Today, marks the first day of deliberation between the Supreme Court on the issue of gay marriage. This issue is not a new one. I’ve written on this issue so much because I believe it’s an issue that Christians must stand clearly and loudly on. Following Genesis 1-2, I believe that marriage is established by God. God created man and, therefore, He sets the rules in regards to His creation. When a man seeks to pervert the law of God there will only be destruction. This is because man is not morally or spiritually good but instead bound in his sin with eyes to only see his own point of view instead of God’s. God is the righteous ruler and the only justifier of the wicked.
People today say that we aren’t to judge. By this logic then Jesus Himself should never speak. Jesus judges people. He will hold all men accountable for who they say He is. He will hold man accountable to His demands for them to repent and believe in Him. People today say it’s not fair for God to do this. These are the same people pointing the finger in the sky at God and blaming Him when natural disasters occur. Such perversion demonstrates their depravity. The perverted logic of our culture is on full display in this Supreme Court case. The perverted sexual logic of our culture seeks for permission for its promiscuity while excusing the rights and opinions of others who oppose their viewpoint.
The twisted sexual logic of our culture tells us to do whatever we want, with whoever we want, whenever we want. Then it requires everyone to approve legally of a sinful lifestyle. That, Friends, is exactly the logic that is used to justify pornography and homosexuality. It’s a complete affront to what the Bible teaches.
People today want to live however they want to live. The world tells us that faith is to be a private thing. All the while it parades around what it believes on television, in movie theaters, at the grocery store, and the list goes on and on. There is hardly a place we go to these days where we aren’t confronted with sexual perversion. On nearly every television show, we are confronted with gay and lesbian encounters. In movies, we’re inundated by sexual perversion of every sort and kind. Our culture truly has lost its mind in regards to sexual matters.
Yet, it says when we preach the message of biblical sexuality that God created marriage between one man and one woman that we’re “judging” people. True biblical judgment has God as its focus. True biblical judgement focuses on what Jesus has done in His death, burial, and resurrection. Paul spends the first three chapters of his epistle explaining the depravity of man. On full display in our day is the perversion of man. Man instead of worshiping his Creator has exchanged the truth for a lie. Instead of worshiping Him who created man, man instead consciously and purposefully chooses to worship what is created.
People today say that Matthew 7:1 excuses Christians from judging. If Christians make clear biblical statements, they are accused on the basis of Matthew 7:1 of judging others. If we follow this same logic, Jesus Himself is judging those whom He is speaking to in the Sermon on the Mount. It was Jesus, after all, who spoke more about hell than any biblical figure in the entire Bible. If Jesus cannot speak, as He does clearly and loudly to us, about judgement then we restrict His speech. This means we’re telling the Creator and sustainer of all life, the One who gives us breathe, that He can only tell us certain things about life. This twisted logic is exactly what many people are doing. They have neither eyes to see nor ears to hear. They don’t want to consider biblical arguments because their hearts and minds are blinded to the reality of who God is. They have no desire for God because they love darkness rather than the light.
This is why the message of the gospel begins with the bad news of our sin. Jesus taught that what comes out of a man’s mouth demonstrates what’s in his heart (Matthew 15:11; Mark 7:15). This is why Paul emphasized the depravity of man in the first three chapters of Romans. Man apart from Christ is a sinner by nature and by choice. This is the clear teaching of the entire Bible. This position has been affirmed by the Church for two thousand and fifteen years. The Bible doesn’t stop at our sin. It goes on to explain why Jesus came. Jesus the sinless Lamb of God became our substitute on the cross and died in our place. He took upon Himself the full wrath of God and died in our place for our sin. When people today say, “You can’t judge me” because of Matthew 7:1, what people are saying is you can’t tell me how to live. This isn’t what Jesus is talking about there. He’s talking about hypocritical judgment not based upon the facts.
