Saturday, March 31, 2012

What if an Emergent Elder Wrote a Letter to Paul?

This is great!

"Against the World - From the Elders of Galatia"

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Bible and Spiritual Abuse

The term "Spiritual Abuse" has been thrown around a lot these days, so I decided to see if there is any biblical bases for it. I thought this article pinned it down pretty good. Someone very close to me has endured spiritual abuse and her pain is deep.

Before reading, understand that discernment needs to be practiced before accusing any church or ministry of spiritual abuse. Make sure to go though the proper biblical channels of loving church discipline as stated in Matthew 18. There is balance and grace when dealing with sinful beings.

I'm sure if we look close at all leaders within any ministry, we could find some if not all of these main points to a degree as well as anyone else (Myself included). Unless there is real abuse that is outright and ongoing, we need to practice 1 Peter 4:8 that "love covers a multitude a sins".

The Bible and Spiritual Abuse

by Ron Henzel

The Problem with the Word "Abuse"

It is safe to say that we live in a culture which frequently (and ironically) abuses the word "abuse." One of the most common ways that this has been done has been by incorrectly locating the meaning of the word "abuse" in "the perception of mistreatment," rather than mistreatment itself. During the 1980s and into the '90s, the notion that subjective perceptions, rather than objective behavior, determine whether something was "abusive" succeeded in infiltrating academia, the media, and even our judicial system to an astonishing degree.

As a society, we have paid a huge price for this. It has led to some rather ironic and even bizarre developments. The word "abuse" came to be regularly resorted to as both a ready weapon of accusation, and a proven shield of defense in our court systems. Lawyers worked hard to absolve their clients for murders committed on the basis of some childhood "abuse" they experienced, even while therapists persuaded young women that the real reason for their depression was that they were abused in a Satanic ritual as children, or perhaps sexually by their fathers. The "abuse fad" made many people a lot of money while ruining more than a few lives.

It also trivialized the real incidents of abuse, and made it less likely that they would be taken seriously in the long run. In any situation where the social pendulum swings too far in one direction, backlash is inevitable, and in this case the backlash was soon underway. The mid-1990s, witnessed scores of media reports telling of the horror of people locked up or otherwise deprived of their rights, sometimes on the flimsiest of so-called "evidence of abuse."

The Problem with Pendulums

It should also be pointed out that when the social pendulum does swing too far in one direction, it is often because social forces had been holding it at the opposite extreme for too long. If that's the case here, then perhaps there were some actual benefits that came out of this "abuse fad," which need to be remembered so that as the pendulum now begins to swing in the opposite direction we ourselves do not go to the opposite extreme. We need to remember that the denial of real abuse is also incredibly damaging. It causes real abuse victims to remain isolated, confused and afraid for long periods of time, and this is often aggravated when well-meaning but uninformed people mistakenly accuse victims of "wallowing in self-pity" -- when all the victims really want to do is get help in recovering from their trauma and move on with their lives.

Unfortunately, many well-meaning Christians have contributed to this opposite extreme. These people have enthusiastically embraced the backlash to such an extent that anyone who bobs to the surface with a tale of abuse is automatically suspect in their eyes.

In the mid-1990s, nowhere was this backlash trend more evident than in the area of Spiritual Abuse. One reason for this is that Spiritual Abuse did not begin to be taken seriously as a problem until the backlash was already underway. So despite the fact that there were scores upon scores of carefully evaluated and documented cases -- that pastors across the country spent thousands of hours counseling its victims -- that it even had a long and widely-acknowledge history going back many centuries -- and despite the fact that Christians above all other people are called upon to "weep with those who weep" and to show the compassion of Christ, there are those who would dismiss all this talk about "Spiritual Abuse" -- along with all the books written about it -- because to them it sounds too much like the politically-correct, postmodernist-inspired "abuse fad" that they are reacting against.

At times even some Christian counselors write-off true victims of Spiritual Abuse as being more victims of their own thin skin than anything else. They dismiss the horrific accounts of these victims as being "too subjective" to be reliable. In some Christian circles, it has become standard operating procedure to automatically file the claims of Spiritual Abuse under the heading of mere "perception of Spiritual Abuse."

"What Goes Around Comes Around?"

This new shift did not come out of nowhere, nor can it be accounted for solely in terms of a shift in our broader culture, such as the backlash to which I previously referred. There is a unique historical reason for it. In the early 90s, specific evangelical Christian groups were charged with Spiritual Abuse. What made this particularly embarrassing was that the criteria used to define Spiritual Abuse was virtually identical to the sociological and behavioral phenomena that characterized cults. This produced a "circle-the-wagons" mentality among those who have felt the need to defend themselves, and/or their evangelical Christian friends, from charges that they had been Spiritual Abusers.

It is most unfortunate that some have chosen to throw the baby out with the bath water. It is particularly unfortunate to see this among some evangelical "counter-cult" or "apologetics ministries" which, in the past, would have gladly cited Spiritual Abuse as a hallmark of cults. Now many of them are saying that it is too vague, or somehow undefinable, or they seek to discredit it in some other elusive way.

In my opinion, this is a very inappropriate course to take. The Bible itself is very clear on the existence of what the Spiritual Abuse literature has defined as the hallmarks of Spiritual Abuse: legalism, authoritarianism, spiritual intimidation, manipulation, excessive discipline, to name a few -- in short: the abuse of power in the context of Christian fellowship. The Bible does not mince words when it informs us that these signs are clear and identifiable. In addition: both church history and the history of Israel testify abundantly that all of these issues have been perennial problems ever since God began calling people to walk with Him.

Some of those who believe that they have been unfairly accused on this issue have publicly chosen to respond by making a very provocative statement: "Nobody has objectively defined what 'Spiritual Abuse' is," they say, "therefore no one can be guilty of something so ambiguous."

I am not seeking to determine the guilt or innocence of anyone. I am simply seeking to answer the question, "What is Spiritual Abuse?" Is it a sham label designed to be slapped on any Christian brother or sister with whom we have an axe to grind? Or is it a real danger to the Christian church?

The Biblical Evidence

Spiritual Abuse is one of the clearest and most precisely defined teachings to be found in the pages of the Bible, even though it is not presented under that name. When one considers the fact that it is a significant theme in the Old Testament prophets, that our Lord Jesus Christ devoted a considerable portion of His ministry to addressing it, and that every single New Testament author mentions it in some form or in some way, we might sooner question our own Christianity -- or at least our knowledge of Scripture -- than question the objective definably of Spiritual Abuse.

The writings of the Old Testament prophets are filled with examples and denunciations of Spiritual Abuse, but perhaps the clearest words ever uttered by such a prophet on the subject of spiritual abuse are found in Ezekiel chapter 34, where we read:
The word of the Lord came to me: "Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy and say to them: 'This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Woe to the shepherds of Israel who only take care of themselves! Should not shepherds take care of the flock? You eat the curds, clothe yourselves with the wool and slaughter the choice animals, but you do not take care of the flock. You have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured. You have not brought back the strays or searched for the lost. You have ruled them harshly and brutally. So they were scattered because there was no shepherd, and when they were scattered they became food for all the wild animals. My sheep wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill. They were scattered over the whole earth, and no one searched or looked for them." [Ezekiel 34:1-6]
Now we know from the context of this passage that Ezekiel is not speaking of literal shepherds, but rather he is speaking to the spiritual shepherds of Israel. And since Israel was to be a theocratic kingdom, the spiritual shepherds of Israel included all who had a share in the governing of the nation, whether that person was a prophet, or a priest, or a king.

