Truth

A Lesson from the Candy Store

The colorful exterior drew our eyes. We had stopped next door and so we decided to walk into the colorful building, which was full of candy. Lots and lots of candy. Everywhere you looked was candy — Gummy candy, hard candy, jelly beans, Pez, vintage candy, ice cream…you name it, it was there.

We wandered a bit and let the grandkids each pick out a Pez. I didn’t see anything that really struck me in the expensive candy shop so I was prepared to walk out without anything—until I spotted the wall of jelly bellies. I don’t actually love regular jelly beans but these always tempt me. I don’t know how they make those jelly bellies so flavorful but somehow they do. I looked at the big red containers holding those beans. They were surrounded by jelly belly advertisements and jelly belly pre-made containers.

What struck my eye were the new flavors. I had never seen jelly bellies such as these before. Oh, these would be fun to try! I grabbed a small plastic bag and grabbed a few beans from each of the containers that struck my fancy.

We paid for our candy and left the store. In the truck, I eagerly opened my plastic bag and pulled out a bean and stuck it in my mouth.

Ohhh…yuck! Just yuck!

“These are not genuine jelly bellies,” I said with disappointed disgust.

“Really?” Asked my husband.

“Nope, definitely not,” I tried a couple more just to make sure.

Where had I gone wrong? What should have warned me?

Well, the unusual flavors were a definite warning sign. Why would that store have flavors I’ve never seen before in even the 49 flavor bags of these famous jelly bellies? How dumb of me not to have thought of that.

And then as I thought of the red containers, I remembered that nowhere on them had they claimed to be jelly bellies. They were just surrounded by the words “jelly bellies” to lead people to believe that what the large containers held was genuine.

I had been deceived.

I was out of a few dollars and given a dose of humility. It was what it was. Not a big deal in the scope of life.

But as I was thinking about this yesterday, it came to me that this is a great example of how we get fooled spiritually, too.

False teachers like to surround themselves with those who appear genuine and many times probably are genuine (which is probably a good part of the reason why Paul and John are so adamant that we can never be friends and conference partners with false teachers. See Romans 16:17 and 2 John 1:9-11).

False teachers also like to look just like the genuine. They appear so similar that it is hard to see the difference.

Unless…

You realize they are offering different flavors. They are offering interpretations of scripture that veer from the traditional interpretation. They change the meaning of a word or they change the definition of a long held doctrine.

It is easy to get duped by false teachers these days. They are everywhere. They look real on the surface. And they are so often surrounded by those we would call “Solid Bible Teachers”, who give them credence.

They are like that candy that looks genuine. Smells genuine. Is surrounded by the genuine. But this is not candy. And we have much more to lose.

So may we all be smarter spiritually than I was in that candy store. May we pray for discernment and wisdom as we navigate the veritable smorgasbord of false teachers who twist scripture and change the truth of God’s Word; teachers that are nowhere close to genuine Christianity despite their label of “Christian.” 

 

 

What Makes You Really Angry?

I think we’ve all been angry at some point or other. There are probably some universal causes of anger–such as inept or rude customer service representatives; arguing children; or being betrayed by someone you trusted.

And then there are some causes of anger that seem to be more related to our personalities. Some people get angry at laziness or lack of common sense in those around them. Others get angry at circumstances beyond their control. Some people get plain mad at God when things don’t go their way.

We know that anger is not a righteous emotion. Most of the time.

There is that little caveat in Ephesians 4:26 where it says, “Be angry and do not sin.” This means there is sometimes a righteous cause for anger.

What is something that should make us very angry?

As I was studying in preparation for my upcoming study of Galatians, I realized that the main thing that should make us angry is any attack on the Gospel. Read these verses to see just how serious this is–

I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert[a] the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be [b]accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed. (Galatians 1:6-10)

These are not simply Paul’s words but these are God’s words. We can see from these verses that God takes an attack on the Gospel very seriously. Let anyone who warps and twists the true Gospel be accursed (which means devoted to destruction; imprecate evil or misery upon.)

Has the deluge of false gospels being pandered today made us immune? What other reason can there be that Christians aren’t up in arms regarding the countless attacks on the true Gospel? Why aren’t we defending it and refusing to allow the lies to creep in? Even in to our own “Bible-believing” churches?

What must God think?

I am not sure I ever really gave this much thought until reflecting on these verses yesterday (and listening to some sermons regarding these verses.)