The Supreme Court has a monumental decision that will change the moral and ethical course of our country. Justice Roberts at the Supreme Court hearing speaking about gay marriage said, “You’re not seeking to join this institution but change what this institution is.” That’s exactly what this “debate” is all about– redefining marriage to be something it was never intended to be which was noted by another of the justices as well. Marriage has always been defined as between one man and one woman for the history of mankind. Marriage is a God-ordained institution. Changing that institution to be something other than what God ordains is an abomination and a direct affront to the character and glory of God who created man in His own image and likeness. Furthermore, gay marriage is a disgusting perversion of the order of mankind. God gave man, man-parts and woman lady-parts, not the other way around. This is just another demonstration of the depravity of man and a confirmation that Paul had it right in Romans 1 and in several other places in his epistles about the sexual perversion and the immorality of man.
On full display today in the Supreme Court is the modern notion that one can do whatever they want, whenever they want, with whoever they want, and then get “legal” permission that requires everyone to approve of it. People today say Christians are bigoted because they preach and believe that Jesus is the only way to God. Yet, homosexuals can preach unchallenged their message of absolute equality between the sexes with no distinction. This is the logic of our culture and the battle we face. May the Holy Spirit opens the eyes of those who still have ears to hear and remove the blinders from the eyes of the unrgenerate so that they may hear, see, and know Christ.
In response to the twisted sexual logic of our culture that teaches man to do whatever they want with whoever they want, whenever they want it, we should respond that God will hold them accountable. Christians should respond to the claim that others can make laws to support their promiscuous lifestyles which will make everyone legally approve of their lifestyles with the response that God knows their evil deeds and will hold them accountable for every sinful thought and deed. The same logic, I’m explaining is also used to justify the use of pornography and homosexuality.
This is why we must stand on the Word of God, all the more. No matter what the Supreme Court decides, Christian you must count the cost. There is coming a day very soon likely where in America, we will be persecuted physically over this issue. Settle it in your hearts now to stand in Christ. Settle it in your heart that living however you want is not God’s best for you. Throw yourself upon the finished and perfect work of the Savior who bled, died, rose for you. He is your life. He is your treasure. Look to Christ and live. He is the only One who can open the eyes of those committed to sexual perversion. He is the only One who can open the eyes and hearts of the unregenerate. So preach all the more in faithfulness to God’s Word. Stand firm on the Word of God. Don’t shrink back. God is still in the business of using His Word through His Spirit to open the eyes of the blind so that they can see, know, and delight in Christ.
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The topic of homosexuality has reached an epidemic level in many Christian circles. We are seeing many people cave on this issue and give it up as if the Bible isn’t clear on this issue. In fact, it could be said that the issue of homosexuality among Christians is an issue because of how we view the Bible. The question around this debate is this, “Is the Bible clear on what it teaches about homosexuality? Or is it not?” Christians have long held to the authority, inspiration, inerrancy, sufficiency, and clarity of the Scriptures. The debate on this issue relates to the sufficiency of Scripture, which relates to the question of, “Do we have to practice what the Bible teaches?”, and, “Does it mean what it says about homosexuality?” In other words, “Is the Bible to be believed when it says homosexuality is wrong?” or, “Can we just make up our own interpretation of the relevant text and revise it to fit our own opinion?” This is what many people are doing. It’s also why a book like Kevin DeYoung’s new book What Does the Bible Really Teach About Homosexuality? is so needed.
As readers of Servants of Grace know this issue is one I’ve addressed quite a bit over the years. It’s an issue I’m very familiar with as there is a large gay community in Seattle where I was born and raised. Even here in the Boise, Idaho, while not as pronounced (it seems to me) as Seattle, there is still a gay community presence here. When I write on this issue I get all sorts of questions and push back about it—more so than any other issue I write on. People genuinely want to know what the Bible teaches on this issue. This is why Kevin DeYoung wrote this book – to clear away this confusion. In part one, he sets forth the biblical teaching on marriage, as between one man and one woman. In part two DeYoung answers objections to the biblical teaching, he presented in part one. Here he tackles head on the revisionists who say that the Bible isn’t clear on homosexuality, “I don’t practice that type of homosexuality”, gluttony, divorce, the church is supposed to be a place for sinners, Christians are on the wrong side of history, your position on homosexuality isn’t fair, and the God of the Bible is “only” a God of love.
