Can Demons Influence our Theology?

In the book of Job, God allowed his servant Job to suffer hardship at the hands of Satan to test his faith and prove Job’s devotion to God (Job 1:8-12).

In the aftermath of losing his children, servants, livestock, and livelihood, Job and his friends are wrestling with the question “why?” – trying to understand the cause of this suffering. As the reader, we have an incredible vantage point knowing exactly what happened to cause his trials.

We don’t have to wonder why Job suffered – we know. God allowed Satan to afflict Job for the testing of his faith for the glory of God. In fact, God is the one who put Job on the enemy’s radar. Satan wanted to weaken Job’s faith, but in the end, it was strengthened.

We also have the vantage point of the entire rest of Scripture to test the claims of Job and his friend’s words. We can examine their words against the rest of the Bible to see whether their view of God – and suffering – is right.

At the beginning of the book, Job is truly blameless. In the end, God rebukes him. Why? When was that turning point and where did Job stray? I would argue it was in chapter 7, where he moves from biblical lament to despair and begins to question God. He lost hope and questioned everything because he did not rightly understand the battle he was in.

Spiritual warfare is fought in three arenas: the world, the flesh, and the devil.

For the reader to better understand his battle, you have to recognize that the first friend to speak about the situation openly bases his opinion on an untrustworthy source – a secret supernatural encounter.

In Job 4:12-21, Eliphaz describes a harrowing encounter with a spirit.

15 “A spirit glided past my face;

    the hair of my flesh stood up.

16 It stood still,

    but I could not discern its appearance.

A form was before my eyes;

    there was silence, then I heard a voice:”

Job 4:15-16

To my dismay, I couldn’t find a single commentary that explained this passage as it reads. Some commentators dismissed his claims of an encounter by saying he made up the story to bolster his authority to speak on the subject.

Though this explanation is perhaps more palatable to our Western minds, I don’t think it’s an honest interpretation of the text. We know the supernatural nature of Job’s situation given the context of the first two chapters which set the stage for the entire 40-chapter book, so why would we turn around and explain this away? It doesn’t line up.

Other commentators glossed over the account altogether. The most helpful commentary was Matthew Henry’s which acknowledges this was a real spirit encounter, but that it was a good spirit. On this point, I disagree.

When we evaluate the claims of the spirit, we see that it is not good. In verses 17-21, the spirit speaks lies to Eliphaz.

17 ‘Can mortal man be in the right before God?

    Can a man be pure before his Maker?

18 Even in his servants he puts no trust,

    and his angels he charges with error;

19 how much more those who dwell in houses of clay,

    whose foundation is in the dust,

    who are crushed like the moth.

20 Between morning and evening they are beaten to pieces;

    they perish forever without anyone regarding it.

21 Is not their tent-cord plucked up within them,

    do they not die, and that without wisdom?’

Job 4:17-21

Eliphaz allowed this deceptive message to shape his opinion about Job’s suffering.

Lie #1

In verse 17, the spirit is asking a rhetorical question – whether man can be right before God, leading Eliphaz to believe the answer is no, when we know from Job 1:8 the answer is actually yes. Job was right before His maker. That’s the whole reason he got into this mess in the first place.

Lie #2

The spirit claims that God can’t trust his servants– WRONG! God did trust Job. Again, that’s why this all happened. As evidence for this claim, the spirit says, “even his angels he charges with error” – I mean yeah, Satan and the other angels who rebelled against God were charged with wrongdoing and cast out of Heaven. That’s not to say there aren’t any good angels or faithful men. There are.

Lie #3

In verse 20, it says men die without anyone regarding it, but we know that God does regard the death of his saints (Psalm 116:15). He even watches over sparrows (Matthew 10:29). With this lie, the spirit wants to convince Eliphaz that God doesn’t care – that He’s distant and cold to man’s struggles, but the opposite is true. God cares deeply for mankind – so much so that He would eventually humble Himself to the cross
(Philippians 2:8) in order to reconcile us to Himself.

So, what can we learn from Eliphaz’s mistake of listening to this spirit to form his opinion?

  • First, alleged “angelic encounters” may in fact be demonic. We have to test everything against Scripture. Multiple cults were born out of private encounters with spirits who preached a different gospel – in fact, that’s how Mormonism came about. “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.” Galatians 1:8 ESV
  • Next, we must see that theological perspectives can just as easily be built on lies from the enemy as they can the truth of God. The enemy wants to deceive God’s people. In order to combat this, we must abide in the Word of God – and pray for the Spirit to revive our hearts, showing us truth.
  • Finally, we must recognize that the most convincing lies contain elements of truth. Satan is the father of lies (John 8:44) and a cunning deceiver, so we must be careful to discern what is true using the Bible.

5 Things I Wish I Knew Before Reading the Whole Bible

I think every Christian should make an effort to read through the entire Bible – frequently. Whether that means reading it through in a year (or more or less frequently), it’s important to familiarize our hearts with the whole counsel of God’s Word.

