Basic Training: The Bible Is Sufficient

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For more in the Basic Training series, click here.

God said to me…/I heard God say…

Listen for God’s voice…

God spoke to me in a dream…

God gave me a vision of…

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

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

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

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Additional Resources

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

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Throwback Thursday ~ The Stench of a Sweet Aroma

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Originally published November 15, 2010

It seems like I’ve been cutting up a lot of onions lately. Fajitas. Chili. Homemade soups. People have been cooking with onions since the days of Israel’s captivity in Egypt, and probably even earlier than that. You’ve really got to wonder about the first person to pick up an onion, slice into it, be overwhelmed by noxious fumes, and say, “Oh yeah. We’ve got to put that thing in the stew. That’s just what it needs!”

But, lately, my walk with the Lord has been a lot like an onion. He keeps peeling back layer after layer of my heart. And the more he does that, the more my sin stinks. And the more I realize I stink, the more it stings me. And the more it stings me, the more I weep.

But God has promised that, when I give Him those sins, He will take them away and “cast [them] into the depths of the sea” (Micah 7:19), and the sting will be gone. Just like when I drop those onions into my pot of soup. No more tears, no more stink. I wash my hands thoroughly, and I’m clean (Psalm 51:2). It’s over.

Or is it?

Why did I cut up that onion in the first place? After all, I could have just left it sitting in the fridge. There wouldn’t have been any pain or tears.

But my soup would have been weak and lacking the robust flavor it could have had.

No good comes from an onion that’s been left in the refrigerator. It’s only when I cut up the onion and put it into the soup that anything good can come out of it. As it cooks, the onion’s awful fumes are transformed into a full and savory flavor that completes the taste of the soup.

And that’s why I keep coming back to God and asking Him to reveal my sin to me. It’s a painful and teary experience, but when He takes my sin, forgives me, and deals with me, only good can come of it. What “cooks out” of my sin might be a lesson learned, compassion for others strugging with the same sin, and the wisdom to help them, humility, or more dependence on God.

Dealing with my sin with the Lord makes me stronger in Him, and that’s mmm, mmm, good.

Ruth: Lesson 1

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Welcome to our new study of Ruth! There are so many captivating facets to the book of Ruth: it’s a snippet of Old Testament history, a beautiful romance, a demonstration of God’s love and value of women, a foreshadowing of Christ- our Redeemer. Over the next several weeks, we’ll be taking a look at all these treasures – and more – that God has for us to discover through Ruth’s story.

Let’s get started!

Introduction to the book of Ruth:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bible Introductions: Ruth at Grace to You

Overview of the Book of Ruth at Reformed Answers

Book of Ruth at Got Questions

1. Who wrote the book of Ruth? Does the fact that we don’t definitively know the author’s name mean we can’t trust the biblicality of this book?

2. What is the approximate date Ruth was written? During what period of Israel’s history (kings, exile, judges, antediluvian, etc.) was Ruth written?

3. Considering the period of Israel’s history during which Ruth was written, who do you think is the intended audience of the book of Ruth? Why?

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

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

6. Who are the main characters in the book of Ruth?

7. Where do the events in the book of Ruth take place? (Sometimes, a good Bible map like this one or this one can be helpful.)

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

New E-Mail, Messages, and Blog Comments Policy

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I’ve got mail. Lots of mail. Which is awesome. I love hearing from readers and I love responding back. But if you’ve been following me for any length of time or if you’ve sent me an e-mail, social media private message, or blog comment requiring a teaching response from me, you know that finding the time to respond is a struggle for me.

I don’t discuss this frequently (because you’re here for content that will point you to God’s word and edify you in your walk, not to hear about me), but I do my best to keep my life priorities in a biblical order:

1. My personal relationship with Christ
2. Serving and ministering to my husband
3. Serving and ministering to my children
4. Being a faithful, active member of my church
5. Spending time with friends and loved ones
6. Everything else

I think the rightful place for any online ministry I do (blogging and responding to readers) is at #6, or sometimes further down the list if I feel like there’s something more urgent God wants me to attend to at the moment. God has blessed me with a husband and children, and my primary job is to minister to them.

This is the framework I try to work from every morning when I get up and begin to order my day. But, like Paul said, I know the right thing to do, I just don’t always do it. I was talking to my husband about this the other day, and I realized I’ve been blowing it lately. I’ve sinned against my family by not giving them the time they need from me. And that has to stop.

