Women and False Teachers: Why Men Don’t Get It, and Why It’s Imperative That They Do

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Confession time: Sometimes – OK, often – I think my brain works more like a man’s than a woman’s. You’ve got a problem? Suck it up- here’s the solution. The mall? A perfectly horrifying way to ruin a Saturday. And why do we have to hug people hello and goodbye when we see each other multiple times a week?

I’ve always been more comfortable around men, and when I was single, I had mostly male friends. They’re generally¹ less mysterious and easier to figure out than women, and they don’t usually play those manipulative emotional games some women can be notorious for. If a man says he wants a cheese sandwich, there’s no hidden “you don’t bring me flowers often enough” meaning there. He just wants a cheese sandwich. I like that. It’s pretty much how I operate.

Which makes me the perfect person for God to plunk down smack dab in the middle of women’s ministry, right?

Harrumph.

God just has this way about Him of stretching us and growing us beyond our comfortable little confines. I used to be terrified of walking into a room full of women (They’re so unpredictable! You never know when a big emotional scene might break out!) But after years of teaching and discipling women, developing close friendships with women, serving and ministering to women, I now walk into that room and see precious sisters, created oh so tenderly and intricately by God’s loving hands.

God purposefully and intentionally made each woman unique, but with common traits and perspectives that bind us together as sisters and differentiate us from men. And because men aren’t wired by God the same way women are, sometimes they’re just not going to get the way women think about things, approach people, or respond to issues. Sometimes (shopping, flowers, hugginess) that’s no big deal. They can shrug their shoulders, extend grace, and make space for the women in their lives to think, feel, and react differently than men would without really taking the time to understand why.

But there’s at least one biblical issue women respond to differently at the core level of their spiritual DNA than men do. And men, it’s crucial that you get it on this one. You’re the pastors. The elders. The husbands. The fathers. The ones responsible before God for leading your churches and your families in doctrinally sound spiritual growth. You’ve got to get this for the sake of the girls and women you lead:

Women respond differently to false teachers than men do.

And, ladies, we need to understand this about ourselves, too.

It started, not with the advent of modern feminism, or the church age, or even the Fall. It started in the Garden.

Genesis 3 begins…

Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman

Have you ever wondered why the serpent approached Eve instead of Adam?

Before sin entered the world, before that snake in the grass even thought up his dastardly plan of deception, there was a void in the world. None of the animals or birds could fill it. Neither could Adam. God determined that, in order to make His creation complete, there was a need for woman to fill that void. So He reached down with His own two hands (so to speak) and personally crafted a woman.

God had made both animals and Adam out of cold, dead dirt. Not so with woman. God made woman out of soft, warm, living flesh, already coursing with life. God made man to tend the ground from which he had come. God made woman to tend the man from which she had come.

And in the same way God used a different method for creating man and woman and gave them different modes of work, He also gave them different mental and emotional makeups.

God created women with some incredible strengths. Women are usually much better nurturers than men. We’re often better at negotiating, compromising, and making peace between opposing parties. We’re more sensitive to what others are going through and how to treat people in a kind and compassionate way. We bear up under certain pains and stressors better than men do. We’re usually better communicators than men. And, frequently it’s much easier for women to trust, love, and give the benefit of the doubt to others.

And along with those unique strengths come unique challenges that we have to watch out for and that men need some insight about.

We’re kinder and more compassionate, so we have to be careful about people who would take advantage of that. Nurturing is great for raising our children, but if we baby them all their lives, that’s not healthy. Being trusting is a fantastic character trait, but it’s imperative that we be vigilant not to put our trust in the wrong person.

Could it be that the serpent approached Eve instead of Adam because he thought she would be more trusting, give him the benefit of the doubt, and thus be easier to deceive?

First Timothy 2:14 echoes this idea. In 1 Timothy 2:11-14, God explains that women are not to teach men or exercise authority over men in the gathered body of Believers – the church. He gives two reasons for this in verses 13-14. The first reason (13) is the Creative order: “Adam was formed first, then Eve”. God’s second reason is in verse 14:

and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.

It’s interesting that verse 13 refers to the specific woman, Eve, but verse 14 uses the more generic term “the woman.” Are women, as a whole, more likely to be victims of deceivers than men are? Scripture seems to point us that direction.

In 2 Timothy 3:1-9, Paul warns Timothy that people – including those in the church – will become more and more degenerate during the last days. There will even be those who have an outer facade of godliness but are not operating by the power and indwelling of the Holy Spirit (5). In other words: false teachers. Verses 6-7 tell us that among these false teachers are those…

…who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth.

In verse 16 of this same chapter we read that “all Scripture is breathed out by God,” and we know that God never makes mistakes or chooses His words haphazardly. So we know there’s a reason God uses the words “weak women” here. Not weak men, not weak Christians, not weak people – weak women. God graciously gives a warning to women not to be taken in by these false teachers, and an exhortation to men – particularly pastors, since this is a pastoral epistle – to protect the women of their churches and families against those who would prey upon tenderhearted, trusting women.

One reason these women are weak is that they’re led astray by various passions. Today, the word “passion” or “passionate” often has a sexual connotation, but that’s not the only meaning, especially not here. Dictionary.com defines passion as “any powerful or compelling emotion or feeling, as love or hate; a strong or extravagant fondness, enthusiasm, or desire for anything.” Merriam-Webster says passion is, “the emotions as distinguished from reason; a strong liking or desire for or devotion to some activity, object, or concept.”

As with so many other valuable characteristics God has blessed women with, passion is a two-edged sword. God wants us to have a passion for holiness, pursing Christ, and biblical ministry to others, but we have to be extremely careful to steward that passion with the reins, bit, and bridle of discernment and knowledge of the Scriptures. Otherwise, we will pour our passion – our powerful and compelling loyalty, enthusiasm, fondness, and love – into the wrong teachers and doctrines.

Which brings us full circle to Eve, because that’s where her train jumped the tracks.

But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.
Genesis 3:4-6 

Notice the serpent doesn’t invite Eve to something blatantly evil. “God knows…” “…you will be like God.” He’s tempting her to do something she thinks is godly. Then Eve takes her eyes off God and His word and looks instead at the tree.

🍃It was good for food The fruit would satisfy a felt need. It was practical. She and Adam needed supper. Here was an easy solution. And, besides, it looked delicious and nutritious.

🍃It was a delight to the eyes– The fruit appealed to Eve’s sense of beauty. It looked good to her.

🍃It was to be desired to make one wise– Eve had a passion to grow in wisdom and godliness, and this beautiful, appealing, practical, attractive fruit seemed, in her eyes, the best and most enjoyable way to reach that goal.

This is the same way women are being deceived today. The attractive “tree” (Ever notice that most false teachers are at least somewhat physically attractive – “a delight to the eyes”?) extends a branch with lovely-looking, supposedly nutritious fruit on it which she says will lead to godly wisdom and growth (even though her teaching conflicts with God’s written Word). And it’ll be delicious too. Those who bite the apple will feast on love, positive thoughts, encouragement, and self-esteem-building teaching. It’s too appealing to the woman’s senses – and she’s too weak in her knowledge of Scripture and her desire to obey it – to pass up. She succumbs to the passions of her senses, plucks the fruit, and eats.

