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It is easy to prioritize our experiences over Scripture, especially in theology.  We tend to adopt as a belief whatever fits our experiences.  We also tend to adopt as a belief whatever we want to be true.  Both of those belief-forming mechanisms are helpful in discerning truth claims; however, there is something more sure than personal experience, testimonies of others’ experiences, and personal desires–Scripture.

“For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty…And we have something more sure, the prophetic word…no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”  2 Peter 1:16, 19-21

First off, Peter was an eyewitness to Jesus’ transfiguration and God’s confirmation saying “This is my beloved Son”.  Only two other people can claim to being an eyewitness of that.  No one today can claim to being an eyewitness in the sense that Peter can.  We may have experiences that testify to his majesty, but be weary of those who make up or testify only to experiences; Peter calls that “cleverly devised myths”.  When people go on about their experiences without employing Scripture to testify to their experience, be weary.

How to discern if a spiritual experience is from God

– Does it lead you to believe something contrary to what Scripture teaches? If so, it is not from God, but satan.

– Are people encouraged when they hear you talk about it? Or do they feel discouraged and “unspiritual”?

– Does it bring you to repentance of sin? Or does it make you think that you are “further along” and need less repentance?

– Does it cause you to worship Jesus in spirit and in truth?  Or do you use your experience to impress others?

Remember, the apostle Peter had more experiences than most that could be relied on; however, he knew that Scripture was “more sure”.  Submit your experiences to Scripture, and not the other way around.

“We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.” 2 Corinthians 4:2

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Warning: This post goes against much of what many evangelical church programs are built upon. Thereby potentially causing severe discomfort in defending all of the superfluous “programs” that make up your church.

Nevertheless, I have to say it.

Accountability groups focussed on a particular sin, or a particular category of sin (eg. lust), drastically miss the point of the gospel.  Allow me to first add two qualifiers and then a defense.

First qualifier: Not all accountability groups are bad.  Accountability is important, even sin-specific accountability.  It can be done well, it can also be done poorly.  This post is a reaction to the latter.

Second qualifier:  As Christians, we do need to be killing sin.  This post is geared toward the motivation for killing sin, not whether or not we need to.

The fact of the matter is that sin is not defeated with a try-harder-do-better ethic.  Sin is only defeated when we die to sin.  We die to sin when we are united with Christ in his death on the cross.  Now you are more than likely thinking, “I need to do better at being united with Christ in his death”.  Unfortunately, that thought is the outflow of the deeply ingrained try-harder ethic cultivated by “sin groups”.

I am more and more convinced that though sin groups may help in stopping a particular sin, a new sin always arises in its place, usually pride.  What we need is to concentrate on the preeminence of Jesus Christ.

There are two motivations that Christians tend to have in regard to fighting personal sin: anti-gospel and gospel.

Anti-gospel sin-fighting: you think that your justification lies in your performance, ie. your ability to not sin.  This person loves accountability groups and may even be very outspoken about their sin, yet, the motivation for defeating sin remains misguided. Fighting sin with an anti-gospel motivation may pass as “disciplined” or “spiritual”; all the while, “having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power” (2 Tim. 3:5).  see also Gal. 3:3

Gospel sin-fighting: This person understands that Matthew 4:1-11 is not just a text to teach Christians how to fight sin, but that it is primarily a text that shows that Jesus performed perfectly, and that his performance is now regarded as my own perfect performance because of His substitutionary work on our behalf.  This fighter is trained by the words in Romans 6:14, “sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.”

The one focuses on the sin, the other focuses on Jesus’ victory over sin.

“What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace?”  By no means! Go read your Bibles.

Here is a funny Madtv clip that has been floating around and causing laughs for a while (my mom loves this).  However, there is value in what this psychologist says, though lacking gospel-love.  We tend to go over board in psychologizing our sin, when, all we need to do is stop it.  We are not sinners because we have been mistreated in the past, we are not stuck in our sin because we have been doing it since we were young; rather, sin is sin and you are guilty.  However, we have been bought with a very high price and set free from the power of the law to condemn.  Paul puts it this way, “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal bodies” (Rom. 6:12)…in other words, “STOP IT!”

This is a prime time of year to stop and consider the weight of the incarnation of the God-man, Jesus.  Here are a few helpful texts to meditate on by yourself and with your family. 

John 1:1-3, 9-11

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.  All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.  In him was life, and the life was the light of men…The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not recieve him.”

John 17:5-6

“And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.  I have manifested your name to the people…”

Colossians 1:15, 17, 19

“He is the image of the invisible God…he is before all things…in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell”

Consider all of the glory and constant worship that Jesus left in the Father’s presence to come and get murdered by the very people he had created.  Considering the incarnation leads to a healthy consideration of the cross.  That is the heart of the incarnation.  Jesus left the Father’s presence to a cursed world to redeem it.  Do not be lazy about the doctrine of the incarnation, it is a huge piece of our Gospel.  It is the prototype for how we do ministry – we go to be with  those we minister to.  Merry Christmas!

Matt Chandler is a 34 year old pastor in Texas.  He took a pastor job at a dying 160-member church in the heart of the Bible belt.  In 7 years, the church grew from 160 to over 5,000.  His message: the Gospel.  On Thanksgiving Matt had a seizure and went in, found out he had a brain tumor, had surgery, found out the tumor is malignant and the doctors were unable to get all of it.  Things are uncertain, please pray for Matt and his family and his church.  Here is a video from Matt Chandler prior to his surgery. 

http://fm.thevillagechurch.net/blog/pastors/?p=363

“I pursued my enemies and overtook them, and did not turn back till they were consumed.

I thrust them through, so that they were not able to rise;they fell under my feet.

For you equipped me with strength for the battle; you made those who rise against me sink under me.

You made my enemies turn their backs to me, and those who hated me I destroyed.

They cried for help, but there was none to save; they cried to the LORD, but he did not answer them.

I beat them fine as dust before the wind; I cast them out like the mire of the streets.”  (Psalm 18:37-42)

King David was a dude’s dude.  He picked fights, and he “beat them fine as dust”.  Why is this commendable?  Because it was passionate obedience to God.  He was not a weak-wristed church boy.  God “equipped [David]  with strength for battle”.  God “made those who rise against me sink under me.”  And God ignored David’s enemies when they cried to him. 

I commend you men to be like David in his passionate obedience to God.  This is not a license to pulvarize every punk that doesn’t meet your fancy, but it does mean that you can “heap coals on their heads” by giving them water when their thirsty, food when their hungry, clothes when they are cold.  Equally brutal.  King David was a B.C. ultimate fighter who loved Jesus.  What has happened to our men?

This is atheist Penn Jillette of the popular magician duo Penn & Teller.  Take a look.

http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/justintaylor/2009/11/17/how-much-do-you-have-to-hate-somebody-to-not-proselytize/

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