And They Approve Those Who Practice Such Things

Sheep 2

Can you be an unrepentant, practicing homosexual and a follower of Jesus Christ?   I want to answer this question and then follow it up with a second, perhaps more pertinent question, what if a person doesn’t practice sodomy, but approves of those who do? Just to be clear I am discussing how to deal with those who claim to be Christians yet either practice homosexuality or approve of those who do. I am not talking about how to interact with non-Christians on the subject.

Sexual Immorality Keeps You Out of the Kingdom

You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.
(Lev 18:22)

For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. (Ephesians 5:5)

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. (1Cor. 6:9-10)

Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates. Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and the sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood (Rev 22:14-15)

An unrepentant sinner of any kind is bound for Hell. This includes thieves, liars, drunkards, and the sexually immoral, such as practicing homosexuals, adulterers, porn addicts, and lesbians. Just to cut off “but what about,” I am not talking about a man struggling with his sin, fighting it, sometimes winning and sometimes losing. Nor am I talking about a new Christian or immature Christian who does not understand what the Scriptures teach nor has learned how to wage war on sin. I remember hearing of a Christian couple, new to the faith, who were living together unmarried. They had no idea it was wrong, until a pastor told them. That is not the situation I am talking about. Continue reading

Dangers of Being a Man Pleaser

 

Office Workers 1.jpg

Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God. (Colossians 3:22, KJV)

 

Paul warns us in this passage to make sure we serve God and not just our employers in our vocations. When a man first gets a job he usually has a great desire to impress his boss. Of course, this is good. But Paul tells us this is insufficient. What are the dangers of “eyeservice” and “menpleasing?” (By the way, the ESV version says, “people pleasers.” That is lame.) Before we note the dangers let’s be clear on what Paul is saying. He is not saying we should aim to displease our “masters according to the flesh.” All employees should seek to honor their bosses. But Paul is saying that our ultimate allegiance is to God. Paul closes this verse by focusing on singleness of heart, which means a whole-hearted devotion to God. We are to fear God. We are to obey our masters, but our hearts are to be completely devoted to our Lord.  What are the dangers of man’s approval being our ultimate goal instead of God’s? Continue reading

Mere Sexuality

cbmw

The Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW) released the Nashville Statement this week.  I have had more disagreements with the CBMW over the years. Initially I was enthralled by them. But more reading, in particular historical reading, has led me away from them. However, this statement is good. It lays out mere sexuality, as in basic, very basic, Biblical sexual ethics concerning marriage, sodomy and transgenders. Initially, I thought the statement was too basic to be worthwhile. But the response by many progressive Christians has vindicated the need for it. Surprise, surprise many Christians are not as firm on the basics as they let on.  Continue reading

Is the Church Supposed to be a Persecuted Minority?

Different Person

The idea of Jesus as a persecuted minority and therefore the founder of a persecuted minority group, i.e. the Church, has become common currency in theological circles. The basic idea has been around in different forms for a long time in ideas such as the remnant, some Reformation era Anabaptists, and die-hard dispensationalists. But recently minority groups have used this idea to put themselves in the same category as Christ and to defend their particular cause.  We are told that if we care about the Gospel and follow in Christ’s footsteps then we will have compassion on and help minorities. Therefore I found this section of Andrew Fulford’s book, Jesus and Pacifism, helpful.  He is talking about the command in Matthew 16:24 to take up our crosses and follow Jesus. First he says,

Dr. Yoder [a pacifist] argued that this command was essentially a command to be a faithful minority community under persecution. [Fulford footnotes Yoder’s The Original Revolution and The Politics of Jesus]

Yoder does not mean what many current social justice warriors mean. But his perspective fits in nicely with SJW thinking. Yoder views the command through a political lens. Taking up your cross means you are willing to be associated with those on the edges and fringes of society,  those currently defined as weak, maligned, and persecuted. Fulford goes on to explain the command differently using Jesus’ own words and the context. He then says this:

