Learn to Discern

Before We Can Learn to Discern

Isn’t it hard these days to keep with the plethora of false teachers and the deluge of false teaching that are flowing into the church?? It used to be fairly subtle but now it’s an all-out war on biblical, historical Christianity. Personally, I find it incredibly discouraging. Never in a million years did I see this coming.

Last year I wrote a series on how we can learn to discern (you can find it here). I am placing this post at the beginning of that series because it provides a critical step we need to take in our efforts to discern.

People will sometimes ask me about a specific teacher and I am happy to do a little research and see what I can find out. It usually isn’t too hard to figure out if you know what you are looking for.

So how can we know what to look for? Who am I to tell you? Who is anybody to tell you?

See, this has become a very real issue in this world of strong opinions. On what opinion do you stand? And why do you stand there?

There’s really only one way to know and that is through complete and utter reliance on the Word of God and what it teaches. Before we can learn to discern–and as we are learning to discern–we must spend consistent, daily time in the Word, approaching it with humble submission and a spirit of obedience.

When we do this and when we take the Bible at face-value (literally) from beginning to end we will find it makes so much sense. Especially in light of what we are experiencing these days.

The Bible predicts a one-world religion. We are watching all religions–including Christianity–being funneled into a global religion even as I write this. This shouldn’t surprise us. God told us it would happen. (Revelation 17:1-18). This understanding gives us a framework, doesn’t it? Whether it happens tomorrow or in a hundred years, we understand Satan’s game plan. We know what he is working towards. (GodQuestions.org has a good (and brief) article on this here.)

We also find out in our Bibles that justification is by faith in Christ alone (Romans 10:9-10 and many, many other places). This means that any religion–no matter how “Christian” it sounds–is a false religion if it requires any works as part of salvation. We know that any religion is false if it takes the focus off of the finished work of Christ on the cross.

We find out in God’s Word that He condemns drunkenness, sorcery, homosexuality, rebellion, impurity, dissensions, fits of anger, impurity, obscene language (Galatians 5:19-21; Colossians 3:5-9). Knowing this helps us intelligently discern in the world of entertainment and in living our daily lives. We not only know that entertainment that incorporates these things should not be regular part of the Christian’s life, but we also know that anyone or any organization that promotes these things is not the real deal. I’m not judging motive or eternal destiny here. People get confused. I am no judge. But what we can know is that they are off biblically and we shouldn’t follow them.

So these are three examples from the Word to show how it helps us to discern. You see, it is hard for me or anybody to keep up with all the false teachers that are out there. But if we are studying our Bibles with the right heart, we will be amazed at how God will open our eyes to what is going on. We will become more aware the more we study the Bible.

So what about the people who seem to study the Bible all the time and don’t discern at all? This has been a conundrum I have faced for a long time. How does that work?

There are so many things that can keep us from really seeing the truths of scripture, no matter how much we read it–

1. A proud heart. Many people approach the Word with their preconceived ideas of what they want it to say, what they wish it would say, what they think it should say. God will not give insight to the person who studies the Bible with preconceived notions. We have to humble ourselves and yield ourselves to Him and His message. (How arrogant of us to think we know better than He does? But we can all fall into this trap.)

2. A fearful heart. I believe another very real issue is that the ramifications of really believing what the Bible teaches is frightening. The way is narrow? My husband…daughter…mom & dad…are not saved and that means…? It is not a pleasant message. (But, as we all know, pleasantness is irrelevant when it comes to truth. Many people face the Bible’s message in a very different way than they would ever face an unpleasant medical diagnosis. Can you imagine ignoring a deadly disease and pretending it’s just not there??)

3. A heart that loves sin. This is probably the biggest thing that hinders believers in their biblical discernment. We Christians love our sin. And reading the Bible with a heart to obey means we are willing to give up our sin. But many are just not willing to do this. Whether it’s sexual immorality, sorcery, occasional drunkenness, ungodly entertainment, an unforgiving heart–whatever it may be–many of us hold on to these things for dear life, believing (mistakenly) that we can’t possibly be happy without them.

Do you have any of these attitudes as you approach the scripture? I know I certainly have had them and still do at times. This isn’t a black and white issue. We must be constantly checking our heart as we go before the Lord each day. We must be examining ourselves (2 Corinthians 13:5) on a regular basis to make sure our hearts aren’t becoming hardened.

Recognizing that scripture is our final authority and our only legitimate way to know who God is and what His plan is for mankind will be the first healthy step in learning to discern. As we get ourselves into the Word with a humble heart willing to turn away from sin, we will be surprised at how aware we become of all that God is ready and willing and wants to teach us as we study His Word consistently.

 

The Untouchables

A few months ago I posted something negative about a man that was much beloved by the Christian world. What I posted was based on his documented actions of unity with a false religion and his recorded words on video where he said he does not believe Jesus is the only way. But because this man was so beloved, I was greatly attacked on both social media and personally. In fact, I lost both readers and perhaps even a few friends over this.

This has happened to me before with a few other men and women that I have spoken up about and I have come to realize that there are certain people one must never talk about if one does not want to be maligned, gossiped about, and openly attacked. I have deemed these the “untouchables”.

They have become such a part of the fabric of Christianity that even solid believers are unwilling to take a hard look at their actions and words–even if they conflict with scripture.

So who are these “untouchables”? There are a few similarities I have noticed among them–

1. They generally begin their ministries in a biblically solid way. While they may not hold to orthodox beliefs, their initial books and teachings will hold few things that conflict with the traditional interpretation of scripture.

2. They generally have friends in high places. Not only are they trusted by the masses, but they are trusted (and lauded and praised) by men and women that we trust.

3. They generally do and encourage a lot of good things. They promote the things that almost all people have a heart for: Helping others; Loving Jesus; Loving others; Unity.

4. They generally do not accept the biblical account of creation or at least leave the door open for evolution.

5. There is always a gradual and subtle creep away from what scripture teaches. This is slow and sure. It will always happen.

So what does it matter? If they’ve done a lot of good, why not leave them alone?

I would ask this: Can it possibly be God’s definition of “good” if the teacher is leading his followers off of the narrow way and on to the broad way?

Can someone’s good outweigh the bad when it comes to the health and destiny of people’s souls?

We are a culture that is obsessed with following people. Movie stars. Athletes. Musicians. And, yes, even pastors and Bible teachers. This blind obsession often leads to an unbiblical loyalty and trust that reassures us that we can stop discerning.

I saw a quote by Mike Gendron the other day that sums up why this is so dangerous–

One of the most troubling problems within the church today is the unwavering loyalty to a “Christian” personality rather than to Christ and His Word. The unwillingness to test every man’s teaching with God’s Word, coupled with a stubborn lack of discernment, produces fertile ground for deception to flourish.

And that is exactly what we have these days–a fertile ground for deception to flourish because of unwavering loyalty combined with a stubborn lack of discernment.

