Breaking the will

I recently came across this article on Facebook. It is 5 days old now, and to be upfront, I know nothing about the book “To Train Up a Child” aside from what I read in this article.

It is a heartbreaking that someone could behave in such a way towards a child. It should be shocking that it is done in the name of Christianity, but unfortunately, it isn’t. It is disgusting the things that are done in this world, and shaming to the name of Christ when done in His name.

Again, I have not read the book, and so I won’t comment on it. I wish I could trust journalists, but in this day I really don’t feel that is something I can do. Everything must be researched and fact checked independently. And so, I will comment on something else I have heard many times from what I would assume is the same group/circle of so called “christians” who practice the things described – even if they aren’t really in the book.

Breaking the will of the child. I’ve heard this many times. I’ve heard it from people I would think have a good foundation. I’ve heard it from well-intentioned grandparents. I’ve heard it as a parenting method that needed to be done early in a child’s life. I heard it early on when we had our first child. But I haven’t seen the verse for it.

This post could be quite long if I took into consideration all the Bible does say to do in parenting children. I don’t intend to go there. Please do not misunderstand then to think I don’t know or agree with what the Bible says in other verses. Similarly in the way someone preaching the story of the Philippian jailor might not preach a subpoint on repentance because Paul doesn’t call on the person to repent. We know repentance is part of salvation, but he just says believe in the context. I know there are more verses on parenting – perhaps another time.

As unsaved we are completely and totally depraved. This doesn’t mean that the unsaved have no disposition whatever to do right (Rom. 2:14-15; 3:18), that they never do any good (Matt.23:23; Acts 10:2), that they commit every sin there is, that they are as bad as they could be (2 Tim. 3:13), or that they have all made the same progress in sinning. It does mean sin has affected the whole of man’s being (Eph. 4:17-19) – mind (Rom. 8:5-7; Titus 1:15), heart (Jer. 17:9), and will (Jer. 13:23; John 8:34). It does mean man has the native capability of committing the worst sins (Rom. 1:18; 3:10-18). It does mean when the unsaved do right, it is not for God’s glory (Matt. 6:5; Prov. 21:4)). It does mean the unsaved are completely destitute of the love that God demands (1 John 4:7-10). Finally, it does mean that the unsaved have no possible means of salvation within themselves (Eph. 2:1,8).

How does this apply to our topic at hand? Simply, the will cannot be broken. The outward actions can be changed, but the will itself is hardened in sin against God. The will is not bent towards righteousness, and nothing you or I as a parent can do will change that. We cannot break the will. We can crush their spirit. We can discourage them. We can devalue them and make them feel worthless. We can convince them they are hated and wicked. We cannot break their wills. This is an error at the very center of theology for parents to try to do what only God can do. And then, surprise surprise, God doesn’t break the will. He changes it.

Another result of trying to break the will is that it angers their children. Something they have been commanded not to do in Scripture (Eph. 6:4). The contrary is to bring them up in nurture and admonition. That is to care for, foster, enoucrage, promote, cultivate. If parents would spend their time doing these things, they would find far better results than doing something some book, or some church member told them to do.

The Bible is plain in showing how Jesus took care of children. When they were rebuked, He said let them come to me. He held them on his lap. The Bible uses words like nurture, train, and admonition because that is what we are supposed to do. The idea is not one of breaking – ever. Training is leading in the right path. These are the things we are supposed to do.

We cannot break the will of a child, but we aren’t even supposed to try even if we could. God gives enough commands to us without us adding our own. If you have been taught to parent like this, I implore you to look into the Scriptures for yourself. Look at all the good God has given for you to do and don’t allow some framework from someone else to overlay God’s commands. If you have heard this, or propagated it, don’t do it any more. When it comes up, speak out against it. It isn’t possible and it does harm to the child, and to your relationship with them. Don’t allow people to parent in ignorance if God gives you an opportunity to talk on the topic. Use that for helping people see how God does want us to parent. After all, God is our Father, and He didn’t break our wills. He changed them.


Giving up (a hard teaching)

The previous blog spoke about the wonderful liberty we possess in Christ. I cited verses of how the Scripture warns us that people will come to enslave us again, and we need to fight that. We need to know our position in Christ. We need to rejoice in the liberty we have.

