Tuesday, July 31, 2012

True & False Conversions

If you have ever wondered why so much of the Church looks and acts just like the world, you will love this teaching.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Rules and Guidelines By Which to Properly Interpret the Word of God

1. Let Scripture interpret Scripture.

A correct interpretation will always be consistent with the rest of the Scriptures. Therefore, it is essential for us as students of the Bible to interpret a passage in light of what the rest of the Scriptures say on the topic. There are Scriptures that are somewhat confusing. Peter himself tells us that (2 Ptr. 3:16)! When that is the case, rather than seeking to make an interpretation based on one verse, it is essential to examine other, perhaps more clear, passages of Scripture.

You recall there in the wilderness, Jesus was fasting for 40 days, when Satan came along to tempt him. We see there in that temptation something pretty interesting. Satan knows the Word of God. He seeks to lead Jesus astray from the will of His Father, by quoting Psalm 91:11.

Satan said, "If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written: 'He shall give His angels charge over you,' and, 'In their hands they shall bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone (Matthew 4:6).'" [Satan left out an important phrase form that original phrase. He left out the phrase, “in all Your [God’s] ways.” According to the psalmist, a person is protected only when he is following the Lord's will.]

But Jesus replied by interpreting Scripture with Scripture. What did He do? He quoted Deuteronomy 6:16: “You shall not tempt the LORD your God.” Jesus used Scripture to interpret Scripture when he was tempted by the devil. By doing this, Jesus was saying to us that a passage of Scripture must be understood in the light of those clearer and more expressive Scriptures.

So, if the section of Scripture that you are seeking to interpret seems difficult, or vague, go to a clearer passage that speaks on the same subject more thoroughly. This is important to do, or you can easily come to wrong conclusions.
Now, turn over with me to John chapter 10. With each of these rules that we’ll look at, I’d like to show you how failing to follow the rule has led to a variety wrong interpretations. Notice that in v.15 Jesus said, “As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep" ( John 10:15). We might conclude, based on what Jesus says here, that the death He died on the cross was only for the sheep. And that is what some have concluded. There are Christians today who believe that Jesus’ death on the cross only paid the price for a select group. They call this teaching “limited atonement.” But we need to check Scripture with Scripture. When you do, what do you find out? You find out that Jesus died on the cross for everybody.
1 John 2:2 says, “And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.” 1 Timothy 2:6 says that Jesus “gave Himself a ransom for all.” “Then,” someone might ask, “why not are all people saved?” Because the forgiveness of sins does not occur until a person turns from His sins to the Lord and places His trust in Jesus (Acts 17:30, John 3:16, 1 Jn. 5:12). Christ’s atonement is unlimited, but it’s application is limited only to those who believe. If a person insists on opposing God and rejecting Him, then what Christ did on the cross for that person will not be applied to them. God will not force His salvation upon somebody who does not want it. John 3:16 says, “Whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16). Unbelief is the reason that some do not receive the benefits of Christ’s death.

So, be careful not to base your conclusions, or build your interpretation of a Scripture on a single Scripture, but on Scripture as a whole. Scripture is the best interpreter of itself. Because that is the case, the first commentary you should consult on a passage is what the rest of the Scriptures have to say on the topic being examined. Commentaries, concordances, indexes in the back of your Bible and books on systematic theology can be very helpful in pointing out other verses on topics that you may be unfamiliar with.

So, the first rule or principle: “Let Scripture interpret Scripture,”; incredibly simple and yet so important to put into practice! A second rule...
2. The meaning of a word, phrase, sentence, or paragraph must be derived from the context.

The context of a passage is absolutely critical to properly interpreting the Bible. Why? Well…

– Every word in the Bible is part of a verse.
– Every verse is part of a paragraph.

– Every paragraph is part of a book.

– Every book is part of the whole of Scripture.

Because that is the case, no verse of Scripture should be divorced from the verses around it.

Interpreting a verse apart from its context is like trying to analyze:
– the President's speech by listening to a short sound bite
– a painting by looking at only a single square inch of the painting
– Handle’s “Messiah” by listening to a few short notes.

Every word you interpret must be understood in the light of the words that come before and after it. Jehovah's Witnesses are famous for taking verses out of context, but so are some well-meaning Christians.

Let me give you a couple of examples. Turn over to Colossians 3.

Colossians 3:15
"And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful." NKJV

This verse is often quoted in studies about knowing the will of God. Why? Well, I’ve often heard that the word “rule” (v.15) in the Greek means “to arbitrate, or to govern.” And that is correct. So it has been said that we are to let the peace of God arbitrate or govern us as to our decisions.

How do we know the will of God? Some say:

– Well if I have peace about something that indicates God’s "green light."
– If I lack peace about something that indicates God’s "red light."

But, hold on a second, is that what that verse is talking about? Not at all. Let’s read the verse in its context.

Let’s start back in v.12.

Colossians 3:12-16
12 Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; 13 bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. 14 But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. 15 And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful.” (NKJV)

Paul’s not talking about decision making or discerning the will of God at all! Paul is instructing them about unity in the body!

Notice, he talks about…

…“bearing with one another” (v.13)
…“forgiving one another” (v.13)
…“put on love, which is the bond of perfection” (v.14)

Having “the peace of God” is to, as F.F. Bruce said, “rule in the sense of arbitrating [or governing] differences that arise in the body.” Rather than warring with one another, Christians are to forgive one another, to love one another, to be at peace with one another.

Q. How is that going to happen?

We are to as Christians “let the peace of God rule [our] hearts.” That’s what Paul is saying. It is wrong to take this verse out of context and use it as a proof text to support the teaching that: “Having a peace about something confirms whether or not something is God’s will for your life.”

Let me ask you a question…

Q. When God told Moses that His will was for Moses’ life, was to go back to Pharaoh and tell him to let my people go, do you think Moses had a peace about it? (Exodus chapter 3-9 or so). No. He was full of fear and doubt.

Did that mean that that wasn’t God’s will for his life? No.

How about Gideon? Did he have peace as he heard God’s will for his life? No, he was very fearful.

How about the disciples out there on the storm tossed Sea of Galilee? Did they have a peace about it? If anybody could be sure that they were in the center of God’s will, it was those men! Jesus told them to go right out into the storm!!

As Christians we are to have the peace of God that surpasses understanding (Phil 4:7) but a lack of peace does not confirm that something is not God’s will. A lack of peace may be because of unbelief, lack of faith, or our unwillingness to trust the Lord.

Isaiah 26:3 says..
“You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.” NKJV

A lack of peace may simply indicate that a person needs to trust God, or go to Him again in prayer. If Christians only moved out in faith when they had peace about things, I imagine there would be far less ventures of faith taking place, far less witnessing.

Another example of a verse that is often lifted out of context would be Isaiah 53:5. There you are praying for a person, and one of the other persons who prays says something like, “Lord we know that you are going to heal this person because Your Word says…

Isaiah 53:5c
“…And by His stripes we are healed.” NKJV

Have you heard that verse used in such a way? I have. Well, if you examine Isaiah 53 you’ll notice that Isaiah says there doesn’t have anything to do with physical healing. The passage is about what the Messiah’s death would do for our spiritual condition, and the healing of our sins, not our physical bodies.

