God never…. never changes

God never…. never changes

(In response to John Pavlovitz’s Things I Stopped Believing After the Election)

We live in a world of opposing concepts. It is a world of flux, and a world of constance. We wake up, and the sun shines. We take a breath. Constance. Yet, the world is in flux. We learn news from around the globe that we weren’t expecting. Empires rise, and they fall. Power comes to some, leaves others… and soon enough the first to gain power have lost it. Political parties do this and that. People die. Babies are born. We may miss that bus, or meet a random stranger in the line for coffee. Our lives are dichotomies. But, as the title suggests, God never changes. He is light, and in Him is no darkness at all. He has no variation. No shadow. No internal conflict. No unexpected qualities or events. He is – יהוה. Yahweh. From before the beginning, and even after the end, God will have been the same being that sculpted the something from the nothing. He will be the Creator of life from emptiness. He will be the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, as. He. has. always. been. God never…. never … changes.

We cant say the same about people… We disagree with people. We dislike people. We may even hate some people. And hatred seems to be a prominent issue in todays culture. Both the right and left side of the political aisle have found that pandering to fear and hate produces voters, and voters keep them in power. This election cycle has been a nightmare, a dream, or a twilight feeling that you cant seem to shake! Many are dissatisfied with everything about everything that was this last election cycle. They are calling out. They gnash their teeth in anger. They seek something else to explain why and how and WTH?? Many have lost hope, they have lost faith, they have lost feeling.

I myself have not lost faith. Nor have I lost hope, or joy, or understanding. So, as I look out over this country after more than a quarter under a new president, I see a few truths that I feel need to be drawn out. This post is in response to many who have spoken out since election results, but particularly in response to John Pavlovitz, a man who leads a church and seems to forget what Christ’s Church is ultimately. It is not a place to feel warm and fuzzy, not like the American church is today. Christ’s Church is universal, it stretches across political boundaries, denominations, geographical distances, and space-time. Right now there is an American missionary in Turkey, held without a real sense of any release coming – and he is living a life not unlike Paul, that reflects Christ more truly than these politically comfortable churches out there! But that is another post for another time…

People are completely broken.
When Adam and Eve ate of their own pride and arrogance, mankind was broken. We are totally deprived, totally bad – though not as bad as we could be. Obviously there are people worse than you, dear reader. But you are never as bad as you could be. Sin hasn’t tainted you quite that badly. If you have kids, or have been around people for any amount of time. If you have friends – you know that people are not inherently good. To quote one of my favorite shows (and excuse the language – it has its place) : “people are bastard coated bastards, with bastard filling.” We cannot deny that. There is no human on the face of this planet that doesn’t have sin nature they are hiding. Your kindest, sweetest, most generous person goes home to a room full of baggage and sin that manifests differently for everyone. Your most devout Christian dad is hiding a tempting sin just waiting to overcome him.

I point this out to say that no man is perfect. No woman is perfect. Additionally, people are as broken today as they were thousands of years ago. Paul writes to Christians around the Mediterranean reminding them that they once lived in the most despicable sins. From lying and adultery, to homosexuality and murder. They were once, too, part of the damned crowd. This election cycle brought out the worst in many, many people. We saw, and still see, an unbelievable amount of hatred spewing forth from far too many powerful people. But look back at Cain, the Tower of Babel, Sodom and Gomorrah, the Pharaoh, the Philistines, the Syrians and Babylonians, and so many more. Think about the many historical figures you have studied that have done terrible things. Think about the articles you read, or specials you watch, that tear down the image of these supposedly “standup citizens” who actually have many many demons. People are broken. It is undeniable.

Sin corrupts our whole being, and we cannot deny that broken nature. It’s why we want to backstab when a wrong is felt. It is why we cannot help be feel selfishly angry when our friend is successful in the midst of our perceived failure. No man is good, not even one, and our brokenness leads to our eventual demise for said evil nature. If left to our own devices, void of any of God’s grace, we would tear down the walls of hell itself to let ourselves in. We would simply be given over completely to our passions, to our natures, to our malice and hate and pride. It would be an unnerving life to live. We would truly be like the animals. But there is an answer, and a solution to this dilemma we find ourselves in. Though many will never seek this road.

Christ makes the world better.
So what is the answer. Is it money? Power? Love? Karmic balance? Good works? No, surprisingly it is what the heading of this section is. Christ. Christ is what makes the world better, it is wha- Who – will save this world. The dilemma we face is a lack of Christ. Not a lack of the church. Not a lack of government funding programs. Or denominational support. Or parachurch ministries. We need – you and I and the world need – Christ. But which Christ? Suit and tie wearing, right wing, gun toting Christ that fought and died for your right to beat people over the head with His book while simultaneously breaking commandment after commandment in secret (many times while people know your sin)? Is it the grandfatherly character who just loves you so much that he sent another to take your place and redeem you and love you and blah. Blah blah? No. He also isn’t Christ of multiculturalism or the Christ of a meta-narrative. He isn’t the one who matches your every need, want, desire, wish, and belief.

Who He is is the Savior. The Son of the Living God. He is the one who by which all creation unfolded. He is the Word of Truth. He is the Bread of Life. He is the Living Fountain. He is the fulfillment of Scripture. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. What He isn’t is a catch all. He is not everyone’s Savior, but He is the world’s, because people from every tribe, nation, and tongue will be found in His Kingdom. Christ makes the world better. Not religion. Religion is man-fused. It has many bits and pieces of human in it. It tastes spoiled and poopy.

America is completely broken.
This sentiment may seem to go against the typical, conservative, Christian, political stance. Additionally, it may seem to fall in line with the progressive, leftist concept that America is a terrible place due to anti-this/that ideas and policies. Neither is true. The fact that America is completely broken has nothing to do with worldly things, and everything to do with spiritual things. It is also wrong to think I am simply pointing out America’s shortcomings. This spiritual brokenness spans across all countries and nations the world over!

Many conservatives read portions of Scripture and believe that they refer to America. The main verse used is 2 Chronicles 7:14, which reads, “if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” It is anachronistic and honestly foolish to think this. The people of God are no longer tied only to a nation, or country, or nationality, or any outwardly distinguishing factor! The people of God are the Church. And the Church is full of people who have a Savior. That Savior brought them up out of sin and brokenness. And America is terribly broken. We all can see that.

Beauty is not found in broken things. It is found when things are fixed, and put back in their true state. Many times things must be broken to see their beauty, but brokenness is not beautiful. It is this Truth that makes the Gospel more amazing. Christ saved those who were unbeautiful. Those who were unlovely and unwanted. America is many of those things, but America is not special. It is another broken nation of broken people needing Christ. The Church needs to show that more and more – especially when politics and other such things (many of which were relied upon as allies for many many years) are no longer showing that message. We need to be preaching salvation. Redemption by work that is not our own. Grace that abounds even in the face of our brokenness. Mercy that exists without expectation. Justice that will inevitably find its place, the question is where will we find ourselves? When time runs out, where will we be? Fighting for a better tomorrow that eventually will cease to exist, or existing to bring about a tomorrow that has already been set in stone by He who created all things? A tomorrow that is more beautiful, and unbroken, than we could ever imagine?

