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A Call for Christian Extremists
November 16, 2015

The effects of extremism have been on display all weekend. Even this morning they are splashed across every television screen, every news site, the front page of every newspaper. The attacks in Paris have shown us extremism at its most brutal and bloody, the kind that celebrates death, destruction, and mayhem.

But did you know that the Bible calls Christians to extremism as well? It calls Christians to be zealots in a cause, to go to great lengths to carry out extreme deeds in the name of Jesus. We see this in Paul’s little letter to Titus where we are reminded of Jesus Christ, “who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works” (Titus 2:14).

We, too, are to be extremists. We, too, are to go to extreme measures to serve our God. And here are our marching orders: Do good. We are to bring glory to God by doing good for others. Allah may be glorified in maimed bodies and blood-soaked city streets, but God is glorified in acts of love and deeds of kindness. He is glorified in deeds done not to earn favor with God, but deeds done as an expression of gratitude because we have already received the favor of God. God is glorified as we serve others in his name. God is honored in the costly sacrifice of love.

Jesus himself spoke of the primacy of good works: “Let your light shine before others,” he said, “so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). His friend Peter said it as well: “Keep your conduct among the Gentiles [those who do not adhere to Christian teaching] honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation” (1 Peter 2:12). The Apostle Paul would also echo the theme: “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10). The theme pervades and dominates the New Testament. Does it pervade and dominate your life?

We make God’s love and presence known in these good works, these deeds done for the glory of God and the good of other people. These deeds communicate something of the heart of God and his love for mankind. And so he calls us to take every possible opportunity to love others with the love of God. We are to be thoughtful and creative, to apply ingenuity in our attempts to shock others with our deeds of love and kindness. We are to give generously of our time, talents, money, and whatever else God has given us. We are to forget about ourselves in service to him, to be willing to face pain, harm, or even death as we do these deeds.

So Christian, with zealotry on every heart and in every mind today, perhaps this is a time to ask about your own level of extremism. Are you eager to do good for others? Is this what motivates you? Is this the natural expression of your faith in Jesus Christ? Could it be said that you are a good works zealot? God calls you to nothing less.

Image credit: Shutterstock

Letters to the Editor
November 15, 2015

A couple of months ago I made the decision to remove the comment section on my blog. I did so largely because comments can only succeed where there is good moderation, and I was increasingly unable to provide that. In lieu of comments I have decided to accept (and encourage) letters to the editor. Today I share some of the letters to the editor that have come in this week—letters that are representative of the ones I received this week. I would invite those of you who read the blog regularly to consider reading these letters as a part of the back-and-forth between writer and readers.

God Actually Spoke To Me
November 13, 2015

I want to hear God’s voice. I want him to speak to me in a personal way. I want to know that it’s really and truly him. Is that too much to ask?

It’s not too much to ask. In fact, it is God’s joy to communicate to each one of his children in the most personal and intimate way. Our Father speaks to us. He speaks clearly and he speaks personally. He really does.

John Piper wrote about this once, describing a vivid encounter with God during his early-morning quiet time:

Let me tell you about a most wonderful experience I had early Monday morning … God actually spoke to me. There is no doubt that it was God. I heard the words in my head just as clearly as when a memory of a conversation passes across your consciousness. The words were in English, but they had about them an absolutely self-authenticating ring of truth. I know beyond the shadow of a doubt that God still speaks today.

As I prayed and mused, suddenly it happened. God said, “Come and see what I have done.” There was not the slightest doubt in my mind that these were the very words of God. In this very moment. At this very place in the twenty-first century, 2007, God was speaking to me with absolute authority and self-evidencing reality. I paused to let this sink in. There was a sweetness about it. Time seemed to matter little. God was near. He had me in his sights. He had something to say to me. When God draws near, hurry ceases. Time slows down.

He goes on to share some of what God said to him in that time together—God spoke of his deeds, of his power, of his authority and sovereignty. And then, “Think of it. Marvel at this. Stand in awe of this. The God who keeps watch over the nations, like some people keep watch over cattle or stock markets or construction sites — this God still speaks in the twenty-first century. I heard his very words. He spoke personally to me.”