So again, to rightly interpret God’s Word you have to be very careful to consider the context of the passage, i.e., that which has just been said and that which follows.

3. Interpret the Scriptures knowing that the goal in interpretation is not to discover hidden, secret truths, or to be unique in your interpretation.

God has given us His Word in order to reveal Himself.

– It is not a book of dark mysteries, and riddles, it is a book of self disclosure.

– He is not a God of confusion, but of clarity.

– He has not spoken in order to conceal, but to be understood and known.

Therefore, when we come to His Word we need to realize that it is the plain meaning of the text that we are seeking to understand.

We need not look for hidden, esoteric, cryptic truths. God has preserved His Word to speak to the multitudes of ordinary people that they might be saved. So, don’t pass up the obvious and natural meaning of a text looking for something “unique” and “deep.”

Many of the times someone has excitedly shared with me something really “unique” and “deep” that they discovered in the Bible, something they’ve never heard any teacher share, they have usually been wrong.

It is tempting as you study the Scriptures to discover things that no one else has ever seen before.

But if you’re discovering things like that, you can almost bet that you are making the Scriptures to say things that were never intended by the original authors.

Unique interpretations are usually wrong.

This is not to say that the correct understanding of a text may not often seem unique to someone who hears it for the first time. But it is to say that unique interpretation should not be your aim. [p. 14 How to Read the Bible for All It’s Worth]

Your goal is to discover the plain, simple, straightforward meaning of the text, the meaning the original author intended to communicate. Number four follows…

4. Interpret the Scriptures literally unless you have good reason to believe that they are figurative.

There are those today, and there have been those throughout Church history that have believed that Scripture has hidden, secret, mystical meanings underneath the plain and obvious meaning of a text.

That is, they believe that although the Scriptures say one thing, they actually signify something else, something other than what is said.

Some of the early church fathers (men like Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Augustine, and Jerome) believed that every Scripture had two, three, even four or five interpretations.

Their influence led to the widespread medieval belief that every verse of Scripture had numerous meanings.

Many of the early Church Fathers were influenced in this direction by the Greek philosophers who did this with the writings of Homer and Hesiod.

This method (or approach) to interpreting the Bible is called the: “Allegorical method”

To allegorize is to say, “Well, in this passage, this represents this, and this represents that, and basically, this whole story is a picture of this...” That is to turn a passage of Scripture into a spiritual parable, some story with a deeper meaning. There are hundreds of examples by well known teachers through church history who have done this!

Here are some examples: Do you recall the story of Jacob and his two wives in Genesis 29? Well, one teacher said that Leah represents the Jews, Rachel represents the church, and Jacob represents Jesus who serves both. Another has said that as Aaron and Hur held up Moses’ hands, it was an Old Testament picture of Christ on the cross. One said that the twelve stones taken from the Jordan River represent the 12 apostles. One said that the field in the book of Ruth is really a reference to the Bible. Ruth represents students. The reapers in the field represent teachers. One said that the Red Sea symbolizes the atoning blood of Christ. One said that five kings who attack Gibeon in Joshua chapter 10 represent the five senses: sight, hearing, taste, touch, and smell.

Why is allegorizing and spiritualizing the Scriptures dangerous?

A. Allegorized interpretations are not based on anything objective. They can’t be verified. They are based solely on the subjective preferences and whims of the interpreter’s imagination. This becomes obvious when you hear another person teach on the same passage and they have an entirely different twist on the story. One person says that such and such a thing represents this, while another person says it really represents this. This is one of the reasons allegorized interpretations are dangerous. There are no guidelines, or boundaries.

B. A spiritualization of the Scriptures doesn’t have any authority. I’ve heard some teachers say some things and I’ve wanted to stand up and say, “How do you know that? Show us how you’ve come to your conclusions. Show me in the Word.” If I can’t be shown in the Word of God then the words of a preacher lose their authority.

This allegorical method of interpretation that led to these kinds of interpretations, dominated most of Christian history. It was not until the time of the Reformation during the 1500 - 1600’s that there was a major turning away from this approach to interpreting the Bible. Men like John Wycliffe, Martin Luther, John Calvin, William Tyndale, and John Knox saw the dangers and the problems with this method and took a stand for a literal method of Bible interpretation.

John Calvin said that allegorical interpretations were “frivolous games” and that to interpret the word in that way was to torture the Scriptures.

Martin Luther strongly denounced this method…

He said: “When I was a monk, I was an expert in allegories. I allegorized everything…..I consider the ascription of several senses to Scripture to be not merely dangerous and useless for teaching but even to cancel the authority of Scripture whose meaning ought to be always one and the same….Allegories are empty speculations and as it were the scum of Holy Scripture.”

Martin Luther became a strong advocate instead for a literal method.

…a method in which, the only meaning which one may ascribe to the text is that which the author intended, as one is able to reconstruct it in the historical context and with ordinary rules of grammar.

These men’s rejection of the allegorical approach to Scripture was revolutionary.

And it was with them, that the allegorical stronghold on the church began to crumble. And from that point forward much of the church has gone back to interpreting the Word of God literally.

Now, why do we believe that interpreting the Word of God literally is actually the way God desires that we interpret it?
There are a couple of reasons. The best reason though is because Jesus consistently interpreted the Word of God literally. Whether it was the Old Testament account of…

– the Creation account of Adam and Eve (Matthew 13:35; 25:34; Mark 10:6)

– Noah's Ark and the flood (Matthew 24:38-39; Luke 17:26-27)

– Jonah and the great fish (Matthew 12:39-41)

– Sodom and Gomorrah (Matthew 10:15)

– or the account of Lot and his wife (Luke 17:28-29).

Jesus (and the NT authors) consistently interpreted these stories literally as actual historical events. So if Jesus and the New Testament authors interpreted the Bible literally, then we must also. There were no esoteric, mystical, allegorical, or spiritualized interpretations!!!

Now, when we talk about the need to interpret the Scriptures literally, that does not mean we are ignorant of the use of certain grammatical devices (similes, personification, metaphors, symbolic language)

1 Peter 5:8 says, “Your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” It’s clear that Peter is using a figure of speech. He’s comparing the devil to a lion. It does tell us something very literally about the nature and purpose of the devil. It is easy to understand that when Jesus said that He was “the vine” and the disciples were “the branches” that He was speaking figuratively.
There are times when it is less obvious that the author is speaking metaphorically or figuratively. But there are usually some clues that are built into the context. We’ll talk about those clues in an upcoming class. So don’t read into the text things that were not intended by the original author. Let the text speak for itself rather than reading into the text things that aren’t there. When you approach the Scriptures, keep in mind that what a passage means was fixed by the author and is not subject to alteration. Your goal is to: discover the author’s intended meaning, the only true meaning. A text cannot mean what it never meant. Meaning is determined by an author; it is discovered by the reader.

Robert Stein, author of A Basic Guide to Interpreting the Bible, said this:

“To treat a text in complete isolation from its author’s intended purpose is like stealing a patent from its inventor or a child from the parent who gave it birth...To take it [the text] and place upon it our own meaning is a kind of plagiarism. There is a sense in which we have stolen what belongs to someone else. A text is like a “will” the author leaves for his or her heirs. It is mischievous to interpret such a will and ignore the intention of its author.” [Robert H. Stein, A Basic Guide to Interpreting the Bible, Playing by the Rules, p.22]
It is common for Bible study leaders in small groups to go around the circle after reading a passage of Scripture and ask the people:

“What does this verse mean to you Steve?”