Look, I am not so naive to think that I can change the world with a blog post. This is the Christian world we live in and my blog post isn’t going to change anything. But here’s what I hope to do this morning–

I hope to encourage you (and myself, too) to not let any man or woman become an “untouchable” in our lives. Everyone we read or listen to should be held to the authority of scripture. And when someone says something negative about someone we dearly admire and trust, then we should be willing to take an honest look at what they are saying and compare it to scripture (rather than attacking the messenger, as is so often the case). We must be careful to let no man or woman receive a pass on teaching what is right and true simply because we like them or because discernment happens to be dreadfully unpopular.

I know it’s a discouraging, time-consuming, and exhausting task to hold teachers and preachers and authors up to the light of God’s Word. We are living in an age where deception is flourishing and discernment is viewed as sinful. It’s not fun to be in this camp. But it is not only necessary if we want to stay on the straight and narrow, it is what we are commanded to do as believers.

I leave you with this verse (I Thessalonians 5:21)–

Test all things; hold fast what is good.

 

Learn to Discern: What is the Best Way to Share What I Am Learning?

If you have been learning to discern, you are learning some pretty important things. You are learning to look below the surface of the appealing messages that mainstream Christianity promotes to see the anti-biblical messages that are really being taught. You are learning to compare all you hear, read, and see to what the Bible says. And you are learning that not everyone who claims Christ is a true believer and that just because it is labeled “Christian” does not necessarily mean it is representing Christ. In fact, many speakers and authors are downright false teachers, coming as “angels of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14) to trick and deceive God’s people.

So now what? Do we share what we are learning with others? Or do we just stay quiet?

I think it is clear in scripture that our job is to share the truth with others (Ephesians 4:14-15; Jude 3-4). This includes telling others about the love and grace of Jesus, as well as the not-so-popular topics of God’s wrath, sin, and hell. And, yes, it also includes warning others of false teachers (Ephesians 5:11; Romans 16:17-18).

Recently, several of you have asked me just how you go about doing this. Do we wait for God to open a door or do we barge right through and speak up, even when we aren’t asked? These are hard questions to answer, as each situation is so different. But I hope that this post will give you some helpful principles and insight as you start seeking to share the truths you are learning with others. Keep in mind that our conversations about discernment should stay focused on God’s Word and be done with a humble heart.

Principles for a Public Setting

First, let’s take a look at the two different settings of Public vs. Private. How we bring up touchy topics in a private setting is going to be very different than how we do so in a public setting. Let’s look at a few principles for a public platform when someone is praising a false teacher. How do you know if you should say something and, if you do feel compelled to do so, what is the best way to do so?

1. Gravely consider your responsibility in the situation. Are you the teacher or leader of a Bible Study, a teacher or leader in a church, or a leader in an organization? In other words, are you responsible for the adherence to the truth of God’s Word in the setting where the false teacher is being praised? If so, then you will be accountable to God for what is being taught. Say something but do so using the Bible to confirm what you are saying and speak with a soft voice and much grace. If someone has an issue or wants to argue, kindly ask them to discuss it with you privately afterwards.

If you are simply participating in the group or setting, it is often best to approach the teacher or leader with some factual information or articles and ask them to investigate. Each situation is different and each group is different, so judge these situations on a case by case basis.

2. Never belittle or scoff at the person you are talking to or about. If we feel compelled to speak up, we must never, ever belittle or minimize anyone personally. We must keep to the facts. And we must do all that’s in our power to speak with great love, continually pointing people to God’s Word, demonstrating how the teacher or movement does not agree with it. It is important to not get caught up in our own personal opinions, puffing ourselves up, acting like we have some special information that they just aren’t smart enough to have. (I say this because I’ve seen it. And I’ve probably done it. And it is downright sinful to do this, plain and simple.)

Now, this can be hard because sometimes people perceive us to be belittling someone when we really aren’t. When we speak the truth, people often automatically feel criticized. And, in this current culture, disagreement has become synonymous with belittling and intolerance. We can’t control this, but if we stick to the facts of someone’s false ministry, comparing them to scripture, we are handling it correctly.

3. Use great discretion when posting and discussing on social media. Be sure to evaluate anything you share or post to be sure it is factual, scriptural, and loving and respectful in its tone. If someone wants to debate, end it quickly, indicating your willingness to discuss it privately, if they would so desire. If a friend or family member has posted something positive about a false teacher, consider talking to them privately rather than commenting publicly. Facebook and Twitter have made this an ugly, ugly world when it comes to debates and disagreements. We do not want to be any part of that, practicing Romans 12:18 instead. While it is okay to use social media to share truth, don’t ever let it get out of hand or become a place where you are viciously and pridefully stating the “truth” with no care about how you are hurting and crushing people in the process.

4. What about at my church? If there is a false teacher or a worldly system invading your church, first bathe the situation in prayer. Ask the Lord for wisdom and to open your pastor or elder’s eyes. And then go respectfully to talk with leadership about what you see. Do not make a big public to-do over it and do not grab people to take your side. These responses are extremely damaging to the church.

The next inevitable question is: But what if they don’t listen? What if nothing changes? It pains me to say this, but I have heard about, and personally heard from, so many who have been completely belittled and scorned by their pastors and leaders in their beloved churches for holding to the truth of God’s Word. When they go to their leadership with a grave and valid concern that is backed by what scripture clearly teaches–perhaps about a false teacher that is being used for a Bible Study or a worldly, deceitful movement that is worming its way into the leadership’s vision of the church–they are immediately shut down. They are told that this is what “leadership has decided” and that if they don’t like it, they must move on. This is the way most churches are doing ministry now. It truly is a travesty and totally opposed to what scripture teaches. So, that being said, there may come a time that you may have to leave your church. Do not do this lightly. Dedicate much prayer and study the scriptures diligently to see if this issue (or issues) warrants leaving. Seek wise, godly counsel. You can read more about making this decision here.

 

Principles for a Private Setting

You will actually find that most of your interactions with people regarding discernment will be at a private level. They will take place in the halls of your church, over e-mail or the phone, or at dinner with friends. How do we handle these conversations?

First we need to determine if the person is–

an Open, Humble, and Interested Person

a Closed, Proud Person

OR

an Apathetic, Disinterested Person

 

What kind of person are you talking to? There are a few questions you can ask yourself to quickly make this determination even as you are speaking to them–

1. Are they asking thoughtful questions?

2. Is their body language tense?

3. Are they listening to you as you speak?

4. Do they keep going back to their own opinions without any scripture?

5. Do they look bored?

 

If they are asking thoughtful questions, listening to your responses, and speaking kindly (even if you don’t agree with their conclusions), then this is probably an open, humble, and interested person. You can at least hold a conversation with them.