And one of the ways that’s going to stop is that I’m going to cut way back on responding to e-mails, private messages, and blog comments- probably by about 90%. I love y’all and I want to help each and every person who writes to me, but the amount of mail I get is just too overwhelming for me to be able to do that any more.

However, I do want you to get the answers, information, and help you need, so I’m hoping these pointers will help:

Keep sending me mail. A lot of the stand-alone articles I write are in response to readers’ needs and questions, as well as trends I see in the church and evangelicalism. Even though I probably won’t be able to respond, help me stay aware of things like this by dropping me a quick note (evidentiary links to reputable sources are always helpful) and continuing to ask questions.

The Mailbag– I run a weekly (Mondays) feature on the blog called The Mailbag, the sole purpose of which is to answer readers’ questions. Keep an eye out to see if the question you’ve sent in has been answered. (As always, your anonymity will be protected.)

Click the hyperlinks. If you’re reading an article and see a word in red that’s underlined when you hover over it, clicking on it will take you to another article or resource that will provide you with more information.

Use the search bar. I get lots of questions that could easily be answered by using the search bar and reading the article(s) I’ve already written on the subject.

Use the tabs at the top of the blog. I’m often asked about teachers whose names appear under either the “Popular False Teachers” tab or the “Recommended Bible Teachers” tab. You’ll also find my statement of faith and answers to other commonly asked questions.

Read the Welcome- Start Here tab. I don’t publish every blog comment or respond to every message. Here’s why, as well as other information I’m often asked about.

Information on false teachers Again, first use the tabs at the top of the page and the search bar. If you don’t find the person you’re looking for, please ask me. If I get enough inquiries about a particular teacher, ministry, etc., I’ll look into it and put the information in an article. If you need an immediate answer, please click here. These are the guidelines I use when researching teachers. I hope they’ll be helpful to you as you do your research.

Objecting to my warnings against false teachers While I understand how disconcerting it can be to see a warning against a celebrity Bible teacher you happen to love, please don’t waste your time commenting (it won’t be published), messaging, or e-mailing me to lambaste me for doing so. Your objection is not unique, clever, or biblical, and it answered in this article: Answering the Opposition: Responses to the Most Frequently Raised Discernment Objections. Additionally, please don’t attempt to manipulate or guilt me out of writing discernment articles by hand-wringingly telling me how sad, grieved, devastated, depressed, etc., you are to have discovered my blog.

Ask your pastor Or your Sunday School teacher, a trusted, godly friend, etc. Sometimes I receive questions about what to do in a catastrophic life circumstance, major situations at church, and so on. As much as I wish I could help with these things, I’m not equipped to do so via e-mail from thousands of miles away. These are situations in which you need to set up an appointment with your pastor for counseling, talk to one of your elders, or ask a godly friend to help you through. (Sometimes a certified biblical counselor is also an option.) This is just one of the dozens of reasons why it’s crucial to join and be an active member of a doctrinally sound local church. Your pastor, elders, and brothers and sisters in Christ in your church are there to help you.

If you need fellowship I often hear from ladies who say it’s hard to find Christian friends, or discerning friends, to talk to. I totally get that. It’s hard for me, too. The primary solution to that dilemma is to find the most doctrinally sound church you can, get involved, and go about the business of proactively investing in friendships. Have lunch. Go out for coffee. Find another lady to study the Bible or a good book with. Have another couple over for supper. Don’t expect pre-fab friends, make them. Secondarily, there are many excellent Facebook groups where you can discuss theology, personal issues, and make online friends. Here, here, here, and here are a few I’m familiar with.

I’m sorry I won’t be able to correspond as much from here on out, but please know you have my, and my family’s, thanks for understanding.

The Mailbag: Which Bible Do You Recommend?

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I was saved out of Mormonism but, as a new Christian, spent some time in the Word of Faith movement. I want a Bible that hasn’t been tampered with by a false religion, but I’m not sure which one I can trust. Which Bible do you recommend?

What a blessing it is to even be able to ask this question! You would not ask this question if God had not graciously saved you, and you could not ask this question if there weren’t a ton of different Bibles available in English, nor if you lived in a country where it is illegal to own a copy of God’s word. It’s a dilemma, but it’s a good dilemma to have.