Steve says, “To me, this verse means…”

And the leader will say, “Oh that’s interesting. I haven’t heard that before.”

“What does this verse mean to you Lisa?”

Lisa will say, “To me, this verse means something entirely different…”

And she goes on to give an entirely different interpretation.


“Wow, that really blesses me.”

Well, the question that the leader asked, “What does this mean to you?” is not a question that really matters.

The question that matters is: “What does this verse mean?” PERIOD.

A better question for the study leader to ask would be:

“How does this verse apply to you.”

There are many different ways of applying a Scripture, but there is still only one correct meaning for each passage.

That is the author’s intended meaning. That is the meaning that we are after.



  About Charlie Campbell:

Charlie Campbell is the Director of The Always Be Ready Apologetics Ministry, the author of One Minute Answers to Skeptics’ Top Forty Questions, and a popular guest speaker at churches around the United States on issues related to the defense of the Christian faith. His teachings and resources have been endorsed by Dr. Norman Geisler, Charles Colson, Chuck Smith, Nancy Leigh DeMoss, Jeremy Camp, and Brian Brodersen. He resides in southern California with his wife and five children.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Hell's Best Kept Secret

Hell's Best Kept Secret is Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron's lesson on Biblical Evangelism. This method preaches the Law to soften a sinner's heart for grace.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Daniel and the Antichrist (Part 1 of 4)

By John C. Whitcomb, Th.D.

Christ and Antichrist
What will the world be like just before the second coming of Christ? Our Lord emphasized the enormous potential of global deception at that time.
In answer to the disciples' urgent question: "What will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?" (Matt. 24:3, NKJV), our Lord warned them: "Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, saying, 'I am the Christ,' and will deceive many… Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many… For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect" (Matt. 24:4, 5, 11, 24). Note the emphasis on the words "false" and "deceive" in our Lord's answer.
One moment after the rapture of the church, every surviving religious leader in the world will be a false one. Yes, millions of good gospel tracts, books and recorded messages will still be here – but all born-again Christians will be gone. Human reflectors of the light of the world will be in heaven with their Savior. Suddenly, the worst person the world has even seen will introduce himself to the people of Israel, and will offer to them hope for security and military victory in the midst of a world that hates them. That person is the Antichrist. He is the one of whom the Lord Jesus spoke: "I have come in My Father's name, and you do not receive Me; if another comes in his own name, him you will receive" (John 5:43).
So the true Christ knows about the future Antichrist? Of course! In fact, our Lord will actually launch him into his seven-year career on planet Earth: "Now I saw when the Lamb [Jesus] opened one of the seals; and I heard one of the four living creatures saying with a voice like thunder, 'Come and see.' And I looked, and behold, a white horse. He who sat on it had a bow; and a crown was given to him, and he went out conquering and to conquer" (Rev. 6:1, 2).
The Significance of Daniel's Prophecy
At first, the Antichrist will pose as Israel's friend, and millions of Israelis will put their trust in him. But then, three-and-a-half years later, his true character as Satan's masterpiece will be revealed. How can we understand this?

Our Lord explained: "'When you [Jewish disciples] see the "abomination of desolation," spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place' (whoever reads, let him understand)… 'Then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be'" (Matt. 24:15, 21). There it is!

The command is clear: "Understand" – "Daniel the prophet" (Matt. 24:15). What a tribute to that faithful servant of God who had died nearly 600 years earlier. The Lord had told Daniel: "Seal the book until the time of the end; many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase… and none of the wicked shall understand, but the wise shall understand" (Dan. 12:4, 10).
At this point we can truly identify with Daniel himself. With curiosity bordering on desperation he cried out: "My lord, what shall be the end of these things?" (Dan. 12:8). Fuller revelation was to come in the next four verses, as we shall see, God willing; and later through Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi and, still later, through the New Testament – especially the capstone of all prophecy, the book of Revelation. But the foundation of God's teaching concerning the final Antichrist was laid in the book of Daniel.
Let us say of Daniel's book what Peter said of Paul's letters: "Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless; and consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation-as also our beloved brother Paul [and Daniel], according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures" (2 Pet. 3:14-16).
To Be Continued…

Friday, July 27, 2012

Christianizing Shamanism

Much of what we see in the Word of Faith movement and New Apostolic Reformation is "Christianized" shamanism. Dave Hunt warned about this growing trend in his 1985 best-selling book, The Seduction of Christianity, when he wrote:

Shamanism promises power to heal and transform through contact with a parallel universe of the spirit, from which this mysterious energy is allegedly drawn. That contact is said to be made in our minds: The thoughts we think and the words we speak become the vehicles of spiritual power. Those who accept this concept become victims of the great delusion that displaces God with self. In seeking power for self, they have become susceptible to the power of Satan. Nevertheless, even as the irrefutable evidence mounts documenting its destructive and evil power, shamanism's popularity and general acceptance is exploding in the secular world, and in "Christianized" forms is gaining increasing acceptance within the church.[1]

Hunt warns of the occult foundation upon which a vast majority of the Word of Faith movement is based:

The mental images that one is able to picture or visualize are no longer looked upon as mere figments of the mind, but as reality created by the mind that can even impact the physical world. The intimate relationship between thinking, speaking, and seeing (and the power thereby produced) has formed the basis of occult theory for thousands of years. The metaphysical philosophy underlying Positive Thinking and Possibility Thinking as well as major aspects of the Positive Confession movement is founded upon the alleged power inherent within thoughts and words.[2]

Please understand that I am not saying the individuals and groups discussed in this chapter are deliberately practicing shamanism or sorcery. Many believe they are practicing something biblical, but clearly it is not. Dave Hunt also saw this coming:

…the terminology, while sounding biblical, promotes concepts that cannot be found in the Bible, but are found in occult literature and practice. Moreover, some of the Positive Confession leaders not only admit but teach that the methods, laws, and principles they use are also used successfully by occultists. Nowhere in the Bible does it indicate or even imply that the people of God are to use the same methods or powers as the pagans.[3]

As we will examine later in this chapter, self-professing Christians and even pastors attribute to God the New Age "law of attraction" which is elsewhere promoted by people like Oprah Winfrey.

If you're not acquainted with some of these teachers, you'll be amazed at what passes from their lips as Christian teaching. Take, for example, this transcript of a Gloria Copeland teaching:

Copeland-You know, you're the – you're supposed to control the weather. I mean, Ken's the primary weatherman at our house, but when he's not there I do it. And you can see what's happening out there. It shows just like they have on – at the weather – like on the news. I mean, he's got the computer that's got the current weather on it and all that for flying. So sometimes I'll hear something, I'll hear the thunder start, and maybe he'll still be asleep, and I'll say, "Ken, you need to do something about this." [Laughter]

And knowing that – but you are the one that has authority over the weather. One day Ken and Pat Boone, when we were at Hawaii at their house, and we were – they were setting outside, and there was a weather spout out over the ocean.
And that's like a tornado, except it hits the water. And so they were sitting there and they just watched it, rebuked it, and it never did anything. One day, I was in the airplane, in the back, and my little brother was in the back with me, and Ken was up front flying. And we were not in the weather, because we don't fly bad weather, but we could see the weather over here. And I looked out the window and that tornado came down just like this, down toward the ground. And Ken said, "I rebuke you in the name of Jesus. You get back up there!"

