Friday, August 15, 2014

Some Thoughts on Ferguson


If it turns out that this police officer did wrongly shoot Michael Brown, he may still be able to say with a clear conscience that he was not motivated by racism to do so. And even though he may be able to say that with a clear conscience, he may be wrong. He may have been motivated by racism and not even realize it. This is not an indictment against the officer or an excuse for him either. It is a call for each of us to examine our own hearts. We are often easily blind to the sin in our own hearts. May we examine our hearts, repent, seek the forgiveness of God, and work toward racial reconciliation in all areas of life.


Monday, August 11, 2014

What's the Big Deal?


Non-Christians often wonder why Christians care so much about sexual immorality.  Even professing Christians sometimes wonder why God cares so much about sex.  Maybe you have the same questions.

I must admit that it is strange to me that often the same people who wonder why God cares so much about sex take little time to consider why sex is such a big deal in the culture around us.  You don't have to go very far to see that talk of sex is pervasive in the culture in which we live.

My goal in this post, though, is not to rebuke the culture.  I expect lost people to act like lost people.  I am much more concerned with professing Christians acting like lost people.  I want to answer the question of why sexual immorality is such a big deal to God and why it should be a big deal to us.

Check out this passage of Scripture.

1 Corinthians 6:14-20 
And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power. 15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! 16 Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, “The two will become one flesh.” 17 But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. 18 Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. 19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

So why is sexual immorality such a big deal?

Believers will be resurrected (1 Corinthians 6:14).

It seems from this verse and 1 Corinthians 15 that part of the Corinthian error was to deny the resurrection of the dead.  Paul offers a lengthy correction of this error in 1 Corinthians 15.  If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised.  And if Christ has not been raised, the Christian faith is rendered void and powerless.

But, Christ has been raised.  And believers will be raised as well.  Therefore, what we do with our bodies matters.  Those who are in Christ will live forever with God in physical glorified bodies in a physical new heaven and new earth.

This truth should help us see how the Christian worldview pervades all of life.  What you do with your body matters because of eternity.  The Christian life is not just a bunch of dos and don'ts without any overarching purpose.  Our hope of future resurrection should inform every decision we make regarding what we do with and how we treat our bodies.

Believers are united to Christ (1 Corinthians 6:15-17).

Jesus reminds us in John 15 that He is the vine and we are the branches.  Paul tells us in Ephesians 5 that the marriage relationship between a man and a woman where the two become one is representative of our union with Christ.  1 Corinthians 6:15 tells us that we make up the body of Christ.  Therefore, according to Paul's logic, when you unite with someone sexually, you are in some sense uniting Christ with that person.

Paul continues to explain the seriousness of sexual sin in verse sixteen by pointing out that sexual union creates an enduring bond.  He makes the point by quoting from Genesis 2:24 where God first introduced the concept of a one flesh union between husband and wife.

This point debunks one of the lies of the culture and illustrates the vast chasm that exists between worldly wisdom and godly wisdom.  There is no such thing as casual sex.  The sexual relationship creates an enduring.  John MacArthur recounts that C.S. Lewis in his Screwtape Letters "says that each time a man and a woman enter into a sexual relationship a spiritual bond is established between them which must be eternally (for the rest of their lives) enjoyed or eternally endured."

This is why fornication and adultery are such a big deal.  This is why divorce is such a big deal.  This is why homosexuality is such a big deal.  The sexual union was created by God to be enjoyed between one man and one woman as long as they both shall live.  This is why brokenness and baggage exist when God's ideal is not met.

Believers are indwelt by the Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:18-19a).

Paul begins verse 18 with the command to flee sexual immorality.  The verb form carries with it both the force of a command and the idea of continually fleeing, such that it could be translated, "Keep on fleeing!"

We must flee from sexual immorality.  "How far is too far?" is the wrong question.  Do not play around with sexual sin.  It will bite you like a venomous snake.  Jesus says, "If your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off."  Throw your computer or cell phone out the window.  Smash your TV with a sledge hammer.  Shred the smutty romance novels.  Dump your boyfriend or girlfriend.  For "it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell."