And then a fascinating phenomenon begins to take place. The weak woman feeds her passions with the fruit of false doctrine, and then she begins to pour that passion – that intense, compelling loyalty, love, fondness, and enthusiasm – into the false teacher herself. As anyone who has ever tried to gently open a devotee’s eyes can attest, hell hath no fury like a confronted Beth Moore disciple. I have seen women defend their favorite false teachers – against clear Scripture, mind you – with a viciousness I’m not sure I could muster to protect my own children against physical harm.

Men may enjoy a particular false teacher, but women worship them.

And this is the crux of the difference that men rarely grasp when the topic of discernment comes up. I’ve talked to countless pastors who don’t understand why simply preaching and teaching sound doctrine from the pulpit and in the Sunday School class isn’t sufficient to protect their churches from the infiltration of false doctrine and false teachers. This is why.

Maybe a man will hear hear a biblical truth, realize the preacher he’s been listening to conflicts with it, and simply walk away. A woman won’t. Because, not only has the teaching a woman listens to inextricably wrapped its tentacles around the very core of her soul, she has also formed an emotional bond with the teacher that’s almost impossible to break. She loves her. And she will nearly always choose that loving, bonded “relationship” over biblical truth, giving the teacher the benefit of the doubt and making excuses for her every step of the way.

The Holy Spirit gets it. He understands the power false teachers wield over weak women and the destruction false teaching in general brings upon the church, so He inspired Paul to write Titus 1:9:

[A pastor] must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.

Pastors who only preach sound doctrine are only doing half their job. And notice that this verse doesn’t merely say to “rebuke teaching that contradicts sound doctrine” in a generic sort of way. It says rebuke “those who” contradict it. “Those who” are people. Specific people. People with names.

Many pastors and teachers don’t want to name names of false teachers. They’ll quote false teachers, allude to them, describe them, and drop hints as to their identity, hoping against hope their church members will figure out who they’re talking about and stop following them. But they don’t want to call specific names. I understand the fear of naming names. It opens pastors up to attack by the aforementioned disciples of false teachers. I’ve experienced their venom, and believe me, nobody wants to go through that.

But guys – pastors, teachers, husbands – I’m telling you the women you’re preaching to, the women who are in the tightest clutches of false teachers aren’t getting it. They are not going to hear your veiled allusions to “some Christian authors who say…” or “the pastor of one of the largest churches in America teaches…” and think you’re talking about the false teacher they’re following. They think you’re talking about somebody else. The guy their neighbor is following. That crazy preacher on TBN. But not my favorite Southern Baptist “Bible” study teacher who’s a best seller at LifeWay and is touted on social media by well known pastors.

It takes courage – manly courage – to stand up in front of your congregation, class, or wife and warn them against specific false teachers, but that’s what godly men – who love the women in their churches and families and want to see them spiritually healthy – do.

We need your help, men. The church needs your help. Your family needs your help. Please get this so you can help other “Eves” not to be deceived and weak women to become strong followers of Christ, not false teachers.


¹If it’s not abundantly clear from context, please understand that I’m speaking in generalities in this article. Naturally, individuals vary.

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Throwback Thursday ~ Churchmanship 101: Funerals

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Originally published January 9, 2015

I was born into a church-going family. I grew up in church and have attended faithfully my whole life. These days, that’s becoming more and more rare. Often, people have a very hit and miss relationship with church, and if you haven’t had much experience attending services and other events, it can be easy to miss out on some of the decorum and how-to’s that are a given to those of us raised in church. You don’t want to “do it wrong”, but, then you don’t want someone telling you you’re doing it wrong, either. So, I thought maybe I (and I need some help from you other “lifers” out there, too!) could serve as a resource.

Thus, a new series I’m introducing today: Churchmanship 101. We’re going to take a look at various activities and events of the church and go over some of the biblical basics and/or practical aspects of churchy stuff. (One quick disclaimer: I’m writing as a lifelong Southern Baptist who has spent most of my church life in small to medium-sized, traditional {think steeple and pews, with no laser light show or rock band} churches. That’s what I know, so that’s the perspective from which I have to write. Your experiences might be a little different.) Please ask questions, suggest topics, and share your stories!

funerals

Churchmanship 101: Funerals

As a ministry wife and church musician, I’ve been to a lot of funerals. I mean, A LOT. I’ve seen some awesome ones and I’ve seen things that would make you wonder what planet some of the attendees/bereaved were from. How about a few helpful hints about funerals and wakes for the bereaved, the attendees, and the churches who host them?

The Way You Look Tonight

Yep, I’m going there. In a civilized society we dress appropriately for the occasion. Not necessarily expensively, but appropriately. Generally speaking, the following are inappropriate for funerals:

  • visible cleavage
  • fishnet stockings
  • mid-thigh (or shorter) skirts/dresses
  • stilletto heels
  • excessive bling, makeup, or hair
  • jeans
  • shorts
  • flip flops
  • camouflage
  • baseball caps
  • leather pants
  • overalls

(There could be some exceptions, such as if a baseball player dies and people wear baseball hats to honor him, or something like that.)

If you look in a mirror and you look like you did when you used to go clubbing, or to a picnic, or to mow the lawn, you need to change. A) You’re going to church, and B) somebody just DIED. Show some respect.

Ladies, whatever the rest of your wardrobe looks like, you need one decent, modest dress, suit, or skirt/blouse combo in a muted color that could be worn to a wedding, funeral, or job interview. Men, you need one decent suit and tie or slacks/dress shirt/sport jacket/tie for the same reasons. No, jeans are not slacks. No, a denim or athletic jacket is not a suit/sport jacket. If you don’t want to put out a lot of money because you don’t often dress that way, go to a thrift store. Many times, you can find brand new clothes (tags still on) for a song. Or, if you’re really hard pressed, borrow an appropriate outfit from a friend.

Suffer the Little Children

Wakes and funerals are mind numbingly boring for small children who don’t know what’s going on. If you have small children and you’re a funeral/wake attendee or you’re family of the deceased, consider getting a babysitter. In fact, it would be a wonderful gesture on the church’s part to have someone volunteer to take the children of the deceased’s family members to the nursery (or other kid friendly room) and let them run around and play, feed them, etc.

However, if you feel you have to have your child at a funeral/wake (whether you’re a family member or simply an attendee), you MUST supervise and control your child. If he makes a fuss during the service, take him out to the lobby until he calms down. And by all means, do not let him run wild in the church or let him play on the sanctuary stage (there may be expensive sound equipment, office equipment, etc., he could ruin) during the wake. First of all, there will be many strangers coming and going, and these days you can’t be too careful about abductions and abuse, even in a church. Second, your child could hurt himself or run out into the parking lot or street. No need for an additional tragedy. Furthermore, it is awkward for the pastor or someone else to come to a grieving family and ask them to please control their child because he is disturbing or upsetting others or destroying something.

Smokin’ in the Boys’ Room

If you haven’t been able to kick the habit yet and you need a cigarette, go outside. Most churches are smoke free zones. Stand far enough away from the entrance that people don’t have to walk through clouds of smoke to get into the building and that smoke doesn’t waft into the building.

A Picture of Me Without You

Selfies with the deceased are déclassé. If you have to do it, at least wait until no one else is around, and keep it off social media.