There is a second thing worth noting about our liberty. That is that mature Christians are willing to give it up for the body of Christ. Our liberty is immense. But we are to voluntarily bend our will and our liberty for the sake of the Bride of Christ, the church. Two rather lengthy passages that are worth reading. 1 Cor. 8:

1 Now as touching things offered unto idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth. 2 And if any man think that he knoweth any thing, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know. 3 But if any man love God, the same is known of him. 4 As concerning therefore the eating of those things that are offered in sacrifice unto idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is none other God but one. 5 For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth, (as there be gods many, and lords many,) 6 But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him. 7 Howbeit there is not in every man that knowledge: for some with conscience of the idol unto this hour eat it as a thing offered unto an idol; and their conscience being weak is defiled. 8 But meat commendeth us not to God: for neither, if we eat, are we the better; neither, if we eat not, are we the worse. 9 But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumblingblock to them that are weak. 10 For if any man see thee which hast knowledge sit at meat in the idol’s temple, shall not the conscience of him which is weak be emboldened to eat those things which are offered to idols; 11 And through thy knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died? 12 But when ye sin so against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, ye sin against Christ. 13 Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend.

1 Cor. 10:23-33

23 All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not. 24 Let no man seek his own, but every man another’s wealth. 25 Whatsoever is sold in the shambles, that eat, asking no question for conscience sake: 26 For the earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof. 27 If any of them that believe not bid you to a feast, and ye be disposed to go; whatsoever is set before you, eat, asking no question for conscience sake. 28 But if any man say unto you, this is offered in sacrifice unto idols, eat not for his sake that shewed it, and for conscience sake: for the earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof: 29 Conscience, I say, not thine own, but of the other: for why is my liberty judged of another man’s conscience? 30 For if I by grace be a partaker, why am I evil spoken of for that for which I give thanks? 31 Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God. 32 Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God: 33 Even as I please all men in all things, not seeking mine own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved.

This is a hard teaching. We as Christians who are aware and loving our freedom have a hard time with this. Those that have come out of a law-keeping, works-based background have a very hard time with this. When preached or taught this is almost the same as those who would tell them to follow a law. From one view, it is someone telling them something to do or not, that the Bible does not speak to. It smacks of works based teaching, and it can scare believers.

This is Bible though. This isn’t man teaching. This is Paul telling believers that they need to not do things that are perfectly fine for the sake of their brothers in Christ. This is what the mature believer does. The mature believer is willing to give up meat if it makes his brother offend. The mature believer seeks the other “person’s wealth.” Paul states a plain principle that all things are lawful, but they do not all edify. So, sure eating that meat is lawful – that is, it is fine before God – but it does not edify your brother. You should not eat the meat.

I don’t know the application that this should make in each person’s life. I can make application to my life. I can tell myself where the line is. I know that even now, before I write an example, people are inclined to already be justifying themselves. We don’t want to be the weak brother. We also don’t want to apply whatever particular case we are dealing with under this category. We want to pretend that it doesn’t apply.

I’ve been a part of large discussions on what exactly is the weak or strong brother and what exactly is the proper response in specific instances. But that, oftentimes, avoids a very simple teaching. Seek the other person’s wealth [what is best for them, not necessarily riches]. Look not on your own things, but every man on the things of others. In honor, preferring one another above ourselves. This is hard teaching.

Growing up, certain members of my family believed that girls/women should not wear pants (Let’s call them the weaker sisters for this example). Other members of the family did not believe that (Let’s call them the stronger sisters). Within that scope of those who did wear pants, there were two more subsets. When everyone got together for a family reunion, the weaker of course, wore skirts/dresses. The stronger were divided however. One group wore pants, as was their liberty in Christ. The other group wore dresses/skirts (Let’s call them the mature sisters). They did not believe they were required to. It was not their conscience on the line before God. But because of their sisters in the Lord, they did not exercise a freedom they believed they had. Regardless of who was right in the whole pants debate, one subset demonstrated seeking the wealth of the others. One subset demonstrated honoring and preferring the other above themselves.

This is HARD. At this point many people have planted their feet firmly in their habits and lives, and are saying they aren’t moving. It isn’t anyone’s place to judge. Paul goes into that in great depth in Romans 14 – the parallel passage. It is not the place of someone else to judge. So what that the “stronger” sisters wore pants? There shouldn’t be judgment by the “weaker” sisters. There shouldn’t be judgment by the “mature” sisters. Judgment is not condoned within any of these passages. Judgment is spoken against strongly in all these issues. But maturity is uplifted.

