Authentic Living in Christ

Posted by on Sep 8, 2014 in Apologetics, Contemporary Culture, Featured

Authentic Living in Christ

static.squarespace.com  300x150 Authentic Living in ChristAuthenticity is a buzz word. Do a search for authentic living and you’ll find thousands of articles explaining how to do it—from secular, eastern, western, traditional, progressive, and missional perspectives. Each of these groups offers a different liturgy (religious or not) and also a different vision for what living authentic looks like. Christians must not only know right doctrine, but must know right liturgy and right story and also the heterodox liturgies and stories to rightly make, mature, and multiply disciples. Here’s a few examples of heterodox liturgies and stories prevalent today.

Within the LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, Transgendered, & Queer) community, living authentic to your true self is a crucial element to their liturgy. It’s a crucial plot point and character maturation in the story of living authentically as a LGBTQ person—with all that includes. There’s heavy importance in coming out and also negative (mostly) implications to outing someone who’s not ready. As a Christian, it’s interesting that many Christians who struggle with same sex attraction and speak out about it openly, but aren’t out and proud are treated as Uncle Tom’s of the LGBTQ community. They’ve bucked the liturgy and are excommunicated from the community because of it.

One more example. recently the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby and in several venues, social media platforms, and blogs I saw people who were arguing against the ruling. Many of these arguments centered around the perceived restriction of authentic living by an employer. “Who is my employer to tell me how I should live in such intimate matters?” Or “Women should be able to have sex without fearing that it will negatively impact their lifestyle.” Or “If my employer doesn’t provide me all options of contraceptive, then I don’t have access to contraceptives and that impedes my freedom.” There’s an implied point that authentic living as a modern person includes freedom of sex without responsibility and repercussion. Authentic living is cooked down to sexual freedom. In this liturgy, freedom of sexual exploration and exploitations without consequence is the truly authentic vision of the good life.

There’s something strong and wrong in these liturgies and stories. Even when irrational, even when proven to have negative consequences, people embrace these lifestyles and argue for them because the liturgy has engaged their hearts. There’s truth, in some way, that we are meant to live an authentic life—although Christians would argue this must be tied to Jesus Christ. But authentic living as defined by our current society would be chaos. A society ruled by the passions of what makes me feel authentic is dangerous because it’s subjective. There’s no foundation for right and wrong—only what I perceive as authentic to me as an individual. And who are you to tell me otherwise?

Christians cannot combat these affective liturgies and stories with rational arguments alone. We must engage the hearts which once won will win the head. James K. A. Smith in Desiring the Kingdom says, “Lived worship is the fount from which a worldview springs, rather than being the expression or application of some cognitive set of beliefs already in place” (136). Think about it. How many times have you heard, “Christians are such hypocrites because they believe x, but live this way.” In most cases, what we love shows by how we act and makes more of an initial impression on people than what we say we believe.

The early Christological debates of the church underscore the truth that our hearts guide our head. The ancient church had always worshiped a Triune God. They had always worshiped Father, Son, and Spirit as “one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity; Neither confounding the persons, nor dividing the substance . . . But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit is all one, the glory equal, the majesty co-eternal” (The Athanasian Creed). But the doctrinal clarity wasn’t there. It took centuries to formulate clear, succinct statements of faith for what the church had been practicing clearly and succinctly, for what had already grabbed their hearts in the liturgy and worship of the church. The affective worship of the church liturgy played a crucial role when came time to decipher orthodoxy from heresy.

What we must understand today is not only that authentic living is living in Christ (it absolutely is), but that we must make that truth beautiful—it must stab our hearts. We must tell it in stories that affect the heart. We must practice it in our liturgies (ecclesiastical and daily). Smith is helpful again on this point.

“While secular liturgies are after our hearts through our bodies, the church thinks it only has to get into our heads. While Victoria’s Secret is fanning a flame in our kardia, the church is trucking water to our minds. While secular liturgies are enticing us with affective images of a good life, the church is trying to convince us otherwise by depositing ideas” (127).

