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The Christian’s Guide To Marriage and Divorce

Let me begin by stating that by writing this I am not trying to create a law for the church, and neither am I trying to state an opposing argument to the teachings of others on the subject of marriage and divorce.  Instead, I’m responding to a need.  Divorce is epidemic.  I’ve heard statistics of anywhere between 35 to 50% of marriages end in divorce (though the exact figure is actually harder to calculate than one might think).

 

Additionally, this article is not intended to bring condemnation on you, regardless of your past decisions or the situation with which you are currently in.  Likewise, this article isn’t intended to help justify getting a divorce.  After all, Paul states in 1 Corinthians 7:17 (All scriptures are NIV unless otherwise stated) that “each one should retain the place in life that the Lord assigned to him and to which God has called him.”  This means that you shouldn’t abandon your marriage or change your family status simply because of new information.  Instead, keep seeking the Lord and make the best of your situation.  The grace of God is sufficient for your circumstance.

 

With that being said, my audience for this piece is Christians considering divorce, Christians who have gone through a divorce in the past, and believers who are considering entering into a relationship with another previously divorced individual.  This is obviously a sensitive subject, so I encourage you to read and stay with the article all the way through to the end.  I truly believe that this message will be good news for the hurting — especially my conclusion!

 

TO THE DIVORCED AND THOSE CONSIDERING DIVORCE     

 

In Malachi 2:16, God clearly says, “I hate divorce.”  I think this is important to point out right from the beginning.  God is not for divorce.  It isn’t the best option.  If you are considering divorce, I believe that you should do whatever you can to reconcile your marriage.  Most at this point say, “I’ve tried that and it didn’t work!”  If this describes you, then perhaps you won’t like what I have to say next.  There are circumstances where scripture permits divorce, which we’ll discuss shortly, but never does scripture permit divorce for the following reasons:

 

    1. Because you aren’t happy.  It isn’t the job of your spouse to make you happy.  Happiness is a choice.  Even in prison, Paul was able to operate in the joy of the Lord.  Seek out biblical help to gain insight and principles to positively affect your marriage and restore joy in your life and relationship.
    2. Because you fell in love with someone else.  According to scripture, this is called adultery, and it’s one of the greatest enemies to marriage.  Every single one of us, at some point, must confront evil desires that try to draw us away from our mate.  James admonishes us to “resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” (James 4:7) Likewise, Proverbs 27:20 states, “Death and Destruction are never satisfied, and neither are the eyes of man.”  If you just allow yourself to follow every single feeling or attraction that you have, you’ll always be blown around like the wind.  If you leave this relationship, because you “fell out of love,” you’ll leave the next one the same way.  Love is a choice and marriage is a commitment to choose to love your spouse, even when it’s hard.
    3. Because it’s challenging or difficult.  People seem to have this misconception that the problems in their marriage are the result of being with the wrong person.  This isn’t the case.  Regardless of God’s original intent, your spouse became the right person the moment you said, “I do.”  Difficulties in marriage, and all relationships, stem from self-centeredness.  Proverbs 13:10 in the KJV states that “only by pride cometh contention.”  This means that pride is the cause of the contention and strife in your relationship.  This shouldn’t condemn you; instead this understanding should encourage you and equip you with the power that you need to end strife forever in your marriage.  Get it at the root by partnering with your spouse to eradicate self-centeredness on both of your parts.
    4. When your spouse wants to stay married to you.  This is assuming that your spouse isn’t or wasn’t unfaithful and is not potentially harmful to you physically.  1 Corinthians 7:12-13 says, “If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her.  And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him.”  If your mate is willing to work and live with you, you shouldn’t leave or divorce him or her, even if your mate is not a believer. Obviously there are cases when the situation is unsafe due to substance abuse or violent abusive tendencies.  In these situations, it might be necessary to separate for the sake of safety, but still I believe God’s best would be to pursue your mate’s emotional well-being and to seek reconciliation and healing if possible.  Divorce in these situations should be an absolute last resort. (Please note, both parties’ physical safety in a marriage is paramount. If you are unsafe or undergoing physical abuse, seek a safe harbor immediately.  I personally don’t believe that God would ever require someone to stay in a situation defined by abuse.  Don’t wait!  Surround yourself with godly counsel and people who can help you walk through the difficult decisions related to your situation. You don’t have to go at it alone.)

 

When is it Permissible to Divorce?

 

Under the Old Covenant, Deuteronomy 24:1-4 gives specific instructions on divorce and remarriage under the law:

 

 “If a man marries a woman who becomes displeasing to him because he finds something indecent about her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce, gives it to her and sends her from his house, and if after she leaves his house she becomes the wife of another man, and her second husband dislikes her and writes her a certificate of divorce, gives it to her and sends her from his house, or if he dies, then her first husband, who divorced her, is not allowed to marry her again after she has been defiled.”

 

Jesus provided further commentary on this passage in Matthew 19:8, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard.  But it was not this way from the beginning.  I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery.