Watch Your Mouth

Swearing (even what you might consider mild swearing, like WTH or OMG) is not appropriate in a church. Ever.

Neither is chewing tobacco.

Hangin’ on the Telephone

Turn off or silence your phone.

While there may be lulls during a wake when it’s ok to check your phone/texts/social media, that’s never OK during the actual service except in emergency situations.

Food, Glorious Food

Bring food for the family for after the funeral if you can. If you’re not sure what to bring, you’re probably safe with a cake or a deli (meat/cheese or fruit/veggie) tray. If you’re an attendee, understand that the food that has been brought is for the family even if it’s all laid out in the fellowship hall and looks like a potluck. This is not an open buffet unless you have been specifically invited or a general announcement has been made that all are welcome to eat.

Don’t Make a Scene, Irene

For various reasons, sometimes people laugh or smile at a wake or funeral. That doesn’t mean they didn’t love the deceased or that they don’t miss him/her. (But it isn’t a comedy club either, so try to contain yourself if you’re amused by something.)

Go to the bathroom before the service starts so you won’t have to be embarrassed by getting up and walking out in the middle of it.

Wakes/funerals are not a time or place for family feuds or for airing grievances about the deceased. Keep it to yourself.

During funerals, there’s often an open call for people to “stand up and say a few words” about the dearly departed. The key word in this phrase is “few.” Share a brief and appropriate fond memory or something you appreciate about the deceased. Again, swearing and airing of grievances are not appropriate, and neither is vulgarity, personal, private details, or a long harangue aimed at the bereaved or attendees.

Different cultures express grief differently. It may be totally appropriate for there to be a roomful of loud weeping and wailing at certain funerals. However, if you’re the only attendee doing this, others may not be able to hear the service. Be aware of your surroundings.

You Don’t Bring Me Flowers Anymore

If you’d like to make a memorial donation to a charity or other organization in honor of the deceased, be certain (especially if you’re considering one that hasn’t been suggested by the family) it’s an organization the deceased would have supported. For example, I would love it if, when I die, people would donate Gideon Bibles instead of sending flowers, but I would turn over in my grave if someone made a donation in my name to Joel Osteen, Joyce Meyer, TD Jakes, etc.

Welcome to My World (A word to churches and pastors conducting funerals)

Churches should be funeral friendly. Make sure your signage is up to date so non-church members will know where the sanctuary, bathrooms, fellowship hall, etc., are. Make sure the bathrooms are clean and well stocked with paper towels, soap, toilet paper, etc. And while we’re on the subject of bathrooms, correct any plumbing problems or at least put up signs indicating that a toilet is out of order, you have to hold the handle down, etc. Church members may know, but visitors don’t. Provide plenty of well placed kleenex boxes in the sanctuary and other rooms family members might use. Provide a “family room,” if possible. Sometimes family members just need a moment alone.

Pastors: breath mints and deodorant. Enough said.

Pastors in the South in the heat of summer- a simple, elegant, and BRIEF service at the grave site is always nice. (Likewise for pastors in the North during the dead of winter.)

Well, those are just some of the observations I’ve made at funerals over the years. Any other advice, suggestions, or questions out there? Are things done differently in your neck of the woods? What has been your most interesting funeral experience?

Mark: Lesson 19

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Previous Lessons: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18

Mark 13

And as he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!” And Jesus said to him, “Do you see these great buildings? There will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.”

And as he sat on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter and James and John and Andrew asked him privately, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when all these things are about to be accomplished?” And Jesus began to say to them, “See that no one leads you astray. Many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray. And when you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. This must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. These are but the beginning of the birth pains.

“But be on your guard. For they will deliver you over to councils, and you will be beaten in synagogues, and you will stand before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them. 10 And the gospel must first be proclaimed to all nations. 11 And when they bring you to trial and deliver you over, do not be anxious beforehand what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit. 12 And brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death. 13 And you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.

14 “But when you see the abomination of desolation standing where he ought not to be (let the reader understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. 15 Let the one who is on the housetop not go down, nor enter his house, to take anything out, 16 and let the one who is in the field not turn back to take his cloak. 17 And alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! 18 Pray that it may not happen in winter. 19 For in those days there will be such tribulation as has not been from the beginning of the creation that God created until now, and never will be. 20 And if the Lord had not cut short the days, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect, whom he chose, he shortened the days. 21 And then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘Look, there he is!’ do not believe it. 22 For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform signs and wonders, to lead astray, if possible, the elect. 23 But be on guard; I have told you all things beforehand.

24 “But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light,25 and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. 26 And then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. 27 And then he will send out the angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.

28 “From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves, you know that summer is near. 29 So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates. 30 Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

32 “But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33 Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come. 34 It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his servants in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to stay awake. 35 Therefore stay awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning— 36 lest he come suddenly and find you asleep. 37 And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake.”


The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.


Questions to Consider

1. Read verses 1-2. Where had Jesus just been teaching? How do these verses demonstrate the “prophet” part of Jesus’ threefold office of “Prophet, Priest, and King”? Did Jesus’ prophecy come true? How and when? How does this support Jesus’ omniscience and trustworthiness?

2. What were God’s theological reasons for allowing the temple to be destroyed? Why is the temple obsolete now that Christ has come?

3. Examine verses 3-13. In verse 4, the disciples ask what the signs they could be on the lookout for that the temple is about to be destroyed. Does this indicate they expected Jesus to establish His kingdom right away or millennia later? What should Jesus’ answer in 5-8 have indicated to them about the timing of these events? Compare the timing aspect of verses 5-8 with 9-13. In which section does Jesus seem to be indicating events that would happen within the disciples’ lifetime? In which section does Jesus seem to be suggesting that the events He mentions are far off? (Hint: look at Jesus use of the word “you” in both sections.)

4. What “signs” (4) did Jesus say would take place prior to the end of time and the establishment of His kingdom? (5-8) What is Jesus’ primary instruction to the disciples – then and now – in this passage? (5,6,9)

5. What will the disciples “bear witness to” before governors and kings? (9) Sometimes people use verse 11 to suggest that a pastor or teacher need not study for and prepare his sermon or lesson ahead of time, but should speak extemporaneously  “by the Holy Spirit”. Examining verse 11 in context, is that what this verse means? How do verses 9-13 refute the “health, wealth, and prosperity” gospel?

6. What is the abomination of desolation of the end times? (14) What does God instruct His people to do when this event occurs? (15-18, 21, 23) What will all of these end times events culminate in? (26-27) Make a list of the specific things in verses 5-25 that Christ says will happen before He returns (26-27).

7. Verses 5-25 deal with “what” will happen. Verses 28-37 deal with w___ they will happen. When does Jesus say these end time events will occur? (32-33) Like the disciples, we tend to focus on “When will these things be?” (4) and the specific events that will occur. List Jesus’ explicit instructions (do this, be that, don’t do this, etc.) to the disciples and us in verses 5, 7, 9, 11, 14-16, 18, 21, 23, 28, 33, 35, 37. Is Jesus’ focus more on the events and timing of the events or on instructing His people how to respond to those events? What are some ways Christians can begin preparing our hearts to rightly respond to those events if they should occur in our lifetime?