Now, what did this do in Piper? How did the shock of receiving this word from the Lord affect him? This is where he springs the big surprise.

It has increased my love for the Bible as God’s very word, because it was through the Bible that I heard these divine words, and through the Bible I have experiences like this almost every day. The very God of the universe speaks on every page into my mind — and your mind. We hear his very words. …

And best of all, they are available to all. If you would like to hear the very same words I heard on the couch in northern Minnesota, read Psalm 66:5–7. That is where I heard them. O, how precious is the Bible. It is the very word of God. In it God speaks in the twenty-first century. This is the very voice of God. By this voice, he speaks with absolute truth and personal force. By this voice, he reveals his all-surpassing beauty. By this voice, he reveals the deepest secrets of our hearts. No voice anywhere anytime can reach as deep or lift as high or carry as far as the voice of God that we hear in the Bible.

It is a great wonder that God still speaks today through the Bible with greater force and greater glory and greater assurance and greater sweetness and greater hope and greater guidance and greater transforming power and greater Christ-exalting truth than can be heard through any voice in any human soul on the planet from outside the Bible.

Piper heard God’s voice and experienced genuine relationship with him through the Bible. Was it an impersonal experience? Did it leave him longing for something else somewhere else? No, not at all. It increased his intimacy and communion with God. It increased his confidence in the power and beauty of the Bible. It satisfied his desire to commune with God, yet made him long to experience even more of God in the pages of his Word.

So many people long for personal communication from God. They want to hear an audible voice or experience his whisper in the silence or see a sign. They want something, anything personal. But what they may fail to understand is that God’s voice in and through the Bible already is personal. In fact, it is the most deeply personal communication we can experience in this life. Why? Because it is truth divinely illuminated and applied from within. The Holy Spirit takes words given to all humanity, testifies to their truth, and applies them to us in the most precise and intimate ways. He speaks hope where we are hopeless, strength where we are weak, joy where we are sorrowful, rebuke where we are complacent. The believer, indwelled by the Holy Spirit, knows and discovers that the Bible is the living and active Word of God (Hebrews 4:12). It is as personal as personal gets.

Do you accept the Bible for what it is? Do you rejoice in it? Just read Psalm 19, Psalm 119, 2 Timothy 3:14-17 and 4:1-2, Hebrews 4:12, and let yourself be amazed at all the Bible claims for itself. The Bible declares its uniqueness, its goodness, its necessity, its worth, its clarity, its sufficiency.

Piper says, “The sufficiency of Scripture means that we don’t need any more special revelation.” The sufficiency of the Bible means that we can be supremely satisfied in the voice of God as it comes through the Word of God. We don’t need to yearn for anything else. The Bible is sufficient to live a life that honors God, but also a life that is deeply intimate with God. The Bible is not abstract or distant. It is personal communication from a personal God. We have no reason to think that we will find a better or deeper experience of God anywhere else, at least on this side of heaven.

Piper aptly lays down the challenge:

The great need of our time is for people to experience the living reality of God by hearing his word personally and transformingly in Scripture. Something is incredibly wrong when the words we hear outside Scripture are more powerful and more affecting to us than the inspired word of God. Let us cry with the psalmist, “Incline my heart to your word” (Psalm 119:36). “Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law” (Psalm 119:18). Grant that the eyes of our hearts would be enlightened to know our hope and our inheritance and the love of Christ that passes knowledge and be filled with all the fullness of God (Ephesians 1:18; 3:19). O God, don’t let us be so deaf to your word and so unaffected with its ineffable, evidential excellency that we celebrate lesser things as more thrilling…

Whatever you desire outside the Bible will not be as good as what you find within the Bible. It will not be as clear. It will not be as trustworthy. It will not be as pure. You need nothing more.

