The Need for Discernment

We live in a world saturated with messages contrary to Scripture. Some of them are easy to detect. Others are more subtle. So subtle, in fact, that they creep unnoticed into our thoughts and into our churches. Some recent examples include…

  • The New Age spiritualism of Oprah Winfrey being adopted into the theology of many of her fans who claim to be Christians.
  • The Popularity of books like, “The Shack,” and “Heaven is for Real.”

The need for Christians to be biblically discerning is great.

You may be thinking, “Wait! What’s wrong with those things?”

  1. Well, “The Shack” contains things that are just out-and-out heresy.
  2. Oprah began passing herself off as an authority on spiritual matters (see here, here, and here) — so much so that one major news publisher wrote an article about her influence in American culture entitled, “The Divine Miss Winfrey.”
  3. Now, there are plans in the works to make a movie about “The Shack” starring Oprah. Separately these two have had unbelievable (and harmful) influence in the church. I suspect when they are combined in a movie they will be embraced anew. I anticipate churches organizing trips to the theater to see “The Shack” and then incorporating the heresies portrayed on screen into their beliefs.
  4. “Heaven is for Real,” has been embraced by Christians because, they say, it is finally proof positive that heaven exists. And, it has already been made into a movie.

What we forget is we don’t need any further proof of the truth of Scripture. We have the very Word of God. We have the testimony of the Holy Spirit. We have the counsel of mature believers. We have prayer. And, according to Jesus, this is more than enough…

“There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores. The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried, and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’ But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.’ And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house—for I have five brothers—so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’ But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’” — Luke 16:19-31

We have more than the rich man in this passage. We have the knowledge that the law and the prophets were both pointing to Christ. We have the record of what Christ did. We have the gift of the Holy Spirit. We don’t need other proof and we don’t need the affirmation of the world. But don’t take my word for it, listen to David Platt break this down…

Brothers and sisters we need solid biblical discernment.

Why did his name have to be “Jesus”?

Did you ever wonder why Jesus Christ’s name had to be “Jesus”?

Alex Stewart provides the answer.

Matthew1-21

Is there anyone like God?

The very first mistake people make when they try to figure out what God is like is this: they try to make God like people. We see people every day. And, since we sort of have a basic understanding of how people behave, we try to force God into that mold — it’s the best example we have.

Please allow me to address this right from the start. GOD IS NOT LIKE PEOPLE. PEOPLE ARE NOT LIKE GOD.

There, that should be clear enough.

The question may then arise, “Is there anyone like God?” To best answer that question, we need only to look at one of God’s main characteristics — a thing scholars like to call, “The solitariness of God.”

The idea here is that God is alone in His character, power, and being. Put in the simplest terms the solitariness of God means there is no one like God. So the answer to the question, “is there anyone like God?” is “no.”

But, as easy as it is to explain the meaning of the word “solitariness,” the aloneness of God is an idea very few people think about any more. It is even likely very few of the people who read the Bible are aware of the greatness and majesty of God. Oh, people will say God is “great in wisdom,” “wonderfully powerful,” and “full of mercy” — perhaps because they think saying such things makes them sound “Christian” or perhaps they are just repeating something they’ve heard someone else say. In either case, to actually understand these things about God is something very few people ever seek to do.

But, the Bible has plenty to tell us about the solitariness of God…

“Who is like you, O LORD, among the gods? Who is like you, majestic in holiness, awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders?” — Exodus 15:11

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The very first phrase in the Bible sets the tone for all of Scripture. Genesis 1:1 says, “In the beginning, God…” Before anything else existed there was God. He was all alone. There was no heaven. There was no earth. There were no angels. No universe. There was nothing, no one, but God. It is at this point many people begin to think of God in human terms. They think, “I’d be sad if I were all alone like that.” And so, they assume God must have been sad, too. You may have heard someone say, “God needed a relationship with us, that’s why he created us. He was lonely.”

Nothing could be further from the truth.

When God was alone He was self-contained, self-sufficient, and self-satisfied.

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God didn’t need to create anything. He chose to create the world simply because it pleased Him to do so.

Ephesians 1:11 says He “works all things according to the counsel of his will.” Which simply means He does what He wants to do and He doesn’t have to tell us why. We do know, however, one of the primary reasons for God creating everything. He did it for His own glory.

When people learn God created everything for his own glory they, again, have a tendency to make a mistake in thinking God had some need for glory. And when Scripture points out God saved some people so that they might praise him for his grace, these same people think God had a need for the praise of people. But the Bible says otherwise. Let’s consult it, shall we?

