Saturday, January 31, 2015

What Real Freedom From Homosexuality Looks Like

by Matt Moore

I’m sitting here at Starbucks with the word document open… and blank. Wishing I had something to write about. I mean, I do. I have a lot of things going on in my life right now. It’s just that none of those things have anything to do with homosexuality. Nothing going on in my life right now has absolutely anything to do with things gay-in-nature.

…..It hit me, right as I was typing out that paragraph above: “I really am free of this thing.”
I’m free from homosexuality. Not free in the sense that I don’t experience attraction to men — I still feel that. Those butterflies. That inward pull. Dozens of times a day, I do. It’s a part of my life — a part of the sinful flesh that I temporarily indwell.

I’m free in the sense that it doesn’t dominate me. And I don’t just mean in an “I don’t act out anymore” kind of way. My freedom isn’t constituted by the mere fact that I’m not actively engaging in homosexual activity. You can modify your behavior and still be very much in bondage.

I’m free from homosexuality because it doesn’t
dominate my thought life, anymore. 

Before Christ saved me, I was obsessed with “the gay.” I was obsessed with denying and hiding my homosexual feelings for years. And then tiring of that misery, I became obsessed with satisfying the desires. Engulfing myself in them. Identifying myself by them.

And then a few years ago, Jesus got me. And when I say He got me, He got me. But I was still obsessed homosexuality. I was obsessed with my “testimony” — I was obsessed with being “that ex-gay Christian guy.” I was obsessed with writing blogs, writing books, speaking at conferences… all the while telling myself I was doing it for God.

I mean, sure. I was doing it for God, partly. But mostly, it was for me. It was to give my life purpose. I was on a crusade to legitimize my existence, my singleness, my different-ness, my place in this world. And used “ministry” as the venue to do just that.

But something over the past two years has changed, in me. A big something. I don’t find myself thinking on “the gay” anymore. My infrequent bloggings on this website are about the extent of my focus on the subject.

I find the life of my mind now is pretty much centered on God. Not merely the things of God, but the Person of God. Not perfectly centered, no doubt. But He is what I think about most. Knowing Him, loving Him, enjoying Him, serving Him, following Him, proclaiming Him to the people around me. Spending my life away for the sake of the gospel, where He’s placed me…in real life with real people who really need redemption. These are the thoughts, by God’s grace, that fill my mind.

People ask me all the time how they can be free from homosexuality. My short answer is this: The same sex desires may never go away. But stop obsessing over them. Stop trying to make them disappear. Stop trying to explain them away. Stop thinking about them all day long. Stop wrapping your identity up in them (whether you’re a Christian or not). Stop worshipping them. Worship Jesus.

That’s the cure — the cure to freedom. Worshiping Jesus.

Biblical Theology and the Sexuality Crisis

by Al Mohler

Western society is currently experiencing what can only be described as a moral revolution. Our society’s moral code and collective ethical evaluation on a particular issue has undergone not small adjustments but a complete reversal. That which was once condemned is now celebrated, and the refusal to celebrate is now condemned.

What makes the current moral and sexual revolution so different from previous moral revolutions is that it is taking place at an utterly unprecedented velocity. Previous generations experienced moral revolutions over decades, even centuries. This current revolution is happening at warp speed.

As the church responds to this revolution, we must remember that current debates on sexuality present to the church a crisis that is irreducibly and inescapably theological. This crisis is tantamount to the type of theological crisis that Gnosticism presented to the early church or that Pelagianism presented to the church in the time of Augustine. In other words, the crisis of sexuality challenges the church’s understanding of the gospel, sin, salvation, and sanctification. Advocates of the new sexuality demand a complete rewriting of Scripture’s metanarrative, a complete reordering of theology, and a fundamental change to how we think about the church’s ministry.