When you think of the rulers of Israel, the people we think of today as "secular leaders" -- people like Moses, Joshua, Samuel, David and Solomon -- you are also thinking of the spiritual leaders of Israel. These people had a share in the writing of sacred Scripture. Some even occupied the office of prophet. There was no distinction between "secular" and "spiritual" in ancient Israel. In 2 Samuel 5:2 we learn that the Lord came to David and said, "You will shepherd my people Israel, and you will become their ruler." David's role as a shepherd or a spiritual guide was inseparable from his role as a ruler.

The metaphor of the shepherd as spiritual leader has been taken up so completely in the Judeo-Christian tradition that the New Testament simply refers to spiritual leaders as "pastors," which originally meant "shepherds." And based on this passage in Ezekiel, we can see that the problem of abusive shepherds goes back literally thousands of years. Notice especially Ezekiel 34:4:

"You have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured. You have not brought back the strays or searched for the lost. You have ruled them harshly and brutally."
This was a terrible indictment against the prophets, priests and governing officials of Israel in Ezekiel's day. It was their job to strengthen the spiritually weak, heal the spiritually sick, and bind up the spiritually injured. It was their job to bring back the strays and search for the lost.

Notice also that this prophecy was delivered during an era that was permeated with a sense of God's wrath. They were under the Law, with all its prohibitions and penalties. Even so, theirs was not to be a ministry of condemnation, harshness and brutality, but rather strengthening, healing and binding. For them, refusing to do so alone constituted spiritual abuse, according to Ezekiel.

As if it wasn't enough to merely neglect those spiritual duties, they went even further to oppress their people, for Ezekiel says, "You have ruled them harshly and brutally." These abusers were more interested in what they had to gain from ruling over others, than in being a spiritual benefit to others. For them, it wasn't about actually being shepherd or fulfilling a calling ... according to Ezekiel, it was all about control.

But Ezekiel isn't finished denouncing the fruit of these shepherds' so-called ministry. He wants them to know -- and he wants us to know -- that both the neglect of the sheep, and the abuse of the sheep directly resulted in the wandering of the sheep. Verse 5 says, "So they were scattered because there was no shepherd, and when they were scattered they became food for all the wild animals." That's what happens in spiritually abusive situations!

Verse 6 tells us: "My sheep wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill." Those who cannot bear up under the harsh treatment often simply wander away -- they can't take it anymore. One day they're there, the next day they're gone. And do the leaders care? Are they upset about this fact? Ezekiel says, "They were scattered over the whole earth, and no one searched or looked for them."

When people leave spiritually abusive situations, and it is clear that they are not coming back, what do their leaders do? Do they go after them? Interestingly, the answer is usually "Yes!" When a Spiritual Abuse victim finally decides to quit putting up with the abuse and to leave his group, it is very common for him to get a phone call or a visit. And if the visit fails to result in the retention of the departing member, it is nevertheless usually cited as evidence that the group really cared. Now they feel they can say, "We tried."

But this contact is hardly ever to apologize for the abuse, nor is it even an attempt to reconcile differences. It is almost always a last-ditch effort to keep the person from leaving, and usually involves manipulation and threats similar to the type that the victim encountered in the group. People who leave quite literally "know too much." They can tell outsiders what it is really like in that supposedly super-spiritual group or church. So all the efforts to keep a person from leaving are almost always done to protect the spiritual abuser, not the supposedly "straying sheep." And when such efforts fail, then what? Most often in abusive groups that portray themselves as "evangelical," the person's departure is taken as a sign of at least possible (if not probable) reprobation (i.e., that the person is going to Hell), or that the person was "never really a Christian in the first place."

"Spiritual Abuse" does exist, according to the Bible, and in this brief passage we can see some of the characteristics that the current Spiritual Abuse literature ascribes to it. Ezekiel was identifying a form of mistreatment which was spiritual in nature, because it mistreated people by hindering their relationship with God. It was (and is) characterized by oppression and neglect.

The Biblical Criteria

But while this passage is clear in helping us to establish a basic framework, we need more. We need a set of criteria -- an objective standard against which we can compare behaviors we are concerned about, or have questions about, and then answer the question: "Does this behavior or that behavior constitute 'Spiritual Abuse?'"

I feel the need to put what I write here in emphatic terms because Jesus Himself did. In His own time, Jesus confronted people who used their time-honored traditions as a cloak for spiritual abuse, and we see the same phenomenon today. There are groups and churches which claim that some special attribute which they have, or that their unique context or tradition, exempts them and their behavior from being classified as "Spiritual Abuse." Some have even said that the same behavior which might be considered abuse in other churches should not be construed as "abuse" among them! They are somehow different, and the normal criteria of Spiritual Abuse doesn't apply in their situation. What a shocking notion, and how alien to the Scriptures!

The most common claims that spiritually abusive groups make is that they are so special in their spiritual giftedness, or so unique in their level of spiritual commitment, or so unusual in their circumstances, that it's only natural for less-gifted, less-committed people, or people less familiar with their special context, to draw incorrect conclusions, perhaps even out of resentment or jealousy. After all, if you're one of the elite, people will be jealous ... so the reasoning goes ... and will fail to understand our practices.

But Jesus also had to deal with a group of people who thought of themselves as special, as unique, as the elite. In Jesus's day, these people prided themselves on being separated from all the things in the world which could defile them spiritually according to God's Law. In fact, their very name was a continual reminder of this fact. They called themselves by a word which meant "separated ones," because they separated themselves by building a high wall of extra-commandments around sin. In order to belong to them, the Bible itself wasn't enough. You had to go beyond the Bible! They were so determined not to get anywhere near sin that they went above and beyond the call! They were the super-dedicated, they were the truly spiritual, they were a cut above, they kept themselves clean by keeping themselves separated from even the potential of sin -- and that little word "separated" in their language was so important to them that they took it as their name. In their language, it was the word "Pharisee."

In Matthew chapter 23, Jesus exposes these Pharisees (and their friends) with a mixture of biting irony and solemn warning.

Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: "The teachers of the law [literally, scribes] and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat. So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach." [Matthew 23:1-3]


We would misunderstand Jesus's words in these verses if we took him literally at this point. Because to take Jesus literally here would mean that he was in favor of what the Pharisees preached and taught. However, Jesus did not advocate the teaching of the Pharisees, but instead He opposed it. In fact, just a short while earlier Jesus specifically warned His disciples about the teaching of the Pharisees in Matthew chapter 16, verse 6.

"Be careful," Jesus said to them. "Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees." [Matthew 16:6]

This statement by Jesus had caused momentary confusion among the disciples. They totally missed the Lord's reference, and thought He was speaking of bread. They started whispering things to each other like, "Oh, man! We forgot to bring any bread!" until Jesus interrupted them to say that He was only speaking figuratively. Then it hit them (verse twelve):

Then they understood that he was not telling them to guard against the yeast used in bread, but against the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees. [Matthew 16:12, NIV]
So Jesus was no advocate for the teaching of the Pharisees, and we must remember that the teaching of the Pharisees consisted primarily in what they told people to do. So when we come to the words of Christ in Matthew 23:3, where He says, "So you must obey them and do everything they tell you," again -- we cannot possibly take Him in a literal sense. He must be speaking ironically. Dare I say it? He must be employing sarcasm!

God does that every once in a while, you know. But how do we know that He's doing it in this case? Well, for one thing, what Jesus says in the very next verse would have made the sarcasm obvious to His audience, because He exposed the results of their teaching in verse 4: "They tie up heavy loads and put them on men's shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them." That's what their teaching did. Surely Jesus could not have spoken positively about something that was so inherently oppressive!

Now it's true that the Law of Moses itself was, in the words of the Apostle Peter, "a yoke that neither we nor our fathers have been able to bear." (Acts 15:10) But Jesus is not talking specifically about the Law here, but rather about the teaching of the scribes and Pharisees. And He's making a specific reference to the Jewish rabbinical practice of "binding and loosing."

