Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Cross Did Not Change God

This past week, in my sermon, I mentioned the Covenant of Redemption.  This covenant was made between the three persons of the Trinity - God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.  The Father agreed to elect his people, the Son agreed to be the redeemer, and the Spirit agreed to apply redemption.  God planned this from the beginning.  However, some of us might think that Jesus' death on the cross changed the way God felt about us.  Not so.  God has always pursued His people with an everlasting love.  I ran across the following words from A.W. Tozer during my personal devotion and I thought it complimented the sermon from this past week.  I hope you find these words comforting and know that God has always loved you - nothing can or has ever changed His love for you.

"The cross did not change God. “I the LORD do not change” (Malachi 3:6). The work of Christ on the cross did not influence God to love us, did not increase that love by one degree, did not open any fount of grace or mercy in His heart. He had loved us from old eternity and needed nothing to stimulate that love. The cross is not responsible for God’s love; rather it was His love which conceived the cross as the one method by which we could be saved.
God felt no different toward us after Christ had died for us, for in the mind of God Christ had already died before the foundation of the world. God never saw us except through atonement. The human race could not have existed one day in its fallen state had not Christ spread His mantle of atonement over it. And this He did in eternal purpose long ages before they led Him out to die on the hill above Jerusalem. All God’s dealings with man have been conditioned upon the cross.
Much unworthy thinking has been done about the cross, and a lot of injurious teaching has resulted. The idea that Christ rushed in breathless to catch the upraised arm of God ready to descend in fury upon us is not drawn from the Bible. It has arisen from the necessary limitations of human speech in attempting to set forth the fathomless mystery of atonement.
Neither is the picture of Christ going out trembling to the cross to appease the wrath of God in accordance with the truth. The Scriptures never represent the Persons of the Trinity as opposed to or in disagreement with each other. The Holy Three have ever been and will forever be one in essence, in love, in purpose.
We have been redeemed not by one Person of the Trinity putting Himself against another but by the three Persons working in the ancient and glorious harmony of the Godhead."

Tozer, A. W. (2005). The radical cross : Living the passion of Christ (118–119). Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Chick Fil A, Causes, Politics and the Gospel

