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HEALTHY DISAGREEMENT BETWEEN BELIEVERS (The Gospel According to Philippians)

I receive e-mails in response to my writing, and sometimes readers disagree with me, which I welcome. I received two such e-mails last week. The first, which we are going to discuss here this week, was filled with what James calls “the wisdom from above.”

Wisdom from above

The second was vitriolic, representative of that which is from below: earthly, unspiritual, and demonic. I told him that I could not approve his comment for though there might be merit in what he said (it was about a past post) his language and tone were a red flag to me. Do I “censor” some who want to come on and participate in this blog? Sometimes (though it is rare) I do. With sadness — for I welcome disagreement, but I don’t want to let the enemy in, and if the language and tone miserably comes below the mark of what James 3:17 says typifies the wisdom from above, then I shut the door.


2whitedove serpent

 How do we discern wisdom from above from the wisdom from below?

The wisdom from above is first, pure, then peaceable, gentle, (so dove like) and open to reason…and leads to good fruit.

The wisdom from below is earthy, unspiritual, demonic. It is vitriolic, like the deadly saliva from a snake bite.

My friends at Midday Connection often have people disagreeing with them, and they experience both kinds of tones, though far too often, those who claim the name of Christ are vitriolic. Recently Melinda hosted a program in which she was endeavoring to address how to love family members who have come out embracing a homosexual lifestyle. As a church, I believe we have failed here. And in today’s culture, we desperately need wisdom on how to love well those caught in this sin. And though she received encouraging mail, there was so much that was, indeed, filled with acid comments. I was with her shortly afterwards and so felt her pain. She’s a tender wise woman endeavoring to have dialogues about hard situations, and she should be cheered instead of crushed. She also has asked the legitimate question: “How does this kind of vitriolic expression (on blogs or anywhere) from someone who claims the name of Christ represent Christ to an unbelieving world?” Melinda was knocked down, but not out, for tomorrow (Monday) she will try again on her new podcast, “Bring to Mind,” which is an attempt to dialogue about these hard issues. You can listen tomorrow, or after the broadcast, here: http://www.moodyradio.org/bringtomind/

When Paul exhorted Euodia and Syntyche in the Philippian church to agree, I wonder if he was as concerned with the tone and the lack of love as much as anything. (I don’t know — and that’s a future week — but I wonder.)

How we need to purify our hearts before we speak or write — with believers and unbelievers alike. I’m going to show you Laura’s letter this week, and because her tone is beautiful, and exemplifies James 3:17, I want to discuss her content.

So often another believer whom I respect has helped me to see a blind spot in my character, my thinking, or my expressing of thoughts. We need one another in the body of Christ to help us see and be what we cannot see alone.  There are some passages in Scripture that are challenging, and Philippians 2:12-13 and 3:11 are two examples. One of the great advantages (and challenges) to going through a book of the Bible is that you cannot leap over the challenging verses — your must struggle through to try to understand what God is really saying.  I’m eager to have us read thoughts together and discuss it. There are some truths in Scripture which seems to contradict one another, such as free will and predestination, yet they are both there. I think Philippians 3:11 is like that, only with the two seemingly contradicting truths of eternal security and perseverance of the saints.(Eternal security is “once saved always saved” and perseverance of the saints is “if you are truly saved, then you will persevere, for God is at work in you.) They aren’t really in conflict, but they can seem to be, as this discussion reveals.

My pastor and his family from Nebraska are with me for a week at the cottage and so I asked, “How do you clearly express eternal security along with perseverance of the saints?”

This pastor said, “I muddle through.” 🙂   That was a comfort, for I know I am muddling through. But you help me, together, we help each other express these hard truths which sometimes seem to contradict, but there are only apparent and not real contradictions in Scripture. It is just that we are like six-year-olds when it comes to understanding The Holy One.

There are not “many interpretations” that are right about a verse — there is only one, and that is the meaning that God intends, so when it is challenging, together we must try to see it. Laura’s letter did show me I had been unclear, and I will, when I share my thoughts again this week, endeavor to be clearer.  I will also share with you a few other thoughts from sources I respect, and together, may we have a healthy discussion.

Before we begin, please contemplate this from one who surely lived what he wrote, who humbles us all with how he lived and how he died:

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May God be with us all — He cares about this more than we could even imagine.

Sunday/Monday Icebreakers

1. What stands out to you from the above and why?

2. Can you think of a time when you were able to hear criticism from another believer? If so, share something about the way she or he approached you.

Monday through Thursday: ENDEAVORING TO UNDERSTAND PHILIPPIANS 3:10-11

Getting the context:

4. What point is Paul making in Philippians 3:4-8? Why does he count these credentials “as rubbish, or dung?”

5. Following Philippians 3:11 is 3:12. My favorite translation is “I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.” What do you think this means? I think this is a verse that shows both eternal security and persistence of the saints, so slow down, pray, and then share your thoughts.

takehold

Now I’d like you to read Laura’s good letter:

Dee,

I absolutely loved your book Idol Lies.  I also visit your weekly blog often.  I am writing because of your latest blog, “To Be Found In Him On Judgment Day.”  I think healthy disagreement among members of the body of Christ is good, and I write these words with great respect for you and your ministry.

I found that the main thesis of your book was that we can turn from our idols (which lie to us and can never fulfill us) and turn to Jesus (who loves us and will always fulfill us).  I really enjoyed reading about the different metaphors in Scripture that speak to the love our Savior has for us.  It is this unconditional love that allows us to turn from our idol lies to Him.  Now, when I read your last post, I was confused because you seem to suggest that we can lose our salvation if we fail to destroy every idol in our lives.  I know the Scripture you mention in your book that suggests that idolaters have no part in the kingdom.  However, to me, this blog contradicts your entire book, whose message is to show us that God’s love is greater than our idols.  In essence, this blog is motivating us to turn from our idols or else we might not have a place in God’s kingdom.  This is fear, then, not love, that motivates me.  And in my limited experience, fear will never get me to do anything effectively.  How can I turn from my idols to Jesus’ open arms if in the back of my head I am wondering if He will say the words “I never knew you” on Judgment Day?