 

Jesus’ teaching was so strong on this topic that it caused his disciples to say (in verse 10), “If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry.”  Jesus’ disciples seemed to think, if the rules are this tough, it’s better to never get married!

 

Regarding this, John MacArthur states, “The rabbis had taken these laws and broadened them to permit divorce for virtually any reason.  Under the rabbinical laws, if a wife displeased her husband in any way, he was entitled to divorce her.  Jesus stated that this was never the purpose of Moses’ Law.  In fact, Jesus’ teaching on divorce was given specifically to refute the rabbinical loopholes.”

 

Jesus strategically used the law to expose the sinfulness of the self-righteous Jews of his day.  As Paul says, in 1st Timothy 1:8-9, “We know that the law is good if one uses it properly.  We also know that law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels…”  Jesus took the Law to the extreme and used it to expose those that were trying to use the Mosaic Law to promote their own selfishness and agenda.  The teaching of Jesus stopped them in their tracks.

 

Paul later clarifies the doctrine of the church regarding marriage and divorce in 1St Corinthians 7:10, “To the married I give this command (not I, but the Lord):  A wife must not separate from her husband.  But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband.  And a husband must not divorce his wife.”  Some might be surprised to find that the commands for marriage and divorce actually appear stricter under the New Covenant.  Paul agrees with Moses by stating that divorce isn’t permissible (except for marital unfaithfulness), but both Paul and Jesus added to the Mosaic law by teaching that if you DO get a divorce, you should remain unmarried.  This instruction, in my opinion, is addressed specifically to the spouse seeking divorce, in order to expose their motives.

 

But what about the finished work of the Cross?  Didn’t Christ die to free us from our sin?

 

Absolutely, but Christ didn’t free us so that we could sin, but rather so that we could be freed from sin.

 

So does this mean that if I get a divorce, God won’t have grace for me?

 

If only I could answer this question that easily, but, ultimately, I believe it comes down to the condition of the heart.  If you are simply looking for a spiritual excuse to divorce your spouse, how can God bless that?  But if you go through a divorce, despite your best efforts to seek the Lord and make things work, why would you think that God’s grace is not present in your life? Many times over the years people have come to me for counsel wanting to divorce their spouse, but they’re afraid of the spiritual ramifications of divorce.  At this point, they’ve already divorced their spouse in their heart, but think that by maintaining the marriage from a legal standpoint that their righteousness is intact.  This is sort of thinking is steeped in self-righteousness, and carries an inherent misunderstanding of law and grace.

 

On the flip side, too often churches have made divorcees feel like second-class citizens in the kingdom of God — this shouldn’t be either. Is divorce greater than any other sin a man might commit? Are couples living in continuous strife and grief any better? Is it better to remain unmarried post-divorce and become riddled with depression, lust, or even sexual sin?  The real question is what’s in your heart? Why do you want to get a divorce? Why do you want to remarry? These issues aren’t as black and white as some might prefer, but I believe being honest with our hearts is the only way that we can really live in confidence before God and man and find wisdom to walk through our present circumstances.

 

Many times people seem to want me to answer their question, “Can I get a divorce or not?” It is so hard to make blanket statements about this though, because situations do vary considerably.  Those looking for a “rule” in the New Testament won’t find it; much like the rich young ruler, Jesus will simply answer, “There’s one thing you lack.”

 

Even in writing this, I’m well aware that someone might try to twist certain liberties or permissions to justify doing what they want to do.  At the end of the day, I can’t be responsible for that; neither can the Word.  This is just one of many reasons I believe aspects of Paul’s writings are vague on the subject — the new covenant was never intended to become law, but rather principles based upon love.  My intention in writing this is to speak to those who are trying to do the right thing, to follow God’s word, and to break free from the guilt and condemnation associated with their past.

 

If you are married and considering divorce, seek solid biblical counsel, and more importantly, seek God for strength and hope.  Remember, it took time and effort to create the hurts in your relationship and in the same way, it’ll take time and effort to bring healing and to regain intimacy.  Don’t give up early, don’t rush the process.  Give it time and healing will come in your life — regardless of the final state of your marriage.  God is faithful!

 

 

 

When is it Better to Remarry?

 

First Corinthians 7:8-9 provides additional insight into the question, “I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, It is good for them if they abide even as I.  But if they cannot contain, let them marry:  for it is better to marry than to burn.

 

Paul says that if you’re unmarried or a widow, it’s best to remain that way, but if you cannot, it is much better to marry than to be bogged down by feelings of lust, loneliness, and dissatisfaction.  The word for “unmarried” in the Greek, means simply that – unmarried.  It’s different from the word for “a virgin,” and doesn’t seem to take into account the person’s history or past.  Essentially, Paul is stating that regardless of your past, it is better to marry, than burn with lust and passion.

 

DIVORCE AND REMARRIAGE

 

First off, if you haven’t yet, read the section above, as I believe it will give some biblical insight into the nature of divorce and God’s perspective on the issue.  Beyond this, it’s important to note that divorce in most cases (almost always) is the result of two people’s shortcomings and failings and not just one party.  More often, when one party has an affair or files for divorce first, they typically are seen as the “bad guy” (or gal).  But in divorce, everyone loses; no one leaves unscathed.

