When Non-biblical Becomes Unbiblical

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

I have written before about the difference between terms that are biblical, unbiblical, and non-biblical. It is very important for us to keep these terms straight, especially so for those in leadership positions. 

The problem becomes very challenging when non-biblical issues are given biblical status, and as a result, people begin to respond in a decidedly unbiblical way. 

In a recent talk that I gave to some ministry interns, I unpacked this idea in more depth. 

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Links & Quotes

William Perkins defined theology as, “The science of living blessedly forever.” He also had this word for pastors as they teach theology: “The ‘demonstration of the Spirit’ becomes a reality when, in preaching, the minister of the Word conducts himself in such a way that everyone—even those who are ignorant of the gospel and are unbelievers—recognize that it is not so much the preacher who is speaking but the Spirit of God in him and by him…. This is what makes his ministry living and powerful.”

“Self-trust is the first secret of success.” —Ralph Waldo Emerson

80 Years Ago: The Assemblies of God was a founding member of the National Association of Evangelicals, and remains the largest of the 40 denominations that are members of the NAE today.

John Piper identifies five digital dangers and gives us strategies for combating them. I especially thought these insights on pornography were powerful: “More insidious that X-rated videos, we can now not only watch but join the perversity in the privacy of our own den. Interactive porn will allow you to ‘do it’ or make them ‘do it’ virtually. I have never seen it. Nor do I ever intend to. It kills the spirit. It drives God away. It depersonalizes women. It quenches prayer. It blanks out the Bible. It cheapens the soul. It destroys spiritual power. It defiles everything. Resolution: I will never open any app or website for sexual stimulation, nor purchase or download anything pornographic.”

“I could well believe that it is God‘s intention, since we have refused milder remedies, to compel us into unity, by persecution even and hardship. satan is without doubt nothing else than a hammer in the hand of a benevolent and severe God. For all, either willingly or unwillingly, do the will of God: Judas and satan as tools or instruments, John and Peter as sons.” —C.S. Lewis

“The response of Jesus to those guilty of sexual sin is not to condemn nor condone the sin. I see in His example [John 8:10-12] a good pattern: (1) Love first—‘I don’t condemn you’; (2) Speak the truth—‘Sin no more.’” —Kevin Berry. The world has made “love” mean accepting whatever the other person is doing, and “truth” now means agreeing with the other person. With the Holy Spirit’s help, we can speak the truth in love without condemning nor condoning.

Which Engine Drives You?

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

There’s a little song that makes me chuckle every time I hear it, and I may have even sung this song a couple of times myself. It goes like this, “I had a lot to do today, but you know what I did instead? I took a nap. It was a very good nap.” 

We’ve all been there. There are things we know that we should do, but we simply don’t feel like doing them. We let our feelings drive our actions. There are several seemingly innocent things that we can handle this way, with no apparent problems created for ourselves. 

The real problem comes in when our feelings continually drive our actions. Because the caboose which must follow that engine can easily become “my truth.” It goes like this:

  • I let my feelings take the lead
  • I act on my feelings
  • I now believe what I felt was truthful

This could be called pragmatism—allowing a positive outcome to determine what I believe to be truth. 

But our feelings may lie to us. Our feelings can make us believe something is harmless, when in fact it may be putting us on a path from which it may be extremely difficult to recover. 

Jesus taught us a different way. He prayed this way to His Father, “Your Word is truth” (John 17:17). He may have had in mind these words from the psalmist:

The sum of Your word is truth—the total of the full meaning of all Your individual precepts; and every one of Your righteous decrees endures forever. (Psalm 119:160 AMP) 

When we let truth drive our actions, we are performing those actions in faith that good feelings will follow. Now the progression goes like this:

  • I let what I know to be true take the lead
  • I act on that truth
  • I feel good for doing the right thing

I may not feel like exercising, but I know it’s good for me. So I do it and then I feel good for doing it, and my body is healthier for doing it. 

I may not feel like forgiving the one who wronged me, but I know God says I should. So I do it and then I feel good for doing it, and my emotions are healthier for doing it. 

I may not feel like speaking the tough word in love to my friend, but I know the Bible says I should. So I do it and then I feel good for doing it, and my relationship is healthier for doing it.