Then I think of Paul.  If as you suggest, he really is questioning his salvation, I am sure that there are a lot of women out there like me saying to themselves, “Well then I don’t even have a chance!”  The problem with this is that we are returning to works righteousness, just a different form of it.  Instead of giving me a list of spiritual disciplines to do (pray, read your bible, witness, love others, etc.), you are in essence just changing the rules to this:  get rid of your idols.  Where does His finished work come in to the picture?  Or what about the Holy Spirit, who indwells me?  At what point does He leave me if I don’t destroy my idols?  The idea of losing one’s salvation after receiving Jesus Christ and becoming a new creation just doesn’t make sense to me, especially after reading Romans.  Why would Paul use the metaphor of adoption if, on Judgement Day, He might say to us, “I don’t know you?”  He calls us His children; we have been adopted into His family.  This implies permanence, at least in this world.

These are just my ideas.  I have thought about this topic for a long time now, as it is very personal to me.  Again, thank you for your ministry.

Laura

6. Comment on the tone of Laura’s letter and how she exemplifies James 3:17.

7. What points does she make that you find helpful? (Don’t be afraid of hurting my feelings by agreeing with her!)

Now I want you to read a comment from a blog I like. He comments on what I think is a parallel passage in Philippians. Here is the link to Bill Tell: LINK

8. What points do you agree or disagree with from the above blog?

9. Finally, I am going to try to say what I think Philippians 3:10-11 says — and I open to disagreement.

I believe that when Paul counts his credentials as dung, he is saying he doesn’t want to trust in any of that — he wants to trust in Christ alone.  In so many others places Paul makes it clear that salvation is by faith alone, and not works righteousness. And now, and this is the controversial part, and I may be wrong, I believe there may have been times when Paul had fears, like the fears Bill Tell expressed in his blog, if he was a fake or not. Perhaps not, but I know it not uncommon for believers to have fears like that, I know I have. When I see sin in my life, and think about some of the passages as in I John where it says, “If anyone hates his brother, the love of God is not in him,” I tremble. I But I get past it, for when I think about it, I know Christ has taken hold of me, which is why verse 12 is such a comfort to me.

Baby Holding Mother's Finger

 I take hold of that which has taken hold of me.

How do I know He has taken hold of me and that I can never lose my salvation? Not only do I trust in His blood, I do see evidence in my life of change, a passion, and a holy fear. When I don’t persevere, I do not lose my salvation, for Christ has me firmly in His hand — and no one can pluck me out of His hand.

Yet I still can be plagued with times of doubt. Sometimes my spirit condemns me. So what do I do? I remember what John said that our very love and life can be evidence of His work in us and then: “By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him, for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart…” (1 John 3:19-20)

I am secure in Him. He will never let me go. And yet I persist to take hold of that which has taken hold of me, that “my any means possible I may attain the resurrection of the dead.” This is not works righteousness, but evidence, indeed, to my own heart that I belong to Him when my spirit condemns me.

I also want to share Nanci J’s answer to what does Philippians 3:10-11 mean, for she very helpfully, in comparing this to Romans 6, shows that the gospel is not just to be rescued from the penalty of sin, but also the power of sin. It did make me wonder if Paul was not having any doubts, but was only talking about the double cure, being rescued from the power of sin. I commended Nanci on her answer and she said she really wanted to know what it meant so sought out God, availing herself of various and good commentaries as well. Here is what Nanci said:

“Jesus’ death and resurrection is the basis of the righteousness the the Father credits to us to make us His children. Jesus’ death and resurrection also provides power to enable the believer to lead a new life in faithful obedience to God rather than rebellion/sin. Only appreciation for what God in His grace has done will provide proper motivation for living “dead to sin” and “alive to God”, resisting sin and temptation, and serving the Lord as an instrument of His righteousness.”

10. Consider Dee’s thoughts, Nanci’s thoughts, Bill Tell’s thoughts and comment, asking God for wisdom.

11. What do you believe God is saying through Philippians 3:10-12?

Friday:

I’m not doing a sermon this week as there is enough homework above. However if you’d like to listen to Melinda’s podcast (above) or to my final session on Idol Lies on Midday, here is the link. Then share your thoughts. The program aired on Thursday, June 19th, but can be found on past programs. There are some great testimonies recorded from women who have done Idol lies in it.

Saturday:

12. What is your take-a-way and why?

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280 comments

  1. 5. Following Philippians 3:11 is 3:12. My favorite translation is “I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.” What do you think this means? I think this is a verse that shows both eternal security and persistence of the saints, so slow down, pray, and then share your thoughts.

    It sounds like Paul is committed to figuring out what it means to be like Jesus. He is still earth tethered, but feels that at some point in time he will be Christ like. He is caught in two worlds, just as we are. We strive to know Christ and we are bound to dealing with earth issues. He states that he wants to “…take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.”(Philippians 3:12 NIV) What did Jesus “take hold of” of Paul? His heart, mind, and spirit? All of the above I should say.

  2. This is my first post of the week. My round-the-clock pain meds make me a little groggy, but also I felt the need to read all of your posts and try to “listen” a bit better before jumping in. To be honest, I was also having difficulty with the questions. Last week I posted that I didn’t feel that Paul was confused about his eternal security, and I still feel that way. I do think he was convinced of the necessity of pressing on. I decided to take a step back (to prior to Paul) to Jesus. Jesus gave up His life for us and by his grace we received our eternal security. However, after Jesus’ death and resurrection, he proclaimed what we refer to as The Great Commission — “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations….” He didn’t say that, due to his grace, we had all made it and could now coast through. Instead, he spoke of much work to be done to bring God’s kingdom to fruition. So I can quite easily understand when Dee said eternal security and the perseverance of the saints aren’t really in conflict, but they can seem to be.

    I see far more conflict between eternal security verus final judgment. Maybe we could pursue that at a later date!

    I will admit that the spirit and the motivation with which we press on IS in dire need of attention. The responses to Dee and to Melinda are prime examples. Toni’s post and Jill’s post are also evidence of the hurt brought on by unkind (to say the least) or vitriolic responses from those still proclaiming to be Christian. In my own church at a Bible Study one night, I witnessed a man verbally pouncing on a woman because she wouldn’t say that she “KNEW she was going to heaven.” I have no doubts about her being saved. I think she was responding in humility that God would have the ultimate say on the matter. I knew she was upset by the incident, but I was surprised and discouraged when she left the church she had loved for decades.