In the time of Christ, Jewish rabbis enjoyed some degree of latitude in determining how stringently to apply the Law of Moses to specific cases. If a rabbi decided that the Law should be applied stringently, it was said that he "bound" the commandment, and the violator would have to pay the maximum penalty. If a rabbi decided that leniency was called for, then the rabbi would "loosen" the commandment. This is probably what happened in the case of the Virgin Mary, when she was found with child out-of-wedlock. The most stringent application of the Law would have called for her to be stoned as an adulteress. But the commandment to stone adulterers was apparently loosened in her case, on the request of her fiancee Joseph.

But the case of the Virgin Mary seems to have been relatively exceptional in ancient Israel. Because Jesus says that the Pharisees were much more inclined to "bind" the commandments, and make them heavier than they already were. "They tie up," Jesus says; or: "They bind" -- it's the same Greek word -- "heavy loads and put them on men's shoulders." And so quickly does Jesus mention this right after saying, "Do as they say, but not as they do," in verse 3, that it would have been obvious to the listener that Christ's words in verse 3 were ironic, designed for shock-value. They already knew very well what Jesus thought of the teaching of the Pharisees, because He had already told people what He thought of it in the Sermon on the Mount and elsewhere. Here He wanted to get their attention.

But there is further evidence that Jesus was using ironic sarcasm in verse 3, because in verse 13 of this chapter Jesus starts delivering seven "woes" to the Pharisees, all of which center on the Pharisees' teaching, either in how the Pharisees themselves do not obey it, or in how absurd it was in the first place. (Verse 16):

"Woe to you, blind guides! You say, 'If anyone swears by the temple, it means nothing; but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath.' You blind fools! Which is greater: the gold, or the temple that makes the gold sacred?" [Matthew 23:16-17]


Notice two things about this passage and the verses that follow it:

•First: Jesus directly attacks the teaching of the Pharisees, and

•Second: Jesus calls the Pharisees "blind guides." In other words, He attacks their very competence as teachers.

So when Jesus says in verse 3, "you must obey them and do everything they tell you," He is simply using irony to remind His audience about how highly the Pharisees thought of themselves. We see a similar kind of irony in John chapter 3, when Jesus confronts Nicodemus, and in Romans chapter 2, when Paul confronts the teachers of the Law.

This is a very important point, because if Jesus meant for His words in verse 3 to be taken literally, then the case could be made that all Jesus really had against the Pharisees was their hypocrisy, and this would be a grave misunderstanding of Christ's attitude. But many people do make the mistake that the only real problem with the Pharisees was that they didn't practice what they preached. Their preaching was okay, these people think -- their simple problem was that they were hypocrites and didn't practice it.

I hope that I have shown that their preaching was not okay, because their preaching merely taught people how to be legalists like them! Jesus, of course, said it best :

"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert ... [Matthew 23:15a]
A convert to what? -- a convert to their teaching!

"... and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are." [Matthew 23:15b]

There was no way that Jesus would send anyone to the Pharisees in order to learn how to live their lives. Thus, when Jesus said, in effect, "Do as they say but not as they do" (Matt. 23:1-3), it is clear that He was employing sarcasm. The context makes this clear.

Authoritarianism

Now when we think of Spiritual Abuse, we probably think in terms of practice as opposed to teaching, or doctrine. This is a valid distinction, but we have to be careful -- because Biblical teaching or doctrine does not merely consist of instruction on abstract, intellectual matters, but also on very practical matters -- especially our attitudes toward God, ourselves and others; and also how these attitudes are reflected in our behavior, i.e., how we treat others.

And this is what the Pharisees converted other people to: a doctrinal position regarding attitudes toward God, themselves, and others. This doctrinal position began with an attitude of authoritarianism:

... Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: "The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat." [Matthew 23:1-2]
Where did they get the idea that they could do this? Was there some Bible verse that told them scribes and Pharisees should sit in the seat of Moses? No! They presumed to call themselves "teachers," and their act of taking on this role was the equivalent of "sitting in Moses' seat."

The scribes and Pharisees were very up-front about this. It was one of the first things you noticed about them -- they grasped for positions of authority. Imagine the arrogance that must have been involved in this presumption when Jesus says that they didn't even understand the things that were in the Law! To sit in the very seat of Moses!

The same is true of Spiritual Abusers today. One of the first things that Spiritual Abusers will tell you about themselves -- or their followers will tell you about them -- is that they have "special insight," "tremendous discernment," "great wisdom," "unique gifts," "spiritual power," or some other credential that gives them authority in what they say. Whenever you hear someone dwelling at length on what makes him -- or his leader -- special, or authoritative, that should be your first clue that you could very well be dealing with a Spiritual Abuser on the order of the Pharisees.

Authoritarianism is something which feeds on itself. The person who assumes an attitude of authoritarianism is addicted to power. He needs continual assurances that he is in control, and to get these assurances he needs to exercise power at greater and greater levels. After a while, it's no longer good enough when people jump on command -- now they have to be sure to ask "How high" on the way up! Left to itself, authoritarianism always snowballs into an environment of totalistic control.

Elitism

Such authoritarianism leads inevitably to elitism, because you can't lay claim to a lofty position without also having a haughty spirit, and you can't follow a haughty person without becoming haughty yourself. Jesus said (in verse 6),

" ... they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; they love to be greeted in the marketplaces and to have men call them 'Rabbi.'"[Matthew 23:6-7]


Today's Spiritual Abusers are often too shrewd to be as obvious as the Pharisees were. They may even outwardly appear very humble and self-effacing. They may actually shun titles and public appearances, and you may only discover the subtle ways they continually keep themselves on center stage after you get sucked in to their little organization. And once you've been sucked in, you may find it difficult to admit to yourself what would be obvious to an outsider.

One method Spiritual Abusers use to keep themselves in the limelight is to make sure that their disciples are always focused on what they have to say. One Spiritually Abusive group had a leader named Roy. Roy seemed to be a very humble person. But the funny thing was, whenever Roy was in the room, his followers never permitted him to be contradicted. So if anyone ever thought they were being mistreated by Roy, they also knew that no one in the room would ever back them up. And whenever Roy was out of the room, his followers would focus all of their conversation on things Roy had said. So Roy got the place of honor, he sat in the important seat, he owned the special title -- even if it wasn't always obvious, or he wasn't in the room, or his title was never actually mentioned. Being the leader, Roy was the elite of the elite!

As it was for the Pharisees of Christ's time, an elitist mentality eventually becomes an all-encompassing world-view within Spiritually Abusive groups today -- even groups which profess to be Christian. Such elitism has led not only to a separatist mentality, but to actual physical separation from friends and families, sometimes over many years. It is probably this behavior more than any other that makes Spiritually Abusive groups with Evangelical statements of faith difficult to distinguish from actual cults. And it should go without saying that such a distinction would be virtually meaningless to anyone who has lost a family member to a Spiritually Abusive group.

Go ahead -- you try to quibble with a parent who has not had contact with his child for several years, and every time he send his kid Christmas and birthday presents they come back to him marked "Return To Sender." You try to explain to him how his child is not really in a "cult," because the group has an evangelical statement of faith. I can just hear him now: "Who cares what their statement of faith is ... I want my son back! ... I want my daughter back!"

Intimidation

Trying to figure out which comes first -- authoritarianism or elitism -- can end up being a question similar to the classic "chicken-or-the-egg" riddle. Both come from inward attitudes, and both express themselves in the outward projection of power. And when power is projected out toward others, its primary vehicle is always intimidation. Power usually means nothing unless it is respected by others, and the primary method Spiritual Abusers utilize for gaining respect is what the world uses: fear.

This is how the Pharisees were able to "tie up heavy loads and put them on men's shoulders, [without even] lift[ing] a finger to move them." People were afraid of them. They knew that these scribes and Pharisees had the power to make them the ultimate social outcasts, by having them put out of the synagogue. They knew that the Pharisees could even have a person stoned if they thought it necessary. Today's Spiritual Abusers may not be able to have a member executed, but some of their victims might have preferred physical death to the spiritual torture they have suffered.