If they are not really giving consideration to what you are saying but are simply giving their own opinions without scripture to back them up; if they are speaking with anger and agitation; if they aren’t listening at all; well, then they are closed, proud, and uninterested.

If they seem bored with the conversation; if they look away and seem to be distracted; if they keep checking their phone, then you are dealing with someone who is apathetic and disinterested in really knowing what is going on. There are many people who just would rather not know.

Almost everyone falls into one of these three groups. And you can quickly figure it out as you learn to understand the cues that people give. How we deal with the first group is very different than how we deal with the second two groups. So let’s look at principles for both groups.

 

Principles for Open, Humble, and Interested Individuals

1. Don’t overload them with information. If someone shows interest, our natural response is to gather all kinds of websites, articles, and videos to confirm what we are saying. However, an overwhelmed person is likely to grow discouraged and give up. Carefully choose one or two of your best resources to share and let them know you are willing to talk more if they are interested.

2. Encourage them to study scripture for themselves. When it comes right down to it, the insight and discernment to spot and recognize false teachers and false teaching comes from our study of the Word. We are helpless and must lean on others if we are biblically illiterate. The MOST important thing, by far, that we can do is encourage them to study the Word!

3. Speak with a kind and level voice as you discuss these hard and ugly truths about the mainstream church and modern-day Christianity. These things–as we find them out–can (rightly so) make us angry. Those of us who tend to be more expressive can sound angry or aggressive without even realizing it. Practice talking about these things without being harsh, unkind, or loud.

4. Remember that it is God who works in the heart. Respect their space and submit to God’s sovereignty in their lives as they sort through things. Sometimes all of this (as you may remember when you started learning the truth of what is going on) can be extremely overwhelming and they simply need to take a step back. Give them the time they need to process. Life may have given them a curveball they weren’t expecting and they just don’t have time to think about it right now. Don’t grow discouraged if they seem disinterested after that initial contact. Instead, recognize that you have been given the privilege to plant a seed of truth and that God will use it however He sees fit. He might bring someone else along to water that seed or they may eventually come back to ask you a question. Some will never show any further interest. It is critical to recognize that we are simply soldiers for Christ, doing His bidding as He gives us opportunities. That is all that is required of us. We can count on Him to take care of the rest.

5. Pray for them. If someone seems really interested, pray and ask the Lord to open their eyes and give them insight from His Word. If you are concerned because you see someone continuing in false teaching–even after you have had some wonderful conversations with them and they seem to moving in the right direction, pray for them, as well. I can honestly say there are few things more discouraging than this but there is little else we can do, since harping or nagging them about it generally produces the opposite result of what we hope for, while also putting great strain on the relationship. God is faithful and He answers prayers like this. Remember, He doesn’t need us! He blesses us by using us but He doesn’t need us to open someone’s eyes.

 

Principles for the Closed, Proud, and Disinterested

1. Don’t push. Someone who doesn’t want to know doesn’t want to know. You are not going to change them. Only God can do that.

2. Know when to stop talking. The Bible says that we shouldn’t cast our pearls before swine (Matthew 7:6). I think this same principle applies when speaking the truth of God’s Word in this area of discernment. If the person you are talking to is disinterested or even hostile towards what you are saying, then it is time to stop talking. Sometimes we just need to discern that it’s time to end the conversation.

3. Don’t grow bitter or angry towards that person. This is easy to do. These conversations can quickly turn ugly and can fill us with a deep and abiding grudge if we don’t go to the Lord, asking Him to help us forgive. These situations can become even more trying when the person, frustrated with our biblical message, spreads lies about us or does everything possible to hinder our ministry. It is in these times that we must make a choice to forgive and move on. If not, our ministry most certainly will be hindered!

3. Pray. Pray. And then pray some more. No heart is too hard. We know this from scripture (Paul is a great example of this!) So let’s pray like we believe God can change a heart.

 

So there are a few principles that I hope you will find helpful as you navigate this unpopular path of Christian discernment. I wish I could say that I have always followed these myself, but, alas, I am still learning, just like you! But let’s keep having the conversations. It is critically important that we keep shining a light into the darkness of the worldly church. If you mess up, evaluate what you could have done or said differently and keep going. Don’t let your failures keep you from speaking up.

Unfortunately, there will often be fall-out. There are some who just don’t want to listen and just the fact that you have said something has turned them into your enemy. We can’t control this. But we can control how we treat people after a conversation that is less than what we hoped for. And again, I mention Romans 12:18–

 If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.

This verse tells us that it is not always possible to live peaceably with everyone, but it also makes it clear that we must do whatever we can to do so. This means forgiveness, no grudges, and treating someone kindly and lovingly, no matter how a conversation went.

Thankfully, you will also find that there are a few who will “get it”. They are the ones who grasp what is going on and the grave significance of it. You will find that talking with them and encouraging them is a great joy.

I have been thinking a great deal recently about how we really are now on a rescue mission. As I mentioned in this post the fire has started and the sky has turned orange. The current situation is an inferno on a massive scale and we are not stopping it. But we can turn people to God’s Word and share what we have learned as God gives us opportunity. Let’s not be swayed by a church and culture that tells us that speaking truth is an unloving thing to do. It is, in fact, one of the most loving things we can do.

God bless you as you share His truth with those He puts in your path.

 

Do I Need a Special Experience in Order to Know God?

Experience

There is an atmosphere of mystery within the church these days. As if we must somehow reach a higher spiritual plane through a special experience in order to reach God in a deeper way and receive His special blessing. This is taught in Charismatic circles, where they teach that one must speak in tongues and receive a separate baptism of the Holy Spirit in order to be truly spiritual. It’s taught in the New Apostolic Reformation, where they teach that apostles are God’s especially “anointed”. And it’s taught in Keswick theology and ministries such as Eric Ludy’s program at Ellerslie*, where mystical means are used to move us towards a sinless life here on earth (according to them). This is also the main premise of the contemplative prayer movement and the monastic teachings such as the “silence”, lectio divina, and the labyrinth. All of these things supposedly take us to a place where we will truly experience God.

So this begs the question: Do I need some kind of special experience in order to know God?

Of course, we must go to scripture to answer this question. One of the best places to answer this is I John 2, verses 18-20–

Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the[c] Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour. 19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us.

20 But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you know all things.[d] 21 I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and that no lie is of the truth.

According to this passage, we are assured of four very important things–

First, that there are going to be many antichrists before the actual Antichrist comes on the scene. Just because someone mentions the name of Jesus does not mean they are talking about the same Jesus you are. We Christians have gotten into a very lazy habit of assuming that any mention of God or Jesus or prayer means that someone is a genuine believer in Christianity but this just isn’t the case. Paul tells us clearly that Satan will masquerade as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14). We must remember this and test the spirits (I John 4:1).

Second, we have all been anointed by the Holy One. Under the New Covenant, all believers are anointed by the Holy Spirit. There is nothing in scripture that would lead us to believe that we need a second, special anointing.

