The Dividing Doctrines of Grace

The Dividing Doctrines of Grace

April 27, 2016

Have you ever met a theological fence-sitter? These are those who like to have their proverbial cake and eat it too. They epitomize the old adage, “love the one you are with” so as not to anger any.

This phenomenon is found in various circles and even in many professing Christian circles, but the ones of whom I write today are those who waver with the wind in regard to their soteriological profession. One can almost imagine the Apostle Paul shaking his head at the mere thought.
For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ. (Galatians 1:10)

The word ‘Calvinism’ is divisive

We have all heard this feeble argument, haven’t we? “I don’t believe everything Calvin taught, so I do not say that I am a Calvinist,” say some. At face value, this sounds reasonable, but might it be a cop-out?

It seems fair to state that when the majority of Christians hear the word “Calvinist,” they assume that what is implied are the “five points” of Calvinism (i.e., total depravity, unconditional election, limited atonement, irresistible grace, and perseverance of the saints). Quite simply, most who claim the name of Calvinist do not claim to believe everything the man John Calvin taught.

Another common argument set forth by these fence sitters might be: “I don’t follow a man, I follow the Bible.” This ought to be a great insult to all who hold to the doctrines of grace, for it is an unjust accusation of idolatry.

S. Lewis Johnson was one of the twentieth century’s great expositors of Scripture. Of Johnson, Dr. John MacArthur has said, “Through the years I have listened to the preaching of S. Lewis Johnson far more than any other preacher.” With that in mind, in his exposition of Romans 8, Johnson states that John Calvin “was one of the greatest interpreters of the Bible down through the centuries.” He goes on and explains,
Now, I want to make something very plain, because unfortunately all of the people who listen to the word of God are not well taught in the Bible. When we talk about the five points of Calvinism, we are talking about soteriological truth, salvation truth. Now, it is possible for a man to hold this doctrine and not necessarily hold to all that John Calvin taught and believed. For example I would stand there myself. I don’t believe everything that Calvin wrote. He was a man and he made some mistakes, on the other hand, these are important teachings in the doctrine of salvation. [1]

In short, over the course of Church history, the word “Calvinism” has come to be synonymous with these five soteriological truths. The word itself, then, is a mere shortcut, a nickname, a brief way in which to refer to these doctrines. If the Christian would simply search the scriptures, he would find that the word of God exalts and proclaims these doctrines over and over again:*

Total depravity — Jeremiah 17:9; Jeremiah 13:23; Ephesians 2:1-3; Romans 3:10-12; Romans 8:6-8
Unconditional election — Matthew 22:14; John 6:37, 65; John 10:27-30; Romans 8:29-30; Ephesians 1:4; 2 Peter 1:10; 1 Thessalonians 1:4
Limited (or actual) atonement — Matthew 1:21; John 6:37-40, 10:11, 15, 19:30; Ephesians 5:25; Titus 2:13; Romans 5:17, 19
Irresistible grace— John 6:37-40, 44; Romans 8:30; Acts 16:14;
Perseverance of the saints— Philippians 1:6; 2 Thessalonians 3:3; 2 Timothy 2:13; Jude 24
The Bible teaches both!
Now, very often one of the primary points of contention for these fence-sitting individuals is the doctrine of unconditional election. The Bible teaches free will and election so I believe them both!” is their exclamation.

Well, it is true that the Bible speaks greatly about the free will of God (i.e., His sovereign will) to do as He pleases. But what of man’s so-called “free will”? Says John MacArthur,
[T]here’s a way to understand free will that is very important. Man’s will is free to choose the form of sin that most appeals to him, but that’s the limit of his freedom….
We’re depraved…our nature is fallen, it is dead, we are blind, we are alienated from God. We do not possess the life of God. We are dead in trespasses and sins, to borrow the language of Ephesians chapter 2. But within the framework of our sinfulness we could pick our poison.
When you talk about free will, we’re talking about the freedom that the sinner has to choose his iniquity. That’s what his freedom is, that’s the sum and substance of his freedom. The one thing he’s not free to do is to choose salvation, or to choose righteousness, or to choose holiness, or to choose God, or to choose Christ unaided and on his own.
The natural man understandeth not the things of God, they are foolishness to him, the preaching of the cross is foolishness to those that are perishing. The Jews are looking at it and it’s a stumbling block and it’s folly and foolishness to the Gentiles. All that the Bible says about the fallen man is that this man has no capacity to make the righteous choice. So…the will is bound by sin so that mingling around in the reality of the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life, you can pick your sin. But the one thing you can’t do is extricate yourself from that condition of sin and death. [2]
Man is only free to choose according to his nature. Apart from the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit, sinful man is enslaved and in bondage to his sinful nature:*
Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin.” (John 8:34)
But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. (Romans 6:17-18)
For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. Therefore what benefit were you then deriving from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the outcome of those things is death. But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:20-23)
Now, a paradox does exist as regards the role of man’s responsibility. What many do not seem to understand, however, is that one can believe in the sovereignty of God over all things and still affirm human responsibility as he walks and grows in faith. This is simply done by examining the Scripture in context:*
All things have been handed over to Me by My Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him. Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:27-28)
So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure. (Philippians 2:12-13)
The realities of God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility rest side-by-side in Scripture; however, as we have already seen, man is not in control of his own salvation. He cannot be, else no one would ever be saved!*
But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. (Ephesians 2:4-10)
As much as it may offend our human sensibilities, salvation is of the Lord (Jonah 2:9). Wholly. Entirely. Woe to those who would say otherwise.

So pay attention to your favorite Christian personality. Is he or she doing a doctrinal tap dance?

God’s Word declares difficult but glorious truths. May we never falter or fail to stand upon them simply because we seek to please men. We serve Christ alone.

___________________________________________
* The scripture verses presented serve only as a sampling of the myriad of texts that could be given.
[1] S. Lewis Johnson, “The Divine Purpose: Romans 8:28-30,” accessed 02 April 2016.
[2] John MacArthur and Phil Johnson, “Answering the Key Questions About the Doctrine of Election,” accessed 02 April 2016.

http://www.donotbesurprised.com/2016/04/the-dividing-doctrines-of-grace.html

War Room: A Review

War Room: A Review

by Justin Peters
Posted on September 10, 2015

If you do not know the Kendrick brothers by name, you almost certainly know them by their films: Flywheel (2003),Facing the Giants (2006), Fireproof (2008), and Courageous (2011). Stephen, Alex, and Shannon Kendrick have just released their fifth faith-based film, War Room. War Room, starring popular (DTT:FALSE TEACHERS) Bible teachers Priscilla Shirer and Beth Moore, looks like it may well be the most successful of their films to date bringing in $11 million just on its opening weekend; more than triple it’s $3 million production budget.

Given the popularity of Christian themed films and the considerable buzz about this one in particular, my wife, Kathy, and I went to see War Room on the evening of September 3rd so that I could write a review. For those of you who read my review of Mark Burnett and Roma Downey’s movie, Son of God, you know that I am a bit skeptical of the Christian movie genre as a whole. Nonetheless, I do want to offer what I hope to be a fair review. This review will not touch on every single facet of the movie or even on every theme it presents, but I do hope to address what I believe to be the most important of them.

Plot Overview

War Room is centered around Tony and Elizabeth Jordan, their ten year old daughter, Danielle, and Elizabeth’s real estate client-turned Christian friend, Mrs. Clara. The Jordan marriage is in serious trouble. Tony, a pharmaceutical salesman who travels extensively in his work, is the kind of husband and father one loves to hate. Though a hard worker, he shows little interest in his daughter and pursues a female work interest behind his wife’s back. Elizabeth, played by Priscilla Shirer, goes to Mrs. Clara’s home discuss the particulars of putting it on the market. The meeting, however, went far beyond deciding on a listing price for the house.

Mrs. Clara, an older widow, is a Christian fiercely devoted to prayer which she does in a closet she has dubbed her “War Room.” Mrs. Clara goes to war here, battling Satan who is portrayed as the source of every form of evil plaguing mankind. Rather than plotting troop positions on a military map, Mrs. Clara pins prayer requests and Scripture verses on the wall of her war room, prays to God, and rebukes the Enemy.
Mrs. Clara begins to ask Elizabeth some probing questions about her family, marriage, and church attendance. Upon learning that the Jordan family is at the point of collapse, Mrs. Clara exhorts Elizabeth to fight for her marriage in her own war room.
Slowly but surely, Elizabeth is changed by her newly found prayer life and by reading the Bible. One day in her war room, she discovers via a friend’s text that Tony has been seen in a restaurant with another woman. Elizabeth immediately prays for her husband and asks God to stop him. God gives Tony a stomach ache in the restaurant preventing him from following through with his adulterous plans.

Shortly after this, Tony is fired from his job. Rather than the anger and sarcasm he expected to receive from Elizabeth upon hearing this news, she offered him love and support. The change he sees in his wife eventually changes Tony as well. He confesses his sin and turns back to God. He seeks and is granted forgiveness from both Elizabeth and Danielle, and the Jordan family is on the fast track of restoration.