    1. Do you think the motivation by which we press on differs from person to person? I know for me personally, I am motivated to persevere when I am bombarded with grace and am overwhelmed by the love of my Father. The moment you put a condition on grace and tell me I must do this or not do that, I freeze and pressing on becomes next to impossible because I get so fixated on the condition. For others, perhaps, this isn’t so. Their personality is motivated by other means, like by reading some of the verses we’ve discussed here. The goal is the same for everyone but the means to motivating can be drastically different.

      Not sure if this is true. I’m just trying to understand the reason behind the different reactions to the same verses.

        1. Dee,

          That is a great question! I think the enemy works overtime (especially in the times we are living) in the area of being an “authentic” believer. I actually cringe sometimes when I see an adjective inserted before the word believer because this has the tendency to make people think of Christianity as an exclusive club that is hard to gain access into when this couldn’t be farther from the truth (it is by faith we are saved). I have heard many radio programs where people call in and doubt whether they are saved (not their eternal security but whether they “know” Him). This is happening to so many believers. Why? How do we remedy this? What does the Scripture say about salvation?

          I find it significant that Jesus says “I never knew you” instead of “I don’t know you” in Matthew 7. This implies that these people never invited Him to be their Lord and Savior because if they had, He would have known them (at least for a time) and sent His Holy Spirit to live in them. But He says I never knew you. I believe anyone who wants to be known by Christ will be known by Him (Romans 10:13 – Whoever will call on the name of The Lord will be saved). He also does not say “You never knew me,” so we should stop worrying about whether our relationship with Christ is experientially sufficient. Do I really know Him is the wrong question. He needs to know us.

          Now, the area where I am asking for more discernment is that of fruit. Personally, I believe thy anyone who declares with their mouth that Jesus is Lord and believes in their heart that God raised Him from the dead will be saved (Romans 10:9). This verse cannot be discounted. Believing with your heart and professing with your mouth are the prerequisites according to this verse (in other words, faith!). We have to be careful not to add fruit to this formula. Yes, the Bible does say there is a lifelong trend in the life of a believer to produce fruit, but we must remember that fruit takes a while to grow on trees. Also remember, as a pastor reminded me, that it’s not the fruit of legalism, it’s the fruit of grace we are to produce. There is a huge difference. Resting comes first, fruit comes second. We can’t look to rest after you’ve worked, but we must rest before any works are done. This is so hard at times!

          Consider this:

          “So, my brothers and sisters, you also DIED TO THE LAW through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might BEAR FRUIT for God.” (Romans 7:4)

          Bearing fruit results from our ability to rest in the finished work of Jesus who fulfilled the law on our behalf. Fruit will never come if I am constantly doubting whether or not I know Him. Remember too that the fruit is “soft” (patience, kindness, love, gentleness, etc.) so it comes from a place of grace, not law. When I try to quantify my fruit, it either results in pride and self-righteousness or condemnation and doubt. Neither benefit me.

          I have to be honest about listening to the Keller sermon. I have to be very careful about what I listen to because the enemy can take a very good message and use one line of it to make me feel condemned. If Keller does mention that those who constantly worry about things might not know Him, this message is not for me. I’m sure it’s a powerful message, but personally I do not believe we should be checking to see whether or not we are saved by the amount of fruit we produce.

          What is the litmus test for being saved? Paul says it is the new creation that counts (Galatians 6:15). It’s being born again spiritually by profession of faith. If I’m not producing fruit, I believe it is because I am believing an idol lie. Truth sets us free; error brings us into bondage.

          Yes, Jesus does say you will know them by their fruit but the context of this verse is a broader discussion of false prophets and how we can use discernment to test the legitimacy of their messages (Matthew 7, starting at verse 15). This is my interpretation.

          I do know that there are a couple parables that I honestly cannot reconcile with my beliefs but I was always told that while parables have an important function in Scripture, one must be very careful not to pull doctrine from them because this was never their intended function.

          So, yes it absolutely drives me crazy that some Christians are apathetic. But I do believe with all my heart that if they have believed in their heart and confessed with their mouth that they are saved. I do however believe there are many within our churches who play religion but have never confessed through faith, as you mentioned Dee. This is a tragedy. We have to educate these people, which I think can be done without condemning the believers. It is done by explaining how one gets saved.

        2. Wow, so shocking and sad about the women in the book club. I definitely understand your point.

        3. 20 years?! That must have been very hard Dee. I’m so sorry.

        4. Laura, good points to ponder…
          ““I never knew you” instead of “I don’t know you””

          “it’s not the fruit of legalism, it’s the fruit of grace we are to produce. … Resting comes first, fruit comes second.” “When I try to quantify my fruit, it either results in pride and self-righteousness or condemnation and doubt.”

          We can, and should definitely try, to educate people people on the truth of the gospel, but we should remain mindful that “our part” might be in “planting the seed” or “nourishing the seed”; “our part” may never see the “seed” bloom and/or flourish. We must trust in God’s plan/process and the part He has for us to play.

          I also wanted to mention that we may not always recognize fruit we are producing…I’m thinking that many on this blog don’t recognize “the fruit” they are producing while others can see it oh so easily…I think this is because “the fruit” is coming from a pure and humble heart rather than one with legalistic or prideful motives.

          Thank you for the thought provoking discussion.

        5. Nanci,

          Loved everything you wrote!!!!! Especially the idea of not recognizing fruit – this is kind of the point of the gospel as I see it. Jesus gets the glory.

      1. I do think that motivation differs from person-to-person…I was looking at the Meyers-Briggs type indicator recently (“Soul Types” Sandra Krebs Hirsh and Jane A.G. Kise). For example, I am an introverted person…quiet time with God is what I relish; I like to think and ponder; gentle nudges of the Father tend to be my “ah-ha” moments…on the other hand, my daughter is an extrovert…she revels in others’ company and in the synergy of a group; the Father typically touches her through interaction with fellow Christian sisters and brothers in worship, study, small group, etc. Just my two cents…:)

        1. Nanci,

          I so agree! I always played sports when I was younger and I was never the type that was motivated by a coach who yelled a lot but others were! I’m not making a direct parallel to Christians but I do think we get motivated to serve God in different ways.

