Friday, May 11, 2012

Jesus and Gay Marriage

This past week, President Barack Obama revealed in an interview that he personally believes that the U.S Government should allow gay marriage.  He confessed that this was a personal journey and that it had taken time for him to arrive at his conclusion.  Personally, I am not shocked by President Obama's revelation.  I am also not shocked that gay marriage is such a hot topic in our country and around the world.  However, what disturbed me most about our President's interview was how he invoked the name of Jesus in order to seemingly back up his claim.

The problem with Obama's statement doesn't have so much to do with his declaration in support of gay marriage (who didn't know that was coming?) as it does with his theological statements. Let me make this clear - Jesus and our President are not in agreement on gay marriage.  Jesus' view on marriage is stated clearly in the Scriptures - it is between a man and woman. Many would argue that all Jesus cares about is love.  It is true that Jesus desires we would love one another but he makes sure to define that love because he knows how desperate and evil our hearts can become. Jesus defines what he means by loving one another by first starting with the Greatest Commandment - Love God. The love we are to have for our neighbor is defined by the first command. That is why after giving us the first and greatest commandment to love God he says, "and the second is like it - love your neighbor as yourself." True love begins with "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, strength." Our love for God and His commands defines our love for one another. God defines Himself, not us.

So if we are to love God we should look at what He says about cultural issues. God has made it clear in His Word that homosexuality is wrong - regardless of our feelings on the matter, how we think we are born, or what our natural proclivities are. God also tells us not to trust our feelings on the matter and to forget following our heart. Our hearts are deceitful above all things. If our President and others are going to quote "the Golden Rule" then they must allow Jesus his presupposition that our love for God defines our love for one another. In other words if you don't love God as God defines himself then your love for others is distorted - which is why so many can justify their sin under the guise that Obama uses (The Golden Rule).  

Jesus, on his numerous teachings about marriage defines it as between a man and a woman. I say all that to say that if we are going to bring Jesus into the argument, then Obama and any professing Christian has no moral ground to stand on to justify gay marriage. Plain and simple - take it or leave it. If we want to invoke the Scriptures as President Obama has done then we must deal with the Scriptures alone on the issue. Obama is trying to have it both ways. And that is my main problem with his statement. He is trying to justify his decision by using Scripture. It just can't be done. 

If you are a follower of Jesus than you cannot agree with the decision Obama has made. I have gay friends who understand this very clearly and it is a big struggle for them. They know what the Bible says about their choices. One of my friends who is a practicing homosexual recently wrote to me, “I would agree that you can't defend gay marriage with Scripture. ..So, yeah, if Obama is using Jesus to defend his views, then I can see why churches would get upset.”  My friend does not try to cover up their choices with justifications and platitudes about what they want Jesus to say. They know what Jesus says, they know what the Law and Prophets say and they choose to live in rebellion against God. I have more respect for those who know that their behavior is in opposition to the Christian faith and admit it and are still able to be my friend and care for me just as I do for them. We don't live in this pretend relationship that all is good. We have opposing viewpoints but still love one another.

Obama has tried to associate Jesus’ teaching with his own decisions concerning gay marriage.  My main problem with his statement is that he tries to justify his personal and political beliefs with Scripture. In this case, it just can't be done. I would rather him say, "I know that the Bible teaches that homosexuality is a sin. I know that the Bible teaches that marriage is between a man and a woman. I just don't agree with the Bible on this issue so I am going with what I believe, not with what God says is truth." I think it would take more intestinal fortitude for him to say that he is in disagreement with the Bible rather than try and straddle both lines. His personal beliefs don't line up with Scripture regardless of whether or not they line up with the Constitution. I don't think that he is to force Christian values on the U.S. but he also cannot call non-Christian values, "Christian". That is my problem with his speech. What he has said, and the decision he has made is in no-way Christian or in line with the Scriptures. President Obama, like so many of us, is trying to make something fit into an unscriptural view of God and call it Christian. His decision is thoroughly in rebellion with what God has declared in the Bible - President or not.

(Portions of this post have been adapted from a facebook conversation I had with many others concerning President Barack Obama's decision to announce he is pro-gay marriage.)

Monday, May 7, 2012


"Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, who sin is covered.  
Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no inquity,"

During one of my spring breaks while in college I took a road trip with two of my buddies to the Outer Banks of North Carolina for a surf trip.  Just a few days into the trip I decided that I wanted a new surf board.  I didn't have the funds to purchase a new surf board.  The trip I was on had been paid for by my parents so that I could get away for a little bit.  My dad had given me his Mastercard to use in case of emergencies.  Something inside of me was able to somehow justify a new surfboard as an emergency.  So I spent 650.00 on my dad's card to pick up my new board and board bag and a few accessories.  It was a sweet board.  It had the WRV symbol and fire and flames emblazoned all over it.  I can't possibly tell you what I was thinking when I handed the cashier my dad's GM Gold Card.  I honestly don't remember how I could have been so foolish.  I didn't have permission to purchase this board.  I didn't have the cash to purchase the board.  I was on a trip that had been paid for by my parents out of the goodness of their hearts and love for me.  Why not abuse their grace?

