Posted in al mohler, bible, discernment, doctrine, don green, false teachers

Discernment cannot survive without doctrine, and where there is doctrine, we need discernment

In 2007 a novel called “The Shack” by William P. Young was published. It is a novel about a father experiencing grief over the kidnap and murder of his 7-year-old daughter. He receives a personal invitation from “God” to meet at the very place where his daughter was killed, a shack in the nearby woods.

The book swept Christianity, with near unanimous affirmation that this was a sensitive and heart-shaking book that revealed Christ as a loving Father. “It changed lives” we heard over and over. But that was wrong, it didn’t change lives. What The Shack did was change our theology.

Is this old news? Perhaps, but I find it helpful to go back sometimes and review the situation. Satan is subtle and he works incrementally. He chips a flake off the wall here and scoops a teaspoon of sand under the wall there and moves the theological touchdown line a foot and then another foot. If he can’t move it a foot satan will move it an inch. He is patient and invested for the long term.

Such incremental declines are initially hard to spot, which is why the Lord gave the Church believers with discernment. We can spot those inches and teaspoons. Therefore it is helpful to go back to already-identified discernment markers and stand on them and look ahead to where we are now and the decline becomes more obvious to those who are new in the faith or who do not possess as much discernment.

The 1963 movie The Great Escape is a good metaphor to use as an illustration of satan’s incremental work. The setting was a Luftwaffe-run prisoner-of-war camp during World War II housing imprisoned US and UK airmen. The POW camp was famous for two escapes. The prisoners dug tunnels inch by inch and subtly scattered the sand from their trouser pockets as they casually walked around the compound topside. It took a while, digging quietly, undermining the camp’s holding power, secretly scattering the sand sometimes a few teaspoons at a time. Over time though, the tunnels were built and the wall was breached. FMI here is a synopsis of the incident.

In 2009, Dr Albert Mohler, President of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, wrote an essay responding directly to The Shack’s onslaught, titled, The Shack- The Missing Art of Evangelical Discernment. He first put to bed the claim of Shack-supporters that “its just a novel” and doesn’t have anything real to do with Christian theology. Of course the book does. Mohler wrote,

In evaluating the book, it must be kept in mind that The Shack is a work of fiction. But it is also a sustained theological argument, and this simply cannot be denied. Any number of notable novels and works of literature have contained aberrant theology, and even heresy. The crucial question is whether the aberrant doctrines are features of the story or the message of the work. When it comes to The Shack, the really troubling fact is that so many readers are drawn to the theological message of the book, and fail to see how it conflicts with the Bible at so many crucial points.

Dear Sisters, many novels containing a heavy theological message are merely a disguise for the author’s agenda. In author Young’s case, it was his universalism. Just because a book is a novel doesn’t necessarily mean it is theologically neutral, or even safe. Be wary.

Dr Mohler concluded his 2010 article with this devastating prediction,

The Shack is a wake-up call for evangelical Christianity. An assessment like that offered by Timothy Beal is telling. The popularity of this book among evangelicals can only be explained by a lack of basic theological knowledge among us — a failure even to understand the Gospel of Christ. The tragedy that evangelicals have lost the art of biblical discernment must be traced to a disastrous loss of biblical knowledge. Discernment cannot survive without doctrine.

EPrata photo

He turned out to be correct. Discernment as a regular practice among Christians seems to be at an all-time low, that is, until tomorrow, when it will be lower still. The onslaught didn’t begin nor did it end with The Shack, but only continued briskly apace. Discernment is not just for those having been given the Gift of Discernment, but should be practiced and sought by every Christian. It’s actually a command! (1 Thessalonians 5:21).

A diamond may look to have no flaws at first glance, but if we were to bring it to a jeweler, an appraiser someone who is trained to inspect it. He then takes out his magnifying glass to see how it was cut and find the flaws and imperfections. They have been trained to recognize what is not right. Thus a full examination is the safest course for a believer. Only those who are not teaching or practicing Christianity will object to being tested by the word. Darkness will always run from the light, never light from darkness. Source: (Let Us Reason)

Though the general situation today among the visible church seems bleak, in this sermon Pastor Don Green of Truth Community Church outlines how to develop Biblical Discernment. In this sermon, Green was preaching on the text from 1 John 4:1–6,

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2 By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3 and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already. 4 Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. 5 They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them. 6 We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error.