The book concludes with a call to faithfulness to the Word of God. DeYoung here says, “Faithfulness is ours to choose; the shape of that faithfulness is God’s to determine. In our time, faithfulness means a patiently winsome and carefully reasoned restating of the formerly obvious: homosexual behavior is a sin” (129). DeYoung also rightly notes throughout his book that we need to bring people to Jesus and Jesus will save them and through the Holy Spirit bring conviction of sin and transformation in this, and every area of their lives.
DeYoung helpful notes, “We must not be naïve. The legitimization of same-sex marriage will mean the de-legitimization of those who dare to disagree. The sexual revolution has been no great respecter of civil and religious liberties. Sadly, we may discover that there is nothing quite so intolerant as intolerance” (142). In the second appendix, he helps pastors and ministry leaders to speak winsomely by noting three building blocks for helping people struggling with same-sex attraction. First, biblically faithful, pastorally sensitive, and culturally relevant. Appendix three gives ten commitments every Christian should commit to all of which are helpful. The book also has an annotated bibliography of helpful books for further study on this issue.
The issue of homosexuality is one that isn’t going away anytime soon. This issue will continue to grow only worse as time goes on. Here soon Christians in America may be forced to not speak on this issue. We must count the cost and refuse to be silent no matter the verdict of the Supreme Court here soon. The authority of the Bible is worth standing upon. God uses His Word to pierce the hearts of hardened sinners and point them towards His finished saving work in the gospel. God is still in the business of removing spiritual blinders. He is in the business of removing people’s objections through the clear and faithful teaching of His Word. This is what DeYoung does so well. DeYoung’s book is a needed book for our times that we’re living in. Many people will say that the teaching in this book isn’t fair. They will object to DeYoung’s answers to objections to the traditional understanding of marriage as between one man and one woman for the rest of their lives. They will state that to be tolerant is to be accepting of other people’s positions, even as they are intolerant of our position and try to silence us.
Mention the word “tolerance” and you are likely to get some interesting responses. Most of those responses will focus on how people have the “rights” to think, believe, or act however they choose. In this view, tolerance is all about my rights and thinking on a given topic. At first, that may sound pleasant or even socially acceptable, but, in fact, it is rotten to the core. When people who view tolerance this way apply what they think too real life, the result is to exclude those who believe in absolute truth and absolute morals.
The argument goes, “Faith is private so keep it to yourself”. That sounds good at first glance. Let’s all keep quiet about what we believe. After all, isn’t faith a personal issue? The truth though is no one is quiet about what they believe. Is Oprah quiet about what she believes? Is Ellen DeGeneres quiet about what she believes? It seems like our liberal media can use its bully pulpit to proclaim that everyone has a right to think how they want, but when Christians make exclusive claims about God, the Bible, or Jesus according to the foundations of biblical Christianity, they are immediately discounted and treated as second class citizens. Yet the “enlightened” ones want us to believe everything they say without question and just soak in their magnificentness. The truth of the matter is not only does the liberal media not believe that faith is “private”, they are among the loudest in our culture in regards to proclaiming what they believe.
This is why the language of tolerance isn’t really tolerant, or as D.A. Carson said, “the intolerance of tolerance” in his book by the same title. Tolerance is intolerant because those who advocate for tolerance suggest they are the gatekeepers of truth. Whenever anyone says anything intolerant or if a Christian such as myself speaks or writes about gay marriage or other issues, they are shouted down, told they are wrong and immediately labeled a “bigot”, “misguided” or any number of unsavory labels. Is tolerance really tolerant? If you believe tolerance is tolerant then you are living in a world where truth must be abandoned because your truth is inconsistent. If we apply the standards of truth to the worldview of tolerance, it crumbles like shifting sand. The truth is that the new tolerance is another word for the spirit of this age which longs for teachers who will tickle people’s ears but never give them the truth from the Word of God. This is what DeYoung does so well in his book What Does the Bible Really Teach about Homosexuality? he keeps bringing the reader back time and time again to the Scriptures where the reader will be confronted with the truth from the Scriptures.