Spiritually abusive groups wait for their recruits to become emotionally attached to the group before they employ the heavy-handed tactic of threatening the new member with expulsion. This is because they know such tactics will not work until the prospect of being put out of the group is very painful to the new member. But after the person gets settled in -- and preferably to some extent isolated from the outside world -- it is common experience for he or she to live under any number of disciplinary threats, the ultimate being expulsion.

Manipulation

Intimidation inevitably leads to manipulation. The Pharisees manipulated God's word so that they could manipulate people. And both the Bible and church history demonstrate to us that the simplest and easiest way to manipulate people is through legalism. This is because legalism can be practiced in such a way as to make the Spiritual Abuser look good, and to keep the victims off- balanced, vulnerable and oppressed. Jesus said:

"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices -- mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law -- justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel." [Matthew 23:23-24]
Outwardly the Pharisees manipulated the Scriptures in order to ensure that they appeared to be the most conscientious and righteous observers of God's Law to be found. But look at the effect that this manipulation had on people: the people were deprived of justice, mercy and faithfulness from their leaders.

Jesus pointed out another form of manipulation that was used among the Gentiles, and He commanded His disciples to never let it in His church. In Luke's account we read:

Jesus said to them, "The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors." [Luke 22:25]

Jesus said, "Notice how the Gentiles -- who gain their authority through conquest and oppression -- twist words and manipulate their conquered subjects into calling them 'Benefactors!'" Even 2,000 years ago people understood that the one who controlled the language enhanced their chances of controlling the people. But nobody was fooled by that -- except perhaps the Herodian sect in Palestine at that time! But most Jews under Caesar did not really think of him as their "Benefactor" -- someone who cared for them and protected them and did good for them! They lived in fear of the iron fist of the Roman Empire. So Jesus said, in verse 26:

"But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves." [Luke 22:26]
Self-serving control has no place in a true fellowship of believers! But this brand of "lording it over the flock" is exactly what we see in Spiritually Abusive groups today -- right down to the manipulation of the language. One of the most common tactics that Spiritual Abusers use today is to remind those who are under their control of all the supposed "benefits" they derive from being in their abusive group.

"Where else are you going to go," say the Spiritual Abusers, "to find all this care? -- to find all this love? -- all this spiritual openness? -- all this accountability? -- all this deep fellowship? ... " These are all just alternative ways of calling themselves "Benefactors." The list goes on and on of all the ploys that Spiritual Abusers use to further intimidate their followers by telling them that if they leave this group -- "Gee, we just don't know what will become of you!" -- even while making themselves out to be all-benevolent.

An Accusatory Mentality & Excessive Discipline But I would be remiss if I did not emphasize that the most effective weapon for intimidation and manipulation in the Spiritual Abuser's arsenal is guilt. We see guilt-tripping used by Spiritual Abusers especially during the ministry of Jesus. When they couldn't find actual sin in Jesus, they resorted to everything from questioning the legitimacy of his birth to accusing Him of being in league with Satan.

The Apostle Paul also faced similar treatment. His opponents tried everything from criticizing his public speaking ability, to accusing him of antinomianism -- "Let us do evil that good may come," was what they accused Paul of teaching.

To "guilt-trip" someone is simply a 20th century way of saying "to attack someones conscience through accusation." Guilt-tripping goes beyond mere accusation by actively looking for sin where no actual evidence of sin exists. Guilt-tripping is the attitude which constantly looks for the speck in its brother's eye. And because there is rarely any actual evidence to back up the guilt-tripper's accusations, the most effective way to guilt-trip someone is an area in which it is difficult for the accused to produce evidence of innocence.

How could Jesus actually prove that He was not casting out demons by the power of Satan? He could reason with his accusers, and try to expose the fallacy in their thinking. But did He manage to persuade everybody? Obviously not, or they would not have crucified Him!

How could Paul actually prove that his motive for preaching the Gospel wasn't to give people an excuse to live a life of sin? Well, he could give a full exposition of the Gospel in the book of Romans -- but did this persuade his accusers? Obviously not, or they would not have seized him in the temple!

Guilt-trippers accuse us of things which are in the realm of the unseen. No one can actually see whether we have false motives, improper attitudes, some lust in our heart, or some hidden, unconfessed sin. But the guilt-tripper acts as though he does -- he pretends to know what's in our hearts. And by assuming an authoritarian posture, and by claiming elitist powers and abilities, Spiritual Abusers become the ultimate guilt-trippers.

One woman who was the victim of a Spiritually Abusive community said,

"Community adults would decide what my sin was, [and] then just lay into me ... I wasn't allowed to speak to my father when he phoned; they told me it was the Lord's will that I not speak with him. ... The way I was making beds looked 'rebellious' to them, so I was assigned to scrub the bathrooms. Each day I'd get yelled at and forced to scrub them again."

[By Hook or By Crook: How Cults Lure Christians, by Harold Bussell. (New York: McCracken Press, 1993), p. 52. Previously published as Unholy Devotion: Why Cults Lure Christians, (Zondervan, 1983).]

The Bible says, in 2 Chronicles 6:30, "[God] alone knows the hearts of men." But Spiritual Abusers hardly blink when you quote verses like this to them. Because although what they teach are basically theological errors of practice, they themselves are not actually theologically-minded people. They are control-minded people. They've grown so accustomed to distorting various Biblical teachings, that they usually have an answer for any verse you might quote to them -- which usually turns out to be a distortion of yet another Biblical truth. So when you engage a Spiritual Abuser in a debate even on the passages I am referring to, you'll soon find yourself in a theological maze of rationalization and accusation.

Remember: it's really all about control. That's why they especially like to distort the Bible's teachings on how Christians are supposed to treat other people, because those can be used to produce more guilt, and achieve more control.

So when someone in his group complains of mistreatment, the Spiritual Abuser distorts the Bible's teaching on slander, and accuses his victim of committing it. When someone in his group becomes angry with the abusive treatment, the Spiritual Abuser accuses the victim of being a "spiritual murderer" -- after all: didn't Jesus say that anyone who was angry with his brother was guilty of murder? When someone asks why they are being deprived of the right to see their spouse or their children, the Spiritual Abuser answers, "Don't you realize that the Bible teaches you that you don't have any rights!" When a member dares to disagree with the leader, he is accused of violating the Biblical "unity of the Spirit."

One man's experience demonstrates the creativity of Spiritual Abusers in distorting the teachings of Scripture. He said,

"They pushed me into saying I lusted after my little daughter ... Their idea was that only when you recognize your total depravity can you let Jesus go to work."

[ By Hook or By Crook: How Cults Lure Christians, by Harold Bussell, p. 52.]

At times it seems as if Spiritually Abusive groups find some way to distort almost every doctrine of Scripture in some way -- especially if it can serve the purpose of inflicting guilt. And this leads to one of the biggest doctrinal distortions of all: the requirement that members confess their sins.

Many Spiritual Abusers interpret the words of the Apostle James in James 5:16 to be a universal requirement for all Christians to confess all their sins ... all the time ... sometimes, to all the members of the group. This inevitably leads to group humiliation sessions, which are commonplace in Spiritually Abusive groups. Even if confession in a particular groups isn't practiced openly, the person who hears the confession is almost always someone higher up in the group hierarchy who will use that confession against the person if they ever step out of line. As one victim said:

"... at any future date, the overseer may drag out this dirty laundry to discredit the disciple or make him feel guilty. That happened to me when I was trying to explain my position. My overseer blurted out, 'I hate to bring this up, but ...' And this was done in a room full of people. My immediate reaction was to curl up and shut up. I had nothing on her but she had a lot on me." [Churches That Abuse, by Ronald M. Enroth, pp. 106-107.]
This practice is unbelievably common. I wish I had more time to expound James 5:16, which reads, "Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed." Instead I'll make a few brief points.