Third, as believers, we know all things. There is no secret knowledge that we must somehow obtain by using contemplative prayer, listening for special messages from God, or receiving some special, extra dose of God’s presence. In contrast, scripture says here that we already know all things. All we need to know is in God’s Word. If it’s not in His Word, then it we don’t need to know it.

And, fourth, we know the truth. We know the truth by studying the Word. John 17:17 confirms this–

Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.

To understand the timelessness of this book, we need to look back at just why John was writing this epistle to an unknown group of people. John MacArthur writes this in his introduction of I John

These false teachers advocated new ideas which eventually became known as “Gnosticism” (from the Gr. word “knowledge”). After the Pauline battle for freedom from the law, Gnosticism was the most dangerous heresy that threatened the early church during the first 3 centuries. Most likely, John was combating the beginnings of this virulent heresy that threatened to destroy the fundamentals of the faith and the churches.

Gnosticism, influenced by such philosophers as Plato, advocated a dualism asserting that matter was inherently evil and spirit was good. As a result of this presupposition, these false teachers, although attributing some form of deity to Christ, denied his true humanity to preserve Him from evil. It also claimed elevated knowledge, a higher truth known only to those in on the deep things. Only the initiated had the mystical knowledge of truth that was higher even than the Scripture.

What does this sound like? Sarah Young with her messages from God that are outside of scripture? Beth Moore’s visions that yield special knowledge? Countless others claim to have special knowledge that comes from God to them personally. Secret knowledge that yields a special relationship.

If we go back to the garden, we can see that Satan used a similar ploy–

 Then the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:4)

“Listen to me and I will give you special knowledge,” he whispers. The only difference between then and now is that he wasn’t masquerading as God back then. But it is the same message.

Gnosticism is dangerous because it takes the focus off of Christ’s finished work on the cross and the Bible–which is our only trustworthy source for knowing the full story of God, who He is, and what He has done for us. And, instead, subjective experiences, feelings, and emotions become the focus.

From what John wrote in his epistle, we can see that this has been going on for ages. It ebbs and flows but it has always been a danger to Christianity. But perhaps never so much as in these last days when we can see it all working towards a one-world religion that must bypass Jesus Christ and His work on the cross.

At some point, we must move our eyes from our own personal experience, even as Bible-believing Christians, and get a glimpse of the bigger picture. History has so much to teach us.

John combated Gnosticism, just as we are combating it. There is nothing new under the sun. Let’s heed the words of scripture and realize that God has given us all we need. There is no special knowledge out there that we need to somehow attain. No special experience that is going to make us closer to God. The cross did the work! Praise the Lord, it was finished there!

When we are saved, our response to this is simple. Jesus makes it clear: If you love Me, keep My commandments. (John 14:15).

Of course, simple isn’t always pleasant and sometimes Jesus’s commandments are burdensome to a heart that loves the world and wants to be loved by the world. So as those who claim Christ find following His commandments distasteful, a vacuum of desire for closeness without self-denial opens wide its mouth. And guess what enters in? Special experiences that deceive us into believing we can be close to God without submission and without obedience.

Look, we can’t change the direction this is going. It’s just not possible. But we can be informed, so that we can be on the look-out for ourselves, our families, and for those that God has placed in our path who genuinely want to know the truth. My prayer is that this post will lead a few of you to search for the truth as we read it in scripture. This view is certainly not popular (how’s that for an understatement?!) but it is biblical. And that’s why I write.

If this has disturbed you or you don’t agree, may I encourage you to do your own digging? Do so with a humble spirit, open mind, and a heart that honestly desires to know the truth and is willing to obey that truth. Pray and ask God to show you His truth about these matters and He will. I have seen God answer this prayer on many occasions. He is so faithful. Our God is faithful. Praise His name!

Therefore know that the Lord your God, He is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and mercy for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His commandments;
Deuteronomy 7:9

 

*Eric Ludy and Ellerslie carefully conceal their mystical leanings and rather bizarre teachings quite well. You will not find them in their marketing materials or on their website. My daughter experienced this firsthand and, after sitting under their teaching for just a few short weeks, made the choice to leave. This happened almost ten years ago now, so perhaps they have changed. If you are interested in his ministry, please do your homework. Here is a post that echoes our concerns with this place.

The Rogue Fire Alarm

I Don't Wanna Hear

Last night we went to bed, as usual. Around 1am we were abruptly awakened from sleep by our household fire alarm. Beep! Beep! Beep! The whole house rang with the sound. This may be one of the scariest sounds in existence, quite honestly. We jumped out of bed to figure out what was going on. We explored the whole house from top to bottom but couldn’t find any smoke anywhere. Within a minute or two it stopped.

We lay back down but sleep seemed almost impossible. “Should we be worried?” I asked my husband. He assured me that we didn’t need to be and said the system must have malfunctioned. We tried to go back to sleep. No easy task with such a rude awakening.

Five minutes later it happened again. Only this time it stayed on. By this time, I am starting to wonder if we are missing something. After all, it seemed strange that it would go off again on its own. So once more we did a swift search, both of us running about checking every nook and cranny in the house. But, again, we found nothing. Meanwhile, the alarm continued its incessant beeping.

Deducting that it must be malfunctioning, my husband headed downstairs to turn off its power. Unfortunately, none of the switches worked. It just kept beeping. And beeping. And beeping.

By this time our college-aged daughter sleepily descended the steps wrapped in a blanket, “What’s going on? Why can’t you turn it off if everything is ok?” She was rather frustrated at being awakened. I didn’t blame her one bit. So was I. Although I did remind her that at least we weren’t out in that dreadful winter wind watching our house burn down.

Meanwhile, Eric had decided to detach every single unit. He started with the basement. The crazy beep softened as he removed that one. Next was the downstairs hallway. He disconnected it from the electric wires and pulled the unit down from the ceiling. And that’s when it stopped. They all stopped. Oh, what blessed relief!

We were soon tucked back in our beds, listening to the wind whipping around our house, immensely thankful that we weren’t outside, standing in it.

Within a few minutes, I heard a fire alarm go off again. But this time it was just one unit, a bit distant.

It was the hallway unit. It was giving one last-ditch effort at keeping us from sleep. Eric took one final trip downstairs for the night and removed the batteries. When he was back in bed, he expressed his relief in knowing for sure that this was the unit that was malfunctioning. I agreed!

And then we tried to go back to sleep. Which took a very long time. It was during that time of trying to get back to sleep that this post came to me. There are some lessons to be learned from this rogue fire alarm. And I think we would all do well to heed them.

The fire alarm is a valuable tool set in place to warn people of a fire. When a fire alarm goes off, we have a few different options on how we can respond. We can–

1. Ignore it.

2. Get angry and throw things at it to try to get it to stop.

3. Complain about it.

4. Investigate.

Of course, all sane people will investigate. It would be foolish not to, since our very life could be at stake.

