How To Tear the Church Apart

I really enjoy Kevin DeYoung’s Blog. He usually posts once a day and it is almost always worth reading. Here is an older blog post on trying to balance forgiveness and faithfulness, especially in relationship to church discipline. I enjoyed his last paragraph:

There are two things that will always tear a church apart, sometimes slowly and imperceptibly and sometimes quickly and loudly, but these two things will always rip the fabric of Holy Spirit unity: having no standards and having impossible standards. If you can get one of those two things going on in a church you will be well along your way to ruining that church. But if you can by God’s power find a way to uphold moral and doctrinal standards with a spirit of mercy, humility, and eager forgiveness, then that will be a mighty church and even the gates of hell will not prevail against it.

Counseling Begins in the Pew

Carl Trueman on why Luther thinks you should go to church.

“One could imagine a person seeking Luther’s advice for, say, struggles with assurance. Luther’s first question of him would almost certainly be, Are you going to church to hear the Word and receive the sacrament? If the answer came back in the negative, it is safe to assume that Luther would send the person away to attend church for a few weeks before he would consider giving him individual counsel. If the person had excluded himself from the objective means of grace, not only would spiritual problems be expected, but also Luther could really offer nothing else to help him.”

 

Putting Love in a Box

What is love? Perhaps no word is so often used, yet so rarely defined. The meaning floats around in the air. We are sure it means something. But what? For most, love is no doubt a feeling, an emotional response to something we desire or like. It can be a football team, a car, a pizza, or a woman. But for Christians, this definition is not just inadequate, it is blasphemous. For us love is bound up with the character of Almighty God, especially in the supreme act of sending His only Begotten Son. All love must be boxed in by this definition. That means for us love is primarily sacrifice; a willingness to give up so others might have. Greater love as no man than this to lay down his life for his friends (John 15:13). But moderns love is about what we want and what we get. If we love this girl then we will gladly abandon wife and children for her. For the modern, greater love has no man than this, to get what he wants no matter who gets hurt. So love must be boxed in by God’s character. Here is my attempt to do that. 


1.      Love is not self-evident. Love must be defined and explained.

2.      God is love.  We cannot properly define love without the Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  In the end, there is only the love of God. Hell will be a place of infinite hate. Heaven will be a place of infinite love. To speak of love without speaking of God is like a blind man talking about the glories of a Rembrandt painting. He may heard about the painting or even felt the painting, but he really has no idea what the painting is really about. 

3.      Who this Triune God is, is not self-evident. There are some remnants of God’s image in each man and each woman. But these remnants are twisted. Therefore we cannot come to a definition of God or love by looking into ourselves or at human relationships. We know God from the Scriptures, the whole Scriptures. Thus to know what love is, we must know who God is. To know who God is we must know the Bible. The only path to a coherent definition of love is through the Bible. To speak of love without speaking of the Bible is impossible.

4.      Every Christian believes they are acting out of love. Therefore to tell a Christian that they must love someone else is usually a waste of time. They believe they do love them. The Christian who refuses to call homosexuality a sin believes they are acting out of love. The Christian who tells every woman they meet that they must wear skirts to their ankles also believes they are acting out of love. The fire breathing legalist and the lesbian minister both believe they are acting out of love. No-one believes they are acting out of hate. This is true of most non-Christians as well, though there are some exceptions.

5.      Thus it is not enough to simply say, “You are not being loving.” We must prove how their behavior is inconsistent with the Biblical teaching on love. If they refuse to accept the Bible’s definition of love then they are not interested in worshiping God. They are only interested in worshiping their idol called “love.”

6.      Love is defined by the Bible. It is not defined by our feelings or the feelings and/or perceptions of those in our community. People will not always feel loved, even when we show them love.   We cannot expect people in our community to always walk around saying what a loving church we are.  Sometimes they will say this. Other times they will call us hate mongers or bigots or traitors.  Sometimes the community will say we love them when we are just sleeping with them. Sometimes they will think we hate them even when we are loving them. The Bible sets the criteria for love, not our communities or critics.  

7.      This does not mean we ignore our critics. Many critics have good points. But those critics must be judged by Scripture, not Scripture by the critics.

8.      Just because we can quote a Bible verse, which justifies our position, does not mean we are actually loving God and loving our neighbor.  The motives behind our actions and words are as vital as the words and actions themselves. Love is a biblical act or message linked with a biblical motivation for that action or message. Sometimes the motivation is faithfulness to God. Sometimes it is the desire to see someone repent and believe. Sometimes we say something because we are defending God’s people against slander. There can be numerous righteous motivations for doing things. Without righteous motivation, it cannot be called love.

9.      To love God and our neighbor means we must hate evil. We must speak with clarity and boldness against sin and unrighteousness. To refuse to hate evil is to refuse to love God and our neighbor. The one who loves sin hates God. If we love God then we bound to rebuke men, women, and institutions who love sin. We can’t love God or our neighbor if we don’t hate sin and evil. Biblical hatred is a prerequisite for Christian witness and mission.  

