Missing the Mark—Missing the Solution | thebereancall.org

T. A. McMahon

Most of us understand that “missing the mark” is one of the biblical definitions of sin. The Apostle Paul uses the Greek verb hamartano for sin in Romans:3:23: “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” That may seem to some as a bit unfair, since rarely would we think that not measuring up to a goal or standard is sin. “Missing the mark” doesn’t seem like much of an offense, considering most sins of which we’re aware, especially the horrendous ones. An arrow that falls short of the target is sin? Seriously? To react in such a way reveals much about ourselves and the condition of our hearts in relationship to our Creator.

God is perfect. Everything He says and does is perfect. Therefore, His standard is perfect. Anything that “come[s] short” of His standard must be sin. As James tells us, “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all” (James:2:10). That’s God’s criterion for being with Him. We sin, we die. And we have all sinned. Death involves physical and spiritual separation. It may be from God—and it could be forever.

One might ask, as the disciples did on one occasion, “Who then can be saved?” Jesus responded, “With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible” (Matthew:19:25-26). God’s judgment and justice are perfect. The penalty for sin is eternal separation from Him. It’s an infinite punishment, and finite mankind can never pay the full sentence. But God can, and did! “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John:3:16). Jesus, the perfect, sinless God/Man, satisfied perfect justice by fully paying for the sins of mankind—past, present, and future.

Although God has provided salvation for all humanity through Jesus, it’s only effectual for those who put their faith in Him as their Savior, understanding that He and He alone can save them. No one and nothing else can be added as a solution—not good works, not church attendance, not a denomination, not rituals, not sacraments, not canonized saints or religious leaders, not baptism—nothing else. Solus Christus—only by Christ.

Once we are saved, we are transformed—but not perfectly. Not yet. That takes place when we go to be with Jesus. Prior to that perfect transformation we are given a new nature, yet we still retain our old nature. We can sin, but we are no longer in bondage to or controlled by sin. As new creatures in Christ, our lives are enabled to please God by His grace and the empowerment of the Holy Spirit who lives within us (1 Corinthians:3:16). Nevertheless, our new life in Christ involves a struggle between our old nature and our new nature.

How important is that struggle? Although our salvation doesn’t depend on it, since salvation was given to all who received it by faith as a free gift, it does relate to a host of things pertaining to our temporal life in Christ. Such as? Our relationship with Jesus—in other words, our love for Him, our pleasing Him, our maturity in Him, our fruitfulness, our obedience, our witness, our rewards in heaven. Such things and many others are dependent to a degree upon our not “missing the mark.” In other words, they must be handled God’s way.

Perfectly? Yes. That must be our goal. Scripture tells us, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matthew:5:48). “But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation [conduct]; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy” (1 Peter:1:15-16). “Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ, saluteth you, always labouring fervently for you in prayers, that ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God” (emphasis added - Colossians:4:12). That must be every believer’s goal.

Is it attainable? No, not in perfection or completely. Then why make the effort? That may sound like a silly question for those who are biblical Christians and who believe that whatever they do, they are to do to the glory of the Lord (1 Corinthians:10:31). Yet even the world gets it. The popular refrain of the self-help and motivational gurus is “Be the best that you can be.” They recognize that even an effort that falls short of the individual’s goal will nevertheless prove to be of benefit. Of course that’s all about self, and far removed from a believer’s motivation…hopefully.

The fervent prayers of Epaphras for his brothers and sisters in Christ in Colosse tell us two important things: a) We are exhorted to stand perfect and complete in all the will of God, and b) As a prayer, the efforts of the believers in Colosse will be helped to that end by the Lord. Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, writes similarly to those in Thessalonica: “Furthermore then we beseech you, brethren, and exhort you by the Lord Jesus, that as ye have received of us how ye ought to walk and to please God, so ye would abound more and more. For ye know what commandments we gave you by the Lord Jesus” (emphasis added - 1 Thessalonians:4:1-2). Those two verses pretty much sum up and support the points and concerns I have in writing this article.

Here they are: 1) Throughout the Scriptures, we believers are exhorted to do things God’s way as perfectly and completely as we can by His grace. 2) Through His Word He has given us all the instructions we need in order to do things His way (2 Peter:1:3-4; 2 Timothy:3:16-17). 3) He has given us His Holy Spirit to help us understand and do what He commands (1 Corinthians:3:16; John:16:13). 4) To the degree that we don’t take to heart and do not only what God has provided for us but what He commands us to do and in the way He wants us to do it, that carelessness involves actively “missing the mark.” It’s sin. And sin leads to separation.

Sin, for the believer in Christ (as I hope we know), has consequences that are temporal and not eternal. Christ’s payment on our behalf makes our destiny with Him eternally secure. As Christians, our sins have the temporal effect of destroying our fruitfulness as well as adversely affecting our relationship with Jesus. He will never leave us nor forsake us. Our sins, however, cause us to draw away from Him until we repent. “Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear: But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear” (emphasis added - Isaiah:59:1-2). However, true repentance of our sins (no matter what those sins may be) enables us to draw near to God, thereby restoring our relationship (James:4:8).

How serious can “missing the mark” become? What follows is an observation that grieves me deeply, which is why I have begun this article by trying to clarify the necessity of God calling us to perfection. His Word, His instructions, His commands, are perfect. Furthermore, they are God’s words, not men’s: “But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ” (Galatians:1:11-12). God’s words are truth; man’s words added to the Lord’s are “profane and vain” leaven. They may seem godly at first, but “they will increase unto more ungodliness” (2 Timothy:2:16). Moreover, adding to or subtracting from God’s Word is condemned: “Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him. Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar” (Proverbs:30:5-6). 

