During my ministry I’ve heard many errors stated by church members and attenders: I’d like to be baptized so I can go to heaven; I grew up in church so I know I’m a Christian; God made me this way, so how I feel about myself must be OK; suicide is the unforgivable sin; if I just have faith and pray enough, then God will give me my dreams; I don’t believe God will let those who have never heard the gospel go to hell.

Look at the statements closely.

They, along with many others I could’ve mentioned, are false claims built upon false teaching that is all too prevalent in today’s churches.

If you don’t think sound doctrine matters, just look at the recent public departure from the Christian faith like Joshua Harris and the questioning of faith like Marty Sampson. It is not my aim to pile on another article on their very public announcements, but their actions warrant a reminder to the church. In both cases, Harris and Sampson, question and disavow sound doctrine. In a responding post, lead singer of the band Skillet, John Cooper recently wrote:

My conclusion for the church (all of us Christians): We must STOP making worship leaders and thought leaders or influencers or cool people or “relevant” people the most influential people in Christendom. (And yes that includes people like me!) I’ve been saying for 20 years (and seemed probably quite judgmental to some of my peers) that we are in a dangerous place when the church is looking to 20 year old worship singers as our source of truth. We now have a church culture that learns who God is from singing modern praise songs rather than from the teachings of the Word. I’m not being rude to my worship leader friends (many who would agree with me) in saying that singers and musicians are good at communicating emotion and feeling. We create a moment and a vehicle for God to speak. However, singers are not always the best people to write solid bible truth and doctrine. Sometimes we are too young, too ignorant of scripture, too unaware, or too unconcerned about the purity of scripture and the holiness of the God we are singing to. Have you ever considered the disrespect of singing songs to God that are untrue of His character? 

You can see his entire post here.

In Paul’s pastoral epistles, he charged Timothy and Titus to know biblical doctrine and to teach it well because of the theological errors that abounded then and continue today. But if we teach the Bible as God’s inerrant truth, then we can expect opposition. We can expect to find theological error taught by former pastors, Sunday School teachers, traveling preachers, student camp pastors and television evangelists.

I’m not saying that everyone you listen to preaches error or that every error you might hear is a distortion of the gospel that requires immediate and direct correction. But I am saying that a healthy diet of sound doctrine will confront false beliefs and may even instigate theological conflict in the classes you teach and the churches where you preach.


Gospel preaching and orthodox theology are not always popular. Paul, Timothy and Titus faced opposition; we will also. That is why we must be students of the Word, interpreting the Bible correctly and faithfully exhorting those around us with the truth.


When we face deceivers and opposition by those who are in theological error we “must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught,” and “give instruction in sound doctrine” and “rebuke those who contradict it” (Titus 1:9).

Adapted from Sunday School Lesson for the Biblical Recorder originally published here.

Have you ever felt abandoned? Have your circumstances led to spiritual isolation? Maybe someone in your life has died and you can’t hear God anymore because of the cacophony of grief ringing in your ears. You are not alone. David experienced feelings of isolation and abandonment. Read Psalm 22:1-2 where David cried, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” We are not certain as to the exact set of circumstances that led David to write this psalm, bit this man we affirm as a spiritual hero felt abandoned by God. 

He felt forsaken and in despair. He felt far away from God and from God’s salvation. He had cried out. He had called out. But he heard no answer and he found no rest.

We need these two verses. I’m so glad that when we read the Bible, we don’t find a bunch of successful people who have everything together. I’m glad that when we really read the Bible, we discover people that are broken, people that are stricken, people that are emotionally unstable, people that are hurting, people that are imperfect.

We need to admit our weaknesses and feelings of abandonment. We do ourselves no favors when we hide the truth about us from God. God already knows how you feel. He already knows the emotional turmoil building in your heart. He knows the sleepless nights brought on by panic and worry. He knows the internal fears about people and situations that haunt you. He knows the sorrows and pains that govern your emotional state. He knows.