 

Also, let’s be honest — no one really knows what goes on inside of a relationship between two people and we need to be careful of making quick judgment-calls as to fault, etc.  As the saying goes, “It does take two to tango.”  Often one’s behavior is simply a response to the other’s behavior.  You treated me like this, therefore, I’ll do this, and so on it goes.  As marriage counselor Emerson Eggerichs calls it, couples enter the “crazy cycle,” spiraling downward until someone eventually can’t take it anymore and the relationship is inevitably dissolved.

 

You need to be honest with yourself and with your spouse or significant other.  If you’re divorced, it’s okay to take ownership of your short comings and your mistakes in the relationship.  You’re human – and we all make mistakes.  Some mistakes have greater impact and consequences in our lives, but as Paul shares with the Roman church, “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”  Take ownership and learn from the mistakes of your past.  In fact, simply blaming the entirety of your divorce on your ex does little to help your new husband or wife.  They would be much better off knowing realistically what caused the problems in the relationship.  If they really love you, they’ll want to understand and work with you through these struggles or past tendencies.

 

Except in extreme cases, there are most likely things that both parties could have done differently to salvage the relationship.  The exception would be in extremely abusive relationships, either physically or emotionally, where one party is being victimized.  As tragic as these situations are, many of them (note not all) could have been avoided all together by not rushing into a relationship without taking time to really know the other person and their past.  In no way though does this excuse the abusive person from their behavior.  Rather, it should serve as a warning as to the danger of rushing into relationships or just naively assuming that “once we get married they’ll change.”  In entering marriage, you should assume that the person will never change and in fact, their problems are likely to get worse.  After all, while dating we are all on our best behavior.

 

Often times, I’m asked if as a Christian, it’s okay to marry someone who has been divorced. (Earlier I dealt with if it’s okay as a divorced Christian to get remarried, which in some ways is the same answer.)  Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 7:10 (NIV), “To the married I give this command (not I, but the Lord):  A wife must not separate from her husband.  But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled from her husband.  And a husband must not divorce his wife.”  For obvious reasons this teaching isn’t very popular.

 

Paul starts off in this passage and tells the church, as a charge from God, that husbands and wives should not separate from each other.  This is God’s best.  Marriage is supposed to be a picture of God’s love towards us.  He never leaves us nor forsakes us.  Unfortunately, in today’s world, many have ignored this charge or been unable to live under it.  But Paul (and the Lord) anticipates this, and states, “But if she does”.  And then he goes on to give instruction that if someone does divorce, that she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband.

 

I think it’s important to point out that these instructions were given to Christians within the church.  Personally, I believe that if divorce or remarriage happened prior to a person coming to Christ, then Paul’s instruction aren’t applicable.  It is also important to note that Paul was not writing to the person whose spouse divorced them, but rather to the Christian person who filed for divorce and decided to leave.  If they are leaving for reasons other than physical abuse or marital unfaithfulness, then they should remain unmarried.  Marriage should be treated with the highest level of respect and not abandoned lightly.  This charge should make someone considering leaving their marriage for superficial reasons think twice and should be a motivation to try to make it work.  Unfortunately, many ignore this and leave anyway.

 

Throughout scripture, marriage is used as the closet analogy of Christ’s relationship with the church.  Scripture tells us that even when we are unfaithful, that He will remain faithful to us.  We would do well to learn from Christ as to how to love our spouse and have a successful marriage.

God’s Grace in Marriage and Divorce

 Some of you might ask, so where is God’s grace in all of this?  Obviously, as with anything, it is ever present and is sufficient towards us in all ways!  First off, if this is the first time you’ve heard any of this teaching or you’ve recently became a Christian, or you’ve been divorced before and are now remarried, engaged to be married, or are wanting to get remarried someday, I don’t believe Paul’s words are meant to condemn you or to restrict you from enjoying your life as a Christian.

 

Beyond all of this, the Bible teaches that “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”  Were you divorced and later became remarried?  Stay as you are, there is grace for you.  Did your spouse divorce you?  You are free to remarry.  Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 7:15, “A believing man or woman is not bound in such circumstance.

 

As a Christian, did you divorce your spouse for reasons other than abuse or their unfaithfulness?  Repent and realize your mistake, God’s grace is sufficient for you.  Of course, the best case scenario would be to restore your failed marriage (assuming they haven’t yet remarried).  If you divorced your spouse prior to becoming a Christian, you are not bound to your previous life, God’s grace is sufficient for you.  Personally, I believe, you are free to marry.

 

Are you considering marrying someone who is divorced?  If, as a Christian, they divorced their spouse for reasons other than what scripture provides, how do you know that they will not do the same to you?  This is not a situation to enter into lightly.  Seek the Lord for wisdom in what you should do.

 

As I think about this, really the only person who might be offended by this teaching is the believer who is currently thinking of divorcing their spouse for ungodly reasons.  And for that, should you not be offended?  If that is you, repent, change your heart, and seek counsel on how to restore your marriage.

