at least every few years.

Pay Attention to the Text

Sometimes the details you’re looking for are in the text itself. Perhaps a certain month and day are mentioned, or “during the reign of King ____.” If the text specifies a certain city or country, look it up on a good Bible map to get your bearings. Sometimes a particular custom or expression is explained as an aside, such as in 1 Samuel 9:9. Some books specify who they’re written to in the first few verses. Also be sure to use your Bible’s footnotes and cross reference notations, and look up any related verses that can bring clarity.

Footnotes explain wording.
Cross references suggest related passages.
(BibleGateway.com)

“Bible Book Backgrounds”

This would be an overview, or survey, to read before you begin the book of Scripture you’ll be studying. I’ve found it’s helpful to use a survey of the book as a foundation and framework for subsequent study of the text.

While some commentaries contain an introduction to each book of the Bible, many do not. But I’ve found several online sites that provide helpful Bible Book Backgrounds:

Bible Introductions at Grace to You- A thorough overview of every book of the Bible, written by John MacArthur. These are the same introductions you’ll find in the MacArthur Study Bible. (Helpful hint- After clicking on the book you want in the drop down menu, you have to refresh the page in order to get there.)

Bible Book Overviews at Reformed Answers- Just put the name of the book you’re looking for in the search bar, followed by the word “overview.” You’ll also find overviews of the literary divisions of the Bible, such as an overview of the epistles, wisdom literature, etc.

Bible Surveys at Got Questions- Use the search bar to find the book survey you’re looking for. All surveys except the four gospels are entitled, “Book of ____ – Bible Survey.” You’ll find Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John as, “Gospel of ____.”

Best Book in the Bible at Entreating Favor- It’s a work in progress, so all books of the Bible aren’t available yet, but Pastor Nate Pickowicz has written charming, personable, yet informative overviews of many of the Old and New Testament books. He also includes additional resources for further study of each book.

Dig in. Study. Search it out. Doing a “background check” on the book you’re studying is a great way to gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of God’s word.

Do Christians and Muslims Worship the Same God?

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Pluralism. It’s a popular idea these days- that all religions ultimately lead to God. But is it true? Do Muslims actually worship the God of the Bible, just in a different way? And, if so, is their worship acceptable in God’s eyes? If not, why has Rick Warren been encouraging Christians for several years to downplay our theological differences with Muslims and unite with them in our so-called areas of similarity? Wouldn’t God want us to share the gospel with Muslims instead?

Click below to listen in as Pastor Chris Rosebrough teaches on this aspect of the second Commandment (“You shall have no other gods before Me.”) as it applies to ecumenism between Christians and Muslims.

Do Christians and Muslims Worship the Same God?