Image credit: Shutterstock

Christians Know Better
November 12, 2015

I guess it could sound like the most arrogant claim a Christian can make. I guess it could come across as pride or outright hubris. But the boldness of the claim does not diminish its truth. The fact is, Christians know better.

Christians know better than Muslims. Christians know better than Hindus. Christians know better than “nones.” Christians know better than atheists. It’s just reality. But let’s be clear, Christians do not know better because of who they are or what they’ve done. Christians do not know better because of anything earned or innate. Christians know better only because they accept guidance about this world from outside this world.

We humans live with the grave misunderstanding that we have a deep and accurate understanding of this world. We convince ourselves that we can get it, that we can solve it, that we can know what life is all about. But we fool ourselves because our view is far too narrow and our wisdom far too earthly. We inevitably frame the world around ourselves. We make ourselves ultimate and indispensable.

But God offers us a remarkable privilege—the privilege of seeing the world from outside the world. Through the Bible he offers us his view, his perspective. Through the power of the Holy Spirit he illumines the words of the Bible to our minds and hearts. He assures us that the starting point is him, not us. He frames the world around himself and his purposes. He makes himself ultimate and worthy of worship. He instructs us on how we can, should, must live. And then, and only then, do we begin to see it and get it. Real knowledge begins the very moment he awakens us through the gospel.

So, Christians know better because God knows better. Christian, you know better. You can confidently believe that you know better when what you know is consistent with the Bible. And one of your responsibilities is to tell non-Christians what is best for them, too. It is to share the wisdom you have been given and to do so with love, concern, and humility. It is to introduce God’s wisdom over and against the wisdom of men and, in that way, to slow the inevitable march toward ever-deeper darkness and depravity. Primarily, of course, you share the gospel in the hope that they, too, will be saved and receive the Holy Spirit. But you also call them away from wrong-headed choices and warn them of the consequences of sin. Always your authority is the book, the guidance God gives. Out of love for the world, you call people away from the darkness of the world. Because, through him, you know better.

10 Serious Problems with Jesus Calling
November 11, 2015

Sarah Young’s Jesus Calling is a phenomenon that shows no signs of slowing down. According to publisher Thomas Nelson, it “continues to grow in units sold each year since it was released [and] has surpassed 15 million copies sold.” Nelson is involved in an expansive new marketing campaign that involves a new web site and daily radio devotionals. ECPA reports that “Thomas Nelson began its partnership with the Salem Media group to provide 60-second daily messages on Eric Metaxas’ show, which is carried on more than 100 stations nationwide and worldwide on SiriusXM Radio. The Jesus Calling radio devotional reaches more than 500,000 people each day through these segments.” With 15 million copies sold, it has marched its way into rare company.

Yet it is a deeply troubling book. I am going to point out 10 serious problems with Jesus Calling in the hope that you will consider and heed these warnings.

1. She speaks for God. Far and away the most troubling aspect of the book is its very premise—that Sarah Young hears from Jesus and then dutifully brings his messages to her readers. Jesus Calling makes the boldest, gutsiest, and, to my mind, most arrogant claim of any book ever to be considered Christian. The publisher describes the book in this way: “After many years of writing her own words in her prayer journal, missionary Sarah Young decided to be more attentive to the Savior’s voice and begin listening for what He was saying. So with pen in hand, she embarked on a journey that forever changed her—and many others around the world. In these powerful pages are the words and Scriptures Jesus lovingly laid on her heart. Words of reassurance, comfort, and hope. Words that have made her increasingly aware of His presence and allowed her to enjoy His peace (italics mine).” There is no way to avoid her claim that she is communicating divine revelation, a claim that raises a host of questions and concerns, not the least of which is the doctrine of Scripture alone which assures us that the Bible and the Bible alone is sufficient to guide us in all matters of faith and practice.