A few years back I was dialoguing with a young man who had rejected his parent’s Christianity and practicing the liturgy of the new atheism. During one of these conversations, he says: “My parents use to tell me that Christianity made things move like a car. If I didn’t continue to live rightly my ‘check engine light’ would come on and life would break down. Things have been better than ever since I’ve embraced atheism.” Among many problems, the parents were laying siege to the head, when the new atheism liturgy was conquering his heart. The new atheists were hard selling a picture of the good life to his heart—one which his parent’s rationalistic approach to Christianity couldn’t match.

I argued in a recent article that we must eat stories for life as Christian disciples. Part of that argument rests on the way God presents the gospel. Israel is enslaved in Egypt. She’s been in bondage for nearing 400 years. God has been mostly silently. Israel is disgruntled, angry, and skeptical. She’s bought whole scale the liturgy of Egypt. The Egyptians have sold Israel a defunct and moldy vision of the good life. Even after God redeems Israel, they occasionally murmur, “In Egypt, we had leeks, onions, and garlic.” That’s a head nod to the implicit liturgy of Egypt. It’s like saying, “Those were the good life. The slavery was a small price to pay for those.”

How does God redeem Israel? God comes in and gives them a proper lesson on doctrine, right? He swoops in and gives them the ten commandments. He says obey and things will work out for you. Not at all. He steps into their slavery and decisively redeems them. And he doesn’t just snap his fingers and have them appear in the Promised Land. He redeems them in a way that demonstrates that the Egyptian liturgy and its deities were a pile of steaming poop. He acts out a story that has kept the attention of young kids, adults, and everyone in between for millennia. We watch it go down slack-jawed. “He did what?”

He goes for Israel’s heart before he ever goes for their heads. And when God finally goes for their heads, when he finally gives the ten commandments and the rest of the law, he repeatedly says something like: “You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God redeemed you; therefore I command you this today” (Deut. 15:15). Or hear Moses, when he reminds parents to rehearse this story to their kids so they don’t forget that God acted for his people (Deut. 6:1-2 see also Deut. 15:15):

1 “Now this is the commandment—the statutes and the rules—that the Lord your God commanded me to teach you, that you may do them in the land to which you are going over, to possess it, 2 that you may fear the Lord your God, you and your son and your son’s son, by keeping all his statutes and his commandments, which I command you, all the days of your life, and that your days may be long. 3 Hear therefore, O Israel, and be careful to do them, that it may go well with you, and that you may multiply greatly, as the Lord, the God of your fathers, has promised you, in a land flowing with milk and honey.

4 “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

10 “And when the Lord your God brings you into the land that he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give you—with great and good cities that you did not build, 11 and houses full of all good things that you did not fill, and cisterns that you did not dig, and vineyards and olive trees that you did not plant—and when you eat and are full, 12 then take care lest you forget the Lord, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.

He starts off with their affections. “I’ve acted for you. I’ve redeemed you. Now love the Lord your God with all your heart”—which is immediately followed with “And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart” (v. 6). Or paraphrased: Love me because I’ve loved you and placed that love on your hearts. Notice after this affective start, how he couches the teaching in tangible, earthy terms. God is painting a picture of the good life. He’s saying, “Teach your kids what I did—when you sit, lie down, or eat in the house (that I gave you freely). And when you get into the land—with its cities, homes, food, clean drinking water, wine, and olive oil (that I gave you freely)—don’t forget I redeemed you out of Egypt.” Love me because I’ve loved you and placed that love on your hearts.

That’s a tangible picture of what a Godward vision of the good life looks like. Even after redeeming them, even while laying hold of their mind, he’s conquering their heart, their affections.

Paul follows this pattern in his letters. Take note of Romans 6. Paul is arguing for authentic living in Christ—against the crummy liturgy of “the body of sin” (v. 6). He paints a picture of the Godward good life by drawing on imagery of death, burial, and resurrection and contrasting that with the liturgy of slavery under sin and the liturgy of grace in Christ. In The Contours of Pauline Theology, Tom Holland draws these imagery out making them clear,

“As Moses, in the Exodus out of Egypt, took the people of God, for they were united with him through baptism, so Christ takes those who have been baptised into union with him from the realm of sin and death. This baptism into Christ took place in his exodus, in his coming out of the realm of Sin and death. It was a baptism into his death that all believers experienced, in the same historic moment” (151).