Letting God’s truth be the engine that drives our actions will result in healthiness and good feelings. But letting my emotions be the engine that drives my actions may sometimes result in temporary good feelings, but the longterm consequences may not be healthy or God-honoring. 

We should not say, “God, please bless what I’m doing so that I can feel good about it,” but instead we should say, “God please help me to do what You say is right, and I know I will feel good because Your blessing will be on it.” 

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Name-It-Claim-It?

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible.

This is part 4 in our series “Is that in the Bible?” 

Statement #4—Name it and claim it. Is that in the Bible? No! 

But in fairness, even the proponents of this belief don’t usually say it this way. Instead they quote words from Jesus like: “I will do whatever you ask in My name” (John 14:13) or “Ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you” (John 15:7). 

They really want this to be true, I think, because in their minds happy, prosperous Christians make God look good. On the other hand, struggling Christians make God look bad. There is a whole branch of theology called theodicy which literally means: “a defense of God’s goodness and omnipotence in view of the existence of evil.” 

This is nothing new. Religious people have always tried to have pat answers. In the oldest book of the Bible, Job’s friends were convinced that suffering results from sin and blessing results from righteousness. And yet according to God, Job was a righteous man (Job 1:1, 8, 20-21). 

At the advent of Jesus, the chief priests and scribes want the Messiah to be heroic so they modified a prophecy to make Bethlehem sound more impressive (compare Micah 5:2 with Matthew 2:6). 

So it follows that this name-it-claim-it group wants God to look good because His people look good, dress well, drive nice cars, live in big homes, fly private jets, and never get sick.

But Jesus Himself told His followers to, “Sell your possessions and give to the poor” (Luke 12:33). And He said, “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me” (Matthew 5:11). And Jesus also said, “In this world you will have trouble” (John 16:33). 

This is not to say that God opposes wealth: He gave wealth to His leaders, Job was doubly-wealthy after his trial, and wealthy people funded the ministry of Jesus and the early church. But this isn’t the same as pursuing—or even demanding—wealth, or of making the erroneous connection that poor people are somehow out of favor with God. 

How do we avoid these errors? Here are three thoughts: 

(1) Study the whole counsel of God’s Word.  

Don’t just read your favorite passages, or the ones that make you feel good, but read all of the Bible. Jesus frequently had to correct the religious leaders’ beliefs by sending them back to the Scripture (Matthew 21:15-16; Mark 12:18-27; Luke 6:3). Jesus called the Holy Spirit the Spirit of truth (John 16:12-15). The Holy Spirit that inspired the Bible is the same Holy Spirit in a Christian that can illuminate the Bible as you read it.  

(2) Remember that context is king.  

The word “eisegesis” means to read something into the Word. But that is like creating your own beliefs and then going to the Bible to find phrases that support what you already believe. On the other hand “exegesis” is to read the Bible and have it speak to us by the Holy Spirit. 

Two of the phrases from Jesus that the name-it-and-claim-it folks use (John 14:13 and John 15:7) turn out to mean something entirely different than, “God will give me all of the things I demand from Him” when they are read within the context of the things Jesus was teaching at that time (see John 14:9-14 and 15:1-8). 

(3) Understand your terms.

If something is biblical, that is something the Bible says yes to. Unbiblical things the Bible says no to. But non-biblical are those the Bible doesn’t explicitly address. We have to be very careful of trying to make non-biblical things sound biblical or it may lead to some unbiblical attitudes and actions. 

This is exactly what the Pharisees did by giving their non-biblical traditions the weight of biblical statements, and then looking down on others in a very unbiblical way. 

God is sovereign. We do not tell Him what to do. We do not demand Him to respond to our needs. We trust Him and and we abide in Him. Then in the abiding, asking and understanding and fruitfulness are as natural as a flower sprouting from a branch that is attached to the vine. We don’t name things and claim things for our personal comfort, but we desire solely for God’s glory to be seen—whether in wealth or poverty, health or sickness, peaceful times or tribulation. 

Evaluating all biblical sounding statements by those three items—studying the whole counsel of God’s Word, understanding the context, and knowing our terms—will guide us from going astray. 

