Is She a False Teacher? 7 Steps to Figuring it Out on Your Own

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false teacher 7 steps

“What are your thoughts about  _____?
Is she doctrinally sound? Is she a false teacher?”

That’s probably the number one question I’m asked by readers. It gives me so much joy each time I receive that question because it’s encouraging to hear from Christian women who don’t want to be led astray and want to worship Christ in spirit and in truth.

I’m delighted to answer readers’ questions about various teachers (You can find information about many of today’s best known evangelical personalities and ministries under my “Popular False Teachers” tab at the top of this page.) but, unfortunately, my answers often take a while. I’ve never heard of many of the teachers I’m asked about, and in order to give a fair and biblically accurate answer, I have to research each of them. The less famous they are, the less information there is out there about them, and the longer it takes. And that weighs on me because I know a lot of you, when you write to me about a certain teacher, need answers now.

It also weighs on me because I don’t want you to just take my word for things. I am a fallible, sinful human being. I get things wrong. I miss things. I make mistakes. Also, I’m not going to be around forever (well, not on this planet anyway!)

For these reasons, and because it’s an important spiritual skill to hone and teach others, I want you to be able to research these people for yourself. “Teach a (wo)man to fish…” and all that, you know. Here are the seven steps I take to discover whether or not a teacher is doctrinally sound.

1. Know your Bible

This. is. not. optional. Get a trustworthy translation (read: not The Message, The Voice, a Joyce Meyer Study Bible, etc.) and study it forwards, backwards, and upside down if you have to. Find, join, and faithfully attend (also not optional) a doctrinally sound church that will immerse you in the depths of God’s word through its preaching and teaching. Listen to good sermon podcasts or an audio Bible during the week. Memorize Scripture. Learn good hermeneutics. Every Christian should be doing these things by default anyway, and one by-product of knowing your Bible is that when you see or hear a statement by a teacher, you often won’t have to do a lick of research to determine whether or not you’re being taught biblical truth. The Scriptures will already be in your heart and mind for comparison.

2. Pray

One of the things I ask of God during my regular prayer time is that He would protect me from being deceived by false teachers, that He would continue to grow me in wisdom and discernment, and that He would develop the mind of Christ in me. It’s also a good idea to pray for wisdom and discernment, and for trustworthy information, before researching a teacher.

3. Know your criteria

One of the arguments I frequently hear when warning people away from a false teacher is “But every teacher makes mistakes!” (see #7 here) Of course every teacher makes mistakes in her teaching, and every teacher sins. A sin or a mistake doesn’t qualify someone as a false teacher. What you’re looking for is repentance and correction.

A trustworthy, biblical teacher teaches sound biblical doctrine and avoids known sin nearly without exception. When those exceptions occur and someone brings it to her attention, she listens, is teachable, repents, and corrects her error (Apollos is a great biblical example of this). False teachers, on the other hand, unrepentantly persist in sin or teaching false doctrine despite biblical correction. Often, they exhibit complete unteachability (as do their followers), deriding those biblically calling them to account as haters, divisive, slanderers, scoffers, jealous, etc.

When I research a teacher, I examine three fundamental areas of her life and teaching: a) Does she currently and unrepentantly preach to men? (Or, if the teacher is male: Does he allow women to preach to mixed audiences from his pulpit or in his stead? Is his wife co-pastor of the church?) b) Does she endorse and/or partner with known false teachers or ministries? c) Does the doctrine she teaches and practices line up with Scripture?

4. Criteria a: Women teaching men

This is a scriptural litmus test that can help give you a quick answer as to whether you should be following a certain teacher or not. The Bible tells us that women are not to preach to, teach the Bible to, or exercise authority over men in the gathered body of believers. Not in the four walls of a church, not on a simulcast, not at a Christian conference. Period. (Click here for more information.)

A preacher or teacher who unrepentantly disobeys this Scripture is no different from one who disobeys Scripture by viewing pornography, embezzling church funds, or teaching that homosexuality or abortion are OK. Scripture is Scripture. It’s all inspired by God the Holy Spirit. There aren’t any instructions to the church that it’s OK with God if you twist their context, brush them aside, or disobey them. If a female teacher currently and unrepentantly preaches to men or a male teacher allows women to do so in his church or ministry, that’s not a teacher you should be following.

Furthermore, women teaching men and women teaching false doctrine are highly correlated. I have researched scores of women teachers. Every single one of them who unrepentantly teaches men also teaches false doctrine in some other aspect of her theology (usually Word of Faith or New Apostolic Reformation). In other words, if a woman teaches men, you can just about take it to the bank that she also teaches false doctrine.

How to find out if the teacher is disobeying Scripture in this area?

Check YouTube and Vimeo for videos of the female teacher speaking at various events. Are men clearly present in the audience?