I can't remember if I told my dad that I purchased the board or if he had to confront me.  But when he did find out we set up a payment plan so that  could pay my debt back. The problem was that I had other debts from other foolish spending.  I was sporadic with repayment to say the least.  I was able to pay the debt down by a few dollars every month.  My dad should have taken the money out of my hide.  He could have thrown me out of the house.  He could have made me work the debt off.  He could have made me earn what I had spent plus interest.  He could have held that fact over my head that I had abused his trust and the gift of an expense paid vacation.  But he didn't do any of this.  Instead, he forgave me.

My dad didn't just forgive me in spirit.  He paid for my debt.  One day he gave me a card.  When I opened the card I saw a few hand written words which simply said,

"From the man in whose house you are livin'
Do not fear, thy debt is forgiven!"

I don't think I was able to fully register what my dad was saying upon reading these words.  If I am honest, I probably had forgotten that I owed my dad the money because I had other debts that were pressing.  When I realized what my dad had done, the weight of my own sin against him weighed down on me.  But when I looked up my dad was smiling - I knew I had been given a great gift.  

My dad was telling me that he had me covered.  I didn't deserve to be covered, but because of his great love for me he covered me. My dad never again spoke of the debt.  He never asked me to "remember that time."  He simply didn't count what had been owed to him.  

Our sin against God is much greater - infinitely greater.  We do our very best to diminish our sin.  We say that our sin is not greater than our neighbor.  We compare ourselves to cruel men and women throughout history and think that we stand up pretty well and that God will simply overlook our sins because we just aren't that evil.  But we are sinful.  We are full of evil intent and action and yet God offers to not count our iniquity and sin against us.  He has covered us by the blood of Jesus Christ.  What does God ask of us?  To confess our sins, repent of our sins, and trust that He will not hold them against us because we have been bought with a price by His grace.  

When we try to hide our sin, manage our sin, excuse our sin or pay for our sin on our own we end up wasting away.  We cannot be our own savior.  The Psalmist knew this when he wrote, "For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away."  Don't waste away.  Don't allow sin to tear you up from the inside out.  Don't allow sin to crush you.  Jesus has crushed your sin.  

The Psalmist writes, "I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, 'I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,' and you forgave the iniquity of my sin."  There is nothing you have done, said, or thought that God is not able to forgive.  I want to encourage you not to live under the religious burden of trying to fix yourself.  We owe a great debt and yet God has offered to pay that debt.  When you first read the words of the Psalmist, that God has you covered, you may not realize the amazing depth of God's grace.  But look to God, His greatness, His holiness, His transcendence and you will see just how great His gift of forgiveness is.  

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Things Left Unsaid

"An infinite God can give all of Himself to each of His children. He does not distribute Himself that each may have a part, but to each one He gives all of Himself as fully as if there were no others."  A. W. Tozer

There is only so much of me to go around.  There is only so much of you to go around.  You cannot be a perfect friend.  You cannot be a perfect mom.  You cannot be a perfect father.  You cannot perform your job with perfection.  

This is not so with God.  God is infinite in his power, wisdom, holiness, justice, goodness and truth.  You cannot stop God.  You cannot hide from God - the world has died trying.  God is not like a father who only has so much time and energy to give to each of his children.  Because God is infinite, each of His children receive all of God.  Isn't this good news?  How many times have you begged for the attention of others and leave with only misery, hurt or disappointment?  God neither asks you to beg for His affection nor does He leave you in misery.  He pursues us and gives us all that He is.  

Today there will not be enough hours in the day to do all that you would like to do.  Eventually your body will give in to sleep and you will need rest.  Today you will fail again.  You will not be able to spend as much time with your kids that you would like.  You will not be able to fulfill your commitment that you made with every intention of coming through.  Things will be left unsaid.  Tasks will be left incomplete.  

There is one promise that I can make and keep.  About four times a year we hold a membership class at our church for prospective members.  There is one promise that I make and keep in each of those classes - I will fail.  I will miss an appointment.  I will be late.  I will do my best and it won't be enough.  I will not be there when I should be.  I will say stupid things from the pulpit that only I have to live with for any length of time.  I will cause some to leave the church.  I am not Jesus and I promise to fail, not to have enough, not to have the answer, not to have the right thing to say.  But I also promise that I will do everything I can under grace and by a work of the Holy Spirit to point every person to Christ Jesus who is infinite in his glory, power, grace, forgiveness and love.  