If you’ve missed any of the messages in our series Is That In The Bible?, you can get a list of all of the messages by clicking here.

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Thursdays With Spurgeon—God’s Word Prevails

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on iTunes or Spotify.

God’s Word Prevails

Look to Me, and be saved, all you ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other. (Isaiah 45:22 NKJV) 

     “One of the greatest enemies of deity has always been the wisdom of man. The wisdom of man will not see God. Professing themselves to be wise, wise men have become fools. But have you not noticed, in reading history, how God has abased the pride of wisdom? In ages long gone by, He sent mighty minds into the world that devised systems of philosophy. ‘These systems,’ they said, ‘will last forever.’ … 

     “‘Ah, but,’ said God, ‘that book of yours will be seen to be folly before another hundred years have rolled away.’ … 

     “This Bible is the stone that will break philosophy into powder. This is the mighty battering ram that will dash all systems of philosophy in pieces. This is the stone that a woman may yet hurl upon the head of every Abimelech, and he will be utterly destroyed. O church of God! Fear not! You will do wonders. Wise men will be confounded, and you will know and they, too, that He is God and that beside Him there is none else.” 

From Sovereignty And Salvation

God is indisputably God.

One of the ways He has revealed Himself to us is through His infallible word—the Bible. On those pages, every philosophy that seeks to deify man is exposed. On those pages are lovingly and powerfully portrayed for us the one and only path to eternal joy. 

If you haven’t already, make studying your Bible a daily habit. In its pages, you will find the truth that will set you free, bring peace to your heart, and give you an assurance unlike anything or anyone else can.

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Thursdays With Spurgeon—The Holy Spirit Is Our Teacher

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

The Holy Spirit Is Our Teacher

     The question arises: How may I know whether I am enlightened by the Spirit’s influence and led into all truth? First, you may know the Spirit’s influence by its unity. He guides us into all truth. Second, by its universality. He guides us into all truth. … 

     The true child of God will not be led into some truth but into all truth. When he first starts he will not know half the truth. He will believe it but not understand it. He will have the germ of it but not the sum total in all its breadth and length. There is nothing like learning by experience. A man cannot set up for a theologian in a week. Certain doctrines take years to develop themselves. …  

     It needs but little intellect to be taught of God. If you feel your ignorance, do not despair. Go to the Spirit, the great Teacher, ask His secret influence, and it will come to pass that He will guide you into all truth. …  

     Whenever any of our brethren do not understand the truth, let us take a hint as to the best way of dealing with them. Do not let us controvert with them. I have heard many controversies but never heard of any good from one of them. … Few men are taught by controversy, for ‘a man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still.’ Pray for them that the Spirit of truth may lead them into all truth. Do not be angry with your brother, but pray for him. Cry, ‘Lord! Open his eyes that he may “behold wondrous things from Your law”’ (Psalm 119:18).

From The Holy Spirit: The Great Teacher 

The Holy Spirit wants to help us understand the Book that He inspired. Jesus said that the Holy Spirit would guide us into all truth (John 16:13). 

So I would suggest: 

  1. Pray before, during, and after reading Scripture that the Spirit will illuminate His inspired Word. The Holy Spirit is our Prayer Coach.
  2. Since all of God’s Word is inspired, use all of God’s Word. Don’t get bogged down in a single verse or passage, but ask the Spirit to show you the full counsel of the Bible. 
  3. Learn how to handle difficult passages in a productive way (check out this post). 
  4. Strive for unity among fellow believers. 
  5. Avoid controversies among fellow believers and non-believers. Simply present the Word of God and let the Spirit do the work that needs to be done. 

May our study of Scripture with the Spirit’s help bring illumination, empowerment, and unity.

Thursdays With Spurgeon—Light In A Dark Cave

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

Light In A Dark Cave

     Now I must have an illustration. I must compare truth to some cave or grotto that you have heard of, with wondrous stalactites hanging from the roof and others starting from the floor—a cavern, glittering with spar and abounding in marvels. Before entering the cave you inquire for a guide, who comes with his lighted flambeau. He conducts you down a considerable depth and you find yourself in the midst of the cave. He leads you through different chambers. Here he points to a little stream rushing from amid the rocks and indicates its rise and progress. There he points to some peculiar rock and tells you its name. Then he takes you into a large natural hall, tells you how many persons once feasted in it, and so on. Truth is a grand series of caverns. It is our glory to have so great and wise a Conductor. Imagine that we are coming to the darkness of it. He is a light shining in the midst of us to guide us. And by the light He shows us wondrous things. In three ways the Holy Spirit teaches us—by suggestion, direction, and illumination. 