The Faithful Church

What must the church do to combat the idea that homosexuality is fine for Christians? 
1.       She must faithfully and courageously preach the whole Bible. She must particularly preach those passages which the world finds offensive.
2.       She must faithfully preach Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. This means two things: First, he, as our Savior, has defeated sin and can forgive all of our sins. Second, he, as our Lord, commands us to leave off sinful desires and actions.
3.       She must faithfully preach that Christ has given his Spirit that we might overcome our sins.  Those in Christ are freed from their sins.  Sodomy is not excluded.  This doesn’t just mean forgiveness, but it also means victory over those sins in our lives.
4.       She must faithfully show love to Christ, His Church, and to homosexuals by calling them to repent and turn from their sins.  This is to be done graciously, but without compromise.
5.       She must faithfully excommunicate all Christians who refuse to turn from their sins. This includes sodomites, adulterers, thieves, liars, pedophiles, pornography addicts, Pharisees, abusive husbands, etc. Here is one of the greatest failures of the modern church. Her refusal to discipline sinners has caused the inner life of the church to rot. It is hypocritical for a church to refuse to discipline the adulterer, but try to discipline the homosexual. Thus most don’t discipline either. 
6.       She must faithfully work to drive wolves out of the Church. Any man or woman who teaches that sodomy is an acceptable lifestyle for Christians is a wolf who is working with Satan to tear the lambs into pieces. Pastor, elders, seminary professors, etc. must be exposed and disciplined who teach that sodomy is not a sin. 
7.       She must expect the world to hate her and persecute her. To combat this hatred she must fight with faith in Christ, steadfastness in prayer, clinging to God’s Word, holy living, the communion of saints, faithful worship, and Biblical love for neighbor. 

Slaughterhouse or Feast?

               Yesterday, I wrote a post stating that the main question in sodomy debate is, “Is homosexuality a sin?” Of course, I believe that it is because that is what the Scriptures teach. Tomorrow I will list some specific things the church should do. Today I want to remind us of what sin does to us.  It seems easy and loving to say that it is not a big deal if churches compromise on this particular issue. But the Word of God says otherwise. 
  

Sin which is not repented of and turned from:
1.       Is displeasing to God. (I Thess. 4:1-12)
2.       Separates us from God. (Isaiah 59:1-3)
3.       Enslaves us. (John 8:34)
4.       Is unnatural. (Romans 1:26-27)
5.       Destroys relationships. (James 4:1-6)
6.       Destroys families. (David’s Adultery, II Samuel 11-19, Titus 1:10-11)
7.       Destroys cultures and cities. (II Kings 17:7-23,Rev. 16:19)
8.       Brings death and unfruitfulness.  (Romans 6:23)
9.       Blinds us to the truth. (Matthew 23:16, 17, 19 24, 26)
10.   Brings down the wrath of God. (Col. 3:6)
11.   Sends us to Hell.  (I Corinthians 6:9-10, Gal. 5:19-21)

                No Christian who loves Christ, has understood forgiveness, and loves his neighbor would want someone to remain in the state above. To say that sodomy is not a sin is like sending men and woman to the slaughter house while we tell them they are going to a feast. It is a lie with terrible consequences for men, women, children, churches, cultures, and our witness for Christ. Any minister who declares that something is not a sin, which the Word declares is, has invited the devil into the midst of his church. He has declared, “I love to keep my people enslaved. I refuse to bring them to the One who can free.” The church cannot declare forgiveness of sin and freedom from sin unless she declares that we are sinners.  

The Elect Lady in II John

1.      John opens his second epistle by referring to the elect lady and her children.  In verse 13 John closes his letter with a very similar phrase; “The children of your elect sister greet you.” It is usually thought that these two references are to a literal woman and her children. For example, my Reformation Study Bible says these two verses cannot refer to churches, but refer to real women for whom John had pastoral care. It is possible that John is referring to two blood sisters that he knew. However, it is more likely that this is a reference to two churches, especially when we examine his use of the term “children.”  John’s uses the term “children” frequently in I John (See I John 2:1, 12, 13, 18, 28, 3:1, 2, 7, 10, 18, 4:4, 5:2, 21).  The only place where it is possible he is referring to real children is 2:12-13, but even here it is not likely.  So here in II John, where children is used three times (vs. 1, 4, 13), it is likely John is referring to disciples, not to literal children. This means the phrases “elect lady” at the beginning and “elect sister” at the end are probably referring to two churches.  Paul frequently sends greetings from one church to another (See Romans 16:23, I Corinthians 16:19, II Corinthians 13:13, and Philippians 4:21-22). John is doing the same thing here though using different language. 

2.      This also has some bearing on John’s command in verse 10 about avoiding false teachers.  He tells the church that if someone does not teach that Jesus came in the flesh (vs. 7) they are to not “receive him into your house or greet him.”  We usually interpret this as meaning we should not allow a person teaching this doctrine into our home. However, if the letter is to a church, it is more likely that “house” here means the church. John is exhorting them to make sure they do not give these false teachers any welcome or any opportunity to teach in the church. It might have application in our homes. But the more direct application is that churches and denominations should not give any forum to false teachers. 

3.      The term for “lady” in verses 1 and 5 is, kuria, the feminine form of lord, kurios. It is only used in II John.  This is not just any woman. She is a queen who sits beside her Lord.