His table is big enough
This future date will come. All of creation is crying out for its arrival. A time is coming when people of every tribe, tongue, color, background, struggle, triumph, wealth class, societal class, etc… will be brought together. Under one banner. To one table. And that table will be overflowing. There will be more for those there than they can ever imagine or consume. But this table will not be furnished by mankind. It will be furnished FOR mankind, IN SPITE of mankind’s failures and faults.

Christ’s table is open to all who would be brought in. It’s a difficult subject to fully understand, but His table has had place settings since before the beginning of creation. Those who would come hadn’t even been born yet and God chose them to be there. We can be assured that His table is sufficient because He is without change, and knows who and what is necessary – always has, always will. This table will be overflowing with the best food and drink and fellowship that we could ever imagine. His table is being set, and the guests are being called. The invitation is simple, “do you believe in your need for salvation due to your undeniable brokenness? Do you believe that the Gospel, life, death, and resurrection is all you need to fulfill the debt of your brokenness?”

If that seems unbelievable or totally far fetched – you aren’t alone. Most don’t want to believe that’s all Christ is about, that this is all Christianity is about. They see crusades, and perceive bigotry in Christ and His followers. But Christ loves His own. His yoke is easy, and His burden is light. The call is a high one though, and a rough road. It is a humbling road. It asks you to give yourself up, a highly erratic thing to consider nowadays. To come to the table is to admit you cannot feed yourself – truly – on your own. But Christ is sufficient. His table is full, and will forever be full.

Our table is not. The worlds table is not. It will be ultimately found bare. It will exclude many. So for someone to claim that THAT table is not big enough, is simply an understatement. The world, with all its claims of love and acceptance, it will leave many out. New tables form. More are left outside. The world wants to provide but has not the means. Only one does. Christ.

Christ is all you need
This world has many gods. Many little cords that pull on our hearts. Greed. Honor. Pride. Niceness. Tolerance. Deeds. Family ties. So very many. And everyone is guilty of falling into their enticements. Many times we are enticed by promise of a better life, or at least and easier one. Before moving onto the obvious answer (it’s set up in the section title), let’s take an honest look at the other options we find in the world.

Money is a popular option. Money buys happiness. Money creates stability. It makes the world revolve. Wealth is a symbol of completeness. When you can lean on your wealth, you have little to worry about. But who can name the top wealthiest in the world? Who can remember the wealthiest of the 19th or 20th centuries? Where did Rockefeller, or the railroad tycoons’ money go? Who remembers the great fall of the Wall Street brokers in the past? Money causes the best of men to make the worst of decisions to simply obtain more of it. It turns us into slaves.

But what about spirituality, or godless religion? Doing good. Karma! These things bring about good in the world, no? Think about Buddha, or Ghandi, or Nelson Mandela! These people had no Christ. These people did good things in the name of mankind! If we can just do good, if we can just put more good in that we put bad we will have done our good service and can die in peace, to be taken back into Mother Earth! Right? This is a nice thought. No doubt about that. But did their work ultimately fix anything? Buddhism has been around for ages, longer than Christianity, yet their philosophies haven’t made any lasting impact. Ghandi’s passion still exists in many places, but racism and classism still pervades many minds. These actions will eventually fade. Every aspect to their work will become simply history – forgotten. And remember, there have been plenty of terrible things done in the name of “gods.” Every religion has had something attached to it, even anecdotally that is bad for publicity. I myself have asked that question before many times. Why do I need this Christ person? I am a nice guy. I do nice things, kind things. I seek to bring about good in others, I seek their good. But the question that always comes back to me is “why?”

Why do this? Why do one thing, and not the other? What reason do I have? Is it societal clues we have developed and trained? Is it evolutionary biology which has brought us to a realization of some form of right and wrong? Can we look out on the world we have created, and live in, and honestly say that there is even good or evil? This is a tough question, and one that has plagued theologians since we first sinned. But something that nearly all thinkers, scholars, theologians, sociologists, biologists, economists, philosophers, and many others can agree on is this: this world is broken. We have droughts, and famines. We lie, cheat, and steal. We murder – many times without remorse or second thought. We blindly follow passions and fears. We die. Civilization is crying for something to make sense of this “why.” And it is this “why” that I see such Truth in the Cross.

“Christ is all we need” can be a rather pithy statement. What about air, or water, or food, or warmth, or love? What about technology? Well, yes, our bodies need those things. But we are more than a body. Biology tells us that without a shred of doubt, these bodies will decay. There is practically nothing we can do to stop this slow churning to demise. But the “why” tells us something about after that happens. These bodies will die. We will take our last breath eventually. But, and I truly believe this scientifically and spiritually, we are more than our physical bodies. That spirit which lives inside us is more real, in many aspects, than the nose on our face. That spirit needs more than wealth, or religion, or warmth – it needs Christ. It needs salvation from the shackles it finds itself in. It needs redemption from its numerous short comings and pitfalls. It needs assurance of a brighter tomorrow. Things of this world will not bring those things. Not politics, not wealth, not preachers or teachers or gurus. No thing of this world will satisfy that hunger within you crying out for more. No song will ever fully satisfy that voice. No promotion will fully satisfy that desire. No women, or man, or child, will satisfy that need for family or relation. Christ. Can. So when I say that Christ has the ability to fulfill your every need, I mean it in a Spiritual way.

In Closing

Now, all of these sections could be expounded on. And maybe sometime in the future I will have time to. But I want to hear your thoughts. Your ideas on what I am saying. Wrestle with it. Question me on it. Dialogue. Think. Pray. This tumultuous time in our country should not be faced with fear and trembling, because He who as conquered the world is still in control. No politician can stop His kingdom advancing. No threat of violence can stop His Spirit from moving. No fear of oppression can prevent His Word from reaching the unreached.

Take heart brothers and sisters, Christ has won. There is no fear of today, for today is one day closer to Christ.

Take heart brothers and sisters, justice will be served. There is no need to fear those who oppose. Christ is victorious.

Take heart brothers and sisters, sin and Satan, have lost. Do not listen to their lies, for their lies cannot even convince their ears.

The world we live in may seem scary, may seem like a reality tv show – but remember to live everyday as to the Lord. To work your hardest to bring Him glory, and you will not be disappointed.

May the Lord bless you and keep you.

David

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Response to “Christian, what’s your point?” By John Pavlovitz

Response to “Christian, what’s your point?” By John Pavlovitz

http://johnpavlovitz.com/2017/06/07/christian-whats-point/

I feel like the Christian could just deflect and ask this person to be fair and look at the other faiths and ask the same thing. But, as a Christian, I believe that ultimately Truth comes from God, and I believe that the God of the Christian Scriptures is the One that doles out that Truth. SO, we should be held to a higher accountability. So I won’t ask that. (Not really at least, I do understand I technically asked it a second ago!)
What I will do is attempt to offer some answers, the answers that my specific life lives when rubbing up against the specific lives of others. 