     First, He guides us into all truth by suggestion. There are thoughts that dwell in our minds that were not born there but that were exotics brought from heaven and put there by the Spirit. It is not a fancy that angels whisper into our ears and that devils do the same. Both good and evil spirits hold converse with men. …  

     Sometimes He leads us by direction. … The Spirit gives a direction and tendency to our thoughts. Not suggesting a new one but leading a particular thought, when it starts, to take such and such a direction. …  

     Perhaps the best way in which the Holy Spirit leads us into all truth is by illumination. … Beloved, you may read to all eternity and never learn anything by it, unless the Holy Spirit illuminates it. And then the words shine forth like stars. … Blind men may read the Bible with their fingers, but blind souls cannot. We want a light to read the Bible by; there is no reading it in the dark. Thus the Holy Spirit leads us into all truth by suggesting ideas, by directing our thoughts, and by illuminating the Scriptures when we read them. 

From The Holy Spirit: The Great Teacher 

A good prayer every time you open your Bible is this: “Open my eyes to see wonderful things in Your Word” (Psalm 119:18). 

The illumination of the Holy Spirit helps us connect the written Word to our real-life, every-day settings. 

When times are confusing, the Holy Spirit can illuminate the Scriptures to help us evaluate both our feelings and the facts around us through the filter of God’s truth. 

But perhaps most importantly, the Holy Spirit helps us take captive all of those thoughts. Whether they were whispered by angels or devils, or just thought from our own carnal minds, we can take all of those thought captive and make them obedient to God’s Word (see 2 Corinthians 10:3-5). We need to learn to think about what we’re thinking about, utilizing the truth of Scripture that the Holy Spirit will illuminate to us.

 

Thursdays With Spurgeon—Getting Into The Truth

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

Getting Into The Truth 

     The difficulty is the truth is not so easy to discover. There is no man born in this world by nature who has the truth in his heart. … Then since we are not born with the truth, we have the task of searching for it. … But here is the difficulty, that we cannot follow without a guide the winding path of truth. Why is this?

     First, because of the very great intricacy of truth itself. Truth itself is no easy thing to discover. … The most earnest student of Scripture will find things in the Bible that puzzle him. However earnestly he reads it, he will see some mysteries too deep for him to understand. He will cry out, ‘Truth! I cannot find you.’ … But we bless God it is said, ‘When the Spirit of truth has come, He will guide you into all truth’ [John 16:13]. … 

     We also need a guide because we are so prone to go astray. … David says, ‘I have gone astray like a lost sheep’ (Psalm 119:176). … If grace did not guide a man, he would go astray though there were hand-posts all the way to heaven. 

     The ‘Spirit of truth’ [is] not an influence or an emanation but actually a Person. ‘When the Spirit of truth has come, He will guide you into all truth.’ … He is infallible. … He is ever-present. …  

     Man can guide us to a truth, but it is only the Holy Spirit who can guide us into a truth. ‘When He, the Spirit of trying has come, He will guide you into’—mark that word—‘truth.’ … You may be brought to a chamber where there is an abundance of gold and silver, but you will be no richer unless you effect an entrance. It is the Holy Spirit’s work to unbar the two-leaved gates and bring us into a truth so we may get inside it. 

From The Holy Spirit: The Great Teacher 

I have often said that the greatest Expositor of Scripture is the Holy Spirit. He is the One who inspired the biblical authors, and He is also the One living in a Christian to illuminate the biblical texts. 

Before you open your Bible, pray this prayer from the psalms, “Open my eyes to see wonderful things in Your Word” (Psalm 119:18). And then listen to the Spirit’s voice as He takes you into the truth that will enrich your life and bring God greater glory. Just like those first Christians who were baptized in the Holy Spirit became skilled in their understanding of Scripture, you can experience the exact same thing today!