So this is how I learned how to talk to tornados. I saw this. And that tornado went [makes repeated whooping noise], even while I was watching. And my little brother was not a devout Christian at that time, and that was really good for him to see.

So you're the weatherman. You get out there-or the weatherwoman, whichever it is, and you talk to that thing, and you tell it, "You're not coming here. I command you to dissipate! And you get back up there in Jesus' name!" Glory to God. That-I won't charge you extra.[4]

My friend Justin Peters is one of the leading experts (if not the leading expert) in America on the unbiblical teachings of the Word of Faith movement. As a guest on my radio program, he responded this way to Gloria Copeland's weatherman episode:

If this is true that Gloria Copeland and others in the Word-Faith movement can control the weather, then might we ask where she was when hurricane Katrina came into town? Might we ask why she doesn't, right now, talk up some rain to the people in drought stricken countries in eastern Africa? It's just, it's absurd on its face, but this [W-F theology], unfortunately, is the face of Christianity in much of the world today.

Gloria Copeland saying that we can control the weather, and what I teach in my seminar is, "Who else does this remind you of? Does it remind you of Someone Who, one day, was in a boat with His disciples and a storm came up, and He spoke to the storm and calmed it?" The Word-Faith proponents denigrate God's deity. They demote God to make Him look more human than what He is, and then in return they deify man to make us look more like God than what we really are. They ascribe to man attributes and powers that reside solely with God, and so they blur that distinction between God the Creator, and us, His created. That is a very, very dangerous line to blur.[5]

Another popular Word of Faith teacher is Benny Hinn, who, like many Word of Faith teachers, seems to believe that instead of man serving God, God is to serve man. Note this interchange between Hinn and Myles Munroe:
Benny Hinn-We get the mind of God about His will, we pray it. When we pray it, we give him legal right to perform it.

Myles Munroe-Yes. Let me define prayer for you in this show. Prayer is man giving God permission, or license, to interfere in earth's affairs. In other words, prayer is earthly license for heavenly interference….God can do nothing on earth, nothing has God ever done on earth without a human giving him access….Always looking for a human to give him power of permission. In other words, God has the power, but you got the permission. God got the authority and the power, but you got the license. So even though God can do anything, he can only do what you permit him to do.[6]

God does not need our permission to do anything. Psalm 115:3 declares, "But our God is in heaven; He does whatever He pleases." In Psalm 135:6, we read, "Whatever the Lord pleases He does, in heaven and in earth." And Psalm 103:19 announces, "The Lord has established His throne in heaven, and His kingdom rules over all."

The Word of Faith movement is a sister to the New Apostolic Reformation with its "prophets" and "apostles." The NAR and WOF false teachers not only preach another gospel, but they preach philosophies and practices derived from the occult. The Church must beware of the Christian and pro-family leaders who have given these groups credibility.

Click here to order Religious Trojan Horse and continue reading this chapter and how today's New Religious Right, neo-evangelicals, and the spiritual left have invaded the church to establish a coming religious world government whether they know it or not.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Clear Your Conscience, Part 2

By John MacArthur

A working conscience is one that’s free from the burden of unchecked sin and unaddressed guilt. It’s not weighed down by impurity or dulled by neglect. In a word, it’s clear.
But how can we keep our consciences clear? How do we properly respond to guilt feelings in a way that keeps our consciences soft, sharp, and strong? Here are some simple, practical principles to keep in mind.
Confess and forsake known sin. Examine your guilt feelings in light of Scripture. Deal with the sin God’s Word reveals. Proverbs 28:13 says, “He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will find compassion.” First John 1 speaks of confession of sin as an ongoing characteristic of the Christian life: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (v. 9).
We should certainly confess to those we have wronged: “Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed” (James 5:16). But above all, we should confess to the One whom sin offends most. As David wrote, “I acknowledged my sin to You, and my iniquity I did not hide; I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord’; and You forgave the guilt of my sin” (Psalm 32:5).
Ask forgiveness and be reconciled to anyone you have wronged. Jesus instructed us, “Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar, and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering” (Matthew 5:23‑24). “If you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions” (Matthew 6:14‑15).
Make restitution. God told Moses: “Speak to the sons of Israel, ‘When a man or woman commits any of the sins of mankind, acting unfaithfully against the Lord, and that person is guilty, then he shall confess his sins which he has committed, and he shall make restitution in full for his wrong, and add to it one‑fifth of it, and give it to him whom he has wronged’” (Numbers 5:6‑7). The principle behind this law is binding on believers living in the New Testament era as well (cf. Philemon 19; Luke 19:8).
Educate your conscience. As we’ve discussed previously, a weak, easily grieved conscience results from a lack of spiritual knowledge (1 Corinthians 8:7). If your conscience is too easily wounded, don’t violate it; to do so is sin (v. 12). Instead, immerse it in God’s Word so it can begin to function with reliable data.
Don’t tolerate a grieved conscience. Paul said he did his best “to maintain always a blameless conscience both before God and before men” (Acts 24:16). Some people put off dealing with their guilt, thinking their conscience will clear itself in time. It won’t. Procrastination allows the guilt feelings to fester. That in turn generates depression, anxiety, and other emotional problems.
Guilt feelings may persist long after the offense is forgotten, often spilling over to other areas of our lives. That’s one reason people often feel guilty and are not sure why. Such confused guilt may be a symptom that something is terribly wrong spiritually. Paul may have had that in mind when he wrote, “To those who are defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure, but both their mind and their conscience are defiled” (Titus 1:15).
Dealing with a wounded conscience immediately by heart‑searching prayer before God is the only way to keep it clear and sensitive. Putting off dealing with guilt inevitably compounds the problems.
Lingering, unaddressed sin is cancer to the believer. It cripples your spiritual growth and stifles your usefulness. Once your conscience has identified sin in your life, you need to move quickly to deal with it biblically and thoroughly. That’s where we’ll pick it up next time.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Clear Your Conscience, Part 1