      2. I press on when I realize I “feel” better pressing on than not pressing on. My life is more peaceful and calm when I tune into the Gospel “frequency.”

        1. Gosh that is so true.

    2. That is very sad Deanna..about that lady. I’m praying for you.

  3. Becca, I’m praying for Joe, so much.

  4. 4. I think Paul’s point is that his credentials are of no value to him because of Christ. They are dung because they are so far from Christ’s righteousness. His glory so far surpasses them that they become less than worthless.

    5. Paul’s security is in the fact that Christ has taken hold of him. His work is to grow in maturity.

    Not that I have already reached ⌊the goal⌋ or am already fully mature, but I make every effort to take hold of it because I also have been taken hold of by Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:12 HCSB)

  5. 6. Comment on the tone of Laura’s letter and how she exemplifies James 3:17.

    Her motive was pure-she really did want to find out where Dee was coming from. She approached Dee in sincerity, was kind and submissive in how she expressed her conflict by approaching Dee in love and with respect. She also told Dee the things she really loved about her ministry-so she approached Dee in a kind and peaceful way. Now that I know where she is coming from I am impressed even more-she was abused by her church in this area yet her letter shows there is no bitterness. This could have been an explosive letter, so I see how Jesus has a hold of her heart.

    7. What points does she make that you find helpful? (Don’t be afraid of hurting my feelings by agreeing with her!)

    I was thinking about Keller’s sermon that week in regard to when he said if we are constantly worrying or things devastate us we may not know Him. I can see where we could hear that and think-wow so if I struggle turning from my idols then I am not saved. I even questioned a bit after i heard the sermon but I do think where He was coming from were the Tares perhaps-those who think they are believers but aren’t. I do think the key here is change-overall change. If we are changing and there is fruit developing, we know Him. I do think Keller’s sermon in 1 John 3-“Growing in Grace” is really helpful..Might be a good follow up to this-not sure.

  6. So many great comments that there isn’t much for me to add.

    In Matthew 7 it says many come saying Lord, Lord yet He tell them to depart, He never knew them. They respond with things that they did in His name:
    A. Prophesy-so did Balaam, Caiaphas and Saul but that did not save them. He didn’t send them; they only made use of His name to serve themselves.
    B. Cast out demons in His name–so did Judas, this just shows the power of the name of Jesus, not a relationship with Christ.
    C. Did many wonderful works in His name–miracles can even come from a donkey. It has to do with the source of the miracle not the one through whom the miracle was produced.

    The ones He never knew are the ones who did what they wanted to for their own benefit, even if it was through invoking the name of Jesus. They didn’t believe that Jesus paid the price for sin and that they could have eternal life by accepting His gift of salvation. They believed in themselves and what they could do to try to earn eternal life.

    We are freed from the penalty of sin (securely and eternally), by accepting what Christ did for us. With that burden removed we can do the good works that He had planned for us. Even before He created the earth and us, He knew what He wanted us to do.

    1. love this simple yet profound reminder Dawn “Even before He created the earth and us, He knew what He wanted us to do.” Good to hang on to–reminds us our place, and His power.

  7. Hi ladies 🙂

    After jumping into this study I realized its a bit much for me I may jump in a few weeks when my other study or my not come back at all I’m sorry just got really overwhelmed when I got on here and can’t do two studies at once

    Love you ladies

    I am also going back to Alaska this summer so please pray for that thanks!

  8. I just listened to Dee on Moody Radio. It was a great show, Dee. Really touched me! I loved the part about “Les Mis” when the bishop gives Jean Valjean the candlesticks after he stole the silverware and was caught; and Valjean is undone by the forgiveness and turns to God and his life is changed. That story ties so well with how God moved Dee to forgive the cleaning lady who stole jewellery from her. Oh, my! Everyone needs to listen to this if they can.

  9. 4. What point is Paul making in Philippians 3:4-8? Why does he count these credentials “as rubbish, or dung?”
    Paul recognizes that only Jesus is Lord and Savior…one cannot rely on worldly credentials to save…the credentials that Paul relied upon in the past were only outward appearance and did not take into consideration what was truly in his heart and mind. Paul is repentant of not only his sinful actions but his past reliance on false idols/worldly credentials…the only credentials to save are Jesus’ credentials in substitution of ours.

    5. Following Philippians 3:11 is 3:12. My favorite translation is “I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.” What do you think this means?
    Paul wants to live in such a way that positively reflects (gives glory to) Jesus…he strives to live his life in likeness and obedience to Jesus. Paul’s heart motivation is gratitude.

    6. Comment on the tone of Laura’s letter and how she exemplifies James 3:17.
    Laura’s letter is graceful…she shared her concerns in a way that would not cause one to become defensive. The letter was written in a respectful, non-antagonistic manner; with a sincere desire for understanding and clarification. James 3:17 calls for believers to be “pure,” “peace loving,” “gentle,” “yield to others,” and “sincere”…I would say that Laura’s letter hit all those marks.

    (Laura, thank you for the witness of assertiveness and speaking the truth in love. I truly believe that if this was the manner in which Christians addressed disagreement many individual and church battles would be resolved prior to the battle ever taking place. Rather than clearing the air as you have done, many times perceptions (accurate, false, or somewhere in between) are allowed to fester and grow.)

    7. What points does she make that you find helpful?
    I love Laura’s statement that “God’s love is greater than our idols.” I don’t see Laura’s ideas differing from what I have understood Dee to say…i.e., regardless of our failings, doubts, etc. the Lord remains faithful; we (humans )are flawed at every turn, it is only Jesus who provides us with standing before God. I’m not sure if Paul had doubts or not…being that he is human, I would think it quite possible. Replacing our idols with faith and reliance in the Lord is good for “us”…the Lord remains faithful, merciful, and good regardless of our failings, doubts, and idols.