 

But if you do get divorced, I tell you the same as Paul states, you are not to get remarried; for you are making that choice now with full knowledge and with rebellion towards the truth.  As James reminds us in 4:6, “But he gives us more grace.  That is why scripture says:  “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

 

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The Benham Brothers – On Conviction, Commitment, and Courage

As real estate moguls, reality show stars, former pro baseball players, and authors, twins David and Jason Benham know something about accomplishing dreams and fulfilling the call of God on one’s life. Recently I had the chance to sit down with the Benham brothers to discuss how they built their real estate empire, their former show on HGTV, wisdom they gleaned from Phil Robertson, as well as their special connection to Vice President Mike Pence.

Listen to the full interview here:

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From Porn to Reborn

 

In 2006, Crissy Outlaw left the porn industry. Now, she helps other women do the same. Crissy speaks out about the harmful effects of pornography. Her story has been featured on platforms, such as, ABC’s Nightline, GQ Magazine, The Huffington Post, CBN, Playboy, and Christianity Today. Recently I had the chance to sit down with Crissy on my new podcast program, The Lucas Miles Show, and discuss the dangers of the porn industry, her journey out of adult entertainment, and how she found Jesus on a film set in LA. (Listen to audio interview here.)

Here are a few things I learned during the interview:

1.)  Stats suggest over 80% of women involved in porn were previously sexually abused.  (In Crissy’s experience helping minister to girls post-porn, she says it’s much higher than that.)

2.)  It’s virtually impossible to leave porn. As we discussed in depth in the interview, Crissy exited porn years ago and is still unable to remove her likeness or image from the internet.  Guarded by bulky and confusing legal agreements, website owners have refused to honor her decision to leave behind her life in adult entertainment and continue to make money off of her to this day.

3.)  Sex Trafficking is defined by involving “coercion” or forcing someone to compromise their own interests.  According to Crissy, coercion is always present in porn and provides a gateway to more insidious forms of sex trafficking.

4.)  There is hope after porn.  I was so impressed by Crissy’s journey back to Jesus, her love that motivates her to help reach other girls like her, and the way in which God’s grace has brought restoration into her life.

To listen to the full interview, or to download past episodes of The Lucas Miles Show featuring other amazing guests, such as DeVon Franklin, Kevin Sorbo, or Lauren Green, click on the image below:

Additionally, Faithwire.com recently featured a story on my podcast with Crissy Outlaw, here is the link:

The Devastating Sin Many Churches are Afraid to Talk About

 

 

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Legalism or Progressivism: Which is Deadlier to Faith?

Since 2002, I’ve been advocating for religion-free Christianity, as well as warning of the dangers of allowing legalism to invade our faith-walk. Over the years, I’ve been accused by fundamentalists of being “soft on sin,” preaching “greasy grace,” and failing to understand the importance of the Law.

I’ve been physically assaulted on two separate occasions, I’ve been labeled a “radical” and a “heretic,” placed on false teacher websites and have been blacklisted from several churches due to my views on sovereignty, the believer’s authority, and faith-righteousness.  Through all of that, I’ve stood strong for the message of the New Covenant, the finished work of the cross, and the righteousness of the believer through faith.

Recently though, I’ve received a new form of opposition. Despite my very public (and considered in some circles to be “radical”) stance on grace, I’ve now been accused of being a legalist. How did this happen you may wonder?  Let me explain.

For the last several years, I’ve been addressing a theological phenomenon known by some as spiritual extrapolation.  Spiritual extrapolation is the process by which one attempts to discover a deeper revelation of the Word by starting with a biblical truth, but over time extrapolating the revelation of that truth, until the end doctrine has progressed beyond what is found in Scripture, and the individual ends up in error.

The main concern of spiritual extrapolation is not simply that one now holds to the error, but that he has let go of the value and importance of the Word in establishing a right belief about God.  This form of extrapolation, rooted in Gnostic thinking, gives preference to reason and logic over biblical inerrancy.  Thoughts such as, “If God is really good, then there would be no hell,” sound good on paper, but they violate foundational truths of the Bible, such as freewill, personal responsibility, and the empowerment of the believer. Don’t be fooled, a God that gives no choice, cannot be truly good.

I understand the attraction to this line of thinking, especially by my grace brothers and sisters, many of whom have been deeply wounded by denominational thinking and Pharisaical Christianity. Like many in the grace community, I too, have experienced firsthand the negative effects of legalism, adherence to tradition, and the damage that a faulty view of God can cause to one’s emotional, physical, and spiritual well-being.

It makes sense to me that those of us who have been wounded by religion would have the tendency to set sail for greener and freer theological pastures.  And in many cases, this has proven to give birth to wonderful theological renewal.  New insights into the meaning of the cross, a greater understanding of the purpose of the Mosaic Law, and powerful personal revelations of the unbreakable and everlasting covenant with our God through Christ abound. But not all “so called” revelations are good, as is the case with progressive thinking that inevitably leads to extra-biblical extrapolation.