8. Summarize verses 5-37 in one to two sentences. What do we call the branch of theology that deals with the end times and the return of Christ?


Homework

One of the themes of this passage is that false christs and false prophets will arise to deceive many and lead them astray. Make a list of five specific ways you can avoid being led astray by a false teacher. Begin implementing one of those ways this week.


Suggested Memory Verse

Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.
Mark 13:31

You’re Not Awesome…and You Know It

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I am absolutely weary of some of the memes aimed at Christian women these days. You know the ones I mean, ladies- the ones with lovely pictures of flowers or an ocean or a meadow with a superimposed flowing script practically BEGGING us to believe how much worth we have to God, how awesome we are, how we need to discover the greatness within, how God gives us limitless potential and a superfantastic divine purpose, blah, blah, blah.

You know why they have to take that begging tone to try to get us to believe those things? Because they’re not true. You know it, and I know it.

You’re not awesome or great or imbued with some radical purpose or potential that will magically make your life phenomenal and give you oodles of self esteem once you discover it.

You’re a dirty, stinking, rotten, rebellious sinner. You yell at your kids. You don’t submit to your husband. You act out of selfishness. You lie. You gossip. You covet. You bow down to your idols instead of to Christ. You sin against a holy and righteous God in a thousand ways every day in thought, word, and deed. Just like I do. Let’s put on our big girl panties and just admit it. (1 John 1:8,10)

That’s why these memes and false teachers have to try so hard to convince us of how terrific we are- deep down we know we’re not. It’s a lie. And putting all our eggs in the basket of that lie of greatness sets us up for disappointment and self-loathing every time we sin.

Ladies, stop listening to this hearts and flowers, cotton candy, pump up your ego so you’ll feel better about yourself dreck, and put your faith and hope in the One who will never let you down. The One who looked at all your nasty thoughts and evil deeds and said, “I’m going to the cross for her anyway.” The One who sees all your daily faults and failures and is still willing to forgive when you repent. The One who’s faithful to you even when you’re not faithful to Him.

Stop focusing on how great you are – because you’re not – and put your focus on Christ and how great, and awesome, and superfantastic, and terrific He is. Because if you’re feeling bad about yourself, it’s not because you don’t have a high enough self esteem. It’s because you don’t have a high enough Christ esteem.

We’re not worthy. He is. Let’s get over ourselves and give Him the glory, and honor, and attention, and focus, and praise He so richly deserves.

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“therefore I will hope in him.”
Lamentations 3:22-24

The Mailbag: Potpourri (Loneliness, Masons, Psych Meds…)

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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 potpourrri 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 can be a helpful tool!


I am wondering if it is common for women who really begin to exercise discernment and pull away from bad theology and false teachers to find themselves somewhat isolated and lonely? Are other women dealing with this same issue?

It probably sounds weird to say it this way but, no, you are not alone in your loneliness and isolation. I hear this often from:

…women who are growing in discernment and are beginning to realize that the rest of their church is growing more and more accepting of false doctrine.

…women who are having difficulty finding a doctrinally sound church to join.

…women who go to churches that are mostly doctrinally sound but can’t attend their church’s women’s ministry events or women’s “Bible” study because the event centers around (or the study is written by) a false teacher.

Sometimes the loneliness is something you just have to endure for a while. Maybe God has placed you at this church in order to pray for its health and work for biblical change. Maybe God led you away from your last church because it was too far gone in false doctrine to turn around and you haven’t been able to find a new church yet.

Be patient. Use this time of loneliness to draw nearer to the Lord. If you’re married, pour your energies into a closer relationship with your husband. Try to cultivate a deeper friendship with one or two other women instead of dwelling on the fact that there aren’t any classes or group gatherings for you to attend. And, secondarily (your primary focus should always be on face to face relationships), try joining a Christian women’s group on social media. Hereherehere, and here are a few I’m familiar with and can recommend.

And don’t forget, Jesus knows what it feels like to be lonely and rejected for standing for biblical truth. Rejoice – you are sharing in His sufferings.


The wife of a pastor I trust mentioned on social media that she went to [secular singer’s] concert and thought it was fantastic. I know his music isn’t something we should listen to but how do I deal in regards to her husband’s teachings?

Well… let’s back up just a little bit.

I’m not very familiar with the singer you named, but from what little I’ve been told, he’s not biting the heads off bats on stage or building an altar to Satan in his living room. He’s a “pop/Top 40” or “adult contemporary” kind of guy who mostly sings love songs. Now, does that mean it’s blanketly OK for Christians to listen to his music? Not necessarily. Does it mean we should blanketly question the sanctification of a Christian who enjoys listening to him, or the doctrine of her spouse? Not necessarily.

Assuming she would not publicly admit to liking a celebrity who is well known for blatantly promoting sin in his life or his music, what her social media remark probably means is that the singer’s music doesn’t generally glorify sin, and the pastor’s wife either isn’t aware that the singer overtly promotes sin (abortion, the homosexual agenda, a false religion, etc.) off stage or she’s familiar enough with his life to know that he doesn’t, so she has made the decision that it’s OK to listen to his music.

Perhaps you would make a different decision about your own listening habits, but it’s not your place to impose your listening standards on this woman or to judge her husband’s entire body of doctrine by one remark his wife made on social media. Scripture doesn’t say we can never listen to an unsaved singer or that we can never listen to music that’s not expressly “Christian.” The Bible does say we’re to set our minds on things that are pure, lovely, excellent, etc., but it does not say that you or I get to determine what is pure, lovely, excellent, etc., for another person’s conscience, unless rightly handled Scripture clearly addresses it. We are to work out our own salvation on issues about which the Bible is silent.

Unless the woman’s social media remark was just one in a pattern of questionable or sinful comments or behaviors, I don’t think it’s fair to jump to the conclusion, based on this one comment alone, that the pastor is doctrinally unsound, a poor spiritual leader to his wife and family, or otherwise unfit for ministry. Continue to exercise as much discernment when listening to him as you would with any other pastor or teacher you follow.

Do You MIND? Five Reasons for Pastors to Mind What their Brides are Reading


Would you have a problem being a member of a Lutheran church? Our church is possibly disbanding and my husband (Southern Baptist all his life) is interested in visiting there. I read about a few differences, but I am not sure if they are differences to keep us away.

(I just want to note that this reader asked me if I would attend a Lutheran church, so that’s how I’m answering – for me. Naturally, if my husband and I were faced with this issue, we would discuss it and pray about it, he would make the final decision, and I would gladly abide by that (biblical) decision. Also, I’m not answering for anyone else. I have godly, doctrinally sound friends who are Lutherans, and I’m certainly not saying they – or anyone else – need to leave a solid local Lutheran church.)

Like your husband, I’m also a lifelong Southern Baptist, and though I’m Reformed (most of the SBC isn’t), and there are a lot of problems in the Southern Baptist Convention at large, I’m not ready to jump ship just yet. There are still a lot of doctrinally sound SBC churches out there (I’m a member of an awesome one) and there is space for those churches and doctrinally sound individuals to continue working for change to correct those problems. So, to answer that aspect of your question, I would not seek out a church of any other denomination at this point in my life.