Consider the events the female teacher speaks at. Does she speak exclusively at events for women, or does she also speak at co-ed events?

Examine the speaking engagement calendar on the female teacher’s web site. Is she scheduled to speak at Anytown Baptist Church at 11:00 a.m. on a Sunday? She’s probably giving the sermon that morning.

For (male) preachers, check the sermon archives and the “meet our staff” sections of the church web site. Are women serving on staff as “pastors” or in positions of authority over men? Do the sermon archives feature female speakers who have preached to the whole congregation?

5. Criteria b: Partnering with false teachers

Scripture is abundantly clear that we are to have nothing to do with false teachers. Nothing. John tells us that even to greet them is to take part in their wicked works. To publicly praise, point people to, or partner with false teachers is even worse.

Finding out if the teacher you’re researching praises or partners with false teachers is another biblical litmus test that can help quickly determine whether you should be following her or not.

The easiest way to do this is with an internet search engine. Type the name of the teacher you’re researching into the search bar followed by the names of at least a few well known false teachers or ministries (for example: Jane Smith Joel Osteen). You may wish to try names like Joel Osteen, T.D. Jakes, Andy Stanley, Joyce Meyer, Beth Moore, Christine Caine, Hillsong, Bethel, IF: Gathering, Proverbs 31 Ministries, etc.

Examine the results. Are there a lot of connections between the teacher you’re researching and known false teachers? Does she frequently and favorably quote, comment on, or re-post false teachers on her social media pages? Does she make a habit of sharing the stage with or appearing alongside false teachers at conferences and other events? Do false teachers praise her, invite her to speak at their churches and conferences, or write endorsements of her materials?

Birds of a feather flock together. If you lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas. Bad company corrupts good morals. It’s all true. A teacher who frequently, favorably, and unrepentantly associates herself with false teachers should be avoided.

6. Criteria c: Biblical doctrine

If a teacher has failed criteria a and/or b, that’s sufficient. You should not be receiving teaching from that person. Those two criteria will quickly weed out about 90% of false teachers out there today. However, “passing” both criteria a & b, while a fair indicator that you’re probably dealing with a doctrinally sound teacher, is not sufficient. A teacher can operate biblically in those two areas and still teach or practice unbiblical doctrine. You must examine the doctrine and practices of the teacher you’re considering following to see if they’re biblical, and that can take some time and energy.

Does the teacher have a statement of faith or “what I believe” section of her web site? Examine it. Are all of the tenets biblical and backed up with chapter and verse Scripture? Are the tenets specific, detailed, and clear cut as opposed to general and nebulous? A solid statement of faith can be helpful, but keep in mind that a significant number of churches and ministries have perfectly biblical statements of faith “on paper” yet do not faithfully adhere to to those principles in teaching and practice.

Ask doctrinally sound, trustworthy friends if they’re familiar with the teacher’s doctrine. There are also many theologically solid Facebook and Google+ groups you can join and ask your fellow members their impressions of various teachers. There are a lot of Christians out there who have read a lot of books and listened to a lot of teaching. They can be very helpful resources.

What do reputable, doctrinally sound teachers and ministries have to say about the teacher, her teachings, or the Scripture or doctrine in question? I regularly use and highly recommend the following sites:

Fighting for the Faith
Berean Research
CARM
Wretched
Got Questions
Grace to You
Sola Sisters*
Apprising Ministries*
*These sites are now dormant, but their archives can be helpful, especially if you’re looking for older information.

Read the person’s materials or listen to her teaching. Take notes. When the teacher makes an assertion, ask yourself, “Where, in context, does the Bible say that?” When the teacher cites a passage of Scripture, look it up and see if she’s using it in context. Does the teacher primarily use one reliable translation of the Bible when teaching, or does she skip around through various translations and paraphrases while teaching to make sure the verses use certain words that fit with the theme or idea she’s teaching? Does she engage in gimmickry or does she simply teach the Word? Is the centerpiece of her teaching a correctly exegeted passage of Scripture, or does her teaching revolve around a story, movie, prop, idea, theme, topic, or illustration that comes from outside of Scripture? Does she frequently allegorize Scripture? Does she make every Scripture about you, your hopes and dreams, your experiences? Does she spend more time correctly handling and teaching Scripture or telling stories, jokes, and illustrations? These are all things to watch and listen for. If a teacher consistently mishandles, misunderstands, or misapplies Scripture, she’s not a teacher you should be following.

7. Check the date

When you’re researching a teacher, check the date on the evidence you’re examining. Is it old or fairly current? We all grow and mature over the years in our walk with the Lord. Are you seeing red flags in the teacher’s older materials? Try to find out if she has repented and corrected those unbiblical teachings or behaviors. If so, and she’s currently teaching and behaving in a way that lines up with Scripture, forgive her. It is not fair or biblical to hold past sin against someone when she has repented and Christ has forgiven her. She, and her recent materials, should only be avoided if she is currently and unrepentantly teaching and/or practicing false doctrine.