Christian…
My faith is built on nothing less than Jesus, His life – death – resurrection and promise to return again at the appropriate (in His eyes) time. It’s not (necessarily) built on tradition, though it IS informed by it. Christ is my lynchpin of faith, for without Him my faith is foolishness and I, above others, should be pitied for my confusion. 
My hope is built upon a Word that has been tried and tested and has been found to be a strong foundation. It is a Word written by man, carried along in the Spirit. It has been saved from corruption, in its original manuscript. It tells the story of a real people. It tells that story using human literary style (poem, exposition, narration, genealogy, letter, proverb, songs, metaphor, etc) and all of it relative to its cultural context. 
I believe that this faith, juxtaposed and related to ALL others shows full Truth. Weighing the veracity of the world’s faiths I believe that this one, which centers on not what we can do for us, but what Christ has already completed on our behalf is a much more beautiful picture of salvation. We are not on a scale that weighs our good and bad throughout life, and where we fall at the end will determine an outcome of some sort (Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism – to the degree that it is a religion and not a philosophy – and so many others). It’s not the worship of elemental or natural gods like the many, many historical (and modern) pagans of Ancient Greece, Rome, Celts, Cherokee, Canaanites, Japanese, etc). 

I worship the Triune God of all things. The preexisting One. The Creator, Sustainer, and Consummator of all creation from the past to now and into eternity. He is not stars or earth, because He made them. He is not the thunder or rain because He controls them. He is not turned away (ultimately) because you do more good things (in His eyes) than bad throughout your life. He is not found in intense meditation. Or in the ramblings of vain preachers. He isn’t found in the darkness, because He is light, and in Him is no darkness (or variation) at all. 
This Triune God is the epitome of relationship. As He has had a perfect relationship within Himself since far before the dawn of creation, He continues it to this day, and He will maintain it unto eternity. This relationship was to be displayed in His ultimate creation and reflection of His character – man. Man is the image bearer of this True God. 

That image was marred in our first sin. Because sin, and fallenness, is real. It isn’t a tool to control. It isn’t a lie to control. It isn’t self deprecating to feel somehow good about ourselves. It also isn’t manmade to push down and oppress certain people. It is established  in Scriptures, can be seen (through that light) in the areas of science, and is pretty obvious if you’ve ever had kids or interacted with human beings at all. Sin broke the connection, which leads us back to Christ’s sufficiency and the hope we trust in. 
Finally, I believe in the tradition of historical, orthodox, and reformed Christianity. Founded in OT & NT. Perfected in Christ and His actions. Continued by the apostolic church. Preserved in the canon until the Reformation. Brought along in the Spirit to prevent bastardization from original manuscripts. Translated overtime to come to us in English. My faith is reformed, and ever reforming. It find Truth in the God of Scripture alone, in the power of Christ alone, through grace alone, by faith alone, and only to glorify the Triune God alone. 


What’s your point…?

What’s my point? What’s my point for prefacing a response with that? Well, in a broken world with many false narratives – I wanted to establish where I came from. Where I came from helps explain where my live intersects others. 
Those above listed points, Mr. Pavlovitz, lead me to three main life choices (lead, bring me to, allow me the freedom, oblige me). 


1. Treat all mankind as image bearers of the God they may or may not know. 

Every man, woman, and child I come in contact with bears the image of our Creator.  They may not know Him. They may hate Him. They may hate His Church. They may hate me. That doesn’t change the fact that we are called to treat them with respect and love them as our neighbor. As an image bearer they deserve respect. They deserve love. But they also deserve Truth. 

Do I do this perfectly? Well… no. Of course not. But my life that I live is reflecting this desire more everyday. I curse people sometimes, or curse at them. I engage in gossip and other things. And when I do, I tear into that image. It doesn’t make the rest of my life worthless as a Christian, just shows that I am still growing. 

My desire to treat everyone in love and care, and in Truth, I hope, shows up in everything I do. If I can live a specific life that reflects this Truth into others’ specific lives, I’m on the right path. 
2. Treat sin as sin. But do so with care, compassion, relationship, and distinction

Calling a spade a spade. If it quacks and walks like a duck, it must be a duck. Call it as you see it. All these adages fall apart somewhere, but they have a bit of truth too. As Christians we know that the whole world is fallen. From myself, to my family, the church members, to nature itself. It is all perverted. Something just isn’t right with everything. That thing is sin. It pervades every inch of creation. It is why we lie, cheat, steal, kill, commit sinful sexual acts, covet what we don’t have, and seek to usurp the Creator from His rightful place. 

Now, I could Bible thump. As many have before me. I could tell you how terrible you are, and how much you need a savior – mine in particular. But that violates the first thing I mentioned. I, you, we are image bearers of the aforementioned Triune God. He is in constant relationship. So, when He speaks, He speaks out of a place of relation and connection. 

If I want to have any shot of sharing my relationship with Christ with you I need to begin by having a relationship with you. How can I expect you to even begin listening to me in your troubled times, or jubilant times if I haven’t invested in creating a real relationship with you?? If I don’t, then yes, I will be bible thumping. I will be criticizing. I will be, honestly, hating you. And it is not ours to hate. 

As a Christian I am to love. Love everyone. Love my brothers and sisters, in Christ. But that’s just the thing. I love you in Christ. As Christ loved. And eventually. When we have a true, loving, deep relationship – I love like the woman at the well felt love. A love that stings, but like when you pour alcohol on a wound. It stings because the healing has begun. I am not the One who heals, but I may be the only Christ you see. So I will be damn sure that you see Him in His beauty, radiance, love, Truth, and justice. 
3. Trust that God is in control of our lives. 

I do not change your heart, for I did not change mine (remember the grace and faith alone). As an omniscient and omnipotent God, He alone changes hearts. Those who He called will hear His voice. I should be so lucky to be a part of that journey. But in the end it is my job to simply display His truth in my life. 

You can hate or love me. But ultimately God will judge me. You will find that to be true too someday. But I pray that my relationship with you will cause you pause. Will cause you to ask me why I act the way I do. Will cause you to call me out when I act in opposition to the faith I proport to have. God is in control, I will not “bring you to faith.” But I pray that my actions, my words, my life will cause you to want to know more. 

More about this faith that is different from the media portrayed Christians. Different from the big time names who seem to glimmer but fade at the same time. Different from the way you were taught to see Christians. Different from other faiths. And I will tell you about this Jesus who I cling to for my life. 

This post is like scratching the surface of my faith in an eternal God who wants to know you, and maybe it piques your interest to just hear more of what I think or have to say. Maybe you write it off as just another regurgitation of “what I’ve been told.” Or maybe you agree with me but couldn’t formulate the words. Maybe you have different thoughts all together. In any case, I’d love to hear from you!
Thanks for reading, and I hope it wasn’t too terrible to get through! 

Blessings,

David

Whose are you?

Whose are you?

The Question Posed

Are we conservative? Or Christian? Are we liberal/progressive? Or are we Christian? Are we conservative Christians? Liberal Christians? Which comes first? The world wants to know. When you identify as a follower of Christ, the main contention with the world hinges on where we fall politically. We ask silly questions of where Jesus would fall on this issue or that issue… We claim moral superiority based on which political leaning we cling to – but not due to the Words of the Lord. So, I ask again, whose are you? Which identity would most define you?