The question then becomes “Do I let others run my life? Should I be covered head-to-toe and only listen to Gregorian chants because a brother or sister around me believes that way?” I can’t answer it. You answer it, before the Lord. Are you seeking another’s wealth? I think we over-complicate this to a point of dread. “If I live this way I will look like a bag, and never get to do anything fun.” Some insult the weaker brothers rather than changing. They laugh, or call it childish. These things are the exact opposite of being mature. So, what do you do? You seek the Lord. You seek other’s wealth, and prefer them in honor above yourself. You seek God’s glory.

The “mature” sisters from my story wore pants often in their normal life. What many saw and might still see as weakness – changing for others – God upholds as the model. They wore pants, but changed for the people around them. Pauls says that he became all things to all men. This is what happened. Consider, did it affect the “weaker” sisters? Yes, I imagine most in the area of their children. They were bringing up their children as they believed God wanted them to, and the “mature” sisters helped in that simple way.

Romans 14:21 “It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak.” The passage here is very similar but in this Paul gives three distinct responses that we are not to elicit in our brothers. “Stumbleth” conveys the meaning just how it sounds. It is not a fall, but a trip, or a stubbing of the toe. It is something that causes a loss of balance. We don’t want to do this to our brothers or sisters in their lives spiritually. The next though, “offended” actually means causing to sin. Causing to offend against God and thereby offend against themselves. We can cause our brothers and sisters to sin through our liberty; this is past the stumbling into a fall. We do not want to do that. Finally, the last word used is “made weak.” This conveys a weakness in faith. This is just a simple doubting of what is right or wrong. This isn’t sin. This isn’t you even causing someone to trip up a little. This is simply making their belief weak. Causing them to question their discernment of right and wrong and to question. This is also something that Paul says is not worth eating meat. It isn’t worth the freedom that we have to do this to another.

Finally, it is impossible to convince someone else in some instance of what is the mature thing. Parent, you have the responsibility to train your children. When they get older, you will want them to be mature, but you will not be able to do what God does in their heart. Spouses, don’t try to be the Holy Spirit. Don’t try to convince your wife she needs to be mature. Don’t try to convince your husband he needs to be mature. In these issues, growth in Christ happens as each individual seeks the others wealth, and prefers them in honor above themselves. It is something for spouses to be supportive of and encourage each other in. Don’t discourage your spouse when he/she decides to give up something for someone else. Support that. Encourage that. Pray that God will show you where you need to do that.

In the end, it is a simple statement and a hard worldview to live. Be willing to give up your liberty, not for the works of the law, but for the Bride of Christ. Give it up for your brother and your sister. Give it up for Christ.

Don’t forget your liberty

We have great liberty. We have the greatest freedom ever in Christ.

Romans 8:21 “Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.” 1 Cor. 3:17 “Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” Gal. 5:13a “For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty;” This is the greatest liberty there is.

We have been freed from the slavemaster of sin. We have been set free. We have been freed from the bondage of the law. We are not enslaved to a works salvation. The Bible is clear about our position of who we are in Christ. There are two things we need to consider when thinking about this awesome liberty we possess. Since this is lengthy, it will be two parts.

First, we need to be careful that we do not allow others to enslave us again. We are free. That is a fact that accompanies salvation as much as my justification. I am free from sin. However, there are believers who are talked back into the chains of bondage. They willingly pick them back up. They cannot ever again be shackled to them, but they carry them regardless. Paul warns against this in Galatians.

Paul speaks to those that had been set free and tells them to beware of Judaizers (law keepers who preached works added to faith). Gal. 2:4 “And that because of false brethren unawares brought in, who came in privily to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage:” Gal. 4:9 “But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage?” Gal 5:1 “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.” These men came to spy out the liberty and to take believers back into bondage.

We have churches and Bible colleges doing this today. They preach for doctrine the commandments of men. They preach a low view of Scripture, and a long list of rules. These rules become the measuring stick as opposed to recognizing the new man we are in Christ. People fall into a trap of forgetting what God has done in their hearts. Paul’s fear in Galatians with these people is whether or not they are really saved. Gal.4:11 “I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain.” Did he labor in vain? Was the response they made to the Gospel false? This is how serious it is to run back into bondage.

Those who have been made free will be tempted. We may be taught that bondage is where we must be. But it is not the way God intended. It is not the position God has given us in Christ. We must take heed we avoid going back. We must be careful with those that appear to be going back. Speak to them of the freedom they have. Preach Galatians to them. Paul spends this book on what our liberty has done for us. Open it up and go there. Recognize that believers don’t naturally run back to chains. If you know a believer who is living in chains of this bondage (and the depression it brings) then recognize it isn’t from God. Maybe it is poor friends, or false teachers. Access to false teachers via the internet and other media is so easy.