Before receiving teaching from anyone, it’s important that we examine that teacher’s doctrine and practices in light of Scripture. God commends the Bereans for receiving Paul’s word with eagerness, yet examining the Scriptures to see if what he was teaching them lined up with the Bible. May we be as vigilant and noble as they in our quest to know Christ and His word.

Throwback Thursday ~ In Case You Were Wondering: Wise Men, Astrology, and Horoscopes

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Originally published June 25, 2015wise-men

I’ve heard that Christians shouldn’t read horoscopes or get involved with astrology, but weren’t the wise men who came to see Jesus astrologers? Maybe there’s something to astrology.

Well, if we were to say that, then we could also say maybe there’s something to stealing, too. Because, after all, that’s what got the thief on the cross to Jesus, and Jesus said that he would be with Him in Paradise that day. And maybe there’s something to persecuting and murdering Christians, too, because that’s how Paul came to encounter Jesus. But we don’t say those things because that’s not the way we rightly handle and apply Scripture.

There are two broad categories of Scripture: descriptive passages and prescriptive passages. Descriptive passages are descriptions of something that happened, like the story of the wise men visiting Jesus, or Noah and the ark, or David and Goliath. Prescriptive passages could also be called commands or direct instructions, “thou shalts” and “thou shalt nots.”

When we have a question about whether or not it’s OK with God for us to do something, say, consulting horoscopes and astrologers, we look first at the relevant prescriptive passages, such as Deuteronomy 18:9-14:

When you come into the land that the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominable practices of those nations. There shall not be found among you anyone who burns his son or his daughter as an offering, anyone who practices divination or tells fortunes or interprets omens, or a sorcerer or a charmer or a medium or a necromancer or one who inquires of the dead, for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord. And because of these abominations the Lord your God is driving them out before you. You shall be blameless before the Lord your God, for these nations, which you are about to dispossess, listen to fortune-tellers and to diviners. But as for you, the Lord your God has not allowed you to do this.

While this passage was obviously written as a command to Old Testament Israel, we can still draw out some applicable principles for today by asking ourselves why “the Lord your God has not allowed you to do this.” God calls these practices an “abomination” several times and links them to paganism. Verse 14 is reminiscent of 2 Corinthians 6:14-18 and 1 John 2:15-17, which tell us not to love or partner with the dark things of the world and to separate ourselves from such things.

This is a clear, prescriptive passage that answers our questions about following horoscopes and astrology, so this is where we get our instruction, not from a descriptive passage about someone who was an astrologer.

Additionally, there’s good reason to believe that the wise men who went to see Jesus were not astrologers in the same horoscope/tarot card/palm reading/fortune teller sense in which we use the word astrology today. The Greek word translated as “wise men” is magos (magi). Its primary meaning is “Oriental scientist,” a term which was also applied to teachers, priests, and physicians, among others. It would seem that the wise men were much more akin to astronomers than astrologers, and were learned in the Old Testament messianic prophecies as well.

If you’d like to read more about this topic, here are some good resources:

Should a Christian Consult Horoscopes?

Astrology and the Visit of the Wise Men

Were the Wise Men Astrologists?


THIS ARTICLE WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED AT SATISFACTION THROUGH CHRIST.

Wednesday’s Word ~ Ezra: Lesson 6

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

Ezra 5

Now the prophets, Haggai and Zechariah the son of Iddo, prophesied to the Jews who were in Judah and Jerusalem, in the name of the God of Israel who was over them. Then Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel and Jeshua the son of Jozadak arose and began to rebuild the house of God that is in Jerusalem, and the prophets of God were with them, supporting them.

At the same time Tattenai the governor of the province Beyond the River and Shethar-bozenai and their associates came to them and spoke to them thus: “Who gave you a decree to build this house and to finish this structure?” They also asked them this: “What are the names of the men who are building this building?” But the eye of their God was on the elders of the Jews, and they did not stop them until the report should reach Darius and then an answer be returned by letter concerning it.