Because he knows, admit your weakness and instability.

But know this, admitting your weaknesses and your turmoil and your sorrows does not mean that you surrender to them. Expressing your feelings of abandonment does not mean that you are abandoned.

Your feelings do not determine your reality.

Read the rest of the Psalm. David affirmed God’s salvation. David foretold the salvation from the Messiah a 1000 years in the future. And David experienced God’s grace and mercy.

If we will listen, there are Christians all around the world who can give us insights into an enduring faith. For some Chinese pastors, the seminary of imprisonment is required before one can pastor a congregation. For Christians in Muslim nations, conversion means at least being abandoned and shamed by one’s family – possibly martyred.

While Western Christianity has not faced such open hostility, contemporary morals have shifted so as to be in direct opposition to clear biblical preaching.

In the latter part of his second letter to Timothy, Paul defended the authority of scripture, reminded Timothy of the opposition he was sure to face and commended him to preach the word. Paul’s admonitions are just as true today.

Those of us preaching and teaching the word will give an account before its Author as to the veracity and consistency of our preaching and teaching with the Word of God.

Earlier this year, I preached a series of sermons on the gospel and human sexuality. Some in our community heard about the series and before I even preached a sermon, they condemned it through social media. This experience reminded me that God’s Word has never been popular.

There will always be people to discount and dismiss the Bible.

Biblical ethics will always run counter to self-centered morality.

In that sense, the experience of Paul and Timothy under Roman cultural mores are little different than the experience of gospel preachers in today’s America. But we must not fail or falter.

For we will not answer to the culture. And we will not ultimately answer to our churches. But we will answer to the One who wrote the Bible.

And He is looking for preachers and teachers who endure angst, anger and persecution to communicate the truth of the gospel.

From 2 Timothy 3 and 4.

Sunday School Lesson for the Biblical Recorder originally published here.

As Paul continues in chapter 2, he uses the language of reminder. It amazes me that much of the Christian experience is not novel, rather it is repetitive. We don’t graduate from the gospel. The gospel is our entry into the Christian faith, but it is also the conduit toward spiritual maturity.

Paul uses three more metaphors to conclude the chapter. These metaphors emphasize our responsibility to apply the gospel to our daily lives.

We need to embrace the diligence of a faithful student who correctly interprets God’s Word.

We need to embrace the holiness of an honorable vessel who shuns youthful sins.

We need to embrace the gentleness of a servant who teaches the truth while avoiding unnecessary quarrels.

Diligence is the key quality in these metaphors.

Paul charged Timothy to teach the gospel. The student, the vessel and the servant must diligently pursue gospel understanding and gospel clarity. The challenge of any church, any pastor and any teacher within the church is clarity about the gospel.

Today’s church faces the prospects of gospel distortions – prosperity gospel theology, moralistic preaching, manipulated responses and easy believism. Today’s church also faces the prospects of theological divisions on tertiary issues. It is the task of the pastor and church leaders to remain diligently focused on the primary goal of the church – communicating the gospel of Jesus and training others in the gospel.

Paul highlights one of the primary pastoral tasks: discernment in gospel teaching. Paul challenged Timothy to recognize distortions, divisions and distractions that will hamper the church in its mission. Diligence in study, holiness and gentleness is the means by which followers of Jesus will be able to discern these issues and remain faithful to the gospel.

Sunday School Lesson originally published here for the Biblical Recorder.

Paul begins chapter 2 with his restatement of our disciple-making mission, “You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.”
 
In order to lead others to follow Jesus, we need strength and grace. We also need focus. Paul uses six metaphors in chapter 2 to illustrate the focus and diligence we need to teach others to live and share the gospel.
 
The first three metaphors are found in verses 1-7.
 
We need the dedication of soldiers, the integrity of athletes and the hard work of farmers.
 
As we reflect the gospel personally and teach the gospel to others, we must engage in this task well.
 