Just like God, because he is God, Jesus gave all of himself.  He did not tithe his blood.  He did not pour out a portion of his blood.  He did not bring a partial redemption.  He didn't make promises he couldn't keep.  The reason he did not fail is because he is fully God and fully man.  Jesus does not ask us to do the best job we can and that he will meet us half way.  He asks us to come to the end of ourselves and to rest all that we are, all that we have done and all of our hopes and dreams in him.  When we come to the end of ourselves we begin to see just how infinite God is and that He has given us all of Him.  

Jesus did not leave anything undone.  He did not leave things unsaid.  In his final breath Jesus declared that all was finished on our behalf.  Now, as a result of the finished work of Christ, and the infinite nature of God, each person who comes to faith in Jesus gets all of God and their work will be and is completed in Jesus.  Who are you resting in today?  Your finite ability or the infinite God of the Universe who has promised all of Himself to you?  

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

A Legacy of Pornography?

This past week I preached a sermon from the Real Marriage series called, "The Porn Path."  It wasn't an easy subject.  In preparation, I had to read accounts of men and women who have destroyed many parts of their lives, their marriages and even their children's lives because they were addicted to pornography or allowed sexual sin to take root in their lives.  

I know that many of you are trying to crush this addiction.  By the grace of God you are have victory every single day.  Others of you have not come under conviction and believe that a porn addiction, as long as it remains secret, will not hurt anyone.  But what you don't realize is that porn does hurt people.  It hurts God, spouses, children, sex slaves and porn workers.  Additionally, it hurts you.  Porn creates a false reality and grid from which you view sexuality.  For those who are struggling through this addiction I would like to offer some encouragement and instruction with this question - what legacy do you want to leave? 

Pornography offers a great time for the time being.  There is no question that for many, porn offers pleasure.  It is exciting to think that a beautiful person is ready for sex and ready to give it whenever asked.  Not only are they ready but if they aren't willing, they can be made willing.  You can satisfy whatever craving you have by typing your desire into a search bar.  And for a few moments you become the most powerful person in the world.  Isn't this what Satan has promised since the beginning?  He promised, "You can be like God!"  Isn't pleasure what the adulteress promises us in Proverbs 5-7?  And yet God tells us that this path leads down to rot in our bones and death.  When you are struggling with whether or not to give into the temptation to be like God and to worship the idols of porn ask yourself what kind of legacy you want to leave.  Ask yourself why you are here.

If you are here for immediate and instantaneous pleasure then you will be tempted to give in to your idol once again.  If you exist for a series of experiences that offer as much pleasure as possible for the time being then you will be tempted by your idol again and again.  If the here and now is what matters then you will give into your idol and be crushed by your idol once again.  

Our sinful lusts and addictions become a question of legacy - what is our mission and purpose?  In one pastor's account of his addiction to pornography and strip joints he asks the question, "Why are we here? Are we on earth primarily to experience pleasure, to have fun? If so, Christianity, with its offer of a cross and sacrificial love and concern for the weak and the poor, seems pretty thin. If we are here for no real reason, why go through all the bother of trying to connect glandular desire with lofty goals like intimacy and marriage?  Or are we here on a mission? Are we indeed creatures who will best find fulfillment by living up to the demands of the Creator? If the latter, then the thrills offered by the easy lie of pornography will not permanently satisfy. Indulgence is not an option for me, and neither is repression. I have only one option: to seek God with all my heart, so that God may continue his process of healing and bring me to sexual fulfillment—at home, with my wife, where I belong."

I recently heard of a prominent man's funeral where legacy was on display.  He was a successful business man and admired both in his local community and throughout our region.  He was a man who loved Jesus Christ and allowed the Gospel to drive his generosity and his life.  At his memorial service it was impressive to see his many children, grandchildren and great grandchildren lining up to remember this man.  He left a legacy.  His name continues on through the lives of his wife, children, his children's children, and his children's children children.  What will your legacy be?  Will it be a path of selfish pleasure that last's for a time?  Or will your legacy be heard of for generations?  It all depends on your mission.  If your mission is self-seeking then you have no hope of leaving a lasting legacy.  If your mission and purpose is to glorify God then your legacy will be lasting.  

I want to encourage those of you who are struggling with sexual addiction.  Many churches have not done a very good job walking by your side.  Regardless of how you may have been theologically mistreated, I want you to know that Jesus became even your sin, died even your death, and promises to crush your sin by a work of God's grace through the power of His Holy Spirit in your life.  You are on a journey.  This journey involves the dying of the old person every day and the transformation into the new creation that you are in Jesus Christ if you have come to faith in Jesus.  I want to leave you with these words from a pastor who struggled with porn addiction so that you will know there is hope:

"I now view my pilgrimage differently. I believe God was with me at each stage of my struggle with lust. It wasn’t that I had to climb toward a state of repentance to earn God’s approval; that would be a religion of works. Rather, God was present with me even as I fled from him. At the moment when I was most aware of my own inadequacy and failure, at that moment I was probably closest to God. That is a religion of grace."