•First, if it was common practice in the New Testament church to make the oral confession of sins in front of other people both a requirement, and a regular practice, you'd think we would have more than simply one verse in this one epistle. Spiritually Abusive groups often become so obsessed with this verse that they center all their activities around it, which is clearly unbiblical.

•Second, the very presence of the word "therefore" should be a clue to us that James had a specific contextual reason for telling his readers to confess their sins, which limited his purpose to the subject matter he was already discussing -- namely: pastoral care for people with physical illnesses. The context shows that James was not indicating that confession should be a major focus when Christians came together for teaching, fellowship, worship or prayer (Acts 2:42).

•Third: when Spiritually Abusive groups throw confessed sins back in the face of the person who confesses them, they are actually disobeying this verse. According to James, confession is for the purpose of healing! Guilt-tripping can only hurt people, and can even lead to physical illness!

As we have seen, all of this authoritarian and elitist projection of power through intimidation and manipulation inevitably leads to very tragic consequences. And these consequences go even beyond what I have just described. Jesus foretold the consequences in the Pharisees' case as follows (verse 34):

"Therefore I am sending you prophets and wise men and teachers. Some of them you will kill and crucify; others you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town."   [Matthew 23:34]

In our day, the persecution and the martyrdom is rarely physical, but the results are just as tragic. Today's Spiritual Abusers kill people through character assassination. They crucify their victims in public humiliation sessions. They flog the members of their church with false guilt. And they pursue ex-members with malicious gossip, and through the traumatic memories of their experiences in their abusive groups.

The problem of Spiritual Abuse did not simply disappear with the founding of the Christian church. Not very long after the Day of Pentecost, a new generation of abusers rose up to take the seat of Moses. Just like the Pharisees before them, these people began making such special claims of authority for themselves that in 2 Corinthians chapters 11 and 12 the Apostle Paul sarcastically refers to them as "super-apostles." In order to lure people away from the teaching of the true apostles, they did everything from belittling Paul's speaking ability to coercing and intimidating the churches.

Although the problem of these "super-apostles" was all tangled up in an important theological issue -- the doctrine of salvation by grace through faith -- Paul also spent a great deal of time focusing on the negative pastoral aspects of the Spiritual Abuse that these people were practicing. In the process, Paul was even more explicit concerning the motives of these Spiritual Abusers than the Lord Jesus Himself was about the Pharisees. In 2 Corinthians 11:13 he calls them " ... false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ." In verse 20 he says their purpose is to "enslave," to "exploit" and to "take advantage" of Christians. But in his epistle to the Galatians, he drives this point home even harder. There Paul discusses the false gospel that requires circumcision for salvation, and in Galatians 2:4 he writes:

This matter arose because some false brothers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves. [Galatians 2:4]

To Paul, spiritual slavery was more than simply the result of following false teaching, it was also the motive that drove the false teachers. Just like the Pharisees before them, their basic motivation was to gain control over others, to build little spiritual empires with themselves as emperors. And in order to accomplish this they also would resort to intimidation -- sometimes even succeeding in putting fear into the Apostles themselves. Paul writes in Galatians 2:12:

Before certain men came from James, he [i.e., the Apostle Peter] used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. [Galatians 2:12]

Spiritual Abuse, whether it takes the form of overtly false teaching, or whether it subtly masquerades as orthodox doctrine, always depends on fear and intimidation to maintain its hold over people. Today, if you think you stand, take heed lest you fall! The Apostle Peter did. Barnabas did. And so have others with far more spiritual strength and insight than either you or I possess.

Paul's portrayals of these abusers in both 2 Corinthians and Galatians parallels Christ's description of the Pharisees almost point-for-point. In Galatians 6:12-13, Paul clues us in on what these Spiritual Abusers had to gain from drawing Christians under their spell. He gives us three specific things: to impress others, to avoid persecution, and to gain bragging rights on account of the converts they could claim. These three marks of Spiritual Abuse are also much in evidence today.

But lest we think that Spiritual Abuse always has to be connected to some incorrect theological position, the Third Epistle of John should serve as a reminder to us that Spiritual Abuse can take place even when points of orthodoxy are not in question. In 3 John verse 9 we read:

I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to be first, will have nothing to do with us. So if I come, I will call attention to what he is doing, gossiping maliciously about us. Not satisfied with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers. He also stops those who want to do so and puts them out of the church. [3 John 9-10]
A more concise profile of a Spiritual Abuser would be difficult to imagine. Almost everything you might need to know about Spiritual Abusers can be found in these two verses in 3 John!

And yet no particular false doctrine was in view. John does not even say that this person Diotrephes actually taught that he was somehow "first," or pre-eminent -- but simply said that Diotrephes loved to be first. And yet it was obvious that from this "love to be first" sprang all the authoritarianism, elitism, intimidation and excessive church discipline that is found in our current Spiritual Abuse literature. Diotrephes felt so threatened when members of his church wanted to invite Christians from other churches to visit, that he placed whoever sent out such invitations under so-called "church discipline." He kicked them out of the church!

All too many of us have no difficulty imagining the atmosphere of intimidation that is constantly generated by this kind of leader. We've been there. We've experienced it first-hand. It is no mere theory to us.

But others among us stand back, incredulous that anyone would tolerate a Spiritually Abusive environment for very long. If someone remains in such an obviously unscriptural situation for very long, these Christians reason, there must be something defective in their Christian walk -- or maybe they're not really Christians at all! But when people reason this way, they forget the words of Paul in 2 Corinthians 11:20, where he said to the Corinthians:

"In fact, you even put up with anyone who enslaves you or exploits you or takes advantage of you or pushes himself forward or slaps you in the face." [2 Corinthians 11:20]
Paul was well-aware that many true believers readily knuckle-under to Spiritual Abusers. It always disturbed him to see this happen. Sometimes it even astonished and mystified him. But he never condemned the victims, he never judged them for being overpowered by smooth-talking, charismatic, elitists, or accused them of not really being Christians. Instead he reasoned with them, he warned them, and he pleaded with them -- and above all: he did not simply let them go ... all of which is a lot more than can be said for Spiritual Abusers.

Long-Term Effects on Victims


We've mentioned the basic categories that have been identified in the current Christian literature on Spiritual Abuse. These categories are Authoritarianism, Elitism, Intimidation, Manipulation and Legalism, and Excessive Discipline. And we have shown how they derive from Scripture. There are so many aspects of these categories that I wish I had time to cover more deeply -- aspects like the double-standards that prevail in abusive groups. There are two broad areas that deserve special attention.

The first area concerns the long-term effects that these groups have upon the people who leave them -- and they do have long-term effects, ranging from spiritual confusion to complete spiritual, emotional and psychological devastation. Fortunately, help is available. There are good books that I recommend and which are listed in the bibliography that I am making available.

But something which is much more helpful in the process of recovering from Spiritual Abuse cannot be found in a book; I'm referring to Christians who have had a similar experience, and have had to recover from it the same way that victims today do. These people are an invaluable resource in the recovery process. I would say that we need more of them, but that would mean that more people would have to suffer through Spiritual Abuse and recover from it in order to be such resource people, and nobody wants that.

But if you are already a Christian who has gone through this process, I would encourage you to make yourself available to other victims. One way to do this would be to advise a local Christian apologetics or counter-cult ministry of your availability, because this is a place where many Spiritual Abuse victims turn for help.

But Are They "Cults?"

