[Dan Phillips over at TeamPyro pens a really interesting post warning against false hope.  It never hurts to be a bit leery of getting into the heads of people without knowing how these things might affect them.  Move that point out a bit and you start asking questions about the comments we use when we speak with unbelievers.  It’s worth your time.  The emphasis is from the original.]

Rebekah Lawrence was a married woman whose husband did not share her desire for children. Troubled by that friction, and by another relatively minor issue or two, she attended a $600 four-day self-help course called Turning Point in Australia.

After the fourth and final session, with no history of serious mental health issues, Rebekah’s thinking and behavior took a dramatic turn for the worse. Then suddenly, at work, she behaved in a deranged manner, murmured an affirmation and, with a song on her lips, jumped to her death.

Now officials are investigating as to whether the self-help course led to her death. The reporting notes that the program was run by people with no formal psychological training. The speculation is that it may have triggered a psychotic episode.

Now, let’s duly note that the same people who’d criticize such courses would equally fault any pastor who tried to counsel anyone about anything. They would note that many pastors also lack “formal psychological training.” As Jay Adams pointed out long ago, psychologists have become the new priesthood, unchallenged experts on the human soul. As Adams also rightly noted, this is far from a Biblical model.

Before coming to my point, let me add this: having said all that, I’ve said far from all that could or should be said about helping troubled people.

Now to my actual point. Here’s where this story turns my mind: preaching and writing by folks like Joel Osteen, Robert Schuller, and teeming hordes of wannabes.

These men (and women) take on the mantel of authority, stand in the pulpit, and tell every last one of their hearers unconditionally and without qualification that God loves them, accepts them just as they are, approves of their hopes and dreams and aspirations, and wants nothing more than He wants for them to be happy and fulfill their desires. God will initial all their aspirations, and back them up all the way.

But who is in those audiences? How do the speakers know? They never even meet 0.001% of the people who hear them. Who are they cheering on, to whom are they promising God’s unconditional approval? Unstable folks like Rebekah Lawrence? Pro-abort extremists like the late Dr. George Tiller? Who is listening? What nascent murderers, rapists, heretics, apostates, false teachers, false prophets, or other lost souls are being promised God’s smile?

Nor does the preaching include any limits, provisos, warnings, nor conditions. God loves you just as you are, and He wants to fulfill your dearest dream — whoever you are, whatever you are, no matter what you’re dreaming!

So let me just say right now, to every one of our readers: God may well not want you to fulfill your dreams and desires. He may well not approve of your plans and aspirations.

In fact — I have to say it; truth and love for God and you constrains me — He may well not accept you, just as you are, right now.

But you can’t see His face just now. We can’t hear His voice speaking individually to us, as if from mid-air. So how can you know? How can we tell?

First: you may not be accepted by God, but may instead be under His judgment and wrath. In terms of global population, it is likelier that this is true of you than that it is not. All of us rebel against the Godhood of God, as expressed in His revealed word, the Bible. We are rebels by nature and by choice. It isn’t even in us to submit to God’s law; we naturally hate both it and Him.

However, the great good news is that God has provided a wonderful way to reconcile us to Himself, forgiving all our sins and crediting the righteousness of His Son to us, as we do a 180 and believe in Christ.  (Read more about how He does this, and how we must respond, HERE.)

This truth confronts you decisively. You cannot go on the way you naturally live, and be heading for God’s kingdom. You must be born again to see the kingdom of God. You must do a radical, root-to-branch turnabout, trusting in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Only thus can you be reconciled to God. Not to say “Yes” to Christ in faith, is to say “No” to God — and you must never expect His smile nor His blessing if you choose to say “No” to God’s call and command.

Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6). If you would know God, you must know Him in Jesus Christ. There is no hope elsewhere nor otherwise.

Second: God may not approve of your plans. Hollywood is dead wrong. Our hearts are not always right. In fact, they are deceitful and incurably sick (Jeremiah 17:9). Not only must we be born again, and bow the knee to Jesus as Lord; but we must continually take His yoke on us and learn from Him, in a committed teacher-student relationship (Matthew 11:29). We must continue in His teaching (John 8:31-32), must have His word as the critic of the thoughts and feelings of our hearts (Hebrews 4:12).

Only by that Word can we know what delights and pleases God on the one hand, and what repels Him, on the other (Psalm 19:7-11; 119:9, 11; 2 Timothy 3:15-17). Only by that Word can we know God’s will, and know what is pleasing to Him.

Do not slight your spouse and think that is the path to blessing (Ephesians 5:22-23). Do not shame your parents and expect a happy future (Ephesians 6:1-3); nor lie (Ephesians 4:25), nor re-shape His word like silly-putty (2 Corinthians 4:1-2), nor compromise the gospel to please men (Galatians 1:10). Neither the all-out pursuit of money (1 Timothy 6:9-10) nor of popularity (Proverbs 18:24) are the way of God.

You and I must not assume God wants us to do anything simply because we want to do it.

But if you are in God’s will, though you may suffer terribly, you can be assured of His loving smile now, and His verdict of joy in eternity (Matthew 5:3-12; 2 Corinthians 4:7-18; 1 Peter 4:12-14).

The only way you know whether you are a child of God at all, and whether you are in the will of God, is the same way: by the Word of God.

Stay in it, and stay close to it. And stay in a church where the Word is taught and practiced, pedal to the metal; and where a pastor takes to heart the care of your soul (Hebrews 13:17).

It is the only way.

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