The good news is that there are many fantastic Bibles out there- far more good ones than bad, and far more than I could recommend in this brief article. So, please don’t take this as an exhaustive list or think that because I’ve left a certain Bible out that it isn’t any good.

The first thing you want to look for is a good translation, not a paraphrase. You want to know what God said through Paul, not what somebody 2000 years later thinks about what God said through Paul. You’re looking to get as close to the original wording as is possible.

There are several great English translations on the market. I started using the English Standard Version (ESV) about four years ago, and I love it. Prior to that I used the New American Standard Bible (NASB) for about 20 years. It is also an excellent translation. If you’re familiar with various Bible translations, ESV is, in my opinion, like a more accurate, more linguistically sophisticated New International Version (NIV). NASB is like a cross between the King James Version (KJV) and the NIV, but more accurate. In my opinion, ESV and NASB are the two best translations out there today.

There are, however, several other solid translations such as the New King James Version (NKJV), the Lexham English Bible (LEB), the Christian Standard Bible (CSB– This is a newly revised version of the Holman Christian Standard Bible {HCSB}, and they’re dropping the “Holman”. So HCSB and CSB – whichever one you happen to see – are the same thing.), and the “old” NIV (Sometimes you’ll see “the 1984 NIV.” You want to stay away from the TNIV {Today’s New International Version} as that one is gender neutral.)

The KJV is a good translation and the language is beautiful, but if you have trouble with 1611 English, it’s not the only game in town anymore. Some of our modern translations are actually more accurate than the KJV because thousands more biblical manuscripts have been discovered since it was first published, allowing translators to be more precise.

Below is a helpful chart from Brent MacDonald of Not Just Another Book comparing a number of different translations and paraphrases. (On this chart, it’s good to be a “leftist”).

bibletranslationcomparisonsmall

You can try most of these translations out for free at Bible GatewayThere’s even a great feature that allows you to compare several versions side by side:

biblegateway-compare-translations

Just as there are a number of good Bible versions I would recommend, there are a few I’m familiar with which I would strongly recommend againstThe Message, The Voice, The Passion Translation, and The Amplified Bible.

peterson-shackMore than a few articles have voiced concerns over The Message’s – a paraphrase – often misleading texts. (I would add that Eugene Peterson {author of The Message} frequently shows poor discernment. One recent example is his front cover endorsement of the heresy-laden book – and movie – The Shack.)

The Voice is not only a paraphrase, its contributors include female “pastors” and false teachers such as Brian McLaren, Phyllis Tickle, Chris Seay, and Leonard Sweet.

The Passion Translation is a New Apostolic Reformation version of the Bible which actually changes the wording of many verses in order to fit the NAR agenda.

The Amplified Bible falls prey to an improper translation technique called illegitimate totality transfer.

If you’re looking for a good study Bible (or want to avoid a bad one), I’ve discussed that a bit here (#4). I frequently use and highly recommend both the ESV MacArthur Study Bible and the Faithlife Study Bible (which is FREE!). When shopping for a study Bible, do you homework and vet the contributors. Avoid any study Bibles whose contributors are false teachers, theologians from apostate churches, female “pastors,” etc.


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.

40 Things to Give Up for Lent

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Although, as a Louisiana girl, I’ve had a decades long love affair with king cake, and I totally support the increased availability of fish entrées at local restaurants and getting a few days off school or work, I’m not a big fan of Mardi Gras and Lent.

The intrinsic philosophy behind Mardi Gras – a day of revelry, indulgence, and debauchery to get it all out of your system before you have to start “being good” for Lent – is patently unbiblical.

The practice of Lent often is, as well. Lent is the forty day period, beginning with Ash Wednesday and ending with Easter Sunday, observed by Catholics and some Protestants. Originally, it was simply a time of fasting, prayer, and worship in anticipation of Easter, and for Christians who continue to observe it this way, it can be a valuable and meaningful time of respite and renewal with the Lord.

For many, however, Lent – particularly the aspect of giving something up for Lent in an act of self-denial – is nothing more than an empty religious ritual, or worse, works righteousness. Giving something up for Lent because, “I’m Catholic and that’s what good Catholics do,” or to atone for your sins, or to curry favor with God, or to flaunt your self-righteousness flies in the face of grace alone, faith alone, Christ alone biblical Christianity.