I’ve read it a few times before and I’m truly excited to be doing it again this year. To change things up a bit, I’ll be reading chronologically for the first time.

Through this practice, I’ve learned a lot. There are several things I wish I knew the first time around and I’ve gathered them for you here:

1. God is not pleased with me because I read His Word.

His delight in me rests in Christ’s righteousness alone – not my daily performance. I wrestled with this for YEARS. I can’t gain His favor by reading. I can’t lose His favor by not reading. When I rightly understand that my obedience overflows not from a place of bondage but freedom, I delight in it all the more. The purpose of knowing His Word is to know Him better, for He is my joy.

2. Listening is valid.

If sitting down with a physical bible is your preference, as it is mine, it can be easy to feel guilty for not doing that every day. Give yourself grace to listen to the audio Bible as needed. Our brains can effectively absorb information from actively listening just like they can from actively reading. Reading is better, yes, but listening is better than not reading at all. More than that, literacy is an academic privilege, not a spiritual rite of passage. We must be careful not to place legalistic weight onto the good discipline of daily Bible reading. This is not the end of our pursuit, either. We want to study, meditate, delight in, and obey it.

3. “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17 ESV

I committed this passage to memory years ago, but I subconsciously didn’t believe it applied to passages that seemed irrelevant to my sanctification. Genealogies, instructions for the construction of the temple, individual laws about purification – it’s all good for our sanctification. My sinful unbelief showed up in my apathy and disinterest. I wish I had known – and believed – there’s something spiritually equipping from every bit of Scripture.

4. The Bible Project videos are a great resource for understanding the literary and historical context.

I must recommend caution with this since Tim Mackie, its creator, holds some progressive views, but their videos that give an overview of each book of the Bible are very helpful. I recommend watching the corresponding video as you begin a new book. We should exercise caution with every extra biblical (meaning beyond the Bible) resource, but this one calls for high alert.

5. It may be common for Christians to neglect time spent in the Word, but it is not healthy.

It’s detrimental to their faith. “Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation.” 1 Peter 2:2 ESV To hear John Piper’s helpful exposition of this passage, watch just a couple minutes of this video starting at 5:25:

On that note, nothing can replace Scripture. No devotional or book should substitute the pure Word of God. Make every effort to develop and implement a strategy for daily drinking Scripture.

Principles To Consider Before Supporting a Missionary

For some reason, I’ve had countless unrelated friends in the last few months ask for my thoughts about missions’ fundraising and the sometimes-uncomfortable conversations when missionaries outright ask their friends for support.

I’ve found myself in that situation more times than I can count. I used to dread these conversations. I don’t think my experience is unique, particularly among young people who have college-age peers regularly launching into the mission field for the first time.

My discomfort with these interactions stemmed from my own neglect to think through what should constitute a decision to support a missionary. I simply knew of Luke 6:30 which tells us to give to everyone who begs of us, so I thought it was my duty to simply say yes to everyone who asked.

For a while, we did that. Unsurprisingly, we found this approach unwise and unsustainable. I’m glad we gave, but I’m also glad we learned some things along the way. As you prayerfully consider how to financially support the Great Commission, there are a few key principles to keep in mind.

  1. When giving money, we should do so privately, as our reward is in Heaven (Matt 6:3-4). This goes against the grain in the day and age of social media “shout-outs” where instead of bragging to a few friends, you can do so to hundreds.
  2. We should also do so generously and joyfully, not under compulsion (2 Cor 9: 6-7). Under the new covenant, we are not under law-compulsion to give, but we have a far greater incentive: God has freely given us every blessing in our lives, so we give freely to others. These two guiding principles are crucial, but there is a third principle I want to focus on:
  3. We should give with wisdom and discernment (James 1:15). With the pressure to say yes to every friend who asks comes the pitfall of not properly vetting what you’re really supporting. Are they preaching the gospel, distributing Bible literature, or making disciples through long-term relational investment and Bible study?

Or are they sipping luxury coffee in Europe and loosely praying God will “open a door,” but never actually sharing the explicit gospel? Perhaps hiking for 4 days in a third world country to “make connections” but again, never sharing the explicit gospel? Is one of your friends going on a multi-country race to satisfy their wanderlust and feeling good about themselves for hugging an orphan along the way?

These scenarios are not imaginary. I wish they were hyperbolic examples of false charity, but shamefully, they are real occurrences that happen far too frequently. For whatever reason, the standards for long-term missionaries entering the mission field seems non-existent for their short-term counterparts (often students and young people).

Perhaps the most concerning aspect of modern missions fundraising is the apparent lack of emphasis on prayer. When I read various Christian biographies, George Mueller’s for example, I find a large part of their daily life was devoted to petitioning God in prayer to supply their every need.