This is a copy of the letter that Tattenai the governor of the province Beyond the River and Shethar-bozenai and his associates, the governors who were in the province Beyond the River, sent to Darius the king. They sent him a report, in which was written as follows: “To Darius the king, all peace. Be it known to the king that we went to the province of Judah, to the house of the great God. It is being built with huge stones, and timber is laid in the walls. This work goes on diligently and prospers in their hands. Then we asked those elders and spoke to them thus: ‘Who gave you a decree to build this house and to finish this structure?’ 10 We also asked them their names, for your information, that we might write down the names of their leaders. 11 And this was their reply to us: ‘We are the servants of the God of heaven and earth, and we are rebuilding the house that was built many years ago, which a great king of Israel built and finished. 12 But because our fathers had angered the God of heaven, hegave them into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, the Chaldean, who destroyed this house and carried away the people to Babylonia. 13 However, in the first year of Cyrus king of Babylon, Cyrus the king made a decree that this house of God should be rebuilt. 14 And the gold and silver vessels of the house of God, which Nebuchadnezzar had taken out of the temple that was in Jerusalem and brought into the temple of Babylon, these Cyrus the king took out of the temple of Babylon, and they were delivered to one whose name was Sheshbazzar, whom he had made governor; 15 and he said to him, “Take these vessels, go and put them in the temple that is in Jerusalem, and let the house of God be rebuilt on its site.” 16 Then this Sheshbazzar came and laid the foundations of the house of God that is in Jerusalem, and from that time until now it has been in building, and it is not yet finished.’17 Therefore, if it seems good to the king, let search be made in the royal archives there in Babylon, to see whether a decree was issued by Cyrus the king for the rebuilding of this house of God in Jerusalem. And let the king send us his pleasure in this matter.”


The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.


Questions to Consider:

1. Ezra 5 continues the story of events from chapter 4. Review Ezra 4:1-5, 24 (you may also wish to review lesson 5, link above). What event or activity is this passage dealing with? Cyrus issued the decree to rebuild the temple in 538 B.C. According to Ezra 3:8, how many years did it take the people to get started? What year would it have been when they started? What does 4:24 tell us happened to the work on the temple, and when did this happen? The second year of Darius’ reign was 520 B.C. How long had work on the temple been at a halt as chapter 5 opens?

2. Which two prophets declared the word of God to Israel? (1) (You may wish to stop and read their books right now to grasp God’s message to His people.) What was Zerubbabel and Jeshua’s response to the word of the Lord? (2) How is this an example of God’s instruction to Christians in James 1:22? Do you approach Bible study and the preaching and teaching of God’s word with the willingness to be a doer of God’s word and not a hearer only? What is the most recent action you have taken as a result of hearing or studying God’s word?

3. What happened once the rebuilding of the temple started up again? (3-4) What did the elders do despite this opposition, and why were they able to do so? (5) What attribute(s) of God’s character and nature does verse 5 display? How do these attributes apply to Christians today? Take a moment to thank God for His love and care for you.

4. How would you characterize the tone of the letter Tattenai and Shethar-bozenai sent Darius (businesslike, attacking, deceptive, etc.)? (6-17) In verse 8, they refer to God as “the great God.” Why might they have called Him that in light of the thousands of other gods worshiped in the ancient world? How might their view of God have been a cause of concern that Israel was building a house for Him?

5. Re-read verses 11-16, keeping in mind that this was a “might makes right” world. How might the leaders of a secular nation, wishing to make a show of strength to neighboring nations, have responded to these inquiries? Yet, how do the elders of Israel respond? What do they lead off with in their response? (11) How might verse 12 have made Israel look in the eyes of their neighbors? For what spiritual reasons might the elders have chosen to respond this way? Political reasons? What are some ways we can point our adversaries to Christ through humility and by crediting God and His sovereignty in our lives, churches, and the world?

 

Eternal Lives Matter

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As many of you know, I live in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where the Alton Sterling shooting took place two weeks ago. Since that time, multiple intense, but peaceful, protests have been conducted.

On the coattails of these events, Sunday morning, as you may have seen on the news, we had an ambush shooting about seven miles from my house in which six law enforcement officers were shot and three were killed. Investigators subsequently discovered that the shooter had traveled to Baton Rouge from out of state with the specific intent of killing police officers.

I haven’t commented on these events until now because I really haven’t known what to say. Like everyone else, I’ve had emotional, gut level reactions to these tragedies, but it’s not always wise, or necessarily godly, to express those raw reactions in a public forum. I couldn’t think of a way to share my thoughts in a way that would build y’all up in Christ, so I just remained silent.

But now, having had a little time to process everything, I wanted to share the following thoughts and observations with you:

• Pour the gospel into your children, grandchildren, children at your church, and any other children in your circle of influence, that they might come to know Christ as Savior at an early age and walk in His ways all the days of their lives.

The same day Alton Sterling was killed, my 20 year old daughter was in a serious car accident. She could have been killed. It struck me later that, in a moment, my child was spared while, in another moment, another mother lost her child that day. If my child had died, I know she would have stepped into eternity with Christ. I don’t know if Alton’s mother had that same comfort.

We can’t guarantee our children’s salvation, but we should do everything we can to raise them in a Christ-centered way. We never know when their last day will be.