By John MacArthur

It can be easy to forget how destructive sin is—not just in terms of eternity, but in our everyday lives. We’ve seen plenty of examples of how unaddressed sin routinely destroys families, friendships, and careers. But it also has devastating internal results, like robbing you of your joy and assurance, stifling your spiritual growth, and distancing you from the fellowship of God’s people.
It also pollutes and ruins your conscience.
It is possible to virtually nullify the conscience through repeated abuse. Paul spoke of people whose consciences were so convoluted and corrupted that their “glory is in their shame” (Philippians 3:19; cf. Romans 1:32). Both the mind and the conscience can become so defiled that they cease making distinctions between what is pure and what is impure (cf. Titus 1:15).
After so much violation, the conscience finally falls silent. Morally, those with defiled consciences are left flying blind. The warning signals may be gone, but the danger certainly is not; in fact, the danger is greater than ever.
Furthermore, even the most defiled conscience will not remain silent forever. When we stand in judgment, every person’s conscience will side with God, the righteous Judge. The worst sin‑hardened evildoer will discover before the throne of God that he has a conscience which testifies against him.
It is the Christian’s high and holy duty to guard the purity of his regenerated conscience. Paul had much to say about this. Note how he spoke of the conscience in the following verses (emphasis added):
“Paul, looking intently at the Council, said, ‘Brethren, I have lived my life with a perfectly good conscience before God up to this day’” (Acts 23:1).
“In view of this, I also do my best to maintain always a blameless conscience both before God and before men” (Acts 24:16).
“The goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith” (1 Timothy 1:5).
“Fight the good fight, keeping faith and a good conscience” (1 Timothy 1:18-19).
“I serve [God] with a clear conscience the way my forefathers did” (2 Timothy 1:3).
One of the basic qualifications for deacons, Paul told Timothy, is “holding to the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience” (1 Timothy 3:9).
A pure conscience is essential not only for what it does for oneself, but for what it says to others. A sound conscience is the heart of a strong testimony for Christ. Paul frequently pointed to his conscience as a witness: “For our proud confidence is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in holiness and godly sincerity, not in fleshly wisdom but in the grace of God, we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially toward you” (2 Corinthians 1:12). “We have renounced the things hidden because of shame, not walking in craftiness or adulterating the word of God, but by the manifestation of truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God” (2 Corinthians 4:2).
Peter also wrote about the value of a pure conscience. “Keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame” (1 Peter 3:16).
A clear, potent conscience is a vital part of your spiritual growth and your witness to others. To work properly, it cannot be hindered or corrupted by unchecked sin and unaddressed guilt.
Tomorrow we’ll look at how to clear your conscience—and how to keep it clear.

(Adapted from The Vanishing Conscience.)

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Dangers of Moralizing and The Social Gospel of the Left and Right

Living a life of good works is not going to keep anyone from hell.

Attempting to legislate a city, state, or nation into righteousness is a wasted effort that will yield no eternal rewards. That doesn't mean we should do away with laws against murder, rape, stealing, and fraud. Romans 13 tells us that the purpose of government is to reward the righteous and punish the wicked. God created civil government for the purpose of maintaining a stable and just society so the other two institutions God created-the family and the Church-could go about their respective biblical mandates. Cities, states, and nations need laws. Some Christians have, and I pray will continue to have, a godly impact in government as individuals. But collectively, the Church needs to realize how foolish it is to spend so much time and money trying to force our biblical values onto an unsaved culture.

The way to produce a change in any culture is to preach the Gospel. It is only as individuals place their faith and trust in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior that people are changed, families are changed, values are changed, and thus communities and cultures are changed. You cannot change a culture simply by fighting the symptoms of a depraved and sinful culture. A culture reflects the values embraced by the people living in a city, state, or nation, and until you change an individual's values, you will not change a culture with legislation or moralizing. A person's actions are based on his or her values, those values are based on the person's worldview, and that worldview consists of his or her theology, philosophy, ethics, etc.

The unsaved humanist is not going to change his or her values until the worldview based on a theology that denies the God of the Bible is changed. That means the goal of the New Apostolic Reformation and some of today's New Religious Right to legislate "kingdom values" through the seven mountain mandate, as they  call it, is a waste of time and money. Preaching a biblical Gospel, on the other hand, is never a waste of time and money.

I believe many of the NAR and New Religious Right members fail to preach the Gospel simply because they themselves are not saved. Many do not dare preach a biblical Gospel because they want to work with all the world's religions to establish their own version of the Kingdom of God on earth, and it is hard to get invited to speak at Mormon and Catholic conferences if you insist on preaching the Gospel of Christ.

This idea that they can establish the Kingdom of God on earth reeks of arrogance. This belief is called dominion theology. This belief system also reeks of a power grab-that "we're gonna take control, gonna be in power, we're gonna tell 'em how to run the world." It reeks of a humanism that is really believes it can control God, that God is dependent on them in order for Christ to return. This might be shocking except that the NAR has some strong New Age, cosmic humanist ideals.

The seven mountain mandate is eerily similar to the goals laid out by occultist Alice Bailey. Bailey claimed that her personal demon, the Tibetan, was a member of a group of Ascended Masters which "each have a special contribution to make towards human progress in one of the seven major fields of world work: political, religious, educational, scientific, philosophical, psychological or economic."[1] Notice the similarity between those seven fields and the seven mountains of "religion, family, business, arts & entertainment, government, education, and media" pushed by many members the New Apostolic Reformation and New Religious Right.
Many within the NAR and New Religious Right seem more interested in being the civil government than in being the Church. I contend the primary reason for this is that many within the New Religious Right are not committed to the Biblical Gospel. Some NRR adherents are seemingly so shallow in biblical knowledge and discernment that they fail to recognize the error of their commitment to a social gospel. Among other problems, the New Religious Right and NAR embraces ecumenicalism in order to build political coalitions, increase revenues to their organizations, and because they simply are not committed to biblical theology and doctrine.
Most pro-family organizations claim to be Christian and boast that they embrace "Christian values" because the majority of their supporters call themselves "Christian."  When it comes to defining what it means to be a Christian, however, most of the New Religious Right and NAR will not boldly reflect biblical Christianity in doctrine because they don't want to offend their Catholic and Mormon donors. So, in the end, many betray the Gospel in deference to "another" gospel embraced by these disparate groups.
But is "another" gospel of the New Religious Right and NAR any different than "another" gospel of the religious left?
From whichever side a social gospel originates, it is always man-centered. Its basic claim says man needs to fix or improve his condition through social activism, Christian activism, philanthropy, and good works. A social gospel leaves out the preaching and teaching that sin is the primary reason for the problems of our world. I believe Rick Warren's social gospel, for instance, involves leaving out the biblical Gospel so he can work with Muslims and other world religions to improve education, address poverty, combat disease, and promote globalism.
The social gospel from the New Religious Right and NAR is primarily about lowering taxes, decreasing the size of government, and giving people more political and economic liberty. But accomplishing these goals-as laudable as they may be-will not solve man's root problem of sin and rebellion against God. Our problems will not be addressed by more liberalism or more conservatism but only through the proclaiming of the biblical Gospel. If 80 percent of a society's problems and heartaches are directly related to the demise of the family unit, one merely has to ask why the family is in decline. The answer will quickly ring up "sin." Many with the New Religious Right and NAR seem to only hate sin because of the negative consequences that it has on the culture, not because it offends a Holy God. Sadly, many of the New Religious Right hate the sins of the unsaved but have tolerance for the sin of false teaching and false teachers.
Unfortunately, for many within the New Religious Right, it is too late. They have already compromised the Gospel by their willingness to unite with false teachers such as the New Apostolic Reformation and The Word of Faith movements.
What the New Religious Right does not seem to understand is that the culture war is really only a symptom of the serious spiritual problem from which man suffers, and only the preaching of the Gospel will cure this disease. Even if the New Religious Right could implement every law it wants and turn America into one great big town of Mayberry, the result would simply be a more comfortable and moral America from which millions of people could enter hell.
Click here to order Religious Trojan Horse and continue reading about how today's New Religious Right, neo-evangelicals, and the spiritual left have invaded the church to establish a coming religious world government whether they know it or not.