Here in this recent essay Pastor Green gives us the Tests for Discernment, stating that the Bible gives us several tests for discerning true and false teachers. As for the sermon above, I took notes. Here are my notes from Pastor Green’s sermon:

There are four basic premises to understand before we begin,

1. Discernment is a command. (Romans 12:9, 1 Thessalonians 5:21, 1 Corinthians 14:29, 1 John 4:1).
2. God has given us the means to discern. The Holy Spirit helps us, (2 Timothy 3:16–17; Ephesians 6:10–19), and we exercise our discernment muscles. (Heb 5:13-14).
3. Understand that not everyone who claims to speak for God, does.
4. The false teachers do not “mean well”. They are trying to deceive you! (1 John 2:26)

There are three discernment tests the 1 John 4 text outlines. The tests are easily understood, being on the surface of scripture, but the challenge is not so much understanding them, but applying them. The absolute key to discernment is to overcome your natural human impulse to make excuses for them and to say “No! I’m called to test the spirits and this teacher doesn’t pass the test and their teaching isn’t from God.” Any Bible teacher should welcome scrutiny in life and in their doctrine. A teacher who says touch not God’s anointed is a person attempting to escape scrutiny. If they say “Touch not God’s anointed!” then run.

So, how can one tell the true from the false? How does the Bible advise how to examine a teacher?

1. Examine their manner of life. Do they live an ungodly lifestyle, or have an unloving disposition?
2. Examine their view of Christ. Because their teaching about Christ is an acid test of whether they speak for God or not. (1 John 4:2-3).
3. Examine their view of scripture and look at their submission to apostolic teaching, and not just lip service affirmation.

False teachers are not innocent teachers who are mistaken. False teachers give voice to demonic teaching. They are a mouthpiece for satan. This is not to be underestimated. It is the spirit of antichrist, and is full opposition to Christ and His kingdom.

Of course I recommend the entire sermon.

Discernment is critical for every Christian to practice. Yes the Gift of Discernment is given to some (1 Corinthians 12:10) but those who are mature and have long practiced discernment find they wield the sword of truth pretty well, too. (Hebrews 5:14).

Our Lord Jesus Christ is worth the practice. He is unique, glorious, and His doctrines are worth protecting. You can do your part by praying for wisdom, reading the Word diligently, and worshiping under a solid pastor. We do this until Jesus comes again.

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Further reading

Al Mohler updated his older article on biblical illiteracy, a few weeks ago.

The Scandal of Biblical Illiteracy: It’s Our Problem

MacArthur: What is biblical discernment and why is it important? 

Challies: The Discipline of Biblical Discernment

Posted in bible, don green, lloyd-jones, macarthur, phil johnson, preachers, spurgeon, steven lawson, the word

Through the Years: Faithful men and praise to Jesus for raising them up

What is it? Answer at bottom

The above is the sermon list by year of sermons available in Dr. John MacArthur’s sermon archive.

On a recent blog essay, someone posted the following question to me:

Why do you worship MacArthur so much? You quote him on your blogs more than you do the Bible.-Jeff”

I answered this way:
“Great question! However I don’t worship Dr John MacArthur. I worship Jesus. You know that. I quote MacArthur a lot for several reasons:

–He is doctrinally correct on every issue I’ve heard him speak to. This means his interpretations are aligned with the bible. This is a precious rarity in these days,
–His entire body of work is online, and easily obtainable. Therefore he is easy to quote,
–He has addressed all of the relevant cultural issues, and these also are online and available, and once again therefore easily quotable.

I also often quote GotQuestions, for the same reasons, and Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry. I’d quote Phil Johnson just as often as I do MacArthur but his sermons are not transcribed as MacArthur’s are. And as a side note, he said a couple of years ago that the same lady has been his transcriber for over 40 years. What a blessing to the faith these people are! We all benefit.

I have quoted in the past Jonathan Edwards, but his language is further away from ours, being almost 300 years old. Same with Charles Spurgeon and Matthew Henry. But I still quote them on occasion as well.

If you came across a doctrinally correct, easily obtainable body of work freely given to the body of Christ from a persevering man of faith, why would you NOT want to use it as much as possible? That is what it is there for.”

My response got me thinking about how grateful I am for the good men and pastors God has raised up. I was thunderstruck by Jonathan Edwards’ sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God“. I have an excerpt of it which I carry constantly in my bible. I occasionally re-read it in its entirety to myself aloud so I can remember and value the feeling of gratitude I have that Jesus saved me from His wrath. The sermon is almost 300 years old, but God carefully preserved it for us so that we can be edified these many generations later.