In sum, this command requires nothing more of us than the Greatest Commandment does. To be commanded to serve God with everything one has, means being willing to obey him even to  the point of death…And this was not merely a teaching on this part; Jesus practiced what he preached. The cross was of course the means by the Lord himself would choose to lay down his life in order to obey his Father…When the Lord commands us to not just to pick up a cross, but to follow him while doing so, we can see what he means. He calls us to make the exact same choice he did: to accept death from the hands of God if providence gives us no choice between it and sin. It means, in essence, to be willing to give up everything and to endure anything rather than disobey God. His command goes to the very heart of the problem with the human condition. From the first sin, human beings have been choosing sin for the sake of some lesser good rather than obedience to their Creator. Jesus calls us to finally do what we were made to do, serve God above all things.

Fulford then discusses II Corinthians 4:5-18 and Paul’s description of his own sufferings. Here is the concluding paragraph.

Paul’s reflections on these themes are profound, and warrant many books dedicated to them entirely. But the important point for our purposes here is to note: for the apostle joining in the sufferings of Christ was not simply about being a persecuted minority in society. It was about enduring the effects of the curse; it was about accepting death in all its forms (literal and figurative) from the hand of God, and living in a certain hope that one day we will be redeemed from it, just as Christ has been. Refusing to take up the cross is not essentially about the minority’s temptation to take political and social power; refusing the cross is essentially repeating the sin of the Garden. Rejecting one’s cross is an action rooted in distrust of God’s goodness, leading to an attempt to minimize our pain and maximize our happiness by making moral compromises and breaking God’s commands.

Taking up our cross is not about whatever particular social justice cause we are currently pushing. It is not about a refusal to take up positions of power, as Anabaptists often interpret it. It is not even about our daily struggles with life in general. It is about belief in God and obedience to his commands no matter the cost. Most days that will look normal. On a few days it will be extraordinary.

One might argue that this is just one passage. There are other passages that make it clear Christians should care about minorities. Certainly there are passages to debate and discuss, but in the end we would probably end up at the same place. Minority status, however that is defined, is not a virtue in the Christian faith. Trust in God and obedience is.

The Necessity of Force

When one reads pacifists it is easy to assume they have forgotten about sin. Pacifists tend to downplay sin and how ugly the world gets. They assume that all men are reasonable and therefore violence is never necessary. Andrew Fulford responds to this at the end of his book, Jesus and Pacifism.  In this section he is critiquing Stanley Hauerwas’ critique of C.S. Lewis.

What I will note is a false assumption…the idea that all people ultimately have a good will. That is, some pacifism assumes that all violent individuals can ultimately be reasoned with, and therefore force is never really necessary. But this is simply not true, or at least we have no evidence to think it is. Violent sociopaths are people who violate this stricture: they are aware they hurt people and that what they are doing is wrong, but they do it anyway. And Scripture testifies that our experience is correct, that such rebellious people do exist…So in fact there is no good reason to assume we can always talk violent people out of their behavior, and that deep down they are all just folks like us. Sometimes they not.

Force is necessary at times because some men are so wicked that they will not listen to reason. For most of us this is as plain as the sun rising. But some pacifists cannot see this at all. I wonder if the Anabaptistic view of sin is one reason why they lean towards pacifism? That question will need to be answered another day. For now, it is clear that violent force is at times necessary.

The Sinews of the Body of Christ

JohnCalvin 1.jpg

Book IV, Chapter 12 of John Calvin’s Institutes is one of the clearest, sanest, and most compassionate explanations of church discipline I have read. Here is one of the opening paragraphs, which I will follow up with some comments.

