Water, Wind, and Waves

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The beach was rather refreshing.  One day a small girl, with the help of her mother, diligently worked on a sand castle.  A young couple entered the water together, laughing and enjoying life.  A group of boys played volleyball.  A few surfers ventured out to catch a wave or two.  Several people relished in the warmth of the sun and simply relaxed.  The waters announced its grandeur with each consistent roar.  You could almost hear the waves, in a near boastful tone calling out with authority, “You are here to see me.  I am the reason you have come.”

What is it about the beach that draws people?  Is it the cool breeze from the ocean?  Is it the sound of the waves rushing against the shore?  Perhaps it is simply the ability to sit and rest without great expectation.  I sat and reflected this past week with my feet buried deep into the warmth of the sand.  How can man look at the vastness of the ocean and not be drawn to our Creator?  The Psalms declare, “The voice of the Lord is upon the waters: The Lord of glory thundereth: the Lord is upon many waters,” Psalm 29:3.  If we will open our eyes, we can see the Lord’s hand in all of creation.  If we will listen, we can hear the Lord speaking through his creation.  If we will allow it, we can be drawn closer to the Lord through His creation.

One particular morning the waves were exceptionally boisterous and the undercurrent rather strong.  The children and I enjoyed the waves but stayed close to the shore.  Dana kept a watchful eye at the edge of the water.  He never moved.  After a few minutes we would look toward the beach and notice that we have drifted far in one direction.  It took an intentional effort on our part to stay in the area in front of my husband.  Every now and then Aaron, watching out for his little sister and brother, would remind them to come closer.  If not careful, the waves would easily carry us miles away.

As we were moved about by the strength of the water, wind, and waves I could not help but think about the passage in Ephesians about being, “tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine.”  Oh, how easy it is to be tossed about in our spiritual life.  It takes a strong anchor of faith to not waver these days.  (For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed,” James 1:6.)  Not only do we need a strong faith in God and His Word, but we need desperately need the church.  The church? You might ask; What does that have to do with this passage in Ephesians about being “tossed to and fro”?    Let’s look at it in context.

And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; (Eph 4:11-14)

 Notice the gifts Christ gave for the provision and edification of His church.  Are you blessed to be a part of a local, Bible teaching, New Testament church?  It is easy to see the necessity of the church in correlation to the perfecting of the saints, work of the ministry, and edifying of the body of Christ –without it we can easily be “tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine.”  Just as the children and I needed to look to the spot my husband stood to keep us from drifting too far, so do we need to keep our eyes fixed upon Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.  And just as we depended upon each other while we were in the waters for safety, God’s children in like manner needs the local church.   “Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;) And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching,” Hebrews 10:23-25.

Exercises in Generalizations

There is something remarkably precious about the love and fellowship shared between brothers and sisters in Christ. Last night, our family was standing in the parking lot of our church talking with one of the men on our executive leadership team and his sweet wife.  We were doing some work around the church building, visiting, laughing, and enjoying each other’s company.   Then, as usual, we started talking about the church and doctrine.  In our church, doctrine is often discussed.  We love it, teach it, and hold to it.  My husband often reminds the congregation that we not only need to know what we believe, but why we believe it.  Yet, when you talk to a lot of Christian people today, doctrine seems to be irrelevant. Really, is it that important?   I will submit that of course it is; that is unless we want to be “children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine,” Eph 4:14.  And yet, it seems like that is just the case.  People are carried about with every (and I mean every) wind of doctrine.

“I’ll believe this, this week.”

“That sounds good for next week.”

“Teach me something new under the sun, I’ll believe it too!”

My husband explains it like this.  Many pastors’ sermons are simply exercises in generalizations.  They do not know the Bible; therefore, they do not teach it to their flock.  Due to this, people are biblically illiterate.  Consequently, they will believe anything (or in some cases nothing at all).  So as a result, people will often shy away from sound doctrine, because it has gotten to the point of sounding foreign to the “average” church-goer.  Could it be that we have reached the time where “they will not endure sound doctrine,” 2 Timothy 4:3?

