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John Calvin puts forward a very simple reason why love is the greatest gift: “Because faith and hope are our own: love is diffused among others.” In other words, faith and hope benefit the possessor, but love always benefits another. In John 13:34–35 Jesus says, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” Love always requires an “other” as an object; love cannot remain within itself, and that is part of what makes love the greatest gift.
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    • Beware the Idol of Parenting Success

      We live in an age of overachievement. It affects adults and children alike. Alarming research shows that anxiety and depression in kids is at an all-time high. Teens report levels of stress higher than adults. As a culture, we push our children not just to do their best, but to be better than the best, to stand out above their peers. Children spend their days pursuing excellence in sports, academics, and myriad other activities—all with the expectation of getting into the best college, followed by the best job, and then, ultimately, a happy life. As a culture, we are worshiping the idol of parenting success. This idol tells us we must be perfect parents and place our hope in creating perfect children. Like many idols, though, the idol of parenting success can be difficult to identify because it’s an idol crafted around something good. Good Thing Being a parent is an important job and one we should care about doing well. We should strive to care for our children’s needs, to teach them, to discipline them, and to prepare them for life. We should want our children to do their best in school, to grow and thrive, to develop into people who can care for themselves. As Christian parents, we should seek to teach and disciple our kids in the faith so they would know and love the One who created them. These are all good things. It’s also true that parenting well doesn’t happen accidently; it takes intentionality and purpose. We have to learn what our children need and how to care for them. We must pursue wisdom in our parenting decisions. We may even need to utilize particular techniques or strategies. But how do we know if our desire to be good parents has morphed into an idol that has gripped our heart? And where should we turn for hope instead? Idol of Parenting Success When we worship parenting success, we set our highest desires on particular outcomes for our children. At all costs, we want our children to be healthy, happy, and productive. We want them to have the best education. Play the right sports. Be the best dressed. We so easily put our hope in results: our children’s behavior, achievements, and social acceptance. We stake our lives on the belief that if we parent well, our child will turn out well (however we define that). We often think this means if we follow the right parenting model—take your pick which one—our children will turn out how we imagine. When success in parenting is our life’s great aim, we focus all our energies on fulfilling our desire. We want our child to be the best in the class, the top scorer on the team, and, yes, the one who knows all the catechism answers in Sunday school. So we push ourselves and our kids to hit the mark. We don’t rest until they’ve met our goals. False Security When we worship parenting success, our children become our trophies. We put them on display for all to see just how good a job we’ve done. In the process, we exhaust ourselves trying to meet what our culture portrays as the image of a perfect parent. This is why, if our children fail, we take it personally. We get angry at them for embarrassing us. We feel let down. How did that happen? I did everything right. My child is supposed to fulfill my goals for her. In Counterfeit Gods, Tim Keller defines the idol this way: Personal success and achievement lead to a sense that we ourselves are god, that our security and value rest in our own wisdom, strength, and performance. . . . One sign you have made success an idol is the false sense of security it brings. . . . The false sense of security comes from deifying our achievement and expecting it to keep us safe from the troubles of life in a way that only God can. (75) When we worship the idol of parenting success and achievement, we trust in ourselves. We rest in our achievement rather than in God’s grace. Worthy in Christ Ultimately, when we worship parenting success and achievement, we find our worth in what we accomplish as parents and, subsequently, what our children accomplish. And the success idol is never satisfied, so we have to keep striving, keep working, keep reaching. But the gospel tells us something different. God doesn’t love us because of anything we’ve done. Whether we are the best parent in the cul-de-sac or our child gets the highest GPA has no influence on what God thinks of us. Ephesians tells us that God chose us before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4). Before we attended our first PTA meeting or scheduled that first tutoring session, God created us in his image: “I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well” (Ps. 139:14). And while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Rom 5:8). The Spirit awakened us from death and gave us new life. We were given the gift of faith and saved from the penalty of our sins (Rom. 6:23). Regardless of whether our child makes All Stars or sits the bench, God’s Holy Spirit lives in us, comforting, guiding, and changing us. Christ intercedes before the Father for us, covering us with his righteousness. He promises us eternal life in the presence of God. All of this comes to us by grace; we do nothing to earn or achieve any of it. Moms and dads, we do have significant value and worth. But it’s not based on what we achieve. It’s not about our success as parents. It’s not about how well our children turn out. Our worth is grounded in who Christ is for us, and what he accomplished on our behalf. Rest in that today. View the full article