Don’t you think it is curious then, that we don’t handle those who sound spiritual alarms in a similar fashion? I confess I am incredibly puzzled by the response of Christians to those who would practice discernment and sound warnings. Since most view these warnings as unnecessary and unpleasant alarms, they choose to ignore them. Or throw harsh, angry words at them. Or complain about them. So few actually investigate what they are saying against what the Bible has to say.

Why is this? Why aren’t people willing to investigate a warning? Or to even practice discernment themselves? So many are literally committing spiritual suicide in this era of rampant apostasy. They are sleeping in a burning house. It is insanity!

So what if a discerner brings attention to a beloved teacher and you find out that the discerner was wrong in their conclusions? What will you have lost but a little time? Isn’t it at least worth an investigation?

We base all on the Word of God. We can remove the power of a discerner’s false alarm by showing them the truth from scripture. But we can’t do that if we aren’t even willing to investigate.

I am appalled by the attitude of the general population of Christians towards discernment. I honestly cannot believe how Satan has deceived so many into thinking it doesn’t matter. I hope that if you haven’t recognized the importance of listening to spiritual fire alarms, that you will start today. Unfortunately, most of the fire alarms we hear today are not rogue, but are true alarms sounding a warning that should be heeded. There are so few that remain on the straight and narrow path of solid, biblical teaching.

So that’s what I was thinking about at 2:30am last night. If this helps even one of you think about discernment a little differently, I will consider my interrupted night’s sleep well worth it!

 

 

Learn to Discern: When You Need a Little Help

Learn to Discern (with blog name)

Sometimes we know that something is off with an author but we just can’t put our finger on it. Something is most definitely wrong…but what is it? What do we do?

I have been saying for years now–and not just in this series–that we must judge all we come across by the Word of God. Acts 17:11, I Thessalonians 5:20-21, and I John 4:1 make it clear that God expects us to do this. But often we don’t know the Word of God well enough ourselves and we need a little help to discern if that new teacher is someone we can trust or that latest trend is something we can join.

Someone asked me recently if I could share some of the trusted sites I use to help me to discern. As I prepared to reply, I realized that perhaps she isn’t the only one who would like to know where to go for help.

And so I’d like to list a few trusted sites and authors. But before I do this please keep these things in mind, even as you do your own research and come across others discernment sites–

  1. Continue to be a Berean, even with a trusted site or author. As we have seen over the past few years, teachers, authors, and websites are falling for false doctrine and joining with false teachers at record speed. It’s a little surreal, actually. All that to say: While the sites I have listed here have a great track record and I have been using them for years, keep your eyes and ears open and don’t trust blindly. The days of blind trust are over. (But perhaps there never really were any…? That’s probably how Christianity got to this place to begin with!)
  2. Some discernment sites can be rather unkind and harsh. While I don’t condone this kind of attitude and I generally try to avoid these sites, the tone of a post or article does not change whether something is true or not. Always look for truth. Whether it is cloaked in love or not doesn’t change whether or not it is true. I have tried not to recommend this kind of site, but as you do your own research you may find this kind of site. Let your guiding principle for a site be its clear examination of a teaching as compared to scripture.
  3. Avoid sites that are “witch hunts” or centered around personal attacks. While naming names is not a sin (we see Paul do this several times in scripture), it should not be done lightly. We are called to compare a teacher’s doctrine to scripture and to examine their lifestyle in the light of the Word. We are not called to tear them apart with abundant criticism and to create our own personal vendetta against them. Watch out for sites and authors that do this and avoid them completely.
  4. Keep learning the Bible more and more, so that it becomes natural to discern on your own. You will find out that as you do this, you will need these sites less and less. When you study the Bible with a spirit of submission and obedience to all it says (even the parts you don’t like!), you will find that you will be able to more quickly spot the deadly philosophies that are slithering into our homes and churches.
  5. Don’t let discernment become your main thing. As my pastor says, “Keep the main thing the main thing.” All too often, people get so caught up in research that they let their Bible study dwindle. Our power for the Christian life lies in knowing the Word. Discernment is not a bad thing, but if it overtakes your life and that becomes all you focus on, it has been used by Satan to distract you from what is most important. Be careful not to let that happen.

Okay, now that we have those guidelines in place, here are a few sites and authors that I have come to know and trust as I have learned to discern. Please do not take my word for it. Speakers and authors change constantly. So much so that I can’t possibly keep track. I will try to make changes here, as things come to my attention but if something looks like a red flag, I encourage you to follow it up–

WEBSITES–

Lighthouse Trails — This site is my first go-to. I appreciate their dedication to scripture and the kind tone with which they write. They have articles and books by several authors that I have come to deeply appreciate and trust, including Ray Yungen, Roger Oakland, Warren Smith, and Larry DeBruyn. These men have sacrificed their reputations to share some hard truths. I recommend reading any of their books. (2/28/18 author’s note: It has come to my attention that this ministry has determined to put out a book claiming that to believe in Calvinism is to believe in a false Gospel. I am deeply grieved by this for two reasons. First, scripture clearly teaches the doctrine of election. To deny it, is to deny God’s Word in its entirety. Election and free will work together in a way we can’t understand. Let’s just be humble enough to admit that. And, second, while they assure their readers that they are doing what “God wants them to do, after much prayer”, I would submit to you that Satan is using them to divide the body by their assertions that this is a false Gospel. It is one thing to argue from a viewpoint, acknowledging that we are all brothers and sisters in the Lord, and agree to disagree on this issue that no one can understand. It is quite another to claim from your soapbox that you have it all figured out and the other person is not only wrong, but heretical in believing as they do. I will keep them on this list for the time being, as their work has been absolutely invaluable in the field of discernment, but please do not use Lighthouse Trails for your doctrinal education. Their error in this issue proves them to be quite untrustworthy in the field of theology.)

Michelle Lesley Books — Michelle is dedicated to the Word and she provides biblically sound examinations of many of the popular teachers on the scene today. This has been a very helpful site for me.

Berean Research — This is a well-rounded site that has frequently help me to discern or confirm whether or not someone or something is false.

Herescope — This site has excellent articles. They are generally very long, but they are very well-written comparisons of modern day teachings to God’s Word. The site itself is very difficult to navigate and they don’t have a “search” button, but if you come across anything written by this site, be sure to read it.

Discernment Ministries, Inc. — This site, the parent site of Herescope, has some great resources, along with a monthly newsletter. It includes books and articles by Larry DeBruyn (mentioned up above with Lighthouse Trails) and Sarah Leslie (someone I have come to deeply respect).

Pirate Christian — The thing I like about this site is that if they write an article about a particular false teacher, they will often include many links at the bottom that confirm their findings. This helps me to get a deeper understanding and a broader base of knowledge–rather than relying on only one article.