I am so thankful for all the pastors who hold fast to the faithful words that they, “may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers,” Titus 1:9.     And for the men of God that “speak thou the things which become sound doctrine,” Titus 2:1.  Keep it up!   The Lord is pleased.  There are many out there who are doing just this.  I am, of course, partial to one in particular.  I really love my husband’s preaching.  I have learned so much by the expository, verse by verse, teaching of God’s Word.  And, I’m thankful for the churches that have ears to hear and that truly want to follow God’s precious Word.  Our church is an example of one.   I love our church.  Each and every one of them!  Our people have a heart’s desire to know the Word of God and obey it.  We not only have unity, but our unity is built on the truth (sound doctrine) of God’s Word.

Biblical Discernment in a World of False Teaching – Part Four

Labels and Doctrines of Men

My husband says that if he could only claim one “label” it would be that of a Biblicist.  He believes that God’s Word is pure, complete, and with the direction of the Holy Spirit able to be understood.   I have really tried to approach God’s Word in this way as well.  With that said, there are a lot of man-made labels.  I’m a Calvinist…I’m Arminian…I’m reformed…I am missional….I am transformational…..I follow MacArthur…I follow Spurgeon…I follow _______ (fill in the blank with the latest church growth guru)…..I am of Paul….I of Apollos….I of Cephas, etc.  Do you get the point?  It is not that I disregard the teaching of men or certain labels. (In fact, the first church continued “stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine.” )  Labels can be an effective identifier.  We proudly identify ourselves as Baptists.  But a label is only effective as long as it does not diminish or detract from the doctrines found in Scripture.

An example of this would be the Calvinist’s label.  I have met some who will claim this label without fully understanding it.  I have even met “Baptist” who proudly wears the sign, never understanding that Luther and Calvin persecuted those that believed in true Baptist doctrine.  So why would they claim this label? There is too much of God’s Word that contradicts the teaching; yet many still cling to this man-made doctrine as if it is the gospel itself.  For example, the doctrine of limited atonement is one of the “5 TULIPS” and is the belief that the death of our Lord Jesus on Calvary’s cross was strictly limited in any and all of its aspects only to the elect and that it had nothing to do with the non-elect people of the world. This is a doctrinal issue that has been debated for years by many theologians.  I will not attempt to argue the point (too much) but I will say that we must be very careful to not hold up man’s theology in higher regards than God’s precious Word.  The problem I see with those that take this view is that they filter all of the Scriptures through this one particular doctrine.   In other words, what would normally be simple to understand verses are perverted and twisted so that they will fit into Calvin’s doctrine.   To do so is not only unnecessary but also leads to error.  Ask yourself this.  What do you do when you come across a passage in Scripture about God like this one, “Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth,” 1 Timothy 2:4.   I have always said that the Bible is the best commentary on the Bible we have.

It seems simple to me.  Where God said that we are the elect, I believe it.  Where God said that He wills all men to be saved, I believe it as well.  When God says that “he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world,” I believe it.  And where God says Christ was sent to be the “propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world” I believe it too.  To do otherwise would be to hold up some Scripture over the others.  So you could say I believe in the doctrine of election and in the doctrine of free will.  I believe that Christ died for the entire world, but I also believe that not everyone will be saved.  The Scriptures speak of both and no one verse is more important than the other.  So the best way of refuting the false view of limited atonement (or any of the other false doctrines of men) is by simply reading, studying, and knowing God’s Word.

There are several passages that refute limited atonement.  I believe if these verses were taken without the preconceived notions of man and with the direction of the Holy Spirit that a person could only come to one conclusion.  Isaiah 53:5-6, Matthew 11:28, John 1:29, John 3:14-15, Romans 5:6, 2 Corinthians 5:19, 1 Timothy 2:5-6, Hebrews 2:9, 2 Peter 2:1, 1 John 4:14, 1 John 2:2, Titus 2:11

Obviously certain teachings of Calvinism are not the only teaching I am against.  There are many other man-made doctrines that lead us down a slippery slope of false ideas.  The point is that man is fallible.  Man’s teaching can lead to error.  We are weak and make mistakes.  But God’s Inspired Word is perfect.  He makes no mistakes.  It is without error.   And, it is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction and for instruction in righteousness.  It is His Word we should cling to.  Now don’t get me wrong, this is not to say that man’s teaching is futile.  The Bible is clear that we are to teach others.  But this teaching should never be taken lightly.  Those that teach God’s Word will be held to a high standard.  James warns, “My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation.” James 3:1.  My husband is the pastor of a precious group of believers.  He takes his role of teaching very seriously.

