Christian Living

Responding Publicly to Erring Brethren: Motives and Methods, Part 2

Read Part 1.

Paul’s methods for responding to false accusation

In Philippians 1:12-18, Paul provides a model for our methods in responding to false accusations.

Provide the facts

Facts appear to be Paul’s primary weapon for taking on the untruths about himself. Assuming God wants us to write or speak publicly about the controversy, we should do our best to get the truth out there through whatever means are available. But in the actual writing or speaking, we should be restrained in our presentation.

Be restrained

Our Lord has withheld much information about these men from us, and it is not because He lacked knowledge, authority, or justification to reveal all. Whatever His reasons for not giving more information about the preachers of envy, those reasons were apparently controlling in this example. Though the men would have been quick to name Paul in their own messages, convincing their listeners of Paul’s wickedness, our Lord keeps their names out of the press. Though they committed their verbal sins publicly, Christ does not publicly elaborate on their sinfulness. Indeed, we are not given any salacious details that would tease and tempt our sinful flesh. Instead we get the barest of facts regarding sinful motives, and no names to put with the faces.

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Responding Publicly to Erring Brethren: Motives and Methods, Part 1

It is impossible but that offences will come: but woe unto him, through whom they come! (Luke 17:1, KJV)

But I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel; So that my bonds in Christ are manifest in all the palace, and in all other places; And many of the brethren in the Lord, waxing confident by my bonds, are much more bold to speak the word without fear. Some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife; and some also of good will: The one preach Christ of contention, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my bonds: But the other of love, knowing that I am set for the defence of the gospel. What then? notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretence, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice. (Philippians 1:12-18)

In Philippians 1, Paul tells of some brothers in Christ1 who attacked him verbally from their pulpits, impugning his reputation and character in an obvious attempt to raise their own lights in the church by helping one of its luminaries to fall. From Paul’s day till now, the same sad sort of behavior continues to be exemplified by members of Christ’s body who should know better. Whether sitting at a desk and writing books, uploading to the Internet, or mounting pulpits on Sunday morning, men and women are still falling into the same trap year after year, thinking that the demise of someone else’s reputation in the church will enliven their own.

Speaking their hearts but lacking or ignoring the truth about the other person, they claim the servant of God to be what he is not—guilty of some imagined sin or error. From Athanasius to Al Mohler, God’s dear servants have been the subjects of gossip, smear campaigns, character assassinations, rumors, backbiting, and generally poor treatment—and not just from the unsaved, but from redeemed people acting and thinking sinfully. Sometimes their accusations fall on deaf ears, and the charge goes nowhere. But sometimes the charge gains an audience, and other proponents take it up.

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The Believer's Heavenly Rewards, Part 1

All true Christians must surely rejoice at the thought of God’s wonderful promise and provision that, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9, NKJV).

But how does this divine provision relate to Christ’s confrontation with His church, His body and bride, at the judgment throne? Does participation in the marvelous promise of 1 John 1:9 eliminate the threat of possibly losing a reward or a crown on that great day? This is a very confusing issue for many of God’s people today.

The Purpose of the Judgment Seat Confrontation

One point must be settled immediately—the issue is the gain or loss of rewards, not of salvation. Thank God, “He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6). And, “having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ…and rejoice in hope of the glory of God” (Rom. 5:1-2).

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Our Nasty Attitudes Toward God

Every believer experiences deteriorating attitudes toward God sometimes. Some believers are out of touch with their “inner man” and live with their heads in the spiritual sand. As a result, they may not recognize this tendency within themselves (and that is tragic). Denying reality is an old coping mechanism, but a dishonest one. Perceived or not, the attitude problem within us is real. Here are two issues related to these attitudes.

One sad but common sight is what I call “Christian brats.”

By “Christian brats,” I mean individuals who have been brought up in Christian homes, continue to attend or be involved in an evangelical church, but resent their faith as confining. They secretly wish that they had been born into a family of unbelievers so they could experience what “everyone else” is doing and not miss out on the fun. On one hand, such individuals may not have been born again by the Spirit of God; they are spiritually indifferent. On the other hand, I am convinced that many do know the Lord.