IS “TRANSGENDER” IN THE CONCORDANCE?
Proof-texting is the first reflex of conservative Protestants seeking a strategy of theological retrieval and restatement. This hermeneutical reflex comes naturally to evangelical Christians because we believe the Bible to be the inerrant and infallible word of God. We understand that, as B.B. Warfield said, “When Scripture speaks, God speaks.” I should make clear that this reflex is not entirely wrong, but it’s not entirely right either. It’s not entirely wrong because certain Scriptures (that is, “proof texts”) speak to specific issues in a direct and identifiable way.

There are, however, obvious limitations to this type of theological method—what I like to call the “concordance reflex.” What happens when you are wrestling with a theological issue for which no corresponding word appears in the concordance? Many of the most important theological issues cannot be reduced to merely finding relevant words and their corresponding verses in a concordance. Try looking up “transgender” in your concordance. How about “lesbian”? Or “in vitro fertilization”? They’re certainly not in the back of my Bible.

It’s not that Scripture is insufficient. The problem is not a failure of Scripture but a failure of our approach to Scripture. The concordance approach to theology produces a flat Bible without context, covenant, or master-narrative—three hermeneutical foundations that are essential to understand Scripture rightly.

A BIBLICAL THEOLOGY OF THE BODY
Biblical theology is absolutely indispensable for the church to craft an appropriate response to the current sexual crisis. The church must learn to read Scripture according to its context, embedded in its master-narrative, and progressively revealed along covenantal lines. We must learn to interpret each theological issue through Scripture’s metanarrative of creation, fall, redemption, and new creation. Specifically, evangelicals need a theology of the body that is anchored in the Bible’s own unfolding drama of redemption.

Creation
Genesis 1:26–28 indicates that God made man—unlike the rest of creation—in his own image. This passage also demonstrates that God’s purpose for humanity was an embodied existence. Genesis 2:7 highlights this point as well. God makes man out of the dust and then breathes into him the breath of life. This indicates that we were a body before we were a person. The body, as it turns out, is not incidental to our personhood. Adam and Eve are given the commission to multiply and subdue the earth. Their bodies allow them, by God’s creation and his sovereign plan, to fulfill that task of image-bearing.

The Genesis narrative also suggests that the body comes with needs. Adam would be hungry, so God gave him the fruit of the garden. These needs are an expression embedded within the created order that Adam is finite, dependent, and derived.

Further, Adam would have a need for companionship, so God gave him a wife, Eve. Both Adam and Eve were to fulfill the mandate to multiply and fill the earth with God’s image-bearers by a proper use of the bodily reproductive ability with which they were created. Coupled with this is the bodily pleasure each would experience as the two became one flesh—that is, one body.

The Genesis narrative also demonstrates that gender is part of the goodness of God’s creation. Gender is not merely a sociological construct forced upon human beings who otherwise could negotiate any number of permutations.

But Genesis teaches us that gender is created by God for our good and his glory. Gender is intended for human flourishing and is assigned by the Creator’s determination—just as he determined whenwhere, and that we should exist.

In sum, God created his image as an embodied person. As embodied, we are given the gift and stewardship of sexuality from God himself. We are constructed in a way that testifies to God’s purposes in this.

Genesis also frames this entire discussion in a covenantal perspective. Human reproduction is not merely in order to propagate the race. Instead, reproduction highlights the fact that Adam and Eve were to multiply in order to fill the earth with the glory of God as reflected by his image bearers.

Fall
The fall, the second movement in redemptive history, corrupts God’s good gift of the body. The entrance of sin brings mortality to the body. In terms of sexuality, the Fall subverts God’s good plans for sexual complementarity. Eve’s desire is to rule over her husband (Gen. 3:16). Adam’s leadership will be harsh (3:17-19). Eve will experience pain in childbearing (3:16).

The narratives that follow demonstrate the development of aberrant sexual practices, from polygamy to rape, which Scripture addresses with remarkable candor. These Genesis accounts are followed by the giving of the Law which is intended to curb aberrant sexual behavior. It regulates sexuality and expressions of gender and makes clear pronouncements on sexual morals, cross-dressing, marriage, divorce, and host of other bodily and sexual matters.