Paul continues to point out that believers are indwelt by the Spirit.  The biblical truth that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit should change the way we think about what we do with our bodies.

Believers were bought with a price (1 Corinthians 6:19b-20).

The lie of the culture is that it is your body.  This is the lie of the abortion rights activists, sexual revolutionists, proponents of gender reassignment surgery, and others.  Paul refutes this belief with one short statement, "You are not your own."  You are not your own because God created and sustains your body.  And ultimately, you are not your own because God has redeemed your body with the precious blood of His Son Jesus Christ.

Conclusion

I love this passage because it deals with sexual immorality in the context of God's story rather than just a list of dos and don'ts.

You see, God created us in His image, male and female, for His glory.  Adam and Eve enjoyed a perfect relationship with God.  They walked with God in the cool of the day.  Unfortunately, it didn't take long for sin to enter the picture.  Adam and Eve disobeyed God creating enmity between them and their Creator.  Not only did it create enmity between them and their Creator, it created enmity between all of humanity and God.

The truth is that we are all sexual sinners.  Jesus says that while what you do with your body matters, your heart also matters.  Paul tells in his letter to the Romans that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.

Thankfully the story doesn't end there.  A passage like 1 Corinthians 6 has the ability to leave us feeling dirty and hopeless because of our sin.  We can go away feeling beat up on.  But I want to make very clear that it doesn't matter where you have been or what you have done.  There is grace and forgiveness for you in the person of Jesus Christ if you would repent of your sin and place your faith in Jesus.

After experiencing that grace and forgiveness, the call upon each of our lives is to glorify God with our bodies.  God has not saved us that we might continue in sin.  The grace and forgiveness that we have received in Christ should propel us to glorify God with our bodies.


This is the passage I preached yesterday.  You can hear the entire sermon by clicking here.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

President Obama, Iraq, and the Christian Response


My heart is heavy this morning as I consider the current situation in Iraq.  It is a mess no matter which way you slice it.  It really doesn't matter whether you supported President George W. Bush's initial action to invade Iraq.  It really doesn't matter if you supported President Obama's decision to withdraw troops from Iraq.  This is a mess, and the United States is right to act.

I often find myself torn in situations like this.  I do not like that America has often taken the role of world police in various situations around the globe.  I do not like that we continue to borrow from China in order to send money to countries that hate us.  It seems that whenever there is conflict in the world, you can bet the Unites States will pick a side and fund it.

I voted for Ron Paul in the 2012 Republican primary.  I would like to be casting my ballot for Rand Paul in the 2016 Presidential Election.  That is, if he doesn't stick his foot in his mouth regarding this current crisis in Iraq.  If he does, I will be forced to question his ability to govern this country, and likely will not support his candidacy.

I typically despise America's interventionist tactics.  In this case, however, someone has to do something.  When two countries or two groups within a country are fighting, we should keep our nose out of it.  When people are being systematically run out of their homes and murdered with no means of defending themselves (i.e. the Holocaust), justice demands we act.

History has not looked kindly upon those who did nothing as Hitler systematically evicted people from their homes and placed them in concentration camps.  Many Jews and others were tortured and killed, and as any honest person would have to admit, not enough was done to stop the terror.

It is easy to look back on the Holocaust and wonder, "Why wasn't something done to stop these atrocities?"  It's easy to become slightly self-righteous in thinking we would have done something had we had the ability to do so.

Well, here is our chance.  Christians are being run out of their homes.  Men, women, and children are being beaten, tortured, and killed in Iraq by the terrorist group ISIS, which stands for Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.  While we as individuals cannot hop on a plane and put a stop to this genocide, our government has the ability to defend the helpless.

I am reminded of a well-known quote often attributed to Edmund Burke:

"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing."

I applaud the actions of President Obama thus far.  President Obama has authorized air strikes to stop these Islamic militants.  The U.S. has also been dropping humanitarian aid to those trapped on a mountaintop in Iraq.  You can read more about these efforts here.