If you give something up for Lent, why do you do so? If it’s for one of the aforementioned unbiblical reasons (or others), or even if you don’t observe Lent at all, I’d like to challenge us all to give up the things below for Lent:

1. Give up Lent for Lent.

2. Give up attending any church that requires the observance of Lent in a sacramental way and find a doctrinally sound one.

3. Give up thinking your good behavior earns you right standing with God.

4. Give up the idea that there’s any such thing as truly good behavior.

5. Give up thinking your good deeds could ever outweigh your sins.

6. Give up willfully indulging in sin as long as you “make up for it” later.

7. Give up the notion that penance or self-denial can pay for your sins.

8. Give up thinking that penance or self-denial curries favor with God.

9. Give up the idea that repentance and obedience belong to a certain season on the calendar. We are to walk in repentance every day.

10. Give up the concept that Christmas and Easter are Christian “high holy days.” We celebrate Christ’s incarnation and resurrection every Sunday, and should prepare ourselves all during the week. Every Sunday is a high holy day for the Christian.

11. Give up rote participation in church rituals. Search the Scriptures and see if they’re biblical first.

12. Give up thinking God concerns Himself strictly with your external behavior rather than the condition of your heart.

13. Give up “sounding a trumpet before you” with humblebrags on social media and in real life about giving things up for Lent, fasting, giving offerings, or any other good works you might do. You just lost your reward, baby.

14. Give up approaching church attendance as punching the time clock for God. The Christian’s entire life, our very beings, belong to Christ, not just a couple of hours on Sunday.

15. Give up the delusion that you’re basically a good person. You’re not.

16. Give up biblical ignorance and become a good student of God’s word.

17. Give up forsaking the assembly and become a faithful, serving member of your local church.

18. Give up thinking that everyone and everything that calls itself “Christian” actually is.

19. Give up the desire to have your itching ears scratched and long for the truth of God’s word. Even when it’s hard to hear.

20. Give up neglecting the daily study of God’s word.

21. Give up rejecting parts of the Bible you don’t agree with. We don’t sit in judgment over Scripture. Scripture sits in judgment over us.

22. Give up neglecting your prayer life.

23. Give up making excuses for failing to memorize Scripture. You can do it!

24. Give up being a non-serving member of your church.

25. Give up being a non-giving member of your church.

26. Give up thinking you’re hearing God speak to you. If you want to hear God speak to you, open your Bible and study it. God has spoken in His word and many are largely ignoring what He has already said.

27. Give up following false teachers and be a good Berean.

28. Give up being afraid to share the gospel and just do it.

29. Give up thinking you can please God apart from faith in Christ.

30. Give up basing your doctrine and beliefs on your own (or anyone else’s) opinions, experiences, and feelings, and base them on correctly handled Scripture instead.

31. Give up following your wicked and deceitful heart, take up your cross daily, and follow Christ.

32. Give up thinking you have to do big things for God in order for Him to be pleased with you and “aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands.”

33. Give up worrying and trust God.

34. Give up neglecting to fear God’s wrath if you don’t know Christ.

35. Give up fearing God’s wrath if you do know Christ.

36. Give up the idea that “God is love” means God is a pushover who won’t judge you.

37. Give up thinking you’ve been so bad that God could never forgive you.

38. Give up thinking you’re so good that you don’t need God to forgive you.

39. Give up refusing to forgive others when Christ has forgiven you so much.

40. Give up everything and be saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, and walk in His ways, all the days of your life, to the glory of God alone.

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Throwback Thursday ~ When Animals Attack

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Originally published December 15, 2010animals-attack

Dear Mom and Dad-

Thank you for not getting me a pet monkey when I was a kid, even though I begged and begged for one.

Love,
Michelle

Lately, and I’m not sure why, I have become fascinated with a television show on the Animal Planet channel called Fatal Attractions. It’s all about people who keep dangerous exotic animals as pets. Usually, the pet owner ends up dead by the end of the show, hence the title. It’s not a program for the faint of heart.