Despite his new life, Tony is fired from his job. What his boss did not know, though, was that Tony had been stealing drugs from the company, selling them and pocketing the profits. Though he had gotten away with it, his now sensitive conscience drove him to return to meet with his former boss, confess his theft and make restitution. His boss could easily have turned Tony in to the authorities to face prison but chose not to do so. The Jordan family was spared the loss of being torn apart again just as it had begun to heal. Tony eventually found a new, though less lucrative job, his family grew closer to one another and the Lord, Mrs. Clara’s house sold to a pastor and his wife, and all was well because of the battles fought in the War Room.

Strengths

The movie was, of course, clean. There was neither foul language nor any innuendos (other than what was about to happen between Tony and his almost-mistress at the restaurant) anywhere to be found.

War Room emphasized the importance of fidelity to one’s spouse and cutting off any potential threats to the sanctity of the marital covenant. The film championed the virtues of character, integrity, and selflessness. The importance of family, and the need for regular church attendance were stressed. Mrs. Clara (a very winsome character in the film) taught Elizabeth the importance of reading Scripture and, of course, prayer. The movie did teach the biblical truth that man is unable to reform himself. “You can’t fix Tony. Only God can.” said Mrs. Clara to Elizabeth.

The Gospel was, well, mostly there. Mrs. Clara presented the Gospel to Elizabeth in one of their meetings and she talked about sin, that Jesus died on the cross to pay the penalty of sin, was raised from the dead and that a person must believe in Jesus and repent. These are all essential elements of the Gospel and I am glad that they were included. That having been said, even though the proper biblical terms were used, often these terms were not explained. The term “repent,” for example, was used but never fleshed out. The lingo was there to be sure, but without a biblical understanding of these terms they are just that, lingo.

Weaknesses

As I’m sure you are expecting, I did find much with which to be concerned. Some of the film’s failures could have been avoided with more careful attention to doctrine and theology and some of the failures, as I will explain in the conclusion, are inherent to the genre itself and unavoidable. I will outline my concerns in a series of “Outs:” Out of Home, Out of Order, Out of Focus, Out of Bounds and Out of Context.

Out of Home

I may as well begin with the most politically incorrect and probably the most controversial point I will make in this review and get it out of the way. Not everyone reading this will agree, but truth is truth.

That men and women are of equal value before God is beyond dispute (Gal. 3: 28-29). That having been said, men and women do have different roles and the role of a young wife and mother is to be a worker in the home. The Apostle Paul writes that older women are to teach “the young women…to love their husbands, love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be blasphemed” (Titus 2:4-5). Note the “workers at home” part.

The context makes it quite clear that the “young women” are those who are married and have children in the home. This text makes it quite clear that such women’s primary place of service is not to be outside of the home but within.

Pastor and teacher Dr. John MacArthur has written that if a young woman is adequately fulfilling all seven of the requirements listed in this passage then she “will probably be a very busy individual” and have little time for work outside of the home. If, however, “she still has time left over, then she would be free to pursue enterprising and creative activities outside the home.”1 It is not that a young woman should never engage in wage earning work of any kind. Proverbs 31, in fact, depicts the godly woman who may do some enterprising work from within the home.

One of the first things I noticed in the film is that Elizabeth worked outside of the home as a real estate agent. Had she been adequately fulfilling all of her duties inside the home, then the case could have been made that this was permissible. This was not the case, however. In fact, the movie actually makes a point that Elizabeth was so involved at her job that she did not know what her daughter, Danielle, was doing at school or in her jump-rope team.

The sad reality is that the fallen world in which we live often requires young women to work outside of the home. Some “young women”2 have been abandoned by their husbands and some may have husbands unable to work due to some type of infirmity. In situations such as these work outside of the home is, unfortunately, unavoidable.

When a young woman can avoid working outside of the home, though, she should. If a young woman works outside of the home out of preference rather than absolute necessity, then a biblical principle has been violated. The issue is not a minor one. Note that if a young woman works outside of the home at the expense of her biblical household duties, then the result is that the Word of God is βλασφημῆται (blasphemetai), literally, blasphemed.

Writes Dr. MacArthur:

The home is where a wife can provide the best expressions of love for her husband. It is where she teaches and guides and sets a godly example for her children. It is where she is protected from abusive and immoral relationships with other men and where, especially in our day, she still has greater protection from worldly influences—despite the many lurid TV programs, magazines, and other ungodly intrusions. The home is where she has special opportunity to show hospitality and devote herself to other good works. The home is where she can find authentic and satisfying fulfillment, as a Christian and as a woman.3

Out of Order

War Room is a theological train wreck chronologically speaking. In other words, it totally gets out of order the Holy Spirit’s work of regeneration in a person with the fruits of regeneration.

In their first meeting, Elizabeth tells Mrs. Clara of the distressed state of her marriage to Tony. Upon hearing this, Mrs. Clara asked her, “Have you prayed for him?” There is nothing, of course, wrong with this in and of itself except the fact that Mrs. Clara made this inquiry without having first made certain that Elizabeth understood the Gospel herself. Though Elizabeth certainly was not guilty of the overtly egregious sins of her husband, like he, she displayed little understanding of the Gospel. She attended church only “occasionally” and was biblically illiterate. There was no discernible spiritual fruit in her life to indicate that she was a believer.
Another example occurs after Elizabeth hears the Gospel (most of it anyway) from Mrs. Clara and begins to get on the straight and narrow. Shortly after Elizabeth found out about Tony’s attempt to cheat on her, he came home from his failed dalliance to a meal she had prepared for him. She looked at her husband and asked, “You wanna pray?” At this point in the movie there is absolutely no reason to believe that Tony had been converted. He had little interest in Danielle and he did not love his wife.4 He was selfish, arrogant, was a thief, and had no conviction over his sin. He cared only for himself, had no godly sorrow, and showed no affections for things holy and pure. He was ignorant of Scripture and comfortably so. That Elizabeth, by this time walking with the Lord, would ask her husband to pray assumes that this is something he could do which, as a lost man, he could not.
Save the prayer that one may prayer at conversion, prayer is a spiritual discipline that can only be done by the saved. The movie gives the impression that praying for one’s spouse or asking God to bless the evening meal can be done by one who is lost. This, of course, is an impossibility. Before coming to Christ we are enemies of God (Col. 1:21), dead in our sins (Eph. 2:8-9), and cannot seek Him (Rom. 3:10-11); a condition which precludes any ability to pray (Is. 59:2).

Now, this having been said, I am not saying that this was the intention of the Kendrick brothers. It is probably the case that they were simply portraying how people normally speak. I am not at all saying that theologically they would believe that lost people can pray. The problem, though, is the vagueness in which it was portrayed.

Additionally, and even more worrisome is that the film gives the impression that one can live a life of habitual, unrepentant sin and still be a believer. In her own war room, Elizabeth petitioned “Lord, I pray for Tony that you would turn his heart back to you.”

My issue here is not that Elizabeth is praying for her husband, but that her prayer gives the viewer the impression that Tony was a just backslidden Christian.5 “Turn his heart back to You,” she prayed. Again, Tony was an absolutely loathsome individual at this point in the movie who displayed zero evidence he had ever experienced regeneration.

Christians can and do sin (1 Jn. 1:8) but their lives are not to be characterized by sin. It has been said that a Christian can stumble into sin, but he cannot swim in it. A believer is a new creature in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17) indwelt by the Holy Spirit of God Who produces in him good fruit (Gal. 5:22-23). Many people living lives of habitual sin are told they are just “backslidden” when they’ve never slid forward in the first place. Charles Spurgeon stated, “Unless our faith makes us pine after holiness and pant after conformity to God, it is no better than the faith of the devils, and perhaps it is not even so good as that.” Whether intentional or not, there is a danger of this film giving some of its viewers a false assurance of their salvation.

Out of Focus

War Room certainly did deal with sin, but it did so, I thought, primarily on a horizontal basis. In other words, though it showed the damaging consequences of sin in relation to our fellow human beings, it did not focus nearly so much on sin’s deadly consequences in our relationship to God.

Tony and Elizabeth both sinned in that they focused on their employment at the expense of their daughter, Danielle. Tony, of course, sinned in his pursuit of a woman who was not his wife. Eventually both came to see how their sin hurt others and they repented. In and of itself, this is good.

What I did not see – or at least what I believed was not emphasized nearly enough – was the vertical nature of sin. There was no mention anywhere in the film of the wrath of God that our sin incurs. There was no mention of God’s wrath abiding on the unbeliever (Jn. 3:36) or that we are saved from it (Rom. 5:9). There was no mention of eternal judgment for those who die in their sins (Lk. 16:19-31).

Without first understanding the wrath of God, one cannot rightly understand the mercy of God. Without first realizing that our sins are storing up God’s wrath (Rom. 2:5) which will be poured out on the ungodly for all of eternity (Rev. 14:10), we cannot truly appreciate His mercy. It is only in understanding God’s deserved wrath that we can fully understand His undeserved mercy. It is His wrath that makes His mercy so precious.

In watching the film both my wife and I were looking for one thing which is a hallmark of every genuine believer: a godly sorrow over sin.

The Bible speaks of two types of sorrow over sin. There is a worldly sorrow which is merely a guilty conscience. A worldly sorrow is one that is concerned only for the horizontal consequences of sin and it leads to death (2 Cor. 7:10).

