A very spiritually discerning friend, and fellow blogger, Landon Chapman, posted an article on the Pulpit and Pen website entitled Christians Attack Their Own In the Name of Love: The Plight of Practicing Biblical Discernment. The purpose of the article was to basically outline the path he has taken from first having his eyes of discernment opened, and being overzealous, to where he is now, a more mature, humble follower of Christ. After posting a link to this article on on his Facebook page, one commenter, by the name of Chris Lyons (of CRN.info) had the following to say, and I will address it point by point.
Landon, this is one of those things where I really have to wonder if you have all that much self-awareness or an understanding of irony. Probably the best way to sum it up would be “Physician, heal thyself.” However, I know you are speaking from a place of pain (some real, some imagined), so self-reflection is hard, if not impossible.
First of all, Lyons is making an assumption here that Landon is speaking from a position of pain. Why is he assuming this? Is there something he knows about Landon’s past that could prove to be painful? Just what could this “place of pain” be? Could it be the deception, or the watered down Gospel he heard at his former Church in which Lyons is still a member of? Could this place of pain be Landon’s earnest, tireless desperation to get the true Gospel out to those who need to hear it, and expose the enemy of the Word of God. To expose those teachings that lead people to an even more painful place, a place of rejection and eternal separation from God?
Secondly, Landon clearly laid out in his article that he is examining himself, and his motives. Lyon’s appears to be taking the same liberal stance of “judge not,” while leaving the entire context of the totality of Scripture out of the argument. He cunningly does this by appealing to this assumed “place of pain,” while pleading to take on the role of caretaker here, and imagining himself to be the one thinking clearly and providing logic and reason to an otherwise out of control situation.
The biggest issue is that you assume your “discernment” is biblical, and your analysis reasonable. In your case, specifically, you’ve not really left the “cage stage” and you’ve eisegeted your own justification.
I don’t think Landon “assumes” anything. I think Landon is a cautious student of God’s Word, who only seeks to Glorify God. Yet Lyons is hypocritical in his assumption, since he provides no biblical reason of why Landon’s discernment is unbiblical. However, Lyons must be unfamiliar with passages such as Romans 16:17-18, Ephesians 5:11, Galatians 1:6-9, Colossians 2:8, Matthew 7:15, 2 Corinthians 11:13-15, 1 John 4:1, Jude 1:4, etc. etc. etc… or perhaps Lyons takes an allegorical hermeneutic approach to Scripture, and these passages don’t really apply to us today, or don’t really mean what they say. I’m just assuming.
In general, 99% or more of online “discernment” “ministries” (including, especially, P&P) are neither “discerning”, nor “ministries” (in the sense that they are doing anything of substance to further the kingdom of God). They have become tools to divide and attack the Body of Christ over non-primary issues.
I’m glad he is able to come up with these statistics on the fly like that. Wow, 99%, huh. Well Lyons, what exactly do you consider to be a primary issue? Lyons has a misunderstanding of what causes divisions in the Kingdom. It isn’t discerning individuals who stand up for the truth, it’s false teachers (Romans 16:17) According to Lyons website, his mission appears to be unity among professing Christians, and attacking people who he refers to as “discerners.” While the very premise of his argument is that “discerners,” like Landon, create divisions among believers by “attacking those whom are already saved,” he takes the hypocritical stance of reciprocating the attacks. Except, while Landon’s concern is people being led astray, fed a false Gospel that leads someone to Hell, Lyons is more concerned with people standing around holding hands and singing Kumbaya in their descent to Hell.
They mistake “state boundaries” (denominational differences) for “National boundaries” (differences between Christianity and non-Christianity). They mistake “lost sheep” for “goats” and pastors of other flocks as “wolves”. They, themselves, are cancers in the Body of Christ, much like the Judiazers in the Acts church (except now, secondary dogmas have replaced circumcision as the argument of choice).