• When someone loses a loved one – whether that loved one is sinner or saint, cop or criminal, black or white – it hurts. Deeply. Those of us who belong to Christ must reach out to people who are hurting and minister the love, peace, and comfort of the gospel to them, regardless of their circumstances.

• “Herd mentality,” so to speak, has to stop. We have to stop seeing people – whether we’re talking about “the black community” or “the police” or any other segment of our culture – as groups and start getting to know, love, and share the gospel with people – one on one – as individuals.

One of the things I’ve observed in the past two weeks is intentional, proactive acts of love, kindness, friendship, and neighborliness between individual protesters and police, between individual citizens and police, and between individual black and white citizens. Viewing people as impersonal groups rather than as individuals distances us from them and even allows us to feel superior to them. Christians view people as Christ views people- individually created in the image of God, individually loved and cherished by God, and individual sinners in need of a Savior. We must – individually – invest in the lives of other people, loving them, caring for them, sharing the gospel with them, discipling them.

• The election isn’t going to solve the problems we’re seeing in our communities. Neither are laws. Neither are protests, speeches, community unity events, ecumenical prayer vigils, care packages, celebrity opinions and appearances, community improvement grants, or any of the other usual responses to these kinds of events, even though some of them may be temporarily helpful.

We seem to have the idea that, “If we would just _____, the world would be fixed.” And I’m not so sure that’s the case. As I mentioned in this recent article, the world is the way it is because of sin and the Fall, not because of our failure to “do something”. No matter how busy the church gets, the world is generally going to continue to get worse. Our job as Christians is not to fix the world, it’s to stand firm in Christ wherever He has planted us and to rescue as many people around us as we can with the gospel. Our message to our neighbors is not that we can make the world a better place, but that Christ is our only hope regardless of the state of the world.

In these perilous times, Christians must be completely focused on Christ. Worshiping Him, trusting Him, proclaiming Him, and reaching out to others in His name.

The Mailbag: I’ve been asked to teach a Beth Moore study…

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I’m part of the women’s ministry leadership at my church. We did a Beth Moore study last year. A lot of things bothered me about it, but I kept my mouth shut because all of the women who participated loved the study. Now that I have read your article, and others, on the theological problems with Beth Moore, I understand why I had so many issues with the study. Today, I was given a copy of another Beth Moore book so that I could prepare to teach it in the fall. I can’t do it, and I feel like I’m the only one in my church who sees a problem with Beth Moore studies. How should I handle this situation?

I always want to be very careful about making definitive statements about how people should or shouldn’t handle specific scenarios with people I don’t know and circumstances I’m not familiar with. Instead, I’d like to share with you what I would do in a similar situation. I encourage you to think and pray about it and ask God to help you decide if this would be the wisest approach for your situation.

First, I would spend some serious time in prayer. I would pray for the the other members of the women’s ministry leadership, as well as my pastor and elders, and ask God to open their eyes to see, their minds to understand, and their hearts to embrace and desire biblical truth. I’d ask God to give me the wisdom to know how best to approach this situation and the right words to say. I would ask Him to make my motives pure, biblical, and loving.

Next, I’d gather the leaders group, or the main leader, or whichever people I felt were appropriate, and kindly, gently, and biblically explain the problems with Beth Moore. At some point before or after this meeting, the pastor or appropriate associate pastor or elders would need to be given a heads up as to what was going on.

Finally, I can’t tell you how often I hear from women who say things like, “My church is offering six small group Bible studies right now and they’re all using book studies (Beth Moore, Priscilla Shirer, etc.). I just want to study the Bible itself, but they won’t offer a class that just studies the Bible.” I would express that to the women’s ministry leadership during the meeting and, if they continued to insist on using a Beth Moore book, offer to teach a class on a book of the Bible as an alternative for women who might prefer studying the Bible itself. Churches usually like to be able to offer various options to their members.

I would also be prepared for strong opposition. While I would be hopeful that the women of my church would love Christ and His word more than they love Beth Moore, this, sadly, has not been my experience when dealing with diehard Beth Moore disciples. My experience has been that when you topple an idol, her worshipers will defend her at almost any cost.


If you have a question about: a well known Christian author/leader, 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

 

Is It Really All Our Fault?

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all our fault

“If the church would just _________,
the world would flock to us.”

“The world is in the state it’s in because
the church has fallen down on the job.”

Over the past few years, I’ve been hearing and reading statements like these more and more frequently. But are they true? Is the world really in such sad shape as a result of the failings of the church?

Yes!…and…no.

It is absolutely true that the visible church – everything that wears the label “church” or “Christian,” whether or not it’s biblical Christianity – has a lot to be ashamed of. Westboro. TBN. Homosexual church leaders and members. Pastors caught in adultery. Child molestation scandals. Female “pastors.” All manner of demonic behavior masquerading as “worship,” blasphemously attributed to the “Holy Spirit.”