We are in a time of overwhelming apostasy, which should be obvious to those who are committed to Jesus and, therefore, to biblical discernment. Scripture indicates that such a spiritual condition will increase dramatically as we draw nearer to the Lord’s return. Jesus characterized that time as one of unprecedented deception (Matthew 24). Paul states that a major reason for believers being deceived is because “…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” (2 Timothy:4:3-4). 

Fables? Fables are stories. Stories can be true or false, but what they are not is God’s Word, His doctrine, His truth. I’m not talking about illustrations that help us to explain biblical doctrine but man’s input that takes on a life of its own and, in the process, departs from what God has said. Warnings are given throughout the Bible regarding this, as in Hebrews:2:1: “Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip” [emphasis added]. Sadly, the slippage today in the church is of avalanche proportions.

The Emerging Church Movement (ECM), having begun not too long ago, made a huge impact among young adult Christians. It seduced many away from adhering to sound doctrine and led them into subjective conversations about God, the contemplative approach to knowing God, traditional rituals, the sacramentals of the Catholic and Orthodox Churches, and the use of allegory and spiritualization of the interpretation of Scripture. That debris of the ECM continues to find fertile ground among millennials. But there is a far more devastating and widespread example in the church of drifting away from sound doctrine, and that, tragically, is through the ministries of some of the most influential women in Christendom.

In the March 2019 TBC newsletter’s main article, I mentioned the names of Beth Moore, Joyce Meyer, Priscilla Shirer, and Sarah Young. All are prolific writers, have huge followings, and are guilty of supplanting the Word of God and Jesus himself through drifting away from sound doctrine. They all take teachings, many of which have a biblical basis, and “miss the mark” by pushing them far beyond biblical truth. Their “ongoing conversations” with God have led them and consequently their followers to numerous false teachings. Certainly God can speak to the hearts of His children, but nowhere in the Epistles do we find continuous dialogue between the Lord and believers. We find in the book of Acts that the Holy Spirit at times personally guides and directs the saints but never in the sense that these women teach! God’s personal communication with people is for His purpose and at His choosing and timing. Even His prophets didn’t have ongoing two-way conversations with Him. Jeremiah had to wait ten days for the Lord to speak to Him regarding his enquiry.

The errors that follow these women’s “conversations” (which their numerous books encourage their admirers to emulate) suggest to their readers that the communication content can be taken as “thus saith the Lord.” For those who spend more time reading their many books than they do the Bible, a false teaching that sounds biblical can readily be accepted as such. That distorts not only the authority and content of Scripture but also the character of God. Often the claimed dialogue demeans the Lord, as though He were one of their familiar peers. Beth Moore declares that God calls her “Baby” and “Honey” and participates in playfulness with her. Worse yet is what these ladies assert they have heard from Him that contradicts what His Word says. That would make Him at the very least “another Jesus” (2 Corinthians:11:4), certainly not the Word Himself.

All of these women promote some form of mysticism, which is an abandonment of the objective truth of God’s Word, giving preference to personal experiences, intuitions, subjective understandings, and feelings. Some teach techniques that are “Christianized alterations” of Eastern mystical techniques and practices. They misinterpret and corrupt the “Be still” of Psalm:46:10 to mean a clearing of the mind in silence in order to hear from God. No. God is simply declaring to those fearful of their enemies (and to their enemies themselves) that He has protected and will protect Israel!

These women all fall into the trap of counseling from the errors of so-called Christian psychology, the principles of which are diametrically opposed to God’s Word. All promote the false teaching of self-esteem-building in order to help their followers feel better about themselves.

Ecumenism is rampant in their writings and their video series, and particularly in their acceptance of Roman Catholics as brothers and sisters in Christ. It may be that they are unaware of the official gospel of Rome, which declares that heaven is available only to those who are baptized, and entrance is dependent upon one’s good works after their sins have been expiated in purgatory. That ignorance is not just related to an ignorance of Catholicism and other “Christian” cults and aberrational groups, but it seems to stem from a lack of knowledge of the basic doctrines of biblical Christianity! 

Having gone through many of the materials authored by these women, I’ve yet to find a clear presentation of the gospel, particularly an explanation of what one needs to believe in order to be saved. Although they seem sincere in wanting to help women “go deeper with Jesus,” and “develop a more intimate relationship” with Him, that cannot happen unless a person has been born-again. The doctrine of the gospel of salvation is given simply in response to the Philippian jailor who cried out: “…Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved….” Furthermore, one must believe that He “died for our sins according to the Scriptures; and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures” (Acts:16:30-31; 1 Corinthians:15:1-4). I found only one clear explanation of the gospel among these women teachers, and that was by Joyce Meyer. However, for the millions who follow her, tragically, she declares that Jesus paid the penalty for our sins by descending into hell, where He was tortured by Satan and his demons. That is clearly a false gospel and a false Jesus.

Presenting a comprehensive presentation of all the false teachings of these ladies would take volumes, certainly far beyond what could be contained in this one article. Other troubling points can be found in this newsletter’s Q&A. My challenge to those who are enamored with the books of Beth Moore, Priscilla Shirer, Joyce Meyer, and Sarah Young is that they prayerfully consider what I’ve pointed out, and then be a Berean (Acts:17:11), and compare their teachings with God’s Word. I also exhort pastors, as shepherds who have a responsibility to protect their sheep, to come alongside the women in their fellowship, helping them to grow in biblical discernment.