2. She proclaims the insufficiency of the BibleJesus Calling only exists because Sarah Young had a deep desire to hear from God outside of the Bible. In the introduction she describes the book’s genesis: “I began to wonder if I … could receive messages during my times of communing with God. I had been writing in prayer journals for years, but that was one-way communication: I did all the talking. I knew that God communicated with me through the Bible, but I yearned for more. Increasingly, I wanted to hear what God had to say to me personally on a given day.” In those few sentences she sets up unnecessary competition between her revelation and what we are told of the Bible in 2 Timothy 3:16-17: “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.” Biblically, there is no category for what she provides as the heart and soul of her book. Biblically, there is no need for it and no reason we should expect or heed it.

3. Her deepest experience of God comes through a practice God does not endorse. Young does not only endorse her practice of listening, but goes so far as to elevate it as the chief spiritual discipline. “This practice of listening to God has increased my intimacy with Him more than any other spiritual discipline, so I want to share some of the messages I have received. In many parts of the world, Christians seem to be searching for a deeper experience of Jesus’ Presence and Peace. The messages that follow address that felt need.” Notice that her solution to addressing the desire for Jesus’ Presence and Peace is not Scripture or any other means of grace, but the very messages she provides in her book.

4. She is inspired by untrustworthy models. In early versions of Jesus Calling, Young tells of her discovery of the book God Calling and the way she modeled her practice of listening on it. She describes it as “a devotional book written by two anonymous ‘listeners.’ These women practiced waiting quietly in God’s Presence, pencils and paper in hand, recording the messages they received from Him. This little paperback became a treasure to me. It dove-tailed remarkably well with my longing to live in Jesus’ Presence.” It is worth noting that recent versions of Jesus Calling have been scrubbed of this information. God Calling is an equally troubling book that saw much success beginning in the 1930s and has seen a revival of interest in the wake of Jesus Calling. It is at times subbiblical and at other times patently unbiblical. And yet it is a book she regards as a treasure and a model for her own work.

5. She provides lesser revelation. Young admits that her revelation is different from the Bible’s (“The Bible is, of course, the only inerrant Word of God; my writings must be consistent with that unchanging standard”), but does not explain how her writings are different. Jesse Johnson says, “She does grant that the content of Jesus Calling should be measured against Scripture—but that is true of Scripture as well. In the end, there is no substantial difference in how Young expects us to view Jesus’ words to her, than how we are to view the Bible. I mean, Jesus’ words to Sarah are literally packaged into a devotional, so that we can do our devotionals from them every day.” If her words are actually from Jesus, how can they be any less authoritative or less binding than any word of Scripture?

6. She mimics occult practices. The way in which Young receives her revelation from Jesus smacks of the occult. “I decided to listen to God with pen in hand, writing down whatever I believe He was saying. I felt awkward the first time I tried this, but I received a message. It was short, biblical, and appropriate. It addressed topics that were current in my life: trust, fear, and closeness to God. I responded by writing in my prayer journal.” This is not a far cry from a practice known as “automatic writing” which Wikipedia describes as “an alleged psychic ability allowing a person to produce written words without consciously writing. The words are claimed to arise from a subconscious, spiritual or supernatural source.” Her inspiration was God Calling where it is even clearer that the authors allowed their minds to go blank at which point they supposedly received messages from God. This practice is very different from the giving of biblical revelation where God worked through the thoughts, personalities, and even research of the authors.

7. Her emphasis does not match the Bible’s. Young’s emphasis in Jesus Calling is markedly different from the emphases of the Bible. For example, she speaks seldom of sin and repentance and even less of Christ’s work on the cross. Michael Horton says, “In terms of content, the message is reducible to one point: Trust me more in daily dependence and you’ll enjoy my presence.” While this is not necessarily an unbiblical or inappropriate message, it hardly matches the thrust of the Bible which always pushes toward or flows from the gospel of Jesus Christ. Horton adds, “The first mention of Christ even dying for our sins appears on February 28 (page 61). The next reference (to wearing Christ’s robe) is August 9 (p. 232). Even the December readings focus on a general presence of Jesus in our hearts and daily lives, without anchoring it in Jesus’s person and work in history.”