But because some persons, in their hatred of discipline, recoil from its very name, let them understand this: if no society, indeed, no house which has even a small family, can be kept in proper condition without discipline, it is much more necessary in the church, whose condition should be as ordered as possible. Accordingly, as the saving doctrine of Christ is the soul of the church, so does discipline serve as it sinews, through which the members of the body hold together, each in its own place. Therefore all who desire to remove discipline or to hinder its restoration-whether they do this deliberately or out of ignorance-are surely contributing to the ultimate dissolution of the church. For what will happen if each is allowed to do what he pleases? Yet that would happen, if to the preaching of doctrine there were not added private admonitions, corrections, and other aids of the sort that sustain doctrine and do not let it remain idle. Therefore, discipline is like a bridle to restrain and tame those who rage against the doctrine of Christ; of like a spur to arouse those of little inclination; and also sometimes like a father’s rod to chastise mildly and with the gentleness of Christ’s Spirit those who have more seriously lapsed. When therefore we discern frightful devastation beginning to threaten the church because there is no concern and no means of restraining the people, necessity itself cries out that a remedy is needed. Now this is the sole remedy that Christ has enjoined and the one that has always been used among the godly.

A couple of comments on this.

First, notice the connection Calvin makes between different societies/communities. Cities, families, and businesses need discipline to function well. Why would it be any different in the church, which “should be as ordered as possible?” All societies need certain things to function well, including good leadership, discipline, rules, order, a level of freedom, etc. Each society has different tools to enforce their standards and the civil realm deals  primarily with the outward man while the church deals with the inner man. But the principles remain the same. If a father can spank a child and a magistrate can discipline a citizen then church leaders can discipline their congregants.

Second, notice that for Calvin church discipline is not limited to excommunication, but includes, “private admonitions, corrections, and other aids of the sort.” One of the biggest mistakes made in any discussion of discipline is always running to end point, such as spanking or capital punishment. But discipline is much broader than this. Churches fail when they focus on excommunication and leave out pastoral visitation and other types of private admonitions. Excommunication should normally come at the end of a long line of smaller disciplinary exhortations.

Finally, note the different images Calvin uses to describe church discipline, a bridle, a spur, a father’s rod to chastise mildly. Each carries with it a different level of severity and a different purpose. Church discipline, if it is going to be effective and honor Christ, must take into account the person, their personality, the nature and gravity of the sin, past sins, etc. Just as a good parent wisely administers discipline so good elders and pastors do the same. To treat all who sin with the same level of discipline is folly and a recipe for tyranny and rebellion.

Nowhere to Hide

Question-Marks-1024x600.jpg

Earlier this month, Eugene Peterson, a former pastor and prominent Christian author, who has written numerous books including The Message, was asked about same-sex marriage in an interview. In that interview he said he would be fine with performing a same-sex marriage. When word got out there was an uproar. He quickly retracted the statement, but of the retraction one friend said:

Peterson’s retraction was not clear, Biblical, or faithful to Christ especially when there is so much confusion and false teaching on homosexuality. Al Mohler wrote a piece outlining the situation, but it is his final three points that I want to repost here. They are worth pondering as all of us will eventually be forced to answer the question, “What do you think about same sex marriage, homosexuality, and gender?”

Consider these lessons from Eugene Peterson’s ordeal.

First, there is nowhere to hide. Every pastor, every Christian leader, every author  — even every believer — will have to answer the question. The question cannot simply be about same-sex marriage. The question is about whether or not the believer is willing to declare and defend God’s revealed plan for human sexuality and gender as clearly revealed in the Bible.

Second, you had better have your answer ready. Evasive, wandering, and inconclusive answers will be seen for what they are. Those who have fled for security to the house of evasion must know that the structure has crumbled. It always does.

Third, if you will stand for the Bible’s clear teachings on sexuality and gender, you had better be ready to answer the same way over and over and over again. The question will come back again and again, in hopes that you have finally decided to “get on the right side of history.” Faithfulness requires consistency — that “long obedience in the same direction.”

That is what it means to be a disciple of Christ, as Eugene Peterson has now taught us—in more ways than one.

If someone asks what you believe about same-sex marriage, sodomy, and gender are you ready to give the Biblical answer? If they ask again will you give the same answer? If they ask during an interview that will be published will you give the same answer? If your boss asks during Gay Pride Month will you give the same answer? Or will you evade, wiggle around, refuse to be clear, put it off to another day,  or act embarrassed about the Scripture’s teaching?  If you don’t know what the Bible teaches, figure it out. If you know, but don’t have the backbone to say it out loud, then you better grow one. Because one day the mic will be in front of you.