Dear Christian, make no mistake. We are living in days that are challenging, but rest assured that, we also live in a day of great harvest. Stand firm on the authority of the Word of God and declare the message of the gospel. Jesus is alive, the tomb is empty, and He is ruling and reigning as His people’s High Priest. The Holy Spirit is still in the business of opening people’s eyes to the truth about Jesus, of convicting His people of their sin, and pointing them towards the truth of Jesus. The gospel is still the power of God! Preach the gospel all the more in a culture that says tolerance is a virtue and yet rejects its own conviction through its own inconsistency. Shout all the more from the rooftops and declare the sufficiency of Jesus to a culture that would rather celebrate its own pride and self-sufficiency.
I highly recommend What Does the Bible Really Teach About Homosexuality? It is a book that every Christian must read to understand this issue. This book is a primer on God’s view of homosexuality from Scripture. This alone is no small feat as I’ve outlined in this review. Added to this, DeYoung responds to popular objections raised by Christians and non-Christians alike, making this an indispensable resource for thinking through one of the most pressing issues of our times. This book is well-researched, accessible, and saturated in the gospel. As J.D. Greear said in his endorsement, “This is now the book on this subject for our generation.” Dr. Moore is right, “Every Christian should read this book.” This book will help every Christian to answer the challenge of homosexuality in the church and outside the Church with the Word of God. I highly recommend this book and believe it is DeYoung’s best work to date.
Buy the book at Amazon or from WTS books.
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The question, “Who is Jesus?” is of perennial importance to biblical Christianity. It is a question that has often been discussed, debated and fought over in the history of the Church. Even today the question, “Who is Jesus? continues to cause great consternation. The question, “Who is Jesus?” is loudly answered by the Gospel writers and the Apostles in their various epistles. While there is not a lack of information about Jesus, often times the information coming out from the question, “Who is Jesus?” is from those in academia. In such books, scholars define the person and work of Jesus against attacks from those who want to do away with the majority of the words of Jesus in the Gospels or from those who minimize His finished work. What has been needed is more books written for lay people answering the question, “Who is Jesus?” Thankfully now there is in Who Is Jesus? by Greg Gilbert.
The question, “Who is Jesus?” is the question the Gospel of Luke spends the first nine chapters answering. Luke ends this section with the statement in Luke 9:51 that Jesus set His face to Jerusalem. After this, Jesus focuses on His disciples until He heads to Gethsemane to be betrayed by Judas, and make His way to the cross to die. John spends considerable time in His Gospel explaining who Jesus is. He moves between focusing on the message or content of the gospel which is to propel his readers to engage in the mission of God. For the Gospel writers, understanding who Jesus is leads to living out the demands of the Gospel. In other words, following Jesus results in taking up the cross and following Jesus in all of life. While the Gospel writers emphasize in narrative form that truth—the epistles spell it out much clearer particularly Paul with his emphasis on the finished work of Christ propelling or fueling the Christian’s obedience, and service to Christ.