A startling lack of prayer pervades the American church as a whole, and sometimes overflows into the lives of our missionaries. It seems that the American way of independently striving to accomplish things in our own strength has infiltrated churches in more ways than we realize.

Why else do some mission organizations teach their newcomers for mere minutes on the power of God to supply needs, and then spend hours instructing them how to raise the money by their own efforts? Send letters, sell t-shirts, make a Facebook page, post trendy graphics on your social media pages. There’s nothing wrong with these tactics in and of themselves, but we must be careful not to negate the wonderful truth that our hope lies not in man’s works, but God’s.

What about Paul’s model of using your God-given skills and talents to earn money more naturally? While working as a minister of the gospel, the apostle made tents to earn his wages on at least one occasion (Acts 18:1-4). In another instance, he said he considered it robbery to take the financial gifts of the Macedonian brothers (the Philippian church) while preaching to the Corinthians, but did so to avoid the appearance of working for profit like the false preachers who were merely taking advantage of them (2 Corinthians 11:7-15). We also know that churches aided his ministry and met his physical needs by bringing him food in prison.

There is an abundance of Scripture showing us the radical nature of God’s provision for his children. My husband and I have experienced it firsthand. In Psalm 37:25, David says that though he’s lived a long life, he has never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging for bread. This means that whether God’s people live in poverty or riches, their needs will always be met by their Heavenly Father.

This promise is especially true for the missionary, who often must leave a life of comfort to follow God’s call to the mission field. Whether you go or whether you give, do all to the glory of God and know that He will supply every need.

Finding the Scriptural Balance in How to Address Demonic Activity

American Christians often think demonic activity doesn’t affect us, perceiving it only happens elsewhere and in plain sight, as it often occurs where occult rituals (calling upon spirits and using curses, etc.) are actively welcomed and practiced. A little over a year ago, it struck me that it didn’t make sense for spiritual warfare to be selective. In light of Ephesians 6:10-20, it’s clear that Christians are engaged in spiritual warfare every day, whether we acknowledge it or not.

“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”

Ephesians 6:12 ESV

As much as I believed this passage, I felt blind, ignorant, and numb to the warfare that must be going on around me. Perhaps you can relate. I did not see it for what it was, so I didn’t know how to pray against it. Verse 18 tells us to engage in the battle through prayer, being equipped with the whole armor of God as described in verses 13-17. In frustration, I asked the Lord to open my eyes and show me more specifically how to pray. And boy, did He answer! Over the past year, He’s opened my eyes and helped me to pray bold, authoritative, specific prayers for the battles waging in my own family and church, seeing them in light of the ongoing battle between good and evil that has existed for centuries.

When it comes to the conversation of our lives being affected by Satan and demons, there are two opposite extremes of a pendulum swing I see Christians fall prey to. On one side, there are those Christians who attribute everything in their lives to Satan, from personal sin to minor life inconveniences to major life trials. All of those things *may* be used by our enemy to attack us, but it’s unwise to give him too much credit. This line of thinking often ends up denying any personal responsibility for sin, reframing the truth to make the person seem merely a victim.

The other end of the pendulum swing denies that Satan and demons have any influence over us and that all of our sins are merely the result of our sinful flesh. This neglects the reality that our warfare is supernatural, trusting only in what is seen and undercutting what is spiritual. It assumes that every thought that enters our minds has it source with us, not acknowledging that thoughts can be planted in our minds by both our Heavenly Father and the devil himself. We see this is the case with Peter, as seen in his back-to-back interactions with Jesus in Matthew 16:17 and 23. Both ends of this pendulum swing are dangerous. Scripture teaches us a better balance.

Who or what is the source of the temptations we face?

“Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God,’ for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire (James 1:13-14 ESV).” We are tempted by the desires of our flesh, yes. But this passage says we are lured and enticed toward them which begs the question: who is doing the luring and enticing? Who sees our desires and strategically tempts us to give in to sin? The enemy, for we see him craftily tempting from the very beginning in the garden of Eden and throughout history, even tempting Jesus in the wilderness.

Ephesians 2:1-3 shows us the reality of our complex depravity. It is not simply our flesh that we can be held captive to, but also the devil and the world. Voddie Baucham addressed this misconception at the 2014 Ligonier National Conference in his sermon, “The world, the Flesh, and the Devil.”

“The broader problem is this,” Baucham began. “That unless we understand this interplay between the world and the flesh, and the devil, we do not understand the sinfulness of our sin. We do not understand the radical nature of our depravity unless we understand that we are hemmed in on every side, that it’s not just one issue, but it’s everything around us and everything about us. And there are many of us who have lost an understanding of the radical nature of our sinfulness and as a result, we’ve lost an understanding of the radical nature of the sinfulness of those around us as well.”

With depravity this deep, who or what is the source of our redemption?

