Anastasia & The Wedge

My wife and I are very excited. We just had our second child, Anastasia Grace. We believe in making sure our children’s name have meaning behind them. We’re not flaky bunny Christians, we just believe that names can be great reminders of promises and truths over the years and we believe that the season a child is born into is significant as well. There have been many times over the last 20 months that I’ve remembered what our first daughter’s name, Lily Elise, means.

So why are we naming her Anastasia Grace? Before I talk about why we chose this name, I want to describe the season that she is being born into.

Four and a half years ago, my friend had a very prophetic dream. I won’t go into the dream’s details but when he awoke, he heard the Lord say “In 5 years, I will drive My Word like a wedge into my church and this nation.” The Lord gave five key areas where this dividing wedge would fall:

  1. The infallibility of the Bible
  2. The sanctity of life (abortion)
  3. Gay marriage and gay ministers in the church
  4. Universalism and Unitarianism
  5. The false grace movement

When it comes to dreams, I’m very careful. Just because a godly person (or even a prophet) has one, doesn’t mean it’s from God, even if it looks spiritual. This friend and I were committed deep in prayer together and when he told me it, my spirit was immediately sobered and I knew it was true. The thing that I find crazy is how prophetic the dream/word was. This dream wasn’t given a month ago. It was almost five years ago. Back then, there was no great gay marriage debate or serious problems with universalism in the church. Upon hearing the dream/word, it was an act of faith to believe that these, at the time, small issues would progress to be nationwide issues, particularly in the church. Who would of thought 5-10 years ago that we would be debating whether practicing homosexuals should be ministers and leaders in the church?

The one that I feel is the sneakiest in the church is the false grace movement. This is the belief that because of grace, we’re free to sin rather than being free to live a holy life. It denies the doctrine of repentance, works, and sanctification. While we are not saved by works, our salvation produces works and are the fruit of a truly changed life. Paul would mention this “form of godliness” happening:

For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. (2 Timothy 3:2-5)

It looks good. It looks godly. But it produces evil fruit.

I’ve had several conflicts with people in the false grace movement. The doctrine is slick and tricky. I’ve watched it destroy people’s lives. People who embrace this false doctrine are more easily prone to compromise on the other four issues. It was for this issue that we named our daughter for.

Anastasia means “resurrection” and Grace means, obviously, “grace”. But another translation for Anastasia is “grace”. So when I call her name, I’ll be saying “grace grace”, reminding her and us of God’s redeeming grace that resurrects our dead lives and makes them live in holiness to Him. Scripture also mentions this combined grace:

And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. (John 1:16)

We pray that she is an encouragement to many that we were saved to live lives pleasing to the Lord because that’s what Jesus is worthy of: a pure and spotless bride.

Rethink: Apologetics

In this series, we will take a closer look at sayings and things that are common place in streams of the church and talk about the truth and error of these sayings and things.

The issue

There is a group in the world called “The New Atheists.” They are made up of very scientific people who toil night and day to disprove the existence of God and the need of the church. Due to this, the call for apologetics has increased greatly. The movement to know the roots, history, and theology of the Bible is gaining speed. Many times this knowledge is used to debate these atheists or to argue God’s existence with someone on an intellectual plane. The main (if not only) verse I’ve heard quoted from the Bible to argue the need for apologetics is this one:

But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect. (1 Peter 3:15)

This verse seems to imply that the gospel and the truth need an intellectual defense from people who would question the need and existence of God. The problem comes when we look at the context of this verse.

But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil. (1 Peter 3:14-17)

The context of this main apologetics-themed verse is in the context of suffering. Peter is saying don’t fear those who will inflict suffering on us, but rather be prepared to answer them when they ask us “why are you suffering for this?” or “is your God worth all this pain?”. In context, Peter is saying “be ready to glorify God when people ask why you’re so willing to suffer for Him.” He says to always be prepared for this and make sure that answer is gentle and respectful. No where in this verse does it say find atheists and debate them intellectually. In fact, Paul attempted this at Mars Hill in Athens in Acts 17. I’ve heard it quoted as Paul’s greatest sermon, but we don’t remember the outcome/result of such an intellectual debate:

So Paul went out from their midst. But some men joined him and believed, among whom also were Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris and others with them. (Acts 17:33-34)

No massive revival. No church planted. A few souls saved. A city left unturned by the gospel. It’s no wonder that Paul would write later to the Corinthian church:

And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. (1 Corinthians 2:1-5)

He would say earlier:

For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. (1 Corinthians 1:17)

Why does this matter?

I want to make it clear: I am not arguing whether apologetics should exist. I believe it is well needed. I’m arguing the reason that they should exist for. I take issue with the debating and arguing with unbelievers. The fruit is little if any. Many times, at best, it may help someone who was teetering between agnosticism and Christianity decide to investigate the Bible more. The Bible is clear: only the gospel, preached in weakness, can turn an atheist into a saint. In fact, the problem isn’t that people don’t know the truth. It’s that they deny and/or suppress the truth (Romans 1:18-19).

So while I find little need for apologetics to oppose the new atheists, I do find a better purpose for it: to strengthen and equip the church. The great fruit I see coming out of apologetics is that Christians start diving into the Word of God and knowing Christ more. Gone are the days of “Everyday a Friday”. They have a hunger for truth and something more than an inch deep. I love it when apologetics and discipleship are working hand in hand, growing and teaching believers the truth and equipping them so that they can guard themselves from error.

In reality, the truth does not need to be defended from those who don’t believe it, but rather from those who try to twist it into something more (but in reality, less) believable. There is little (if any) language from the apostles telling us to defend an “attack of the Bible” from atheists. Rather, the apostles tell us time and time again to dive into truth and be watching out for people preaching a false gospel.