8. Her tone does not match the Bible’s. It can’t be denied: The Jesus of Sarah Young sounds suspiciously like a twenty-first century, Western, middle-aged woman. If this is, indeed, Jesus speaking, we need to explain why he sounds so markedly different from the Jesus of the gospels or the Jesus of the book of Revelation. Nowhere in Scripture do we find Jesus (or his Father) speaking like this: “When your Joy in Me meets My Joy in you, there are fireworks of heavenly ecstasy.” Or again, “Wear my Love like a cloak of Light, covering you from head to toe.” And, “Bring me the sacrifice of your precious time. This creates sacred space around you—space permeated with My Presence and My Peace.” Why does Jesus suddenly speak in such different language?

9. She generates confusion. By fabricating the spiritual discipline of listening and elevating it to the first place, she generates confusion about the disciplines that God does prescribe for Christians. Michael Horton addresses this one well: “According to the Reformation stream of evangelicalism, God speaks to us in his Word (the arrow pointing down from God to us) and we speak to him in prayer (the arrow directed up to God). However, Jesus Calling confuses the direction of these arrows, blurring the distinction between God’s speech and our response.” What she models and endorses is both confusing and unhelpful.

10. Her book has been corrected. Most people don’t know that Jesus Calling has undergone revisions, not only in the introduction where she removed references to God Calling, but also in the words she claims to have received from Jesus. This, of course, casts even further doubt on the trustworthiness of the revelation she receives. After all, why would words from Jesus need to be revised? Did God lie? Did he change? Did she mis-hear him? There is no good option here, other than to doubt all she has ever claimed to receive. This comparison from CARM highlights one significant correction to the text:

Jesus Calling Comparison

The point is clear: Jesus Calling is a book built upon a faulty premise and in that way a book that is dangerous and unworthy of our attention or affirmation. The great tragedy is that it is leading people away from God’s means of grace that are so sweet and so satisfying, if only we will accept and embrace them.

God Is Not That Holy I Am Not That Bad
November 09, 2015

How do you know that you really get the gospel, that you really understand and believe it? Or perhaps better said, how do you know that the gospel has really gotten you, that it has taken hold of you and begun to permanently transform you? I found myself pondering this question last week and was soon thinking about people I have known who once professed faith, but who eventually grew cold, grew distant, and fell away.

If you have been a Christian for any length of time, you, too, have known people like this. Over time it became clear that their faith had been a mirage. They had deceived the people around them, but they had first deceived themselves. And any time I see these people fall away I am left asking, What would have marked them as true believers? How could I have known that they really got the gospel? How could they have known that they really got the gospel?

Maybe it would have been this: You know that you really get the gospel when it is God’s grace rather than God’s wrath that amazes you. I often hear people express their amazement and even their disgust at the very notion of a wrathful God. But when I hear true believers, I hear them express amazement at the reality of a gracious God. It is grace, not wrath, that baffles them. “Why? Why me? Why would God extend such grace to me?”

This is, I think, why John Newton’s “Amazing Grace” has remained such a popular and powerful hymn. Newton’s cry was “amazing grace.” Wrath did not surprise or offend him. He knew of his wretchedness, his own deep depravity. He was already convicted that he was fully deserving of God’s justice. So it was grace that shocked him. It was grace that seemed so out-of-place. If there was any offense to the gospel it was that God would take the sin of a very bad man like John Newton and place it on the perfect man Jesus Christ.

You know that you really get it when the shocking thing about the gospel is not that God extends wrath to sinners, but that he extends grace. And here’s why: The basic human condition is to believe that God isn’t really all that holy and that I’m not really that bad. God is lenient toward sin, and, as it happens, I am not really all that deeply sinful anyway. So we are a good match, God and I. It takes no faith to believe that. It takes no great change of mind and heart.

But the gospel unmasks that kind of delusion. The gospel helps us see things as they really are. The gospel says that God really is far holier than I dared even imagine and that I am far more sinful than I ever could have guessed. And, right there—with the right assessment of both God and me—right there the gospel blazes forth. Right there the gospel gives hope.