And in his commentary Romans: The Divine Marriage, Holland elaborates on Romans 6,

“Paul already dealt the possibility of an accusation of guilt being brought against the church for entering into another marriage relationship (Rom 6:7; 7:1-4). Satan will accuse Christ and the church that their union is not lawful. Should the call go out: “if anyone can show any just cause why they may not lawfully be joined together in matrimony, let him now declare it, or else hereafter for ever hold his peace” he is read to cry out: “She is mine. She is already married.” It is into this awful scene that Paul confidently declares: “It is God who justifies!” The judge of the whole earth will accept there is a charge to answer, and Paul states why this is so in the next verse [i.e., we have died with Christ and have risen to new life]. Of course, if Satan cannot persuade believers that it was unlawful for Christ to take his people as his bride then he will find other means to charge them. The answer to all charges, whatever they may be, is: “Christ has died and is rise! Hallelujah!” (287).

What we miss so often when reading Romans, a book that’s majestically logical and structured, is that there’s a story here that grips the heart and its affection. In Romans, Paul is saying, “You were in an abusive marriage where you were treated as a slave and prostitute (Rom. 6). God became man and came to rescue you (Rom. 3-4). He put the old body of sin to death so that the old marriage was once and for all dissolved by our death in Christ and we are now raised in Christ a spotless bride (Rom. 6). Remember you have everything you need in Christ—you are justified, sanctification, glorified, and elected in him (Roms. 8). Oh Christians, see what God has done for you. How then should we live? (Rom. 12-ff).”

That’s authentic living in Christ. It’s doctrinally rich, but it’s driven through the heart. It takes seriously the truth that the Church is a story-formed community. A community where the law is built around love—love your God and your neighbor. Where God has put the law on our hearts (Deut. 6:6). Where God is concerned first with who and what we love because he knows if we love right, we’ll live right. Right affections will lead to mature disciples that multiply other mature disciples. And a church that returns to its root as a community centered on who and what we love will easily answer the corrupt liturgies of our culture. So let’s not forget to fight for the hearts of people, while we teach them to obey everything the Lord commanded (Matt. 28:18-20). Let’s remember how we have been redeemed and our common story (“God became man and did what?!” That’s truly a masterpiece of affective storytelling). Doing these things will help us disciple better as we engage skeptics and believers. We’ve got a better story, so let’s tell it and let’s aim for the head through the heart.

 This post first appeared at Mathew’s blog and is posted here with his permission.
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Three Ways to Pray and Support Persecuted Christians

Posted by on Sep 8, 2014 in Contemporary Culture, Featured, The Gospel and the church

Three Ways to Pray and Support Persecuted Christians

Pray for the Persecuted chains 1024x358 300x104 Three Ways to Pray and Support Persecuted Christians

From Asia to Europe, Africa to Latin America, Christians are facing persecution for what they believe. We live in an increasingly hostile culture that no longer values the foundation upon which it was built—that is biblical Christianity. As I have been thinking and praying about this topic more and more recently, I have become increasingly burdened as I watch the growing situation in Iraq (with ISIS), and the increased persecution of Christians all around the world.

According to Open Doors USA, Christians are the most persecuted religious group worldwide. An average of at least 180 Christians around the world are killed each month for their faith. The U.S. State Department reports that Christians, in more than 60 countries, face persecution from their governments or surrounding neighbors simply because of their belief in Christ. Christians Solidary Worldwide reports that one of the worst countries in the world for persecution is North Korea. With the exception of four official state-controlled churches in Pyongyang, Christians in North Korea face the risk of detention in the prison camps, severe torture, and in some cases, execution for practicing their religious beliefs. North Koreans suspected of having contact with South Korean Christians or other foreign missionaries (such as those from China), and those caught in possession of a Bible, have been known to be executed. Open Doors explains that in forty-one of the fifty worse nations for persecution, Christians are persecuted by Islamist extremists.”[i]-

The statistics I quoted above paint a disturbing picture about our world and where it is headed. Thankfully, God’s people don’t have to despair, since we are a people with the hope of the gospel—a message that is the hope of the world. The Church has continued and thrived in the face of persecution from its earliest days and will continue to thrive as it is faithful to the gospel.