The Old Testament also connects sexual sin to idolatry. Orgiastic worship, temple prostitution, and other horrible distortions of God’s good gift of the body are all seen as part and parcel of idolatrous worship. The same connection is made by Paul in Romans 1. Having “exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles” (Rom 1:22), and having “exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator” (Rom 1:25), men and women exchange their natural relations with one another (Rom 1:26-27).

Redemption
With regard to redemption, we must note that one of the most important aspects of our redemption is that it came by way of a Savior with a body. “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14; cf. Phil. 2:5-11). Human redemption is accomplished by the Son of God incarnate—who remains incarnate eternally.

Paul indicates that this salvation includes not merely our souls but also our bodies. Romans 6:12 speaks of sin that reigns in our “mortal bodies”—which implies the hope of future bodily redemption. Romans 8:23 indicates part of our eschatological hope is the “redemption of our bodies.” Even now, in our life of sanctification we are commanded to present our bodies as a living sacrifice to God in worship (Rom. 12:2). Further, Paul describes the redeemed body as a temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:19) and clearly we must understand sanctification as having effects upon the body.

Sexual ethics in the New Testament, as in the Old Testament, regulate our expressions of gender and sexuality. Porneia, sexual immorality of any kind, is categorically condemned by Jesus and the apostles. Likewise, Paul clearly indicates to the church at Corinth that sexual sin—sins committed in the body (1 Cor. 6:18)—are what bring the church and the gospel into disrepute because they proclaim to a watching world that the gospel has been to no effect (1 Cor. 5-6).

New Creation
Finally, we reach the fourth and final act of the drama of redemption—new creation. In 1 Corinthians 15:42-57, Paul directs us not only to the resurrection of our own bodies in the new creation but to the fact that Christ’s bodily resurrection is the promise and power for that future hope. Our resurrection will be the experience of eternal glory in the body. This body will be a transformed, consummated continuation of our present embodied existence in the same way that Jesus’ body is the same body he had on earth, yet utterly glorified.

The new creation will not simply be a reset of the garden. It will be better than Eden. As Calvin noted, in the new creation we will know God not only as Creator but as Redeemer—and that redemption includes our bodies. We will reign with Christ in bodily form, as he also is the embodied and reigning cosmic Lord.

In terms of our sexuality, while gender will remain in the new creation, sexual activity will not. It is not that sex is nullified in the resurrection; rather, it is fulfilled. The eschatological marriage supper of the Lamb, to which marriage and sexuality point, will finally arrive. No longer will there be any need to fill the earth with image-bearers as was the case in Genesis 1. Instead, the earth will be filled with knowledge of the glory of God as the waters cover the sea.

THE INDISPENSABILITY OF BIBLICAL THEOLOGY
The sexuality crisis has demonstrated the failure of theological method on the part of many pastors. The “concordance reflex” simply cannot accomplish the type of rigorous theological thinking needed in pulpits today. Pastors and churches must learn the indispensability of biblical theology and must practice reading Scripture according to its own internal logic—the logic of a story that moves from creation to new creation. The hermeneutical task before us is great, but it is also indispensable for faithful evangelical engagement with the culture.

The Bible’s Clear Condemnation of Homosexuality

by J. Ligon Duncan
"For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error." – Romans 1:26-27
Paul himself in this passage makes it very clear that what he is saying about homosexuality is, in fact, based upon the Old Testament Law. And especially Leviticus chapter 18 and Leviticus chapter 20. But Paul doesn't say, you know, that [it's] unbiblical. What he says is, it's unnatural. What does he mean by that? He means a lot of things by that, but he means at least this.