“For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor? Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid? For from him and through him and to him are all things.” — Romans 11:34-36

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Even Jesus Christ, the very Son of God, added nothing to God’s glory. This may be a puzzling statement, I know. After all, didn’t Jesus do a whole lot of impressive stuff while here on Earth? Yes, He did. However, his entire life — all of the miracles He performed, the death He suffered, and the glory of His resurrection — did nothing to add to God’s glory. What Jesus did was make mankind more fully aware of God’s glory.

To help you better understand allow me to suggest a small exercise: Think about everything. That’s right, everything. Think about where you live. Take a moment and look out of the window. What do you see? Grass? Trees? Buildings? Streets? Think about how remarkably complex all of those things are. Now imagine what is beyond your yard. What is down your street? What is beyond the next one and the next one? How long would it take you to get to the next town? What about the one after that? Think about all of the people who live there. They have houses and yards and streets, too. But the world is much bigger than that.

Have you ever been to the beach? Do you remember just how big the ocean looked? Just think, the part of the ocean you saw is only a tiny part of all the oceans in the world. Just think about all of the countries and people you would find on the other side of the ocean. If you could travel to one of those countries and then across it you’d eventually run into another ocean with more countries and people beyond it.

LikeGod-4

The simple fact is you can’t think about everything. Now think about how all of the stuff you can’t even think of was created to glorify God. Do you suppose all of the stuff you can’t even think of put together with all of the stuff you can think of adds anything to God?

The answer is no. Here is how big God is compared with the world…

“Behold, the nations are like a drop from a bucket, and are accounted as the dust on the scales; behold, he takes up the coastlands like fine dust. Lebanon would not suffice for fuel, nor are its beasts enough for a burnt offering. All the nations are as nothing before him, they are accounted by him as less than nothing and emptiness. To whom then will you liken God, or what likeness compare with him?” — Isaiah 40:15-18

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All of the stuff that is too big for us to think of is like nothing to God. How big, then, must God be? Much, much bigger than we can even imagine. A God this big is impossible for us to discover on our own. He cannot be found by our searching for Him — although, you wouldn’t know this from listening to people in our modern day.

Nowadays, you hear a lot of religious-sounding talk about “seekers.” “Seekers” is a term a lot of “Church experts” use to describe people who are seeking God but just haven’t found Him yet. “Church experts” is a term used to describe people who think they know better than God how best to run the church — but that’s another topic.

These “Church experts” believe so much in the idea of “seekers” that they’ve invented an entirely new kind of church — the “seeker-sensitive” church.  The idea behind a “seeker-sensitive” church is that there are thousands of people earnestly seeking God who just don’t know where to look. The “seeker-sensitive” church learns what is attractive to these “seekers” and then incorporates those things into their church.

There are two things wrong with this approach to church — well, there are more than just two things wrong, but for now, we’ll just focus on two.

Number 1: The Bible says there is no such thing as a “seeker.”

“None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God.” — Romans 3:11

Certainly there are people who are seeking some sort of “god” or religious experience. But, inevitably, they seek some made-up god who is to their own liking. They do not seek the one, true God of the Bible. The Bible clearly states it.

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Number 2: Churches that focus on “seekers” place their focus on the wrong thing. The focus of any church should be on God and His glory alone. Period.

There is a principle I’d like to share with you to help you better understand the Bible. Anytime you read the Bible apply this principle and it will help you gain a better understanding of what God is saying through His Word. Are you ready?

Here it is…

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Did you catch that? It ain’t about us. None of it.

  • The Bible.
  • Creation.
  • Salvation.
  • Church.

Everything God made and everything He has done He has done for His own glory. It is true that the Bible was written for us and that we benefit from what God has done, but we were never the focus of God’s plan. God was the focus. And he should be our focus.

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So, if God is too big to understand, if there is no one to compare Him to, and no one seeks Him then how can we ever know about God? That’s a very good question.

Here’s the answer:

He can only be known as He is revealed by the Holy Spirit through the Word of God. And the best way for us to better know about God is through the study of His Word — the Bible.

Thideology Research Team: Case File 012

NEAR THE ANCIENT CITY OF UR, Southern Iraq — A huge complex has been uncovered near what many believe to be the biblical birthplace of Abraham according to researchers who have recently been allowed into the region. According to Associated Press reports, the site was discovered by a team of British archeologists working at Tell Khaiber in Southern Iraq, near the ancient city of Ur.

A Thideology Research Team spokesman responded to the reports, “I don’t think we have any British people working for us at the moment,” he said. “Although the guy who delivers our mail is named Seamus. I think his mother is from Ireland.”

GearThe area surrounding Ur, which is now arid and desolate, is considered to be the birthplace of civilization approximately 5,000 years ago. The Bible refers to Ur of the Chaldeans as the home of Abraham, which is one of the reasons scholars consider this part of Southern Iraq to be the biblical site.

