Homosexuality & Biblical Truth

I normally follow the Biblical pattern of a day of rest for this blog on Sundays. However, in light of the Supreme Court’s abominable decision on same-sex marriage (oxymoron alert!) this past Friday, I just want to use this space to offer some Biblical reminders.

The first one comes from Romans, chapter one:

Romans 1For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness. . . .

Professing to be wise, they became fools. . . . Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie. . . .

For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error.

In the first chapter of I Timothy, we read,

But we know that the Law is good, if one uses it lawfully, realizing the fact that law is not made for a righteous person, but for those who are lawless and rebellious . . . for immoral men and homosexuals . . . and whatever else is contrary to sound teaching.

And in I Corinthians, chapter 6, we are told,

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals . . . will inherit the kingdom of God.

The next part, though, is encouraging:

HolinessSuch were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.

Our message needs to be twofold: clearly spelling out the sinfulness of homosexuality and how it separates the sinner from God, along with the stark truth that people can come out of that sin and be sanctified in Him and become part of His kingdom.

But one must “come out” first. It is a choice, not the result of one’s genetic code.

That’s not a message our current generation wants to hear, but Christians need to be faithful to this truth, even if that steadfast faithfulness leads to persecution. We must obey God rather than men.

Happy New Year? Real Christians Are the Key

Everyone always says “Happy New Year!” Is that what we really expect, or do we look ahead with more anxiety than anticipation? Is there much to be happy about in our world?

JeremiahIn this blog, I’ve tried hard to stay upbeat even while pointing out the follies, misfortunes, and outright sins in our society. I’ve never desired to be a Jeremiah. Maybe that’s because I don’t like suffering. No one wanted to hear his words; at one point, he was thrown in a well to die. I’m not fond of wells and other pits. Not everyone gets rescued as he did.

It’s a delicate balance to maintain, pointing out the problems while remaining upbeat. There are too many who spend all their time denouncing everything. They become boring after a while. Yet there is a lot to denounce. How can we do so in the right spirit?

When I look at the world and attempt to make sense of what’s happening, I look first to the church. How is its spiritual health? What impact is it having on day-to-day life? Is it being faithful to the Message delivered to the saints?

It’s always important to keep in mind that there are two “churches” out there: one that is visible and outward, and the other that is within the visible and outward manifestation. The true church is comprised of genuine believers who may worship in many types of outward church buildings and/or denominations.

Do I have to say this? I will anyway. The true church is only a minority within the number of those who show up for a worship service on any given Sunday. The old cliché never goes out of date: going to church doesn’t make anyone a Christian any more than entering a garage makes one a car.

What the world calls “the church” is slipping away from its Biblical moorings. It has watered down Biblical authority and allowed the tenor of the times to dictate what it believes to be true. Some have even gone the entire way and have claimed that truth itself is elusive, rather relative, and unattainable.

We can never look to that external church for real leadership; we must look instead to those who labor within it who have remained faithful to the Gospel—individual salvation only through Christ and societal reform only via the salvation message.

On balance, we have both good and bad occurring simultaneously within what is normally seen as Christendom. That’s to be expected. Jesus made it clear there would be tares [weeds] growing alongside the wheat. He also said it would remain that way throughout time, until God the Father decides that our time is up.

In former decades, America saw itself as a Christian nation, at least in the sense that we honored Christian faith publicly. Those days are nearly gone. Yet, although that may cause us grief, there is an up side to it. The lines are more clearly drawn now; we cannot just rely on a civic religion that gives lip service to Christianity. We are now forced to make a choice—what do we really believe?

Atheists have lately become more emboldened. They are using the courts and putting pressure on the society to toss religious beliefs aside. The society has accepted behaviors that we never thought would become normalized.

What will the genuine church do in response to these challenges in 2015? Will that church stand tall and strong? Will it hold to Biblical truth in spite of the pressures to conform to new societal standards? Will it speak the truth in love and accept whatever persecution may come from that stance?

Salt & LightI keep coming back to this point regularly in my blog: Jesus called us to be salt and light. Salt preserves. There is much in our society that has been based on Biblical truth; it needs to be preserved. We have a responsibility to try to maintain our Biblical roots. Light shows others the way, the proper path to follow. They need this light because they are walking in darkness. If we don’t shine the light, they will remain in their sins.

Love God above all else and love our neighbors as ourselves. Those are the two greatest commandments. But we don’t love either God or our neighbors if we don’t tell the truth about sin, judgment, and how to restore a right relationship with the One who gave us life in the first place.

Will it be a happy new year? Or at least happier? The church of devoted followers of Jesus Christ is the key; we are His hands, feet, and mouth. Will we be faithful this year?