There are two specific ways the Gospel gets perverted. Every perversion falls under one of these two.

First, there is grace plus works (legalism) perversion. ANY presentation or teaching regarding the Gospel that adds any works is not the true Gospel. This means that if you “need to get baptized” to be saved, it’s a false gospel. If you need to take communion or pray to saints in order to be assured of your salvation, it’s a false gospel. If you need to eat certain things, wear certain things, do anything to be saved, it is a false gospel.

Second, there is the hyper-grace (licentiousness) perversion. This perversion denies the many passages that call us to live a life pleasing to Christ. It denies that we become a new creation in Christ and, instead, says that, since we are no longer under law, anything goes. Here the Gospel is given without the message of sin and repentance. It is more focused on fire insurance rather than a lost and hopeless sinner’s reconciliation with God. Say a prayer and be saved–no fruit necessary, according to this false gospel.

These false gospels are dealt with all throughout scripture but in Galatians, Paul speaks specifically to both of them. Think with me for a moment what you know about many who lump themselves in with the modern day religion of “Christianity”. What do they teach about the Gospel?

If they are not preaching the true Gospel as is clearly presented in scripture they are not actually our brother and sisters in Christ. And this should upset us! This should make us mourn for the thousands–millions–who believe a lie about their eternal destiny. Not only do they believe a lie –but they believe a lie under the guise of Christianity and true Christians are not doing anything about it. Instead, they are encouraging them in their false faith and joining with them, declaring that “we are siblings in Christ”.

This is simply appalling! When you really think about it–could there be anything more unloving than allowing someone to believe they are truly saved– when they aren’t??

But we tend to get more upset about a spilled drink or an unexpected bill than we do about this tragedy taking place across the globe. Oh, how self-centered we are. How self-centered I am.

If we believe the true Gospel, then we need to not only live by it but pay attention when there is a departure from it. We need to stop making excuses and rationalizing away the damning differences. Like Paul, we should be up in arms and ready to defend the Gospel boldly and courageously!

 

*I have a page on the blog called “What is the Gospel?”, where we take a look at what scripture has to teach us about this subject. You can find it here.

*In 2016, I wrote about in some detail regarding some common false gospels. You can find that post here.

*I am looking very forward to my study of this book. If you are in the 2022 Growing4Life Bible Reading Challenge, I hope you are looking forward to it, as well. And if you aren’t in the challenge, it’s not too late to join for the rest of the year. Find out more information here.

 

The Ingredient That Is in Everything…

A friend of a friend was diagnosed with cancer. The doctor he was seeing suggested that he stay away from a certain preservative that appears to either cause or exacerbate cancer. That friend told me what this doctor said.

I had never noticed this preservative before. In fact, I hadn’t even heard of it.

Before I go on, I must warn you. You may not want to know this. For if you believe what the doctor said (and I am still doing some research on this, although so far my findings would say, yes, it is true), it will eliminate many “good things” from your life. You will see it crop up in literally everything.

It’s in salad dressing. And lemon juice. It’s in every shampoo on a retail store shelf. It’s in fruit drinks and Turkey Hill unsweet tea (that one really surprised me!) It’s in kool-pops and popsicles. And a million other things. I’ve listed only a fraction of the places I’ve found this ingredient. It’s in economical store brand items as well as in expensive organic items.

So, I am just being honest, if you want your life to be easier and you’d rather just not know, just stop reading right now.

But I will continue for those of you who want to know the truth.

It is an ingredient called sodium benzoate. It is just plain old salt, according to one organic shampoo bottle. But is that what it is? Is that bottle being honest?

This preservative is not naturally occurring in any whole food. It is a lab-created ingredient created to extend the shelf life of certain items.

This should be of concern, given no one really knows its long-term affects. From what I can tell, it was only created in 2005 (I might be wrong on that, as it was hard to find the details of its history.)

So should humans be consuming so much sodium benzoate? Even if just a bit is added to a product, doesn’t our consumption of this additive add up quickly if we consume so many of those products?

I’m no chemist, so at this point I am just asking the questions. I think it’s a valid concern. I’ve started doing the work of reading ingredient labels and trying to avoid this preservative as much as I can. It seems nigh upon impossible to avoid it totally.

So are you seeing the comparisons of this ingredient to what we are seeing in Christianity these days?

