One of the very best things about having taught and been in contact with many in the Discernment Ministries for over 35 years is that I’ve actually come to personally know a number of these dedicated brothers and sisters in the Lord. I know the hearts and spirits behind the pencils and pens. This week and next, I’ll be posting 2 articles authored by Sarah Leslie, editor of Herescope.com who has graciously permitted me to share them with you here.
Sarah is also affiliated with Discernment-Ministries.com. Both of these ministries have been in existence for well over a decade and come with high recommendations. She is not only one of the most scholarly women I know, she is also one of the most courageous. Her passion and zeal for the Lord shine through in everything she writes.
FOLLOW THE PATH
by Sarah Leslie
“Make me to go in the path of thy commandments; for therein do I delight.” (Psalm 119:35)
Why would a Christian want to warn about the dangers of heresy? Are discerners just being busybodies, acting like know-it-alls, minding other people’s business, looking for trouble, trying to agitate, or being contentious? (We should work very hard to not be like this!) A good motive for warning someone about the dangers of heresy is because we love them and we are concerned for their walk with the Lord.
Another good reason for warning is because it is a duty found in the Scriptures. The Apostle Paul provides a good example to us of a loving warning in Acts 20:31: “Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears.” Another good reason to warn is because we may happen to understand the dangers of a particular heresy. We may have a prior firsthand experience that cannot be easily discounted or dismissed.
I’ve noticed that the Bible often connects the avoidance of heresy with the idea of walking in the right path. Our Christian life is often described as a walk. For example, Romans 6:4 says we “should walk in newness of life” and Romans 8:4 reminds us to “walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” Romans 13:13 and 1 Thess. 4:12 both say to “walk honestly.” Several times we are reminded to “walk worthy” of the Lord (1 Thess. 2:12; Col. 1:10; Eph. 4:1). Proverbs 4:14 warns us to “enter not into the path of the wicked, and go not in the way of evil men.” And Psalm 1 begins with “Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly….”
When I was a young parent, I learned that warning about danger is part of natural affection. When toddlers and young children begin to crawl, walk and run, we
parents cry out warnings: “Don’t touch that!”… “Stop, or you could get hurt!”… “Quit doing that!”… “Slow down!”… “Stay here by me!”….
I’ve observed that when a believer warns a brother or sister in the Lord with similar admonitions, “Don’t touch that!”… “Stop, or you could be hurt!” the warning isn’t always appreciated or heeded. In fact, it is a common experience for warnings to be rebuffed or dismissed as the hypersensitivity of an overly-cautious saint. Sometimes the manner in which the warning is delivered isn’t perfect, and this shortcoming is then used as an excuse for not listening to the warning. Why is it so hard to hear a warning? Well, some of it has to do with our human nature. It isn’t pleasing to our flesh to be corrected, reproved, warned or cautioned. One must have a teachable spirit in order to accept warnings. It also requires a willingness to check out the warning in the light of Scripture to see if there is some merit to it. (See Acts. 17:10-11.)
I have often meditated on the Scriptures about “paths” and how they relate to biblical discernment. I grew up in central Illinois, not far from a state park called Starved Rock. Starved Rock is a sandstone cliff with a very unique history and geology. The cliff overlooks the Illinois River and offers a magnificent view. The reason for its name is that, according to native legend, a group of Illini Indians were pursued by other tribes to this large butte where they were held and starved to death.
During my childhood I spent many hours hiking along the paths of this park. My parents, who also grew up in Central Illinois, were very familiar with this park and enjoyed taking us there. Mom and Dad would often warn me and my siblings to “stay on the path” when we walked through this park. Mom told us sad stories of people who had strayed from the path and fallen to their death. She lost a good friend this way.
And once she almost fell off the cliff; she was grabbed by the arm and pulled back at the last minute. My father, who was always very concerned about safety, would point to the signs along the path. These signs simply warned us to stay on the path. But Dad said we needed to know the reason why. He explained that 1) sandstone is very slippery, and 2) sandstone is a very fragile rock and an outcropping can easily break off.
I also spent many summers attending a camp not too far from this park. It was full of the same beautiful geological features of sandstone cliffs and caverns. I learned very quickly that sandstone is one of the most treacherous types of rock to walk upon, that the slightest bit of moss or moisture can make it extremely slippery. More than once I fell on the path, slipping from a rock upon which I had thought I had a sure footing. It didn’t seem to matter what kind of shoe I was wearing. I learned that walking on sandstone required not only good dexterity and balance, but often some sort of outside support like a tree limb, a root, or a walking stick that we could grab onto. At times I had to resort to crawling on all fours.
Veering off the marked sandstone paths could be treacherous and perilous. Sadly, my brothers lost a good friend at Starved Rock. He had been a difficult child, rowdy, very disobedient to his parents, and always in trouble at school. He joined the military at a young age and everyone hoped that the discipline of the military might help him settle down. When he got back from the service he visited Starved Rock where he began to clown around. He ignored the warning signs and went near the edge of the cliff. He fell to his death.