Think of doctrine like a buoy floating in the ocean. Fixed to the bottom of the ocean floor by a strong cable, the buoy is free to float along the surface of the water. It can float a little to the left or a little to the right, but ultimately, it remains safely anchored to the seabed.

In the case of doctrine, our opinions regarding specific scriptures may float, if you will, between various individual interpretations and theological variations, but assuming we are still connected to the Bible and the Lordship of Jesus, we can remain fixed within the broader bounds of orthodoxy, free from the devastating effects of heresy.

However, if our belief and connection to the infallibility of the Word of God is somehow lost, like a buoy ripped from its foundation, we, too run the risk of floating out into the life-threatening waters of false doctrine. This is exactly what happens in the case of spiritual extrapolation and it is the trademark of progressivism.  (For more on spiritual extrapolation, click HERE.)

Verses that used to serve as the final authority on a given topic, are now treated with contempt – marginalized, criticized, or suggested to be inapplicable to a New Covenant believer in the modern era.  All this is just a vain attempt to justify holding onto false doctrines and man-made opinions over the Word of God.

Furthermore, since our new doctrines inevitably violate the Word of God, our belief system creates a tension in our heart.  The need to resolve this tension only further propels us into distancing ourselves from the Bible.  If we begin to hold to a particular belief and wrongly elevate it over the truth of the scriptures, eventually, something has to give.  Unfortunately, our pride usually prevents that from being our own belief system, so by default, our dependence on the scriptures is often the first to detach.

“But isn’t progressivism better than legalism?” I was asked recently. To be completely honest, I had to think about that question for a minute, until I eventually found myself answering it with a resounding, “No!” Here’s why.

In Romans 3:19, Paul writes, “Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God.”

Additionally, Paul adds in Galatians 3:23-24,

Before the coming of this faith, we were held in custody under the law, locked up until the faith that was to come would be revealed. So the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith.”

According to Paul, the purpose of the Law was to silence man before God and to reveal his need for a savior.  In fact, any real effort at attempting to fulfill the Law, should eventually lead a person to a deep surrender to the lordship of Jesus.

If man were truly to attempt to fulfill the whole law, he would quickly realize that he could not, and therefore, would call out to God for help.  In reality, mixture is infinitely more dangerous than adherence to the Law, because the worshipper falsely believes that with just a little bit of law and a little bit of God’s grace, he could accomplish righteousness on his own.

But in the case of progressivism, the worshipper must reject allegiance to the written Word of God, which is supposed to confirm and validate the person of Christ and the truth of God. Through humanistic thinking, a progressivist simply follows his own vain imaginations and theological ponderings.  Floating detached from truth, he begins interpreting Scripture with what feels like divine inspiration, yet with each new wave of “revelation,” he floats closer to the shores of agnostic skepticism, before eventually running aground on the rocks of atheism.

These theological drifters have exchanged the Holy Spirit’s prompting for the comfort of their own wit, and by doing so, have lost the opportunity to be reined in by spiritual conviction and God’s rebuke.  Though once enlightened, the tether that was at one time attached to their source of truth has been severed – cut by their own egos.  As a result, progressivists exist in an extra-biblical world, outside of the covenants and separated from the Word of God.

For example, some progressivists suggest that the apostle Paul had only a partial revelation of grace, thus, “his words can’t be fully trusted.”  Anyone who adheres to this thinking is like one who makes the “doctrine of the month” his new authority. His own lack of confidence in the word testifies against him.

Contrast this with the legalist, who, even though he preaches a “ministry of death,” remains loyal to the very law that was intended to lead a man to Christ.  Ironically, through this strict adherence to the Law, there’s actually an opportunity for faith to lead such a person to the hope found in the Gospel.

Does this mean that we should stop speaking out about the hazards of legalistic thinking, because it’s not as dangerous as progressivism?  Personally, I’m not even sure that this is the right question.

Whenever legalistic thinking and/or progressive thought present themselves as an affront to the message of the cross, we do speak – but not with humanistic partiality.  As New Covenant believers, our purpose should not be defined in what we are against, but rather in what we are for – and that is the reconciliation of the world to God.  As Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:20, “We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.  We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.

The frequency with which grace-oriented believers are turning a blind-eye to the grievous errors of Universalism, yet vehemently splitting hairs over minor doctrines such as the tithe is appalling.  It is like jumping over a canyon in order to condemn a crevice.

Some might falsely think that I’m proposing that it’s never right to challenge tradition or to distance ourselves from so-called orthodoxy, but anyone who has read any of my past works knows that I often challenge traditional commentaries on various passages and present “new” meanings to verses. True orthodoxy, however, should never be mistaken for deceptive interpretations or a misrepresentation of God’s intentions.

So how can we as believers protect ourselves from the blind oppression of legalism or the subtle deception of progressivism?

Here are a few questions to consider when approaching doctrinal differences, both old and new.