Encourage them. Show them. Pray for them – recognizing that Paul’s fear was a false response. Pray God will reveal Himself to them. Don’t fall into the trap yourself. Know who you are as a new creature, called to be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ. Rest in who God is, and what He has done. Do not seek to add to that. Rest in Christ.

Gifted faith overrides sound logic (built on faulty premise)

Long title, but states what I want to comment on today. Really, this is a mental continuation of my most recent blog as I have been thinking more and more on the issue. Logic can be sound – that is principles following upon the previous to lead to a conclusion – but if the original premise is false then the conclusion reached will also be false. Sound logic can yield an incorrect conclusion.

The Bible is logical. God is a God of order and reason. God acts with purpose and therefore never acts arbitrarily. God is logical. God makes sense. God is not the author of confusion (1Cor. 14:33). Based on this, God tells us to do everything decently and in order (1 Cor. 14:40). We, on the other hand, make mistakes and sometimes God convinces us into making us illogical.

Let me explain. We can start with a point and follow it down the logical tracks until we reach the end and then jump to the other side. I have seen this many times. The interesting thing is the gift of faith from the Holy Spirit of God often causes the jump. As imperfect beings with imperfect understanding we often fail to come to the proper understanding of a verse or passage. If, in our faulty logic, we start from a faulty premise we should arrive at a faulty conclusion. However, what often happens with a true believer is that even though their logic approaches as near the conclusion as one might assume possible, the end result is the believer still states the correct belief as fact that is opposed to their logical strand.

[The caveat is that these beliefs they jump to are foundational to the Christian faith. I haven’t seen anyone argue for/against playing cards and yet suddenly state the opposite. I have seen people dogmatically argue for the infallibility of the Bible and the next breadth deny it. The one was the statement of their belief from God as a regenerated saint, and the second was the logic and curriculum that was in front of them. I’ve seen people affirm the necessity of the virgin birth only to deny it in the midst of heated debate following a logical trail too far. The person really did believe the necessity of the virgin birth, but in the midst of argument logically stated against it.]

I spoke with a catholic college student for about 30 minutes yesterday. Her stance eventually came down to the fact that she did not believe Sola Scriptura. She even stated those very words. She said that the Catholic church does not teach that. It cannot because it believes that tradition, as defined by and passed down by the Catholic church, is on par with Scripture. At that level, she was putting her trust in a bunch of men to tell her what God really said. She had limited herself based on some people’s claim (that the pope inherited from Peter). But, she isn’t alone.

Many people limit themselves based on the claim of another. Who is to be trusted? I posited to her a scenario where two groups of geniuses sat in rooms side by side and presented opposite conclusions. Who was to be believed? What margin of error are we willing to accept when we are dealing with the eternal never changing destiny of our souls?

The miraculous thing is that even those of us who on occasion choose the room that has our logical trail in it, when we get to the end the Holy Spirit has already impressed upon our hearts the answer being in the other room. Even though we logically have committed a fallacy, and do have an incorrect belief for our premise, when it comes to the foundational level of who God is and what He has done, believers are on the same page. I think it is an awesome thing.

[This just occurred to me, but it is also something to consider when dealing with the doctrine of separation. We need to be careful who we separate from. God said people will know us from our love for the brethren. Certainly there is a biblical doctrine of separation. But one thing to consider is where they are off from the truth. If you are separating from someone, is it because they are off down some logical trail that would eventually lead them to being off on something that matters? Or are they really disbelieving something that matters? There is a drastic difference in how the Bible says we should handle those matters. I could imagine a logical train following from eating meat sacrificed to idols. That wasn’t something worth dividing the church over. That was something to show grace and give of a little liberty on. No one was giving ground on whether Christ was God though. Separate there.]

The Holy Spirit convinces the saints of the truth of God, apart and separate from logic. God is logical, but it is not logic that compels us. God is reasonable, but in the end it is the confidence the Holy Spirit imparts to our hearts that causes us to believe. We do not believe because logic teaches us. We believe because God teaches us. Logic is not what teaches us. Scripture guides us. We use our sanctified mind to follow the reasoning of God, but never apart from Scripture. Scripture must be first, and only. Sola Scriptura is again our foundation.

Sole Authority

Lots of the guys who say this, do so with a nice language twist – Sola Scriptura. Scriptures alone! That is what it means. Only the Scriptures are the authority for us. But man, the people who say this sometimes seem to have the hardest time actually living it.

