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Capturing Weak Women
February 08, 2016

It can be a dangerous thing to walk into a Christian bookstore. It can be a dangerous thing to listen to Christian radio or watch Christian television or attend that big conference. It can be dangerous because the Christian world is polluted by so much bad teaching. There are so many leaders who claim to be teaching truth when they are, in fact, teaching error. The healthy, growing Christian must learn to tell the difference.

This is not a new phenomenon. Wherever there have been good teachers, there have also been bad ones. We see an important example in Paul’s first letter to Timothy, pastor of the church in Ephesus. We do not know all the particulars of the situation, but from what we can reconstruct we can draw important warnings and applications for our day.

Paul has just described the depravity of humanity and warned about enemies to the church that will inevitably arise in these “last days.” He then focuses in on a certain group of enemies and their willing victims. “For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth” (2 Timothy 3:6–7). Paul describes both enemies and victims here—false teachers and the women they corrupt. He offers five characteristics of these women.

They are weak. Paul is not suggesting that there is an intellectual inferiority among all women but that there is a moral weakness displayed within this group of women. They are not mental simpletons but spiritual weaklings. They are people who have had opportunity to grow in the faith but have neglected to do so. Instead, they have allowed themselves to become the disciples, the captives, of untrustworthy teachers.

They are burdened by guilt. The false teachers are able to gain access to the hearts and minds of these women through the gateway of guilt. Perhaps it is guilt for sin the women committed before or since conversion, or perhaps it is guilt they feel for their inadequacy as wives, as mothers, as women, as Christians. Either way, they have never been set free from the guilt of their sin and now accept the solution offered by these false teachers.

They are led astray by evil desires. Some see these words as indicating that the false teachers are leading the women into sexual immorality, but it is more likely that Paul simply means to indicate that they are being controlled by sin rather than being led by the Holy Spirit. They are giving free rein to their evil desires. Combined with their guilty consciences, this leaves them in a vulnerable condition.

They are always learning. These women are constantly learning from the false teachers. The desire to learn and to keep learning is a good one, of course. But their kind of learning is unhealthy because it eschews firm answers and focuses instead upon unbiblical answers or no answers at all. It denies what is clear and focuses on what is speculative. It leads to grave instability.

They are never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth. Because these teachers do not teach what is consistent with God’s revelation, the women never arrive at the truth. Even though they are always learning, they never come to firm, settled convictions. They never appropriate the truth that can set them free from their guilt and never submit to the Spirit who can destroy their evil desires. They are weak or backslidden or perhaps lost altogether.

These women have fallen victim to false teachers. The teachers are creeping into their homes, sneaking past pastors and husbands, most likely by doing their work during the day when the women are available and others are occupied. Once in, they take these women captive, enslaving them to sin and error and despair. They promise they are teaching truth when in reality they oppose the truth. They insist they are being godly when in reality they are utterly disqualified to open their mouths.

This is a sad picture of women who have neglected God’s means of grace and protection and instead allow themselves to be victimized by false teachers. They feel the weight of sin and guilt, they feel the burden of their inadequacy before man and God, and they are, in that way, easy marks for someone who arrives with a cheap and easy gospel. These teachers are no doubt assuring them they aren’t so bad after all, that the solution is just to do more, to do better, to try harder, to follow the program.

In that way, these first-century false teachers prove themselves close relatives to twenty-first-century false teachers. If in that day the false teachers were men, today they are men and women. If in that day the teachers went from door-to-door, today they go on the printed page or the digital screen. If in that day they crept into houses when no one was looking, today they slip unseen between the covers of books or through slick videos and popular conferences. Still they seek out weak women who are burdened by guilt and led astray by evil desires, and through constant teaching—another book, another program, another conference—they promise cheap solutions. Yet somehow all that learning never leads to a knowledge of the truth, to a settled reliance upon God’s sure revelation. Somehow joy still eludes them. And, lest we think this applies to only women, we do no damage to the text to extend it to men for we, too, are vulnerable.