And this leads us to the second broad area that deserves our attention. It is the often-asked question, "Should Spiritually Abusive Christian groups be considered 'cults?'" I would answer by making two points: first, it's a controversial issue among those in counter-cult ministries; you will some find Evangelical Christians who answer "Yes," and others who answer "No." But secondly, I would answer the question with a question: "If your child was caught up in a group which was spiritually harmful, coercive, centered around an authoritarian leader, and limited his or her contact with your family -- would it make a lot of difference to you what it was called?" Probably not much. You would simply want your child out! Labels are often helpful, but they're not everything.

Conclusion

In conclusion I would remind you that some of the most damning words that the Lord Jesus Christ ever spoke, He spoke to Spiritual Abusers. In Matthew 23:13, Jesus said:

"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men's faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to." [Matthew 23:13]

To a greater or lesser extent depending on the person, this is what all Spiritual Abusers do: they hinder a person from having a relationship with God even while promising them the best, most godly, most committed relationship possible. You don't think it could happen to you? Perhaps you're right. But you should know that there have been plenty of Spiritual Abusers in every age who would like to give it a try.
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Related Links:  Sola Sisters: An Elder's Wife Gives Her Testimony About Mars Hill Church

Fighting for the Faith: Mark Driscoll Wants a Mountain of Dead Bodies Behind Mars Hill's Bus

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Godly Woman (Part 3) - Ryan Fullerton

Men and women will be blessed to hear this excellent sermon.


MP3:  http://illbehonest.com/The-Godly-Woman-Part-3-Ryan-Fullerton

Monday, March 26, 2012

Sandemanianism: Something to Avoid?

The Lordship Salvation debate goes back to the apostles. What I'm seeing more, especially with new reformed circles, is an old heresy creeping back. Sandemanianism is basically intellectual easy-believism.

After much debate, my friend did some researching and came up with this video. She also put more information to follow. When the teaching of the doctrine of regeneration is neglected, we are in danger of this heresy.



Sandemanianism is synonynous with Glasite (named after the second proponent of this position, John Glas). The Glasites originated in Scotland, and Robert Sandeman brought the theology (then known as Sandemanianism) to Britain and America during The Great Awakening.

Here's some additional info in the topic, including quotes and links. The links provided are *not* meant to point out adherents, this is, literally, the most readily available info:

Calvinist theologian John Duncan referred to Sandemanianism as "the Popish doctrine of faith."

Romanists make faith mere assent - Charles Hodge

Romanists, however, mean by faith mere assent, which a man may have, and be in a state of condemnation, and perish forever. This is their formal definition of faith, as given by Bellarmin himself; and the Council of Trent pronounces accursed those who say that the assent given by unrenewed men to the truth is not true faith - Charles Hodge

Sandeman, the founder of the sect called Sandemanians, asserted as his fundamental principle the deadliness of all doings, the necessity for inactivity to let God do his work in the soul A. Strong; by this they do not mean to imply prior to salvation but always.

Further one of their tenets appears to be no sanctification can evidence to us our justification A. Strong

Cambellism, of which Sandemanianism is an offshoot, share the common belief of intellectual belief as saving faith.

Ann Hutchisons name is brought up by Strong as regards Sandemanians; Check out annhutchinson.com; her creed in particular. Many elements that pertain to this discussion.

Hutchinson interpreted the doctrine of the Perseverance of the saints according to the Free Grace model, which taught that the saved could sin freely without endangering their salvation, instead of the Lordship salvation model prevalent then and now, which noted that those who were truly saved would demonstrate by seeking to follow the ways of their Savior. Wikipedia

The works of Jonathan Edwards speak against Sandemanianism, and he is frequently cited as a source against it.

http://www.puritanboard.com/f29/marrow-gets-reprint-53147/
Reprint of a great book called Marrow in Modern Divinity by Edward Fisher also an edition that with notes by Thomas Goodwin.


Other related links:

http://www.the-highway.com/sandeman_Haykin.html

http://www.baptistboard.com/showthread.php?s=8d18c6c69e953d69ff508eec53a20b45&p=1061350#post1061350

http://www.banneroftruth.org/pages/articles/article_detail.php?709

http://jmm.aaa.net.au/articles/14542.htm

http://www.founders.org/journal/fj06/editorial_fr.html

http://doffun.com/index.cfm?article_num=402

http://www.annehutchinson.com/creed.htm

Sunday, March 25, 2012

The 10 Marks of the Holy Spirit in a Believer

1. The Spirit awakens a person’s heart.

2. The Spirit teaches a person’s mind.

3. The Spirit leads to the Word.

4. The Spirit convinces of sin.

5. The Spirit draws to Christ.

6. The Spirit sanctifies.

7. The Spirit makes a person spiritually minded.

8. The Spirit produces inward conflict.

9. The Spirit makes a person love the brethren.

10. The Spirit teaches a person to pray.

These are the great marks of the Holy Spirit’s presence. Put the question to your conscience and ask: Has the Spirit done anything of this kind for your soul?

~ J.C. Ryle

Saturday, March 24, 2012

The Gospel Burst My Sanitized Christian Bubble - Dena's Testimony

This is a powerful testimony!

Oswald Chambers - The Discipline of Disillusionment / My Utmost for His Highest

Disillusionment means having no more misconceptions, false impressions, and false judgments in life; it means being free from these deceptions. However, though no longer deceived, our experience of disillusionment may actually leave us cynical and overly critical in our judgment of others. But the disillusionment that comes from God brings us to the point where we see people as they really are, yet without any cynicism or any stinging and bitter criticism. Many of the things in life that inflict the greatest injury, grief, or pain, stem from the fact that we suffer from illusions. We are not true to one another as facts, seeing each other as we really are; we are only true to our misconceived ideas of one another. According to our thinking, everything is either delightful and good, or it is evil, malicious, and cowardly.


Refusing to be disillusioned is the cause of much of the suffering of human life. And this is how that suffering happens— if we love someone, but do not love God, we demand total perfection and righteousness from that person, and when we do not get it we become cruel and vindictive; yet we are demanding of a human being something which he or she cannot possibly give. There is only one Being who can completely satisfy to the absolute depth of the hurting human heart, and that is the Lord Jesus Christ. Our Lord is so obviously uncompromising with regard to every human relationship because He knows that every relationship that is not based on faithfulness to Himself will end in disaster. Our Lord trusted no one, and never placed His faith in people, yet He was never suspicious or bitter. Our Lord’s confidence in God, and in what God’s grace could do for anyone, was so perfect that He never despaired, never giving up hope for any person. If our trust is placed in human beings, we will end up despairing of everyone.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Gospel of Satan ~ A.W. Pink

Satan is the arch-counterfeiter. As we have seen, the Devil is now busy at work in the same field in which the Lord sowed the good seed. He is seeking to prevent the growth of the wheat by another plant, the tares, which closely resembles the wheat in appearance. In a word, by a process of imitation he is aiming to neutralize the Word of Christ. Therefore, as Christ has a Gospel, Satan has a gospel too; the latter being a clever counterfeit of the former. So closely does the gospel of Satan resemble that which it parades, multitudes of the unsaved are deceived by it.


It is to this gospel of Satan the apostle refers when he says to the Galatians "I marvel that ye are so soon removed from Him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: which is not another, but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the Gospel of Christ" (1:6,7). This false gospel was being heralded even in the days of the apostle, and a most awful curse was called down upon those who preached it. The apostle continues, "But though we, or an angel from heaven preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed." By the help of God we shall now endeavor to expound, or rather, expose, false gospel.