      1. I wanted to mention that I was remiss in not thanking you/Dee as well for your/her witness in responding so gracefully to Laura’s letter. I thought how differently the result might have been of the church struggle of my former church and ministry team had the circumstances/”disagreement” been handled similarly to Dee and Laura. It is refreshing to see this as such a positive process where all benefit. Thank you, Dee.

  10. 6. Comment on the tone of Laura’s letter and how she exemplifies James 3:17.
    Laura’s letter is quite amazing in that, while she is asking hard questions, there is nothing really divisive in it. I have the sense that even if there is never agreement over this hard question, there will be unity. There is love in her questioning which is part of the reason for this paradox. I think there is also wisdom which this whole passage in James describes, 13-18. The description of wisdom is so beautiful and Laura’s letter is full of it. Peace loving, gentle, compliant and full of mercy.

    7. What points does she make that you find helpful? (Don’t be afraid of hurting my feelings by agreeing with her!)
    Laura’s letter is a beautiful example of how to honestly question teaching, as scripture tells us to do, in love.
    Perhaps it is because of my personality that I don’t really have a problem with the things that she is questioning. I know that I can’t really understand the whole picture but trust God to make it clearer. Over all I agree with her in that we have to trust in His love and grace. If not we will have only fear as motivation. I don’t hate my idols because I fear losing my salvation but because I fear separation from Him.

    1. I love this Anne “I don’t hate my idols because I fear losing my salvation but because I fear separation from Him.” that’s it!

  11. 8. What points do you agree or disagree with from the above blog?

    A couple of points jumped out at me from this blog. First, in the intro, “Christians are chained to a treadmill of trying to please God by their behavior, of trying harder and sinning less. If they can just discipline themselves enough and be determined enough, they are deceived into thinking they can become righteous and holy and be close to God and He will be pleased.” But then, “Grace tells us we no longer have to strive to become righteous, because He has given us a new nature that is righteous.” This is completely flipping the way I think. I have known this in my head but because of my experiences, it never got deeper to my heart. I think I’m starting to get it. Next, “the person we are responding to with “fear and trembling” is not God….it is us.” I wish this could be unpacked a little more. I like it but again, I’m not sure I’m getting it.

    1. I agree Jill–I want to read more of his blog. I was drawn to his thoughts–just want to grasp it more.

  12. If you get a chance, listen to about ten minutes of a radio program by Charles Morris called Haven Today on Moody Radio. He talks about Phillipians 3, which is what we have been exploring. I found it to be really good.

    http://www.haventoday.org/program-archives.php
    You want to listen to the program from 6-19, Youth with a Mission, starting at about the 12 minute mark of the broadcast.

      1. He talked about the idol of legalism and how Paul was addressing his concern that the Philippians turn to grace instead. I think legalism is the prominent idol we see addressed throughout the New Testament. If we use the term legalism instead of the law, I think it helps us see how this idol is still pervasive in the church today. How many times have I pleaded with The Lord, “please give me a formula to follow. I want to follow you but don’t know how. Give me rules so I don’t fall!” And the bible just says, “fix your eyes on Jesus.” It’s not a formula. There aren’t rules that will ensure I won’t fall. The gospel isn’t about rules or religion or even behavior modification; it’s about the gift we call grace. When we accept this gift, it refuses to take the form of anything but a relationship. Isn’t that cool that Jesus wants a relationship with us?!! But at the same tine, it’s so hard for us because our default mode as human beings is performance/religion/rules/law. This is what the world teaches.

        1. Laura, thank your for your thoughts. I agree that legalism is a big problem for so many of us.
          I especially like your comment: “The gospel isn’t about rules or religion or even behavior modification; it’s about the gift we call grace. When we accept this gift, it refuses to take the form of anything but a relationship.” But for so many of us, the idea of relationship is exactly what helps push us to legalism. Relationships are unpredictable, often messy and take a lot of time and effort. Rules are safe. We don’t have to think about the ramifications of following the rules – we just follow them, believing we will be safe. Rules protect us from fear. But, “perfect love casts out fear”. When we accept God’s perfect love for us, we can throw off the cloak of legalism and live free lives.

        2. So true Jill!!! Gosh was that good!

  13. This is so good I just had to share. It is 7 minutes long. Tullian T. shared it. A Picture of Grace.

    https://vimeo.com/65148618

    1. Diane, thanks for sharing that…it brought tears to my eyes.

    2. Diane,

      Loved that!!!!!

  14. Update on Jay received this morning from Bridget. (As always, thank you for your prayers)

    “Jay had another good clinic visit today. His kidneys are stable enough that he can have a break from the IV fluids for a couple hours each day! Jay has been hooked up to an IV continuously since early February so this is HUGE for him! He spent his hours of freedom today running around after Daphne (our dog) and getting into everything…we loved every minute of it!

    We do need to work on his level of comfort playing outside though. He has spent so much of his little life in the hospital that he’s scared of the grass and walking on anything besides the sidewalk. The good news is that we have the opportunity to explore the outside world right now. Life has taught us to be painfully aware that these opportunities could be fleeting so we don’t take them for granted for a second.”

    1. This is good news, Nanci. A ray of sunshine in a dark time for them. Kisses from the Lord!

    2. Happy news, Nanci!

    3. Nanci, this news makes me very happy and also makes me realize how much I take for granite…like the grass and freedom to do anything and the outdoors…fresh air…all things that little Jay appreciates for 2 hrs. a day. Oh how I pray he will always be able to enjoy these things God blesses us with.

    4. Nanci–just envisioning that sweet little boy chasing after a dog–freedom, finally–such joy. Praying for continued good reports!

    5. So sweet 🙂

  15. 5. Comment on the tone of Laura’s letter and how she exemplifies James 3:17.

    I see all these qualities in her letter: considerate, submissive – “I write these words with great respect for you and your ministry”…peace-loving, impartial – “I think healthy disagreement among members of the body of Christ is good”…full of good fruit, sincere -“These are just my ideas. I have thought about this topic for a long time now, as it is very personal to me”. She ends by thanking Dee for her ministry. I detect no rudeness, no harshness, no self-exaltation, no accusatory tone in her letter.

  16. 7. What points does she make that you find helpful?