National Geographic confirms the timeline and notes that Ur probably originated sometime in the fifth millennium B.C.

“I’ve never even heard of ‘National Geographic’,” the Thideology Research Team spokesman said. “That just sounds made up.”

The Essence of Idolatry

When we think of idolatry we frequently think only of pagans bowing down to some statue they regard as a god. Because of this perception, many Christians think there no longer exists a problem with idolatry. After all, we don’t construct golden calves and bow to them. We’ve moved past that issue.

If we believe this, it is to our own detriment. Idolatry is much more subtle than we realize. It is more seductive and much more common, too.

A.W. Tozer once provided a wonderful explanation concerning the essence of idolatry. It is a warning we all need to heed.

The essence of idolatry is the entertainment of thoughts about God that are unworthy of Him. It begins in the mind and may be present where no overt act of worship has taken place.

“When they knew God,” wrote Paul, “they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.”

Then followed the worship of idols fashioned after the likeness of men and birds and beasts and creeping things. But this series of degrading acts began in the mind. Wrong ideas about God are not only the fountain from which the polluted waters of idolatry flow; they are themselves idolatrous. The idolater simply imagines things about God and acts as if they were true.

Perverted notions about God soon rot the religion in which they appear. The long career of Israel demonstrates this clearly enough, and the history of the Church confirms it. So necessary to the Church is a lofty concept of God that when that concept in any measure declines, the Church with her worship and her moral standards declines along with it. The first step down for any church is taken when it surrenders its high opinion of God.

Before the Christian Church goes into eclipse anywhere there must first be a corrupting of her simple basic theology. She simply gets a wrong answer to the question, What is God like?”

An ever-deepening problem in the modern church is the increasing infatuation with the idea of “relevancy” — especially in the west. Just visit any “Christian” bookstore and you will see this is true. The highest percentage of shelf space is dedicated to books about how to use God’s power to obtain worldly gain. God is viewed as a means to our own desired ends. And this attitude perfectly illustrates Tozer’s point.

Thid-BibleThe God of the Bible is first concerned with His own glory. The “relevant” god of  modern Christianity is first concerned with our comfort. This “relevant” god is too much like us, too much like our culture and is nothing more than a creation from the minds of men. Without realizing it, too many people have done exactly what Tozer warned against — they’ve gotten the wrong answer to the question, “What is God like?” Which makes them idolaters, worshipping a god every bit as created by men as the golden calf the Israelites made.

Perhaps digging deeply into Scripture to discover the true nature and character of God is the most “relevant” thing we can study after all.

Thideology Research Team makes actual discovery: Case File 011

THIDEOLOGY RESEARCH TEAM HEADQUARTERS, Somewhere in the Northern Hemisphere — A spokesman for the Thideology Research Team has confirmed that the Thideology Research Team recently discovered the Dead Sea Scrolls.

DeadSeaScrolls“It’s true,” the spokesman said. “I was there when the discovery was made. One of our interns was surfing along on the internet looking for a free upgrade to his Angry Birds app when all of a sudden — BLAM — we ran headlong into the Dead Sea Scrolls. Yep, we are proud to announce to the whole world that the whole thing has been uploaded to the internet and can be viewed at http://www.deadseascrolls.org.il/home.”

The Leon Levy Dead Sea Scrolls Digital Library is, in fact, available online. Using the world’s most advanced imaging technology, the Digital Library preserves thousands of scroll fragments, including the oldest known copies of biblical texts and makes then available to the public for the first time.

When reminded about the fact that the Dead Sea Scrolls were actually discovered in a cave in Qumran in 1947 and that the Thideology Research Team could not really claim to have “discovered” the Dead Sea Scrolls, the spokesman had this to say:

“Well, sure, if you want to get picky about it.”

Thideology Research Team: Case File 010

SOMEWHERE IN, Israel — The Thideology Research Team has just announced that archaeologists have uncovered a small stone in Israel that could be the first archaeological evidence of the Old Testament judge Samson. Researchers of the Thideology Research Team were first made aware of the discovery from a Baptist Press news report. In the original BP report, co-directors of the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary Center for Archaeological Research (who were not involved with the excavation that led to the discovery) said evidence characterizing the find makes it plausible that the seal supports a story of a young boy killing a lion with his bare hands.

“My initial assessment based upon what has been published to date would be that once again we have an artifact that does not contradict the biblical text, but in fact affirms it,” said Daniel Warner, one of the co-directors.

Members of the Thideology Research Team had absolutely nothing to do with the co-directors of the NOBTS Center for Archaeological Research who had nothing to do with the discovery. Nevertheless, the Director of the Thideology Research Team did offer his comments.

“I lost a button like that once,” he said.

You may read the entire Baptist Press report here.

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