The other type of sorrow, however, is a godly sorrow. A godly sorrow comes about when we understand that our sin is first and foremost against God. A godly sorrow is when we grieve over our sin because we understand that our sin grieves God and we desire to turn from sin because we do not want to grieve Him. It is this godly sorrow which “produces a repentance without regret leading to salvation” (2 Cor. 7:10).

Unless we both missed it, neither Kathy nor I saw any godly sorrow evidenced in either Tony or Elizabeth’s life. There definitely was sorrow over hurting others, but nowhere in the film did we see the kind of godly sorrow exhibited by David when he humbled himself before the Lord and said to Him, “Against You and You alone have I sinned and done what is evil in Your sight” (Ps. 51:4).

Out of Bounds

The Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 4:6 exhorts the immature believers in Corinth “not to exceed what is written.” In other words, we as believers are not to exceed biblical parameters. Whether in our theology or in our practice we are to stay safely within biblical parameters for when we exceed these God-given parameters we are opening ourselves up to demonic influence and demonic deception.

Sadly, biblical parameters dealing with spiritual warfare are exceeded throughout the movie. The entire film is saturated with Word-Faith/N.A.R. (New Apostolic Reformation) spiritual warfare lingo.6 There seemed to be as much time and effort expended in binding, rebuking and casting out Satan by Mrs. Clara and Elizabeth in their respective war rooms as there was praying to God.

In one of the more emotionally rousing scenes of the film, upon discovering her husband’s philandering ways, Elizabeth retreats to her war room. As she repeatedly cites to herself James 4:7b, “Resist the devil and he will flee from you,” indignation swells within her and she begins to talk to the devil. “No more, you are done! Jesus is Lord of this house and there is no room for you anymore! Go back to Hell where you belong and leave my family alone!” she shouts.

There are at least two significant problems with this. First, Satan is not in Hell. Only when the eschatological events of Revelation 20 take place will he be thrown into the lake of fire and “tormented day and night forever and ever” (vs. 10).7 The Bible makes it very clear that, for now at least, Satan is quite free “prowling about like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour” (1 Pet. 5:8).

Secondly, and more significantly, we as believers are not to be addressing Satan. Ever!

Consider that in Jude we have the record of Michael the archangel disputing with the devil and arguing over the body of Moses. Jude records for us that when he disputed with the devil, Michael the archangel “did not dare pronounce against him a railing judgment, but said, ‘The Lord rebuke you!’” Think about that for just a moment and let it sink in. If Michael the archangel – the archangel – did not “dare” to rebuke Satan then I think it’s probably a safe bet that we should not do so either. Pastor Jim Osman in his excellent book Truth or Territory writes, “What God’s highest holy angel would not dare to do, sinful, fallen men presume the authority to do. It is unthinkable. I have been in the presence of Christians who boldly declare, ‘Satan, I rebuke you in the name of Jesus,’ and I wonder, ‘Who do you think you are?’ Rebuking, commanding, or ridiculing the devil are not tools of effective spiritual warfare; they are marks of prideful, arrogant, self-willed false teachers.”8

It is troubling that noted Bible teacher Priscilla Shirer does not know this and would model such a dangerous and unbiblical practice. By exceeding biblical parameters, people are exposing themselves to the very enemy that they fancy themselves as rebuking.9

Incidentally, given that so many people are rebuking and binding Satan, have you ever wondered how he seems to keep getting back out? It seems that as soon as someone binds him, he’s free again. All of these people binding Satan don’t seem to be tying him up very tightly. And if we can bind and rebuke Satan (Be sure to bind him first. The last thing you’d want to do is rebuke an unbound Satan as he might give you a nasty uppercut when you’re not looking.), why not just bind him from all places at all times and be done with it?

But I digress.

The movie also has a decidedly mystical bent. Towards the end of the film, an older pastor named Charles and his wife, clients of Elizabeth, are shown the home. Charles notices the closed door to the “war room,” opens it and slowly walks inside. He looks around, pauses, backs out of the closet, and then walks back in as though he feels something different in the atmosphere. His wife asks him what he is doing and he says that there has been a lot of praying in this room. “It’s almost like it’s baked in,” said the old pastor.

This is pure mysticism. God speaks to us through the Bible and we speak to Him through prayer. Prayer is an act of obedience that serves to conform our will to that of the Father but it in no way changes the atmosphere in a closet, house, hospital, gymnasium, state or country. This is hyper-charismatic, Word-Faith mysticism.

In another scene Mrs. Clara, Elizabeth and Danielle were on their way to get ice cream when their trip was interrupted by a knife wielding thug demanding their money. The unflappable Mrs. Clara stared him in the eye and commanded, “You put that knife right down in the name of Jesus.” All of the sudden the thug looked dazed and confused. Powerless to follow through with his criminal plans, he fled the scene. Saying “in the name of Jesus” to this miscreant was like giving Kryptonite to Superman.

Throughout the film the name of Jesus is used in this way. It is used almost like a magical incantation, a Christianized version of Abracadabra, to manipulate the physical realm toward one’s desired outcome. Whether used in prayer to restore a marriage or to thwart a mugging, the name of Jesus always got results in War Room.

Contrary to the way in which it is portrayed in the film, saying “in the name of Jesus” is not like putting in coins in some theological vending machine. The name of Jesus is synonymous with the will of Jesus. When we pray for things in Jesus’ name rightly, we are praying for Jesus’ will to be done (Jn. 14:13-14; 1 John 5:14-15). Using the name of Jesus does not always bring the results we desire.

It was fidelity to the name of Jesus that led nearly all of the Apostles to gruesome deaths. It is fidelity to the name of Jesus that has brought horrific persecution to untold millions of Christians during the last two thousand years. Many Christians throughout the world face persecution to this day because of the name of Jesus. Sometimes the name of Jesus gets us not what we want, but what we may not want. Often it is in times of trial and persecution for the believer that God is most glorified.

Out of Context

The thief comes to steal, kill and to destroy; I have come that they might have life and have it abundantly” (Jn. 10:10) was quoted several times throughout the movie. In War Room the “thief” is identified as Satan who has come to steal people’s joy and marriages.

While it is not necessarily incorrect to identify the thief in John 10:10 as Satan, the context of the passage argues for a much broader view. The context indicates that the thief includes not only Satan, but any false teacher who claims any way of salvation other than that which is found exclusively in Christ. What the “thief” is attempting to steal is not one’s joy or marriage but rather one’s reception of the Gospel itself. The context is that of salvation, not one of life enhancement.

The movie concluded with one of the most familiar, beloved, and yet taken out of context passages in the Old Testament, 2 Chronicles 7:14: “If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from Heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” The text was shown superimposed on a shot of the United States capitol the insinuation, of course, being that if we will repent that God will heal our nation’s many societal ills.

Though a thorough treatment of this passage is beyond the scope of this article, to apply this verse to the United States of America (or any other country for that matter) is to employ poor hermeneutics. The context of this verse is that it is God’s answer to Solomon’s prayer dedicating the temple recorded in the previous chapter. There has only been, is now, and only will be one country in a covenant relationship with God – Israel.

Another aspect of the movie that was out of context is the entire premise of having a prayer closet in the first place. The film portrayed this room almost as having magical powers. If you want your prayers to be effective, it’s best to pray them in a closet emptied of its contents. Upon first consideration, this idea appears to have biblical support:

When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father Who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you. – Matthew 6:5-6.

As we were driving home from the theater that night, Kathy and I talked about how we would be willing to bet that thousands of people will see this film and then go to their homes, clean out a closet and make their own “war rooms” believing that their prayers will become more effective.

Sure enough, just this morning as I was writing this piece, I was watching the Daystar channel as presidents and hosts Marcus and Joni Lamb played a clip from Eyewitness New Fox 58 as Aaran Perlman interviewed two of the Kendrick brothers. A visibly emotional Perlman said, “I saw this movie last weekend with a group of people, I’m gonna start crying before I even get into this. It changed my life so much. This movie, it’s about prayer. It’s about finding a room called the war room and immediately after this movie I went home and ripped everything out of my closet and made my own war room.” “Wow, that’s incredible, awesome! You will see a difference in the days ahead. Write ‘em down so you can keep up with them. It’s great to be able to check off those prayer requests to realize God is alive and well and at work in your life,” Stephen Kendrick responded.

While there is certainly nothing wrong with praying in a closet if that is what one wants to do, the location is not the point. The point Jesus made in this text was not about location but attitude. The point is that we are not to make a show of our prayers as did the scribes and Pharisees and should remove any distractions which may divert our attention away from the One to Whom we are praying. Sincere, humble prayers offered in a living room, a backyard, or in an airplane at 40,000 feet halfway across the Pacific Ocean are heard just as well as those offered in an empty closet. Believing that there is some special power in the location itself is not only mystical, but borders on idolatry. The Object of our prayers and the condition of our hearts are the important things – not the location.