      in Christian Current Events

    • Beware Emotional Affairs

      Josh had been at a new church for four months when Sara—his pastor’s wife—invited him to join their community group, which was a weekly gathering of both singles and married couples. Sara and her husband, Craig, wanted a group where married couples mentored singles. Josh and Sara hit it off, and they discovered lots of common interests. Their conversation easily flowed during the fellowship time before the Bible study. Sara was surprised how much she missed Josh when he couldn’t attend. Josh realized that talking to Sara became the main reason he enjoyed the group. Not a big deal, it’s just talking. Then the conversation time moved into texting. Not a big deal, everyone texts. But when the two of them began texting about community group issues, their sharing became more personal. Josh’s work stress and loneliness as a single man, and Sara’s challenges in being a pastor’s wife, gave them ways to grow more emotionally intimate with each other. Then it happened. Their texting became a nightly ritual as Craig was often asleep by 9 p.m. and Sara, a night owl, would reach out to Josh to check in and see how he was in regards to his prayer requests. Their texting often lasted an hour or more. The warning line had long since been crossed. One night Josh felt compelled to be honest and blurted out in a text: I think I’m in love with you. He waited nervously for her reply, and it came within seconds: Me too . . . my heart’s grown cold towards Craig. No one’s ever understood my heart the way you do. I need you. Her text gave Josh a rush of intoxication and yet, seeing her words jolted him: Sara was married, and her husband was his pastor! Josh panicked. Now the reality of their too-close friendship hit him like a punch to the gut. What was so enjoyable and enriching was now an entangled mess. How would their friendship go forward? What if this got out? Would he have to leave the church? Would Sara’s marriage survive? Discerning When Lines Are Crossed Though Josh and Sara never touched one another, they had cultivated an unholy and messy relationship: an emotional affair. An emotional affair happens when a married person shares ongoing emotional intimacy with someone who is not his or her spouse, in a way that damages the marriage relationship. Singles can be guilty of emotional affairs, too, when they form inappropriately intimate relationships with a married person. Many men and women miss the alarms going off when a relationship begins to cross obvious lines. They assume that because there’s no physical or sexual involvement, the relationship is okay. But one day an awareness kicks in, and they realize it’s moving in the wrong direction. If close friendships are an important God-given gift to us, how do we discern if boundaries are being crossed into a danger zone? Questions to Ask Here are some questions to help discern if your relationship has morphed into an emotional affair: Is there any secrecy or deception involved in your interactions? How much contact are you in (face to face, over devices, social media, and so on), and how does it compare to how much time you connect with your spouse? If you are single, how does your contact with this married person compare to other close friendships? Do you have romantic feeling toward her/him? Sexual chemistry? Mental preoccupation? If yes to any of these, are you seeking to feed or flee from these tempting dynamics? What is the content of your communication? How would your spouse (or mentor, pastor, close friend) react if she/he saw your texts or emails, or overheard your private conversations? Does this relationship inspire you to obey Christ or to turn away from him? Does this relationship propel you toward your spouse, or away? Does this relationship motivate you to invest more passionately in loving other people, or to isolate yourself and focus on this one person? Brother or sister, if these questions (and your answers) make you uncomfortable about this relationship: PAUSE! HALT! STOP! You—and your friend—are in danger. God wants us to have rich and meaningful relationships whether we are single or married. God delights in Christ-centered friendships that stay within the boundaries of his Word, boundaries that are healthy for both friends. But God never intends for any of his good gifts to become a heart-hijacking reality that steals joy and betrays a spouse’s trust. He is committed to removing relational attachments which lead to sin and distraction. Emotional affairs are a cheap substitute for what God graciously gives: unfailing love and true intimacy of the deepest kind, which is ours in Christ. View the full article

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    • 'Beware Of Trump: Keep Out' Signs Placed Along Border

      U.S.—In a move to head off potential lawsuits, the federal government has now started placing prominent signs along the border that read, “Beware of Trump. Keep Out.” The post 'Beware Of Trump: Keep Out' Signs Placed Along Border appeared first on The Babylon Bee. View the original full article

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    • Beware Theological Dangers on Both Left and Right