Proper Christian Criticism

Question: Is it right for a Christian to write a blog such as mine and include pointed criticisms of the government and its leaders? Shouldn’t I, instead, humbly accept whatever the government does, in the spirit of Christ? Fair question. Here’s my response.

OT ProphetRead the Bible. Start with the Old Testament and all the denunciations of the government delivered by faithful men of God. No king ever had a free pass. Read the prophets and realize that those prophetic books are filled with declarations of how the government has denied God’s truth and is poised to suffer His judgment.

Go over to the New Testament. Read about how John the Baptist criticized both the civil and religious leaders of his day. He spoke directly and forcibly. And what of Jesus? Did He sin when he took a whip and drove the moneychangers out of the Temple because they were profaning the worship of God? Did He spare the feelings of the Pharisees when he called them whitewashed tombs?

I’m afraid some Christians have a false image of what it means to be the representatives of Christ on earth. Yes, we offer the love of God. Yes, we show people how they can receive His forgiveness and become part of His family, now and into eternity. But in order to receive God’s love and forgiveness, people need to be confronted with their sins first. They need to grasp the need for repentance and lay down their pride.

We also have a commission to do what the apostle Paul described in his second letter to the Corinthians:

We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.

Every generation has its speculations and lofty ideas that contradict the truth of God’s Word. We are commissioned to combat those false notions with His truth. No one in a society, no matter the position, from the lowest to the highest, is exempt from criticism when that person is deviating from the truth.

Obama Arrogant Look 2That applies especially to those who wield immense influence over others. When a president endorses abortion on demand, exalts the sin of homosexuality and seeks to destroy the Biblical concept of marriage, oversteps all legal boundaries on his authority, attempts to silence those who disagree with him, uses his office to divide the nation into groups continually at odds with one another, and constantly displays an arrogance and sense of entitlement that directs all his actions, one would be derelict of one’s Christian duty to simply accept this and say nothing in opposition to the nature of this president’s reign.

Christians are to be salt, preserving the good in a society. Christians are to be light, revealing the path of righteousness. One cannot preserve the good or show the path of righteousness without simultaneously highlighting that which is evil and unrighteous. Both are essential. That is what I attempt to do. That is what I will continue to do.

Finney: Can Sin & Holiness Coexist?

One reason, I think, for the weakness of the Church today (and by Church I mean the universal Church, not any particular denomination) is the acceptance of the idea that a person can be a Christian in good standing with God while actively sinning. Sin is rebellion. How can one be in a state of rebellion and be loving God simultaneously? Yet when we teach this, we are making people comfortable in their sins, allowing them to continue in deception.

Charles Finney 6Charles Finney spoke out forcefully against this all-too-prevalent concept, and I agree with his following comments:

The theory of the mixed character of moral actions is an eminently dangerous theory, as it leads its advocates to suppose that in their acts of rebellion there is something holy, or, more strictly, there is some holiness in them while they are in the known commission of sin.

It is dangerous because it leads its advocates to place the standard of conversion, or regeneration, exceedingly low–to make regeneration, repentance, true love to God, faith, etc., consistent with the known or conscious commission of present sin.

This must be a highly dangerous philosophy. . . . There can scarcely be a more dangerous error than to say, that while we are conscious of present sin, we are or can be in a state of acceptance with God.

Some people reject that analysis because it seems to say that every time one sins, one may lose his salvation. But here is the plain truth of the Scripture: sin separates from God; Jesus came to save us from [Greek word meaning “out of or away from] our sins; our salvation is not just a legal justification through the Cross but a humbling of ourselves and a changed life that makes Jesus Christ Lord of all our motives, thoughts, and actions.

Salvation is not just some technicality because you have prayed a rote prayer. Salvation is an ongoing, continuous relationship with the God of the universe. If the relationship is broken, how can that be called salvation? What have you been saved from if you are continuing in sin?

As the apostle John warned,

If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. . . .

The one who says, “I have come to know Him, and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. . . .

Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness. You know that He appeared in order to take away sins; and in Him there is no sin. . . .

No one who is born of God practices sin. . . . By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God.

This is not a message of condemnation, but of hope. When we truly commit our lives to the Lord, we will grow in the knowledge of Him and in our ability to turn from those sins that bound us in our former life without Him. If we really know Him, sin becomes the rarity in our lives, not the norm.

Christians & Politics: My Statement of Faith

Biblical WorldviewI sincerely hope the thoughts I share on this blog can be seen as coming from a heart of deep concern for the truths of the Christian faith, the edifying of believers, and the instruction of those who may be outside that faith. I skewer whatever deserves to be skewered, seeking to do so in the same manner as Jesus cleansing the temple of those who made a mockery of real worship.