I was deeply moved by Charles’ Spurgeon’s sermon on God’s Providence. His proposal that the cherubs of the wheels within wheels could be part of the machinery of God’s providence as it works out in our lives was completely amazing to me. I often re-read that sermon to gain further insights that the Spirit will have me learn.

But it was with the advent of technology that we are blessed with being able to hear these preachers as they preach. Many of the later Martyn Lloyd-Jones’s sermons were taped and put onto more current media. John MacArthur’s first sermon at Grace Community Church in 1969 was cassette-taped and transcribed and so have all the rest ever since.

These men are good expositors. The Lord raised them up for the benefit of the church and the edification of souls. When Charles Spurgeon was actively preaching, his sermons were re-printed in the newspaper. He was endlessly quoted. His magazine Sword and Trowel enjoyed a high circulation. Thousands came to hear him in the Tabernacle and the tens of thousands read his sermons each week.

When Spurgeon died, in January 1892, London south of the Thames went into mourning. Sixty thousand people came to pay homage during the three days his body lay in state at the Metropolitan Tabernacle. A funeral parade two miles long followed his hearse from the Tabernacle to the cemetery at Upper Norwood. One hundred thousand people stood along the way, flags flew at half-mast, shops and pubs were closed. It was a remarkable demonstration of affection and respect, even in an era when people were scrupulous in observing the rituals that accompanied death.” (source)

Yet would anyone in those more Godly times peevishly complain that a person was sourcing Spurgeon’s material too much? Worshiping him? I doubt it. “Stop reading his sermon every Monday! You do that too much!” It’s laughable.

I respect the men who came before us and the men whom God raises up today. Their commentaries, books, and sermons are for the benefit of the church members and ultimately are to glorify Him. It’s been true ever since this verse was spoken,

I will raise up for myself a faithful priest, who shall do according to what is in my heart and in my mind. And I will build him a sure house, and he shall go in and out before my anointed forever.” (1 Samuel 2:35)

God did that and continues to do that until He raised up Jesus, the final High Priest and the Priest forever, bless His holy name. After the cross, back here on earth, God still raises up men to teach and preach to us, because God’s word goes out forever and will never pass away (Matthew 24:25).
Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.” (2 Timothy 4:2)

The apostasy is growing at an exponential rate. My job as an encourager and a discerner is to point people to credible men whose teaching is solid. We are long past the tipping point where most preaching is solid. Nowadays, most preaching is NOT solid. We have gone from being a ‘God-fearing’ nation, to a God-mocking nation.

Therefore when as Bereans you compare to the bible the links I offer you, I believe in every case you will find it matches. Therefore I am unashamed to continue to quote Dr MacArthur, and I refuse to be browbeaten into seeking other men for people to read who may not be as solid simply to cater to whims and wishes of those who are peeved for some reason.

Now, if someone wants a wider array of Godly preachers to select from, I can accommodate. I listed below my favorites, men to whom I give my respect as elders of the faith and to whom I daily and weekly listen or read. They are all expositors.

What is expositional preaching?
Expositional preaching at its simplest is preaching that is focused on explaining the meaning of Scripture in its historical and grammatical context. Expositional preaching involves explaining what the Bible says to a contemporary audience that is likely unfamiliar with the cultural and historical settings that the passage was written in. The word exposition simply means to “a setting forth or explanation.” So expositional preaching is the explanation of Scripture that is based upon diligent study and careful exegesis of a passage. It is the primary call of the pastor or preacher as we see in 2 Timothy 4:2: “Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.”

These first three men have been or are in service to God in a mighty, MIGHTY way, and what a ministry! I praise and thank Jesus for raising them up!

John F. MacArthur, 3,000+ sermons. He has been preaching at Grace Community Church for 45 years. (b. 1939- ). Bio. Sermon archive. I especially enjoyed his preaching series from Genesis

Charles Haddon Spurgeon, (1834-1892). 3,561 sermons. AKA The Prince of Preachers, preached at New Park Street and then Metropolitan Tabernacle for 37 years. (Bio). Sermons. My current favorite is the sermon on God’s Providence.