After describing the radical nature of our depravity in Ephesians 2:1-3, Paul goes on to say in verse 4 that familiar and wonderful caveat we see throughout Scripture: “But God…” Hallelujah, for He is our only hope! “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved… (Ephesians 2:4-5 ESV)” Galatians 5:1 says, “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” By the grace of God, the Christian is alive and free, but we must guard against the temptation to sin and thereby go back to captivity.

One glance at the world shows us how badly we need God’s help. The hour is dark. The need is great. Spiritual warfare wages all around us, with sin destroying everything in its path. We are desperately in need of help. There are vast reservoirs of grace available to us in prayer. Let it not to be said of us that we leave them untapped, having not because we ask not. As children of God, we are co-heirs with Christ, our birthright being freedom from the bondage of sin to be reconciled to God.

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:15-16 ESV).”

We pray with boldness not because of our righteousness, but His. Not because of our wisdom or understanding, but His. It is only through the power of Christ we petition God’s help. It is only through the power of Christ we prevail. He is our only hope.

3 Reasons Christians Can’t Get Enough of Bethel’s Heresy

Over the past few years, Bethel Church in Redding, CA, has gained immense popularity among mainstream evangelicals. Most know them for their chart-topping worship music including hit songs, “Reckless Love,” “Raise a Hallelujah,” and “Goodness of God,” but are not aware of their affiliation with the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR).

You might recognize them as the church that made national headlines during their attempt to resurrect a deceased child of one of the leaders. She remained in the morgue unburied for more than 6 days while the church gathered on behalf of her parents to sing, dance, decree, and declare. They said that her time on earth was not done, commanded her to wake up, and decreed that God would raise her from the dead. Tragically, after a week of publicly declaring these things, the family had to bury their child. All this happened despite the church having a “dead raising team,” who claim 12 resurrections but offers zero witnesses to these alleged miracles. This instance alone should have been enough to allow onlookers to see that Bethel is full of charlatans and false prophets (2 Peter 2:1-3). However, there’s more.

There are several false teachings promoted at Bethel, and it can be overwhelming to address them all. However, many of them can be understood as overflow from one primary heresy: syncretism. Bethel combines Christianity with the occult and New Age practices and ideologies. In case you’re unaware, these are arguably two of the most demonic religions in the world, advocating all kinds of wickedness. At Bethel, they openly welcome and encourage the use of strictly forbidden occult practices (“Christian” tarot cards, astral projection, incantations, speaking things into existence, etc.).

Their New Age teachings can be found in the pastors’ book, “The Physics of Heaven,” wherein chapter 2 it’s written, “Now we are beginning to hear more and more revelation that is in line with what New Agers have been saying all along and we are hearing more and more teaching about Christians ‘taking back truths’ from the New Age that really belong to citizens of the Kingdom of God.”

The mere notion that historic Christianity needs improvement or could somehow benefit from demonic religions denies Jesus as the only way, truth, and life (John 14:6) and denies the Bible as sufficient for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3-4).” It’s an insult to the cross of Christ to think the simple gospel needs a revamp.

While many Christians may find themselves discouraged by the notion that some of their beloved celebrity Christians may be false preachers, the Apostle Paul was no stranger to the idea that false teachers are quite common.  “For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ (2 Corinthians 2:17).” So the question remains: why can’t earnest Christians see the problem with Bethel? I believe the issue is threefold.

1. They value emotional experience over truth.

Despite public rebuke from sound preachers who have followed the biblical mandate to “mark and avoid” false teachers, some Christians cling tightly to their love for Bethel because of the emotional experience they offer. I’ve often heard Christians who are aware of issues therein defend the church as “doing more good than harm by encouraging greater faith.” They value the emotionalism of the worship music and the mystery of “glory clouds,” which are merely made up of gold glitter in the ventilation system.

2. They don’t know the Scriptures as they should.

Put simply, these Christians aren’t rooted in God’s Word. They are easily deceived by false doctrines because they don’t know the truth of Scripture well enough to discern truth from lies.  As I’ve written about before, biblical illiteracy plagues the church. Because they do not know Scripture, they cannot follow the biblical mandate to, “not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world (1 John 4:1).”

3. They prefer teachers who preach what they want to hear rather than sound doctrine.

Not only do they not know the Bible, but they also don’t want to hear the truth. Having “itching ears” they embrace Bethel’s nonsense because it suits their preference. “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths (2 Timothy 4:3-4).”

May God have mercy on those in deception to draw them out and into the light.

Bathsheba: Adulteress or Rape Victim?

The best that Israel had to offer failed in a huge way, with effects rippling throughout generations. Men will always fail. Even the best, most godly men, with the best reputation. But Jesus.

Taylor N. B. Walding

With the recent #metoo movement in mind, I thought now would be a good time to address sexual assault from a biblical perspective.

2 Samuel 11:1-12:23 describes the series of events that lead to King David’s sexual sin with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband Uriah.