Therefore, I try to be charitable toward those who may disagree with me, and I don’t want to be a source of disunity in the Body of Christ. Yet I must speak up with respect to those things that make us ineffective and/or disconnected to the reality of the political and governmental realm. I’m going to disagree today with some brothers and sisters who don’t like Christians getting involved with politics, but I won’t name any names. This is not intended as any kind of a personal attack on those who are in disagreement.

The spark for today’s commentary is the increasing number of articles, blog posts, and passing comments on social media warning Christians not to be tied to a conservative political agenda. Those of us who write or speak out on political issues are being taken to a verbal woodshed by some, and being accused of putting politics ahead of the Gospel.

God & GovernmentI hope regular readers of this blog will recognize my constant reminders that the basic problem in the world is man’s broken relationship with God, a divide that can be healed only through the cross of Christ. There is nothing more important than leading people to that truth. Neither have I placed any false hope in government; it never will be our savior. Politics is definitely a dirty business, but then so is the running of a corporation at times, being involved in a labor union, or any other human endeavor.

Politics, however, and the potential power of government to dictate our lives, affects us all. It can be a hindrance to the Gospel and to individuals who want to live in accordance with the Lord’s commands. It can penalize believers who want to operate their businesses on Biblical principles. It can restrict the interchange of ideas and beliefs. A climate of intolerance—in the name of tolerance—can seek to make everyone conform to what a government concludes is “right” thinking.

This is why I’ve always contended that Christians need to be involved in political affairs, not to set up a theocracy, but to safeguard the religious liberty bequeathed to us by the Founding Generation.

Whenever I speak to any political group, I make it clear that my political beliefs are grounded on my understanding of the Christian worldview as explained in the Bible. I am a Christian first and foremost; if my views line up with a certain political stance, it’s not because I’m a slave to a political party or movement; instead, I align with a party or movement to the extent that it reflects my Biblical beliefs and values.

One well-known pastor recently said he was concerned that evangelicals are turning people off to the Gospel because of our perceived political stance. What stance does he mean? If he means we are against abortion, so be it. If he means we continue to believe homosexuality is a sin and that there is no valid “gay” marriage, I can live with that. With the former, I am arguing against the mass murder of innocent children. With the latter, I am standing up for a God-ordained concept of sexuality and family. What are we supposed to do—apologize for those views? Run away from them? Hide them so as to not offend people?

PersecutionLet’s be clear. Jesus offended a lot of people. He told us that the Gospel message would lead to persecution and would divide families. His message led to His death because He challenged the religious/political establishment of His day. The apostle Paul said that all who desire to live godly lives would most certainly be persecuted.

Who are we? What do we have to offer as a church? Is our goal to make people feel comfortable in their sins?

Here’s what concerns me more than any political chicanery or threat to religious liberty: that the church in our day either minimizes or excuses sin; that we redefine sins such as homosexuality as just another alternative lifestyle and God accepts everyone; that we don’t really call sinners to repentance because we don’t want to damage their self-esteem; that we’re so focused on being liked and accepted in the mainstream of society that we will change the Gospel to fit current trends.

To those who are airing warnings against political activity, let me assure you that most of us on this side of the divide understand the potential dangers. Yes, some people seem to equate patriotism with being a Christian. Yes, some may come close to thinking that there can be a political solution to our crises. But I contend they are a minority.

Can you see the other danger? Too much concern about political involvement may be based upon a dichotomous worldview that separates religious faith from the so-called secular arena. It then allows the ungodly to run those “secular” entities and just hopes for the best. Some may call that trusting God, but I submit that it may instead be running away from a godly responsibility.

Salt & LightI realize some who are sounding these warnings are doing so from a good heart and simply want the Gospel to be primary. I argue that making the Gospel primary means the Good News affects all aspects of our lives and that we take that message into every realm of our society. We are not lights to be put under a bushel; we are not to be tasteless salt. We are to help preserve that which is good in society and shine a light to show people the way out of that which is evil.

Of course that requires a clear understanding of good and evil. We must never change God’s standards. We must stand for His truth even in a culture that is spiraling out of control away from His truth. We need to encourage one another to stand firm and to be the best representatives of His love that we can be. That begins with a strong denunciation of sin, the absolute requirement of repentance, and the offer of unbounded forgiveness to all who will repent of their sin. That is the Good News; that is the Gospel.