Conclusion

Some will read this review and undoubtedly think that I am being too nitpicky and critical. I have talked to some who have seen War Room and thought that it was great and that it had a solid biblical message. There is no doubt that the film was Christian themed – an element that has drawn the ire of numerous secular critics – but we are enjoined to “test all things” (1 Thess. 5:21) through the lens of Scripture and to “study to show ourselves approved unto God” (2 Tim. 2:15). Charles Spurgeon once said, “Discernment is not a matter of simply telling the difference between right and wrong; rather it is telling the difference between right and almost right.”

Finally, as I hinted at the beginning of this piece, I am not a fan of the whole Christian movie (I am not including documentaries in this) thing in general. It is not that I am inherently opposed to the genre per se, but rather that I believe there to be an inherent danger in them. For one, in order to be successful at the box office, Christian movies must be intentionally vague when it comes to many doctrinal matters. Christian films never really go past the basics of the Gospel and, sadly, often even fail at that. Yet the Bible says that we are to pay close attention to doctrine (1 Tim. 4:13) and to persevere in it (vs. 16).

Additionally, these movies are highly emotional. They tug at our heart strings. There is nothing wrong in and of itself with emotion, but emotion cannot be a substitute for obedience to objective biblical truth. Movies in and of themselves cannot bring lasting change to anyone’s life. It seems that every few years or so something new is introduced to the evangelical masses and is portrayed as the next great evangelistic super-tool. Whether it’s a blockbuster movie like the Passion of the Christ, or best-selling books like The Purpose-Driven Life, or Jesus Calling, 10 people get all excited. Spin-off products follow and incredible amounts of money are spent chasing after the latest fads. But they are just that – fads. Recall the Prayer of Jabez craze about fifteen years ago? Remember how everyone was praying for God to enlarge their territory? Do you have any friends still praying the prayer of Jabez? Me neither. Without a foundation of sound doctrine, without a constant and proper hermeneutic, all of these things are the spiritual equivalent of a sugar pill.

It is a sad commentary, in my estimation, that so many professing believers get so excited about the latest thing to come down the evangelical pike, but show little enthusiasm in and put precious little effort into reading, studying and obeying God’s Word. Watching a movie is easy. Laboring in the Word is not. But only the latter will bear fruit that remains.

Sources

1 Source: http://www.gty.org/resources/questions/QA188/is-it-wrong-for-wives-to-work

2 For the purposes of this article when I write “young women” I am referring to the biblical definition of the term per Titus 2.

3 Source: https://www.gty.org/resources/bible-qna/BQ101712/Does-Scripture-Permit-Women-to-Work-Outside-the-Home

Adult Coloring and Meditation –What Every Christian Should Know

Adult Coloring and Meditation –What Every Christian Should Know

by Jessica Pickowicz

March 15, 2016

Last February, during our family staycation, I bought my first adult coloring book… And I even colored in it…. Phew… There. I
said it. I feel so relieved to get that off my chest!

It seems a bit crazy that I would be even a little ashamed or intimidated to admit that publicly. But here it is. And right now there
is an argument peppering Twitter and the blogosphere regarding Christians and the adult coloring fad. Some are mocking; others
are getting offended; and still others are sitting back with popcorn in one hand and a stick in the other; poking the bear! Even I
have, regretfully, thrown my hat into the ring. I say regretfully because (though hilarious) it seems somewhat petty and snarky
and self-righteous to bash adult coloring. After all, as Tim Challies articulates in his recent article on the topic, it is just a hobby –
like golfing, knitting, tennis, or painting “happy little trees”. Furthermore, it can very well be exercised all to the glory of God.
And I, lover of adult coloring, respond with a hearty, “Amen!”
Challies is right. When it is just a hobby, adult coloring is a perfectly innocent past-time. It’s fun. It’s calming. It’s clean! It’s a great
mommy alternative to the My Little Pony and Ninja Turtle coloring books when coloring with the kids. It’s even occupational and
physical therapy, bringing vibrancy, joy, and art into the hands of people struggling with dementia, depression, ADHD, Autism,
and those with fine-motor and sensory struggles brought on by neurological diseases such as ALS, MS, and Parkinson’s — just to
name a few. By itself, adult coloring is a beautiful thing!
Sadly, what many people don’t know is that there is another fad sweeping the nation, and adult coloring books are at the heart of
it. The fad is meditative coloring. And it’s infiltrating the prayer lives of Christian women everywhere.
Meditative coloring is the practice of coloring specific patterns while emptying the mind, allowing thoughts to roam free, and
achieving spiritual enlightenment. Some of these specific patterns are called mandalas. Mandalas are spiritual symbols and
patterns used by Eastern religions for meditation purposes “allowing the individual meditating to become one with the
Universe.”¹ And it’s a challenge to find an adult coloring book that isn’t riddled with them. Gaining popularity, a few laps ahead of meditative coloring, is the practice among Christians of contemplative prayer. I don’t
have the space here to go into a detailed explanation of this heresy. But it’s important to educate yourself, and you can read about
it here. With the rise of the Word of Faith movement, the Prosperity movement, the increasing popularity of women authors such
as Priscilla Shirer and Sarah Young, and movies such as War Room; prayer as defined by and commanded in the Bible has been
grossly shirked aside (by women especially) in favor of a more ecstatic, meditative, emotional, new-age, and downright heretical
experience.

I conflate meditative coloring and contemplative prayer in this article because I feel that contemplative prayer is a very slippery
slope that lends itself too easily to the practice of meditative coloring, especially with the massive output of Christian and
Inspirational themed adult coloring books.

A warning to Christian women dabbling in these practices:
My aim is not to be harsh here, but I must be serious for a moment. The Bible teaches us how to pray. Moreover, it commands us
to pray and meditate in very specific terms — the only right way according to God. If we are not praying as Scripture commands,
we are not obeying God and are therefore in sin.

Please do not use these coloring books in conjunction with prayer and meditation, contemplative or otherwise. Do not empty
your mind. Ladies, please do not sit down to color and wait for a word fromGod! Please do not chant over and over (as in a mantra) a declarative “life-verse” from a page in your Scripture coloring book. Donot allow yourself to be entranced through the exercise of meditative coloring. These practices are pagan. They are the very thingScripture warns against.

How the Bible Commands us to pray and meditate:

1. Don’t empty your mind. Fill your mind with the Truth of God’s Holy Word!
Meditation as practiced by Eastern religions is much different than the meditation commanded in the Bible. While Eastern
meditation focuses on emptying the mind and a spiritual ascension into enlightenment; Scriptural meditation focuses on setting
the mind on a biblical truth and a realized application of that truth.
In Romans 12:1-2, the apostle Paul instructs us not to conform with the world, but to be transformed by the renewing of our
minds. Our minds are renewed through the study of His Word. We must store up His word in our hearts, and let it dwell in us
richly, so that we don’t sin against Him (Colossians 3:16 and Psalm 119:11).

2. Don’t let your thoughts wander. Take your thoughts captive and put them in obedience to Christ!
When we allow our thoughts to wander, the carnal mind, which is enmity toward God (Romans 8:7) roams to fleshly desires and
frightening depths; and the deceitful heart (Jeremiah 17:9) cannot discern sin on its own. Therefore, we must take our thoughts
captive and put them into submission to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5)!
So you see, a deceitful heart and a wandering mind are the perfect ingredients for a false prophetic word from God. Today, in the
Church Age, God speaks to us through his Word not meditative prayer!

3. Don’t chant things over and over as a mantra. Memorize his word. Having a controlled mind is a spiritual discipline
commanded in Scripture.

In Matthew 6:7, Jesus instructs, “And when you pray, do not use vain repetition as the heathen [Pagans] do. For they think that
they will be heard for their many words.”

In 1 Peter 1:13, Peter instructs Christians further to “gird up the loins [the loose fabric] of your mind,
be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ (See also Ephesians
6:14); and to be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers (1 Peter 4:7).”

4. Do not attempt to manipulate God through positive confession. Instead, ask Him.

We must not assume anything upon God. We must not treat Him like a Genie and demand His blessings according to what is
right in our own eyes (Proverbs 21:2). For His ways and thoughts are higher than ours (Isaiah 55:8-9)!

In Philippians 4:6-7 Paul instructs, “Do not be anxious about anything,but in everything by prayer and supplication with
thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard
your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

5. Finally, Jesus and the faithful heroes/heroines of Scripture provides us with the best models of prayer. Be imitators of them!

John 17:1-26 – Jesus’ High Priestly Prayer.

Luke 11:1-13 – Jesus teaches the disciples how to pray.

Luke 1:46-55 – Mary’s prayer, The Magnificat.

Ephesians 3:14-21 – Here, the Apostle Paul models prayer, along with many other places in the Bible.

Hebrews 12:1-2 – “Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so
easily ensnares us, and and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of
our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of
the throne of God.”

Prayer is powerful when practiced as God commands in His Word. Use it wisely. For the prayer of the righteous accomplishes
much (James 5:16).

All this to say, let’s keep our prayers and our coloring hobbies separate.

¹”MANDALAS, WHAT ARE THEY?” at  Spiritual Awakening
Jessica is wife to New England pastor Nate Pickowicz. She is a homeschooling mom of two. She is a passionate writer who has a
big heart for biblical teaching and women’s ministry.