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Most Important True/False Test You'll Ever Take

The late Dr. Francis Schaeffer was one of the greatest defenders of the Christian faith in the 20th Century. He predicted the American church would become inconsequential because of a false concept of spirituality. Self-professing Christians would talk about God and proclaim a belief in God while rejecting the God of the Bible-instead following a man-made New Age god.
          I believe one of the main reasons we have a crisis in the American church, that Christians poll no differently from the world, and that students are leaving the church in large numbers is that we have an epidemic of false converts within the American church.  Many people today call themselves Christians but do not believe in many, if any, of the essential Christian doctrines.
My own study of the Old Testament moral law revealed to me that I was not a good person, but it was when I opened the book of 1 John, took a pen, and underlined every sign of a true convert that I realized I did not meet even half of them. To my dismay, I recognized myself as a false convert. 
First John 5:13 tells why the book of 1 John was written: "These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life" (emphasis mine).
Here are 1 John's ten signs of a true convert (you might want to compare yourself to make sure you're where you think you are):

1.  A true convert admits he or she is a sinner. He does not believe he can go to heaven by being a "good" person. She understands her own totally depravity. (1 John 1:8)

2.  A true convert lives a life of obedience by keeping God's commandments more often than breaking them. A true convert is not a habitual sinner. There's a difference between stumbling into sin and jumping in with both feet. While true converts may continue to sin as part of the struggle with our sin nature, the life of a true convert is marked by a desire to pursue holiness and walk in obedience to God's Word. (1 John 2:3-6, 3:6, 5:2)

3.  A true convert does not harbor hate for his brother but displays forgiveness, love, and compassion. (1 John 2:9, 2:11, 3:15, 4:16, 4:20)

4.  A true convert does not love the world or the things of the world, nor the world's system of evil, ruled by Satan. (1 John 2:15)

5.  A true convert proclaims Jesus Christ as the Son of God and defends the exclusivity of Christ in a world of multiple religious systems. (1 John 4:15)

6.  A true convert hopes and longs for the return of the Lord. (1 John 3:2-3)
7.  A true convert desires to serve and help other Christians. (1 John 3:17, 3:14)
8.  A true convert loves being with other believers and hearing the Word taught. (1 John 5:1)

9.  A true convert rejects false teaching. (1 John 2:22-23)

     10. A true convert remains in the truth and perseveres in the faith. (1 John     2:24)

      By Brannon Howse

This article is from Brannon's newest book, Christian Worldview For Students Vol. II: Your Worldview Notes For Going To College Without Going Astray.
This hardcover book makes a great graduation gift. To order your personally signed copy click here now:

Friday, July 20, 2012

The Real Tragedy is Not When Truth is Censored by the Government or Liberal Media But By "Christian" Media

Much of what I share in my book "Religious Trojan Horse", I would never be allowed to present in most "evangelical" churches or on "Christian" radio or television stations. Most are either hostile to biblical truth or are afraid of the public relations fallout from the truth we speak at Worldview Weekend conferences.

In 1983, Walter Martin spoke at the ordination service for my friend and mentor, Ron Carlson. I have played Dr. Martin's sermon on my radio program because it is still so timely. He told those assembled in the California church that they needed to understand that people who speak biblical truth are not censored primarily by the secular media but by the Church and "Christian" media:

You see, the attitude of the Christian media is don't rock the boat, and the Christian Church is suffering from that disease today by its Latin name, non rock-a-boat-us. Whatever you do, non rock-a-boat-us ecclesiastic-us. Don't shake, rattle and roll the boat of the Church. Leave us alone….

They're always screaming about secular humanism censoring the Christian Church, but they're the ones that are censoring the Christian Church. They don't want to get on television and on radio and tell it like it is. You know why? Because then they won't get any checks from people out there whose feelings they hurt.

So, they are not governed by the Holy Spirit. They are not governed by the authority of the Scriptures which commands them to tell the truth. They are governed by the almighty checkbook of the people that are listening.

The "soft" persecution and censorship now taking place in America is coming largely from self-professing Christians. I have a file of emails from "Christian" leaders who, through the years, have criticized me for speaking about false teachers. Some of these are highly visible authors or Christian radio and television hosts. Many have the public reputation of being bold and committed to truth, but in reality they are very shrewd about the issues they will address. If an issue will impact the bottom line or upset their "good old boy club," the truth becomes a casualty. I have personally witnessed many of evangelicalism's well-known personalities clam up when a biblical stand might negatively impact their book and DVD sales, speaking invitations, attendance of their conferences, donors to their organization, or how many stations carry their radio programs.

Is it any wonder that a religious Trojan horse has slipped into the camp of evangelicalism when so many "perceived" watchmen or watchwomen will only warn the Church when it does not impact their bottom line, personal well-being, or reputation? May neither you nor I allow the love of money to cause us to stray from proclaiming the truth as 1 Timothy 6:10 warns: "For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows."
Click here to order Religious Trojan Horse and continue reading about how today's New Religious Right, neo-evangelicals, and the spiritual left have invaded the church to establish a coming religious world government whether they know it or not.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Thirty-five Questions for Maturing a Christian Marriage

The following questions are not intended for short answers such as a mere "yes", but are a means to meaningful discussion between a man and a woman who have vowed to love each other "until death do us part." Take your time to talk them over. Let the conversation flow. You may answer these questions in any order you wish, or all at one time.
Two rules apply: First, be painfully honest. Nothing much has happened to improve marriages without truthfulness. Second, be calm, peaceful, accepting, and eager to listen with your ears and your eyes as the discussion goes on. Do all you can not to be hurtful or to pay back for some pain you've experienced. Listen rather than press your point. Marriage union means, among other things, that the way you treat each other is the way you treat yourself. Seek to heal wounds and to find out more about the spouse you love.
  • What was the happiest period of our marriage and what were the reasons you think so?
  • In your perception, are there any rooms of my life that you believe are off limits to you?
  • Can you name the one or two aspects of my life that make warmth in our relationship more difficult?
  • What do you see in the character of Christ that you most wish were in you as well?
  • Can you honestly say, "I love you as you are, without requiring anything to change?" Do you ever waver on that?
  • How would you describe the word, "love?"
  • Would you say that we love each other more now than earlier in our marriage??
  • Do you see me growing more godly as the years go on? How are you measuring that?
  • Does it bother you that I'm growing older? If so, in what ways?
  • Has God put his finger on some aspect of our marriage that needs attention? What is it and what do you believe he wants from us?
  • What worries you most about life?
  • Is there something in your life you have never had the courage to tell me? Why? What is it?
  • Do we work together spiritually to your satisfaction? What could improve that?
  • Do you feel that there is something unfulfilled in our life-something God wants us to do? What is it?
  • How happy are you with our praying as a couple? Is there something to be done to make things better?
  • Have I helped you become more mature spiritually? In what ways?
  • Do you ever question if you are a believer at all? What causes you the most doubt? What can we do about that?
  • Do I sometimes embarrass you? If so, how?
  • Do you sometimes think that I don't respect you? In helpful and careful terms explain why you perceive that.
  • If I were to be disabled mentally or physically in a severe way, do you think you can handle that? What would be the most difficult aspects?
  • Do you try to fix me? How? Does it work?
  • What is the biggest mistake you have made in our marriage? Why?
  • Are you suffering internally in any way? What is it?
  • Do you think our children and friends see our marriage as beautiful? Why or why not?
  • In what ways does our marriage reflect the relationship of Christ to his future bride, the church?
  • Are you hopeful about the future?
  • Do we focus too much attention or not enough attention on our children?
  • Is there anything about our physical love-making that you wish could be improved?
  • Do you like the way I respond to your family? What could I do to improve?
  • Do you feel that I respect you? How could I show that better?
  • Are you happy with the way we are involved in our life with other believers?
  • Do you have any ideas concerning our finances that need to be examined?
  • Do you think I spend too much time or not enough time with my friends?
  • What would be one change in my life that you most believe would be for my own good?
  • What do you most wish we could do in the future to make an impact on our world for Christ?
By Jim Elliff 