Expect Persecution

Jesus stated that in this world we would experience trouble and persecution (John 16). Paul told Timothy that anyone who desires to live a godly life in Christ will experience persecution (2 Timothy 3:12). In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught the disciples that, “blessed are those who are persecuted” (Matthew 5:10-12). He also said to pray for our enemies (Matthew 5:43-48) and modeled the truth of how He expects His people to handle persecution on His way to Calvary. The persecuted church testifies of our need to get out of our “comfort zone” and proclaim the victorious work of our Risen Savior.

Be Aware of the Situation

Christians here in the United States (and elsewhere) can support our fellow brothers and sisters being persecuted by gaining knowledge of what is going on around the world. I recommend checking out Voice of Martyrs and other organizations like it that are doing heroic work for the sake of the gospel.

Pray for the Afflicted

Second, the Bible tells us in Hebrews 13:3 to pray for those in prison. Hebrews 13:3, “Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body.” The preacher of Hebrews here gives his readers a profound lesson about those who were experiencing mistreatment and imprisonment.

Be There as a Friend

There are three ways we can seek to fulfill this verse. First, we can be there for others when life gets hard. The presence of a friend has been a boon of encouragement and strength to me in my Christian life.

Give Assistance as You’re Able

Second, we can provide direct help. Paul thanked the Philippians for sharing with him in his affliction by giving him money to carry on his ministry in other places (Phil. 4:14-16). By giving to him financially, they also encouraged him spiritually.

Most Importantly—Pray

Finally, we can care by praying. Paul’s closing words to the Colossians in Colossians 4:3-4 were an appeal for prayer. They could not visit him and money would have been no help at that time. By remembering him in prayer, they could support him powerfully. Following’s Jesus’ example, who did not come to be ministered to but to minister, we should lose ourselves in the sustained, sympathetic, and loving care of others.

As Christians, we are commanded over fifty times to “one another” each other (love one another, prayer for one another, etc.). It is my hope and prayer today that you would join with me in praying for our persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ. Praying for one another is one way we can practically show the world that we love Jesus and one another (John 13:35). Get involved and speak up—your voice matters.

Photo Credit: Pray For the Persecuted Chains

[i] “Quick Facts About Persecution” ERLC, accessed August 1, 2014. http://erlc.com/issues/quick-facts/persecution/

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Donald Sterling, Secret Conversations, and the Image of God

Posted by on Apr 29, 2014 in Contemporary Culture

By now you’ve heard reports about the reprehensible and racist comments of Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling. This is a news story that now transcends sports, with repeated calls for boycotts of Clipper games, demands for punishment for Sterling, and even admonishment from President Obama.

If you are an NBA fan like me, you’ll know that Donald Sterling is a known curmudgeon, a highly ineffective owner, and a generally un-liked fellow. So we might be tempted to consider what he said to be merely the rantings of an out of touch, stuck-in-the-1950′s old man. We might ask why should Christians care what the owner of an LA sports team says?

But I think we should care, for several reasons:

First, Sterling’s words hurt and demean people created in the image of God. Just the way Sterling talks about African American people reflects a Satanic, soul-crushing view of humanity. “These people” is a way of setting a certain ethnic group aside as less than human.

Christians should be offended by Sterling’s words because racism is a direct attack upon the Creator, who lovingly formed each human in His image and likeness. It’s to tell the Creator that what He created good isn’t good. To treat someone as subhuman doesn’t simply humiliate the recipient, it dethrones God as Lord.

In one sense it’s shocking that we still hear these words in 21st century America. After all, we’ve made great racial progress in this country. And yet, in another sense, we shouldn’t be shocked, because racism is the fruit of a sinful, fallen world, where man will always consider himself better than his fellow man. Every generation has its racists, who set themselves up as gods. And every generation needs godly men and women to both be outraged by racism and committed to the gospel work that eradicates it.

Secondly, Sterling’s words and actions reflect a low view of marriage. Buried in the furor over the racist comments were a stunningly low view of marriage and sexuality. Marriage is not simply a Christian idea, but a Creational ordinance ordained by God to both illustrate Christ’s love for His Church and to ensure human flourishing. It’s no surprise that in Sterling’s life adultery and racism flow together. Each sin is a selfish act against a holy God.