The new Christianity (the mystic, self-centered, ecumenical version) is literally in everything. Once we are aware and start looking for it, we find it everywhere. While there are still a few pure churches, they are few and far between (as many of you can probably attest to). It’s an additive that comes in just bits and pieces at first. Although, unlike sodium benzoate, it is more like a terrible yeast that grows uncontrollably until it’s taken over the once-sound church or ministry.

But it begins as a bit. Just a tiny promotion of a false teacher here. A joining with a false church there. An almost invisible twist on the Gospel here. A book or movie recommendation there. Little things that look minuscule to the average church goer. But these little compromises spell disaster to the one who has taken the time to compare what is happening in this new Christianity to God’s Holy Word.

You see, you have to know what you are looking for and that it actually exists before you can understand what is taking place.

I had no idea what sodium benzoate was or even of its existence, before that one conversation. Unknowingly, I have been feeding and applying that to my body for years. And, of course, I must trust God’s protection.

But what is my duty now? Do I just ignore the truth and live life as normal? Or do I have a responsibility to share the truth and make some changes in my life? Changes that might mean giving up favorite products that I’ve used for years?

I am guessing you can see the clear parallel here. When we begin to see the truth of this new (i.e. false) Christianity, it requires something of us. And it isn’t a fun process. The truth rarely is. One by one, we start eliminating things that contain it. Books, music, movies, and other forms of compromised “Christian” entertainment. We start evaluating our churches and what they are preaching from the pulpits, teaching in their Sunday Schools, and using as books for their small groups and Bible Studies.

Whether we are discussing an unproven additive or a wave of unbiblical teachings, there will always be scores of people to tell you to relax. Trust the narrative. Stop witch-hunting. Stop being so negative. Stop doing your own research. Just. Stop.

But we can’t stop. Because it is the truth that sets us free. It truly is. It may be an easier road to not know it in the short term. But, in the long-term, knowing the truth is always best. Knowing the truth is what keeps you spiritually and physically healthy. It protects you from the harm and danger of the world. It keeps you from being deceived. Spiritual truth is what keeps Satan from devouring you.

So how in the world do we find this spiritually life-saving Truth?

It is in God’s Word. If we are in the Word and reading it and studying it with a humble heart and a readiness to obey, no matter the cost, God will show us the truth. We don’t need to study the ways of false teachers or make a long list of who has compromised. We can simply compare them to scripture and see, fairly quickly, if someone has compromised.

So what keeps people using sodium benzoate after they know the truth? What keeps people in the midst of false Christianity when they see the truth?

A few things probably.

Maybe laziness? It’s so much work to be diligent in keeping our lives healthy –both physically and spiritually.

Perhaps the cost? We often have to give up some of our very favorite things when God opens our eyes.

It could be the ridicule? The path of the truth is rarely popular and whether you are talking about a lab-created additive or a false teacher, you will deal with eye-rolling and disdain.

It is important we check our hearts for these reasons ourselves. When it comes to our physical bodies, we do have a certain responsibility to keep it healthy. But there is nothing more important than keeping ourselves spiritually pure and 100% committed to God and His Word. What keeps us from doing so? Is it one of the three reasons above? Or maybe something else?

This life is hard, isn’t it? I wish I could say I have this down, but I definitely struggle with the first reason, particularly. I can grow exhausted and in my exhaustion, I grow lazy. My flesh whispers “what does it matter, anyway?” and I give in. (That is one of the things I am looking most forward to in heaven– no whispering flesh!!)

But we must endure to the end. We may cave to laziness or an unwillingness to give something up or to the ridicule that is sure to come, but when God helps us to see it, we must acknowledge it, confess it, and then move on. Thankfully, we have a wonderfully forgiving God and He loves us dearly.

So let’s keep searching for the truth together in a world that hates it. And, I may add, even in a visible church that hates it. Because, whether or not we see it, it is always there and it changes everything.

 

 

Self or Truth? (It can’t be both)

I came across this quote yesterday–

He who loses his temper in argument has begun to care more about himself, and less about the truth. (Alfred Plummer)

What an interesting thing to reflect upon in this age of strong opinions and thoughtless, angry words. There is no dearth currently of harsh judgements, often accompanied by flaring tempers.

Even if we Christians struggle with losing our tempers at home on occasion, most of us have learned (or are learning) the importance of not allowing that to happen in public. We understand the damage that does to the cause of Christ.