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Made Free By Confinement

Check out this great testimony of a brother in Christ and close friend of mine. Our stories are similar in that we both came to know the Lord while incarcerated. In fact, I met this brother while incarcerated with him! Glory be to God!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Discernment: Spiritual Survival for a Church in Crisis

John MacArthur

The conquering of the city of Troy is one of the famous stories of ancient history. Greek soldiers had laid siege to the city for over ten years, but were unable to conquer it. In exasperation Ulysses, a brilliant strategist, decided to have a large wooden horse built and left outside the city walls as a supposed gift to the unconquerable Trojans. The Greeks then sailed away in apparent defeat. The curious and proud Trojans brought the wooden horse inside their fortified walls. That night Greek soldiers hidden inside the horse crept out and opened the city gates to let their fellow soldiers into the city. The soldiers massacred the inhabitants, looted the city, and then burned it to the ground. Ever since, the Trojan horse has been a symbol of infiltration and deception.

Throughout its history, the church has embraced many Trojan horses. Satan has effectively used enemies disguised as gifts to lure people away from the truth of God into destructive error. Today's church is in a particularly severe state of confusion. That should be no surprise, for the apostle Paul said, "In the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God; holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power" (2 Tim. 3:1-5). The apostle Peter echoed that truth: "There will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned; and in their greed they will exploit you with false words" (2 Pet. 2:1-3).
Today's church is like the religious leaders of Jesus' day, who could tell the difference between superficial things like pleasant and stormy weather, but not between truth and error (Matt. 16:1-3). So many churches have relinquished biblical ethics and doctrine, a deep reverence and worship of God, repentance over sin, humility toward God and fellow believers, and a profound understanding of God's character and work. All that has resulted in a low-level commitment to holy living.
In contrast, God calls all true believers to pursue perfect conformity to the absolute, holy standard of His Word. First Peter 1:14-16 says, "As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, 'You shall be holy, for I am holy.'" If you're going to live a holy life that pleases the Lord, it's essential that you be spiritually discerning.
What Is Spiritual Discernment?
Spiritual discernment is the skill of separating divine truth from error. First Thessalonians 5:21 says we are to "examine everything carefully." That speaks of testing something to reveal its genuineness. We as believers are to evaluate everything we come in contact with to distinguish what is true and false, good and bad, or right and wrong. That can be a difficult task. Why? First, we are constantly fighting the sinful desires of our fallen flesh. Second, we face satanic deception. The devil is doing everything he can to confound and confuse us. Third, we are inundated with worldly influences that seek to overpower us.
Opposing the world, the flesh, and the devil requires us to "hold fast to that which is good" (v. 21). We are to embrace wholeheartedly what is inherently genuine and true. We are also to "abstain from every form of evil" (v. 22). That means we are to separate ourselves from every form of perversion as though we were avoiding a deadly plague or poison. One pastor correctly wrote, "The worst forms of wickedness consist of perversions of the truth, of spiritual lies, although today many look upon these forms with indifference and regard them rather harmless" (R.C. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Paul's Epistles to the Colossians, to the Thessalonians, to Timothy, to Titus and to Philemon [Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1961], p. 363). Many in today's church are indifferent about separating divine truth from error because they lack spiritual discernment.