Even churches with an orthodox statement of faith – which, to onlookers, seem to be doing fine, biblically – water down the gospel in the name of being seeker sensitive, use materials produced by false teachers, invite false teachers to speak at their conferences, fail to evangelize, place women in unbiblical positions of leadership, have pastors and teachers whose main form of teaching is eisegesis and pandering to felt needs, fail to provide for the needs of their members and their surrounding community, focus on fun and silliness in their youth and children’s ministries instead of Scripture and holiness, allow members to gossip, backbite, and exercise selfishness, fail to practice church discipline, make their worship services into irreverent entertainment-fests, have “pastors” who are little more than stand up comedians, and have largely biblically ignorant congregations.

Some churches are spiritually healthier than others, but nobody’s getting out of this one with clean hands. Even the healthiest church is doing something wrong in some little nook or cranny. And as Christ’s bride, it is incumbent upon us, whenever we discover those nooks and crannies, to repent, set things right, and do things biblically as we move forward.

Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. Ephesians 5:25b-27

That’s Christ’s vision of the church. A vision all churches fall woefully short of. And when the church fails in any area, it does contribute to the downhill slide of the world, because it is not being the city on the hill Christ wants it to be, and it is producing individual Christians (or false converts) who aren’t being the salt and light Christ wants them to be.

But is it fair to lay all the world’s woes and sinfulness at the doorstep of the church? Is it really true that if we would just clean up our act in this area or on that issue that we’d magically see an influx of pagans begging, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

No, it isn’t.

The world isn’t steeped in sin because of the failings of the church. The world is steeped in sin because of the Fall.

Look back over history. The world was vicious and depraved long before the church ever came on the scene. And, for that matter, long before God set apart and established Israel as His chosen people. (Hello? The ante-diluvian world? Sodom and Gomorrah? Ancient Egypt? Baal and Molech worship?)

Examine any era in the last two millenia when you think the church was doing a better job than it is now and take a look at the society that church was situated in. The New Testament church? It was surrounded by a world of war, oppression, torture, debauchery, sexual deviance, slavery, misogyny, poverty, famine, and child abuse.

The head of the church, Jesus Christ, spent over thirty years physically present on this earth. We know He conducted His ministry perfectly. Not once did He fail to preach the gospel or provide for people’s needs or fall short in any other way. He even went so far as to lay His life down for the sin of the world. And what impact did that have on His immediate society? Did all the Pharisees repent and temple worship was restored to godliness? No. Did Rome stop ruling the world with an iron fist? No. Did acts of sedition and perversion and persecution suddenly disappear? No. In fact, some of those things actually got worse during and after Jesus’ time.

Just like He prophesied.

You see, Jesus didn’t say, “Be more like Me and the world will come running,” or “The church can solve the ills of the world.” He said:

If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. John 15:19

Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. 2 Timothy 3:12-13

The more the church and individual Christians look and act like Christ, the more world will hate, persecute, and ostracize us.

The church is not going to fix all the evils of society. And it’s not fair to lay that burden of responsibility – one that even Jesus’ earthly ministry didn’t accomplish – on believers who genuinely love their Savior and want to serve Him. Holding out the stick and carrot of a utopian world to the church – if only we’ll get our act together – does nothing but breed hopelessness, despair, and futility in the pews.

Does the church have a lot of repenting to do? Yes. Are there right hands we need to chop off and right eyes we need to gouge out in order to facilitate obedience to Christ? You bet. Should we be exponentially more proactive and passionate about preaching the gospel and meeting the needs of a lost and dying world? Absolutely.

But we do not do those things because we’re failing the world. We do those things out of love for and faithfulness to Christ. Christ is our goal, not a changed world. Christ is the prize we’re to fix our eyes on, not a society that behaves itself. Christ is the finish line we press toward, not domestic tranquility and morality.

Christ.

Because if it’s the church’s job to set the world right, we’re doomed. The world sins because the world is made up of sinners. And the world will continue to sin – even if every church on the planet suddenly becomes perfect – because the world is made up of sinners. But if the church’s highest attainment is love for Christ, faithfulness to Christ, and obedience to Christ, then we are successful in God’s eyes regardless of what the world around us looks like.

Let’s be faithful and trust God to handle changing the world.

Throwback Thursday ~ Taking Offense

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Originally published July 2, 2015

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Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense. Proverbs 19:11

Have you ever noticed how easily people get offended these days? We have to watch what we say, wear, and display. We have to be careful about how (or if) we express our political and religious views. A mere, “you look nice today” can be the beginning of a lawsuit.