Third, we should be warned that no conversation is secret.How many seemingly private conversations have been “leaked” to the media? The wrong lesson to learn from Donald Sterling (and other such conversations) would be this: be careful what you say, it might go public. Instead, we should strive not to have those nasty private conversations. Not simply for fear of them being leaked, but because even in private, God hears. We should strive to be in private what we hope people think we are when they see us in public. Besides, God will make known all the secret things one day. In a sense, there is no hiding, nothing “off the record” that won’t be replayed at the Judgement Seat.

So where do Christians go from here? What should we do?

We should continue to work for racial reconciliation. Racial reconciliation is not just a political program or a neat idea cooked up in the academy. It’s at the heart of God. In Revelation 5 and 7, we are given a view of the future Kingdom where “every language, tribe, and tongue” will gather to worship Christ. Christians should both be outraged by the injustice of racism wherever we see it and we should actively promote racial reconciliation in our churches, our communities, and in our homes.

We must preach the gospel as the only cure for racism.Racism is the fruit of sin embedded in the heart of every man. Only Christ, who crushed the serpent and defeated death can move into the racist’s heart and recreate it to be a heart of love. The cross is where racism goes to die, for every man, red and yellow, black and white, is in need of God’s saving grace. There is hope for the repentant racist, but it will only happen as Christ renews his mind and redeems his view of his fellow man. Let’s pray for Donald Sterling to repent and turn to Christ in faith. God delights in welcoming sinners home, including repentant racists.

We must model in our churches what racial reconciliation looks like. In the gospel, Christ has created for Himself one new humanity, called out from every race, tribe, and tongue. Therefore as we work toward intentional, real diversity in our Christian communities, we model in miniature what the Kingdom will look like in full. Let’s turn our outrage at Donald Sterling into the gospel-fueled work of reconciliation.

We should humbly consider our own sinful tendencies toward prejudice. Racism begins in a corrupted, sinful heart. If we were honest, we’d admit there is a little Donald Sterling in all of us. Only God’s sanctifying grace can remove the cancer of racism and replace it with a heart that reflects God’s heart.

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Guns and Bibles: Why Do They Go Together?

Posted by on Jan 22, 2014 in Contemporary Culture

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At the outset of the American Revolution, many of the early colonials didn’t struggle to connect their faith with their moral obligation—as they understood it—to secede from England through war. With a gun in one hand and a Bible in the other, the American militia fought and won independence.

Many today do not understand how some of the most committed followers of Jesus can be, at the same time, some of the most ardent second amendment advocates. Indeed, the news media routinely portrays the caricature of back-woods, out-of-touch, gun-clinging, Bible-thumping, Red State hillbillies and Christians aren’t sure how to respond.

When I was being interviewed to pastor a church, I was asked if I supported the second amendment. Without hesitation (and to their relief) I said, “Absolutely.” I even have a license to carry. But there seems to be a great disconnect and confusion over why a Christian—especially a pastor—would support the right to bear arms.

Why do guns and Bibles go together? And I’m not talking about obeying the command to “Rise, kill and eat” (Acts 10:13) through modern weaponry, though I love fresh game! The answer to why guns and Bibles go together is simple: to make peace, protect the weak, end suffering, and promote the freedom of religion. Now before you’re up in arms over this, let me explain.

Obviously, guns aren’t the real issue; people are. This is the absurdity of promoting stricter gun laws, as if criminals will naturally obey them. However, some people are so corrupt not only in their thinking, they have also been given considerable power and authority to exercise their corruption in the form of tyranny and oppression over a populace.

If a school bully is beating a young girl on the playground and you, as a teacher, walked up on the act, would you sit on the bench and watch? Of course not. You might ask the bully to stop his blows, but what if he doesn’t listen? Some bullies don’t. I hope, for her sake, you would become a peacemaker, protect the weak, end the suffering, and provide the girl’s freedom. For a bully on a playground, you don’t need a gun. But there are some circumstances that might necessitate such action.

Obviously, you and I don’t have the means and resources to stop all oppression and tyranny worldwide, nor is that our responsibility. But we are to make peace, protect the weak, end suffering, and promote freedom among those in close proximity to us relationally (i.e., family and friends) and spatially (i.e., neighbors and community). If we can make “world peace” along with beauty contestants, let’s do it. But it’s not this Tennessean’s moral obligation to make peace in New Delhi, though I might volunteer!