Apprising Ministries — This site is made up of the archives of a man named Ken Silva, who did much helpful research before he died. You will find a lot of biblically grounded posts here regarding a lot of different topics.

GotQuestions — This has been an enormously helpful site regarding doctrine, false religions, and giving a solid overview of what scripture teaches about almost any topic. Very, very helpful!

CARM (Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry) — I have, thus far, found this site a safe place to go to for help in understanding doctrine, determining what false religions teach and why they are false, and factual examinations of false teachers.

Answers in Genesis — This site, while focused mostly on creation apologetics, also has some really helpful articles regarding the authority and veracity of God’s Word.

 

If I think of any others, I will add them, but this should give you some helpful resources to get you started as you learn to discern! I hope that this list is a blessing to you as you strive to discern in this age of abundant heresies and unprecedented apostasy. I leave you with these words from 2 Timothy 3:13-15–

But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived. 14 But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, 15 and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.

 

 

 

Learn to Discern: Knowing When to Speak Up

Learn to Discern (with blog name)

I was mindlessly moving a load of laundry from the washer to the dryer. My mind was on other things and I wasn’t really paying attention to what I was doing. Without thinking, I grabbed a dime that was laying near the dryer’s lint trap and tossed it in the trash.

Oops!

I looked at the trash and I pondered the worth of the dime. And then I turned back to my task. I simply did not find the dime to be valuable enough to warrant digging through the trashcan. This made me wonder about what amount of money I would consider worth digging in the trash? A quarter? A dollar? At what point would I deem the amount valuable enough that it would propel me to work to get it back?

I think we need to consider this same principle when we are looking at discernment. Recently, there was a huge “to-do” in the discernment world (if you aren’t familiar with what’s going on, I am not going to fill you in. I have no desire to give it any more attention than it has already received). But what I saw happening there was someone who was making a huge deal over a “dime”. While I did agree with this person’s point of view on the subject matter at hand, I did not see that it was worth a fight. A few other Christian leaders had the same opinion as me and ended up being maligned by this other man who thought everyone else should be making as big a deal over this “dime” as he was!

One of the hardest things we must learn to do as we grow in discernment is know when something is worth a confrontation. Romans 12:18 teaches us that we are to be at peace with all men, as much as it is up to us. This is an important verse, giving us a framework in which we are to live all of life. Unfortunately, this is not going to always be possible. We know from scripture that we are going to be hated by the world and that there will be many false teachers. This naturally means that we will have some run-ins, as we try to stand for the truth.

So, how exactly do we know if something is important enough to speak up about in our families, churches, or anywhere else?

Here are a few guidelines to follow–

1. The situation at hand is about God, His Word, and His reputation. This is by far the most important key to discerning when something is important enough to stand up for. It should never be about our pride, our reputation, our importance, our need to prove ourselves. Something that is worth standing up for will always be about God’s glory and about protecting the truth of God’s Word.

It is never about ME. 

But this is oh, so tempting, isn’t it? Sometimes it is hard to discern if we are standing for God or for our own pride. We have this need to prove ourselves or to be “right” and we can get all entangled in our own selfish agenda–sometimes even when are standing up for the true and right thing! We must have humble hearts that are on the constant look-out for sins like pride, selfishness, and anger. And let’s regularly ask the Lord for a right heart and attitude and that He will fill us with His love and grace as we fight the good fight.

2. It is morally wrong. There are an abundance of verses expounding on the things that are an offense to our Holy God. We know that sexual sins, lying, sorcery, anger, pride etc. are always wrong and therefore should be something that those who claim to be Christians should avoid. (Check out these passages for more clarity and detail on the sins that God hates: Exodus 20:1-17; Colossians 3:5-6; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Timothy 3:1-7.)

If we know God hates these things, then this should be our guideline of things we want to avoid in all aspects of our lives. This would include our entertainment, which is something that believers mostly ignore now and, for some reason, practice a strange “disconnect”–as if somehow this is irrelevant from the rest of their spiritual health.

We should–we must–stand for pure and holy living. God’s Word clearly teaches that, as regenerated souls, we are to live pure and holy lives that are clearly different and separated from the world (I Peter 1:15-16; Jude 1:20; Philippians 1:9-10; 2 Timothy 2:22; Romans 12:1-2; I Peter 2:9; Romans 13:13-14; Colossians 3:10).

This is not a wildly popular thing to stand for. In fact, it is not even marginally popular. But we need to speak up because God’s glory and reputation are damaged by those who live worldly, sinful lives while claiming to belong to Him.

3. Scripture is misinterpreted and twisted. 2 Thessalonians 2:15 tells us this: So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter. Since scripture was written there has been an accepted interpretation. Oh, there have been councils and meetings to discuss things, but God has miraculously protected the integrity of scripture throughout the years. However, Satan is always trying to mess with it just enough that he will mislead people. He has done this through the ages, but I highly doubt it has ever been so much as right now.

When someone gives some wild, out-of-context interpretation of scripture it is time to stand up! When someone tries to rationalize worldliness, homosexuality, evolution, or any other ungodly sin or philosophy, it is time to stand for the truth of God’s Word. We cannot let our enemy win this battle –for this is the battle’s core. Is scripture 100% true, inerrant, and inspired, or isn’t it? Because we know it is, we must speak up when it’s maligned.

Of course, the problem with this is that most of us do not have enough biblical knowledge to really provide a biblical defense. This is really why I write. I want to encourage you to know the Word so that you can live godly lives and contend for the faith.

Josh Buice writes this: The absolute best method of testing a theology or a popular catch phrase is by Scripture. If any teaching will stand the intense scrutiny of Scripture, it proves itself to be a trustworthy doctrine. This is true on all matters of theology—from bumper stickers to historic creeds and confessions. The question that we must be asking ourselves as we build our positions is, “What does the Bible say?”

Yes, yes, yes! This is exactly right. You see, the Bible isn’t all that hard to understand. If we accept the Bible as it is written, literally, it all makes so much sense. And, even more amazing, the facts presented in science (I am talking about facts and not theories) and the historical record supports it all! You will find it incredible and even miraculous when you give yourself to serious study of this amazing book. But we don’t know because we don’t study. And– if I may be so bold–we don’t study because we don’t care. Oh, if this blog accomplishes one things –I hope it is that you would start to care about growing in your knowledge of the Word of God!

4. Christ’s role is diminished. Oh, how many false teachers diminish the role of Christ. If you are deciding whether something is worth the fight, ask yourself this: How do they treat Christ? Do they turn His sacrifice on the cross into a mere event? Do they teach that Christ is one of many ways to be reconciled to God? Do they teach that man is basically good and that Jesus is just a good example to follow? Do they teach that Christ is there to do one’s bidding? Do they teach that Christ is simply a good teacher? You will be surprised how even the most mainstream teachers and authors are teaching error in regards to Christ. And this is worth the fight! While Jesus Christ is the theme of the whole Bible (yes, even the Old Testament!), you can start by reading the Gospels. This is a great place to get started in knowing your Savior and will help you to defend Him!