“But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word,” Act 6:4.

“Feed the flock of God which is among you,” 1 Peter 5:2a.

“A bishop then must be…apt to teach,” 1Timothy 3:2.

“And he gave some…pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ,” Ephesians 4:11-12.

Likewise, I teach women and write expository Bible studies for women.  But my husband and I would be the first to tell you that you should not take our word for it; study the Scriptures for yourself to see if what we are teaching is true.  May we always be like the believers in Berea that were nobler than the ones in Thessalonica because they “searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so,” Act 17:11.

Biblical Discernment in a World of False Teaching – Part One

“Discernment is not simply a matter of telling the difference between what is right and wrong; rather it is the difference between right and almost right.” Charles Spurgeon

In this world there is certainly a lot of “almost right” out there.  But as I have said before, the most dangerous lie is the one closest to the truth.  Therefore, for the Christian, biblical discernment is imperative.  I’ve been thinking about all of the false teaching out there today.  Certainly, false teaching is nothing new.  Practically every one of the New Testament epistles deals with recognizing and exposing false teachers.

Jesus dealt with it.  “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves,” Matthew 7:15.  The apostles dealt with it.   “As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed,” Galatians 1:9.
The first century church dealt with it.  “For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them,” Act 20:29-30.
And if we love the truth, we will deal with it and do our best to expose it. “I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars,”  Revelation 2:2.

(See also Matthew 24:4-5, Matthew 24:23-24, Luke 21:8, Romans 16:18, 2 Corinthians 11:13, Ephesians 4:14, Philippians 3:18-19, I Timothy 4:1, 2 Timothy 2:17-18, Titus 1:10-11, 2 Peter 2:1, 2 John 1:7, 10, Jude 1:4)

The Apostle John tells us, “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world,” 1 John 4:1.

Not every spirit is of God. The Bible speaks of evil, unclean, dumb, foul, and deaf spirits.  It tells of the spirit of infirmity, spirit of divination, spirit of bondage, spirit of the world, spirit that “worketh in the children of disobedience,” spirit of antichrist, and the spirit of error.  Not every teaching is correct.  A false spirit produces false teachers that fabricate false doctrine. many false prophets are gone out into the world.”   This is why biblical discernment is so important.  I believe there are truly many Christian men and women who want to teach the truth to others.  They are sincere.  Perhaps their motives are pure.  But, they have not filtered all of their teaching through God’s Word.  To try the spirits means to test or prove them.  “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good,” 1 Thessalonians 5:21. 

 There are two ways to test a spirit.  The first is by the Word of God.  The believers in Berea were nobler than the ones in Thessalonica because they “searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so,” Act 17:11. If a doctrine does not line up with Scripture it is wrong.  The Spirit of God will never contradict the Word of God.  It will never supersede the written word.  Just as Christ came to do the will of the Father and glorify Him, the Spirit will point people to Christ and glorify Him.  John 1:1 tells us that Jesus is the Word of God.  Revelations 19:13 tells us that “The Word of God” is His very name.  We also know that “all scripture is given by inspiration of God,” 2 Timothy 3:16.  To say that the Spirit would lead us or teach us something contrary to Jesus Christ (The Word) is untrue.

The second way to test the spirits is by their fruits.  Jesus said in Matthew 7:20 “by their fruits ye shall know them.” You cannot separate a man’s personal life from his ministry.  Does his life line up with what he is teaching?  Be careful to accept every teaching as truth.  You need to make sure that what is taught is first biblical and second that those teaching have a life that demonstrates good works.  “Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom,” James 3:13.

If the Spirit of God dwells in us, by knowing the Word of God and examining fruits we can test the spirits to see if they are of God. “God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.” 1 Corinthians 2:10.

Like I said, I am concerned about all the good sounding, “almost right”, man-centered ideas that are ever constantly being proclaimed about God and His Word.  I am not saying that those who teaching such things are “false prophets” but I do believe many are misguided.  And if we are not careful, we will let their teaching influence our beliefs.  Over the next few days I will be address some of these fallacies that are prevalent today.

  • Gospel Message without Repentance
  • Ecumenical Movement
  • Labels & Doctrines of Men
  • Cultural Relevance
  • Pragmatism