Guest Post: Adult Coloring and Meditation – What Every Christian Should Know

LOTZ … Of Nonsense

LOTZ … Of Nonsense

Bud Ahlheim14 –Apr, 2016

Facebook-Anne-Graham-Lotz-prayer

While discernment is a mandated chore for every Christian, one that can only be finely honed by the Spirit-illuminated study of Scripture, sometimes it doesn’t take a whole bunch of that skill to recognize the smell of hermeneutical road kill that’s trying to be passed off as spiritual barbecue.

Such is the case with Anne Graham Lotz. That she has parlayed her father’s almost hallowed name within evangelicalism into what some see as a reputable “ministry” is probably no surprise, especially when viewed from a, shall we say, more pragmatic fiscal perspective. That hers is a “reputable” ministry, one “rightly handling the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15) is another matter altogether. Then, of course, there’s the even more fundamental question,Should SHE even be doing this?” (1 Timothy 2:12)

In any case, Lotz has a nifty name for her endeavor that, no doubt for her, is imbued with significant spiritual meaning – AnGeL Ministries. You’ll note, in what can only be seen, perhaps, as divine providence, that the word “angel” is built around her monogram. Neat-o, huh?

Lotz, though, has a substantial history of “imbuing” things with spiritual meaning that, most often, represent bonafide violence to both the text and tenor of Scripture. She ought imbue less, methinks, and abide more in the Word.

From Lassoing Baptists With Wiccan Prayer Circles by promoting a Jewish Mystic to now emphasizing a prophetic “word from the Lord” about the woeful spiritual condition of America, Lotz has made herself into a modern day prophetess.

From her own website, Lotz, in April 2015, advised her followers that, as a result of studying the Book of Joel, and because “the messages almost made the hair stand up on the back of my neck,” (always a valid hermeneutic) she was certain Jesus “is soon to return to take all His followers to heaven.” You may ask how she knows this. “Because God was clearly warning that His judgment is coming on America and on our world, and it’s going to be ugly. I knew it then, and I know it now.”  (God was, you understand, talking about America back there in the days of Joel.  Try to keep up, okay?)

Okay, well, hmmm. Yes, we are told, by Jesus, no less, to be ready. “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.” (Matthew 24:36)  Well, Lotz didn’t prophesy a date and time, so maybe she’s in the clear on this one.

But, “it’s going to be ugly?” Sadly, for many people, the righteous wrath of God as He judges sin will be ugly. It will be ugly, terminal, and eternal. But not for believers, since we tend to believe that we have been justified by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. Any warnings of ugliness should be to motivate us to “preach the Gospel,” not shudder in fear of a judgment for which Christ has paid our ransom.

Lotz points out the ugliness in her 2015 blog because she wanted to offer “a prayer I have written personally for each of the 9 days,” … “for those who sign up.” The “9 days” are the dates she identifies as May 15 – May 23, the days “between the Day of the Ascension of Jesus and the Day of Pentecost.” You see, those have “traditionally been days of prayer and fasting for an outpouring of God’s Spirit.” Oh, yeah, sure.

(Insert sound of annoying discernment tocsin here … again.)

Most believers understand the Pentecost event from Acts 2. What most tend to disregard is that this event was not the only “outpouring of the Holy Spirit” recorded in Acts. Similar events occurred with each of the geographic people groups Christ included in Acts 1:8. An outpouring occurred in Jerusalem and Judea with Jewish believers. (See Acts 2) It also occurred for the Samaritans and “God fearers.” (See Acts 8:14-17; Acts 10:44-48, Acts 11:13). Finally, it came to the Gentiles, notably under the ministry of the Apostle Paul. (See Acts 19:1-7)  Plus, that last outpouring?  Yeah, it was the last outpouring.  Not something happening in our day.

I don’t mean to be picky, but when Lotz offers special prayers based on those “9 days,” she disregards all those other days between the Acts 2 outpouring and the final outpouring in Acts 19 (which technically would be the dating most appropriate for a largely Gentile America, one would think) Still, she encouraged her followers to sign up, “Before it’s too late and judgment falls on our nation.” Plus, Lotz further specified her “Mayday! Mayday!” prayers of urgency as also being tied to the “days following three blood moons and a total solar eclipse.” (Somebody get Hagee on the phone cuz I thought there were four blood moons!)

Perhaps if you’ve not been comatose, even over the last week, and happened to turn to any national news broadcast, you’ve probably noticed what looks an awful lot like God “giving them up.” Being “given up,” as Paul describes in Romans 1, is judgment. And it’s not something that’s coming. It’s something that’s here.

Fast forward to this past January and Lotz is featured in Charisma News, Anne Graham Lotz Gives Prophetic Warning About 2016. Nice. “A prophetic warning.” I personally prefer Biblical prophetic warnings, but many seem to take a shine to “the daughter of a preacher man” when she takes on the mantle of prophetess.

Not commenting on why her 9 days of personally written prayers from 2015 did not change God’s mind as to His apparent judgment on America, Lotz wrote,  “I can feel the encroaching darkness of evil that is like a heavy moral and spiritual fog.” (Yep, and I can feel something encroaching, too … the disregard of Scripture.)

“I have been repeatedly warned in my spirit that the enemy is advancing,” she says. (Whump, there it is!  She gets extra-biblical warnings. I don’t.) Well, if you must know, I have been repeatedly warned that he is too … in Scripture. Plus, I’ve also been warned about being indiscriminately gullible. “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.” (1 John 4:1)

In consistent fashion, she goes on to reference texts of Scripture that apply to the Old Testament nation of Israel and proceeds to nationalistically narcigete them into messages from God for America. (Umm, no. We don’t do that.)

Again today, Lotz is back in the prophetic headlines in an article on The Christian Post, Anne Graham Lotz: God is Hiding From America, His Anger and Judgment Are Coming.  Honestly, it’s just surprising to me that God would be hiding from America. I mean, we’ve got terrestrial enemies that aren’t even afraid of us these days. What’s got God spooked?

Lotz thinks God may be “purposefully hiding himself from America in preparation for a coming judgment on the nation.” So now she ponders whether or not we’re in a Romans 1 judgment?  And that’s what sent our Sovereign God skulking away?  He is not a kitten hiding before pouncing on a ball of yarn, you know.  (Just a disclaimer, I’m not a prophet or genetically linked to a world famous evangelist or anything, but, yeah, judgment is here. And I knew it before today, too.)

“Billy Graham’s daughter has warned,” the article reads, “on numerous occasions in the past couple of years that God’s judgment on America is coming with the return of Jesus Christ to earth.” Well, much as I hate to see America go, I’m more in the “come Lord Jesus” camp. I’d like to see souls saved before that, of course, but they and I would eagerly forego the “America is the New Israel” salvation Lotz seems to want us to pray for.

Still, Lotz points out one thing going for her that most prophets and prophetesses don’t have. Imbuing herself, again, with providentially aligned spiritual significance, she says, “I was born just a week apart from the time when Israel was reborn as a nation [1948]. We are the same age.”  One time I looked at the moon at the very same time someone else was looking at the moon. That didn’t mean anything either.

Nothing like self-defined spiritual significance AND a tad of chronological numerology to give an air of credence to one’s Scriptural disregard and poor hermeneutics. Oh, yeah, and that last name thing doesn’t hurt either.

All in all, Lotz of nonsense. Stick to Scripture. That’s a bonafide “word from the Lord.”  The rest, though it seems like satire, is most assuredly NOT such a word.  “Test the spirits …”

[Contributed by Bud Ahlheim]

pulpitandpen.org

Darrin Patrick Removed from Acts 29 Megachurch for ‘Historical Pattern of Sin’

Darrin Patrick Removed from Acts 29 Megachurch for ‘Historical Pattern of Sin’

Investigation by The Journey found ‘pastoral misconduct’ in several areas of his life.
Darrin Patrick Removed from Acts 29 Megachurch for ‘Historical Pattern of Sin’Southeastern Seminary / Flickr

Darrin Patrick, vice president of the Acts 29 church planting network and founding pastor of The Journey megachurch in St. Louis, has been fired for violating his duties as a pastor.

The Journey cited a range of ongoing sinful behaviors over the past few years including manipulation, domineering, lack of biblical community, and “a history of building his identity through ministry and media platforms.”

In a letter announcing its lead pastor’s removal after 14 years of leadership, the church clarified that adultery was not a factor, though elders looked into inappropriate interactions with two women.

“In short, I am a completely devastated man, utterly broken by my sin and in need of deep healing,” said Patrick in an apology to his 3,000-person congregation. “The way that the Journey elders have demonstrated their desire to see me restored to Jesus, as well as their love for me, Amie, and our family is nothing short of miraculous and beyond gracious.”

Patrick, the author of The Dude’s Guide to Manhood and Church Planter, will no longer hold any internal or external leadership positions. He has accepted financial support from the church for an undisclosed period of time, and he and his wife will undergo counseling. The 45-year-old pastor also served as a council member for The Gospel Coalition, St. Louis Cardinals chaplain, and Acts 29 podcast host. Patrick’s bio has been removed from the Acts 29 site.