  • Is my understanding of this belief based upon the sum of God’s Word?
  • In order to believe some new idea, am I forced to ignore certain scriptures or invalidate entire books of the Bible?
  • Is my belief based upon scriptural context or shaped by my pre-formed assumptions?
  • Does my embrace of Jesus as the Word of God force me to distance myself from the Bible as the Word of God?
  • Does my view of God’s goodness rob man of his own right to choose?

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Philemon 6: Harmonizing Two Opposing Viewpoints

One of my favorite verses has always been Philemon 6, which reads in the NIV, “I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ.” Essentially, Paul is explaining that the more we share our faith, the more understanding we gain into our unique position in Christ.  I take this to mean that evangelism, doesn’t just strengthen the new convert, but also the one sharing their faith.

As powerful as this is, the KJV translation presents a different and somewhat opposing reading of the very same verse.  It states, That the communication of thy faith may become effectual by the acknowledging of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus.” The KJV reverses the order and describes a different process at work; that as we acknowledge the realities of the finished work in our life, the more effective our faith will be.  For the believer, this directs our focus to the confession of who we are in Christ as a tool in seeing our faith manifest into the physical dimension.

So which is it? Do we share our faith in order to learn more about who we are in Christ?  Or do we speak the truth about who we are in him, in order to see our faith shine?  I say, “BOTH!”  Certainly, the more we share our faith, the more we will grow and learn.  And the more we confess the realities of the new covenant over our lives, the more we will begin to see those realities made manifest.  Instead of battling over which is true – do both and you’ll be blessed either way!

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The Shack Revisited

Since the release of my article, The Shack:  A Story of Freedom or Force?, I’ve received an almost constant stream of hate mail regarding the concerns that I expressed, not about the film itself nor even the book, but rather the beliefs of the author, which he himself expressed clearly in his new theologically driven book, Lies We Believe About God.  In this Young states, among other things, “Are you suggesting that everyone is saved? That you believe in universal salvation? That is exactly what I am saying!”

My article in response to such bold and blatant theological error, which has received significant traffic and support over the past few days, was criticized as being unfair to Mr. Young, judgmental, and offering unsubstantiated accusations.  Because I am simply unable to respond to each individual diatribe that I have received over the past few days, I felt it best to assemble my response and to clarify my position, in a single follow up post – which I felt is only appropriate to call, The Shack Revisited.

To begin with, let it be known that I have never met Mr. Young, though I am certain that we have nothing short of a long-list of mutual friends and acquaintances, including pastors, journalists, filmmakers, etc.  From all of these mutual relationships combined, not once have I ever heard anything but wonderful things about Young’s disposition, character, and personal integrity.  As a fellow author and filmmaker, I also have the utmost respect for his creativity and talent, which are beyond evident in The Shack.  In fact, I have nothing against the man. I simply don’t agree with his theology, especially that which is expressed in his new book.

Contrary to this generation’s thin-skinned opinion, disagreement doesn’t equal insult.  I’m absolutely certain that Mr. Young and I agree about many things regarding the nature of God and the gospel of grace, but I would ask, “Are a few commonalities reason enough to ignore the false doctrines that he also holds, such as Inclusionism and Christian Universalism?”  The Apostle Paul didn’t think so.  He and Peter had much in common, but this didn’t stop him in Galatians 2:11 from calling Peter out for his doctrinal drift and theological error.  In doing so, I’m not questioning Mr. Young’s salvation, nor the beauty of his book, rather his love affair with progressivist theology, which is as equally harmful, if not more so, than Peter’s unwillingness to let go of his legalistic tendencies and constant people pleasing.

I’ve been amazed this past week at countless Christians who have been presented with excerpt after excerpt of Mr. Young’s own words describing his adherence to spurious doctrines such as Inclusionism, “Open Hell” (if he believes Hell exists at all), and Universalism, only to look the other way or justify his beliefs as being taken out of context.  Ironically, these same individuals, I have found, are among the first in line to call out legalistic tendencies in mainstream authors as an aspersion against the gospel itself.  Yet, when the pendulum swings the other direction, into liberalism, progressivism, and at times, antinomianism, all remain silent.  The consensus seems to be that there is no evidence for Mr. Young’s doctrinal drift and that The Shack is only a work of fiction, but this just isn’t the case.

In fact, Mr. Young’s own co-writer of the Shack, Wayne Jacobsen, said in an article he penned himself for Lifestream.org that when he first received the manuscript from Mr. Young that “universalism was a significant component in the resolution of that story.”  Mr. Jacobsen, in reference to his objection to Mr. Young’s position on Universalism, states, “Paul hoped to convince me I was wrong and sent me his paper on universalism.  We spent some time discussing it, but in the end I felt it took too much linguistic gymnastics to bend Scripture to that conclusion.”  As the article continues, Mr. Jacobsen explains that Mr. Young agreed to allow him to remove the theme of Universalism from the Shack in order to make the story more palpable to the audience that needed it the most.  Although Mr. Jacobsen was successful in removing the overarching concept of Universalism from the story-line, he says nothing of removing this line of thinking from his co-author, Mr. Young.  In fact, if anything, Jacobsen only further reinforces my concerns, that Young is not simply an Inclusionist, but a Universalist as well.