So in summary, my aim is not to attack people currently in the apologetic ministry. I am blessed to have several friends in apologetics who have built and strengthened my life by what they teach. Rather, my aim is to change our view on what apologetics is and what it is meant for. It is primarily used for the building up of the body in the knowledge of God, not to debate atheistic unbelievers.

In fact, Psalms says “a fool believes in their heart there is no god.” Why would we want to debate with fools? In fact, Proverbs 26:4 says:

Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest you be like him yourself.

That verse should keep all of us careful who we decide to debate anything with. Let’s not worry too much about those who hate God and hate us. When they cause us to suffer, our love and devotion for God will say more than 1,000 worthless debates.

Rethink: The Jezebel Spirit

In this series, we will take a closer look at sayings and things that are common place in streams of the church and talk about the truth and error of these sayings and things. 

The issue

I have grown up my whole life in the Charismatic/Pentecostal stream of Christianity. I admire Baptists, Presbyterians, Catholics, and others but I was never immersed in their culture or beliefs like I was with the Charismatic/Pentecostal stream.

If you go into a Family Christian Bookstore, they have a section called “Charismatic Interest”. When you look at the book titles and subjects, you will notice (rightly) that Charismatic/Pentecostal stream have had a focused interest on the supernatural, particularly on spiritual warfare and angels/demons. There are some good and true things in these books and there are some unfortunate errors.

One of the more popular claims is that people have (and are being controlled by) a spirit of Jezebel. Now I believe in evil spirits influencing decisions and lives, spirits like greed, lust, deception, etc. But Jezebel was a person. Most of the “Jezebel spirit” thinking tends to imply that Jezebel was a real person and this spirit took on her character traits after she died. We find Jezebel’s story in throughout 1 & 2 Kings. She was the main antagonist to Elijah’s ministry. Finally she was put to death.

So where in the Bible does it talk about this dead evil woman’s spirit being at work in the local church? The only verse quoted in answer to this question is Revelation 2:20-23. Here is what that portion of scripture (in context) says:

“And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write: “The words of the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and whose feet are like burnished bronze. I know your works, your love and faith and service and patient endurance, and that your latter works exceed the first. But I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols. I gave her time to repent, but she refuses to repent of her sexual immorality. Behold, I will throw her onto a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her I will throw into great tribulation, unless they repent of her works, and I will strike her children dead. And all the churches will know that I am he who searches mind and heart, and I will give to each of you according to your works. But to the rest of you in Thyatira, who do not hold this teaching, who have not learned what some call the deep things of Satan, to you I say, I do not lay on you any other burden. Only hold fast what you have until I come.” (Revelation 2:18-25 ESV)

Most Charismatic writers link this Jezebel to the one in the Old Testament. But there is a problem. The Old Testament Jezebel never called herself a prophetess. In fact, she was quite against them. She was more known for killing the people of God than deceiving the people into sexual immorality and eating wrong food.

I love what John Bevere says in his book on prophecy “Thus Saith The Lord“. He read this passage and immediately started turning to 1 & 2 Kings to research this Jezebel that Jesus was (supposedly) talking about in Revelation 2. As he was turning in his Bible, the Lord asked him “would you look for Joseph, the father of Jesus, in the book of Genesis (where Joseph, the son of Jacob, is found)?” This showed him, and should show us, that these two Jezebels are two different people — one being a evil queen, and one being a false prophetess in the church.

Why does this matter?

While there are multiple benefits for seeing rightly on this issue, I bring it up for one main reason: it is easier to say people are being controlled by evil spirits than to say the truth, that they are simply being led away by their own sin. Here is what James says:

Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. (James 1:13-15 ESV)

James says that we aren’t being tempted and moved to sin by God, a point that all Christians agree with. But neither does James say we are tempted and controlled by the devil. Rather, he says we are temped when we are lured/enticed by our own desires. It’s not evil spirits that are the problem, we are.

When we mention a “Jezebel spirit”, we are typically giving a blanket name to a person who is incredibly selfish, controlling, domineering, manipulative, and overly-ambitious. There are a few problems though that occur because of this:

  1. We tend to see the person involved as a evil spirit.
    Instead of seeing someone as deceived and led astray in their own sin, we may see them as an evil force unable to be redeemed. If we see someone as bound in their own hunger to be exalted, it produces a cry of mercy in us that asks God to intervene and rescue them from themselves. Rather, if we view them as an evil spirit, our prayers may align more with judgment and asking God to uproot them. Matthew 5:7 encourages us to always default to being merciful and seeing people with merciful eyes, cause however we deal with them, we will get dealt with accordingly.
  2. We fail to see the same sins in us.
    If we think that people who are selfish are being controlled by a spirit rather than by their own evil desires, rarely will we look at ourselves to see if we are struggling with the same thing. Since James says these evil traits come from our own evilness, looking at the issue this way helps us search our own lives for the same desires.
  3. We tend to look for a deliverer instead of a savior.
    Jesus heals, delivers, restores, but most importantly, He saves and forgives. Many times we attribute a war-like attitude to deliverance. We want to wage war on the person (or “spirit”) struggling and causing problems in the church. More than deliverance, people manifesting these type of character traits (selfishness, control, domineering, manipulation, and overly-ambitious) need a savior. The gospel will set these people free just like it sets us free of other (yet alike) issues. We don’t do anything to deserve it or earn it. All that is required is that we ask for it and draw near to God.

So in summary, Christians in our churches are not bound by evil spirits that are causing them to distress your local church. Rather, they are sinners, like you and me, who need a Savior. They need people who will pray mercifully for them in secret. We don’t tell them that they are being controlled by an external force, but rather by an internal one: their own evil desires. This causes them to become poor in spirit and long for God to save them from their sinful ways. (Matthew 5:3-8)