People keep the strangest animals – venomous snakes, giant lizards, bears, and, yes, even apes – despite the fact that they are known to be dangerous. Now, if you grew up in the ’70s and ’80s like I did, you might remember that there was a spate of movies and TV shows at some point back then – B.J. and the Bear, Cannonball Run II, etc. – that featured cute little chimpanzees and their human companions. So, you might be thinking what I was thinking the other day when an episode of Fatal Attractions focusing on pet chimpanzees came on: “How could those adorable little animals be dangerous?”. They wear hats and overalls, give hugs and kisses, and even communicate in a rudimentary way. My parents told me the reason I couldn’t have one was that they carried germs and that they would stink up the house.

Well, apparently, chimps are much more sinister than smelly. Even when people have taken them in as babies and raised them as their own children, many chimps, upon reaching adolescence, have turned violent and attacked their owners or others.

Moreover, the way they attack is particularly gruesome. Snakes will bite whichever of your body parts is closest. Bears flail their paws around indiscriminately, mauling whatever is in their pathway. Chimpanzees, however, attack systematically. They focus specifically on severing small appendages (ears, eyes, nose, lips, fingers, toes, and genitals) first, before moving on to a more “macro” assault on their victims.

Interestingly, most of the story lines on Fatal Attractions follow the same pattern. The pet owner is somewhat reclusive and secretive about owning the animal – in many cases, because the species is illegal to own or has been illegally obtained. Some owners have even refrained from calling 911 when attacked out of fear that the animal will be confiscated.

Additionally, the fatal attack usually comes after months or years of much smaller assaults. A nip here, a show of aggression there. Those closest to the pet owner warn him repeatedly that the animal is dangerous, but he refuses to listen, thinking that the small attacks will be the extent of the animal’s aggression. He believes he has control over the animal and that the animal respects, loves, and trusts him enough not to hurt him.

And, on this show, he always turns out to be wrong.

When it comes to sin, are we any different than these pet owners? First Peter 5:8 says:

Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

At first, sin looks more like a cute, cuddly lion cub. It’s small. It seems harmless enough. We have control over the situation. And besides, who could resist a little nuzzle with something so adorable?

We keep the cub a secret because we know we’re not supposed to have it, or maybe because others just wouldn’t understand how it’s really OK to keep it, despite all the evidence to the contrary.

Time goes by. The cub gets bigger. It’s not so cute anymore, but we still love it and can’t let it go. We ignore the warnings that lions are dangerous. It begins to show signs of aggression from time to time, but we still think we’re in control. And then, eventually, comes the final attack.

The extent of the damage depends on one thing, and one thing only – whether or not we have a saving relationship with Jesus Christ.

Just like the victims who refused to call 911 out of fear that their animals would be confiscated, a person who has never turned away from his sin and cried out to Jesus to be saved from it will die a horrible death. His physical death may look peaceful, but it’s in the afterlife of Hell that Satan will devour him for eternity.

The person who is saved won’t die that eternal death in hell, but he will bear the scars of his sin in this life. Maybe he’ll just lose a finger; maybe he’ll be horribly mutilated. His ministry might be destroyed, or maybe his marriage, his business, his reputation, or a friendship.

You see, on the episode of Fatal Attractions dealing with chimps, the victim didn’t die. The chimp tore off his nose, lips, ears, and fingers, and gouged out one of his eyes, in addition to doing other damage. The man is still alive, but he will be horribly disfigured for the rest of his life. He can still function and have a purposeful life, but he will never be able to get back what he lost.

And so it is when we cuddle up with sin and it eventually turns on us. When we repent, God is faithful and just to forgive us and cleanse us, but the scars remain for the rest of our lives. He can certainly still use us, but we can never get back what we’ve lost.

What to do?

But resist [Satan], firm in your faith, 1 Peter 5:9a

Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.
James 4:7

Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. 2 Timothy 2:22

Run. Run for your life.

The Ten: Lesson 13

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Previous Lessons: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

Exodus 20:18-20

Now when all the people saw the thunder and the flashes of lightning and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking, the people were afraid and trembled, and they stood far off 19 and said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, lest we die.” 20 Moses said to the people, “Do not fear, for God has come to test you, that the fear of him may be before you, that you may not sin.”

Exodus 24:3-8

Moses came and told the people all the words of the Lord and all the rules. And all the people answered with one voice and said, “All the words that the Lord has spoken we will do.” And Moses wrote down all the words of the Lord. He rose early in the morning and built an altar at the foot of the mountain, and twelve pillars, according to the twelve tribes of Israel. And he sent young men of the people of Israel, who offered burnt offerings and sacrificed peace offerings of oxen to the Lord. And Moses took half of the blood and put it in basins, and half of the blood he threw against the altar. Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read it in the hearing of the people. And they said, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient.” And Moses took the blood and threw it on the people and said, “Behold the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words.”