With that being said, I don’t believe the issue for the church is as much Mr. Young’s personal theology, as it is the obvious idolization of a fictional story by believers.  Hearing people speak about The Shack, one would think that Mr. Young has presented a clearer gospel than Jesus himself.  This is problematic for multiple reasons, but most importantly, it demonstrates the love lost in the heart of the church toward Christ and his word.  Like a desperate housewife bored with her first love, the church has revealed that it is on the prowl for a new gospel that is more exciting than the first.  This I intend to address further next week in a new post entitled, “Legalism or Progressivism:  Which is More Deadly to Faith?”

Until then, those who know me, should recognize that if the issues I’m describing where merely related to a movie, I would never take the time to present such a case, but in no way is this about a single author or a current film, but an evolving distrust for the church, the Bible, and ultimately for God.

“Who is wise?  He will realize these things.  Who is discerning?  He will understand them.  The ways of the Lord are right; the righteous walk in them, but the rebellious stumble in them.”

– Hosea 14:9

 

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Why America is in love with the doctrine of God’s Sovereignty.

In my book, Good God:  The One We Want To Believe In But Are Afraid To Embrace, I tackle one of the most widely held false notions about God – his sovereignty.

For some time the church has held to this idea that God is divinely controlling all things – the bad and the good – and that our lives are the result of his choice, will, and dominion.  Although this might sound spiritual, it’s actually a form of Gnostic teaching and rooted in pagan mythology.  The Gnostics believed that “god” was both light and dark; that is that he embodied both good and evil.  In fact, they taught that the father was “dark” and the son was “light” and that the son came to save us from the father.  This is why John writes in 1 John 1:5, “This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.”  This would have been revolutionary to the Gnostic people.  John proclaimed that the God of the true gospel is all light and that there is no darkness – no confusion, nothing hidden, no ill intention.  From his biblical understanding, in Christianity, we understand that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are all one in the same – God in three persons.  Gnosticism taught their separate identities, much like the various deities that dwelt together on the Greek’s Mt Olympus.

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Today, this Gnostic teaching, has resurfaced in Western theology through the doctrine of extreme sovereignty.  I believe one of the reasons why sovereignty teaching (and hyper-Calvinism) is so attractive is because of its removal of personal responsibility on the life of the believer.  As Christians, many are frustrated today by the continual devaluation of personal responsibility in our society.  According to today’s world, crime is due to guns and not criminals, sexual perversion is due to nature and not sin, the list goes on and on.  So removed is the idea of personal responsibility that in several countries in Europe pedophiles actually received disability benefits.   But it’s important that we see that this loss of personal responsibility does not exist only in the world today – it’s also in the church.  Through the doctrine of sovereignty, adherents distance themselves from the power of their own decisions and behavior, by claiming things like God “has them in this season”, “is leading them through a desert time”, or “trying to teach them something”.  Cloaked in spiritual language, religious minded individuals unable to come to grip with their own depravity, cling to the idea that God is in control of the outcome of their lives, and hide from the reality that, outside of the impact of others’ freewill and the result of a fallen world, their lives are the summation of the choices they make.

This is the exact same belief system that Job was rebuked for in the last chapter of the book of Job.  Job, a man who faced massive amounts of suffering and loss, mistakenly thought that God was the source of his pain.  Job, overconfident in his own righteousness, was unable to see how his fear and pride (two of the biggest themes in the book of Job) affected his life.  He was also completely unaware of the existence of Satan.  Job saw all things (light and dark/good and evil) as existing in the Godhead and would rather blame God than himself, nature, or the enemy.  But in the end of the book, upon finally seeing God face-to-face, Job saw the error of his ways, repents and says, “Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know.  You said, ‘Listen now, and I will speak; I will question you, and you shall answer me.’  My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.”

In reality, God’s goodness is displayed in the freedom to choose that he bestows upon his children.  Personal responsibility should actually empower us, not condemn us.  When we realize that God is not the cause of our pain, it frees us to draw near to him, rely on his grace, and seek his guidance in our life.  If the problems of life are God’s will for us, what hope do we have?  But if God is really “for me”, then I can stand firm, resist the enemy’s advances, and walk in victory.  This doesn’t mean that bad things will never happen, but if and when they do, I can rest in the knowledge that God is not the source of my pain.

Theology is simple, “If it’s good, it’s God. If it’s not, it’s not.”

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Introducing…..Living Grace!

I am very excited to introduce to you the brand new book, Living Grace, by New Nature Publications.  This book is a joint project put together by New Nature and 13 like minded authors, including, yours truly!  My chapter is titled, Unstoppable Grace, and parallel’s the lives of Jonah and Saul/Paul while looking at grace as a modern reformation/movement.  I really believe in the revelation that I shared in this book and I would highly recommend it for anyone who is part of the “Gospel Revolution”.

Here is a list of the authors and chapter titles:

Chapter   1 – Union by Benjamin Dunn.