5. Primary Christian Doctrines are compromised. As believers, we do need to know doctrine (contrary to what you have probably been told). Being unfamiliar with words like justification, sanctification, and glorification leaves you vulnerable to false teachers. Having at least a basic understanding of what the Bible teaches about (to name a few) the Trinity, God’s Sovereignty, salvation, God the Father, Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, and about the Church strengthen and prepare you for the vicious and unrelenting attacks that Satan wages against these doctrines. (Understanding what the Bible teaches us about the the last days and about Israel are secondary issues but are still beneficial–and interesting!– to study.) Find a good resource, such as Biblical Doctrine by John MacArthur and Richard Mayhue and start increasing your knowledge. If you’d rather have something a little less intimidating and not quite as deep, try Fundamentals of the Faith by MacArthur, which is a 13-week guided study of basic Christian doctrines.

6. Be socially wise. Now, with the final two items on this list, we are moving from biblical compromise to having social discernment. If someone you barely knows starts sharing about how much they love The Shack or Jesus Calling, don’t start off on a long monologue on why they are not doctrinally sound books. Go ahead and say something casually and if they express interest, then, by all means, have a conversation. But don’t confront acquaintances and strangers. They have absolutely no reason to listen to you. Gauge their interest and be wise. And, most importantly, pray for them.

7. Consider the spirit of the person you are confronting.  We must evaluate the person we are speaking to and ask ourselves: Is this person humble or proud? You see, if you are dealing with someone who thinks they know everything, who won’t bend, who doesn’t listen, then feel free to bring up your concern, but don’t argue or debate with them. Only the Holy Spirit can remove that blind pride. You could talk for forever and not move them an inch. So allow the Lord to use you to plant His seeds and to challenge them with some thoughts but do not become a thorn in their side that pricks at every opportunity. This is not how we practice discernment.

 

This is not an exhaustive list. Practicing biblical discernment is no picnic and I can honestly tell you that there is little personal reward for speaking up. I have mentioned this before and I will mention it again–most people do not want to hear. And because they do not want to hear, they will view you as (and call you) all kinds of negative things. But don’t let this stop you because we know that the truth of the Bible has the power to save! We know that the souls of those who are deceived and lost are going to hell! We know how this all ends! We know what is coming in the future! Let’s keep our eyes focused on what is important and not get embroiled in our hurt feelings and relational skirmishes here on earth. Study the Word and don’t be afraid to speak up when you must!

 

Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.

1 Timothy 6:12

Learn to Discern: How Do You Determine What Is True, Right, and Good?

Learn to Discern (with blog name)

I don’t think I can count the amount of times that I have heard something like this as a defense for a false teacher or a doctrinally unsound book or church–

But it has helped so many people!

(or its sister comment: It has really helped me.)

The item or person in question is judged on this fact alone– if it has helped someone, it must be right (and the opposite: If it hasn’t helped anyone, it must be wrong.)

But here is something we must consider: Is this how the Bible teaches us to determine truth? Does the fact that something is helpful automatically make it true, right, or good?

The belief that this is how we determine truth is called pragmatism.

Officially, the definition for pragmatism is: An approach that assesses the truth of meaning of theories or beliefs in terms of the success of their practical application.

In essence, it is the belief that the end justifies the means.

Most of us would say, of course, this isn’t true. We would never agree that we can get from point A to point B any way we want to. But, when it comes to how we actually approach what is true, we have taken on this philosophy far more than we would care to admit.

For example, when the book The Shack first came out, many, many Christians loved it! If anyone dared to suggest it wasn’t doctrinally sound, the defense was that “it helped me understand who God is” or “it comforted me.”

Of course, we can see that the measurement being used by most people to judge this book was a practical, subjective method (how it makes me feel or what I have perceived) rather than using scripture as the measurement tool.

All these years later, William Paul Young shows us clearly that He does not believe what the Bible teaches in his latest book, Lies We Believe About God. In this book, he clearly denies tenet after tenet of the Christian faith.

So why were so many Christians fooled? Why did they not recognize this early on? And why did it take a book that finally clearly espouses what he believes to convince them?

For many, it is because they are pragmatists. They judge what is right and what is wrong by what works for them or by what feels right or good.

I guess it is only natural that this would eventually enter even the most conservative churches. After all, it started in the secular culture awhile ago now. But it is important that if we are going to learn to discern, we do not fall prey to this deadly philosophy.

And so in order to protect ourselves it is critical that we learn what scripture teaches us about how we determine truth. Let’s take a look–

John 17:17Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. 

In this chapter, Jesus is praying for believers. He is asking the Father to protect and keep us. And to sanctify us. And He adds this interesting line: thy word is truth. The Bible is truth.

John MacArthur’s writes about this verse–

“Sanctification is accomplished by means of the truth, which is the revelation that the Son gave regarding all that the Father commanded Him to communicate and is now contained in the Scriptures left by the apostles.”

In 2 Timothy we find another verse showing us that the Word is truth–

2 Timothy 2:15Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.

So from these two verses, we can see that the Bible is truth.

Now let’s take a moment and look at a few verses that clearly show we will not be the popular ones, the successful ones, and that it will appear our methods are not working (at least according to human, worldly standards)–

Romans 12:2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Luke 6:26Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets.

James 4:4You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. 

We can know from these verses that true believers will generally not be favored and followed. (Generally. There are exceptions, of course.) This is because we cannot be friends with the world. Therefore, even when we are faithfully following God and doing as He commands us in His Word, it will often appear as if what we are doing is “not working”. And, because we are basically told both inside and outside the church that “if it isn’t working, God isn’t in it”, we are tempted to measure ourselves by the success we experience in the mainstream church or the world, rather than by using the barometer of scripture.

I would also like to remind you that Satan has to make false teachers look appealing. If he didn’t, no one would follow them. Therefore, the indication that their methods or ministries seem to be working according to human standards should never be our measurement of what is true, right, or good.

Of course, there are also the real-life experiences of Jesus, Paul, Jeremiah, and of countless others throughout the history of the world to also assure us that what we are doing will not always appear to be working. Followers deserted Jesus (John 6:66), Paul was attacked by the crowds (Acts 16:22-24), and Jeremiah’s pleas for change did not work (Jeremiah 44:4-5). Research a little church history or read a few missionary biographies and you will find many more examples of this.

So should we judge whether or not something is true, right, or good by if it is working? Should we determine our own course of action or ministry by how it appears to be working?