    In her letter Laura asks, “At what point does He leave me if I don’t destroy my idols?” This is good to ponder…I know that I will have a life-long battle with idols, and sometimes they can be so sneaky that they are operating and I don’t even know it. But if I am His, He will never leave me nor forsake me; adoption into His family is permanent. I also like the point she makes about fear being a poor motivator for change.

  17. Sorry I have done none of the study yet!!! Such a crazy week. I did post some pics and thoughts on the blog about our adoption hearing yesterday. http://www.refreshmysoulblog.blogspot.com/2013/06/we-have-boy-post-adoption-thoughts.html

    Hoping to join in soon! So thankful it is done and we have little man permanently and forever now!

    1. Sooooo happy for you! And love the happy pictures on your blog!!

    2. Great post on your blog, Angela. Congratulations and a big hug! Your joy is contagious!

    3. ANGELA! These pictures are just amazing–wow! I got teary looking at this–so incredible. Your son. Family of 5. Just love it!

    4. I agree! Wonderful post! You look so happy in those pictures! Congratulations Angela!

    5. Angela, all I can say is WOW…beautiful pictures of your family on your blog…can see the joy radiating from everyone’s faces! So happy for you!

    6. Congratulations, Angela…so happy for all of you.
      “This boy we reached out to is now reaching back at us. It is beautiful! I just love this boy so!”…this statement just touched my heart. Blessings to you all!

  18. Oh, just listened to Dee on Midday! I know we all say it-but I LOVE hearing Dee’s voice. Amazing program.
    The transforming power of the Gospel allows us “to see the sin beneath the sin—the heart idol beneath…and instead of praying for all the things we want fixed—we start to pray for our hearts.”
    The Gospel is multifaceted, as a diamond—shows our depravity, and yet–our beloved-ness; where we have come from and our eternity.

    “The self-salvation strategy manifests itself in so many ways.” Oh, the cleaning lady story—this one always moves me so. When Dee said she forgave in her head—but not her heart. But then she welcomed her into her home, again. And the true remorse, led Dee to share the Prodigal Son story—to share the Gospel. Dee’s humility to admit her own anger, in front of Nicki—just amazing. I love how the Lord used precious jewelry from Steve to be a part of the story that is the foundation of Idol Lies—the saving power of the Gospel.

    Making ourselves vulnerable—makes us less likely to be attacked or turned against. I thought about how this applies to every relationship—even with my kids, my husband. When I am vulnerable about my own struggles—my kids always seem shocked “you mean YOU do that, too?”-heard that one just yesterday. But then I see their faces soften, their ears seem to open up—and I know the truth is more likely to seep in because my vulnerability provides a place of forgiveness, or grace. The power of the Gospel.

    Idols deceive us, but the Gospel empowers us. The One who was willing to die for us is willing and able to meet all of our needs. The Gospel shows us He loved us so much, He humbled Himself, died the death of the Cross—for us. Idols deceive, and demand a propitiation. Our idols–comfort/security; affirmation/approval; control/power, seem to be our friends, at first. But there is always propitiation. I loved this too, when referring to how God parents her children, Dee said “He handles them better than I do…He knows them better than we do’.

  19. This evening i have had time to read over the comments I have missed and i love where the discussion has gone. Perhaps the race that Paul is talking about is for freedom from the power of sin rather than it’s penalty! That rings very true to me.
    I often think of the man who wrote Come Thou Fount when he was young. From what I have read he fell out of fellowship with The Lord and never returned as far as we know. I have wondered how he could have written such poetry if he had not been truly saved and also later lamented his lost fellowship with The Lord. It makes sense that what could have happened is that he lost the battle against the power of sin.

  20. 6. Comment on the tone of Laura’s letter and how she exemplifies James 3:17.

    Laura was calm and collected.

    7. What points does she make that you find helpful? (Don’t be afraid of hurting my feelings by agreeing with her!)

    I need clarification on this statement:

    “Now, when I read your last post, I was confused because you seem to suggest that we can lose our salvation if we fail to destroy every idol in our lives…”

    I went back to last weeks’ post and couldn’t understand where this suggestion was made. Can you help me by pointing to where the suggestion was? I did not read anything in the post that made me come to the same conclusion as you. Or, were you referencing the previous weeks’ post? I wanted to read the post and then your letter so I had all the information at one time in my pea brain.

    Incidentally, because we are human, it is my belief that it isn’t possible to rid ourselves of every idol; we can strive to be the most “Christ-like” we can be, but we will never succeed. It’s also why I believe we can have an active relationship with God, because we are continually checking in with Him as we “muddle through.” We are (unfortunately) bound to earth. Since God made us, He knows this about us already and accepts us anyway. I guess I try not to think too much about whether I am eternally saved. I have faith that I am even when I am not towing the line.

  21. 8. What points do you agree or disagree with from the above blog?
    I agree with Bill Tell. His points are well made. In my own thoughts about fearing God not circumstances, the two definitions of fear are opposite. Fearing circumstances is to fear being alone and powerless against whatever may happen. I think it is really fear of God’s absence. But to fear God is to get a sense of who He is, His holiness, power and presence.
    To fear separation from God is healthy. It has been this fear that has delivered me from temptation many times.
    Bill Tell also makes a great point on how realization of our own sinful nature will trip us up. That is something to fear! I have so stepped in that trap! What he said about God’s participation with us, enabling us to obey Him and to grow is so encouraging. I love the image of Him out in front, beckoning me, leading the way rather than behind prodding me. I love God. He is so awesome!
    On the right side of the page I noticed a little paragraph of self description where he says that after years of service to please others, he got off that treadmill in 2000. Lord I pray that I will be able to get my eyes off of people and onto You. To study who You are and what in my life can please You so that I can follow You in growth. Thank You for Your presence with me, for lifting me out of my mire and growing me into Your image.

  22. 8. What points do you agree or disagree with from the above blog?

    I like how Tell explained the “fear and trembling” – that if we take it to be a “veiled threat” from God, then it is an empty threat. That reminded me of R.C. Sproul saying that God never gives us what we deserve. Indeed…if every time I sin or am lackadaisical in my Christian life it is a horrible mindset to be waiting for God to “lower the boom”. God does send His discipline at times, but it is motivated by love, not by a desire to get back at us. Also, Tell says that the fear is from ourselves…from having a tender conscience or a mistrust of our own heart. I can relate to that.