I come from a family, background, and group that knows this phrase. It speaks of the Bible. The Bible is the sole authority in all matters of faith and practice. That covers everything in life. Everything is covered by the Bible. And for my family growing up, and now as a father and husband, this is how we try to live. The Scriptures are our sole authority. Not everything from the Scriptures are we going to know or understand – “the secret things belong unto the Lord our God” (Deut. 29:29) but we are to let the Bible guide us where it is clear. And it is clear in everything we need to know.

God has given us so much within it. When we start to apply our logic to it, we create systems. And systems are good. They help us organize and understand. They help us to grow. They help us counter error. But they are not the Bible. Theology is not God’s Word. God’s Word is the sole authority.

The problem, which is prevalent it seems to me (perhaps more so in higher educated theological circles), is that logic proceeding from the Bible might lead us somewhere the Bible does not. Two railroad tracks that do not logically ever meet. So, we interpret the intersecting verse as something else to stay on our single track because we know we didn’t start on the other one. And we have just allowed our logic to override Scripture – sola logica. We don’t mean to. We don’t want to. But we do. Because we forget that we are dealing with the spiritual and the Divine. We need the Spirit to guide us, not our earthy minds.

We accept this easily in orthodox matters. We are taught it so it is easy to grasp. There is one God, and He is three separate and distinct persons. God is omnipresent and yet Jesus was in a single place. Jesus is completely God and completely man – not a mixture, or alternating but both simultaneously and completely. We accept these things where our logic cannot help us. But if it is not something we have been taught and we must just believe, then we try to reason it out. And it gets us into trouble.

Faith is what we need. I’m going to give two more examples that could be hard to believe. Perhaps not, but like the Trinity, they aren’t logical. I’m not going to dive into them. I’m not going to try to explain – because that is the point. The Bible says it, so we believe it – Sola Scriptura.

Prayer. God knows all things that have happened and everything that will happen. He knows what He will do and when He will do it. He knows what we will do and when. He knows everything there is to know. Yet, the Bible says He listens and answers – as in responds – to our prayers. Ask and ye shall receive. Not, “Ask or don’t, but you will receive.” God responds to us. You will find God listened to the voice of men throughout the Scriptures. How does this work? How does prayer work when everything has been pre-ordained and determined? I don’t know, but I don’t need to. God is in control and I believe it by faith – and I pray.

Salvation. God has elected people before the foundation of the world to salvation. He ordained them to eternal life, and secured and effected their atonement on the cross. At the same time, He commands all men everywhere to repent and believe the Gospel. Men must accept the Gospel and be saved. There is a requirement for men to do so. God holds men accountable for that which they cannot do apart from His imparting of grace and faith. This is both just and right. And the man that cries out to God He will not turn away. Jesus said that if any man come to Him, He will in no wise cast Him out. That is what the Bible says.

We believe it. We might fit the pieces together, or we might not. But the danger comes when we fit the pieces together and it doesn’t make a nice square, so we then go around and trim the edges of God’s Word to make it fit our theological framework. God’s Word fits God’s mold – not ours.

Without faith it is impossible to please God. Faith is the foundation. Faith is it. 2 Peter lists faith first as the foundation upon which to build and we forget we need to keep faith centered in our lives. Live by faith. Read the Bible and believe it. Not for what your system thinks it says, but for what it says. Accept that God has given preachers and teachers for the ministry of the saints – and that means YOU. Learn from them; grow from them. Believe the Bible. Don’t read it with your system in mind.

Long ago I learned that most people I respected when it came to the Bible were wrong. Not an arrogant thing, but a common sense “of course no one has it all together.”  It made me realize that I was wrong too. I didn’t know where, but knew I was either wrong or ignorant. This was scary for me and eye-opening. I loved to study, and talk about the Word. But I knew I better listen to all points because the same Spirit – the holy Spirit who penned the Scriptures – was also in that other person I was arguing with. It was a good lesson, and one I’m very grateful I learned at that age. This pushed me to the Bible more. But mostly it lead me to a prayer like this, that I prayed a lot back then and still pray today.

“Father, I know I am probably wrong somewhere. Help me to see it. Help me not to be too stubborn to not listen to those you send my way to help me. Keep me from spreading this error in my zeal for you. Prevent those that I have told from recalling it. Show them the truth through someway. Show me. Forgive me for misrepresenting you, and help me to always study your word for what you would have, and not what I want to see. Help me to keep things in context. Thank you that I have your Spirit. Help me to listen to it. Amen.”