For some of you reading you may immediately answer “Christian, duh! I believe in the Bible, and I believe that God is sovereign, and I believe that Christ is the only way to eternal salvation!” But I want to ask you to look closer – look at your heart, and how you live your life functionally… Whose. Are. You? Do you make decisions based on what your political leanings state are acceptable? Do you make friends, and enemies, based on how they believe the nation’s Congress works with the POTUS? Do you find yourself quoting politicians, or knowing their beliefs to a better degree than you know your Lord’s? When you do quote Scripture is it to back up a politician’s words or platform? OR, maybe a more pressing question could be, can you quote your favorite team’s stats to a better degree than you can quote passages of Living Water?

For many in this nation politics take over their essential identity. For others it is their favorite sport team (whether pro or college level – sometimes both!). Some identify by their dislikes more than their Savior. Others find identity in their sexuality – their uniqueness – their race/nationality –  their wealth – their self-approval/disapproval – their denomination… Brothers and sisters, we cannot make a living that way! Not a living that glorifies Christ, at least! We need to develop a “Gospel Identity.”

The Answer – Gospel Identity

Finding identity in the Gospel means that our life is shaped by the Truth found in Christ’s words. It means that our life is shaped by Christ, and not the other way around. THAT means you like a politician, or a song, or a celebrity, or any other thing BECAUSE that thing is pleasing to Christ (or at the very least not offensive to Him). What aspects of your life are not affected by the Truth of Christ? …the answer is none… None parts of your life are absent from Christ’s desire for you.

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I understand “none parts” isn’t grammatically correct

Christ asks for nothing short of all of us. When we find ourselves compelled by grace, we should find that our whole selves are compelled – not just those parts that are easy. Those easy parts would be our kind words, our gestures of kindness towards kind people, lending a hand when convenient – and the like… When Christ calls us “Come and die,” He calls our whole person. And that is not easy. Finding our identity in the Truth of the Gospel calls for a surprising life. But what would that life look like?

A surprising life, centered on an identity in Christ, is covered in the just love of He who gave us life. It oozes a sense of wonder at our place in life – bought by our Savior’s blood. It supersedes every other consideration you can think of (even when there are times that other things may overtake it). A surprising life centered in Christ is one that can be counter-cultural, while maintaining a humility found only in Him who gave us faith. A surprising life finds God’s truth everywhere, but knows that ultimately it resides in His Word given to us in Scripture. A surprising life is had by one that can love his neighbor, but not accept their life decisions – and that neighbor never feels judged. A surprising life, found through holding to a full and true identity in Christ, is in itself full, and needs no nourishment from the world.

This life is hard, Christ promised it would be when He told His followers “I came not to bring peace, but the sword” (Matthew 10:34). A Gospel identity is very different than a conservative identity… or a progressively liberal identity… or a philanthropist identity… or a homosexual identity… or a black identity… A Gospel identity looks at what Christ said (I am the way, the Truth, and the Life – John 14:), and what He did (the Pharisees asked why Christ dined with sinners – Matthew 9:11). We live a life centered on Gospel identity when we stand up for our belief in the truth of heterosexual marriage – marriage founded in God, not man. We life a Gospel identity life when we vote for a candidate that wishes to care for the poor by giving them a hand up (John 9:6), not a hand out (2 Thessalonians 3:10). We live a life with an identity centered on the Gospel when we choose to speak words of mercy or love rather than curse another man made in God’s image (James 3:10). Yet we continue living a life of Gospel identity when we call out a brother in sin (James 5:19-20).

A Gospel Identity should be one that is counter-cultural. It shouldn’t just be a “nice life,” a “kind life.” When we do good, our actions should point back to Christ, who saved us from certain damnation. We do that by living unapologetically for Him! When we do good, when we are praised – direct that praise back to Him, not yourself. If I can give any other encouragement: when you live with this mindset, you will make a difference. People will notice. It has happened to me multiple times at my jobs. Speak up about your faith – don’t hide it, don’t apologize for it. That is how you live a life of Gospel identity.

 

will apologize for this post though, it may seem rambling – or seem a little scatterbrained. I write this sitting in a coffee shop, my first time really writing with some distractions around me… So, I hope this post makes sense, and that you find it encouraging yet challenging as we enter a time inundated in politics and sports, and so many other things clammering for a spot in your identity.

 

God bless!

“In Christ Alone”

“In Christ Alone”

#hymnsforHim

This will be the first hymn I have done this year that isn’t a traditional hymn, and more of a modern hymn. I haven’t done one yet to drive a point home! So many Christians now-a-days think that traditional, older hymns are boring – or out-of-date. But they are so beautiful, so well thought out, and so deep. Praise and worship songs are, in many ways, today’s answer to a new style. However, I want to be purposeful in showcasing the older hymns. So, let’s look at “In Christ Alone.”

 

In Christ alone my hope is found;
He is my light, my strength, my song;
This cornerstone, this solid ground,
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm.
What heights of love, what depths of peace,
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease!
My comforter, my all in all—
Here in the love of Christ I stand.

In Christ alone, Who took on flesh,
Fullness of God in helpless babe!
This gift of love and righteousness,
Scorned by the ones He came to save.
Till on that cross as Jesus died,
The wrath of God was satisfied;
For ev’ry sin on Him was laid—
Here in the death of Christ I live.

There in the ground His body lay,
Light of the world by darkness slain;
Then bursting forth in glorious day,
Up from the grave He rose again!
And as He stands in victory,
Sin’s curse has lost its grip on me;
For I am His and He is mine—
Bought with the precious blood of Christ.

No guilt in life, no fear in death—
This is the pow’r of Christ in me;
From life’s first cry to final breath,
Jesus commands my destiny.
No pow’r of hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand;
Till He returns or calls me home—
Here in the pow’r of Christ I’ll stand.

 

One of the reasons I like this song so much is that it again speaks as a sermon in, and of, itself. That is the beauty of hymns, when written expertly, speak to a deeper truth than the words themselves. When we sing hymns, or songs, often times we simply follow the tune and rhythm. A good song follows a story, it draws you into it’s truth. A good hymn speaks words of truth – of the Truth. In Christ Alone brings us along through the life of Christ, the One who came to take away our sins!

Throughout the entire song we hear the words of the title, “in Christ alone.” It is a mantra reminding us what the foundation of our faith is. It isn’t our work. It isn’t our repentance. Not our prayers, or desires. It isn’t how good – or bad – we are. It isn’t us working along with God. It is not some kind of cooperative work that gets our salvation worked out. No – it is in Christ alone. In Him alone do we find the power. The imagery is biblical, the words emotive – it brings a little more light to the awesome might, and amazing Will of our Lord and Savior.

I am a bit of a theology nerd (Adam 4D: theology nerd) and this song touches on a number of profound theological truths that you may not register at first. Historically, the Truths that we take as obvious about Christ and the faith have not always been so. For instance, the Truth that Christ was 100% God, and yet 100% man was settled, in part, during the Council of Ephesus (431AD). “Christ, who took on flesh, fullness of God in helpless babe…” It is this Christ that could die a perfectly sinless life (as 100% God), while also providing the perfect atoning sacrifice for a sinful man (100% human). He was a true gift of Love, and pure righteousness. John 3:16 tells us that “God so loved the world, that He gave His one and only Son…” Many read this to be an emphatic expression of God’s care for the world. I think it can be more explicitly read as “in this way, God showed His love for the world, that He gave His one and only Son.” In this way meaning as a man, as a servant, as a perfect example of what God called His people to be. This Jesus took on flesh, to die a perfect absolution for His people – His called people.