President Obama said in a speech Thursday night, "Today, America is coming to help."  Thank you, Mr. President.  We are all tired of the constant conflict in the Middle East.  I know that you were hesitant to get involved in more conflict in Iraq.  I have those same feelings.  However, we cannot run from a situation where we have a moral imperative to act just because we are tired of conflict.

I am praying for the President and his advisers.  I am praying for those trapped on this mountaintop in Iraq and others who may still be fleeing.  I am even praying for these Islamic militants as they are not yet beyond the reach of God's saving hand.  I ask you to join me.  May we not be guilty of forgetting about this tragedy just because we find ourselves physically on the other side of the world.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Government: Not a Terror to Good Conduct

If you haven't heard, Christians in Iraq are being forced to flee their homes in fear for their lives.



You can find a news articles about this tragedy here and here.

What can you do?

Pray

One of the ways that we can bear the burdens of our brothers and sisters in Iraq is to pray for them.  We also know the only one who is able to change the hearts of men.  May we cry out to God on behalf of the persecuted in Iraq.  May God give them strength and boldness in their faith.  And may He protect them from harm.

 Ask our government to protect these people.

Romans 13 tells us that God gives us civil government for our good.  It is part of His common grace given to believer and unbeliever alike.

Romans 13:3-4 
For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, 4 for he is God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God's wrath on the wrongdoer.

Many have asked often why the Holocaust was allowed to continue without more of an effort to intervene and protect the Jewish people.  It is easy to look back into history with moral indignation and wonder why something was not done to end the atrocities committed by Hitler and the Nazis.  It is much more difficult to stand up to the injustice of our day with moral fortitude and call for action.

God's image bearers are being systematically murdered in Iraq.  Our government has the ability to act on behalf of the men, women, and children who are being victimized.  May we not turn a blind eye to suffering just because it is happening on the other side of the world.

While I do not have the White House on speed dial, the Obama administration has created a way for you to make your voice heard regarding the issues that are important to you.  Using the platform for creating petitions established by the President and his staff, a petition has been created regarding this issue.  If 100,000 signatures are collected within the 30 day window, the White House will respond.

You can find the petition here.  Educate yourself on the situation.  Pray.  Then go to the petition and sign it.  Signing this petition is one small way you can stand against injustice the injustice happening right now in Iraq.  Let President Obama know that this issue is important to you.

Note: At this time, the petition has received 24,253 of the necessary 100,000 signatures that it must have by August 20, 2014.

Update: It looks like President Obama is taking action in Iraq.  I was unaware of this fact at the time I wrote this post.  You can find more information in this article.  You can also listen to Albert Mohler, President of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, speak to the situation from the Christian worldview by clicking here.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Ebola, Donald Trump, and the Gospel of Christ


Over the weekend, Donald Trump sent out a series of tweets weighing in on the current Ebola crisis.





Suffer the consequences?  Liberal do gooders?  This is morally outrageous.  Mr. Trump would do well to educate himself on the facts concerning Ebola before opening his mouth or striking his keyboard again.  Facts aside, the very idea that there should be "consequences" for doing what we all know in our hearts to be right is extremely disturbing.

While Trump's tweets sadden me, my concern here is not ultimately with this morally bankrupt man.  I just prayed while typing this that he would experience the heart transformation that only comes through the gospel of Christ.

My concern is more for Christians who may be led astray by this kind of thinking.  This is the kind of Darwinian evolutionary thinking that is completely foreign to the gospel of Christ.  This is the kind of thinking that says, "I must focus first and foremost on myself.  If I don't watch out for myself, no one else will."

The gospel of Christ says…

Matthew 25:40 
And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

John 15:13 
Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.

Philippians 2:3-4 
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

You see, the gospel of Christ is not just something you believe in once and then move on with your life.  No, the gospel of Christ IS the way of life.  It is one of laying down our lives.  It is one of counting others more significant than ourselves.

It is one of following the example of Jesus.

Philippians 2:8 
And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

The Christian life is difficult.  Jesus never promised that it would be easy.

While our flesh calls us to watch out for ourselves, may we walk by the Spirit, and not according to the flesh.  And when we fail, may we lean upon the grace and forgiveness available to us in Christ Jesus.