Regarding his misconduct, The Journey elders wrote:

We have experienced and confronted these issues regularly and intentionally over the past few years. Each time, these confrontations have been followed by initial confession with short-term changes but quickly receded into unfulfilled promises, reversion to old patterns, and broken trust with pastors/elders. Though we all stumble in many ways, those called to teaching and preaching carry the weighty responsibility of setting an example of a Christ honoring lifestyle with the consequence of stricter judgment (James 3:1).

The Journey invites members of its community to send their questions to leaders and their support to the Patrick family through a page on its website. The multisite church has six locations in St. Louis and has launched seven church plants.

Patrick joins several other prominent evangelical leaders who CT noted left office for reasons outside of financial or sexual impropriety.

John Piper took leave from his church in 2010, citing his need for “a reality check from the Holy Spirit.” The following year, Sovereign Grace Ministries president C. J. Mahaney stepped down due to “various expressions of pride, unentreatability, deceit, sinful judgment and hypocrisy.” Mars Hill pastor Mark Driscoll resigned in 2014, after his church found him guilty of arrogance and domineering leadership. Patrick was part of the Acts 29 board that removed Driscoll, its founder, from leadership and membership.

A full copy of The Journey’s letter regarding Patrick’s removal can be found here. CT blogger Ed Stetzer interviewed Patrick about church planting in 2010. He has also written about discipleship for Leadership Journal.

http://www.christianitytoday.com/gleanings/2016/april/darrin-patrick-removed-acts-29-megachurch-journey.html/

Satan’s Most Lethal Weapon and an End to Christianity??

Satan’s Most Lethal Weapon and an End to Christianity??

April 15th, 2016

By Caryl Matrisciana and Roger Oakland
(authors of The Evolution Conspiracy – Lighthouse Trails, April 2016, 2nd ed, illustrated)

Shattered marriages. Sexual promiscuity. Abortion. Human trafficking. Homosexual marriage. Crime. Terrorism. Youth in rebellion. What is happening to our world? And why?

It may astonish you, but belief in the evolution of life is the source of much of our present society’s confusion and waning morality. Evolutionism, in all its forms, has become so firmly entrenched that it now tears at the very fabric of our moral structure.

How do the “big bang” theory and other conjectures of evolutionary thinking contribute to the devastating condition of our society? What is the connection between evolutionary concepts and the state of our moral, spiritual, and physical health?
The theory of evolution holds that everything material developed as a result of natural forces, laws, and processes. In and of itself, this may not sound too alarming. However, consider the spiritual implications when evolutionists make the leap from the physical to the spiritual realm. They claim the laws of nature are constantly at work and increasing the level of man’s complexity and capabilities. They say that man also has the potential to evolve in every aspect of his being. The “wholeness” of man—body, soul, and spirit—is supposedly also growing and becoming more spiritually advanced. Many claim that man is reaching higher levels of goodness, love, and social benevolence with each succeeding generation.

Not all those who subscribe to the evolutionary theory of biological development would acknowledge the existence of a spiritual dimension to life, let alone subscribe to the notion that the evolutionary process encompasses the spirit and soul. Nevertheless, as we delve into this new millennium, it is becoming more and more evident that this conjecture is gaining momentum. Without a doubt, the growing advancement of the theory of biological evolution has set the stage for the next likely step in man’s “progression”—the quantum leap to godhood. As Richard Greene, New Age spokesperson, explains:

We’ve mastered the evolution of the physical body. We’ve mastered the evolution of the mind . . . and we’re coming to a time when we’re using this perfected—quasi-perfected—body, this opening and perfecting mind, to access the true perfection of the universe, which is the spiritual dimensions.1

Growing numbers of scientists and nonscientists believe this “spiritual evolution” is the next step in the progress of man. Yet one need only look at the world’s deteriorating social conditions to see that this evolutionary hypothesis bears utterly no resemblance to reality. World press reports ought to be enough to convince even the most hardened evolutionist that man’s moral and spiritual condition is becoming more debased.

Increasing crime and murder, government corruption, rampant rape and sexual abuse, intolerable crimes against children, huge numbers victim to human trafficking, more than 58 million abortions in America alone, pornography: a multi-billion dollar industry, and the proliferation of broken marriages resulting in countless fatherless homes—these surely reflect moral regression, not progression.

It is very telling to take a look back through history. The idea that ancient men were lower on the “consciousness ladder,” as claimed by evolutionists, sabotages historically proven accounts of past human generations. Holy men of old were amazingly advanced in spiritual matters. They were led by divine inspiration and were intellectually leagues ahead of their counterparts today. The mental excellence of merchants and philosophers, the structure of archeological splendor, and the advanced history of entire cultures and civilizations provide satisfactory evidence that men were originally created as men, as stated in the Bible.

Men and women, created from the beginning with God-given intellect, have achieved many outstanding accomplishments from the earliest times. We see no such achievements or aspirations in architecture, trade, scholarship, or any other area in the animal kingdom. One does not see the production of mathematically complex pyramids in jungles filled with ape-like creatures. These are evidenced only where civilized man is known to have lived. Yet evolutionary explanations for the existence of early ape-like man continue not only to mock our common sense but erode our morality as well.

Myriads of people are being shipwrecked in spiritually defiled waters and don’t understand why they are drowning. They cling to lifeboat “Science” in the hope that its answers to the origin of life, backed up by impressive credentials and high-sounding assurances, will rescue them and provide them with the stability and meaning for which they are desperately searching. They have been hooked by false claims that the world began by slow evolutionary chance processes rather than by spontaneous creation by God, who is both separate from the universe and the planner and designer of all that is. They assume the all-too familiar theory of evolutionary development is verifiable fact supported by scientific data.

Poison at the Roots

In replacing God’s act of creation with a process of natural evolution, we are faced with the question: Have morality, truth, goodness, kindness, love, and other human values also developed from nothing?
If they have, we must accept such things as “relative truth,” “shifting absolutes,” and “values clarification.” And these pose serious threats to every daily decision we make. Nothing then can be based on absolutes; nothing can be determined to be right and nothing wrong if truth is seen to be forever in transition.

If, however, we believe that God, a moral Creator whose character is absolute truth, supernaturally created the universe and made man in His own image and likeness, then another picture emerges. Man inherits from Him a sense of right and wrong, truth and error. And he performs best when living in harmony with the Creator’s guidelines.
A car designer precisely molds his machine and arranges its internal electronics and engineering to work best in conformity with certain strategic instructions he has devised. For the owner of the car to deviate from the designer’s intentions and instructions would be counterproductive. Guesswork or ignorance would not secure high-level performance. Only dedicated adherence to the rules laid out in the car-owner’s manual guarantee the machine’s successful operation.
In a similar fashion, at creation, mankind was given inbuilt directives. The most important of these is the spiritual heart and instinct that God created the inside of man who is able to be led by the Holy Spirit and by God’s instruction manual, the Bible. This quality is unique to man alone. It is not found in animals or nature:

The Lord looketh from heaven; he beholdeth all the sons of men. . . . He fashioneth their hearts alike. (Psalm 33:13,15)
But man doesn’t want to submit to God’s guidelines. Without a Creator God, man is free to develop his own moral code for his life, his government, his home, and his schools. This is the logical rebellion of evolutionary thinking.
God’s law, when applied correctly, establishes man’s personal and moral conduct, his family’s well-being, and harmony in the ruling of a nation. All three are interwoven and dependent on God. But the individual must come to a place of personal commitment to the God of the Bible and to the authority of Scripture as truth. The first thing we are told in the Bible is “God created.” Evolutionism erodes man’s personal walk with God. God denied “in the beginning” brings disharmony in every other relationship in life.

Evolutionism frees man from the question of submission to God. It appeals to man’s religious nature while leaving intact his intellectual pride. This explosive combination wreaked spiritual havoc with Adam and Eve (the first man and woman whom God created). And it continues to harm mankind today. The evolutionary premise is a cancerous tumor that has reached into every major circle of society and corrupted cherished values.

Calling Evolution’s Hand

Although many scientists claim that mankind is scaling the evolutionary ladder, no such evidence exists. No scientific proof drawn from life sciences such as biology or earth sciences such as geology verifies that evolution ever occurred in the past. In fact, as we will show, today’s most outstanding scientific information visibly opposes evolution.
It is interesting to note that one of the characteristics scientific investigators claim they possess is the ability to think and observe critically. Every child in grade school is told by his or her science teacher that open-mindedness is an absolutely essential quality of a good scientist. In other words, a scientist must use critical thinking and be willing to examine all the evidence. Uncritical thinking arises when we fail to ask for the evidence that supports all ideas and all theories.