And yet… this sacrifice… this willing sacrifice… He was scorned, shamed, hated for His words… hated for His miracles… As another hymn laments, “ashamed I hear my mocking voice call out among the scoffers.” This was the life He came to lead. He knew what He was getting into – He had seen this day from the inception of all days. Yet, even after all the misdirected hatred, even after the betrayal… after the abandonment of His closest disciples… after the whipping, and the mocking… after the nails… after the excruciating and indescribable pain… After all of that, He never once used a fraction of His power to call down even the smallest legion of angels to rescue Him. He took the sins of His chosen upon Himself… and He exclaimed “it is finished.”

One of my favorite things to do is to connect a text to readers in a way that many may not know. Take the phrase “it is finished” for instance. We read this and think, “yea, it is here that Christ has finished His duty to save us. He is letting those in attendance to His death see that He has finally died.” But no, there is more to that phrase. Remember that this event happened in history. It happened with language – real language – and real people who lived in a real time in history with cultural context. The Greek words used to recall Christ’s final words would have been very common to the reader of the time. They were used on a constant basis in the court room. They described a full payment. A debt was owed, and Jesus just exclaimed that that had been paid in full. Full restitution had been made… Just let that sink in… Christ was literally telling the Gospel. He was the very first to proclaim it! The Good News was proclaimed by that News that the Gospel is speaking of!

But the song, and the history books, don’t end there! The ground could not hold Jesus. Not even close. While His body would be laid there for a time – He bursts forth into a new day, a new dawn! Sin has lost its sting! Sin has lost its grip on the elect of God. It is but a memory. It may always tug at our flesh – but it has no real grip anymore. Christ has now brought in the beginning of the Kingdom of God. We now live in the time of the “already and not yet.” Christ’s reign has begun on earth, but its culmination has not yet come. But we are seeing glimpses. We have His Word recorded – and sustained through His power for millennium! We have the Spirit – Who attests to Him and His work in the world and on the Cross! We have Christ, a risen and living Christ – who intercedes for us at the right hand of God! Honestly, what else do we need??

Now finally… we reach that glorious last verse… If this verse doesn’t shoot right through you in an inexplicable joy, then I don’t know what will!

 

No guilt in life…

No fear in death…

THIS… this… is the power of Christ in me…

From life’s first cry to final breath… Jesus commands

Jesus commands

my destiny

NO power of hell…

NO scheme of man…

Shall EVER pluck me

from His hand…

Until He returns, OR

Calls me home…. HERE

In the power of Christ

I. STAND.

You cannot put this truth into better words. You cannot explain this joy with a better phrasing. You cannot show such power with a better image. Let me finish tonight with a question. It is a question that I must admit I don’t ask myself enough – but it is an important question that should shape our day-to-day lives. Do we live like this is true? Do I live a life that seeks a foundation in Christ alone?

When I wake up to a screaming kid, or a barking dog, do I praise God?

“He is my light, my strength, my song!”

When I am getting ready for my day – whether it be one of work, or one of relaxation, do I preach this gospel to myself?

“And as He stands in victory, sin’s curse has lost its grip on me!” 

When trials assail you from the left and right. When the world piles annoyances, temptations, frustrating coworkers, irritating situations, loud children, and so much more… do I remind myself that God is eternally in control?

“No power of hell, no scheme of man, can ever pluck me from His hand!”

When all seems lost – when we lose that one we love – do we sing the truth of His sacrifice to ourselves, to our friends, to our family?

“Till He returns, or calls me home, here in the power of Christ I stand!”

Brothers and sisters. This is what we are called to every day. To live each day as for Christ, not for yourself. Not for your boss. Not even for your family. When every day is lived for Christ, then every day is lived to it’s fullest. Amen?

Come, Christians, join to sing!

#hymnsforHim

 

It has been a busy day for me, what with work, and then finding a squirrel in the house… But, this song reminds us what we are ultimately called to do! Rejoice, sing! Shout loud praises to the Lord of all creation!

Come, Christians, Join to Sing

1. Come, Christians, join to sing
Alleluia! Amen!
Loud praise to Christ our King;
Alleluia! Amen!
Let all, with heart and voice,
Before His throne rejoice;
Praise is His gracious choice.
Alleluia! Amen!

2. Come, lift your hearts on high,
Alleluia! Amen!
Let praises fill the sky;
Alleluia! Amen!
He is our Guide and Friend;
To us He’ll condescend;
His love shall never end.
Alleluia! Amen!

3. Praise yet our Christ again,
Alleluia! Amen!
Life shall not end the strain;
Alleluia! Amen!
On heaven’s blissful shore,
His goodness we’ll adore,
Singing forevermore,
“Alleluia! Amen!”

I feel like this is a great song to just focus your mind when you wake up in the morning. We all need something to try and keep our minds and hearts focused on the right thing – on Him who gives us life! He who condescended to the place of a lowly servant so that we may be granted grace!

As I close out the night, I challenge those who read these to send out some praise to our God and Savior! So often, we pray supplication and we pray for things! But we need to remember that prayer is conversation – conversation with One who knows what we need better than we do! Spend some time of prayer in thanksgiving and adoration!

Praise our Christ! Sing forevermore!

Alleluia! Amen!

Again, if you enjoy these posts share them with your friends and family! Let me know your favorite hymns! Let me know your thoughts or comment something you want me to tackle! This is an opportunity for growth in the faith!

Luke 5:12-16 “Touching the Leper”

I taught on this passage, as well as a few other miracle passages of Luke a couple Sunday’s ago at my church – and wanted to extend my lesson (to an extent) here as well.

12 While he was in one of the cities, there came a man full of leprosy. And when he saw Jesus, he fell on his face and begged him, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.” 13 And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I will; be clean.” And immediately the leprosy left him. 14 And he charged him to tell no one, but “go and show yourself to the priest, and make an offering for your cleansing, as Moses commanded, for a proof to them.”15 But now even more the report about him went abroad, and great crowds gathered to hear him and to be healed of their infirmities. 16 But he would withdraw to desolate places and pray. 

This is one of my favorite passages because it hearkens back to one of my favorite Old Testament books to study and teach on – Leviticus! I know that may seem ridiculous, but Leviticus is an awesome book! The Law found there just exemplifies how much Christ did for us!

 

Here we have a man afflicted by a disease of the flesh. A disease that has almost 100% physical attestation. No one can miss how this man has been afflicted.  He sees Christ and he sees a way out. Maybe this man can help the leper, maybe not. But the leper is going to try anything. If we read other miracle stories in Luke we find specifics not found in the other Synoptics. Luke was, by all accounts, a physician. He had scoured the records to find the best sources to write his gospel. He is incredibly thorough. Mark is the exact opposite. He’s the action gospel. Everything is immediately this, and then immediately that. You’d think that Jesus and His disciples were sprinting everywhere! Luke takes a more detailed approach. He reminds his readers that he took a slow study of the events surrounding Christ. He interviewed people. He checked sources. He went to locations of interest. This gospel is one written out of evidence – evidence for Christ.