I have a whole series of messages on the power of Pentecostal Christians that you can read by clicking here and here.

Thursdays With Spurgeon—In Pursuit Of Truth

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

In Pursuit Of Truth 

     The disciples had been instructed concerning certain elementary doctrines by Christ, but He did not teach His disciples more than what we should call the ABCs of religion. He gives His reasons for this in the twelfth verse: ‘I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now’ [John 16:12]. His disciples were not possessors of the Spirit. They had the Spirit so far as the work of conversion was concerned, but not as to the matters of bright illumination, profound instruction, prophecy, and inspiration. Jesus says, ‘I am now about to depart, and when I go from you, I will send the Comforter to you. You cannot bear these things now. Howbeit, when He, the Spirit of truth, is come, He will guide you into all truth’ [John 16:13]. The same promise that He made to His apostles stands good to all His children. …  

     We think it is right that the Christian ministry should be not only arousing but instructing, not merely awakening but enlightening, that it should appeal not only to the passions but to the understanding. We are far from thinking doctrinal knowledge to be of secondary importance. We believe it to be one of the first things in the Christian life, to know the truth and then to practice it. …  

     What we call curiosity is something given us of God impelling us to search into the knowledge of natural things. That curiosity, sanctified by the Spirit, is also brought to bear in matters of heavenly science and celestial wisdom. … A true Christian is always intently reading and searching the Scriptures that he may be able to certify himself as to its main and cardinal truths. …  

     Depend on this: The more you know of God’s truth, all things being equal, the more comfortable you will be as a Christian. …  

     Knowledge of truth will make us very serviceable in this world. We will be skillful physicians who know how to take the poor distressed soul aside, to put the finger on his eye and take the scale off for him that heaven’s light may comfort him. … There is nothing like the real truth and the whole truth to make a man useful.  

From The Holy Spirit: The Great Teacher 

Throughout the public ministry of Jesus, the Gospels tell us of His apostles simply not understanding that Jesus was fulfilling Old Testament prophecy in all that He was doing. But all of that changed after the Day of Pentecost when then followers of Jesus were baptized in the Holy Spirit! 

Beginning with Peter’s sermon on the Day of Pentecost and throughout the rest of the New Testament, we see how the Christians took Old Testament Scriptures and applied them in the new understanding the Holy Spirit gave them of the work of Jesus. As a result, radical changes began to take place not only within the Church but throughout society as well. 

As Spurgeon noted, “The same promise that He made to His apostles stands good to all His children.” That promise of the Holy Spirit’s empowerment, illumination, creativity, and application of Scripture is still available for all Christians today! 

Don’t limit your Christian testimony or your effectiveness in the world by keeping the Holy Spirit relegated to some unknowable, mysterious work. Allow Him to be the driving force in all that you think and do! 

I have a whole series of messages on the power of Pentecostal Christians you can read by clicking here and here.

Coronavirus And Christ (book review)

Coronavirus And Christ is a quintessential example of how the Bible’s message is applicable to any situation we face. This book could have been written as “The Bubonic Plague And Christ” or “The Great War And Christ” or even “The Spanish Flu And Christ” and the message would have been the same. 

John Piper himself states, “What John Piper has to say on this topic isn’t nearly as important as what God has to say on this topic.” God’s Word is timeless, always applicable, and always authoritative. Coronavirus And Christ is steeped in biblical principles. 

The first half of this book reminds us of God’s sovereignty even in times that we may see as unexpected or chaotic. Pastor John writes, “The secret of ‘sorrowful, yet always rejoicing’ [2 Corinthians 6:10] is this: knowing that the same sovereignty that could stop the coronavirus, yet doesn’t, is the very sovereignty that sustains the soul in it. Indeed, more than sustains—sweetens. Sweetens with hope that God’s purposes are kind, even in death—for those who trust Him.” 

In the second half of this book, Pastor John elaborates on six possible answers to the question, “What is God doing through the coronavirus?” I am confident that you will be encouraged to see how God is in control of events that seem out of our hands. 

Coronavirus And Christ is a short book, but one that will arm you with faith-building insights that will help you throughout not just this time, but any others that will inevitably come along. Desiring God has made the ebook version of this book available for free (click here to access the link). 

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