(Once again I’m indebted to Michael Kruger’s lectures on Romans)

Letters to the Editor
November 08, 2015

A couple of months ago I made the decision to remove the comment section on my blog. I did so largely because comments can only succeed where there is good moderation, and I was increasingly unable to provide that. In lieu of comments I have decided to accept (and encourage) letters to the editor. Today I share some of the letters to the editor that have come in this week—letters that are representative of the ones I received this week. I would invite those of you who read the blog regularly to consider reading these letters as a part of the back-and-forth between writer and readers.

Comments on A Quiz on the Doctrine of Scripture

I got 32 out of 33, and the one I got wrong was about the overarching message of the Bible [“The overarching goal of the Bible is to bring readers into a saving relationship with God through faith in Christ Jesus.”]. The Shorter Catechism teaches that the chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever, so I would contend that that is the message, and that it includes our salvation via the Cross, and that Christ is the central Character but that the goal and message is that God would be glorified; it is our preparation for Eternity where we will live constantly glorifying Him, for Who He is and for what He has done.
—Michael M, Christchurch, New Zealand

***

Really liked the quiz. It was a good mix of true and false, had some good depth, and the Scripture and WCF support passages were helpful. The only question that I think is wrong is #32. The answer in the quiz made it man-centered rather than Christ-centered. While the Scripture passages given state the purposes of those particular books as convincing the reader to believe, I don’t think that is the overarching purpose of the Bible. You could look to some of the OT prophets, Isaiah in particular, where God said He was giving His word to harden hearts and most would not hear and believe. Jesus said that He spoke in parables to keep some (Pharisees) from hearing and seeing. Ultimately, the Gospel has a dual purpose - to bring salvation and to harden. If you had to go with an overarching purpose, it may be better to say something like it is about revealing God’s covenant faithfulness to His people, whom He created and who fell into sin, fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ. (I’m sure there is a better worded way of saying this, but I’m doing this off the top of my head.)
—Tom C, Acworth, GA

***

I wonder about question 32, I think it was, concerning the main purpose of scripture. I don’t think scripture’s main purpose concerns the salvation of people although it is undoubtably important. My take is that the entire biblical story, from beginning to end it about God, and how he will ultimately accomplish his purposes, for his glory, regardless of the sin and failure of people. The scriptures center on God who created the heavens and the earth.
—Loren B, Temple, TX

Tim: Of all the questions I asked in the quiz on the doctrine of Scripture, #32 was the one that generated the most questions and confusion. And, in retrospect, I see why. I will rewrite it to maintain the intent of the question, but to add clarity.

***

I really appreciate the quizzes that you have been running lately, especially how you give the rationale/doctrinal basis for each as each question is answered. It is encouraging to me both to see what I have learned in my years of study and to get further motivation to dig even deeper. Thank you so much for all that you do.
—Andrea N, Canton, NY

Tim: I’m glad they have proven helpful. I have thoroughly enjoyed putting them together and have more in the works!

***

First, let me say that you have had a profound impact on my Spiritual life over the past few years that I have been following you. Your insights are simple but deep, well stated and I have found them to be Biblically sound. When you challenge my point of view, I study and seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit and usually find a new insight that I have not considered. I enjoyed the quiz on the Doctrine of Scripture and would like a printable copy of the quiz and the answers/Scripture references to use as a reference for a ladies Bible study class that I am in at my church. Thank you for all you do! God Bless!
—Kellye B, Crystal Springs, MS

Tim: Thanks so much, Kellye. That is very encouraging. And I plan to have downloadable, printable copies available very soon. There is a surprising amount of copying, pasting, and formatting involved.

Comments on Joel Osteen or Fortune Cookie?