However, if my family had to move to another place where the only doctrinally sound church available to us was a Lutheran church, knowing only what I know right now about Lutheranism – which, admittedly, is at a moderate level – I would joyfully attend it. (I would definitely study up on Lutheran doctrine more, though, if I were in that situation.)

The Lutheran doctrines I’m most familiar with that I don’t agree with are some (not all) of their beliefs and practices regarding baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Those are the areas where I would suggest you and your husband start studying. Examine the Lutheran application of the Scriptures regarding those issues, pray about it, talk to the Lutheran pastor about it, talk to a non-Lutheran pastor you trust about it, and decide whether you can submit to Lutheran doctrine in those areas. I don’t know if those or other Lutheran doctrines are differences that would keep you away or not. There are plenty of doctrinally sound folks who are Lutherans, so obviously, they’re differences that don’t keep everybody away.

Let me point you toward a couple of those doctrinally sound Lutherans who might be able to help with your questions and give you better resources than I can:

Chris Rosebrough – a Lutheran pastor – heads up one of my favorite podcasts, Fighting for the Faith. You might want to give him a listen and/or contact him for some advice or resources.

Jorge Rodriguez, also Lutheran, admins the Fighting for the Faith Facebook group. I’ve seen several questions on Lutheran doctrine in the group, so you could post questions there or contact Jorge through his blog, Faithful Stewardship.

I’m not sure how much time either Chris or Jorge has to answer individual messages, but it’s worth a shot.


Should Christians be Masons?

I don’t know what’s going on with the Masons and their infiltration of the church these days, but I’m seeing this question pop up more and more.

No, Christians should not be Masons if for no other reason than that their ceremonies, beliefs, etc., are so shrouded in secrecy. Christians are people of the light, not people of the darkness. But there are many more unbiblical tenets to Masonry that preclude a genuinely regenerated Christian from joining. Here are some resources if you’d like to study up:

Should Christians Join the Masonic Lodge? by Steven Tsoukalas

What is Free Masonry and what do Free Masons believe? at Got Questions

Freemasonry and the Christian at The Master’s Seminary


I wanted to know your take on Christians and anti-depressants and/or anti-anxiety medication.

I’m neither qualified, nor do I think it would be wise, to make a blanket statement for or against these types of medications. As a maturing Christian and student of the Bible for many years and as someone with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and half a master’s in family counseling here is what I’m willing and qualified to say:

☙Many of the issues people see therapists for – including some forms of depression and anxiety – are actually spiritual issues. Before seeing a psychologist, psychiatrist, or therapist, and certainly before trying any psychotropic medication, I would recommend that someone talk with a pastor, a mature Christian friend, or an ACBC certified Biblical counselor (not the same thing as a “Christian counselor”) to make sure she correctly understands and has applied the biblical gospel and what the Bible says about the issue she’s facing. It’s not by accident that our God has names like Prince of Peace, Wonderful Counsellor, Comforter, and the Great Physician.

☙Sometimes Christians – doctrinally sound Christians who aren’t living in any unrepentant sin – have emotional or organic brain issues that require psychological/psychiatric intervention and/or psychotropic medication. There are psychological/psychiatric treatments that do not conflict with Scripture, and no Christian should feel guilty for partaking of them if she has dealt with all potential spiritual issues related to her problem and has exhausted all other less extreme measures to deal with her problem. Christians who play armchair expert and blanketly denounce any form of psychological/psychiatric intervention as unbiblical and satanic are misinformed and aren’t helping anybody, least of all brothers and sisters in Christ who are dealing with mental issues.

☙Psychotropic drugs can have some intense side effects, which is one reason I would recommend exhausting every other possibility first: first spiritual issues, then behavior and/or talk therapy. If you find you must take a medication, make sure you have a good doctor who knows your medical history, get a second or third opinion, and do lots of research.

What are some biblical ways of addressing my child’s mental illness?


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.

The Five Solas of the Protestant Deformation

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This year marks the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Protestant Reformation. October 31, 2017 will commemorate the date in 1517 when Martin Luther famously nailed his 95 theses – a list of grievances against the Catholic church for unbiblical doctrines and practices – to the door of Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany.

Luther’s calls for reform spread quickly throughout Europe, inspiring the likes of church fathers Ulrich Zwingli (Zurich), John Calvin (Geneva), and John Knox (Scotland) to join the effort in their own locales. As they worked to address the issues raised in Luther’s document, these men codified what we know today as the “Five Solas of the Reformation,” the basis of Protestant church doctrine. The five solas are:

1. Sola Scriptura– Scripture alone is the basis for all church doctrine, belief, and practice. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

2. Sola Gratia– Salvation is by grace alone. It is an unmerited gift of God based solely on His goodness, not our own (because we don’t have any). (Ephesians 2:8-9)

3. Sola Fide– Salvation is through faith alone. Faith is a gift bestowed by God. We are saved only by placing that faith in Christ’s finished work on the cross, not by doing good works or by any other attempts to earn salvation. (Ephesians 2:8-9)

4. Solus Christus– Salvation is found in Christ alone. As Acts 4:12 says, “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

5. Soli Deo Gloria– God saves man for God’s glory alone, and Believers are to live our lives to glorify Him alone. (Romans 11:36)

The five solas should be the foundation of the church’s orthodoxy (beliefs or doctrine) and our orthopraxy (church practices). But over the past five centuries there’s been a declension. A downgrade. The church has become deformed from the beautiful biblical portrait of a bride “without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish” because we’ve functionally replaced the Five Solas of the Reformation with pragmatic, and often idolatrous, solas of our own making…

No longer is Christian doctrine and practice governed strictly by sola Scriptura, especially among Christian women. Now it’s all about what our own personal feelings, opinions, and life experiences. Won’t go to a church that preaches sin and repentance because it offends your sensibilities? You’ve become accepting of homosexual “marriage” because someone you love dearly has adopted that lifestyle? Believe God is in the habit of talking to people because you’ve “heard His voice”? Then you’re basing your doctrine and practices on your own feelings and experiences rather than on what the Bible says.

The Christian’s instructions for life and godliness are found in only one place: the Bible. We do not squish Christianity into the mold of what makes us happy, what we agree with, our relationships with others, or the things we’ve experienced. We start with the Bible and we bring everything else in our lives – everything we think, feel, believe, say, and do – into submission to it. If a personal feeling, opinion, or experience conflicts with Scripture, it is wrong. We don’t change Scripture to fit our perspective, we change our perspective to fit Scripture.

If you want to know what road the modern church is headed down simply pick up your Bible and turn to… the Old Testament. Especially the verses that say “everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” Jesus said the way to greatness was humility, servanthood, and anonymity. We want glory, recognition, and applause. God says, “walk in My ways.” We say, “I’ll consider that if it fits in with my plans, is agreeable to me, and makes me look good to others.” We “welcome” the Holy Spirit into His own church as though we own the place. We are so used to being on the throne of our own lives that we use words like “letting” or “allowing” God to do something without even realizing it. We don’t ask, “Is it pleasing to God?”, we say, “If it’s pleasing to me, it must be pleasing to God.” Goodbye soli Deo gloria. Hello soli ego gloria.