The harsh reality is that the greatest danger to the church usually comes from within the church. More harm is done by “Christian” books than by non-Christian ones. More harm is done by “Christian” teachers than by Mormons or Jehovah’s Witnesses or atheists. Those false teachers are always nearby and always looking for new ways to creep in unawares. Even today they prey upon the weak and vulnerable.

February 08, 2016

Today’s Kindle deals include A Loving Life by Paul Miller ($3.99); Loving the Way Jesus Loves by Philip Ryken ($3.99); New from GLH Publishing is The Freedom of the Will by Jonathan Edwards ($0.99). Zondervan has a series of theological works on sale: Bible Doctrine by Wayne Grudem ($5.99); The Holy Spirit by Christopher Holmes ($5.99); Understanding Biblical Theology by Edward Klink ($3.99); Faith Alone by Thomas Schreiner ($5.99); The Crucified King by Jeremy Treat ($3.99). 

Four Things to Help Overcome Gridlock in Your Marriage

“Have you ever found yourself in a place in your marriage where you and your spouse disagree and it seems like there is no way forward?” We have all been there at one time or another, haven’t we?

We Will Never Let Our Daughters Die for Us

Quite right: “Christian dads should never allow their little girls to die for them. This is the opposite of manhood. This is the opposite of honor.”

Why I Don’t Share The Gospel

Here’s an honest look at a common reason we don’t share the gospel.

Wheaton, Larycia Hawkins agree to part ways

“Wheaton College and Larycia Hawkins, the political science professor who started a furor over theology and academic freedom after declaring on social media that Christians and Muslims serve the same God, announced tonight they are amicably parting ways.”

This Day in 356. 1,660 years ago today, Athanasius went into hiding after escaping five thousand soldiers who surrounded his church. *

The Story Behind the Jesus Storybook Bible

Christianity Today interviews Sally Lloyd-Jones whose Jesus Storybook Bible has now sold 2 million copies.

What Ivy League Students Are Reading that You Aren’t

“If you want an Ivy League education, you could fork over $200 grand or so and go to Cornell or Harvard for four years. Alternatively, you could save a ton of cash by simply reading the same books Ivy League students are assigned.”

Thunderstorm Time-lapse

Check out this amazing time-lapse footage of a thunderstorm.

Ferguson

High degrees of Christian assurance are simply not compatible with low levels of obedience. —Sinclair Ferguson

The Garden
February 07, 2016

Why did God keep back just one thing from the people he made? Why would he make people in his image, then give them one prohibition? What was the purpose in that tricky Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil? Sinclair Ferguson addresses this in The Whole Christ.

I am giving you everything in this garden. Go and enjoy yourselves. But just before you head off, I have given you all of this because I love you. I want you to grow and develop in your understanding and in your love for me. So this is the plan:

There is a tree here, “The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.” Don’t eat its fruit.

I know—you want to know why, don’t you?

Well, I have made you as my image. I have given you instincts to enjoy what I enjoy. So in one sense you naturally do what pleases me and simultaneously gives you pleasure too.

But I want you to grow in trusting and loving me just for myself, because I am who I am.

You can only really do that if you are willing to obey me, not because you are wired to, but because you want to show me that you trust and love me.

If you do that you will find that you grow stronger and that your love for me deepens.

Trust me, I know.

That’s why I have put that tree there. I so want you to be blessed that I am commanding you to eat and enjoy the fruit of all these trees. That’s a command! But I have another command. What I want you to do is one simple thing: don’t eat the fruit of that one tree.

I am not asking you to do that because the tree is ugly—actually it is just as attractive as the other trees. I don’t create ugly, ever! You won’t be able to look at the fruit and think, That must taste horrible. It is a fine-looking tree. So it’s simple. Trust me, obey me, and love me because of who I am and because you are enjoying what I have given to you. Trust me, obey me, and you will grow.