All of this is central to the question, “Who is Jesus?” and to Greg Gilbert’s book since he seeks to deal with misconceptions about Jesus. He does this by dealing with errors regarding the person and work of Jesus today, and then seeks to show the supremacy of Jesus and His saving work. Along the way He shows the triumph of Jesus, the Last Adam, the Lamb of God who died in the place of sinners for their sin, and who will return one day as the Lion who will roar and defeat His enemies with the Sword which is the Word of God. Gilbert also deals with the resurrection of Christ. The book concludes with a look at who readers say Jesus is. This is especially important because as the Puritans taught, Jesus divided His audience. People in the Gospels stopped following Jesus after they told Him to pick up their Cross and follow Him. They stopped following Him after He said hard words that they didn’t want to follow and obey. People today do the same. They want a cuddly Jesus, or a Jesus who will entertain them. They want a good moral teacher. They want to hear how Jesus will comfort them in the midst of their daily lives. They do not want the Son of God who died in the place of sinners for their sin, who leaves the ninety-nine and goes after the one lost sheep. Even if they do want that they don’t want to hear about the demands of the gospel. Instead, they want an easy Jesus who makes no demands on their lives. Instead of the glory of the Risen Christ—many of us have exchanged the biblical Jesus for a Jesus of our own making. The Jesus of the Bible calls us to know who He is and to be able to give a reason for the hope we have in Him. We are to do this with gentleness and respect since He calls us to be holy as a result of our new inheritance in Him!
Whether you’re a new or seasoned Christian, the question, “Who is Jesus?” ought to be one that you are serious about knowing the answer to. This is why I recommend Who Is Jesus? by Greg Gilbert. This book will help you to understand that question and to deepen your understanding and knowledge of the work of Christ. If you’ve never before studied who Jesus is and what He demands, I encourage you to pick up this book as a starting place. I highly recommend this book and believe every Christian will benefit from reading it and growing in their knowledge, and understanding of the finished work of Christ.
Buy the book at Amazon or WTS Books.
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While there are sections of Christianity that believe the office of apostle died out with the original apostles of first century Christianity, there is a growing movement that believes this office has been re-instituted and will lead a world-wide takeover of the world by Christians. This movement is called the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR). While its historical roots are relatively short its influence has spread around the world.
Spending the better part of ten years in research, Holly Pevic, managing editor of Biola Magazine, has become an expert in her own right on the NAR movement. R. Douglas Geivett, author and professor at the Talbot School of Theology at Biola University, has also spent much time researching the NAR movement. Both Holly and Douglas have organized their material on the NAR into the new book A New Apostolic Reformation?: A Biblical Response to a Worldwide Movement published with Weaver Book Company. This book is a more academic look at the NAR movement while the companion book, God’s Super-Apostles: Encountering the Worldwide Prophets and Apostles Movement, is a condensed version written for a lay audience.
Overview of NAR Movement
A New Apostolic Reformation? serves two basic purposes. First, the authors give an overview of the NAR movement beginning at its earliest roots in the Later Rain Movement after World War II and then critique the movement based on Scripture. Second, the authors lay out for the reader the size of the NAR movement which reaches almost every corner of the globe.
The NAR movement is based on two central beliefs: first, that the New Testament office of apostle has been restored to the church and, second, that it is a reformation within Christianity through which God will eventually convert all of the world and to which all of the Church must submit to and join. It is through this movement that Christ will take over the world (1). This movement is considered to be an army of Christ that will bring about what is called the “Great End-Time Transfer of Wealth” which will take all of the wealth from the world and give it to this divine army for redistribution to the righteous all over the world (2).
In their overview of the NAR movement, the authors systematically work their way through the entirety of their leaders, leadership structure, outreach extensions such as politics and media, main Scriptural support for their beliefs, and key doctrines that define their movement. The NAR movement has strong political influence, internet presence and spreads its message through powerful Christian T.V. networks like the Trinity Broadcasting Network and their own GOD TV as led by Rory and Wendy Alec (21).
The tiered leadership structure of the NAR movement begins with the prophets who receive special revelation from God, who then pass it onto the prophets and then to the church leaders. The Scriptural foundation for the NAR’s belief in present day apostles rests on Ephesians 2:20, 4:11 and I Corinthians 12:28. All three of these verses mention apostles and prophets as two of several offices God gave the church to grow it. Essentially, NAR followers believe that while Christianity, as almost a united whole, has believed the offices of apostle (like that of Paul) and prophet (like Jeremiah) have been gone since the passing of the first century, they have been wrong on this understanding and God has re-established them for today.