But unfortunately, evolutionism does not always work that way. In fact, when challenges appear, the evolutionists often set themselves high upon a pedestal and proclaim their infallibility. The idea often projected by evolutionists is that their theory is always self-correcting and continually modifying itself—that it is a progressive truth accommodating new facts as they are discovered. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Is it not reasonable to question evolution if there is observable evidence that contradicts the theory? Why is it that evolutionists would rather disparage opposing views and dismiss facts that do not agree with their notions?
Creationists who claim that evolutionary teaching is based on unobservable evidence are labeled as religious fanatics attempting to force the “public indoctrination of a religious view.”2 Only those individuals “properly qualified within the scientific community”3 are capable of properly evaluating the facts, states anticreationist Willard Young in The Fallacies of Creationism. And to really drive his point home, he insists:

The obstacle the layman faces is not, in general, any lack of intelligence, but simply ignorance of the technical details of the subject. To achieve “expert” competence in complex and difficult subjects requires many years of study and experience.4

Unfortunately, all too many people have fallen into the trap of accepting the opinion of so-called “authorities” and “experts” on blind faith. No questions asked. Certainly, there are areas and concepts of science difficult for the nonscientific person to grasp. But one thing that everyone has the ability and the right to question is the difference between that which is fact and that which is not fact. Even the layperson has the ability to discern the difference between common sense and logic, wishful speculation, and outright nonsense. History has revealed over and over again that many theories and ideas of the past have turned out to be completely erroneous even though they were convincingly presented to the public as absolute truth. Do evolution scientists really have the right to declare their unchallengeable “priesthood”?

The Call to Arms

Considering the eternal consequences that result from the denial of God and His handiwork in creation, it is time to see just how firmly evolution has wrapped itself around our culture—and our very own lives. Caught in its grasp, we must seek to discover a way to disengage ourselves so that we can weigh evolution in the balance of truth. Is it logical? Have we accepted its ideas just because we were told they were scientific? What proof is there for evolution? And most importantly, have we let the vehemently anti-Christian values of the evolutionary premise mold our thinking?
Analyzing evolution on all its fronts, we must recognize the critical goals of the evolution/creation debate, summed up by anti-creationist, science writer, and ‘joyous atheist,” Richard Bozarth:
The day will come when the evidence constantly accumulating around the evolutionary theory becomes so massively persuasive that even the last and most fundamental Christian warriors will have to lay down their arms and surrender unconditionally. I believe that day will be the end of Christianity.5
Satan pulls no punches. His game plan is to use every available means—in this case evolutionary supposition—to bring people to moral chaos and eternal destruction. As Christians in a society that has already bought, unreservedly, into evolutionism, we have a responsibility to enter into the fray and bring the evolution conspiracy to light. The hearts of many depend on it.
(This has been an excerpt from Chapter 1 of The Evolution Conspiracy, 2nd ed., 2016, Lighthouse Trails – Release Date: April 29th, 2016)

lighthousetrailsresearch.com

The Young Messiah’s Only Words

The Young Messiah’s Only Words

by Jordan Standridge
March 15, 2016
“Why is it that you were looking for Me? Did you not know that I had to be in My Father’s house?” Luke 2:49

Those are Jesus’ only recorded words in Scripture before the age of thirty. Nothing else. In fact we don’t have anything in Scripture about Jesus between the age of two and the age of thirty. Niente. Zilch. Nada.

Other than informing us about an escape to Egypt, The Sovereign God of the universe that gave us Scripture chose before the foundation of the world to only give us one story about Jesus’ life between his birth and the start of his ministry. It is only right for us to ask ourselves why is it so? Why in the world do we have only one story of a young Jesus?

Hollywood can make a two-hour long movie about Jesus in this time period, but I can already tell you without having watched it that the movie will disappoint any Bible believing Christian. I believe that there is a reason why God gives us only one recorded statement of Jesus.

Having had the recent privilege of preaching through Luke 2:41-52, I had to ask myself why Luke gives us only one sentence from Jesus. I’m sure he knew about stories of Jesus’s childhood. He must have, and yet he did not think Theophilus needed to know about them. I concluded that their absence only make the words he does include that much more powerful.

Luke has some serious implications in giving us only one statement from the childhood of Jesus. We must pay attention to what he has to say.

Jesus’ only words tell us that he is God

In Luke it seems as if everyone is announcing the divinity of Jesus. The angel Gabriel announces that he is God. Zechariah announces the Messiah. Elizabeth, as she is pregnant with John the Baptist, tells Mary that the baby in her womb is God. John the Baptist, as an infant in the womb, can’t help but leap for joy at the sound of Mary’s voice.

By Luke chapter 3, Mary and Joseph find out that they will be the parents of the Messiah. A host of angels, on the night of Christ’s birth, announce the birth of the Messiah to a group of shepherds. And the shepherds themselves go and worship their Creator in the manger, and leave from there as the first evangelists declaring that the Savior, Christ the Lord, was born. Simeon and Anna, who have been waiting for the Messiah for years, announce that he is the one who was promised. It seems as if the entire world has declared Jesus as God and there is one human left who must declare the divinity of Christ and that is Christ himself. And Luke lead by the Holy Spirit shows us that the young Messiah knew exactly who he was and that he was unashamed to say that he was the Son of God.

Jesus’ only words show us that He was always aware He was God

Although it would be fun to know stories about Jesus’s childhood, God in his sovereignty didn’t think it was necessary for our sanctification. The only thing we needed to know is whether or not Jesus always believed he was the Son of God or if it was something he made up later on in life. Luke provides us with the answer. Jesus’s words shock Mary, because she realizes that this young messiah already knows who his true father is. It’s not something he made up at the age of thirty. It is something he always believed and knew. Jesus Christ not only tells us with his own lips that he is the Son of God but he tells us that he had always believed and understood that.

I get Christian’s fascination with the young Jesus. I mean we have the God of the Universe, learning how to walk, learning how to talk, getting tired, sleeping, bleeding. His siblings mistreat him, and He holds the power of the universe in His hands. And yet we don’t need to know details about any of those things, the only thing we need to know, in this life, is whether or not he claimed to be God. And the New Testament emphatically shouts yes! The second question is did He always claim to be God? And thanks to Luke and this incredible story of Jesus in the temple we can emphatically shout yes! He was self-aware of His divinity and didn’t need anyone to tell Him. Unlike people who started false religions later on in life, Jesus always claimed to be not of this world.

Perhaps one day our curiosity will be satisfied in Heaven. Perhaps Mary and Joseph will tell us stories about Jesus and His incredible obedience. Jude, and James may tell us what it was like to grow up with a perfect older brother. Maybe Christ himself will tell us stories of His childhood, but until that day we can say yet again in unison, “Hey Hollywood! You can keep your movie, we’d rather read the book!”

http://www.worldviewweekend.com/news/article/young-messiah-s-only-words

The Young ‘Gnostic’ Messiah

Thursday, March 10, 2016

The Young Gnostic Messiah

It wasn’t so long ago when radical liberals lined up attacks upon Christianity during the season of Good Friday and Easter. Liberals would be on media programs to promote (discredited) theories that Jesus didn’t actually die on the cross, or that the resurrection did not actually happen, and other such nonsense. Now however, Satan does not have to rely on the liberals and their attacks, which were so outrageous the attacks convinced no one but their liberal proponents themselves. Instead, Satan dresses up as an angel of light and is now attacking the Christian faith from within.

So what is the Trojan horse? This Good Friday/ Easter season, we have the so-called Christian movie The Young Messiah. To say that the movie is unbiblical is an understatement. Just from the trailer alone, there is enough material to indict the movie and its producers as being agents of the devil, willingly or unwillingly. It is unbiblical, blasphemous and Gnostic. Yes, it is Gnostic, with a capital “G.” It is astonishing that supposedly many Christian leaders have endorsed this movie. I know Evangelicalism has little if any depth in it, but these endorsements have stricken a new low for Evangelicalism, which is saying a lot since my estimation of the Evangelical movement was so low I thought I had reached rock bottom — even supporting the nativist and vulgar buffoon Donald Trump was not as bad as this!

The first and major problem with this (anti-) “Christian” movie is its Gnosticism. Gnosticism was an esoteric and eclectic movement in the first few centuries of the Church that attempted to fuse Eastern mystical religion, Greek philosophy, and elements of Christianity into a syncretistic religious soup. Gnosticism, like Neo-Platonism, elevates the spirit over matter. Matter is considered evil, and thus creation (matter, the universe) was made by a lesser and lower deity. The problem with man is not sin, but creatureliness. The body is the prison of the soul, and salvation is achieved by learning the path to liberation, towards pure spirit and towards the One, God. This path involves the gaining of secret knowledge (gnosis), and thus the movement is called Gnosticism.

As a false religion loosely affiliated with, and competing against Christianity, Gnosticism attempted to subvert the Christian faith and message. Spurious gospel accounts were written that made it seem as if Jesus were a Gnostic. Since the four Gospels were well distributed, Gnosticism tried to insert its message by “filling in the blanks” of Jesus’ life and ministry, and the first 30 years of that life would prove an excellent place to embellish the character and teaching of Jesus in their favor.

One such Gnostic text was the Infancy Gospel of Thomas, an anonymous text falsely ascribing as its author the Apostle Thomas. The text claims to fill up some of the unknown years of Jesus, during his childhood. In the trailer to the movie, we see an enactment of, or an allusion to, the scene from the Infancy Gospel of Thomas 1:2-3. In that text, the Gnostic writer claimed Jesus fashioned birds out of clay and then they came alive. In the trailer, we see Jesus at the beach rising to his feet with clasped hands and then opening his hands to reveal birds which flew away, so, while it isn’t clear in the trailer, it seems likely that the full scene in the movie will show Jesus making birds from clay, or rather sand.