Romans 3:19-20

Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.

Romans 7:1-12

Or do you not know, brothers—for I am speaking to those who know the law—that the law is binding on a person only as long as he lives? For a married woman is bound by law to her husband while he lives, but if her husband dies she is released from the law of marriage. Accordingly, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is alive. But if her husband dies, she is free from that law, and if she marries another man she is not an adulteress.

Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God.For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.

What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead. I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died. 10 The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. 11 For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. 12 So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.

Galatians 3:23-26

Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. 24 So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.


Romans 13:8-10

Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

1 John 5:2-3

By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.


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. In Exodus 20:18-19, how did the Israelites react to God’s appearance to Moses? What was Moses’ response to them? (20) What did Moses say would be two results of God testing the people? (20) How many times does the word “fear” appear in verse 20? What is the difference in meaning between the first “fear” and the second one?

2. Briefly skim Exodus 20:21-23:33. In addition to the Ten Commandments, what are some of the other laws, or categories of laws, God gave Moses? In the Exodus 24 passage above, what was the people’s response to hearing all of these laws? (3) Describe the sequence of events taking place in Exodus 24:3-8. Why did the people respond twice? (3,7) Was there any difference between these two responses? Compare the people’s response in this passage with their response in Exodus 19:5-8. What events transpired between the response in chapter 19 and the response in chapter 24?

3. In Exodus 24:6,8, why did Moses sprinkle the altar and the people with blood? How did this formalize Israel’s agreement to the Mosaic covenant? How does the Mosaic covenant point ahead to the new covenant in Christ? Are Christians still bound by the Mosaic covenant?

4. In what ways did the giving of the law and Israel’s agreement to the Mosaic covenant help officially establish Israel as a nation and set Israel apart from the surrounding pagan nations?

5. Examine the Romans 3 and 7 passages. What does it mean that the law makes us “accountable” to God? (3:19) Why can’t we be made righteous in God’s eyes by simply striving to keep His laws? (3:20) Read Romans 3:20 and 7:7-8 together. What do these verses tell us about the connection between knowing the law and sin?

6. Explain the analogy of dying to works of the law that Paul is trying to convey in Romans 7:1-6. Compare verse 6 to Galatians 3:23-26. What does Galatians say was the purpose of the law, and what is our obligation to it now? What does the latter part of verse 6 – “we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code” – mean? Does this mean we no longer have to obey God’s moral laws such as the ones in the 10 Commandments? (12)

7. Study the Romans 13 and 1 John 5 passages. What is the theme of these two passages? What does Paul mean when he says, “the one who loves another has fulfilled the law”? (13:8) Who are the two parties we demonstrate love for when we keep God’s commands? How does loving God and keeping His commands automatically translate into loving others? (5:2) How does loving God and our neighbors, thus keeping God’s commands, demonstrate to others that we belong to Christ?


Homework:

This week, view your sin or obedience through the lenses of love. Examine the sins you commit. How do they demonstrate your failure to love God and love your neighbor? Examine instances of your obedience to God’s commandments and think about how they demonstrate your love for Him and for your neighbor. As you pray, ask God to increase your love for Him. Increased love leads to increased obedience.

Discernment Resources Potpourri

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There are scads of fantastic discernment resources out there. Here are a few good ones that have come across my desk in the past few weeks…

 

deadlydoctrine-01Tim Challies is running a really good series right now called Deadly Doctrines. “In a new series of articles, we will consider false doctrine, sound doctrine, and how to train ourselves to distinguish between them. We will see how God calls us to respond to false and sound doctrine, as well as false and sound teachers.”

 

download-1Here’s Sinclair Ferguson over at Ligonier with What is Discernment? “We are on our guard against being led astray by false teachers. But there is more to discernment than this. True discernment means not only distinguishing the right from the wrong; it means distinguishing the primary from the secondary, the essential from the indifferent, and the permanent from the transient. And, yes, it means distinguishing between the good and the better, and even between the better and the best.”