I hope I have convinced you that this isn’t a good idea. This is a big topic that cannot really be wholly covered in a short blog post. But I do hope I at least got you to start thinking about how to judge the popular “Christian” books and the celebrity pastors that are in abundance today. I am going to include a short video below that will probably do a much better job than I can. I hope that this will help you see even more clearly not only how this thinking has invaded the church but how deadly it is to the church–

 

Find all posts in the Learn to Discern series here.

 

 

Four Important Principles of Battle

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This morning in church we had a brave Viet Nam war veteran share a bit of his testimony. I can’t imagine how difficult it must have been to condense such an experience to just a few short moments on a Sunday morning. He concluded by comparing his experiences as a soldier to our duty as a soldier for Christ. As he talked, I found myself engrossed in what he was saying. How little we talk about the battle that is going on and what our duties are as a soldier for Christ. Most don’t want to focus on the negative. And, yet, scripture makes it clear that we are in a battle. If you have time, read 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 and Ephesians 6:10-20, which is where we will find some description of this spiritual battle and also some keys to victory.

Even though it was just a short testimony and challenge for our congregation, I came away with four things we should all know about fighting the spiritual battle we Christians become a part of as soon as we are saved. Like it or not, if you are a Christian, then you are a soldier in Christ’s army. While this isn’t a specific Learn to Discern post, I do believe that these principles are key to our understanding of discernment and also help to clarify the importance of discernment in the church today.

Here are Four Important Principles of Battle

1. Stay Focused on the Enemy. He said this several times–how important it was that they stay focused on the enemy. If they lost sight of them, if the enemy stay hidden, they knew they could very well be taken out in a heartbeat. Our enemy, as believers, is Satan. And we must keep an eye on what he is doing. So often we will hear the opposite–that we aren’t to focus on the enemy, but instead just keep our eyes on Jesus. And, yes, the center of our faith is Jesus Christ, our Lord. But if we aren’t keeping an eye out for Satan and his devious plans, we are going to be deceived! And while Christians are being deceived, the lost are being told a false gospel. There is so much that hangs in the balance. We must keep our eyes on the enemy.

2. Someone Needs to Stand Guard. One of the keys to keeping the company safe was to have someone stand guard. The consequences were severe for the guard–sometimes even execution–should the enemy enter the camp while he fell asleep on duty. These guards could save the whole troop. The same is true spiritually. How interesting that instead of thanking the guards of the church, they are so often mocked, belittled, and marginalized. To stand guard in protection of the church generally means not only fierce attack from the enemy on the outside, but it also often brings on attacks from the inside. Instead of being grateful for the protection–for someone brave enough to point out how something doesn’t match scripture–churches and Christians grow angry and are constantly telling the guard that they are imagining things–that it isn’t the enemy they see. This never fails to befuddle me.

The guard has absolutely nothing to gain by calling out a false teacher and–in this current church culture–they have everything to lose. If they are brave enough to speak up to protect the church, then we’d better take heed and listen.

3.War Isn’t Pretty. As this man described some of the things that happened and the experiences he faced (and I know he gave us the “G” version, as a full description of the horrendous and awful sights he saw wouldn’t have been appropriate in a church service), I cringed. I couldn’t even imagine facing anything like this. One of the reasons for this is because I like my world comfortable and well-ordered and without conflict. Thank you very much.

But war isn’t pretty. It’s dirty. It’s violent. It’s chaotic. It’s terrifying. People get hurt and die. And you know what? Spiritual battles aren’t pretty, either. Gossip flies. Character assassinations occur. Reputations are ruined by false accusations. Christians languish in prisons and sometimes die cruel, horrible deaths. We need to stop expecting this life to be roses and lollipops. Standing up for Christ is not for the faint-of-heart.

4. Don’t Fight With Your Comrades. And, finally, he talked about how important it was that the company be unified. As I thought about this in relation to our spiritual battle, I thought about something that I started to really put in place in my life a while ago now. As a young person, I tended to argue a lot. I’d make big deals out of things that just weren’t. Somewhere in the last twenty years or so, I have learned a very important lesson: Never argue or debate anything that is not in scripture. If it won’t matter in 100 years, it is not worth an argument. Now, this can be tough–especially at home. I don’t do it perfectly (just ask my family!) but I am working on it.

You see, sometimes disagreements and divisions must occur, but only because there is an effort to compromise the Word of God. We can and we must make a big deal out of standing for what scripture teaches. But we can and we most certainly must let the other things go. If we are to gain the respect of those around us, we can’t argue and criticize and judge just because. Only a stand for the Bible and what it teaches is worth a real argument. And if we are lovingly agreeable on most occasions, then when these things come up that compromise scripture and we lovingly disagree, we will have the respect of those around us, even if they don’t like what we are saying. We must endeavor to keep the unity among believers as much as it is up to us! (Romans 12:18)

I hope this has encouraged you today. Life can be so hard. Sometimes it is hard because we are living out the consequences of sinful choices. But sometimes–many times– it is hard because we are fighting this battle against our enemy. If we are sharing the Gospel, if we are pointing out false teachers, if we are taking a stand for Christ and against worldliness, you can be guaranteed he does not like it! Let’s remember these four principles of battle and keep fighting on, bravely giving our all for the One who gave His all for us.

 

Learn to Discern: What Is Happening to the Evangelical Church?

Learn to Discern (with blog name)

As we learn to discern, we are forced to ask this question: What in the world is happening to the evangelical church? We have been watching men and women we have trusted form alliances with false teachers. Churches present secular rock music as entertainment during their worship services. Pastors have become much more concerned about growing the numbers of their congregation than growing deeper roots of faith in their flock. We have seen the church become zealous to help the poor, while completely negating and ignoring scripture’s clear commands for holiness and separation from the world. And, finally, we have watched the pulpit become a place to provide entertaining self-help speeches rather than the careful exposition of God’s Word. These aren’t all of the changes but these are certainly very tragic and important ones.

Wow.

Just writing all that makes me feel discouraged. But it is here. This is what the “Christian Church” has become. So what is going on? And how did we get here?

Many of you have enjoyed the guest post my brother, Pastor Dean, wrote on the Corruption of Christianity. A few weeks ago, I took the time to listen to the series that was the basis for this post. This was presented a couple of years ago and is an excellent overview to help us understand what exactly is going on and why. I believe you will find this series very much worth a few hours of your precious time.

Here are the links for the entire series–

What Is Happening to the Evangelical Church (Part 1)

What Is Happening to the Evangelical Church (Part 2)

What Is Happening to the Evangelical Church (Part 3)

What Is Happening to the Evangelical Church (Part 4)

What Is Happening to the Evangelical Church (Part 5)

What Is Happening to the Evangelical Church (Part 6)

What Is Happening to the Evangelical Church (Part 7)

 

If you have enjoyed this series and would like to hear more of Pastor Dean’s sermons, you will find all of them here.

 

You can find all the Learn to Discern posts here on this page.

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