Why Is There a Lack of Spiritual Discernment?
Weak Doctrine One of the main causes is the church's weakening of doctrinal clarity and conviction. Many have only a shallow knowledge of God's Word because the church has yielded the trade and skill of understanding it to people who are ill-equipped to do so. In A Call to Discernment Christian counselor Dr. Jay Adams wrote, "Self-styled 'experts' in psychology, sociology, and education who hold Ph.D.'s in their fields and Sunday school degrees in Bible pontificate on Christian teaching and life on radio and elsewhere, setting themselves up as spokesmen for God.... Their teaching and use of the Bible (when it is used) often bear little resemblance to what the Scriptures, properly interpreted, really say.
"What is the upshot of all this? One obvious result is the modern tendency to use theological language loosely.... Not only are biblical terms used imprecisely, thereby spreading confusion throughout the church, but erroneous teachings of every kind are readily tolerated. This is because so few people have the discernment necessary to identify and refute such errors. And if they do sense that something is wrong, their powers of discernment are too weak to put their fingers precisely on the point where the error lies. Or, if they do point out the error, other people denounce them as heresy hunters" ([Eugene, Oreg.: Harvest House, 1987], pp. 35-36).
The diluting of biblical doctrine has conditioned today's church to desire only what will make it feel comfortable and satisfied. English minister Martyn Lloyd-Jones said, "Precise thinking, and definition, and dogma have been at a serious discount. The whole emphasis has been placed upon religion as a power which can do things for us and which can make us happy. The emotional and feeling side of religion has been over-emphasized at the expense of the intellectual. Far too often people have thought of the Christian religion merely as something which gives a constant series of miraculous deliverances from all sorts and kinds of ills.... The impression has often been given that we have but to ask God for whatever we may chance to need and we shall be satisfied.... We have been so intent upon ourselves and our moods and feelings and inward states, that when we are confronted by an external problem that nevertheless affects us profoundly, we do not know how to think or where to begin (cited by Ian Murray in David Martyn Lloyd-Jones: The Fight of Faith, vol. 2 [Carlisle, Penn.: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1990], p. 24).
Because experience and emotion have been elevated above divine revelation, many who call themselves Christians have no biblical basis for doing so. For example, during an interview on a supposedly Christian radio station, the program host asked me, "How does a person become a Christian?" I replied, "He must realize that he is a sinner and that he cannot save himself, repent from his sin, and cast himself on the mercy of God. He must believe that Jesus Christ is God's Son, whose death paid the price for his sins and whose resurrection proves his justification." The host asked, "You don't believe that everyone who is a Christian must believe that, do you?" I replied, "Yes!" The host responded, "I certainly didn't deal with any of my sins when I became a Christian." I asked, "What do you base your salvation on?" The host replied, "I was into drugs and alcohol, living with my boyfriend, and into Science of Mind for six years. One day I just got Jesus' phone number and knew where He was." Obviously not everyone who talks about Christ necessarily knows Him.
Some say that doctrine divides. That's true! If you set aside biblical truth and remain silent for fear of offending people, opposition will disappear, but so will some other things like truth, holiness, and God Himself. Jude 1:3-4 says we are to "contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain persons have crept in unnoticed ... who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ." Diluting doctrine only ends up making things easier for those who stealthily seek to victimize the church.
Relativistic Thinking Much of today's church has a continuum mindset, a continuum being that which has no discernable division into parts. Rather than seeing things as black and white--as right and wrong or true and false--it prefers to see things in infinite shades of gray. In C.S. Lewis's satire The Screwtape Letters Screwtape, a senior demon, instructed an apprentice demon to keep his human victim's mind off the plain antithesis between true and false" ([N.Y.: MacMillan, 1961], pp. 43-44). In reality, Satan uses that strategy very successfully, for today's church has failed to distinguish divine truth from error.
Believers need to develop an antithetical, not a relativistic, mindset. Dr. Jay Adams wrote, "People who study the Bible in depth develop antithetical mindsets: They think in terms of contrasts or opposites. From Genesis to Revelation God's thoughts and ways are set over against all others. The Bible does not teach that there are numerous ways to please God, each of which is as good as the next. Nor does it teach that various opinions are more or less God's ways. What it teaches--everywhere--is that any thought or way that is not wholly God's is altogether wrong and must be rejected. According to the Bible, a miss is as good as a mile. There is only one God, and there is only one way of life--His!
"People today don't like to hear such things--even people within the church. Why? Because they have a different mindset. Many of them have not known the Bible from childhood or ever made an intensive study of it later on, so their mindset is unbiblical.... With pastors and people alike growing up in an environment that stresses continuum thinking, antithesis is dulled as more and more people attempt to integrate sociology, psychology, and business management principles with Scripture" ( A Call to Discernment, pp. 29, 32).
Instead of integrating worldly ideas with God's truth, the psalmist made a clear distinction between the two: "How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers! But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night" (Ps. 1:1-2). Titus 1:9 says we are to refute doctrinal error by "holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching."
Worldly Methodology Another reason for a lack of spiritual discernment is the church's preoccupation with image and influence as the key to evangelization. Since today's church believes it must win the lost to Christ by winning their favor, it no longer teaches the biblical doctrines of sin, hell, repentance, or the cross because those would offend the lost or make them feel uncomfortable. Instead it markets itself as a benevolent, non-threatening agency whose primary goal is to achieve prestige, popularity, and intellectual acceptance among the lost. Its premise is, "If they like us, they'll like our Jesus."
While the true church is to be loving and gracious in its evangelizing, it should never mitigate the teaching of God's Word. Martyn Lloyd-Jones "saw that the elements of warning and of opposition to error were essential parts of any true commitment to the Bible and, therefore, believed that the 'disapproval of polemics in the Christian Church [was] a very serious matter'. Accordingly he expected no approval from those who accepted the prevailing attitude which put 'love' first and treated arguments over doctrine as unchristian. It was that very attitude, he believed, which was responsible for the removal of the note of authority from the pulpit: the charge of 'dogmatism' and the dislike of reproof and correction were criticisms of Scripture itself" ( The Fight of Faith, p. 650).
Note the example of the apostle Paul. He gave a stinging rebuke to the church of Corinth for its preoccupation with image: "Who regards you as superior? And what do you have that you did not receive? But if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it? You are already filled, you have already become rich, you have become kings without us; and I would indeed that you had become kings so that we also might reign with you. For, I think, God has exhibited us apostles last of all, as men condemned to death; because we have become a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men.
"We are fools for Christ's sake, but you are prudent in Christ; we are weak, but you are strong; you are distinguished, but we are without honor. To this present hour we are both hungry and thirsty, and are poorly clothed, and are roughly treated, and are homeless; and we toil, working with our own hands; when we are reviled, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure; when we are slandered, we try to conciliate; we have become as the scum of the world, the dregs of all things" (1 Cor. 4:7-13).
True believers are an offense to those who reject the truth. Christ said to His disciples, "If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, 'A slave is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you" (John 15:18-20). Hebrews 10:33 says believers are "made a public spectacle through reproaches and tribulations."
Inaccurate Interpretation Today's church has also failed to interpret Scripture accurately. That's because, for the most part, it is indifferent toward God's Word. Some teachers in the church are not trained to study God's Word and end up with a wrong theology. Some are trained, but opt to tell stories or mix man-made ideas with biblical truth. Others are simply too lazy to interpret God's Word accurately. Still others arrive at what they believe is truth by some mystical intuition, experience, or emotion. In addition, today's church has elevated nearly everyone to the level of an expert in interpreting Scripture.
The following letter, written to an acquaintance of mine, illustrates the wrong but prevalent attitude of indifference toward Scripture by so-called believers: "The greatest experience in love I have ever had was at the foot of the cross as the blood of Jesus Christ poured out over me. He filled me with His Spirit. He brought me across the veil into the City of Jerusalem into the Holy of Holies. There I beheld myself in Him, and He in me. I received the baptism as by fire and from this His love dwells in me. From this I have communion daily. I do not feel the need for the study of the Scriptures, for I know Jesus as He has revealed Himself to me within; and as He dwells in me, there is the Word.... Scriptures are a secondary source." Is it any wonder the church is weak and can't discern the truth?
Interpreting God's Word is an exacting science that requires skill and precision. Unless the believer has sat under good teaching, is well-read, or has learned to interpret Scripture from someone who knows how, it's unlikely he or she will be able to interpret Scripture accurately.
Lax Discipline There's also a lack of spiritual discernment because of the failure to carry out church discipline. Here's how Christ said it's to be carried out: "If your brother sins, go and reprove him in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed. And if he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile [an unbeliever]" (Matt. 18:15-17).
The church is to have a high standard of holiness. The apostle Paul admonished the church at Corinth for tolerating sin: "It is actually reported that there is immorality among you, and immorality of such a kind as does not exist even among the Gentiles, that someone has his father's wife. And you have become arrogant, and have not mourned instead, in order that the one who had done this deed might be removed from your midst. For I, on my part, though absent in body but present in spirit, have already judged him who has so committed this, as though I were present. In the name of our Lord Jesus, when you are assembled, and I with you in spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus, I have decided to deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of his flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough?" (1 Cor. 5:1-6).
The absence of church discipline will kill spiritual discernment and destroy the holiness of the church. Confronting sin effectively puts a wall of division between the world and the church by separating those who obey the Lord from those who don't. It's essential that believers draw the line between right and wrong. The church should be sending a message to the lost that says, "We are a holy people."
Spiritual Immaturity Many in the church have only a shallow knowledge of God's Word, trust in personal experiences or feelings as truth, or chase personal comfort and success as a way of life. It's what I call "Baby Christianity." As a baby crawls on the floor, he will put anything into his mouth since he doesn't know the difference between good and bad. Similarly, the spiritually immature are apt to swallow wrong teaching because they've not been taught to discern between divine truth and error. Ephesians 4:14-15 says, "We are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves, and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him, who is the head, even Christ."
An in-depth understanding of God's Word is the key to spiritual maturity. Hebrews 5:12-14 says, "Though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil."
Many of you are discerning in the everyday affairs of life. You read nutritional labels because you want to be healthy. You read the fine print of the stock market report before making financial investments. If you need surgery, you'll carefully select the right doctor. Maybe you're highly analytical about politics and can accurately assess the domestic and foreign issues. Or maybe you're an armchair quarterback who evaluates offensive and defensive strategies. All that is fine, but can you discern between divine truth and error?

Taken from: http://www.gty.org/resources/positions/P02/Discernment-Spiritual-Survival-for-a-Church-in-Crisis