Most people don’t think of Bathsheba when they think of sexual assault in the Bible, and that is likely because she is often painted in a negative light as some kind of temptress. There is nothing in Scripture to support that view, but somehow it’s been adapted over time.

The topic came up one summer* in our adult Sunday School class. While the majority of the people in the room were speaking solely of David’s responsibility before God in the matter and the consequences he faced, one man addressed Bathsheba’s role, citing the age-old phrase, “It takes two to tango.”

I cringed. Thankfully my father passionately interjected and explained the problem with that statement.

Bathsheba was not an adulteress. That assertion might surprise you, but consider the following:

We don’t understand the gravity of a king as a ruler.

The fundamental flaw in our inability to understand this concept begins with the reality that we don’t have this kind of ruler in the Western world today. 

During this time in history, kings had absolute, supreme rule. If they ordered something, it was to be done. No questions asked.

The closest thing we have to a king is a dictator. The problem is dictators always carry a negative connotation, whereas kings did not. 

Biblical kings under God had immense potential to be good… but they also had an immense capacity for evil, as we see here in David’s sin with Bathsheba.

In 2 Samuel 11:4a where it says, “And David sent messengers, and took her; and she came in unto him, and he lay with her,” the phrase “and took her” can be translated several ways, including “to take, get, fetch, lay hold of, seize, acquire, marry, take a wife, snatch, or take away.”

So when David sent messengers to take Bathsheba, saying no wasn’t an option for her. There was no consent, only obedience. 

The Bible doesn’t explicitly say whether Bathsheba wanted to be in this situation or not, but I don’t think it matters. What does matter is that when God addresses the situation through the prophet Nathan, it is David who is responsible. On top of that, nowhere in the biblical text does it call her an adulteress, temptress, immoral woman, or anything of the sort. There is absolutely nothing in the biblical text to suggest she lured him into the situation, even though that insinuation has often been made.

The Bible is very clear that David is the one at fault in 2 Samuel 12. He is the one to blame, and he is the one called to repent.

Bathsheba, after the suffering she endured at the hands of David, then mourned the death of her husband Uriah and her child that died as a result of this tragic situation.

However, this story gives hope for victims of sexual assault.

Bathsheba doesn’t go down in history as a helpless woman who lived a life of sorrow and shame. 

She gave birth to Solomon, who grew up and became the wisest man in all of human history, penning much of Proverbs.

At the start of the book of Matthew, Bathsheba is listed as Uriah’s wife in the lineage of Jesus Christ, an honor given to a handful of notoriously broken women in the Bible. Note that she is listed as Uriah’s wife, not David’s.

The article linked above states the reality that Bathsheba suffered sexual abuse and the murder of her husband at the hands of Israel’s greatest king.

The best that Israel had to offer failed hugely, with effects rippling throughout generations. 

Men will always fail. Even the best, most godly men, with the best reputation. 

But Jesus.

David faced real, tangible consequences for his sin. But by the grace of God, he was forgiven, and in his repentance wrote one of the most moving, heart-wrenching Psalms

Bathsheba faced real, tangible sorrow. She was sinned against greatly. But by the grace of God, she was not forgotten. God remembered her.

Christ is our ultimate Redeemer. He redeems even the most broken people, with the worst pasts, and the most pain. 

Glory be to God for his infinite grace and mercy, his nearness to the brokenhearted, and his willingness to redeem ashes to beauty.


*This article was originally published on November 12, 2017, on my former blog. A few changes were made.

Why Biblical Submission is Both Essential and Lovely

One subject which never fails to stir up emotions and differing opinions is the topic of biblical submission. In its historical context, this was not a controversial subject, but a widely understood one. So why do we have such a hard time with the concept? I think it has much to do with our sin nature – that natural desire to rebel against God. I also think a large part of our initial hang-up is that the doctrine of submission has often been distorted by some who twist the concept to suit their agenda. 

It is also particularly controversial because of the society in which we live, where Americans herald their independence above all, making freedom their king and viewing submission as an ugly thing of the past. But the Scriptures point to a deeper and more beautiful way of looking at submission. The concept is actually quite near the heart of Christianity.

For instance, we see this when Jesus calls us to deny ourselves and submit to the will of God. “And He said to all, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it (Luke 9:23-24 ESV).'”

Unfortunately, when people hear “submission” they automatically think of doormat wives attending their husbands’ every whim. On the contrary, that’s not at all what submission looks like. To get a more well-rounded view, we’ll look at a few places in the New Testament where submission is seen in a variety of contexts. 

Marriage

The context in which submission is perhaps most often thought of is the instruction from Paul in Ephesians 5:22 for wives to submit to their husbands. God in His infinite wisdom structured the family unit so that husbands should act as the head of the family. Because of that, for things to flow properly, wives must be on board with their husband’s leadership. It does not mean he should unthinkingly plow over her opinions and suggestions. Any wise and loving husband will listen to his wife, value her thoughts, and heed her advice at times.