But the concept that Lyons just can’t quite seem to grasp here is that simply because someone claims the name of Christ, doesn’t make them Christians. The Biblically exegeted definition of a Christian is someone who is saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. Lyons doesn’t seem to be concerned that other sects, like Catholicism, or the Unification Church, teach a gospel that is contrary to the Word of God, and lo and behold, if someone biblically-minded, like Landon warns people against these errors, then they are just “cancers in the church.” Lyons wants the “discerners” to ignore Ephesians 5:11, and instead, have fellowship with unbelievers, and ignore their grave errors.
They mistake simple homiletic devices for heresy (like with the recent unsubstantiated attacks on Andy Stanley’s current sermon series) and have absolutely no understanding of “charitable reading” (a la 1 Cor 13) when hearing something other than a rigid, Reformed exposition. They also mistake the differences, as do you, between people, personalities, and ideas, and seek to “warn” against and “condemn” people, rather than simply ideas.
“Homiletic devices” like teaching people to come to church and follow Christ’s teachings, even without knowing him as your Savior or as the Son of God, so you can have a better life? Why? Just so you can die and go to Hell afterwards? Perhaps Lyons doesn’t know that Christ’s teachings included him being the Son of God, and the Savior, and apart from him there is no life, but only weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 25:30).
As I said to you, submission isn’t submission if you only do it when you agree. And becoming a freelance “discerner” when you don’t have the agreement of your own leaders to be a “discerner” for others in your own church, smacks of arrogance, not any sort of “biblical discernment” – even if you are right!
First off, how does Lyons know what the leaders of Landon’s local church approve of or not? Has he forgotten that Landon left the heretical, man-pleasing, ear-tickling mega-church, Connection Pointe, to become a part of a bible-based, Gospel-centered church? A church that seeks to please God, rather than man? And, if any church, or local congregation is a true church, then Jesus Christ will be the supreme leader of that church, and the church’s authority will be the Word of God, in which Landon’s submission to is first and foremost.
Part of the problem, though, is within much of Western Christianity, where we have made the Gospel little more than a viral campaign for fire insurance to no earthly purpose. We decry pragmatism within the church, but we’ve taken the most pragmatic approach to the Kingdom of God by making it about “saving souls for heaven/from hell someday”, when the primary import is stated plainly at the beginning of the Lord’s Prayer: Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth, as it is in Heaven.
This twisting of theology here just proves Lyon’s concern isn’t about the eternal salvation of souls, but with making the world a better place to live. Jesus says in Matthew 10:34, “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.” The Great Commission of the Church is to go out and make disciples (Matthew 28:19-20), by preaching the good news of Jesus Christ and his sacrificial atoning death on the Cross. These are the essentials, not unity among false converts and false teachers. Lyons is right that Lord’s prayer states the primary import of the Church, but Lyons clearly does not understand the passage he quoted. Does Lyons think that somehow there will be unbelievers in Heaven? God’s purpose does not include any unrighteousness in his kingdom, and the only way to be declared righteous is by the shed blood of Jesus Christ, by faith in his sacrificial death, and believing that he rose again to conquer death. You must believe the Gospel… the true Gospel, not a false Gospel, otherwise, you are building a false kingdom, on false premises, that lead to a false savior.
I realize you’re probably past the point of accepting any advice at this point I your life, but I believe, as do a lot of folks, that you have an incredible amount of potential and an enviable zeal that could be used for the good of the Kingdom, if you would only train your eyes on your own self for now, and leave the “wolf-detection” to the selected shepherds in your own local community, wherever that may be.
If only you could see that Landon’s eyes, by the grace of God, have been opened to the truth, he has now chosen a path of total submission to Christ and his Word. While God disciplines his believers reguarly, those who are not truly saved will ultimately be turned over to their own sinful desires. I would pray for you Chris Lyons, for you to examine your heart, in light of clear teaching of Scripture, through the entirety of Scripture, that you would see Jesus Christ for who he is. He is our holy and righteous judge, yet merciful enough to give his life for us on the cross, and if you don’t have the urgency to take this message of truth to all the ends of the world, then what are you in it for? This life is temporary. Eternal life is forever.
For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. – 1 Corinthians 1:18
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