Hi Mr. Challies, I’m writing you to say thank you for a really wonderful website that is thought provoking, educational, and adheres to the gospel.This morning, as I was reading through the different articles delivered to my inbox, I happened across the Joel Osteen quiz, and instantly got convicted of something that I harbor within myself, and am seeing on your website. The lampooning of another person as a form of entertainment for a group of people. The issue that convicts me is that does this edify the listener, or reader? Is it an act of love, or will this turn people against another in hate or ridicule? Now, I am well aware of Mr. Osteen’s lack of theology and doctrine, but maybe the times spent discussing him can be in prayer for him? Describing bullet-points of his wrong theology, and the the hopes for the eventual turn of his heart to that of Christ’s?This is just food-for-thought on how we may want to act around others with ideas that are off, and not necessarily in line with that of Christ. We have churches full of them, do we ridicule these people, or do we help teach them? Would it benefit Joel Osteen to come across your website and see ridicule, or a systematic breakdown of where he is wrong, how it can be righted, and knowing that people are praying for him and encouraging him to be doctrinally sound.
—Matthew D, Canyon Country, CA

***

Where in the bible are we called to mock another’s ministry for furtherance of our own kingdom?
—Brad D, Spokane, WA

Tim: I received a few comments about mocking Joel Osteen through the Joel Osteen or Fortune Cookie quiz. I rarely mock other people, but in this case I consider it well-founded and would compare it to Elijah mocking the priests of Baal: “And at noon Elijah mocked them, saying, “Cry aloud, for he is a god. Either he is musing, or he is relieving himself, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened” (1 Kings 18:27). This mockery is not done out of spite for Osteen, but out of hatred for the feel-good, unbiblical, soul-destroying false gospel he advocates. The very fact that most people got only 6 or 7 out of 12 on the quiz just proves the feebleness of his message. I hope that the mockery is effective in helping people see this.

***

I have a bone to pick with you. I woke up the kids by my laughing hysterically while taking your quiz. Please keep up the good work!
—Christopher V, Ypsilanti, MI

Comments on Weekend A La Carte (November 7)

Was it intentional or coincidental that you linked an article about Perry Noble being in favor of women preachers, right about a link to an article about the dangers of celebrity pastors?
—Joel E, Greenville, SC

Tim: Well, I had planned to link to them both and it seemed serendipitous to put them one after the other.

General Comments

Like the majority of the civilized world, I was extremely blessed by the comments at the end of articles. Would you be able to solicit a pool of dudes you trust to be guest moderators of comments? Then just put the statements “views of the the guest moderators may or may not reflect whatever. I may not agree with them, but I really like them as people.” THEN, someone else could moderate the comments of gold then you could be off the hook and could write us more books.
—Michael F, East Peoria, IL

Tim: Thanks, Michael. I continue to debate bringing back the comments section.

***

As an author and reviewer, would you want to be informed by someone who noticed your work being plagiarized? I’ve seen that done blatantly, and was unable to point it out to the one who used your work (no way to reach the individual that I could find.) It was a source I thought you’d probably see and perhaps address yourself, so I decided to leave it alone. Would you want to be informed?
—Chip G, Plano, TX

Tim: There is a surprising amount of “Christian plagiarism,” whether that is people posting whole books online or people copying blog articles to their own site. In general I do not respond to it except in the case of books. But if you see it consistently, I would be glad to know about it.

Comments on The Most Terrifying Thing God Can Do

Your article has “fleshed” out a thought I’ve been pondering from Rom. 1 for a while. This thought of God giving over, letting go… The analogy that works for me is that He takes the brakes off. The car (my life) then goes unimpeded down the hill, picking up speed, careening off of other lives, & causing greater & greater damage. You hit the nail on the head. Thanks a bunch.
—Jeff J, Columbus, IN