Following this instruction for women to submit, husbands are told to lay down their lives for their wives as Christ did for the church. Both of these responsibilities are loving and honorable tasks, that benefit both parties and exude the glory of God. They are kin to the way that Jesus submitted the Father when He laid down His life on the cross.

Church

What people often forget is that in the verse just before these, we see Paul admonishing all Christians to submit to one another. After giving various instructions regarding holy living, he seems to summarize in Ephesians 5:21 by writing, “submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.” This cooperation does not deem either party as less valuable or more worthy than the other. Rather, it displays unity to the utmost degree, one of the most essential traits of a healthy body of Christ. Therefore, it seems logical to conclude this passage of Scripture also applies within marriage, where a kind of mutual submission necessary for a healthy dynamic. 

Jesus

While our efforts to live by the previous instructions often fall short, Jesus fulfilled all this in the loveliest way possible. We see Him submit to the Father throughout His life and in particular through His death. Jesus expressed His pain in submitting to the cross when He prays, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will (Matthew 26:39 ESV).”

Praise God it wasn’t His will to let it pass, for Christ’s crucifixion is the atonement for our sins. So as we see in all these instances, submission is not only essential but lovely. It is not chucking your mind at the door, but it is the essence of following Jesus. It is a difficult thing, but His ways are higher, better, and more wonderful than anything we can think up of our own accord. 

Note: If you or someone you know has been hurt by distorted teachings on biblical submission, I recommend reading “No Little Women: Equipping All Women in the Household of God” by Aimee Byrd. Though I haven’t read it myself, it comes with high recommendations from trusted sisters in Christ.

C.S. Lewis: “Mere Christianity” or Mere Inclusivism?

I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard someone recommend “Mere Christianity” by C.S. Lewis. For the longest time, I heard not one complaint or critique. I attributed this to the unifying spirit the book was written in, meant to be a basic explanation of Christian belief, not getting specific enough about particular doctrines to ruffle feathers over denominational divides.

There was a lot I appreciated in this book. The way Lewis uses analogies to make deep doctrinal realities plain to the everyday Christian was great. However, the book is little more than a long string of analogies with no clear references to Scripture that support them. That lack of biblical citation throughout the entirety of the book kept me on guard. Call me crazy, but I prefer to shape my beliefs about God on the Bible, not man’s ideas.

As I neared the end of the book, I was shocked by what I found. He flippantly throws out one of the most controversial doctrines I’ve ever come across in mainline Christianity.

“There are people in other religions who are being led by God’s secret influence to concentrate on those parts of their religion which are in agreement with Christianity, and who thus belong to Christ without knowing it. For example, a Buddhist of good will may be led to concentrate more on the Buddhist teaching about mercy and to leave in the background (though he might still say he believed) the Buddhist teaching on certain other points. Many of the good Pagans long before Christ’s birth may have been in this position.” – C.S. Lewis

He claims you can be saved apart from knowing Christ and without rejecting your present god. I get that people from other religions come to saving knowledge of God in mysterious ways, but this is taking that concept many steps further, advocating “inclusivism,” which is heresy.

While I wholeheartedly reject his belief, I have two additional concerns. Like I mentioned previously, this doctrine of inclusivism is casually thrown out and only discussed in a few paragraphs. You would think he would try to defend his unorthodox view with more text, perhaps even a chapter.

Not only that, but why put this doctrine in a book titled, “Mere Christianity,” as though this is something all Christians agree upon? On the contrary, it is deeply controversial and widely rejected.

Lewis’s position of inclusivism is an imaginative take on Romans 1. The problem is his conclusion disregards other teachings on the exclusivity of Christ. For example, in John 14:6 Jesus said no one comes to God except through Him because He is the way, the truth, and the life.

“Inclusivism is the view that people can be saved by Christ’s work without knowing about him or trusting in him, but simply by sincerely following the religion that they know. Inclusivists often talk about ‘many different ways to God’ even if they emphasize that they personally believe in Christ.” – Wayne Grudem, “Bible Doctrines”

In Romans 10:13-17, perhaps one of the most essential passages in dismantling inclusivism, Paul writes,

“For ‘everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? … So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”

Lewis also conveys his belief of inclusivism in his fictional work “The Last Battle,” which is the final installment of “The Chronicles of Narnia” series. The character Emeth, who faithfully served a demon called Tash all his life is welcomed into heaven because Aslan counts his intentions as pure.

Aslan says, “Child, all the service thou hast done to Tash, I account as service done to me.” I suppose the KJV-esque language is meant to make this more palatable to Christians? The Scripture is clear that you cannot serve God by serving demons.

1 Corinthians 10:20-22, “No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be participants with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons. Shall we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than he?”

Furthermore, Lewis says this view is likely what happened to many “good Pagans” before Christ. The phrase “good Pagans” shouldn’t even exist as it’s entirely inconsistent with biblical teaching on the nature of man. We know from Scripture (Romans 3:10-12, 23; Isaiah 53:6) that there’s no such thing as a good person, and certainly not a good pagan.

