Sermon in English, Scripture: 1 Timothy 4:1-3
by Susan Conway and Sarah Leslie Courtesy of Discernment Ministries
It sometimes feels awkward to be a woman involved in discernment ministry. It seems like exercising discernment should be the duty of pastors. But in this day and age everyone must exercise discernment, if we are truly following Jesus and His Word.
Our discernment work began nearly three decades ago when we simply tried to understand what was coming into our homes and churches.
We are two oddballs – women who stay at home and take care of our families, who also happen to spend our “free” time doing historical and theological research. It didn’t start out that way. We both went to college and our education was to influence us for years to come. Sue majored in history, and then got a master's degree in education in an experimental program that trained her in how to be a change agent.
Sarah majored in elementary education, where she was trained as a facilitator, and then went on to get a master's degree in counseling. In the 1970s, Sue went on to become a missionary overseas in Africa and Sarah set up a private counseling practice. Even at this time, both of us knew that something was wrong, and we began to question things.
In the early 1980s changes in American culture began to impact our families in troubling ways. We noticed the numbing, deadening influence of entertainment. Another troubling sign was the influx of occult toys and videos for children. In order to protect our children we had to learn to discern pagan signs and symbols and keep them out of our homes. And we avoided entertainment-style learning methods. Then we began to see families begin to disintegrate under the pressures of modern life – the rising divorce rates, the feminist movement, the rush for riches. Our families made hard decisions to live simply without lots of extra material goods so that we could stay home and be with our children. Because of our backgrounds, both of us began paying attention to education reform, and we recognized that the plans, programs and methods were not Christian. So we made the decision to homeschool our children.
We also noticed as new things came into the evangelical world, and not always for the better. Both of us went through trying times in churches that began to enthusiastically embrace new theologies and new methods. Perhaps it was because we were young mothers that we first became concerned about the new styles of doing “business” as a church that seemed onerous and burdensome, particularly on young families. We were already up to our eyeballs in diapers and playdough. We didn’t need extra programs.
We were utterly incapable of performing to purpose-driven “results,” much less devising them for others to be implementing. It was all we could do to just snatch a few winks of sleep once in awhile. The new requirements for being “effective” and “successful” and becoming great leaders/influencers were taking their toll on our husbands, too.
Over the ensuing years Sarah received a heavy dose of Dominionist teachings. Sue was exposed to the leadership and purpose-driven models. By the late 1980s we knew that something had gone terribly wrong with our Christian walk. We were constantly being told that we needed to have new methods, new practices, new beliefs and new doctrines. But when we tried to incorporate these new things into our faith, it resulted in losing Jesus as our first love. It stole our joy. It caused turmoil and conflict. And it took us away from the simplicity of the Gospel. We both raised questions. Why was this new teaching coming into the churches? Where did it come from? What was behind it?
This questioning led us on a relentless search, first to examine our Christian walk, then to examine the truths of Christianity and Jesus, and then to try to find out why these new methods, practices, teachings could so seriously erode the Truth of the Gospel of Salvation. It seemed like another gospel. The Lord had uniquely gifted both of us with a passion for doing historical research so we began to dig. The more we dug, the worse things looked. What on the surface might appear like a tasty nugget of new doctrine or
a "fun" activity isn’t new at all! We learned that many of these ideas, philosophies, theologies and doctrines actually had roots in the occult, especially by way of the social sciences and psychology. By this time, we realized that our background and training, which we had left far behind, had uniquely qualified us to understand the rising heresies. We have learned a lot over the years, and we are still learning. We have a burden to warn others. And the Lord has permitted us to do this in amazing ways in this era of technology. Some of our research is posted on the Herescope blog, a project of Discernment Ministries at http://www.herescope.com. We are grateful for the many other researchers with whom we work who contribute time, materials, advice, insight, research, encouragement and sustenance.
As wives and mothers, we recognize that we approach discernment research differently from men. First of all, we are “keepers at home” (Titus 2:6), and that must be a priority for how we spend our time. Second, the Word of God must be the final authority in all that we say, do and believe. Third, we must be in submission to our husbands. And fourth, we pray daily that the Lord would continue to break our hearts over the terrible heresies in our midst. We do not ever want to grow callous or hard-hearted.Perhaps it is because we are women at home that we see things differently from men. Men often design big plans and programs that seem sound from an engineering or business point of view. But we women often see the REAL consequences of these schemes, measured in the damaging consequences to the lives of those among us who are the most weak, feeble, infirm, handicapped, young or old. When an ambitious program lacks compassion and mercy, it takes its toll on the weakest among us.
Each day we are aware of 1 Timothy 3, which says in the “last days perilous times shall come” which is evidenced by, among other things, “without natural affection” (vs. 3). Women who follow after apostasy and false teachings are prone to behaviors that are “without natural affection” – especially in how they treat their children and their husbands. The Old Testament prophets describe a particular downhill course of degradation in which women who follow after idolatry become lascivious, immodest and promiscuous – behaviors which can have terrible consequences on marriages and children.
2 Timothy 3:6 warns that those who have a “form of godliness” are of the “sort” who “creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts.” In our days of feminism, it isn’t popular to admit that women can be more gullible, naïve and vulnerable than men when it comes to deceptive teachings. But it is a biblical fact that goes back to the Garden of Eden.
How much more, then, should we women take to heart 1 Peter 4:7 – “But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer.” Many women have trouble being “sober-minded,” but that is indeed how the Scriptures tell us to live.
As “keepers at home” we mothers are uniquely positioned to be the day-to-day “guards” for what comes into the home. Women serve their family well, who protect their children from occult toys and books, rock music, TV shows, videos, Internet, cell phones, and all other forms of questionable pastimes and entertainment. But in these perilous times, even that is not enough. There is a new influx of false doctrines and heresies into the home via evangelical books, music, media and influences – some especially targeting teens through sophisticated marketing techniques. It is no longer safe to assume that the lyrics to Christian rock music are truly biblical. We can no longer trust the writings or materials of respected evangelical leaders. We have reached the point where evangelical bookstore shelves are filled with the new heresies. Many homeschool curriculums (and leaders) teach Dominionist doctrines. And most so-called Christian television programming is full of Latter Rain and New Age heresies.
We are often asked for help with discernment research. Many Christians in these last days are floundering around in the water, unable to swim, grasping for lifesavers and assistance in the treacherous waters of heresy. We have a simple answer: READ YOUR BIBLES! Be filled with the Spirit. Walk in obedience to the Lord. And begin to exercise discernment.
“For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. But watch thou in all things,
endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.” (1 Timothy 4:1-3)