We read in Luke about a man with a withered “right” hand. Mark and Matthew just mention that the hand is withered. We read that Peter’s mother had a “great” fever. You get a sense that Luke did some serious research in writing this account. He interviewed with great intensity to get the closest account he could for his gospel account. When Christ comes to the man with leprosy we read his is “full of leprosy.” This man doesn’t simply have a bad case of dandruff. He isn’t just reacting poorly due to his eczema. He is full of this disease. It affects him through and through. This is important, as it points to a dire dilemma Jesus walks up to. But Christ knows all things and is over all things. He approaches this man regardless of his physical condition.

 

 

Let’s think about this again. The Jewish heritage, their law, had been passed down for ages. It reflected in nearly every aspect of their lives. It gave them something to do at waking up, at eating, for dealing with neighbors, for dealing with enemies, how to ask forgiveness for a multitude of kinds of sins, how to make a pleasing sacrifice (though the root of that concept had been lost). Etc. Basically they knew the systematic and ritualistic right from wrong. To have leprosy was to have sin. It covered you. It was a part of you. Either you or your parents caused some an ailment. It was a physical embodiment of sin. There were rituals and finely tuned sacraments to perform to remove such a bodily issue.

 

Jesus was a rabbi. He was “better” than the common Israelites. He knew His law. THEY knew that He knew His law. There were factions among the religious elite that would have been around. We read that no one was around actually there to see the miracle happen, but we also read that the man (undoubtedly known as the leper) was charged to go to a priest to make offering to God after the healing. So we know that the religious elite would have learned about this. They would have known a healing of a leper had taken place. But what would have stunned them, what would have no doubt enraged them, would have been to see how He healed this man.

You do not touch lepers. Ever. For any reason. It causes uncleanness. It makes you unworthy to be before God. But Jesus. He knows the will of God. He knows the law of God. He is God. He sees this man. A wretch. Not unlike us in many ways. He has compassion. He sees faith that He can actually heal this physical, and spiritual illness. He walks up to the man. He walks up surrounded by His disciples. These big, burly, fishermen. This guy must have thought, “here it comes. They’ve come to kill me.” But Jesus walks up to this man, who has fallen to His face in reverence, and reaches out His healing hand – the hand that helped form the cosmos – and He touches this man. He puts His hand that has shaped stars on this man who has probably never had positive physical contact in years.

The disciples must recoil, thinking that this is the end of their journey. This rabbi is infected now. But no. This man has been touched by God Himself. The skin on his arms and legs immediately – we see that word – clears up. Where normally sickness would spread, salvation overcomes. Rather than becoming unclean by touching this leper, Jesus makes this unclean leper clean. He reverses the effects of sin. This one miracle foreshadows Jesus’ entire mission on earth.

 

“Wretched man that I am, who can save me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” This passage reminds us that Christ is not turned away from our state of sin. In fact, He is our only way out. It is not what we do that brings us to a good standing with God. It is what Christ has already done! When Christ said, “it is finished,” on the cross He wasn’t just stating the chronological facts. He was using a common Greek phrase used in the court system. It meant “paid in full.” It was used to complete a bill of sale. Christ paid our bill before a holy God. He reached out, and touched a man, me, full of leprosy – and I became clean!

Thanks be to God, through Jesus Christ His Son!

 

How often today are we surrounded by the lepers of our society? How often today do we shy away from those who we feel would make us diseased in their pattern? How often do good church-going Christians abstain from work in the world – from real light giving – to keep from mingling with the sinners? I challenge you who read this to ask yourself that, and ask God to show you your lepers. Ask Him to help you to better reflect His Truth by reaching out to those lepers and letting them into your life! He who began a good work in you, can in turn use you to work in other’s lives for His glory! Amen!

The father of all lies is no fool

9 And he took him to Jerusalem and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, 10 for it is written, “‘He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you,’ 11 and “‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.'” 12 And Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.'”

Luke 4:9-12… How often do we forget this passage? How often do we forget that Satan is no fool? He isn’t dislodged from the present time. He isn’t oblivious to current events, hot topics, tweets, texts, and other popular cultural milieu. His agents are everywhere, and he has been around for quite some time. As any history major will tell you mankind is a fairly predictably fickle group. And when you study your subject matter as the devil does, you get to know them pretty well. I mean, eternity is at stake. I typically like to stand aside when it comes to cultural hot button issues. It honestly is just more frustration and lost cause than it is spiritually useful, or ultimately uplifting. But when I watch a video utilizing Scripture in an anti-Scripture format… I cannot stay silent. I’m sure some friends, and acquaintances will read this and be done with me. If so, I understand, homosexuality is a red hot topic right now. I just pray that God leads me to the right words and thoughts, and that I continue to portray the same loving and caring person I strive to be every day. I’m not perfect – I actually kind of screw up a lot. And I have my many, many , many flaws… I would never in a million years be so callous as to say one sin is worse than another. God makes it clear that sin is sin is sin. Only one sin separates you from God – and honestly that is simply a lifetime of shoving Him away.

So I watched a video, this video: “There are 6 scriptures about homosexuality in the Bible, here’s what they really say.” I encourage you to watch it. This article is just a “rant” without the video. It’s not too long, so give it a gander. You’re done? Ok, awesome, let’s move on.

A bit of background: I grew up in a small Presbyterian denomination – ARP (Associate Reformed Presbyterian). It’s a real exclusive club-like atmosphere, and fairly straight laced conservative. Well, it was. The newer generation of pastors, youth pastors, elders, etc… are working hard to make the (true) Reformed theological message attainable to all. I say true because that culturally hot stuff the speaker was glazing us with is not Reformed. I went to school (majoring in Bible, minoring in politics), at the ARP college, and ended up taking one year of seminary. I would like to think that I know a thing or two about Greek and Hebrew, cultural context, and Scriptural nuances in general. With that said, man – I was impressed! The kid knew something besides the go-to argument of “the Bible says to stone adulterers and abstain from pork, but Christians don’t follow that anymore! Who’s to say any of the law matters now!?” That’s a load of garbage, and the person who says it probably doesn’t even know why they should retort with that load of garbarge other than it typically shuts any lay-Christian down. Well, sir or madam – this video could not go unchallenged. Not in my mind. Not with its number of views. Not with its profane use of Scripture. And not with its, in complete honesty, rather intelligent argumentation of some rather good points. A true debater gives their opponent a chance to respond, to challenge, and to offer a substitute. So, this is my attempt to bring some new information to the table, and to roll out the deep wrinkles in his information.

Ok, quick sidebar. Exegesis is reading “out of” Scripture. It is a good, hermeneutically sound thing to do. You want to bring the meaning out of the text. You read the text and find meaning to pull from it for the reader. The opposite is isogesis. This would be reading “into the text.” In this version we look at a text and bring our own preconceived notions to the text and then, surprise find them in that same text! It’s simply astonishing what those who practice heavy use of isogesis can find in the Bible. I will be using these terms throughout my response, so it was good to explain them up front.

keep these concepts in mind

Matt quotes six Biblical verses: Genesis 19, Leviticus 18:22, Leviticus 20:13, Romans 1:26-27, I Corinthians 6:9, I Timothy 1:10. 