He means first of all that you don't even have to have common sense to know that this is wrong. He says all you have to know is basic anatomy, and all you have to do is know animal biology to know that this is not the way it's supposed to be. Nobody out there works this way. There are no female to female relations in the animal world like this. Your anatomy is even against it. It's not supposed to work that way. You don't even have to have any common sense to understand this, Paul says. It's unnatural. It's against nature. It's against the created order. It's against the way God made us to be. And when he says it's unnatural, he means that everybody knows that. This is apparent to everyone. And, therefore, the people who engage in this have to work very hard to make their minds conform to their unnatural thinking and behaving. So the apostle Paul brings a strong charge against this particular type of activity.

Now I'm well aware that we live in a society that tends to do two things with the Bible's teaching about homosexuality. It either says, well, we've all misunderstood the Bible. For 2000 years, Protestants Catholics, Greek Orthodox, Jews have all misunderstood the Bible. Actually the Bible doesn't condemn homosexuality. And then there are others who say, well, the Bible's wrong. We have understood the Bible, but the Bible is wrong. And neither of those answers will do. First of all, if you can mistake the Bible's teaching on homosexuality, you can get the Bible to say anything. If you can mistake what the Bible says about homosexuality, you can make the Bible say that the moon is made of green cheese, and it's raining lollipops. The Bible is crystal clear.

There are five passages which are absolutely unmistakable. In Genesis, chapter 19, in the story of Sodom. Moses makes it crystal clear that homosexual activity, all of it, is wrong. In Judges, we're told in the story of Gibeah, chapter 19, in no uncertain terms that homosexuality is wrong. Moses, thirdly, in Leviticus 18 and in Leviticus 20 makes it absolutely clear that homosexuality is wrong. In fact, the language that Paul is using here in Romans 1 is pulled right out of the Greek translation of Leviticus 18 and Leviticus 20. Here in this passage today, as Paul describes decadent pagan societal practice, he again makes it clear that homosexuality is wrong. And then when you get to I Timothy 2, or I Corinthians 6 in that list of sins that will keep you out of the kingdom of heaven, homosexuality is once again mentioned, indicating once again that the Bible is unequivocal in its condemnation of homosexual practice. . .

. . .Paul in condemning male homosexuality is not just condemning kinds of male homosexuality, he's condemning all of it. Oftentimes you will hear people say, well, what Paul is condemning is heterosexuals acting like homosexuals. What Paul is condemning is pederasty. Very common in the Greaco Roman world where an older man would attach himself to a young boy, and they would carry out a homosexual relationship. True, but that's not everything that Paul is condemning. Paul is condemning all types of homosexual activity. You see it in the phrase “indecent acts,” and you see it in the word that he uses for homosexuality. It's the word that comes from Leviticus 18 and Leviticus 20, and Moses describes it simply as this:– man sleeping with man, man relating sexually to man. Period. All of it is out, according to the apostle Paul. And so Paul rules out all homosexuality.

Why My Family Doesn't Do Sleepovers

by Tim Challies

James Dobson believes that children should not participate in sleepovers. The world has changed, he says, and has become too dangerous to allow your children out of your sight for so long. In his book Bringing Up Girls, he says:
Sadly, the world has changed in the last few decades, and it is no longer a safe place for children. Pedophiles and child molesters are more pervasive than ever. That is why parents must be diligent to protect their kids every hour of the day and night. …

Until you have dealt with little victims as I have and seen the pain in their eyes, you might not fully appreciate the devastation inflicted by molestation. It casts a long shadow on everything that follows, including future marital relationships. Therefore, parents have to think the unthinkable in every situation. The threat can come from anywhere—including neighbors, uncles, stepfathers, grandfathers, Sunday school teachers, coaches, music instructors, Scout leaders, and babysitters. Even public bathrooms can be dangerous today…
He believes the threat is so pervasive that parents should not allow their children to participate in sleepovers. I find myself both agreeing and disagreeing.