The movie is thus Gnostic in its use of a Gnostic source, and in its “filling in the blanks” (basically lying) about the life of Jesus. This is not just plain artistic license and embellishment, but it is the whole movie, the creation/ adaptation of a totally fictional story about Jesus with no basis at all in the Scriptures and in real history. For the Christian leaders who endorse this blasphemous (in more ways than one) movie, is it their intent to state that the historicity of Jesus’ actual life and work do not matter, since a fictional tale about him is evidently just as valid as the biblical truth?

The second problem, a theological problem, lies in its portrayal of the young Jesus as someone struggling with existential angst concerning his calling. There are so many things wrong with this portrayal of Jesus. First of all, the trailer seems to indicate that Jesus came to realize his calling not from himself but through Mary. Secondly, Jesus was portrayed as someone learning how to become the Savior. Yes, the trailer cited Philippians 2:6-7, but, as far as I know, even the worst of the kenotics (those who hold that Jesus emptied himself of his divine attributes in the Incarnation) would balk at this portrayal of Jesus! If the trailer is accurate, the movie’s Christology is totally messed up. To say that Jesus learned to be the Messiah puts Jesus out as a man who became the Messiah, which is basically an Adoptionist Christology. This kind of doubting and angst, while making “Jesus” relatable to an angsty postmodern audience, is a practical denial of Christ’s deity and a rejection of Scripture’s actual portrayal of the young Jesus. The text misused in this trailer, Philippians 2:6-7, did not say that the Son ceased to be God in the Incarnation, but rather that He divested Himself of His heavenly privileges and glory, thus becoming a servant (as opposed to the Lord of heaven). The Son as a servant divested Himself of the exercise of his regnal authority, but He never ceased being the Son. Jesus continued to be God even while on earth! In the one section where we were given a glimpse into Jesus’ childhood (Lk. 2:41-51), we are shown a Jesus who already knew of his calling even at the young tender age of 12.

Yes, a young “Jesus” struggling with angst might be more relatable, but it is a false idolatrous representation of the real Jesus. The real Jesus from young knew who he was and what he was sent to do. The life of the historical young Jesus would not make for a good movie, but then Jesus came not for our entertainment but for our salvation! While Jesus was indeed human and suffered on this world, that does not mean that he faced the same angst as we do. In fact, ancient civilizations tend not to face our postmodern angst, for most people in ancient times struggle daily to put food on the table, while living in constant fear appeasing gods and spirits among them.

I am sure the actual movie would yield even more problems, as the footage concerning the Romans seem to indicate. But just from the trailer itself, we see a person portrayed that behaves all too differently from the biblical Jesus. It is manifestly shameless for the director of the film to think that this movie has anything remotely to do with the true Jesus. In an interview with Christianity Astray Today, the director even had the gall to denigrate orthodoxy, stating that one just have to have an emotional connection to the people on firm. While that might be fine with normal movies, this movie is marketing itself as a Christian movie about Jesus, which means it should be truthful at the very least, which this movie isn’t.

The Young Messiah is a work based upon false stories of Jesus. As such, all Christians should be warned against watching this Gnostic trash. If God did not see fit to give us details on Jesus’ first 30 years, then perhaps we should likewise not peer into the secret things of God.

http://puritanreformed.blogspot.com/2016/03/the-young-gnostic-messiah.html

The Lord Told Me -audible words from God?

The Lord Told Me

2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:19; Revelation 22:18-19

by Cameron Buettel

The church has fallen into a dangerous pattern when it comes to divine direction. Too many believers today are trying to hear directly from God—whether through an audible voice or a stirring of their souls. Worse still are the people who legitimize everything from heresy to fundraising schemes to simple personal decisions by asserting the leading of the Lord.

I’ve seen numerous young men—particularly those in churches that allow and encourage modern prophecy and revelation—deploy divine decree as a last ditch attempt to win over girls who have declined their romantic advances. Tragically, many women have caved to the claim that “God told me to marry you” and been snared in loveless marriages. One of my friends, cornered by such a proposal, had the presence of mind to respond by saying, “God wouldn’t be so cruel.”

The assertion, “The Lord told me” is regularly employed as a sanctified shield for all sorts of claims. Spend a few minutes watching TBN or another charismatic network for all the proof you need. And to undiscerning eyes and ears, it’s generally an effective way to insulate a spurious message from the scrutiny of critics and dissenters. After all, who wants to take sides against the Lord and His messengers?

But believers cannot allow that unsubstantiated claim to disconnect our discernment, or give a free pass to everyone with the temerity to claim they speak for God. Instead, we need to measure every message against the truth of God’s Word.

Joyce Meyer’s books are littered with stories of the casual conversations she has with God. Moreover, she has sought to validate her entire ministry based on the direct channel of communication she supposedly enjoys with the Creator of the universe. One academic researcher, with strong feminist leanings, made the following observation:

In “Grace, Grace, and More Grace,” another one of Meyer’s later recorded sermons, she states nineteen times that her message is divinely inspired. More importantly, in this sermon she justifies her ministry and preaching in general by claiming God called her. For example, here Meyer stresses that even though she struggled when she began her ministry, divine authority was on her side: “Do you know how many years I frustrated myself tryin’ to make this ministry come to pass, and it was certainly God’s will. He said it. It was God’s call; God had anointed me.” Therefore, the message that she gives her audience is that she cannot refuse the “call” and remain silent. By reminding her audiences that each sermon and message is “anointed,” she reaffirms her authority and establishes that she is subject to a higher authority than the doctrinal leaders who might insist she remain silent. [1] Tracy Hasley Frederick, Feminizing the Pulpit: Feminine Style and the Religious Rhetoric of Joyce Meyer (Doctoral Dissertation Submitted to Regent University: 2009) 100.

John MacArthur has observed the “God told me” phenomenon from the vantage point of five decades expounding what God has already said in Scripture:

“God told me . . .” has become the anthem of the Charismatic Movement. Strange private prophecies are proclaimed by all kinds of people who evidently believe God speaks to them. Surely the most infamous is Oral Roberts’ preposterous death-threat prophecy. In 1987 Roberts told his nationwide audience that God had threatened to “call him home” if he couldn’t raise eight million dollars by his creditors’ deadline. Whether and how that threat might have been carried out, the world will never know; Roberts received a last-minute reprieve in the form of a large check from a Florida dog-track owner. [2]http://www.gty.org/resources/articles/A366

Even Charismatic author and pastor, R. T. Kendall concedes the prevalence of the problem in his theological circles:

What must be avoided in any case is people saying “Thus saith the Lord” or “The Lord told me.” Speaking like this is not only highly presumptuous but is taking the name of the Lord in vain. . . . It is using God’s name—the worst possible kind of name dropping—to elevate your own credibility. You are not thinking of the Lord’s credibility but your own when you bring in His name. [3] R. T. Kendall, Holy Fire: A Balanced Biblical Look at the Holy Spirit’s Work in Our Lives (Lake Mary, FL: Charisma House, 2014) 150.

Ironically, Kendall’s book is endorsed by some of the worst and most visible prophetic frauds—John Arnott, Mike Bickle, John Hagee, and Bill Johnson, to name a few. Such is the delusion (or deceitfulness) of these men that they can read the above quote and think it applies to some other charlatan. Even Kendall, while renouncing “Thus saith the Lord,” is more than willing to speak out the other side of his mouth:

The late Oral Roberts was the most famous of these [people with the supernatural gift of healing]. I was privileged to meet him at his home in California three times. On one of those occasions he told me of a moment when the Lord spoke powerfully to him in his hallway a few days before. [4] Holy Fire, 148.

It should not be lost on us that extra-biblical revelation is necessary to support any agenda not revealed in the Bible. Dreams, liver shivers, and voices from heaven may impress the naïve and appeal to lazy students of Scripture but, as Peter said, “we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place” (2 Peter 1:19). Peter had actually heard God’s voice from heaven (Matthew 17:5; 2 Peter 1:17–18) but still counted Scripture as a “more sure” revelation. And John MacArthur couldn’t agree more:

The truth is, there is no fresher or more intimate revelation than Scripture. God does not need to give private revelation to help us in our walk with Him. “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate,equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16–17, emphasis added). Scripture is sufficient. It offers all we need for every good work.

Christians on both sides of the charismatic fence must realize a vital truth: God’s revelation is complete for now. The canon of Scripture is closed. As the apostle John penned the final words of the last book of the New Testament, he recorded this warning: “I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God shall add to him the plagues which are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book” (Revelation 22:18–19). [5]http://www.gty.org/resources/articles/A366

It’s worth pointing out that this problem isn’t exclusive to charismatic believers. The rise of mysticism in the church has encouraged Christians of all stripes to pursue direct, personal experiences with the Lord through contemplative prayer and other mystical practices. Others simply give too much credence to the spiritual receptivity of their guts. In either extreme—or anywhere in between—the message is clear: God’s Word is not enough.

That cannot be the testimony of the church. We must exalt and extol the authority and sufficiency of Scripture, upholding it as God’s complete and inerrant revelation to His people. And we need to guard ourselves and others from the influence of those who pretend to speak for God.

The next time you hear someone say, “The Lord told me,” kindly ask them to provide the chapter and verse as well.

 

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