But the losing of one’s temper isn’t the only thing that shows one cares more about oneself than about the truth, now is it?

I believe there is another very acceptable way that Christians show their priority of self over truth. It’s lauded even. And this is a problem.

You see I think for most believers the temptation isn’t to talk too much but to talk too little. The temptation isn’t to prove the rightness of a point as much as it is to not speak up when it’s important.

And this can be confusing. After all, doesn’t the Bible teach that we are to be slow to speak (James 1:19) and that he who restrains his lips is wise (Proverbs 10:19). It sure does! So then it is important we interpret these in light of other scriptures (Mark 16:15; Philippians 1:13-14; I Thessalonians 2:4; Titus 2:1 and others) that encourage us to speak up.

You see, it isn’t so much in the speaking that we run into problems. What God knows (and what we quickly learn about ourselves) is that the sinful issues arise when we speak without thinking first or we talk before we actually listen to what the other person is saying.

It’s obvious that the Bible can’t mean to never speak up, given it’s many verses (and also the examples of godly people) encouraging us to do that very thing. But so many believers cling to those verses as if that gives them God’s permission to never speak the truth–even at the most opportune moments.

I guess each one of us struggles with this in one way or another. We all struggle with loving ourselves more than loving the truth. Whether it is exhibited by the relentless desire to prove we are right (and smarter than the other person) or it is by staying quiet so as not to draw unwanted antagonism or ridicule, both show the ugly love of self.

Only we can know why we are choosing to speak up or not to speak up. Only we can examine our hearts as to why we are responding as we are in times of opportunity.

James 3 reminds us just how dangerous the tongue is. It is an important reminder! There is so much potential to cause tremendous amounts of damage with it. But when we read the end of that chapter we begin to understand that it isn’t in the speaking but in the motives when we speak that the sin lies.

James 3:14-18 puts it like this–

But if you have bitter envy and [h]self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. 15 This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic. 16 For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there. 17 But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. 18 Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.

Bitter envy and self-seeking in our hearts are the proof that we are using earthly, sensual, and even demonic wisdom. When we speak up with these things in our hearts and minds, no good fruit can result.

But when we use the wisdom from above, then all is changed. Speaking up becomes about our dedication to the truth. It’s about being willing to admit we were wrong when necessary, it’s about being willing to yield on issues that are not of biblical import. It is peaceable and gentle.

I like how the ESV puts it: “open to reason”. This means are willing to have a loving, thoughtful discussion. And yet we must always go back to the Word of God as our standard and guide. This is our foundation for any opinion that truly matters.

God gives each of us many opportunities to share the Gospel and to point people to His Word. The question is do we love that other person and truth more than we love self so that we willing to speak up? And, if so, can we remove our love for self and our need to be right from the conversation?

 

Do we love truth more than we love self?

It is a very important question for any sincere follower of Christ.

 

 

How Do I Know Who’s Telling Me the Truth?

There has been a lot of conversations about lies as compared to the truth over this past year. It is so difficult to work our way through all of the chaos and confusion. But do you know this has been going on for years? We just didn’t realize it.

It has been especially prevalent in the church over the past 50 or more years, where we have seen lies bound into the church (often splitting churches and causing genuine Christians to leave and start another church) or slither in so subtly they go completely unnoticed by almost all.

So two people asked me the same question last night: How do I know if the sermon or commentary or book I am reading is telling me the truth?

I answered off the top of my head then but have been giving it more thought since that time. It is a great question and some of you may have wondered this, as well. I thought maybe I’d try to tackle that question here this morning.

So you are reading a Study Bible or a commentary on a passage and you wonder: Is this guy interpreting this passage correctly? Or perhaps you are listening to a sermon and you think: Is this what the Bible is actually teaching here?

What are some steps you can take to make sure you aren’t deceived? There are a few important things you can do. Let’s take a look at them–

1. Pray for discernment. It is important that we are diligent in asking for the Holy Spirit to guide us as we study the Bible. Many have been the times I have heard something and it just didn’t “sit right” with me. This caused me to start digging deeper and finding out if that person was right or not. I’ve head many people share that they’ve had the same thing happen to them. One of the Holy Spirit’s jobs in our lives is to help us understand and interpret the Word rightly (John 14:26) and He does faithfully do this.