At the age of 13 I was molested in Scouts by a trusted scout dad. That night changed me forever. I immediately started using drugs and alcohol. By the time I’m 15/16, I’m using all drugs. I’m a full-blown alcoholic and drug addict. My soul was ripped from my chest by that attack at scout camp. I took a hostage as we say in A.A. We got married and started a family. In a short period of time, I ripped my wife’s soul from her chest. She was depressed and suicidal. I was a lunatic. In January of 2010, with the aid of a believer I met in an A.A. meeting, I walked into Christ Community Chapel in Hudson, Ohio. I had been sober for 14 years but I was still empty inside. In a short period of time Christ entered my life. That empty cavern inside was now filled. Within a year, my Lord saw fit to reveal many suppressed memories of my attack 3 decades earlier. For the next two years, I relived the horrors of that night. With the aid of my community group, we walked through the healing process. I was told I must forgive my molester, even if he new nothing about it. I learned of my Lord’s tremendous grace and love freely given me, now I must do the same. I found out my attacker had done prison time for similar crimes against kids. I found his address. With the help of my friend, we wrote Mr Smith a letter. I told him what he did to me was forgiven. The actions he did to me ultimately brought me to Christ. I told him if he wanted to accept Christ as I did, that I would help walk with him through it. Mr Smith would be a very old man now and I didn’t know if he would respond or whatever. But, I sent him the letter. I did not hear back from him but I learned so much about the power of the cross and its healing powers. What one man meant for evil, God meant for good.
—Tom S, Sagamore Hills, OH

Tim: Thanks for sharing your story, Tom. It is encouraging to hear such a powerful testimony to God’s grace.

November 02, 2015

Have you ever seen one of those photo collages of a drug addict as she descends deeper and deeper into her addiction? It is startling to see that in just a few short years an addict can be transformed—or perhaps better, deformed—from an attractive, fresh-faced young lady to a hollow-eyed shadow of a human being. Some drugs are so powerful and so devastating that they rot not only the mind and soul but the body as well. The substance that promises such delight actually delivers terrible destruction.

addictI see the horror of sin pictured in the decaying face of the addict. Her drug is both alluring and punishing. It promises joy and delivers bondage. Meth is its own punishment. It takes captive. It rots. It destroys. And in that way it is a particularly vivid illustration of every other sin.

I have been working my way back through the book of Romans, and am just now wading through the terrible truths that come at the end of the first chapter. Here Paul explains why and how God’s wrath is a just response to human depravity. As I have read and considered this passage I have been struck anew with the horror of sin. I have been startled again by the way in which God expresses his wrath.

What we learn from Romans 1 is that the most terrifying thing God can do in this life is give you over to your sin. We see that God is the one who restrains human evil—he restrains evil in this world and evil within each one of our hearts. But as people continue to rebel and as they continue to pursue their sin, God eventually lessens his restraint, he loosens his grip on the chain that is holding back the great waves of depravity within each human heart. As the rebellion continues, God eventually lets go, giving people their desire, giving them over to their sin.

We speak often of hell and eternal consequences for sin, but perhaps we give too little attention to God’s action against sin in this world and this life. God’s punishment for sin is sin. His punishment is allowing people to experience the life-stealing, soul-rotting consequences of their sin. He expresses his wrath by allowing them the very thing they want. He does this because when they get the thing they want, it only deepens their destruction. In this way, sin is its own punishment. And in all the world I see nothing more terrifying than this: the prospect of God allowing people to experience the full impact and weight of their sinfulness. Nothing is more terrifying than God determining that he will no longer restrain the evil within them.

There is a call here for each one of us to identify sin in our lives and to put it to death. We need to pray that we would have a tender conscience that responds eagerly and immediately to the Spirit speaking through the Word. We need to heed the Holy Spirit as he calls and enables us to do this. We must take care that we do not harden ourselves against his presence lest he give us the very thing we want. How many who were once sure of their salvation were left spinning and doubting when God relaxed his grip and allowed them to sink deeper into that ongoing sin?

There is a call here as we interact with unbelievers as well, and it is a call to compassion. We can be compassionate because we get this glimpse into what God is doing, into how he is expressing his wrath against sinners. This compassion expresses itself in imploring people to turn from their sin, to understand that their sin only deepens their captivity, to understand that their growing desire to sin only proves their bondage. The greatest act of compassion is to tell people of their sinfulness and to point them to the hope of the gospel. It is for them, and for us, the deepest hope and the only hope.


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