The main leaders of the NAR movement are Bob Jones, Paul Cain, C. Peter Wagner, Bill Johnson, and Cindy Jacobs. Some of their major ministry outlets include the International House of Prayer (IHOP) and Harvest International Ministry (HIM). They have extensive influence through print and internet publications such as Charisma magazine and they even have their own Bible translation, The Passion Translation, which apostle Brian Simmons claims he was commissioned by God personally to produce (8).
Overview of Authors Response
The response of the authors to the teachings of the NAR movement is broken down into three basic categories: the apostles, the prophets, and their view of spiritual warfare. Through several chapters, the authors carefully walk through the main tenants of the NAR beliefs and compare them with Scripture.
First, regarding present day apostles, the authors are careful to point out that while there was more than one kind of apostle in the NT, there was only one group of apostles that were sent by Christ Himself. It is this group that has most certainly died out. What NAR apostles have to claim is that Christ is once again sending new apostles and is appearing to them. However, they do not make this claim for themselves, nor can they. They cannot meet the Biblical criteria (85). The authors do a good job of presenting the classic case for why the office of apostle has died out and will never be brought back.
Second, regarding the present day prophets, NAR leaders believe that God is still revealing His secret will and plans (Amos 3:7) to present day prophets to proclaim to all of the church. They have the same authority as OT prophets (102-03). A distinct role of OT prophets was their prophetic role towards nations. This is something lacking with NT prophets (126-27). While some may rule out the present day gift of prophesy, the authors do not. They believe the gift is still given today (128-29) but the office (as in the OT) does not exist, nor does the word they speak apply to the universal church (129).
Finally, when it comes to the NAR’s view of spiritual warfare they hold to a dominionism theology. This is the means through which God, through the church, as revealed to the apostles and prophets, will advance His kingdom (150). The essence of “strategic-level spiritual warfare is the act of confronting evil spirits that are believed to rule specific geographical regions, cultural groups, and societal institutions” (151). For the kingdom of God to advance they must be “neutralized or cast out.” (152) The essence of the authors response to this teaching is that Scripture does not tell us there are specific spirits that claim certain areas, nor that we are called to name them and drive them out.
A New Apostolic Reformation? provides a fascinating and eye-opening look at a worldwide movement that is everywhere. I have personally run into a number of people throughout my life that I now know are part of this movement. There is no doubt that most Christians know someone who is involved in this group but do not realize it. This book will open your eyes to it and give you some basic help for coming along side of these followers in order to lead them to the truth.
I recommend this book to anyone who might know people involved in the NAR movement, to those who are involved in it and have some suspicions that things are not right, as well as to those who want to be more informed about the movement.
You can purchase this book from Amazon or Weaver’s site.
I received this book for free from Weaver Book Company through Cross Focused Reviews for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
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Few issues are as volatile right now as the issue of ISIS. President Obama has stated multiple times that Islam is a religion of peace. While some strands of Islam may seek to have peace, the statement that Islam is itself unequivocally a religion of peace is a historical inaccuracy. Mohammed was a murderer who slayed not only his own people, but also anyone who got in his path that did not conform to his ideology. The true form of Islam isn’t peaceful; it’s always been violent. Any religion that views others as opponents to be dominated is not a religion that’s peaceful—it’s a religion of war. Islam desires war and to make everyone submit to what they believe. Now I realize that’s not what you hear on TV every day but it is a historical fact.
While Islam continues to be presented as a religion of peace; contrary to historical fact, the truth of the matter is there was once a man who committed terrorist’s acts against God’s people. That man was Saul who later became the Apostle Paul. Terrorists are nothing compared to the sovereign power of God. God can transform a terrorist and turn him into a bondservant of the Lord Jesus Christ. He did this with Saul, when He turned him into the Apostle Paul, a man who set the ancient Mediterranean world on fire for the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Christians have been called to love God and to love their neighbors (Matthew 22:37-40). God’s people have been called to love our enemies and to do good to those who persecute us (Matthew 5:43-48). Is it “wrong” for a Christian to pray specifically with regards to how they feel? Regardless, if one is comfortable or not praying the imprecatory Psalms, or whether they become a core of our prayers, such an approach should remind Christians that the world is full of injustice and God is just. With this understanding, the Christian can leave the wrongs that others have delivered to them in the hands of a Sovereign God.