  23. 8. What points do you agree or disagree with from the above blog? I read it several times-and had a day to soak it in which was so good.

    1. I loved this opening paragraph: “…the Gospel transforms our fear of God from being scarred, timid, and apprehensive to wonder, awe and amazement. This is why I can always approach my Father with confidence and boldness.”

    -I have been meditating on Psalm 77, and I am not sure but I think this fit really well with Asaph’s lament. Asaph was in deep despair but he remembered/meditated on God’s wrath and judgement at first and it made him more deeply distraught-it wasn’t until he remembered/meditated on God’s goodness-His redemption and rescue and continued faithfulness to Israel, that His despair turned to praise. 🙂

    2. Work out your salvation with “fear” and trembling-(sanctification).

    I like Bill Tell’s quote from Yardley: “This fear is self-distrust; it is tenderness of conscience; it is vigilance against temptation…It is taking heed lest we fall…it is the caution and circumspection which timidly shrinks from whatever would offend and dishonor God and the Savior.”

    * I really loved the post and loved how he addressed this-especially his summation at the end! 😉

  24. 8. What points do you agree or disagree with from the above blog?
    The point Bill Tell makes regarding our “half-heartedness” reminded me once again of our need to repent of our “good deeds”…how often are those “good” deeds done with less than a pure heart?

    I am in agreement with Bill Tell…

    “we have the experience of the prodigal son…we have a Father who is wooing us with His love and goodness”
    Praise God that my salvation isn’t my doing in any way, shape, or form; I fail miserably even on my “best” days…praise God for His patience and mercy with me.

    “self-distrust” and “caution and circumspection…from whatever would offend or dishonor” the Lord
    I “miss the mark”…my best is not anywhere near good enough…never…

    How comforting that “God is working..giving the desire to obey Him and the power to do what pleases Him”…it is God helping us, loving us, saving us, etc. at every turn…incredible grace!

    1. Dee we love you too. Your work here blesses me so much. In many ways we are your fruit, in our interactions with each other and most importantly in our walk with The Lord. We are learning relationship. In fact I think that may be my take-a-way this week. Doctrine is important but relationship is everything. Thinking…

  25. I am helping my husband with his paper route until the first week of August and it has messed up my morning schedule, but I have been chewing on this question-reading all three views. What is stumping me and it is just me because I am a bit foggy-is that Bill Tell’s post is on Phil 2 but it relates so I am praying for wisdom.

    10. Consider Dee’s thoughts, Nanci’s thoughts, Bill Tell’s thoughts and comment, asking God for wisdom.

    First after meditating, and asking God to help, He gave me this verse: 2 Corinthians 13:5 “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you–unless, of course, you fail the test?” I think this is where God is taking me-my conclusion is that it is good to examine myself to be sure I am in the faith because out of that wrestling I grow more steadfast and secure in Him and can take a hold of that which Christ has taken hold of me to a deeper level! At first I wondered if this was healthy because to not be sure and just doubt all the time IS unhealthy-yet, I don’t think that is what Dee is meaning. I think this is healthy to do because I go back to the Gospel and He takes me a level deeper. I don’t ever want to become complacent and forget the Gospel. I might for an instant fear wondering if I am a fake when I am struggling to love, but then He floods me with assurance in His Word-yet experientially also, and then joy fills my heart to a deeper level. There is a difference between accepting condemnation from the evil one, and turning doubt into praise. When these doubts cross my mind in the midst of a sin struggle, it can be turned around for good strengthening my faith. Take that one satan! 🙂 🙂

    When God says I am sealed and no one can snatch me out of His hand-it is true! I experience it and especially so when I am in the wilderness-totally upside down I know-but it is true, for He woos me in the wilderness and has never let go of me-in those times I miss him and want Him and want to pursue Him and that isn’t from me! I think the more I walk with Him even the dilemma that most of us can agree to disagree on in regard to Him choosing me-I find more and more it really is all Him and not me-really.

    I think in all three opinions there is the same thread in a sense, maybe? It is about growth.

    1. ‘a difference between accepting condemnation from the evil one, and turning doubt into praise.” ph Rebecca–you have more wisdom than you know–this is IT!

  26. I just want to let you all know that my husband and I are going away on vacation for the next couple of weeks. We hope to be camping and so will not have much Internet access, nor the time to blog. We are so grateful for this time to be away and trust it will be refreshing and restorative. Love to you all. Thanks so much for all your prayer support and encouragement over this past year. See you in two weeks or so.

    1. Diane–SO happy for you and will be praying for your time–you will surely be missed here, but I look forward to hearing how you are when you return. Much love to you~

    2. How wonderful, Diane! Enjoy it to the fullest!!

    3. Sounds like the perfect thing to do right now Diane. Praying you will both be refreshed and that God will work in Krista’s situation.

    4. Enjoy, Diane! Please know that you all continue to be in my prayers…what difficult terrain you all have been navigating; hopefully justice will prevail soon. I will be praying these next few weeks especially for your safe travel and a time to refresh, rejuvenate, and relax. Take care.

      1. I agree with Nanci’s prayer for you…have a wonderful time…praying for you!

  27. 11. What do you believe God is saying through Philippians 3:10-12?

    I am not trying to avoid argument or debate but I am more confident now that this passage is talking about growth-transformation. I think those times we fear we are fakes are part of the growing process and can be turned around for good IF we don’t stop at doubting-rather we dive into the Gospel-and we will not only grow stronger in our assurance we will experience another level of deeper intimacy. If we turn to Him-press on taking hold of that for what Christ Jesus took a hold of us- rather than backing away when we sin or struggle we will end up closer to Him and will find ourselves in praise, wonder and awe of Him.

    I am sure I went off the reservation-but I am so encouraged this morning. 🙂

      1. Oh wow-really? What an I Spy! How wonderful to see your daughters desiring Him deeper-and then you can share in that with them-this is what truly matters in life and is eternal-what a blessing!!