Chapter   2 – Totally Forgiven, Totally United, Totally Filled by Ryan Rufus.

Chapter   3 – Guilt Free Living by Arther Meintjes.

Chapter   4 – The Grace Hating Spirit by RobRufus.

Chapter   5 – Grace and Leadership by Fini deGersigny.

Chapter   6 – Ministering in the Glory by Joshua Mills.

Chapter   7 – Dealing with the Demonic by Cornel Marais.

Chapter   8 – Grace and Finances by Andrew Wommack.

Chapter   9 – The Place of Grace in Balanced Preaching by Chad Mansbridge.

Chapter 10 – A Case for Divine Complacency by John Crowder.

Chapter 11 – The New Covenant in a Nutshell by Paul Hernandez.

Chapter 12 – New Covenant Motivation by Wayne Duncan.

Chapter 13 – Unstoppable Grace by Lucas Miles.

If you would like to order a copy, here is the link!  I would love to hear your thoughts.

http://www.oasnet.org/resources-store.cfm#ecwid:category=1466683&mode=product&product=10445086

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The Power of a Humble Heart

There is perhaps nothing more powerful than a humble heart.  Humility, the most misunderstood of all virtues, is the ability to accept and acknowledge God’s opinion and perspective in our lives.  This is where the power lies.  The moment I accept and embrace God’s perspective, I share in his strength and am able to flow in his plan.  This level of empowerment is often missed in our traditional understanding of humility.  Typically, when defining humility, most would only associate it with being lowly in spirit, but this is incomplete.  True humility, simply put, is being sensitive to God’s perspective in our lives.  This definition allows variety in our personality while keeping the emphasis on embracing God’s perspective.  Regarding this level of empowerment, Psalm 149:4 states,For the Lord takes delight in his people; he crowns the humble with victory.”  The surest way to victory is to embrace God’s perspective and that is that he “takes delight in his people”.  When we know God’s love for us, we are empowered to be truly humble. 

In this, when I know that I am loved, it becomes quite easy for me to admit fault, acknowledge weakness, and seek forgiveness from those around me.  This kind of humility seems may seem counterintuitive to our minds, but only in reaching this level of security in God’s love for us, can we ever really be free to be ourselves.  To admit fault, seems like such weakness, but in reality, it brings power.  In fact, humbling yourself to those around you, confessing your weaknesses, in actuality is the greatest sign of God’s power and personal confidence working in your life.  A truly great person, one who is fully established in who they are in Christ, should have no complaint in admitting their shortcomings, for regardless of their weaknesses; they know their position in Christ.  Additionally, they know Paul’s confession in 2 Corinthians 12:10, “for when I am weak, then I am strong”.  Like Paul, when we walk in true humility, we gain access to the power of God and begin the road to abundant victory in every area of our lives. 

Only a person insecure in their faith, unsure of how God feels about them, would struggle to demonstrate or show weakness.  This ignorance and insecurity causes them to overinflate their abilities, refuse to see their flaws, and make the false assumption that they are always right.  Like Adam and Eve in the garden, they desperately try to cover their shame with anything they can find.   Their self-worth is so low, that acknowledging one more fault, in their mind jeopardizes their personal value more than they are able to bear.  Therefore they stand firm in their positions and behavior, refusing to acknowledge that they are the ones to blame.  In actuality, all of us make mistakes, even the most spiritual of people.  In every situation and conflict, we all play a part.  Resolution comes by acknowledging this.  The sooner we acknowledge our weakness to those around us, the quicker we will begin to overcome our relational conflict.  Breakthrough is as close as our willingness to acknowledge our humanness.  (Please note, in Christ, we are complete in our spirit man.  In our spirit, we are righteous, holy, and perfected forever.   But in our minds and flesh, we are still being renewed day by day; none of us have fully arrived.  To only take the perspective of the spirit, will cause you to ignore areas of your mind that are still in need of renewal.  To only take the perspective of the mind, causes us to fail to notice our fullness in Christ.  So as far as God is concerned, we are blameless through Christ, but as far as our brothers and sisters are concerned, we must acknowledge our faults.)

As we further strive to maintain a life defined by humility, below are a few questions to consider.

1.)     When was the last time that I took even partial responsibility for another’s pain or an incident of relational conflict?

2.)    How often do I ask those around me how my behavior patterns affect their lives?  Would I be able to receive and deeply consider their answer if it was a negative response?

3.)    If humility is embracing God’s perspective, what am I doing in my daily life in order to gain this perspective? 

4.)    Make a list of 10 behavior patterns that you display (i.e. running late all the time, have trouble listening) and how these patterns might affect those around you. 

5.)    Make a list of as many promises as you can think of regarding God’s perspective towards you. 

6.)    Return to these questions often.

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The Goodness of God

A couple people have asked me to post this teaching recently. Here is a message I taught to the students at Bethel College last year during one of their chapel services. Here are all 3 parts.



For more teachings from Lucas Miles, please visit www.oasnet.org, and click on “podcasts”.

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