More and more, “Christians” are driven by the selfish greed of “What can God do for me?” rather than the pursuit of holiness. So-called Christian teachers who will scratch itching ears are sought out, and an abundance of hucksters are at the ready, eager to “give the people what they want” in order to make a fast buck.

These people who claim the name of Christ care nothing about following in His footsteps – or even knowing what those footsteps are – craving instead the temporal creature comforts of wealth, success, popularity, health, self esteem, and influence. They want to be told what their flesh wants to hear, and they want to believe that’s Christianity. Share in Christ’s sufferings? Never. Away with the Via Dolorosa. Lead us down the primrose path.

Spotlights. Merch. Audiences of thousands. Agents. Entourages. Sometimes it’s hard to tell the Christian celebrities from the secular. The star-struck church has created its own caste system in which biblical fidelity is measured by how many books you’ve sold, the number of attendees at your megachurch or conferences, and the size of your audience on social media. That many followers? That number of bestsellers at the Christian retail chain? She must know what she’s talking about. We’ll use her books for our women’s “Bible” study – no vetting necessary! But that 85 year old pastor who’s been faithfully expositing the Word to his rural congregation of twenty for the better part of his life? No kudos. No esteem for honorable servants of the Lord such as he. We want glitz and glam and hype and bling. We want to be cutting edge, relevant, and attractional. Because maybe – just maybe – some of that glory will rub off on us. And so it goes – we follow the latest and greatest Christian authors, bands and personalities, attracted more to their pretty faces, stylish clothes, and charisma than to sound doctrine, while Christ’s sheep, relegated to a dark corner of the sanctuary, bleat to simply be fed the Bread of Life and the Living Water.

What’s hot rightthisminute? What’s the current style, the latest trend, the fad du jour? The Church of What’s Happening Now wants to know. Whether it’s today’s Christian bestseller that simply every small group is using now, dahling, or caving to whichever way the wind is blowing today when it comes to the world’s sexual morality, if we can just ride the viral wave of the immediate we can get people in the doors, money in the offering plate, and souls into Heaven. Maybe.

Vox populi, vox Dei? Have we forgotten how uncool it was to be the only one building an ark before rain was invented? That idol worship was the latest thing going in Jeremiah’s day? That it was the crowds who cried “Crucify Him!”?

The God of the Bible is not hip and groovy. He’s seen as hopelessly out of touch with current morals and values. A doddering old fool who just can’t seem to get with the times. His holy ways are antiquated and obsolete. We’re modern and educated and wise to the ways of the world. We know better how His church and our lives should run.

Just what is it we’re building our Christian doctrine and practices on these days? ‘Cause it sure isn’t the unadulterated written Word of God and the original five solas. Maybe it’s time we took a good hard look at how far we’ve slidden in the last five hundred years. How far we’ve strayed from the purity of Scripture and doctrine the Reformers worked so hard for, were imprisoned and persecuted for, were martyred for.

Maybe it’s time for another Reformation.


Additional Resources:

Why We’re Protestant: An Introduction to the Five Solas of the Reformation by Nate Pickowicz

What was the Protestant Reformation? at Got Questions

5 Questions and the 5 Solas at The Cripplegate

Throwback Thursday ~ Axiom Questions, I’ll Tell You No Lies

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Originally published May 1, 2015axioms

Why do churches do church the way churches do church?

Ever thought about that? Moreover, have you ever thought about why churches take for granted that they have to do certain things or do things a certain way? Is there an unspoken assumption at your church that you have to have a sermon outline in the bulletin (or for that matter, that you have to have a bulletin), that Vacation Bible School is a non-negotiable event, or that the deacons absolutely must wear ties when serving the Lord’s Supper? Has it gone on for so long that now “it goes without saying”?

Don’t get me wrong- sermon outlines and bulletins can be very helpful, VBS is a great outreach, and I’m in favor of more men wearing ties to church, period. And I’m not talking about irrefutable biblical truths, either, such as, “faith in Christ is the only way of salvation,” or “God created the world,” or “women are not to instruct or hold authority over men in the church.” What I’m trying to get at here is that there are lots of church practices, preferences, and philosophies that we take as axiomatic. We never question them. We just assume they’re true. We act on them as though they’re immutable laws of physics or something. And every once in a while, somebody notices this and wants to change things up.

When it’s an axiom that’s been around for a few decades, the people who hold to that particular ideal are often chided (sometimes deservedly, sometimes not) by those who are pressing for changes. They’re called “inflexible” or “enslaved to tradition.” They’re labled as the “We’ve never done it that way before,” or “We’ve always done it this way,” people.

But have we ever stopped to think that, in many cases, the changes people seek to make today are the outmoded preferences of tomorrow? Often, we’re not making the church better or more biblical, we’re just adding a new premise here or trading one axiom for another there. Like rearranging deck chairs on a cruise ship. Or the Titanic.

Let’s take a look at some of those new axioms that have materialized over the last couple of decades and are now assumed to be a “given” when it comes to ecclesiology.

1. Pastors need to “cast vision,” and churches need a vision/mission statement.
No, they don’t. Christ is the head of the church, the CEO, if you will. Therefore, He is the only one whose place it is to have a vision for the church and to set a mission statement for it. And He has already done that for us. It was one of the last items on His agenda before leaving earth. It’s called the Great Commission:

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20

2. Churches have to be attractional.
Should you invite people to church? Absolutely. Should you be kind and welcoming to visitors? Of course. But that’s not what “attractional” means these days. Attractional means assimilating church into the culture so that lost people will think it’s a cool and groovy place and will flock through the door in droves. That’s why you see pastors coming out onto a stage and giving a Tonight Show-esque monologue while dressed like a teenager at a concert, churches playing music that sounds like what you hear on the radio (sometimes music that is on the radio) accompanied by bands that mimic whichever artist is popular at the moment, no choirs, no pews, no crosses, no pulpits, no hymnals, but a Starbucks in the lobby. Everything a sinner is used to in his daily life. Everything that will make him perfectly comfortable.

Where is this model of doing church found in the Bible? If you answered, “nowhere,” you’d be correct. The church, by definition, is made up of believers. Christ Himself is what is attractional to people who have genuinely been born again. And when we meet together, we have one purpose: to worship and grow in Him. The Bible never tells the church to make itself look like the world to bring lost people into the church. Christ tells us, believers, the church, to go out and make disciples, to go out into the highways and byways and urge the lost to trust Christ so that His house might be filled…with believers.

3. Church should be fun.
Nope, not going to find that one in the Bible either. Worshiping Christ should bring us the deepest joy we can fathom, but that’s not the same thing as rock concert, bouncy house, stand up comedian, outlandish props and gimmicks, music video back up dancers, cash and prizes giveaway, “fun”. Church should be joyful, welcoming, warm, and pleasant. It should also be reverent, solemn, and, often, serious. Worshiping Christ, handling and learning His word, partaking of communion and baptism– these are not frivolous things, and the climate of the church should reflect that.

4. When it comes to the size of a local church, bigger is not only better, but more spiritual.
I see articles from denominational leaders and church growth gurus all the time that start with the presupposition that if your church isn’t constantly growing until you’ve reached thousands in attendance and have to go multi-site, you need to get on that problem, pronto. Or that if your attendance numbers are “stuck” around the 200 or 300 mark, it’s a crisis that needs to be addressed. Pastor, you need to do something about that. It’s assumed that you want to do something about that.