2. Recognize that we can understand a lot of the Bible without help. God has designed His Word to be understood by the average lay person. Think about how many things are clear in the Bible when you just sit down to study it without helps. Sure, there are some things that are a bit confusing or hard to understand, but the majority of the Bible is pretty understandable overall. As we become more familiar with its theme, its context, and its content, dedicating ourselves to reading and studying the actual Bible, we will be able to spot things that are off much more quickly.

3. Value the truth of God’s Word and be willing to pay whatever it costs to follow it. If I have seen one thing that has caused people to stumble or even turn away from genuine Christianity, it is this. The loyalty to men runs deep and when someone is confronted with a favorite teacher who is teaching a false doctrine, they will often choose the teacher over the Bible. Or perhaps they are confronted with the truth that genuine Christianity requires sacrifice and self-denial. They don’t like that truth and so they go towards the false Christianity that promises health and wealth. The bottom line is that if we are not willing to follow the truth of God’s Word–no matter the cost–we will open ourselves up to being deceived. We must value the truth of God’s Word above all else as we grow as believers.

4. As you start studying the Word, you will start to become familiar with those you can trust. Many men who have died aren’t changing their messages, so I often start there. While I may not agree with everything, I do know I can trust them regarding the main doctrines of the faith. Men like Matthew Henry, Charles Spurgeon, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, J.C. Ryle, and many of the Puritans have so much to offer when it comes to the topics of salvation and sanctification. (I want to note here that many of these men followed the wrong eschatology of reformed theology. Augustine developed the idea of Replacement Theology out of his own hatred for the Jews and their doctrines and this wrong doctrine has been followed by so many since. But since many of these men have been alive, things have progressed and been made so much clearer in regards to a literal Revelation that I do wonder if some of them would be changing their minds about now…)

5. Ask someone you trust if you have a question about something you have read or heard. Now before you ask, do make sure this person is committed 100% to the truth of God’s Word over pleasing men. Make sure they will tell you the truth in answer to your question. There are many people out there who aren’t willing to do this because they don’t want to lose you as a friend or offend you. You want to find someone who is willing to tell you the truth, no matter the cost. If you have someone like this in your life, you are beyond blessed. Ask them your questions and be willing to hear their answers.

6. Research the person in question. Oftentimes when I have a question about something I have heard or read, it will be answered if I dig a little deeper into the person who said/wrote it. If people are seriously in error in one area, they are probably seriously wrong in others.

7. Look at the speaker/author’s friends. Psalm 1 says that a righteous man will not hang out with the ungodly. Romans 16:17 tells us we are to avoid those who teach things contrary to pure doctrine. If the person you are listening to or reading spends his time, unapologetically, with false teachers or proudly declares his connections with the unsaved (for instance, in his/her efforts to better this world), beware. This is a HUGE red flag. Mark and avoid any teacher that does this. The Bible makes it clear that this means the teacher is compromised.

8. Have much grace and a humble spirit when there are minor differences. We will never agree whole-heartedly with anyone on everything. This is just life. We can’t be so over-zealous that we turn away from someone simply because of a minor disagreement about a passage. And we must humbly recognize that we aren’t right about everything, either. No one is. So, in the little things, we have grace and humility, striving for unity among true believers. Oh, how many churches have been destroyed over minor disagreements.

9. Recognize that Satan wants to deceive you. We are told that he is like a roaring lion, who seeks to devour (I Peter 5:8) and that he often presents himself as an angel of light, as do his workers (2 Corinthians 11:13-15). Unless we are aware of Satan’s dedication to putting us off-course, we will be vulnerable in our naivete and ignorance. We must be aware of the spiritual battle that is raging for our souls. Satan would like nothing more than for us to be rendered ineffective for Christ and His Kingdom through deception and distraction.

_____________________________________________

I hope this has been helpful. It is certainly not exhaustive and I’m sure I will think of other things as soon as I post this (that is usually what happens!) If you have other suggestions that have helped you, I would love to read them in the comments section.

Life continues to get crazier and truth is costing more and more. Both biblically, as well as in the real, everyday world. Many are not willing to pay the price.

But if we are to keep ourselves walking in the truth, we must dedicate ourselves to it. No matter the cost. We must submit ourselves to God and His Word (even if we don’t like what it says), and, when we do, God will honor this desire. He will keep us and guard us from the evil one (2 Thessalonians 3:3; James 4:7).

So stay strong and value truth, my friends. In this time of great deception, ask the Lord to protect you. He is so faithful and He will!

 

 

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