February 06, 2016

This has been a bit of a slow week for Kindle deals. That is, in part, because so many of the deals cycle on a regular basis and I try not to link to them if they’ve come up recently. There should be some new ones on Monday. Until then, here’s some reading for you:

Unearthing Treasures of Gilgamesh

“Out of the destruction and looting [in Iraq], and partly because of it, emerge striking gains in knowledge of our oldest literary inheritance.”

What’s So Special About Singing on Sundays?

This is a good one from Bob Kauflin. He focuses on what makes singing in church different from every other kind of singing.

The Ultimate Unsolicited Redesign

Here’s an interview with Adam Lewis Greene who Kickstarted a beautiful redesign of the Bible. “The expected form of the Bible almost across the board for the last 200 years or so has not been conducive to appreciating biblical literature as literature. Rather, the Bible is designed to be an easily-navigated theological encyclopedia.”

Clippings

If you read with Kindle, you may be interested in Clippings, a service that does a great job of extracting and formatting your notes and highlights. You can also use it to copy your notes right over to Evernote or other programs.

The Deep Ditches of Doubt

Here are a few things to remember in those times you stumble into the deep ditches of doubt.

This Day in 1951. Sam Storms turns 65 today! You can wish Sam a Happy Birthday on Twitter.

Psallos

Have you ever checked out Psallos? It is a concept album based on the book of Romans.

CBMW Preconference

If you are heading to Together for the Gospel, you might be interested in CBMW’s preconference. They’ve got quite a list of speakers for you to hear.

Canadians Together for the Gospel

Also, if you are from Canada or interested in ministry in Canada, be sure to come to this breakout.

Why the Bible Is Hard to Understand—and What You Can Do About It

My thanks goes to Zondervan for sponsoring the blog this week with “Why the Bible Is Hard to Understand—and What You Can Do About It.”

Lewis

A man can’t be always defending the truth; there must be a time to feed on it. —C.S. Lewis

February 05, 2016

Courses

This week’s Free Stuff Fridays is sponsored by Zondervan Academic Online Courses, who was also the blog’s sponsor for the week. They have just one prize to offer this year, but it's a really good one.

In the past, going to school usually required a major life change—quitting your job, moving across the country, uprooting your family, and sometimes even significant financial difficulty. The decision to undertake theological and biblical education at a college or seminary is an important calling. Many are still called to make it. But the reality is, for many, the difficulty of going back to school has put theological education out of reach.

With the launch of Zondervan Academic Online Courses, you now have access to a quality theological education at an affordable price—from the comfort of your home or office.

This week, one person will win access to all Zondervan Academic Online Courses through the end of the year. This includes access to the seven courses available today, plus sixteen additional courses as they are released in the coming months, including two theology courses taught by Wayne Grudem. This is a great opportunity for you to learn and grow!

Enter Here

Giveaway Rules: You may enter one time. As soon as the winners have been chosen, all names and addresses will be immediately and permanently erased. Winners will be notified by email. The giveaway closes Saturday at noon. If you are viewing this through email, click to visit my site and enter there.

The Hidden Beauty of a Bad Sermon
February 05, 2016

There have been times in the life of Grace Fellowship Church when we have endured some bad sermons. You could even say that in these seasons we purposely endured bad sermons. We heard men preach texts that were clearly beyond their ability to understand and explain. We heard men preach with all the fire of Paul Washer but with none of his depth or pastoral concern. We heard men preach who had neglected to ensure the sermon actually had a main point and an outline. There were other men we tried to hear while desperately fighting the distraction of their tics and idiosyncrasies. We sat through some pretty awful sermons, some of which were undoubtedly mine. But we considered it a privilege. We counted it joy.