The right to bear arms is a right of protection against corruption, a right to end suffering, and a right to preserve freedom, especially when tyrannical corruption translates into intentional oppression for the establishment and preservation of the tyrant. And we don’t look to the poor example of the Crusades, which actions certainly didn’t find legitimate justification in the Bible.

The church militant—which fights against the (spiritual) world, the flesh, and the devil—has the right to bear arms. Individual Christians are members of both church and state and when a government repeatedly oppresses a people to establish and maintain its own depraved power, at the repeated expense and affliction its people, we have the right—as Bible-believing Christians—to bear arms for the purpose of making peace, protecting the weak, ending suffering, and promoting freedom.

Supporting the second amendment is not an expression of fear of man or government; it’s an expression of care, preservation, and freedom against corrupt dictators and shooting rampages alike. And if you say, “That’ll never happen,” read your history.

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The Challenge of Relativism: How Christians Should Respond

Posted by on Jan 13, 2014 in Apologetics, Contemporary Culture

One of the greatest challenge for the 21st century Christian is that of relativism. To illustrate this point consider the following scenario: You are at Bible study. You hear someone “share” their thoughts on a passage. They don’t focus on what the author of the text says, but rather on “I feel this passage says” with the end result of an appeal to emotions rather than biblical truth or fact.  Now don’t get me wrong as there is a place for sharing feelings. Yet there is a difference between sharing feelings and interpreting the Bible. The Bible is the inspired, inerrant, sufficient, and authoritative Word. When we come to the Bible only to share our thoughts about what it says, we run the risk of committing one of the most egregious errors of our age, namely to base what we believe on our feelings rather than in the timeless objective truth of God’s holy Word.

I spent a number of years when I lived in Seattle walking the streets ministering to homeless people in downtown Seattle. Now that I don’t live in Seattle, I often engage in conversations in coffee shops for the purpose of sharing Christ with people. What I have seen over the course of my time trying to reach non-Christians is they often lead with “I feel” this or that. They may not say, “I feel” or they may begin with “I think this” and then state what they believe. The problems with this are many and while everyone in a sense leads with “I feel” statements, the issue with this is Christians are not to ground their faith in feelings nor communicate that their faith is based on feelings.

Christians have an objective Word that confronts a subjective world. The Word of God provides the authoritative foundation for the Christians faith and practice. This means that their entire world is confronted by the reality of God’s presence and work in and through His Word and His Son Jesus. This is precisely why relativism is a challenge because you may hear someone state, “I feel that this means this” and nobody wants to come close to being perceived as mean-spirited by stating, “I don’t care how you feel”.  This begs the question as to how Christians should respond to this challenge.

Christians should respond to the challenge of relativism by undegirding their efforts in the Word of God by proclaiming the superiority of the biblical worldview to that of relativism. Christians can engage people where they are even if they don’t have all the answers to people’s objections to biblical Christianity. When Christians minister to the lost and broken, they do so out of the conviction that they are to love God and our neighbor. What better way to show your non-Christian neighbor you love them than by engaging them as to why they have their particular worldview and how they came to that belief.  Such an approach efforts to respond to relativism by treating people as created in the image of God and needing the redemption that Christ offers.

People today are interested in spiritual matters but not in the same way as they were in the past.  In today’s society, most people want to know you care about them on a personal level, with the understanding that your conversation with them is based on a concern about who they are and where they are at in life rather than simply trying to win them over to a certain position or belief.  In my experience, what non-Christians want to see from Christians is that they truly do love God and love their neighbor. This is the very thing Jesus said sums up all of Scripture and thus to truly follow God’s Word means loving our neighbor.  Demonstrating care and concern for non-Christians as people in need of God’s love is to show that we believe what Jesus has said.