Says who? Says people who have made a lot of money selling church growth materials and want to make more, that’s who. The fact of the matter is, mega churches are the exception, not the rule. The average size of a church in the U.S. is 186 people, and 94% of church goers attend a church of under 500 members.

There are many perfectly legitimate and biblical reasons why a local church might be small. Smaller churches foster intimacy in fellowship, accountability in discipleship, and make it easier for pastors to shepherd individuals and small groups. Certainly, a church should welcome any newcomers wishing to join and should seek to minister to the surrounding community, but if zeal for the gospel is in place, there is no shame in being a small church.

5. Our worship music has to be contemporary.
Why? No, really. Why does it have to be pop-contemorary style? Because we’ll lose or fail to attract young people? First of all, there are plenty of young people who, believe it or not, like hymns and traditional worship music. Why aren’t we concerned about alienating them? What about the older people who like hymns? What about the young people who like country music, or classical music, or rap, or screamo, or death metal, or opera? How come we don’t cater to any of their musical preferences during the worship hour?

Up until the early ’80’s or so, when you went to church, you expected to sing hymns out of a hymnal. There’s nothing wrong with adding new songs here and there to the church’s repertoire, but there is something wrong with trying to replicate what’s going on in the world in order to entice lost people into the church. When people go to a funeral they expect to hear funeral music. When they go to a fais do do they expect to hear Cajun music. And have you seen how incensed people get when somebody tries to put a fresh spin on the National Anthem? It’s perfectly all right for church music to sound churchy. We don’t need to apologize for that.

6. Leaving a church (or deciding not to join one) because you don’t like contemporary worship music is selfish, petty, and reeks of spiritual immaturity.
Really? I thought you just said we had to use contemporary music to get young people to join and keep them from leaving. Are they selfish, petty, and spiritually immature for having their music preference catered to? Why don’t they have to suck it up and sing hymns? Would you go to a church that used only a genre of music you hate, like rap or opera? Does that make you selfish, petty, and spiritually immature?

It’s time we stopped shaming people for wanting to leave a church that has changed to a genre of music or a worship style that they hate. There will be times in every church when a particular song (or maybe even several) is sung that you don’t like. That’s normal no matter which genre your church uses. But music is a huge part of our worship services, and if, even after making an effort to embrace the music, you are so distracted by the genre that you’re incapable of focus on Christ, you need to go to a church- a doctrinally sound one, mind you – where you can worship.

We make a lot of assumptions about the way we should do church. Maybe it’s time to start questioning some of them.

What are some other church axioms you’ve noticed?

Mark: Lesson 18

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Previous Lessons: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17

Mark 12:28-44

And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” 29 Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 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.’ 31 The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” 32 And the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher. You have truly said that he is one, and there is no other besides him. 33 And to love him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” 34 And when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And after that no one dared to ask him any more questions.

35 And as Jesus taught in the temple, he said, “How can the scribes say that the Christ is the son of David?36 David himself, in the Holy Spirit, declared,

“‘The Lord said to my Lord,
“Sit at my right hand,
    until I put your enemies under your feet.”’

37 David himself calls him Lord. So how is he his son?” And the great throng heard him gladly.

38 And in his teaching he said, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes and like greetings in the marketplaces 39 and have the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts, 40 who devour widows’ houses and for a pretense make long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.”

41 And he sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box. Many rich people put in large sums. 42 And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny. 43 And he called his disciples to him and said to them, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. 44 For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”


The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.


Questions to Consider

1. Briefly review lesson 17 (link above). Who were the three groups of people Jesus addressed in verses 1-27? Who is the “they” in verse 28? The “he/him”? How does the first half of verse 28 indicate that this event (28-34) took place immediately after Jesus’ discussion with the Sadducces (18-27)?

2. Examine verses 28-34. What kind of person is Jesus addressing in this section? (28) Why did the scribe ask Jesus his question? (28) Considering his reason (28), Jesus’ evaluation of him (34), and the general tenor of the conversation, do you think this scribe was trying to trap Jesus as Jewish leaders in 1-27 were trying to do, or do you think this was a genuine question by someone truly trying to follow God?

3. Why would a Jewish leader need to ask what the most important commandment was? (28) Where does Jesus point the scribe for the answer to his question? What does Jesus say is the greatest commandment? (29-30) This commandment deals with the relationship between man and Whom? What does Jesus say is the second greatest commandment? (31) This commandment deals with the relationship between man and whom? Can you think of another place in Old Testament law that deals with these two relationships? (Hint: Review question 8 from lesson 14 (link above).) Which relationship always comes first? If we obey the greatest commandment, what impact will that have on our obedience to the second greatest commandment?

4. Explain the scribe’s response to Jesus (32-33) in your own words. What did Jesus mean when He said the scribe was “not far from the kingdom of God”? Why didn’t Jesus say the scribe was in the kingdom of God? What was the scribe lacking? Were Jesus and the scribe discussing Old Testament law or New Testament gospel? Are we saved by obeying Old Testament law or repenting and believing the gospel? How does the gospel fit with the laws Jesus and the scribe were discussing? Is it possible to truly love the Lord or others if the gospel hasn’t first changed your heart?

5. Compare verses 35-37 to Psalm 110 (Jesus quotes Psalm 110:1 in verse 36) and Acts 2:29-36. Who is “The Lord” in verse 36? Who is “my Lord”? David was regarded by the Jews as the greatest king in Israel’s history. Would it make any sense for David to call a merely human descendant of his (a “son of David”) “my Lord”- a higher rank than his own? What would have to be true of the spiritual nature of this descendant of David’s that David calls Him “my Lord”? What does God say to the Messiah in verse 36? Could a mere human be qualified to sit at God’s right hand and have his enemies put under his feet? What is Jesus trying to convey about His deity to those who didn’t believe He was God and to those who expected the Messiah to be only a great human king like David?

6. In what location (35) did Jesus teach verses 38-40? Was this a public place? To whom (37) was Jesus speaking? What were some of the things the scribes were guilty of? Why will the scribes receive greater condemnation? Greater than whom? How does this passage demonstrate that it is biblically permissible and appropriate to publicly warn God’s people against false teachers and false doctrine?

7. Compare Jesus’ description of the scribes in 39-40 with His description of the widow in 41-44. What was Jesus trying to teach the disciples (43) by contrasting the two? How does this reinforce what Jesus taught the disciples in Mark 10:42-45?

8. As an Old Testament Jew the widow was under the law of the tithe, but how much did she choose to give? (43-44) Christians are not required by Scripture to tithe, but we are instructed to be generous givers. How does the widow set an example for us of New Testament, sacrificial giving?

9. Prosperity gospel preachers often urge people to give sacrificially to their ministries and promise that God will repay their generosity with wealth. Do verses 41-44 support this idea? Did Jesus walk over to the woman and miraculously make her wealthy on the spot? Does God promise anywhere in Scripture to reward Christians with wealth for their sacrificial giving?