Point #1: Looking at Genesis’ story of Sodom and Gomorrah was a good, typical Christian starting point. And what’s that?? Some rather intricate biblical exegesis going on. The kid is spot on with the intrabiblical nuancing here. It would be foolish to say that this passage is specifically denouncing homosexual behavior (whether consensual, rape, whatever). He even pulls from Ezekiel 16:49 as Scripture that interprets Scripture. That is impressive. And what’s more, it is accurate Scripture interpreting Scripture. The widespread idea that God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah due to homosexual tendencies is a later thought process. There are actually even more verses that condemn S&G for other sins as well (citation needed). But is it incorrect to assume that homosexual lust was not a contributable sin to the men of S&G? Absolutely not. It becomes clear, from other passages we will hit later, that homosexuality (whether fueled by lust or a distorted sense of “love”) is not the lifestyle choice God intended for His special creation. Scripture is timeless, it’s Truth is timeless… God is timeless, and His statutes have no end. We must view Scripture in it’s whole – not just the parts we like most – in order to see God’s full message for us. That message is one of salvation… but more on that later. 

Point #2/3: Abominations. We read that eating a rabbit is an abomination (Deut14:7), offering “strange fire” is an abomination (Lev10:1), lying with the same sex as with the opposite sex – homosexuality – is an abomination (Lev18:22, 20:13). These things are detestable to the LORD. They are also three odd things for our 21st century eyes to read, and ears to hear. Why… how…? What’s so wrong with rabbits?? Everyone has always eaten them!! And what’s with things with cloven hoof, that “chew the cud” (Lev11)? What even is an “abomination to the LORD?” What makes something such a terrible, detestable thing? Well, this is a hotly debated topic among scholars – both liberal and conservative. Abomination is important to distinguish before actually tackling what Matt’s response is to these passages – which again is a rather tricky, and convincing, argument to the everyday hearer. 

First lets look at a few distinctions the Old Testament (OT from here on out) makes. The primary distinction is holy and common. God is holy, He dwelled in their tabernacle – therefore the people were to be holy. To be unholy was to be estranged from God’s good presence. But what actually is holiness? Ezekiel 22:26 says that Israel’s priests defiled the law because they taught that there was no difference between holy and common… nor a difference between clean and unclean. The ground state of things is “clean.” Clean, like metal, is pure – neither holy nor unclean. We are clean when there is no leprocy on our skin. To be holy, is to be set apart. So the Levites would set certain artifacts to be holy, set apart. Unholiness had degrees – some of which could be made holy again. Temporary unholiness could be remedied. To be the opposite of holy, was to be common. Common is then split between clean and unclean. If something holy touches a clean item – that item becomes holy (IE the sand that Moses stood upon was holy simply by being in the mere vicinity of YHWH – Ex3:5). The opposite then is true as well. When unclean touches clean, the clean thing becomes unclean. All of that to say that when holy touches unclean.. we got ourselves an abomination.

SO, why were certain things unclean and others clean? Again, scholars have differing opinions. One thought is they were purely hygienic. Pigs are normally gross creatures. Don’t eat that… But what about rabbits – they aren’t exactly disgusting (though it can be pointed out that they do eat pieces of their own poop for certain nutrients). Or what about fungi? They are considered clean, but can cause serious health issues! Also, if it’s a hygiene thing – WHY CAN WE EAT IT NOW?? Aside from Peter seeing Jesus open all things to be clean for eating (Acts 10). So what about idolatry? Many pagan Canaanites worshiped these unclean things as gods! But… cows were allowed… and cows were a historically significant temptation for the Israelites (Ex32). 

Scholar Mary Douglas posits this: “Clean-ness” comes from the whole context of Israel and holiness. It is to be looked at from Israel’s culture (not 21st century American). Clean things are blessed, while unclean things are cursed. Things that follow a normal, natural, pattern are clean – those that deviate are cursed. It can be argued that to be holy was to be “whole” or “one” – to have integrity or to be without blemish. Scripture shows that some animals can be blemished (this whole line of argument), or a whole people can be blemished (Num33:54-55, Ex23:33, et al). Douglas looks at these dietary (or abomination laws in general) and retrobuilds them. Animals that “chew the cud, and have cloven hoofs” are clean. To deviate (rabbits, pigs, camels) is to be unclean. There are other considerations, but that makes the point. To be an abomination is to deviate wholly from what God intended. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

And He made man in His own image, in the image of God He created him,  male and female He created them.

That was clean, that was holy. That is undeniable. It’s poetic the way the writer of Genesis puts it. God creates man, and when a suitable helper could not be found He creates a perfect helper – one to fit under his side through thick and thin. Homosexual behavior has been with us since the dawn of sin – so if we were hard pressed we could say that if God was ok with homosexuality an entirely different phrase could have been used. The words existed for such a thought, as did the concepts and the reality around them. But they weren’t. A different reality was chosen for God’s people. Let’s go back to the concept that an animal, as well, as a people group can be unclean – an abomination to the LORD’s sight. Christ warps that reality drastically. He touches a leper, and the leper is healed! WHen He touches a dead body that body comes back to life!! It was no long what went into your body that made you unclean, but what came out (Mark7:15). He came and fulfilled the ceremonial law – that law which brought Israel back in clean standing with a holy God. The moral law stands firm. Christ couldn’t have fulfill the moral law when He is poignantly preached it to His disciples (Matt5:44, 22:36-40, Luke 10:25-37, and many more). The moral code laid out in Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy is not gone just because Christ fulfilled the ceremonial law. No, Christ took away the obligation to “do good by the law” because He absorbed our sin. His sacrifice was the Paschal Lamb – that perfect sacrifice to cover all sin, to bring us to contact a holy God – thus making us holy through Christ. (Other Scripture to note: II Timothy 3:16, I John… entirety)

Point #4: Onto the New Testament (NT). Matt posits that Paul is only putting down lust or vices. Not a loving, committed, faithful relationship. As I mentioned at the beginning, mankind is fairly predictable. If we are doing something now, we probably did it in the past. There truely is nothing new under the sun. To say that the Roman world was only featuring homosexuality as an example of lust and excess would be whitewashing the issue. These weren’t just lustful men seeking after young, malleable boys to have their way with after a boring night with the wife. This wasn’t just a drunken orgy, lusting after one another… That would be misunderstanding the sinful nature of man. And for sure this wasn’t just Paul attacking gorging on pedophilia, like a crazy man grows long hair – that is to say a “cultural convention.” Again, remember that the early church was really just “late Israel.” We still need to see the church as a response to the world around it – just as Levitical law was a response to the pagan world that surrounded them. To tattoo your body was typically to mark yourself with pagan symbols and to engorge yourself in their rituals – thus abandoning YHWH who brought you out of slavery (a foretaste of what the LORD would do through Christ). In the same manner, to grow your hair long was to show a wanton display of Roman/Hedonistic influence. To abandon your tie to the LORD and your Savior – Christ. 