Lewis : Willing Slaves of the Welfare State

C. S. Lewis didn’t write a lot specifically about civil government because that wasn’t his priority. Yet when he did write on the subject, he was lucid and devastating with respect to how government can become a terror to individuals. One of his essays in God in the Dock is entitled “Is Progress Possible?” but the subtitle really gets to the point of the essay: “Willing Slaves of the Welfare State.” He knew whereof he spoke, writing this in 1958 Britain, which was fast becoming a deadening welfare state at that point.

There’s so much in this essay that I’m going to divide it into two posts. This first one concentrates on the problem of what Lewis calls the “changed relationship between Government and subjects.” He begins with a dissection of our new attitude to crime:

C. S. Lewis 2I will mention the trainloads of Jews delivered at the German gas-chambers. It seems shocking to suggest a common element, but I think one exists. On the humanitarian view all crime is pathological; it demands not retributive punishment but cure. This separates the criminal’s treatment from the concepts of justice and desert; a “just cure” is meaningless. . . .

If society can mend, remake, and unmake men at its pleasure, its pleasure may, of course, be humane or homicidal. The difference is important. But, either way, rulers have become owners.

Note the clear insight that Lewis draws here: society is beginning to take away the idea of sin and personal responsibility—and punishment for evil actions—and replace it with the concept that all “evil” is just some kind of aberration that can be “treated.” And who is responsible for the treatment? Why, the government, of course. It will decide how to remake you in its own image.

Lewis continues:

Observe how the “humane” attitude to crime could operate. If crimes are diseases, why should diseases be treated differently from crimes? And who but the experts can define disease?

One school of psychology regards my religion as a neurosis. If this neurosis ever becomes inconvenient to Government, what is to prevent my being subjected to a compulsory “cure.”? It may be painful; treatments sometimes are. But it will be no use asking, “What have I done to deserve this?” The Straighteners will reply: “But, my dear fellow, no one’s blaming you. We no longer believe in retributive justice. We’re healing you.”

How contemporary as I survey the scene in America today, where Biblical morality is under attack as “hateful,” and where those who adhere to God’s standard are becoming subject to “re-education” directed by government fiat. Lewis saw this coming and shuddered at the loss of liberty attached to the new attitude:

This would be no more than an extreme application of the political philosophy implicit in most modern communities. It has stolen on us unawares. Two wars necessitated vast curtailments of liberty, and we have grown, though grumblingly, accustomed to our chains.

The increasing complexity and precariousness of our economic life have forced Government to take over many spheres of activity once left to choice or chance. Our intellectuals have surrendered first to the slave-philosophy of Hegel, then to Marx, finally to linguistic analysis.

As a result, classical political theory, with its Stoical, Christian, and juristic key-conceptions (natural law, the value of the individual, the rights of man), has died. The modern State exists not to protect our rights but to do us good or make us good—anyway, to do something to us or to make us something.

Hence the new name “leaders” for those who were once “rulers.” We are less their subjects than their wards, pupils, or domestic animals. There is nothing left of which we can say to them, “Mind your own business.” Our whole lives are their business.

I challenge you to reread these excerpts again and see if a chill doesn’t rise up your spine at Lewis’s description of the modern state. We see his prophetic utterance coming to fruition in our day.

More on this tomorrow.

Technology Is Not the Problem

Self-centeredness is not new. We see it as the reason for the Fall in the Garden, and it has been the root of all sin ever since. Is the new generation emerging into adulthood more self-centered than previous ones? It may be fashionable to say so, but perhaps modern selfishness is just exhibiting itself in different ways; the heart of man never changes without redemption through Christ.

Our technological advancements showcase our selfishness more. Whereas in the past it was unseemly to appear too self-centered, now we practically celebrate it:

Narcissistic Generation

All too often, even though we connect with the world more than before, we do so from a safe distance, offering false aid to those in need:

Do Something

We comfort our conscience by the fact that we have “done” something, even if that something is wholly ineffective. I noted in a previous post how silly it is to think that terrorists who have kidnapped young girls will cower in fear because someone—even at the highest level of government—shows a sign with a hashtag on it. That accomplishes nothing.

Then there are those who are simply reactionaries; they have their own ways of dealing with the new age:

Resistance Movement

I don’t resist new things; I just want them to be used in a way that furthers God’s truth. Some railed against movies and television when they first appeared. That’s pointless. Technology will continue to enter new spheres. We shouldn’t avoid it, but we need to be very careful not to be ruled by it. The computer age can allow man to go deeper into sin than ever, but it also holds the promise of spreading the Kingdom of God in ways never before imagined. Technology is not the problem; the self-centeredness (i.e., sinfulness) of man is. No matter how far technology advances, man’s sin problem remains.