Even as Christians, it’s easy to get sucked in to wearing our feelings on our sleeves and taking offense to everything that rubs us the wrong way. Certainly, there are important, biblical issues that we need to take a firm stand on in society, in the church, and at home, but for those of us who follow Christ, most personal offenses do not require a confrontation. Most personal offenses demand that we extend grace and love to the offender.

That’s a bitter pill for the flesh to swallow if you’re anything like me. My flesh wants revenge. My flesh wants justice and retribution to immediately prevail. My flesh wants that person to grovelingly admit he or she was wrong and beg for forgiveness. And I know it’s my carnal nature that wants those things because both Jesus’ teachings and His life stand in direct opposition to such desires:

The Pharisees insinuated that Jesus was of illegitimate birth and that his mother was promiscuous.  They called Him a Samaritan – a racial epithet which, in that time, would have been on par with calling someone the “n-word” during the Civil Rights movement. And they called him demon-possessed – which called his mental health and intelligence into question. And all of these insults carried with them the overriding weightiness of calling Him unclean; someone under God’s judgment who deserved to be an outcast.

What did Jesus do? He didn’t retaliate. He used the offensive remarks to keep on trying to reach the hearts of the Pharisees – the offenders – with the gospel.

Jesus taught us to…

…love our enemies

…do good to those who hate us

…bless those who curse us

…pray for people who abuse us

…turn the other cheek

…give to those who want to take from us

…treat others the way we want to be treated.

Even on the cross, after being falsely accused, verbally abused, wrongly arrested, hauled in front of a kangaroo court, and illegally put to death, Jesus’ words for His foes were not pronouncements of judgment and wrath, but, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

That’s a pretty tough act to follow. But then, the calling of Christ is not a calling to “be carried to the skies on flowery beds of ease” but a calling to deny ourselves, take up our crosses daily, and give up our lives for Him. That precious calling may not end up with you being crucified for your faith, but surely it can start by ignoring that tiny arrow whizzing past your head as you love the person aiming the bow at you.

Take the offense. Overlook it. Extend grace. Forgive. Bless. Walk in the way of your Master.

 

What are some good ways to extend grace
when someone offends you?


THIS ARTICLE WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED AT SATISFACTION THROUGH CHRIST. 

Wednesday’s Word ~ Ezra: Lesson 5

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Previous Lessons: 1, 2, 3, 4

The layout of Ezra 4 is a bit tricky due to a writing technique Ezra used. The first part of chapter 4 (verses 1-5) is a continuation of chapter 3. Chapter 3 closes with the people celebrating the laying of the foundation of the temple (during Cyrus’ reign, under Zerubbabel- this was the first wave of returning exiles {538 B.C.}). Chapter 4:1-5 describes the opposition immediately following the laying of the temple’s foundation.

In order to emphasize the ongoing nature of the opposition God’s people faced from their hostile neighbors over the ensuing decades, Ezra then inserts (verses 6-23) descriptions of opposition which took place much later, during the reign of Ahasuerus (486-464 B.C.) in verse 6, and again during the reign of Artaxerxes (464-423 B.C.). It was during Artaxerxes’ reign that Ezra returned with the second wave of exiles (458 B.C.) and Nehemiah returned with the third and final wave of exiles (445 B.C.).

Ezra then returns to the “present time” (opposition to the laying of the foundation under Zerubbabel) in verse 24.

You may wish to go back over the introductory material to Ezra and these notes to get more clarity.

Ezra 4

Now when the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin heard that the returned exiles were building a temple to the Lord, the God of Israel, they approached Zerubbabel and the heads of fathers’ houses and said to them, “Let us build with you, for we worship your God as you do, and we have been sacrificing to him ever since the days of Esarhaddon king of Assyria who brought us here.” But Zerubbabel, Jeshua, and the rest of the heads of fathers’ houses in Israel said to them, “You have nothing to do with us in building a house to our God; but we alone will build to the Lord, the God of Israel, as King Cyrus the king of Persia has commanded us.”

Then the people of the land discouraged the people of Judah and made them afraid to build and bribed counselors against them to frustrate their purpose, all the days of Cyrus king of Persia, even until the reign of Darius king of Persia.

And in the reign of Ahasuerus, in the beginning of his reign, they wrote an accusation against the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem.