      Paul charges Timothy to “guard the good deposit” (2 Tim. 1:14), which is the gospel of Jesus Christ. We’re to remain vigilant in guarding the gospel because both the Scriptures and also church history remind us that many have swerved from the truth. Even a cursory reading of the New Testament reveals that upholding the truth and the purity of the gospel has been a challenge from the beginning. We aren’t facing anything new in our day, and we have the promise that the church of Jesus Christ will triumph over “the gates of Hades” (Matt. 16:18). In this article I want to briefly consider threats to the gospel—from the left and from the right. Dangers from the Left Paul’s speech to the Ephesian elders is the only speech in Acts addressed to Christians (Acts 20:17–35), and it’s significant that it’s addressed to leaders, to the elders and overseers in the church (Acts 20:17, 28). Paul warns them in the strongest terms about the danger of false teaching: Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has appointed you as overseers, to shepherd the church of God, which he purchased with his own blood. I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Men will rise up even from your own number and distort the truth to lure the disciples into following them. Therefore be on the alert, remembering that night and day for three years I never stopped warning each one of you with tears. (Acts 20:28–31, CSB) As evangelicals we need to be alert to the danger of false teaching. Anyone who knows the history of religious universities in the United States knows that the declension from orthodoxy began with doubts about—and then rejection of—Scripture’s truthfulness. Some might be inclined to question the concern for orthodoxy and doctrinal fidelity that animates many evangelicals. They might complain that such concerns are defensive and negative instead of positive and constructive. But any reading of the New Testament shows that such defensive concerns are fitting and imperative. We see Paul defending the truth ardently against false teachers in the Pastoral Epistles. Peter shares the same concern in his second letter, and 1 John also engages in a polemic against false teachers. Indeed, the focus on defending the faith in the New Testament letters is emphatic and almost startling. If someone were to say that their ministry is only positive and never negative, that they only encourage and never warn, then they’ve strayed from a major emphasis in the New Testament. In Titus 1:9, Paul says an elder must “hold to the faithful message as taught, so that he will be able both to encourage with sound teaching and to refute those who contradict it” (Titus 1:9). A faithful ministry encourages and warns, strengthens and refutes, builds up and tears down. The danger from the left is that concern for orthodoxy is lost, that the task of defending and correcting truth is abandoned. The tendency is to mock and ridicule those who uphold the truthfulness and inerrancy of Scripture. At the same time, there is a danger from the right as well. Dangers from the Right Even though Roger Olson and I would disagree on a number of matters, I think he rightly warns us about “maximal conservatism.” Maximal conservatism draws lines on virtually everything. Defending the faith is understood as holding the most conservative position on every issue. The danger is that we become like the Pharisees who erected a fence around the law. Many examples could be given, but we can think of the debate between those who are Reformed and those who are Arminian. I’m unapologetically Reformed soteriologically, and I think Arminian teaching is defective. Still, there’s a difference between being defective and being heretical, and I gladly acknowledge that Arminians are within the circle of orthodoxy. Indeed, the word “Arminian” is anachronistic, for Arminian theology has a long history. Anyone recognizes this who has read John Chrysostom (AD 347–407), and if Chrysostom isn’t orthodox, then the number of those who are orthodox is few indeed! It’s tempting to charge someone we disagree with of being unbiblical and unfaithful when the debate we’re having is actually within the circle of evangelicalism—whether the matter is spiritual gifts, the doctrine of the Trinity, or counseling. All of us, of course, are unbiblical and unfaithful to some extent, unless we want to say that our doctrine is perfect. Beware of charging that someone is outside the bounds of orthodoxy when in fact the only issue is that they disagree with you. Such zeal on the right can actually drive people away from the truth, because if we charge them with being unorthodox (when they aren’t), they may begin to find friends on the left who don’t caricature their views. Or, they might begin to think, Well, if that’s orthodoxy, then I guess I’m not orthodox. If the lines are drawn too rigidly, we might unwittingly throw friends into the arms of those who are truly unorthodox. Also, if we regularly condemn as unorthodox those who are orthodox, we’re in danger of crying “wolf!” When the real wolf comes, no one pays attention to us anymore, because we’ve so often criticized others. If we’re negative about everything except our own views, people will begin to think we’re cranky and will ignore us when there’s a real problem. Final Word The devil is in the details, and in a short article like this I can’t get into specifics. We live in a world, as we see in the political realm, where those who disagree are quickly demonized, where partisan concerns are ramped up. As Christians, we mustn’t follow the same path. We need to be vigilant for the truth and to defend the faith. At the same time, we need to be careful about drawing lines too tightly, and to beware of pulling out the heresy charge too quickly. We need to ask ourselves if the brother or sister simply disagrees with us and with our theology. As Roger Nicole once said about some who were disputing, “They think they are Martin Luther, but what we really need is Martin Bucer.” The balance we need comes from putting both men together. In other words, we simultaneously need the vigilance for truth of a Martin Luther, and the love for peace and harmony of a Martin Bucer. View the full article

      in Christian Current Events

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