We counted it joy because these bad sermons came from unseasoned men who were learning to preach. A man can read a hundred books on preaching and watch a thousand sermons on YouTube, but the only way he will really learn to preach is to preach. Sooner or later he will simply need to stand behind a pulpit, open his Bible, and launch into his introduction (assuming he remembers to actually prepare one). There are not many preachers who get away without preaching a few stinkers along the way. There are not many preachers who can become skilled without first being novices, who can grow into excellence without first being mediocre or average.

A little while ago I saw a video of young barnacle geese leaving their nests for the first time. This sounds simple enough except that to escape predators these geese nest along sheer cliffs hundreds of feet above the ground. The only way down is to take the plunge. Sure enough, these tiny three-day-old geese dutifully jump off the cliff and go plummeting, down, hitting every rock, branch, and outcropping along the way. They eventually crash to the ground stunned. Somehow, miraculously, most of them seem to survive. The jump actually contributes to the hardiness of the species since it ensures that only the strongest survive.

Sooner or later every aspiring preacher needs to take the plunge. Knowing he is inadequate to the task, knowing he is unseasoned, knowing that the congregation is accustomed to hearing a skillful preacher, he goes to the pulpit and preaches his very first sermon, and then his second and his third. He inevitably hits a few bumps and branches along the way. But he also learns the art, the craft, of preaching. He becomes confident, he becomes skilled.

Today, many of those young men who preached bad sermons at Grace Fellowship Church continue to minister in the Toronto area. They are among my favorite preachers and I eagerly anticipate every opportunity to hear them exposit Scripture. They survived and they thrived. We survived too and were able to gladly commend them to other churches as men who can skillfully handle the Word of God.

Young preachers, new preachers, preach bad sermons. They preach bad sermons as they learn to preach good sermons. And in some ways, those bad sermons serve as a mark of a church’s health and strength because they prove that the church is fulfilling its mandate to raise up the next generation of preachers and the one after that. They prove that the church refuses to be so driven by a desire to display excellence that they will not risk the occasional dud. They prove that the congregation is mature enough to endure and even appreciate these first, messy attempts. There is hidden beauty, hidden value, in these bad sermons.

Image credit: Shutterstock

February 05, 2016

Today’s Kindle deals include Finding Truth by Nancy Pearcey ($0.99)—a great book that won’t get cheaper!; Becoming the Woman of His Dreams by Sharon Jaynes ($0.99); Islam and America by George Braswell ($1.99); The Homosexual Agenda by Alen Sears ($2.99). Remember that the whole Exalting Jesus commentary set is for sale at $2.99 each; these are reader-friendly commentaries suitable for anyone.

From Slum to Shining Sea

“Growing up in a solid, Christian, God-fearing home, at some indefinable point between child-like faith and adolescent angst, my two-dimensional version of God had become synonymous with rules, broken rules, and never-ending failure. So I left.”

Calvin’s 4 Rules of Prayer

Joel Beeke explains what Calvin believed about prayer. (Also, read his article My Indebtedness to the Puritans.)

Enjoy Your Prayer Life

In a similar vein, here’s Michael Reeves encouraging you to enjoy your prayer life. He says “I hope this article will be a refreshment and a tonic – maybe even a kick-start! – for our prayer lives.”

8 Ways to Order Your Marriage

Nick talks realistically about some of the ways you can order your marriage.

Dwelling Richly

You may want to bookmark this site where Christa is interviewing a series of women on their Bible study and devotional habits.

This Day in 1887. 129 years ago today at age 50, evangelist D.L. Moody organized the Chicago Evangelization Society. Two years later, the Society established the Bible Institute for Home and Foreign Missions. Moody died in 1899, and in 1900 the school was renamed Moody Bible Institute. *

Absurd Creature of the Week

Wired’s absurd creature of the week isn’t as much absurd as horrific.

A 13-Year-Old’s Fantasies Turn Deadly

It is wise for parents to occasionally read an article like this and be reminded of the importance of knowing what your children are doing online.

Spurgeon

Believer, when you are on your knees, remember you are going to a king. Let your petitions be large. —C.H. Spurgeon