Too often today the love of God is highlighted apart from the holiness and justice of God. The imprecatory Psalms highlight the anger or wrath of God. Furthermore, the Old Testament is replete with examples of God’s justice. Once a year on the Day of Atonement, the high priest would enter into the Holy of Holies to offer atonement for the people of Israel. Before the high priest went into the Holy of Holies, the other priests tied a rope around his ankle so if any of the prescriptions and regulations the Lord had established had been violated, the priests could pull out the high priest’s dead body.
The imprecatory Psalms are part of Scripture. God is holy and loving. The God of the Bible is a God of justice who demands retribution to be paid for man violating His law, commands, and statutes. The imprecatory Psalms reveal a God of justice. With that in mind, the reader of the these Psalms needs to know the rest of God’s attributes, along with the fact that the God of the Bible is not primarily interested in smiting people, and sending them to hell.
When the totality of Scripture is examined, the God of the Bible emerges as a God who is loving, just, and holy. His holiness demands that He deal with sin. His love compels Him to pardon sinners who come to Him in faith. While the imprecatory Psalms highlight a crucial aspect of the attributes of God, the reader also needs to know the story line of the Bible which focuses on the redemptive work of Jesus Christ.
Matthew 5:43-48 is clear that we are to love our enemies. The supreme command for the Christian is to love God and their neighbor (Matthew 22:37-40). Jesus in Luke 6:27 declares, “But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you.” Christians can pray the imprecatory prayers, but they cannot act on what they are praying. For example, someone could pray, “I feel this way about this person God” (insert how they feel here about this person, people group, etc.), but they are not allowed to act on those feelings on their own accord. I would also counsel people to not tell someone that you’ve prayed for them in such a way. The Christian can pray the imprecatory prayers with the understanding that ultimately what they are desiring is God’s sovereignty to reign in that situation. Our goal as Christians should be to love God and one another. With that said the Christian is to “feel” how they feel, but they must express those feelings primarily towards God with a focus on His will to be done on earth.
One weakness of the diary approach to the imprecatory Psalms is it doesn’t take these Scriptures seriously. Imprecatory prayers are more than just a “diary approach” where people share their feelings. Instead, they reveal a God of justice. While the imprecatory Psalms passionately express how the Psalmists felt, they are also part of the Scriptures. As part of the Scriptures, they reveal an essential aspect of God’s character, namely His holiness and justice. Undergirding the imprecatory Psalms is the idea that vengeance belongs to the Lord. The Lord will mete out His justice in His time and according to His sovereign purpose. As such, while the Christian may/should pray imprecatory prayers, they also need to trust the sovereignty of God. When all of this is considered, we come to understand now that He alone will executive His justice on the wicked in His own timing for His own glory.
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How do pastors preach on contemporary cultural issues? Or should they? This is a question every pastor faces as he contemplates both the spiritual needs of his congregation, the questions swirling in society, and the weighty commission to preach the Word of God. When I pastored, I constantly wrestled with when to address certain topics, how to address them, and in what format. I’ve also observed and watched pastors of large and small churches organize their preaching. Here are a few ways I’ve seen pastors address contemporary cultural issues:
1) Textual: Personally I feel the most healthy way for pastors to structure their sermons is through the systematic preaching of Bible books. Expository preaching guides a pastor along, presenting to him every Sunday the text he is to preach, not the text he wants to preach. It helps avoid the kind of cut and paste approach we often take to favorite verses and help the hearer soak in the cultural background, the context, and the biblical author’s original intent. There is a richness to studying an entire book. What’s more, it prevents us from skipping over texts that are difficult or controversial. So how does this kind of preaching lend itself to addressing contemporary cultural issues? It simply forces us to address what the text addresses. It’s nearly impossible to preach through a book of the Bible and not hit on a contemporary cultural problems. The key for application is to not apply the text in ways the congregation is already assuming, but in ways they aren’t. We shouldn’t aim for Amen’s from people who already agree, but to find ways in which they will be provoked to think differently. So, for instance, preaching on the Great Commission in Matthew forces God’s people to think through what it means to “make disciples of all nations.” How does this affect our view of different people groups, of immigrants? Preaching through Genesis forces us to think through our views of the sanctity of human life. James confronts our attitudes toward the poor. Peter counsels God’s people about their posture as counter-cultural “exiles” representing the Kingdom of Christ.