The gospel of Satan is not a system of revolutionary principles, nor yet a program of anarchy. It does not promote strife and war, but aims at peace and unity. It seeks not to set the mother against her daughter nor the father against his son, but fosters the fraternal, spirit whereby the human race is regarded as one great "brotherhood". It does not seek to drag down the natural man, but to improve and uplift him. It advocates education and cultivation and appeals to "the best that is within us". It aims to make this world such a congenial and comfortable habitat that Christ’s absence from it will not be felt and God will not be needed. It endeavors to occupy man so much with this world that he has no time or inclination to think of the world to come. It propagates the principles of self-sacrifice, charity and benevolence, and teaches us to live for the good of others, and to be kind to all. It appeals strongly to the carnal mind and is popular with the masses, because it ignores the solemn facts that by nature man is a fallen creature, alienated from the life of God, and dead in trespasses and sins, and that his only hope lies in being born again.

In contradistinction to the Gospel of Christ, the gospel of Satan teaches salvation by works. It inculcates justification before God on the ground of human merits. Its sacramental phrase is "Be good and do good"; but it fails to recognize that in the flesh there dwelleth no good thing. It announces salvation by character, which reverses the order of God’s Word—character by, as the fruit of, salvation. Its various ramifications and organizations are manifold. Temperance, Reform movements, "Christian Socialist Leagues", ethical culture societies, "Peace Congresses" are all employed (perhaps unconsciously) in proclaiming this gospel of Satan—salvation by works. The pledge-card is substituted for Christ; social purity for individual regeneration, and politics and philosophy for doctrine and godliness. The cultivation of the old man is considered more practical" than the creation of a new man in Christ Jesus; whilst universal peace is looked for apart from the interposition and return of the Prince of Peace.

The apostles of Satan are not saloon-keepers and white slave traffickers, but are or the most part ordained ministers. Thousands of those who occupy our modern pulpits are no longer engaged in presenting the fundamentals of the Christian Faith, but have turned aside from the Truth and have given heed unto fables. Instead of magnifying the enormity of sin and setting forth its eternal consequences, they minimize it by declaring that sin is merely ignorance or the absence of good. Instead of warning their hearers to "flee from the wrath to come" they make God a liar by declaring that He is too loving and merciful to send any of His own creatures to eternal torment.

Instead of declaring that "without shedding of blood is no remission", they merely hold up Christ as the great Examplar and exhort their followers to "follow in His step". Of them it must be said, "For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God" (Rom. 10:3). Their message may sound very plausible and their appear very praiseworthy, yet we read of them, "for such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves (imitating) into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing (not to be wondered at) if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness, whose end shall be according to their works" (2 Cor. 11:13-15).

In addition to the fact that today hundreds of churches are without a leader who faithfully declares the whole counsel of God and presents His way of salvation, we also have to face the additional fact that the majority of people in these churches are very unlikely to learn the Truth for themselves. The family altar, where a portion of God’s Word was wont to be read daily is now, even in the homes of nominal Christians, largely a thing of the past. The Bible is not expounded in the pulpit and it is not read in the pew. The demands of this rushing age are so numerous that the multitudes have little time and still less inclination to make preparation for their meeting with God. Hence the majority who are too indolent to search for themselves are left at the mercy of those whom they pay to search for them; many of which betray their trust by studying and expounding economic and social problems rather than the Oracles of God . . . .

And now, my reader, where do you stand? Are you in the way which "seemeth right", but which ends in death? Or are you in the Narrow Way which leadeth unto life? Have you truly forsaken the Broad Road that leadeth to death? Has the love of Christ created in your heart a hatred and horror of all that is displeasing to Him? Are, you desirous that He should "reign over" (Luke 19:14) you? Are you relying wholly on His righteousness and blood for your acceptance with God? . . . .

A yet more specious form of Satan’s gospel is to move preachers to present the atoning sacrifice of Christ and then tell their hearers that all God requires from them is to "believe" in His Son. Thereby thousands of impenitent souls are deluded into thinking that they have been saved. But Christ said, "Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish" (Luke 13:3). To "repent" is to hate sin, to sorrow over, to turn from it. It is the result of the Spirit’s making the heart contrite before God. None except a broken heart can savingly believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.

Again; thousands are deceived into supposing that they have "accepted Christ" as their "personal Saviour", who have not first received Him as their LORD. The Son of God did not come here to save people in their sins, but "from their sins" (Matthew 1:21). To be saved from sins, is to be saved from ignoring and despising the authority of God, it is to abandon the course of self-will and self-pleasing, it is to "forsake our way" (Isa. 55:7). It is to surrender to God’s authority, to yield to His dominion, to give ourselves over to be ruled by Him. The one who has never taken Christ’s "yoke" upon him, who is not truly and diligently seeking to please Him in all the details of his life, and yet supposes that he is "resting on the Finished Work of Christ" is deluded by the Devil.

In the seventh chapter of Matthew there are two scriptures which give us approximate results of Christ’s Gospel and Satan’s counterfeit. First, in verses 13 and 14, "Enter ye in at the strait gate. For, wide is the gate and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction and many there be which go in thereat. Because strait is the gate and narrow is the way which leadeth unto life and few there be that find it." Second, in verses 22 and 23, "Many will say to Me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesized (preached) in Thy name? And in Thy name have cast out demons, and in Thy name have done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you, depart from Me, ye that work iniquity." Yes, my reader, it is possible to work in the name of Christ, and even to preach in His name, and though the world knows us, and the Church knows us, yet to be unknown to the Lord! How necessary it is then to find out where we really are; to examine ourselves to see whether we be in the faith; to measure ourselves by the Word of God and see if we are being deceived by our subtle Enemy; to find out whether we are building our house upon the sand, or whether it is erected on the Rock which is Christ Jesus. May the Holy Spirit search our hearts, break our wills, slay our enmity against God, work in us a deep and true repentance, and direct our gaze to the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

What Did You Expect?: Redeeming the Realities of Marriage - Paul Tripp


What Did You Expect? from Nate Salciccioli on Vimeo.

The series is 75% off. Check it out here.

Monday, March 19, 2012

The Agony of the Cup (Mark 14:32-42) John MacArthur

It frustrates me when I hear teachings of the cross of Christ, and  the cup of God's wrath is rarely mentioned. It is a powerful and central part of the Crucifixion. I'm so thankful for Dr. MacArthur for this sobering message.

A Biblical Alternative To The Sinner's Prayer - Paul Washer



Entire Sermon: Regeneration v. The Idolatry of Decisional "Evangelism"

Friday, March 16, 2012

Voddie Baucham - 2012 Shepherds' Conference

I was very excited to find out that Dr. Voddie Baucham was chosen this year to be a keynote speaker at this years Shepherds' Conference. To God be the glory for this powerful sermon on Ephesians 5, exhorting over 3000 men to lead their homes.

General Session 4 - Voddie Baucham from Grace Community Church on Vimeo.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Is The FIC a Rebuke to the American Church?


I’ve been intrigued by the Family Integrated Church movement  (Their mission statement here)  in keeping the church simple by using the Acts early church  model. I've been listening to sermons by Voddie Baucham and others, and last summer I watched a movie called "Divided"

After doing a little research on the FIC, I came away needing to deprogram my brain.  If you've never heard of the FIC, you may need some time to absorb their philosophy.

For the most part the movie “Divided” made me think and convicted me deeply as a parent.  The strength of the FIC model, as I understand it, is that it helps to encourage parents to take their God-given responsibilities for raising their kids seriously... to do everything in their power to encourage multi-generational faithfulness.

However, I did not agree of their claim that Sunday schools and youth groups are against scripture.  My boys go to these programs and benefited greatly from them. What does go against scripture is the church supplanting things that ARE in scripture, and this where the rubber meets the road.

Parents should never use church programs to be the primary source for spiritual teaching, training, and discipling their children. Pastors are even bold enough to rebuke those who do not use extra-biblical church programs for their children which undermines parental authority. If scripture is silent, we need to be silent too.

I've been reprimanded in the past by two well meaning sisters on separate occasions that I must have my kids in Sunday school and other programs if I were to obey the command in Deuteronomy 6:7. "You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise." (It's funny they both used that verse to correct me.)