Perhaps the greatest challenge to Christians today is Christians themselves. We often think that our position is the only one that matters. Jesus taught that He is the Way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6), a statement that provides the framework for why Christians hang their hats on Jesus’ perfectly sufficient and finished work in His death, burial and resurrection. Yet at the same time, many Christians would rather not ask hard questions about what they believe what they do and why what they  believe matters. When confronted with difficult questions, some if not most Christians tend to make excuses for why they don’t know the answers rather than be honest and transparent about what they do and do not know. By taking this approach, Christians communicate to non-Christians that they aren’t concern to know what they believe and how that belief should inform the way they live their Christian life. The Gospel is the power of God. Yet, how Christians communicate the Gospel often times undermines the very message we claim to believe. With that said, despite our foibles, God uses the foolishness of His people’s efforts for His glory to expand His Kingdom.

The Bible has much to say about how Christians are communicate their faith. For example, Christians are called to be a people who control their tongue (James 3) and who speak to one another with words seasoned by grace (Colossians 4:6).  So how does that relate to the challenge of relativism?  Since Christians are called to proclaim a message that confronts the “I feel” attitude, we need to be careful to proclaim what we believe and why it matters to a watching world in a way that honors God and brings Him glory. We do this by communicating the truth of God’s objective truth from His Word by saying, “This is what God has said” rather than “I feel this means this or states this because of…” The Christian is called to proclaim the authoritative Word that confronts the proud and calls sinners to become saints and rebels, servants of His grace.  The sad truth is at the end of the day, many people will not be persuaded by the Gospel.  Instead of coming to Christ non-Christians would rather continue living under the banner of their feelings than base their thoughts and lives on the authoritative Word of God.

Proclaiming the Gospel and confronting the challenge of relativism requires great care not only in how we handle the Word of God, but also in how the Gospel is proclaimed to the people we are preaching to. Jesus calls His people to love Him and their neighbor.  I challenge you to love Jesus by grounding your whole life in the Word of God which contains the Gospel, for the purpose of loving your neighbor with the Word and the message of the Gospel. By taking this approach, you will be able to respond to the challenge of relativism with both your life and the Gospel message which are to increasingly reflect the message of the Gospel.  In conclusion, the best way ultimately to deal with and respond to the challenge of relativism in the 21st century is with a life that mirrors the Word of God by the grace of God to the glory of God.

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Romans 1:26-27 and Homosexuality

Posted by on Dec 19, 2013 in Apologetics, Contemporary Culture

Romans 1:26-27 and Homosexuality

Bible Reading1 300x22511 Romans 1:26 27 and HomosexualityOne of the more controversial verses in the New Testament in recent days is Romans 1:26-27. While Matthew 7:1-2 may be the most used verse even by non-Christians, Romans 1:26-27 is quickly becoming the go-to passage for those seeking to qualify the truth of scripture for their own means.  According to one website that promotes a homosexually friendly reading of Romans 1:26-27, “Romans 1 has nothing to do with homosexuality because gays and lesbians are never mentioned in Romans 1.”[i] Noted Bible scholar Dr. Thomas Schreiner, commenting on Romans 1:24-32 rightly rejects that approach asserting, “Idolatry is “unnatural in the sense that it is contrary to God’s intention for human beings. To worship corruptible animals and human beings instead of the incorruptible God is to turn the created order upside down. Human beings were intended to have sexual relations with those of the opposite sex. Just as idolatry is a violation and perversion of what God intended, so too homosexual relations are contrary to what God planned when he created man and woman.”[ii]

Many who support homosexual behavior have a problem with this interpretation. With that said, the idea that the context doesn’t support what Schreiner saliently noted flies in the face of Paul’s larger point in the context of this passage. Romans 1:18-32 makes a clear distinction between the Creator and the creature. Paul focuses on God and His invisible attributes (Romans 1:20). Dr. Schreiner further elaborates that “Modern controversy over homosexuality has led to a reevaluation of this text. Some scholars argue that Paul does not condemn all forms of homosexuality but only homosexual acts practiced by people who are “naturally” heterosexual (e.g. Boswell 1980: 109-12). According to this interpretation, to act contrary to nature involves engaging in sexual activity that is contrary to the personal nature or character of the individual. Thus Paul should not be understood as implying that all homosexuality is contrary to what God intended from creation. He speaks only against homosexual acts that are practiced by those who are heterosexuals by nature.”[iii]