Psalm 17:5 says, “Hold up my goings in thy paths, that my footsteps slip not.” In my teenage years I got involved with meditation, eastern religions, mysticism and all of the other things that came with the hippie culture of the late 1960s and early 1970s. I didn’t heed the warning signs and took every opportunity to stand as close to the edge of life’s cliffs as I could. In fact, I adopted a credo called “kicks.” I would do anything for “kicks” just once. Well, “kicks” proved to be a terrible philosophy.
I explored the mystical paths. I was a slow learner (what the Bible calls “a fool”) so I began to know all of these paths by heart, making the same mistakes over and over again. I learned just how far one could walk along the path of meditation or altered states of consciousness before encountering evil spirits. I soon found out that searching into the occult produced terrible fruit. Every other world religion eventually leads to darkness, despair and emptiness. And I discovered that mystical kinds of peace, joy, love and beauty were dangerous mirages. Sadly, I lost some friends on these paths, fellow seekers who got too close to the cliff and fell off to their death. My own life was miraculously preserved. It wasn’t very long before I realized that many of the old occult paths upon which I had formerly trod were being treacherously and deceptively converted into “Christian” appearing walkways. Billed as some “new thing” that would make believers more “spiritual,” or promising some sort of higher self-esteem or deeper self-fulfillment, these paths all started out by looking quite benign, even helpful.
I began to warn believers when I saw them entering into the same mystical realms that I had once left and repented of! Why? Because I had inside knowledge about these trails! I knew from prior experience that a path along a beautiful vista could become horrifyingly unstable. I knew where there were weak and vulnerable spots, deep caverns just off the established trail where slippery sandstone lurked, often hidden underneath green moss. Sadly, over the years I have lost many Christian friends on these same paths, believers who thought they could play with a little bit of heresy or sin. They got too close to the cliff, and some even fell to their death!
Sometimes the warning to stay on the path just doesn’t seem all that dangerous from our own limited viewpoint (Gen. 3:6). But Scripture informs us that just off the main path there are all sorts of allurements that can entice the senses. Leaving the narrow way quickly leads to perilous rabbit trails. These side routes rapidly diverge from biblical orthodoxy. A few little detours, a bypass here and there, a couple of extra steps onto a rock overhang…. What could be the harm in that? Who could object to exploring just a bit outside the boundary? Why not mosey closer to the cliff for a grander view? Why not roam over to grassy edges? What could be wrong with tiptoeing across sandstone rocks to see tiny little wildflowers?
God’s Word posts warnings along all of the pathways of a believer’s life. There are plenty of “don’t do” type messages warning us not to stray off of the narrow way. The Bible even warns about “slippery” paths, like the sandstone paths at Starved Rock (Ps. 35:6; 73:18; Jer. 23:12). Scripture also offers blessings for those who stay obediently on the narrow path. Psalm 23:3 says,“He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.” In the New Testament we learn that we should follow Jesus on this path: “For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps” (1 Peter 2:21) and “Beloved, follow not that which is evil, but that which is good…” (3 John 1:11a). Hebrews 12:1-2 says our eyes should be “looking unto Jesus,” not at the sideshows.
Job 24:13 warns us: “They are of those that rebel against the light; they know not the ways thereof, nor abide in the paths thereof.” 2 Peter 2 graphically warns believers about following the wrong ways: “But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily (stealthily) shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of. And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not.”
My favorite Scriptural passage about following God’s “way” is found in Psalm 119. A study of this lengthy Psalm reveals that learning and following God’s Word, His testimonies, precepts, law, commandments, statutes and judgments in Scripture, will preserve and protect us along the path of life. The familiar verse 105 reminds us that: “Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path“.
For Next Week!
Next week’s article by Sarah Leslie is very time-appropriate because of something that recently happened to me. My daughter recently bought a rotisserie chicken for a quick dinner for all of us to share. Since she broke it up into big chunks and we don’t normally each chicken like that anyway, I naturally assumed that the chicken was “safe to eat.” My mother often remarked that I had no common sense and on that night her words indeed proved true. I bit into a nice, juicy piece of chicken and discovered …a bone. The thought immediately went through my mind that I had a perfect example for the following article (trust me, I did not provide the example on purpose!).
I would like to thank my fellow consultants for all their assistance in getting this blog published: Hannah Hall, Michelle Arrington, Ariel Mcgarry, Carol White, J.P.Wilhelm, and Tracy Yoder. Their encouragement and patience have been invaluable to me.
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Leslie, Sarah. “Follow the Path”. Discernment Ministries Vol. n.p. 22 No. 1 (Jan/Feb 2011). Web. Jan. 9, 2018. URL: http://www.discernment-ministries.com/Newsletters/NL2011JanFeb.pdf.
Wise Man and the Foolish Man. Foundation Flawed, YouTube. Reverend James Spain. Oct 15, 2014. Web. Jan 10, 2018. Click Here for Source