If soldiers can be dedicated to their commanding officer to the point of suffering and death, then followers of Jesus must be equally dedicated to their Lord and Savior.
 
If athletes can compete according to the rules in order to win, then followers of Jesus must faithfully train themselves and others in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

If farmers can labor early, long and late in order to have fruitful crops, then followers of Jesus must labor in the strength and grace of Christ and expend themselves for the gospel.
 
Each of these metaphors implies focus.
 
Soldiers, athletes and farmers are judged based on short moments of glory: the battle for the soldier, the event for the athlete and the crops for the farmers.
 
But the quality of those fleeting moments is forged by their focus during the drudgery of suffering, preparation and hard work.
 
May we be so focused on the gospel. 

Sunday School Lesson originally published here for the Biblical Recorder.

From the confines of a small, dark, damp prison cell in the heart of Rome, Paul penned the words of what is likely his last letter before his death. Considering the context, Paul’s letter is a beautiful testimony to God’s provision as well as a glorious challenge to its readers.
 
Paul invested time, effort, energy, lessons, encouragement, example, teaching and suffering into his young protégé, Timothy. Paul wrote to Timothy to secure the young pastor’s confidence in God’s Word and to emphasize the blessing and the burden of the entrusted gospel.
 
The gospel is a glorious burden. We have it – not to hoard – but to share. The gospel is an unimaginable blessing – life, hope, peace, eternity and privilege. The gospel provides us confidence in our spiritual lives.
 
Following are just a few of the reasons we can have confidence in God and His gospel drawn from the text:

  • Because the gospel is shared relationally (Timothy’s grandmother, mother and Paul), our confidence grows from interdependence not self-sufficiency.
  • Because God gifts us and empowers us, our confidence develops from God, not ourselves.
  • Because God strengthens in suffering, our confidence does not have to be shattered by our circumstances.
  • Because the gospel comes by grace, our confidence does not rest in our own works or own level of righteousness.
  • Because we have the Holy Spirit, our confidence comes directly from God.

Essentially, Paul reminds young Timothy of the difficult times, worries, insecurities and challenges that are sure to come. Yet those hindrances pale in comparison to the promises and hope we have in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

So, when you are tempted to be uncertain or fearful, don’t look inward (at your own imperfections) or outward (at the difficulty of the circumstances) but rather look upward (at the God of the gospel) who grants us confidence.

Sunday School Lesson for the Biblical Recorder originally published here Focal Passage: 2 Timothy 1:3-14

Contentment is a biblical expectation, but contentment is not the driving force in contemporary economics. The driving force in our economic system is to get people to spend money.

Commercials, advertisements and companies promise that the next car, phone, tablet or item will make your life easier, better or more fruitful.

I imagine that your experience is like mine.

The next, the new, the better is good for a little while, but it eventually slows down, breaks or loses its novelty. Then we are tempted to try the next new thing.

Paul warned the young pastor Timothy against discontentment, envy and the pursuit of more. One of the signs of personal godliness is the willingness to be content with whatever God has given us and not be driven to pursue more and more and more.

Why does Paul give these warnings and commendations? He wants Timothy and the readers of this letter to know what truly lasts.

Wealth and luxury are fleeting. At best they last a lifetime.

Only what we do with what we have and how we live our lives will last eternally. When we “pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness,” we focus on character traits that invest in heavenly rewards.

But let’s not misquote Paul here. Money is not the root of all evil.

Rather, “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.” If we let money drive us and use us, it becomes our idol. And we don’t have to be super-wealthy for money to become an idol.

Yet, if we use the money (things) God has blessed us with for the pursuit of godliness and God’s glory, then we are making an investment that will last.

Don’t be used by your wealth or desires. Rather, use them for the glory of Christ.

Sunday School Lesson for the Biblical Recorder originally published here Focal Passage: 1 Timothy 6:6-19