Homework

In lesson 17, we saw several people who were merely trying to be argumentative or to trap Jesus by asking Him questions about the Bible. Today, we saw what seemed to be a genuine question by a scribe seeking to learn. Have you ever been asked either, or both, of these types of questions? What was the question, and how did you respond? Compare your response to 2 Timothy 2:24-26. Were you quarrelsome? Kind? Patient? Write down three ways you could respond better in the future according to this passage.


Suggested Memory Verse

And to love him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices. Mark 12:33

Audacious

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au·da·cious
ôˈdāSHəs
adjective
1. showing a willingness to take surprisingly bold risks.
2. showing an impudent lack of respect.

Audacious. It’s a hot new buzzword that false teachers like Steven Furtick and Beth Moore like to throw around, and “average Jane” Christians are starting to pick up.

“Pray audacious prayers!”
“Live an audacious life!”

Sounds great, right? Rah! Rah! Let’s get out there and be audacious for Jesus!

The only problem with that is… well…the Bible. The Bible doesn’t tell us to live or pray audaciously in either sense of the word. In fact, I checked seven or eight of the most reliable English translations, and the word “audacious” isn’t even in the Bible. (Even The Message doesn’t have it!)

The Bible says nothing about being willing to “take surprisingly bold risks.” Quite the opposite, in fact.

But we urge you, brothers, to [love one another] more and more, and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.
1 Thessalonians 10b-12

Love one another, live quietly, mind your business, go to work, walk in a godly way before a watching world, and be self-supporting. How bold, risky, or audacious does that sound?

Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness. Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled. Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled. Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us. Bondservants are to be submissive to their own masters in everything; they are to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, not pilfering, but showing all good faith, so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior.
Titus 2:2-10

Self-control, dignity, reverence, submission, good works. Nope, nothing about risk-taking there either.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
Galatians 5:22-23

Hmmm….still nothing about being audacious….

Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
Matthew 6:9-13

Honoring God, asking Him to help us obey, to provide basic food, to forgive us. This is how Jesus Himself taught us to pray, and there’s not a hint of risk or audaciousness to be found.

The Bible doesn’t teach us to be audacious. That’s false doctrine dreamed up in the minds of false teachers. The Bible teaches us to live in humility, patience, kindness, love, and obedience to God’s word.

The Mailbag: Should women give testimonies and reports, lead prayer and worship in church?

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I was wondering about having a female missionary giving a talk on her mission field in place of the sermon for that Sunday. Also we have had a female worship leader saying the prayer at the end of the service.

When we consider women’s roles in the church, it’s good to think about these “real church life” types of situations and how best to handle them according to Scripture. A couple of resources here at the blog that might be helpful to those thinking through these issues are my Rock Your Role series- especially, Rock Your Role FAQs.

There’s a lot to address in this reader’s question, so let’s break it down into several smaller questions.

1. Is it ever OK for another sort of presentation to take the place of the Sunday morning sermon?

Well, it’s not anathema or anything. The Bible doesn’t command a certain order of worship on Sunday mornings (for that matter, it technically doesn’t even command that we meet on Sunday mornings, but that’s a bucket of worms for another day), but as we read through the New Testament, it’s apparent that preaching and Bible teaching were the centerpiece of the New Testament church’s worship meetings. I think that’s a good example to follow.

I’m a little leery of anything taking the place of the Sunday morning sermon. If I were a pastor (which I know we’re all glad I’m not) I would probably consider scheduling special presentations such as a lengthy mission report, choir presentations, dramas, etc. during the Sunday evening service, the midweek service, or another day. If the mission report could be shortened to 10 or 15 minutes, perhaps it could take the place of other parts of the worship service, or the service could (gasp!) be lengthened a few minutes.

If the mission report has to take the place of the Sunday sermon, the optics of a woman giving the report are a little iffy, because it gives the appearance that she’s delivering the sermon. If a man could give the report, or if the pastor can at least take a teaching moment to verbally clarify to the congregation (for visitors and others who may not understand what the Bible says about women preaching) that the woman giving the report is not preaching or delivering the sermon, that would be helpful.

2. Is it OK for women to give mission reports or personal testimonies during the worship service?

(For the purposes of this question, I’m going to assume that whatever kind of mission work the woman is doing is in compliance with Scripture. Also, the reader did not ask about personal testimonies, but I’m throwing that in because the two are similar in nature.)

I don’t see why either would be a problem biblically, as long as she doesn’t veer off into preaching, exhorting, or instructing the congregation (which I have seen happen), because that’s the biblical prohibition, not that women are never to open their mouths in church. I once heard a pastor say that when someone is going to give his or her testimony in his church, he has the person write out what will be said and then goes through a “dress rehearsal” of the testimony with the person where he can offer advice or editing. This is a really good idea, not just because of women (and men) who tend to veer off into preaching, but to correct any false doctrine the pastor wasn’t aware the person held to, to keep the testimony from going too long, etc. This would work for mission reports too.

I would encourage women who give reports or testimonies to check in with your pastor well in advance and ask if he has any advice, parameters, or concerns with what you might say. Focus on the fact that you are giving a report on, or testifying to, what you have personally seen, done, experienced, or learned. It’s fine to talk about something God has taught you through His Word or read a verse you found helpful in your situation. What’s not fine is to turn things around and tell the congregation what they need to do, learn, think, or believe. I know we’re constantly driving home the point that when it come to church, the Bible, doctrine, etc., it’s not about you…it’s not about you…it’s not about you. In this case…it’s about you and your story – giving all glory to God, of course.

3. Should women lead prayers during church?

I would discourage it, not because it’s necessarily a violation of Scripture for the woman, but because there seems to be a tragic dearth of male leadership in the church in general. So many men are either too lazy or too afraid to lead, or they see very few examples of what leadership by a godly man looks like. I think it would be great for the pastor to sometimes ask men who need to learn leadership skills to dip a toe in the water by leading a prayer during church, and at other times ask a spiritually mature man to model leadership skills by leading prayer during worship. Sometimes, these kinds of situations aren’t about women’s roles, but men’s needs.

4. Should women be worship leaders (lead the congregational music)?

(Let me just take a moment to say that my husband has been a minister of music for about thirty years, so I do have some experience in this area.)

No, women should not serve as the worship leader. The primary reason I say this has more to do with the position of minister of music – a term I think we need to get back to – than the role of women in the church.

Overseeing the music ministry of the church, selecting music for worship and the teaching of biblical truths, being in charge of half of the worship service, and leading the congregation in worship is not some inconsequential thing that can be shuffled off to any Tom, Dick, or Harry who happens to have a nice voice. It is a pastoral role. As the pastor shepherds the congregation through the exhortation of the preached Word, the minister of music shepherds the congregation through the worship, praise, declaration, and imploring of the words we sing. Preaching is when God speaks to us. Singing is when we speak to God. And we need a pastor to teach and lead us to do that biblically.

By biblical definition, women are not to be pastors or hold that kind of functional authority over men in the church. Therefore, women should not hold the position of minister of music or “worship leader” (singing in the choir or on the praise team, singing solos, playing an instrument, etc., under the leadership of the minister of music, is, of course, fine). By the same token, men who do not meet the biblical qualifications of pastor or elder should also not hold the position of minister of music. Placing biblically unqualified people in pastoral positions is not only disobedient to Scripture, it exposes the church’s low view of, and lack of reverence for the lofty act of worship.


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.