In the Old Testament, there are multiple instances of pagan nations being offered mercy through faith and repentance, but who ultimately reject God and remain under wrath (Exodus 22:20, Nahum). Pagans who rejected the Hebrew God were judged, not given a free pass for good intentions.

Those who were saved from God’s wrath were saved in the same way we are today: by faith in God, and in their case, the coming Messiah (Hebrews 11:13). We are on the other side of Jesus, but we have the same faith.

All this to say, we should be cautious about who we listen to – any teacher, theologian, writer, etc. cannot be trusted as a final authority for truth. The standard for truth is the Bible and no other. It is the infallible, inerrant Word of God.

I say all this not to be divisive, but to exhort you to take every doctrine to Scripture and test it against what God’s Word clearly says, “so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes (Ephesians 4:14).”

Why Christians Should Ditch the Enneagram

I’ve listened to and been a part of more conversations about the enneagram than I care to admit. I resisted them at first because – like any personality test – they inevitably perpetuate self-centeredness through deeper self-awareness and end up being wrongly used to downplay the seriousness of personal sin.

However, I generally try to find a healthy balance in using personality tests as a neutral tool. After all, it can be extremely beneficial to our relationships to have better understandings of how we all relate to each other. So, I went all in. I read lots of articles and chuckled at all the personality-specific memes. I loved learning about the types and found them very insightful. I even learned about my struggles with nutrition and exercise through the lens of the enneagram. Crazy, right?

With my background in communication, I’m very familiar with personality tests and their creators. But after all my digging, I have concluded that this one is far different and should be weighed far more seriously as to whether we should embrace it.

Unless you have managed to avoid the current trends, you’ve probably heard some pastors or Christian teachers/writers discuss the enneagram as it relates to the Christian walk and how we can use it to better ourselves. For example, just this week I read The Gospel Coalition’s new article, “Personality Tests Don’t Excuse Your Sin,” which was nearly the gist of this article. Unfortunately, I have seen Christians use their enneagram number to excuse personal sin on numerous occasions. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to problems with the enneagram.

I recently came across this in-depth podcast episode about why Christians should exercise extreme caution when it comes to the enneagram in particular. They take no occasion for spewing out opinions, but rather simply consider its factual roots and influences. If you’re going to listen, I recommend skipping to the 15-minute mark. Until then, it’s just random chitchat. The actual enneagram symbol has been around for quite some time.

But the personality side of it has only existed since the 1960’s when Oscar Ichazo, a New Age teacher heavily involved in psychedelic drugs and shamanism penned them. He claimed to have discovered the deeper spiritual and personality meanings of the Enneagram when it was taught to him through automatic writing by the “Archangel” Metraton while he was high on mescaline. The whole group studying with him were gnostics in pursuit of higher mystical knowledge. Their religion was the worship of “Self” with a capital s and their philosophy was that wisdom is learned from inside yourself and observing the natural universe, a clear contradiction to Scripture which says,

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom,
and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.” Proverbs 9:10

Even more condemning of the underpinning philosophical and theological teachings of the enneagram is that the Bible says that the wisdom of this world is foolishness to God.

“Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.

“Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. For it is written, ‘He catches the wise in their craftiness,‘ and again, ‘The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.’ So let no one boast in men…” 1 Corinthians 3:16-20a (bold added for emphasis)

The New Age movement is spiritual, yes. But there are many spirits in this world and as Christians, we’re to exercise biblical discernment and wisdom about who we listen to and learn from. Spiritual enlightenment can very well be earthly, sensual, and demonic. The influence of the being Metatron sounds an awful lot like a demon, wouldn’t you agree? While the enneagram initial insights and observations may seem an accurate depiction of reality, their conclusion is so far from biblical teaching on who we are.

I’m afraid more and more Christians today are ditching time spent with the LORD studying His written Word which has all the riches and spiritual insight we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3-4) in favor of a sprinkle of a Jesus, a proverb a day, and loads of worldly wisdom to tell them about themselves. Brothers and sisters, if that’s you – you are robbing yourself of great treasure found in God’s Word – the Holy Bible.

Many of my dearly loved brothers and sisters in Christ who use the enneagram have said that it convicts them and shows them where they need to improve. I honestly felt the same way at times. But, given all the information I shared above, my question is this: who brings conviction and how? Does an occult tool with gnostic meaning bring it or does Holy God bring conviction through the Bible? The answer is simple to me. I only wish all God’s people would see the seriousness of this. It’s not a joke. The “Christian” authors advocating for its use in the church are seriously misguided.

“Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” Ephesians 6:11-12 (bold added for emphasis)

Christian, we are not called to sit idly by soaking up every bit of information without first testing it against God’s Word. We are to make war against the devil and his crafty schemes. Our armor for the battle is His truth, His righteousness, His gospel of peace, the faith and salvation given to us, His Word, and His Spirit (Ephesians 6:13-18). We do not need wisdom or insight from a self-worshiping group of people influenced by drugs and demons.

“If the Enneagram were another version of What Color Is Your Parachute or Strengths Finder, that would be fine,” Kevin DeYoung says. “But it has been, from its inception (whenever that was), infused with spiritual significance. And therein lies the danger.”

I’m naturally drawn to debate, so I welcome your opposing perspective, but I ask that you come with the same Christian love and respect I have for you. Many will cite Romans 14:14-23 as their basis for continuing to use the enneagram. If you are totally convinced through the Word of God that it is of no harm, I can respect your conclusion. We can agree to disagree on this for the glory of God if it comes down to it, but I certainly hope I’ve at least made you aware of what you formerly were not.

Combatting Biblical Illiteracy in 2020

With biblical illiteracy on the rise, it’s more important than ever to be strategic in studying God’s Word. Not only for those who are in full-time ministry, but for all believers everywhere – of every age, nationality, and denomination.

A shocking amount of Christians have never read the entire Bible and very few are in the Word daily. It’s no wonder many Christians are easily swayed in their beliefs by secular arguments or worse, wolves in sheep’s clothing. We are largely unanchored in the historic doctrines of the Christian faith.

No wonder so many of us are shaken to our core with doubt that sucks the life from our worship. To replace doubt, we must have faith. And how do we get faith? Faith comes by hearing, and hearing through the Word of Christ (Romans 10:17), i.e. reading the Scripture, studying the Scripture, and meditating over the Scriptures.

It is not enough to merely listen to your pastor preach once a week. Being part of a local church is good and necessary for your spiritual health, but it won’t sustain you to nibble on the bread of life once per week. We must eat daily.

If you have bought into the mentality that, “a Proverb a day keeps Satan away,” you need to reconsider. The enemy is actively seeking people to thwart (1 Peter 5:8-9) and even tempted Jesus to doubt God’s Word (Matthew 4:1-11), but Jesus remained steadfast. In part because He knew the Scriptures well from childhood and of course because He is God.

By being well-versed in Scripture, we can increase our faith, resist temptation, and grow closer to Christ. So what do we do to strategically combat biblical illiteracy? Well, here’s the obvious answer: read the Bible. But how and how often and which parts? What if I don’t understand it? Let’s address those one at a time:

1. Read, listen to, pray, or meditate on the Bible at least 4 days per week

Studies show that Christians who do this live transformed lives compared to those Christians who don’t. They are 30% less lonely, 59% less likely to view pornography, and 228% more likely to share their faith.

A key discovery from the CBE research is that the life of someone who engages Scripture 4 or more times a week looks radically different from the life of someone who does not. In fact, the lives of Christians who do not engage the Bible most days of the week are statistically the same as the lives of non-believers.

Center for Bible Engagement

I get that reading the Bible through in its entirety may be intimidating, but listening isn’t. If you listen for 20 minutes per day (less than most podcasts) at 1.5x audio playback speed, you can easily listen to the whole Bible in less than a year.

2. Read the whole counsel of Scripture

So many people know verses like John 3:16 and Genesis 1:1, but how many know all the verses and chapters surrounding those? We must seek to understand the entirety of Scripture and its proper context, especially those passages which are difficult to wrestle through. Whether you read the Bible in one year or three, you will come away with a more thorough knowledge of God and the gospel.

Here’s the “Bible In a Year” reading plan and app I used this year: https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/11791-bible-in-a-year. It helped me immensely. Don’t fall into the trap of guilt or shame if you fall behind, just listen to large portions at once to catch up while doing laundry or driving and take it as a delightful opportunity to saturate yourself with more of God’s Word.

3. Utilize your resources

If something is confusing to you, ask your pastor! He’s the shepherd of your soul and can help answer your questions. If not, perhaps he can at least point you in the right direction. If you’re a married woman with a Christian husband, ask him first. Not only does this follow the biblical pattern, but it will also bless him to know you care what he thinks and it will challenge him to be a better leader of your household by digging deeper into God’s Word.

Beyond your immediate context, we live in an age of information. There are bountiful resources available to aid you in your studies. Here are a few of my favorites:

  • The Bible Project is a phenomenal ministry that makes creative videos about the Bible.
  • Ligonier Ministries, “exists to proclaim, teach, and defend the holiness of God in all its fullness…”
  • DesiringGod helps Christians find their joy in God through articles, podcasts, and more.

4. Pray for Holy Spirit to guide you into all truth

Perhaps the most important part of studying Scripture is prayer. Holy Spirit’s power is far beyond what many of us even think to tap into, but the Bible tells us that God sent Him in Jesus’s name to help us and teach us all things (John 14:26).

Lastly, remember this: “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” – Hebrews 4:12