    1. Rebecca, I don’t think that you went “off…” at all. This was a very good and thought provoking paragraph.

  28. I know I haven’t gone about this blog in the preferred manner this week. I am going to claim that pain and pain medications have clouded my thinking somewhat. I think this is only my third contribution all week, and I haven’t been copying and pasting the questions and following with my responses. I was reading and listening even when I was quiet. Forgive me while I just make my final post for the week — I guess you could call it my take-away.

    I listened to Dee’s final session on Idol Lies on Midday Connection. I think, Dee, you saved the best to last. I loved it! I enjoyed again the scene from Les Miserables. By the way, about a month ago I finally rented the DVD of it and my husband watched it with me — that was the first time either of us had seen the whole movie.

    I don’t know why I feel driven to share this paragraph, but I do. I want to say that I do not believe that it is possible to lose my salvation. It was a gift by Christ, free and clear. However, I do not live a perfect life (no one should be surprised at that!!) From time to time the strength of the bonds in my relationship with God rise and fall (due to my sin and rebellion). It is at these times I am convinced that I am disciplined and chastened. As I said last week, sometimes God sets me down for a “time out!” These periods of discipline have always been followed by growth and by a strengthening of my relationship with God. So the end result is always better!

    Now this next part I am not so sure how it works: I am tempted to say that as I commit myself more and more to God, my “leash gets shorter.” Perhaps God is saying to me “we’ve been through this before, so I’m not going to tolerate it as long this time!” I feel I am corrected more quickly. However, I have to admit that it may just be that, as I commit myself more, then I also become more sensitive to God’s correction and become aware of it more quickly. I can’t sort that out exactly. I would be interested in knowing if others experience anything like I have described.

    1. Deanna from Ohio, I am pondering your paragraph where you talk about God putting you on a “short leash”. That is sort of what I feel is going on with me right now. You verbalize what I have felt but could not articulate. Just this week, God is convicting me about various things, among them how slow I am to really “love” the unlovely. Satan has been pouncing as well, but I am beginning to recognize his voice for it pounds with guilt and despair, whereas God’s voice is gentle and compassionate. As you say,” I have to admit that it may just be that, as I commit myself more, then I also become more sensitive to God’s correction and become aware of it more quickly.” I want to be ready to say, “Speak, Lord, for your servant heareth,” and then to obey because I love, not out of duty or guilt.

  29. I listened to Melanie’s program with Kendell Tanner today. I really struggle with homosexuality in our society. I have had gay friends and it wasn’t an issue for me. However as I have grown older, and gotten to know more about the Bible I don’t know how to handle being accepting to the gay lifestyle and accepting of scripture as well. Several places in the new and old Testments reject that behavior.

    A year ago I listened to a week-long airing of “Revive Our Hearts” with Nancy Leigh Demoss (one of my favorite programs and speakers) on this very subject. However I was focusing on the mom in the story, not the son. The son turns out to be the very Moody Bible Institute professor Kendell mentions in the program with Melanie! His name is Christopher Yuan and it is a story I cried, no, sobbed through and gleaned so much from that I am posting the link to the first program. I would encourage everyone to listen even if it’s not something that directly effects your lives today. It’s so Prodigal Son/mom!

    http://www.reviveourhearts.com/radio/revive-our-hearts/when-son-says-im-gay/

    Anyway, I thought the interview with Kendell was good. My issue is that many in the gay community aren’t christians and have no problem defending their actions as normal and not as sin. Kendall clearly knows his attraction to the same sex is wrong and believes he should lead a celibate life because of the attraction. I can accept that just as I would an alcoholic Christian who knows their sin is wrong as well.

    All this reminds me of Dee’s book and our idols..we must keep focused on Jesus.

    1. Laura Dancer sin is sin, some people act like homosexuality is somehow a bigger sin than something like living together or tax fraud. The truth is we deal with sinners every day. Anyone who isn’t saved should be treated the same regardless of which sin they choose to protect.
      I heard a sermon once about how we shouldn’t automatically assume that an effeminate guy is a sinner. Some people have a tendency toward a certain sin, yet they are rejecting it and receiving power from the Holy Spirit to overcome it.

      1. Yes, I am learning that is the way (being gay but not really participating).

  30. Wow… I read the study and most of the comments. I missed a good study, and I do miss being here regularly. Was out of town again for work this week (which was wonderful).

    When reading this, I was challenged because I tend to shut down/detach when I strongly disagree — and I’m doing that now. (I’m not disagreeing with anything here — My detachment is related to a part of my job & sometimes that impacts other parts of my life). But I often detach when I get a whiff of legalism. I appreciated Laura’s tone and thoughtfulness in her letter.

  31. 10. Consider Dee’s thoughts, Nanci’s thoughts, Bill Tell’s thoughts and comment, asking God for wisdom.
    I may be way off here. I know we are talking about eternal security and being secure in the gospel. I believe in these but the point goes deeper for me.
    I am thinking of something Steve said about battles over doctrine. I can’t remember exactly but I think his point was, unless have we strayed from the fact that Christ died for our sins and by faith in this we are saved, we should not be divided on doctrine.
    Laura comments on the 18th when she referenced John 5:39-40 were well thought out, actually well lived out for she has suffered to learn these things. She really has me thinking about how relationship can be much more important than doctrine. My thoughts are coming fast and I am trying to sort and organize them. ADD is really showing. Relationships live and breathe but doctrines formed by people can be hard as stone, unchanging. Truth is unchanging but we never have the full understanding of it because we are human, so we have to be flexible. i think that is why the Bible seems to contradict itself sometimes. Study of the word is important but we should never form doctrines that we cling to more than to Jesus.

    11. In Philippians 3:10-12 I think God is saying relationship with Jesus is everything. We must cling to Jesus and trust the gospel for our salvation. Credentials and doctrine, in fact, nothing that we can do or cling to but Christ will save us. We are secure in Him and nothing else.

    12. My take-a-way is a little different. I see how important relationship is between believers. It blesses The Lord, blesses us and draws the unbeliever in. But, it is not always agreeing on everything or being cookie cut alike. It is possible to remain united even in disagreement over doctrine. We must never cling to doctrine more than to Jesus because we are not able to fully understand right now.