 

downloadThe Doctrine Matters blog chimes in with these ten helpful Discernment Rules. “The only way discernment can be a sustainable practice is to first know what what the Bible teaches. The very meaning of the word discernment (to judge/decide accurately) requires that the standard against which everything is being compared is clearly understood. Knowing the truth only comes by way of a continuous commitment to the prayerful study of Scripture.”

 

And, of course, Pastor Gabriel Hughes of When We Understand the Truth is always there with his awesome WWUTT teaching videos. Here’s What is Discernment?

 

And here is Essential Doctrines?:

 

Below is a screen shot from the the Essential Doctrines video that might be helpful to print out and keep in your Bible or use when you teach a Bible study. Each letter in the word “DOCTRINES” stands for a primary area of biblical doctrine. Any teaching that conflicts with what the Bible says on any of these points is heresy:

c2eurnduoaa18km(Note: “Eschatology” here does not mean a specific flavor of end times theology such as pre-trib, post-millennial, etc. It refers to the foundational, general doctrine that Christ will come again in final judgment and to claim His bride, the church.)

 

Hope y’all find these as helpful as I did!

The Mailbag: Is It OK for Christian Women to Wear Bikinis?

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Summer is just around the corner, so a lot of women will soon be shopping for swimwear. With regard to modesty- do you think it’s OK for Christian women to wear bikinis?

I’m trying to remember back to the days when I might have actually considered – without doubling over in laughter – wearing a bikini. It was a really long time ago. Young, svelte sisters, if I may bring you a bit of comfort- you won’t have to grapple with this question for the rest of your life. As your other older sisters and I can attest, one day, age-appropriateness, your figure, sun exposure, and the desire not to frighten people will make this decision for you long before you have to consider modesty as part of the equation. It’s one of the blessings of getting older.

Just to make sure we’re all on the same page here, let’s quickly define our terms. When I say “bikini,” I’m talking about the fabric equivalent of a bra and panties, not swimwear that covers a lot more yet comes in two pieces.

bikini-377488_1280women_in_bathing_suits_on_collaroy_beach_1908_photographed_by_colin_caird
     bikini                           not bikinis

Generally speaking, I don’t think bikinis are wise in public unless you’re wearing a shirt or some kind of cover up over it. I’m reluctant to make a hard and fast law about it, though, because, as I’m sure you’re aware, the Bible doesn’t say “Thou shalt not wear a bikini.” (My husband would like to chime in here and says, “However, if you and your husband have a private place for just the two of you to swim or sunbathe, go for it!” You’re welcome, guys.)

As with various other issues, the Bible gives us a general principle (in this case about dressing modestly) and we work out our own salvation in our own cultural context according to all pertinent biblical principles and our own consciences. A law is a fast and easy “yes” or “no” answer to our question- which is often what our flesh wants, because our flesh is lazy. But what God wants Christians to do is study His word about the issue, pray, and ask Him for wisdom to make a godly decision. When we work through this process, it helps us to develop a greater desire to be conformed to the image of Christ and to be obedient to Him. Let’s take a look at just one passage of Scripture that could be helpful in this regard:

3Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
Philippians 2:3-8 

So, at first glance, you might wonder, “What in the world does this passage have to do with wearing a bikini?” It doesn’t have anything to do with the bikini itself, it zeros in on your heart (Why do you want to wear a bikini?) and your sanctification (Will wearing a bikini make me more Christlike?).

Verse 3a:
Examine your heart- could your motive for wearing a bikini be classified as selfish ambition or vain conceit? Is it possible you want to show your body off to men to appear desirable, or to women to make them jealous?

Verse 3b-4:
Is this a situation in which you should humble yourself and put the interests of those men who might be tempted to lust or those women who might be tempted to covet ahead of your own desire to appear attractive?

Verse 5:
Do you truly desire to have the same mindset as Christ- about this issue and all others?

Verse 6-8:
How did Jesus approach life, according to these verses? He set aside His own rights and privileges (6), He took on the role of a servant (7), He humbled Himself and was obedient to the point of death (8).

When it comes to wearing a bikini, are you willing to have the same mindset as Christ? To set aside your own rights and privileges, be a servant to others, humble yourself, and obey Christ even to the point of death?

These are not questions God wants me to answer for you. These are questions He wants you to come to Him and answer, because He wants your heart. And He wants you to examine your heart and see if it belongs to Him in this area.


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.