Being brought up in a fine Christian home has both advantages and challenges. Even with godly parents, children are not robots that can be programmed; they must choose to follow the Lord or not. We pray, hold our breath, and hope for the best. So much is in God’s hands.

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Outback Christians

There is an immense stretch of uninhabited territory in Australia’s interior. Australia’s land mass is nearly as vast as that of the continental US (carve off CA & FL and you about have it), yet the entire population of Australia is less than 4 times that of Minnesota! The vast majority of this sparse population hugs the coastline. So with only 20 million people ringing earth’s largest island, the vast interior is one desolate stretch of dusty waste—Australia’s celebrated “Outback.”

A documentary surfaced some years ago that included the vignette of a man who lives alone in a small house in the Outback a gazillion miles from the nearest human being. This modern day hermit is so isolated, his only routine contact with people comes when the infrequent train passes near his place and railroad employees kick off a crate of supplies as they speed past. That’s all the face time this mate needs, or wants!

Perhaps we chuckle at such a guy (rather than merely pity him) because we can identify with his isolationism. It is not always easy to live in community with people, and sometimes you wonder if a little shack in the middle of the Outback wouldn’t suit you just swell for a year or two…or fifty!

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Book Review: The 7 Hardest Things God Asks a Woman to Do

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I am currently leading a group of ladies in a study on consecration, using Havergal’s Kept for the Master’s Use (a verse by verse discussion of her hymn, “Take My Life and Let It Be”). The chapter we are now perusing has to do with the line, “Take my will and make it thine—it shall be no longer mine.” That, in essence, is the theme of this book. Though the idea of self denial is not one that has women alone in the Scripture’s crosshairs, Kathie Reimer and her daughter, Lisa Whittle, discuss from a feminine viewpoint seven seeming paradoxes in the Word of God:

  • Have a single focus, yet multi-task
  • Be tolerant toward some things, yet intolerant toward others
  • Fail, and simultaneously succeed
  • Proceed, while also waiting
  • Hold on and, in turn, let go
  • Lead, and still follow
  • Die, and consequently, live more abundantly

An apt sub-title for this book would be, What It Looks Like for Christian Women to Deny Self

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Jonathan Edwards’ Resolutions

With appreciation to A Puritan’s Mind and the Christian Classics Ethereal Library. Jonathan Edwards was born in the American Colonies in 1703 and raised in the Puritan and Congregationalist tradition. He entered Yale College just shy of 13 years of age and graduated at the head of his class in 1720. He wrote the resolutions below from 1722 to 1723, at age 19. At the time, he was studying theology at New Haven and serving as pulpit supply at a small Presbyterian church.

Being sensible that I am unable to do any thing without God’s help, I do humbly entreat him, by his grace, to enable me to keep these Resolutions, so far as they are agreeable to his will, for Christ’s sake.

Remember to read over these Resolutions once a week. 

1. Resolved, That I will do whatsoever I think to be most to the glory of God, and my own good, profit, and pleasure, in the whole of my duration; without any consideration of the time, whether now, or never so many myriads of ages hence. Resolved, to do whatever I think to be my duty, and most for the good and advantage of mankind in general. Resolved, so to do, whatever difficulties I meet with, how many soever, and how great soever.

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Musings From a Country Cemetery

Reprinted with permission from Dan Miller’s book Spiritual Reflections. The text appears here verbatim.

A forgotten country cemetery sits atop a windswept hill not far down the gravel road from where my parents used to live. While living at home, my attention was always drawn in the opposite direction of that cemetery.

In the other direction was “town.” School, friends, athletic events, parades, concerts, restaurants, church—everything exciting was in that direction. But as the years passed and occasion afforded a brief visit home, my interests were strangely drawn toward that quiet graveyard. On occasion I would walk there and stroll among the tombstones.

Bordered by a shallow creek and cow pasture, nestled among a few gnarly trees, this little cemetery is one lonely place. I never saw another person there. There is no marquee, driveway or parking lot. No flowers, shrubs, benches, sidewalks or manicured lawn. Nor are there any impressive monuments—just simple, weathered tombstones rising in obscurity from the prairie grass. Some of the stones, as if too weary to stand any longer in their struggle against time, have been toppled over and rest on top of the graves they mark.

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