I don't know about you, but I am pretty weary. I am weary from all of the rhetoric, the causes, the hatred, the politics, the same old, same old coming from all sides of any debate, and especially experts who aren't really experts. I am probably guilty of some of the rhetoric on social networking in my own little corner of the world. When I write, I try to think through things and wait until I have something that I think is worth hearing. As everyone knows, a Christian man who owns a fast food chain recently said that he likes marriage the way the God of the Bible says He likes marriage. It's plain and simple. He did not say he hates gay people. He did not say that he would not serve gay people. He said that he personally believes that gay marriage is a sin and not God's plan for marriage. By the way, as I understand it, the man was asked a simple question about what he believes. He answered honestly at great risk to himself. He is to be commended no matter what side of the debate you land on.
Here it is plain and simple, gay marriage and homosexuality, according to the God of the Bible, are sinful. Both the Old and New Testament say that homosexuality is wrong and sinful. Yes, the Old Testament also says that eating shellfish is wrong - in Leviticus. If you want to go there, we can. Jesus, who is God by the way, said that all foods are declared clean and so he, God, brought a new way of doing things. Peter had a vision from God in the New Testament about food as well in which God, just in case Peter had missed it when Jesus walked the earth, told Peter to eat any food he wanted. So your shellfish law argument is just theological throw up. However, God did not provide any disciple with a vision concerning homosexuality - just the opposite. That is why Paul declares it an abomination. That is why Jesus defines marriage as between a man and a woman - yes that Jesus - reinforces God's creation mandate and tells us under no uncertain terms that God wants men and women together in marriage - one man, one woman. Period. I have numerous conversations with gay people, gay friends, and so on, and the sane ones all agree that this is what the Bible says. They choose not to believe it. Mr. Chick Fil A has chosen to believe it and hold to it. Praise God someone still has intestinal fortitude. Now before you Christian straight politically conservative people get all excited, remember that God also calls gossips an abomination. He groups them in with murderers, gluttons, liars, thieves and the like. I have been in church my whole life and church's are full of loose lipped liars, gluttons, thieves, homosexuals, adulterers and murderers (by Jesus' definition). Many of you have gotten very excited that there is finally a big business that agrees with your convictions about the Scriptures. I must admit, it is encouraging. But isn't it enough that the God of the Bible already agrees with you? Shouldn't your passion be the same day in a day out? Not if it is driven by a cause rather than the Gospel. The response has been obviously overwhelming. I saw one Chick Fil A off of a main road where I live that looked like the Beatles had been reincarnated and were performing a roof top concert. Lots of people were joining the cause. Meanwhile, lots of people supporting gay marriage are also joining their cause. Everyone is lining up behind their favorite Mormon and favorite professing Christian President so that they can wage a moral war. Every four years we get excited about the cause and a new Messiah. We get excited about politics and change and hope. Yet we continue to live nominal lives where Jesus doesn't make much of a difference. But what about the Gospel. One of the main things I hear from gay people is that Christians love to pile on the rhetoric when it comes to homosexuality. Many of these pastors are struggling with their own secret and public sins. They see hypocrisy. We join up on a political side, we talk of legislating morality, and meanwhile we forget that Jesus said, when given the perfect opportunity, "My Kingdom is not of this world." Do you know what that says in the original Greek? "My Kingdom is not of this world." In other words, when answering Pilate and facing death, Jesus said, "Your politics are not my cause. My cause is the Kingdom of God." The Kingdom of God is about repentance and faith. That is the cause of the Christian. What do you expect a non-believing person to believe about marriage? They can believe anything they want because they have no moral guide or law. What do you expect a nation to legislate that is not founded on the Gospel? What do you expect from them? The job of the Christian is to tell the entire world about Jesus and teach them everything we have been taught. We are to call them to faith in Jesus, repentance unto life and to be baptized. We are then called to disciple them and show them Jesus. The Holy Spirit does the changing work. What if our government legislates morality? Do you know what President George W. Bush said when asked about his view on abortion? He said, "You cannot legislate the heart." In effect he said that hearts had to change and then and only then would the law change. Isn't that the truth? Think about slavery. Slavery didn't change in England until hearts were changed. Slavery didn't change in the U.S. until hearts were changed. There is still extreme prejudice because hearts haven't changed in some parts of the country and world. It is about heart change. What changes hearts? The Gospel changes hearts. "I am not ashamed of the Gospel for it is the power of God to save." Christians aren't called to a cause we are called to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Do we actually trust that God changes people when we preach? Paul said that the foolishness of preaching is God's method of change - real heart change. And by preaching I don't solely mean what I do for an hour on Sunday mornings. Preaching is the job of anyone who is a witness to the power of the Gospel. I can't imagine what kind of effectiveness the church would have if they were just as excited about a crushed savior on a cross, who rose again and is reigning now as they are about a CEO's statement on gay marriage. Can you imagine? I know there are other issues in this whole Chick Fil A ordeal and the response of the media. There is hypocrisy all around. When a conservative person says what he believes, he is ultimately crushed for it. We talk of freedom of speech and religious freedom yet those liberties seem to be slipping away. I would suggest that the liberty of conviction is slipping away. There is room for concern and humble debate on these issues. But is your passion a cause, or is it the Gospel. And might I ask what have we done with our religious freedom up unto this point? For years and years, Christians have been able to say what they want when they want without much of a firestorm. Maybe our freedom has silenced us? I know the issue is complex and I can't address it perfectly in a blog. But I do pray for the church and for those outside the church - I pray we will not be ashamed of the Gospel for it is the power of God to save those inside the church and outside the church.