In modern theological circles this is called the Christ and Culture debate. Should we live as Christians seeing Christ against culture (radical puritanism), Christ apart from culture (Amish), Christ and culture (liberal/progressives) or Christ transforming culture (Reformed). Christ came into the world to transform it, to inaugurate His reign as King of Kings – to begin the takeover of His Kingdom of God. Slowly but surely He is transforming the world through His Church (when His church decides to do things for His glory, and not for fame or fortune or many other vices). These men/women that Paul speaks of are not acting out of a lustful gorging – but simple sinful desires. Much like a liar really enjoys a good deception, or a glutton likes that extra serving of chocolate cake. Or that married man glances a little too long at that girl’s (or guy’s) rear end. Sin is sin. Doesn’t matter which way you cut it – it is an abomination in God’s eyes – and Christ wants you to see that, and come to Him for repentance and help to fight it off. 

Point #5/6: Oh man, this one really caught my eye. Brother took off into some Greek! Noice! Don’t see that too often! The terms that Paul uses are malakoi and arsenokoitai. Malakoi can be translated as “effeminate.” This is true, but to stop at that positive definition is to not be thorough enough. It is also commonly used to describe a man who allows his body to go through shrewd behavior and acts. What could be construed as “shrewd?” Well, again, as a NT believer you must go back to the “God-breathed” (IITim3:16) OT to find the answer – in many cases. And it is here that we arrive at the previously covered “abomination” argument. The second term, arsenokoitai is typically translated as “men who have sex with men.” Matt wants to say that a better translation is rendered as “abusers of themselves with mankind.” But that is really all that is said, other than that “the concept of sexual orientation didn’t exist at that time.” I’m sorry, but that is a cop-out statement if I’ve ever heard one. Say that the concept of sexual orientation didn’t exist is like saying that the concept of technology didn’t exist at the time. Because they didn’t think in the same terms as us, they had no knowledge at all of the subject matter. Of course not!! The Romans had technology: they built concrete structures that have lasted millenia, they constructed roads in a way we can’t really even now, they strung amazing aqueducts across many many miles, they developed the components to the steam engine!! In the same manner, just because the exact term “sexual orientation” wasn’t a commonly (or possibly even ever) used term by the Roman empire, that does not mean that such a concept would have been foreign to them. Sexual orientation was not even coined until around 1973 – are we to say that no one before that time can really say anything about the concept?? That would be ridiculously absurd. 

While we are on this idea, let’s jump over to another statement Matt makes:

The Bible never addresses issues of sexual orientation of same-sex marriage.

My immediate response is, “well, yes… Matt… that is true… But the Bible doesn’t address capitalism, democratic-republics, driving a car, using the internet, flying above the clouds, flying above the earth, space travel, gun control…. I could go on…?” To state something like that is just a psuedointellectual/emotional response to the issue at hand. While it is true, it is not a useful statement. Because as soon as we decide to follow through on that mind-set, and then call ourselves faithful Christians – our whole approach to life here on earth in the 21st century changes dramatically. Not only that, but our view of the Bible becomes practically nil. Why study a book that literally doesn’t directly respond to situations we deal with daily? I actually feel like when he said those words he rendered his entire argument a moot point. What does it matter what the Bible says about homosexuality, if it doesn’t actually speak directly to the thing homosexuals are fighting for today? Yes, he is in part fighting for the the homosexual’s right to worship out of the closet, and without any “side-ways glances.” To right to openly practice homosexuality, and relegate the previously considered sin (of said homosexuality) to just a past cultural convention. But ultimately he fights for constitutional rights within this world. 

Why would I go through those past few paragraphs? Why follow that argumentation? Well it’s because I believe one thing: the Bible truly is God-breathed, and absolutely useful for teaching the believer and non-believer, for rebuking the believer, for correcting heretical thoughts, and for training the man/woman of God to grow in righteousness. And when I say Scripture/the Bible I mean all of it. The OT with the NT. You can’t have a full NT, without a consistent use of the OT. But what does the Bible tell us? Is it just a book full of rules and regulations? Just a list of do’s and don’ts? Or maybe it’s just an outdated system of laws, coupled with an exemplary moral teacher, and words from his followers? Or is it just all craziness? Dealing with a God, and unbelievable stories of parting waters, the dead rising, and sin. Or maybe, just maybe – it’s the Truth. It’s a Truth that has remained constant and full for thousands upon thousands of years. It’s a book that was true when Joshua led the Israelites into a land promised to them, it was true when David and Bathsheba sinned and Uriah was put to death, it was true when Ezra and Nehemiah brought an exiled people back to their land, and it was true when God made Himself into the form of man, and sent His Son to inaugurate the coming of His Kingdom. It has remained true through those first century, tumultuous times when the apostles were falling left and right to persecution. It remained true even when Constantine used it to forge an empire. The Truth never waned with popes who twisted it to bring about crusades and witch hunts and inquisitions. The Truth remained fast when preachers distorted it to allow the numbing cruelty of slavery (and It was shown forth in It’s fullness when It was used to overcome that institution). The Truth of the Scripture isn’t any less true today, even with the turmoil that plagues our post-modern, post-metanarrative, Facebooking, tweet sending age of the now. 

This book tells a story – a beautiful one. One of a loving, omnipotent Creator who out of the sheer love in His being created all things so that they could revel in Him. He then specially creates one man and one woman to even more fully exemplify His being. When those two fall from grace, He offers grace by offering up one of the animals that surrounded them as a sacrifice to cover their shame. He then offers grace to the world after the Tower of Babel by raising up a special group of people to be His own. They screw up… a lot. Deceit, murder, licentiousness, theft, idolatry… and that is all before they even enter the Promised Land. But God shows grace… He brings them up out of oppressive slavery and points to a land flowing with good things from Him. Then He shows them exactly how to stay right before Him – to stay clean before a holy God. He could have left them to figure it out, or to simply take His commands and work hard from then on out. But instead He points again forward to a time when a perfect sacrifice would come and redeem out of the whole world. Every tribe, every tongue, every nation. The people of God would extend the globe over, and God would indeed be glorified. Because that is who the Bible is ultimately about – God. It’s not about us. Shoot, look at the narratives of the OT or the Gospels. People suck. We screw up at every turn. We miss the noses right in front of our faces due to our own inability to see the sin that clouds our vision. Man, the Bible would be pretty depressing if it told our story. Thankfully it tells a story of sin and grace from Genesis 3 to Revelation.  God hasn’t given up on His people even when they practically spat in His face. Their sin was rampant, and far-reaching, and full encompassing. But He remained close by to guide them. 

It is our job as Christians to bring our brothers and sisters to conviction through the use of the Scriptures. Not the outsider. Can we judge a Brit by our laws when they live in Britain? No. The same applies for the outsider to the faith. I am to love that person, to show Christ’s person (His whole person, the loving side and the convicting side). To my fellow believers my job is to call sin out where it is seen. And to be faithful to Scripture to see sin as sin. My sin needs to be called out too. If we are being fully honest as Christians we are accountable to each other while also being ultimately accountable to God Himself. 

I guess what I really want to get across is that our faults, our sins, our shortcomings do not make us who we are. It is who we know. It is a faith in a proven Provider. It is setting our pride down for a strong Savior. The full Christian walk is one where we walk, not alone, but with the Creator and Sustainer of the universe. We must realize that these battles over earthly tumults will pass away.

 

If anyone has any other questions, comments, or concerns – please let me know! Thank you for reading through all of this! I know it was a lot to take in, and it has taken me over a week to really put it down in words. I hope you see not me, but Christ in this message.