John Boswell, in attempting to reinterpret Paul’s words, attempts to claim that “The persons Paul condemns are manifestly not homosexual: what he derogates are homosexual acts committed by apparently heterosexual persons. The whole point of Romans 1, in fact, is to stigmatize persons who have rejected their calling, gotten off the true path they were once on.”[iv] Dr. Schreiner notes, “This interpretation must be rejected since there is no evidence that Paul understood the “nature” of human beings in the individual and psychological sense that is familiar to people in the 21st century.”[v] Biblical scholars Richard Hays and David Malick note that, “Paul rejects homosexuality as contrary to the created order—homosexuality is a violation of what god intended when he created men and women.” (Hays 1986:192-94; Malick 1993:335).  The Jewish historian Josephus (Ag. Ap. 2.24), declares that the marriage of a man is according to nature and proceeds to say that the Old Testament law demands the death penalty for intercourse between males. Both Philo (Spec. Laws 3.7; Abr. 26) and Josephus (AG. Ap. 2.35) specifically criticize homosexual relations. Schreiner affirms “there is no evidence that Paul reverses the unanimous Jewish conviction that homosexuality was sinful” (Gen. 19:1-28; Lev. 18:22; 20:13; Deut. 23:17-18).[vi]

When one considers the context of Romans 1:18-32 is Romans 1:16-17, verses that focus on the righteousness of God and then Paul’s teaching on the Creator and the creature, it becomes evident that the interpretation of the homosexual community lacks warrant. Paul first gives the Gospel then emphasizes God’s character to sinners, exposing their need for Jesus. John Calvin stated that the natural world is a theater of God’s glory.  Romans 1:18-32 deals with the fact that God has made Himself known to humanity but man rejected and replaced Him with other objects of worship. God delivered two judgments in response to this: one of homosexual behavior and another of an immoral mind, each which demonstrate His abandonment and wrath toward humanity’s rebellion.

The argument advanced by homosexuals that Romans 1:26-27 isn’t talking about homosexuality is ultimately found wanting.  Paul’s argument begins in verse 19 where he declares that in the same way people naturally know God by instinct with creation itself demonstrating God’s existence through what He’s made, people naturally and instinctively know right sexual practice because of how the human body was made.

Ultimately, when one considers both the context and what Romans 1:26-27 means, it becomes clear Romans 1 does talk about homosexuality. What matters is not what we think the passage means but rather what the passage says. Homosexual behavior in the eyes of God is sin. Whether you believe that or whether you reject it is a matter of utmost importance and urgency. Paul notes in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, “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.” All that matters is what God has said. When God who created man in His image and likeness speaks, man must heed what He has said. To not heed what He has declared is to reject Him.

Paul teaches in 1 Corinthians 6:11, “And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” Here’s the good news. God as the Creator has the right to insist and demand what He wills of His creation. He can take away our lives or continue to sustain them. That is His right. Yet God in His mercy reaches out to man through the finished work of Christ. Paul, before his discussion on the Creator-creature distinction, provides the message of the Gospel in Romans 1:16-17, namely when he talks about the righteousness of God. The righteousness of God refers to God satisfying His justice by putting the penalty of man’s sin on Christ. It is “revealed” to those who confess faith in Christ so that they might live faithfully. This means that while the homosexual community rejects the clear teaching of Romans 1, God still reaches out to them calling them to turn from their idolatry to Himself through Jesus who promises to credit sinners with His righteousness.

At the end of the day, homosexuals aren’t the worse of all sinners. Paul makes clear that all have sinned (Romans 3:23; 6:23) which means everyone is in need of the righteousness of God. Only Jesus can save and He does through His finished and sufficient work. Look to Jesus, abandon your life of idolatry, and fall in love with a Savior who is superior in every way to the idol of sexual perversion. Jesus can and does redeem people from sexual sin and makes them whole through His finished and sufficient work.


[i] http://www.gaychristian101.com/how-can-you-say-that-romans-1-has-nothing-to-do-with-homosexuality.html

[ii] Thomas Schreiner, Romans BECT (Grand Rapids, Baker Academic, 1998), 54.

[iii] Ibid, 95.

[iv] John Boswell, Christianity, Social Tolerance and Homosexuality (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980), Pg. 335.

[v] Thomas Schreiner, Romans BECT (Grand Rapids, Baker Academic, 1998), 96.

[vi] Ibid, 96.

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