In the days of Artaxerxes, Bishlam and Mithredath and Tabeel and the rest of their associates wrote to Artaxerxes king of Persia. The letter was written in Aramaic and translated. Rehum the commander and Shimshai the scribe wrote a letter against Jerusalem to Artaxerxes the king as follows: Rehum the commander, Shimshai the scribe, and the rest of their associates, the judges, the governors, the officials, the Persians, the men of Erech, the Babylonians, the men of Susa, that is, the Elamites, 10 and the rest of the nations whom the great and noble Osnappar deported and settled in the cities of Samaria and in the rest of the province Beyond the River. 11 (This is a copy of the letter that they sent.) “To Artaxerxes the king: Your servants, the men of the province Beyond the River, send greeting. And now 12 be it known to the king that the Jews who came up from you to us have gone to Jerusalem. They are rebuilding that rebellious and wicked city. They are finishing the walls and repairing the foundations. 13 Now be it known to the king that if this city is rebuilt and the walls finished, they will not pay tribute, custom, or toll, and the royal revenue will be impaired. 14 Now because we eat the salt of the palace and it is not fitting for us to witness the king’s dishonor, therefore we send and inform the king, 15 in order that search may be made in the book of the records of your fathers. You will find in the book of the records and learn that this city is a rebellious city, hurtful to kings and provinces, and that sedition was stirred up in it from of old. That was why this city was laid waste. 16 We make known to the king that if this city is rebuilt and its walls finished, you will then have no possession in the province Beyond the River.”

17 The king sent an answer: “To Rehum the commander and Shimshai the scribe and the rest of their associates who live in Samaria and in the rest of the province Beyond the River, greeting. And now18 the letter that you sent to us has been plainly read before me. 19 And I made a decree, and search has been made, and it has been found that this city from of old has risen against kings, and that rebellion and sedition have been made in it. 20 And mighty kings have been over Jerusalem, who ruled over the whole province Beyond the River, to whom tribute, custom, and toll were paid. 21 Therefore make a decree that these men be made to cease, and that this city be not rebuilt, until a decree is made by me. 22 And take care not to be slack in this matter. Why should damage grow to the hurt of the king?”

23 Then, when the copy of King Artaxerxes’ letter was read before Rehum and Shimshai the scribe and their associates, they went in haste to the Jews at Jerusalem and by force and power made them cease. 24 Then the work on the house of God that is in Jerusalem stopped, and it ceased until the second year of the reign of Darius king of Persia.


The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.


Questions to Consider:

1. How would you state the theme of this chapter in 1-2 sentences? How does Ezra’s insertion of later material reinforce this theme?

2. Why wouldn’t the leaders of Israel let the adversaries help them build the temple? (1-3) Wouldn’t it have been faster and easier to have their help? Did the adversaries really “worship your God as you do“? (2) Think back over Old Testament history. What tended to happen to Israel when they intermarried or partnered with idol worshippers? How might these adversaries have influenced Israel toward idolatry? What was the adversaries’ real motive for offering help? (4-5)

3. Why is it just as important for the church today to reject ecumenism with apostate or idolatrous “churches” or “Christians”? Can you think of any events or situations today in which Christians are partnering with “adversaries” who claim to “worship your God as you do” in order to “rebuild the temple”? How does 2 Corinthians 6:14-18 show that God still doesn’t want His people to partner with pagans and idolators?

4. In verses 4-5, 24, the adversaries are fighting against the rebuilding of which structure? Why would they not want the temple rebuilt? In verses 6-23, later adversaries are opposing the rebuilding of which structures? (12-13) Why would the adversaries not want the city and walls rebuilt? Why would the king not want the city and walls rebuilt? (13,15-16, 19-20)

5. Why do God’s people – in the Old Testament, New Testament, and today – face opposition and persecution? Examine these Scriptures and compare them with the opposition and persecution faced by God’s people in Ezra 4.

John MacArthur at the 2016 Western Conservative Summit

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John MacArthur recently gave a wonderful lecture/speech/sermon at the 2016 Western Conservative Summit. I think every American Christian should listen to it and heed his words.

This is how I listened to it on July 4th. Highly recommended.

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The Mailbag: Is it all right for a Christian to get divorced?

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Is it all right for a Christian to get divorced? What are the biblical grounds for divorce?

God holds marriage in very high esteem because it is a picture of Christ and His bride, the church (Ephesians 5:22ff). In Matthew 19:1-9, Jesus is clear that marriage is precious and not to be discarded carelessly as it was in the Old Testament under the Mosaic covenant. Here, He also gives us one of two reasons Christians may (but are not required to) biblically divorce: adultery.

The second reason Christians may divorce on biblical grounds is found in 1 Corinthians 7:15. If an unbelieving spouse abandons the believing spouse, the believer is not held to the bonds of marriage and may divorce.

Naturally, divorce is a last resort even in these two situations. There are many beautiful stories of marriages surviving adultery through forgiveness. As well, there are many husbands who have been saved after witnessing their wives’ faithfulness to Christ. God’s desire is always for reconciliation whenever possible.

Additional Resources:

Biblical Grounds for Divorce at Reformation 21

Divorce and Remarriage at Grace to You


If you have a question about: a well known Christian author/leader, 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.

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