2) Topical: Though I favor expository preaching as the majority of preaching content during regular worship, I do believe there are occasions for topical messages on cultural issues, particularly during times of heightened awareness, such as a dominant news story or special Sundays (Sanctity of Life Sunday, etc). I think this can be done in a well-thought out way. Sometimes this kind of message is called for if it is a time of crisis and the particular subject people are thinking about. There are ways to do this well, I think. First, even topical messages should be grounded in a specific text, if at all possible, to prevent proof-texting. Some issues are easier to do this on than others. With some topical sermons on cultural issues, it’s helpful to walk through the development of an idea as it moves through the canon of Scripture. I’ve also seen pastors do a topical series on cultural topics. This can be done well also, but we should guard against picking topics that conform to our own political positions or topics that we know will automatically get Amen’s from our audience. We should be holistic and address topics that the Bible clearly addresses, regardless of how they might be perceived by the audience. I think it’s also important, during a series like this, to teach the congregation that the choice of cultural issues to be discussed is not exhaustive and that the Word of God is driving the messages, not a set of talking points from a political party or movement. Pastors also need to work hard at separating their personal political opinions from what God has declared in Scripture. What God’s people need from the pulpit is to hear from the Word of God not from a carbon copy of what they get from cable news or talk radio.
3) Shoehorn: A shoehorn is a hybrid between a textual message and a topical message and it’s something I was often tempted to do as a pastor. It goes something like this: You have your preaching calendar worked out for the entire year but something big comes up and you want to address it so you find a clever way to make the text you are assigned to preach speak to the current cultural moment. I don’t advise this. People can always tell when you’ve shoehorned something into the text that isn’t there, making the text say something that it doesn’t say. Better to do one of two things: a) if you deem the current cultural moment important enough to address it on Sunday morning, offer a 5-10 minute intro before your sermon where you stop and say something like, “We are going to continue through our current series, but I felt it important to address this . . . .” b) schedule a special time for a talk on the subject or c) send an email or post a blog with your thoughts on the subject. d) if it’s really, really important, change your Sunday morning message and adjust your schedule. I think this option should be used sparingly, otherwise, you become a slave to the news cycle rather than a servant of the text of Scripture.
Other ways to address cultural issues:
There are other ways to address cultural issues than the Sunday morning worship time. For instance, churches could schedule a series of classes or talks on specific issues. Tim Keller has done this with great success at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York, building an event around a particular topic. Matt Chandler has also done this at Village Church in the Dallas Fort Worth area with forums on weeknights. I’ve seen other churches do similar things. I kind of like this format. It allows the church to go deep on particular issues in a way that may not fit for a Sunday morning series. It might also allow the church to leverage expertise from the congregation or from outside the church, giving people the opportunity to hear important perspectives from issue experts.
The church may also see fit to partner with other evangelical churches in the area to host a conference on a particularly important cultural issue or point their people to conferences hosted by other Christian organizations. Other ways to educate and inform people is through targeted teaching in small group sessions, book studies, and the use of the church’s online media (blogs, videos, podcasts).
Bottom line: Pastors should not ignore cultural issues, but should shepherd their people well by helping them think through issues biblically. There are ways to do this through faithful application of the text of Scripture.
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