Lloyd-Jones

Martyn Lloyd-Jones, (1899 – 1 March 1981). 1591 sermons available. He preached for 41 years at Westminster Chapel in London. (Bio). Sermon archive here. My current favorite are the Great Biblical Doctrines, especially, The Fall.

Also:

I also enjoy Dr Steven Lawson. I just listened to a wonderful sermon of his from Philippians, about daily Christian living. Sermon archive here. (Bio).

Phil Johnson is a personal favorite of mine. I’d quote him as often as I do MacArthur but his sermons haven’t been transcribed until lately. Pastor Johnson preaches at the GraceLife Pulpit of John MacArthur’s church. I enjoy the sermons from Dr. MacArthur, but I personally identify with Johnson. My current favorite sermon of his recently has been What Creation Reveals. (Bio and other Bio)

Don Green

Finally, though certainly not least, is Pastor Don Green. He preaches at Truth Community Fellowship. (Bio). My current favorite sermon of his is called “What is Sin?

I hope these links and the thousands upon thousands of wonderfully exposited sermons available to you will edify you in a great way. May the spotless name of Jesus be glorified through their ministry and by us as we receive His word into our hearts and minds from these men. 

Posted in discernment, don green, false teachers, touch not the Lord's anointed

Oh no, I touched the Lord’s anointed!: Developing Biblical Discernment

I enjoy listening or watching an array of mature preachers. John MacArthur, Steve Lawson, Phil Johnson, Jim McClarty, Steve Hadley, Paul Washer (and here) and Don Green are my most frequently visited go-to men. In his latest sermon, Pastor Don Green of Truth Community Fellowship is preaching through 1st John. In this sermon titled Developing Biblical Discernment, he used the following verses:

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already. Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error. (1 John 4:1-6)

In this day and age, (as it has always been) there are competing claims to spiritual authority. There are new philosophies of ministries that come and go with each passing year. There are ongoing claims of charismatic phenomena as the proof of anointing, Pastor Green explained.

It would be a travesty if our God of truth would have in His creation people who lyingly speak in His name when they are actually giving voice to demons- and give us no way to discern them. But, get this- just because there is confusion and deception, does not mean we cannot find truth. We can. We are each commanded to test spirits and discern the truth, and in the verses Pastor Green preaches on, it becomes evident that the Lord provides a way to do so.

Of interest to me, because it happened to me, lol, is the part where Pastor Green states directly, that when you hear someone tell you, “Touch not the Lord’s anointed,” run. He said,

One of the first things that mark a false teacher: they claim to be the Lord’s anointed. Then they are going to tell you, “Don’t touch the Lord’s anointed.” As soon as someone says that to you, get away from them. Because they are trying to exempt themselves from the tests of discernment. No one has a right to tell you ‘don’t examine my teaching’, ‘don’t examine my life’, because Christ himself tells us to do exactly that. As soon as you hear that, warning bells should start in your mind. Something is not right here … When a man says “don’t touch the Lord’s anointed”, figuratively speaking, that is exactly when you should most smack him with the test of biblical discernment.

False teachers are not simply people who are making a mistake. False teachers give voice to demonic teachings. They are a mouthpiece for satan. The verse says “this is the spirit is antichrist.” Green said, “This is the same spirit that will rise up at the end of the end of days in the Tribulation and oppose Christ.”

I say to us all, we become so inured to some of the passages in the bible, familiarity breeding over-familiarity, that we lose the import of the warning. This is the spirit of antichrist. Therefore think of this: every time you encounter a false teacher you are entering a mini-tribulation.

Green said, truth is absolute. There is no such thing as relative truth. It’s an utter fallacy to believe we can have “your truth” and “my truth” all the while each are saying completely contradictory things. Truth belongs to God- he has revealed it in scripture. He has called His people to discern truth from error. He has called us to test the spirits, test the prophets, and not try to accommodate those who lie and reject that which is false. So, how do we do this, the biblical way?

Don Green explains it in his sermon “Developing Biblical Discernment” (1 John 4:1-6), giving three tests for discernment in his hour-long sermon. The three tests for us to perform of all those who claim to speak for God are–

–examine their manner of life,
–examine their confession of Jesus through their teaching,
–examine their view of scripture.

We arrive at the end of the sermon with confidence, not worried about false teachers, because as the verse says, “we have overcome them.” We still have to practice discernment, but we do so from a position of strength, not weakness. The Lord Jesus gives us so many magnificent gifts! Discernment is one. Please give a listen.