For my entire Christian life, I believed that youth groups and other age segregated ministries are an essential part of the church. If you believe in Sola Scriptura, (Scripture Alone) you have to admit they are not essential but traditional. I don't believe they are wrong, but what is essential is the biblical family, and how the church edifies it.

I believe the FIC is a rebuke to the American church. Why? I'm witnessing a spiritual decline in the patriarchal leadership within the home even in conservative churches, and it seems nothing is being done about it. I've spoken to many women and there is an over arching complaint. Most say they are not supported spiritually by their husbands, and fathers are dropping the ball on raising their children in accordance to the Word.

What is really discouraging is it is rarely taught and exhorted in the pulpits and studied in Bible classes. I’ve yet to see a conference on how fathers and husbands are to instruct and lead their homes. You almost can't blame most Christian men for their ignorance and lack of conviction if their own church fails to equip, encourage, and neglects the priority of spiritual headship.

Has the church inadvertently enabled husbands and fathers by offering alternatives to their God given call to discipleship in the form of women’s groups and age segregated programs?

I also read that some Family Integrated Churches do not have women’s Bible study groups. Now again, don't get me wrong, I don't necessarily agree with the FIC on this.  I believe what the Bible says about teachers, expositors and leaders being essential to the church and her growth, and not all FIC churches are the same. Many believe that the Titus 2 model for men and women’s groups is one on one, and not one on many ratios which I do agree. Even though I may not concur completely with their philosophy, it did make me think about the way we do church.

I have gleaned much from women’s Bible study groups and enjoyed the fellowship, but should it replace the husband’s responsibility to fellowship and teach their own wives? Many husbands have been given a pass because of the amount of homework from Bible studies their wives are involved with. Many women go to women’s groups in the first place, because the responsibility of the husband in Ephesians 5:26 has been neglected. The husbands are to wash their wives with the Word, not other women.

I've seen infighting with the FIC movement verses the cultural church on blogs all over the internet and even in pulpits. Most of the FIC critics have responded emotionally rather than biblically. You have to ask yourself why this movement is growing so rapidly. What is the desire of their congregations? Is there more that can be done as a church to equip men and future leaders? Rather than reject the FIC because of unessential imbalances, perhaps we should consider many of their convictions and go back to the sufficiency of scripture.

Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body.  “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.  However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband. Ephesians 5:22-33

Related links:

The Invention of Adolescence - Sola Sisters

Psychology & Sociology Replacing Scripture Regarding the Family ~ Paul Washer


Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Saturday, March 10, 2012

A.W. Pink - Spiritual Converse

Every Christian should listen to this convicting message.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Abortion: A New Perspective

When I was about 12 years old, I saw raw footage on television of the Holocaust. I was haunted by the gruesome images of the endless piles of mangled bodies to be disposed of like rubbish. Their lifeless, emaciated faces brought sadness in my heart of what their life was like, and what could have been. Their humanity was stricken by an evil regime determined to exterminate, rob and erase their heritage.

At the same time, I was curious how the entire western civilization allowed such atrocities to go on as long as it did. I remember in Jr. High writing an essay about the Holocaust and the indescribable horrors. Even though I got an “A” on my assignment, my question was never answered from my research. How could seemingly decent normal people, who love their families, enjoy museums, music, go to church, etc., and vote Hitler in, knowing full well of his anti-Semitic views? Where was the outrage from the neighbors, co-workers, and teachers as to why there were empty homes, classroom seats and company desks? There must have been a great amount of fear, but still, why didn’t the masses revolt over something so disgustingly inhumane? In retrospect, it is easy to judge.

A couple of years ago, I ran across a testimonial video of Gianna Jessen, an abortion survivor. I didn’t know there was such a thing as an abortion survivor, but here she was speaking so eloquently about her life and purpose. The one thing she said that grabbed my heart was, “...the silent Holocaust didn’t get me!” Right then I knew my answer to my question about the Third Reich. As a culture and our depraved nature, we compartmentalize abortion to an issue which brings indifference, which in turn can be self seeking. Most people who call themselves a pro-lifer would deny they are indifferent, but their voting record would indicate the issue of abortion is not a priority.



I recently watched a documentary of the rise and fall of The Third Reich. Hitler rose to power coming out of the depression and the people were desperate for relief. His systematic way of taking over European countries, robbing businesses, lives and the press, was bringing revenue to Germany like never before. Many German voters didn’t like Hitler’s personality and world view, but were willing to put all those issues aside for wealth and patriotism. After Hitler came to power, many of the German people,  for the first time, were eating fine delicacies, taking lavish vacations, and living in comfort afforded to them by their socialistic dictator.

How much do we compartmentalize the life that is inside the womb to an issue? Do you vote for the lesser of two evils? Are wealth, freedom, your party and patriotism more important than the millions of human lives being snuffed out every year in our country? As a culture, we have dehumanized a beautiful and natural life stage, and it has infiltrated thinking more than we realize.

If over half of the population says they are pro-life in our country, then why is it still legal? The apathy for innocent lives, just like most of the Germans of WW2,  is worse than a staunch pro-choice feminist; especially if you call yourself a Christian, because it is the majority who rules. We need to take a stand in the polls, unlike those who silently voted Hitler in, and stop voting for the lesser of two evils! If only half of the population who declares itself to be pro-life would vow to never vote for the pro-choice candidate regardless of their party, and put pressure on the politicians, I believe we will see this silent Holocaust come to an end. This may seem ideal to some, but it was just as daunting with the abolitionists of the Civil War. 

As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. 1 Timothy 6:17

Defend the poor and fatherless: do justice to the afflicted and needy. Psalm 82:3



Sunday, March 4, 2012

J. R. Miller ~ Touching Others

I've met a special friend on line who makes these videos. Over the past few years, they have blessed my heart.

J. R. Miller ~ The Duty Of Fault-Finding

Thursday, March 1, 2012

The Church is for The Church

"It seems that some churches believe that their chief end is to exist." Doug Easton

"The aim of the church isn't to fill the pews with the lost but to fill the community with the gospel. Go!" Diane Lytle


The Church is for The Church

by Josh Miller on February 29, 2012

The church is for the church, it really is that simple. It’s amazing how we don’t truly grasp this truth, though.

In the name of evangelism, we’ve turned the worship service into the seeker service. The gathering of the saints is more focused on the needs of the lost than the worship of the Savior.

Think about it. Our preaching is meant to attract, not instruct. Our programs are meant to entertain, not equip. In nearly every way, our Sunday mornings have been turned into ‘evangelistic’ meetings.

I use Steve Martin air-quotes because, truth be told, this isn’t evangelism.

Why?

Because the Church exists to worship. The Lord’s day, the gathering of the saints, is to be a time of worship, not evangelism. Now, sure, sure, there will always be lost people in attendance and the preacher is a charlatan if he doesn’t preach the Gospel to them. But remember, the Gospel isn’t just for lost people, it’s for the saints as well. And Sunday is for the saints to be reminded of the worth and value of the One who is our Gospel.

Evangelism happens when the equipped, edified, instructed, and uplifted church leaves the premises to go live amongst their neighbors, coworkers, friends, and relatives.

Evangelism happens, in other words, outside the building.

Inside, that’s sacred ground. That’s the place of worship. That’s for the saints.

Please, oh please, don’t turn worship into outreach, don’t turn instruction into attracting.

The church is for the church.

The sooner we get this, the healthier we will be.

Related Articles:

Where Are The Shephereds?

"One good rule of thumb is this: Worship happens in the pews, evangelism happens in the streets."

Ignorance Regarding the Church - Paul Washer

Getting Them ‘In Church’ is Not the Answer ~ Josh Miller

Spurgeon: Bring True Converts to Church

You Might Be a Pragmatist ~ Travis Allen