Update: Since this post went up, Glenn Beck has weighed in on his radio program.  He referred to God's image bearer as a "200-pound bag of Ebola."  You can find the article with a short video clip here.  Once again, morally reprehensible!

Update 2: Though it was posted before my blog went up, you may be interested to read a poem by John Piper concerning the Ebola crisis and comments made by Donald Trump.  Read the poem here.

More Links: Ann Coulter weighs in with despicable comments here.  Russell Moore speaks to the Christian response here.  Alan Cross presents a gospel centered perspective here.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

A Book Review: Starting at the Finish Line

John Wallace is a former member of the LDS church who has written an excellent resource for those seeking to share the gospel with Mormons.  Starting at the Finish Line is an effort to present the gospel of grace in a way that challenges the beliefs of Mormons.  Wallace states his goal as seeking to paint a beautiful picture of the gospel while brushing up against the doctrines of Mormonism.

Wallace writes, "The book, then, is very simply a defense of that gospel: Christ on the cross, suffering and paying the penalty for our sins, and us, trusting in His sacrifice and His sacrifice alone as our salvation—as proclaimed in the New Testament of the Bible."

The author's goal is not to write a thorough rebuttal to Mormonism.  His goal is not to point out discrepancies in the teachings of Joseph Smith.  His goal is not to give a history of Mormonism, pointing to its polygamous and racist history.  His goal is to share the gospel with his readers.  Wallace has family members who are still members of the Mormon church.  His desire to see them and others saved by the gospel of Christ is evident in this book.


I find this to be a timely book.  There is a move among Mormons today to gain acceptance of their religion from evangelicals.  Some evangelicals have contributed to the blurring of the lines between Mormonism and Christianity.  This book adds clarity to the differences in our beliefs.  This is a resource that I am sure I will go back to as I have opportunity to proclaim the gospel to Mormons.


I received this book as a part of the Cross-focused reviews program.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Why Not Suffer Wrong?


Why not rather suffer wrong?  Why not rather be defrauded?

I am not sure there are any words in all of Scripture that I find more difficult.  The Apostle Paul asks these two questions in 1 Corinthians 6:7.  The message behind these questions is consistent with the teaching of Jesus in His Sermon on the Mount.

Matthew 5:39 
But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.

It is also consistent with Paul's words in other places throughout his epistles.

Romans 12:17 
Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all.

1 Thessalonians 5:15 
See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone.

Paul even sets up himself and the other apostles as examples of this kind of response to wrongdoing earlier in his letter to the Corinthian church.

1 Corinthians 4:12b-13 
When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we entreat. We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things.

1 Corinthians 6:9-10 lists some sins that we might be tempted to label as the more serious sins.  Paul does say that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.  However, it is not in those areas that I find my deepest struggles in the Christian life.

I have a tendency to think that I must defend myself.  I think that if I don't watch out for myself, no one else will.  My struggle is with treating people in a Christ like manner especially when it is inconvenient for me.  I struggle with allowing myself to suffer harm without retribution.  I often find it inconceivable that I could allow someone to speak evil of me without defending myself.  I rebel against allowing for the possibility that someone might take advantage of my kindness or generosity.

The Christian gospel demands better of me.  Because of my struggle to love others, I am the unrighteous that Paul is talking about in 1 Corinthians 6:9.  Apart from Christ, I will not inherit the kingdom of God.

It is in this moment that I am reminded of Romans 5:8, "But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us."

This is the truth that I need.  I need the example of Jesus to follow, and I need the forgiveness of Jesus when I fail.

Apart from Christ, I am an enemy of God.  I praise God that Jesus did not seek revenge against me.  He did not wait for me to make things right.  He suffered wrong.  He was mocked and beaten.  He laid down His life for you and me.

When you or I would have shouted, "Father, destroy them," He shouted, "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do."

This is the gospel of Christ.  This is the unfathomable love you and I have received.  This is the unfathomable love we have been called to demonstrate to others.

May we follow the example of Jesus, and fall on His mercy and grace when we fail.


You can listen to my sermon from 1 Corinthians 6:1-8 by clicking here.