I agree with the nature of his concerns. Before my children were even old enough to ask, Aileen and I talked it through and decided we would not allow our kids to do sleepovers. Now let’s be clear: there is no biblical command that forbids them, so this was not a matter of clear right and wrong, but a matter of attempting to act with wisdom. We determined we would make it a family rule: Our children would not be allowed to spend the night at their friends’ homes. We believed they would face a particular kind of vulnerability if they found themselves alone and in bed outside our care, and we wanted to protect them from it. So they have stayed at their grandparents’ and have stayed with my sisters when we’ve visited the South, but they have not stayed at friend’s homes. (Note: My son is fourteen and we have now relaxed the rule with him, though permission is still dependent on circumstances.)

The reason we drew the rule so firmly was that it removes exceptions and explanations. We know ourselves well and realized that if we drew up a list of exceptions we would inevitably broaden that list over time. Not only that, but we did not want to have to explain to a family why we allowed our children to stay with others but not with them. So sleepovers were just taken right off the table without exceptions or individual explanations.

In this way I agree with Dobson that there is wisdom in avoiding sleepovers. But here’s where I disagree: that the risk is that much higher today than it was decades ago.

Aileen and I made our decision based largely on experience and observation of what happened around us when we were young. We made this decision because even in our youth—decades ago—we saw plenty of evidence of the dangers inherent in sleepovers.

When I was young I had some bad experiences with sleepovers. Nothing devastating happened to me, but I did learn that sleepovers bring a certain vulnerability and that children often behave foolishly in these circumstances. Before long my family came to know the local chief of police and he told us that if he had learned anything in his many years of law enforcement it was this: Don’t let your kids sleep over. As I got older I learned of several people I knew who had been taken advantage of during sleepovers, and it wasn’t a perverse father in most cases, but a predatory older brother or sister or cousin. Sometimes it was even the friend himself. The world was plenty dangerous back then and children were just as vulnerable, but somehow these things weren’t talked about as they are today.
As Aileen and I considered all of this and weighed it in our minds, we decided that the benefits of sleepovers did not outweigh the risks.

Denny Burk writes, “Parents must be as wise as serpents and innocent as doves when figuring out the best way to protect children from both. Moreover, parents will often have to pursue principles that might seem strange to the rest of the world but which are the only rational responses to very real and potential threats to children.” Burk believes we need to challenge the assumption of sleepover-as-norm, and I quite agree. Do not allow yourself to feel pressured into sleepovers simply because it is what parents have always done. Instead, consider the issues and come to a conclusion that is right for your family and your context.

I would be interested to know: Do you allow sleepovers? Why or why not?

6 REFLECTIONS ON SLEEPOVERS
I didn’t see this one coming. After over ten years of daily blogging, I tend to have a pretty good sense of which articles have the potential to cause a reaction and which articles have the potential to fizzle. I might have guessed that an article on why my family doesn’t do sleepovers would have attracted a few more readers than usual, but I wouldn’t have believed that in its first week it would be read by nearly 750,000 people. But it was, and I found myself wondering why.

I’ve spent some time reading through comments and responses to try to understand why so many people were interested in reading about sleepovers. Here are a few personal takeaways from the discussion.

1. Validation
I was surprised to realize how many parents are concerned about sleepovers and how many do not allow them. I think one of the reasons the article spread is that it validated a lot of people who had assumed they were on their own. That “Me too!” factor was important as parents realized they are not the only ones who have made the decision not to allow their kids to participate in sleepovers. On a very practical note, the sleepover discussion is binary—either you do or do not allow them, and that allows everyone to take a side. Taking sides generates controversy and controversy generates shares and clicks. Takeaway: There are a surprising number of people who do not appreciate or allow sleepovers.

2. Controversy
I would like to think that when someone writes, “Why my family doesn’t do sleepovers” or “Why my family loves sleepovers,” we do not take it as a personal affront. Articles like these can represent a helpful opportunity to sharpen our thinking, even if we do not change our position. We are never better or stronger than our convictions and face the life-long challenge of continually deepening those convictions. While I did receive a lot of very helpful feedback from people who agreed and who disagreed with me, there was also an awful lot of anger and bickering. Christians too often do poorly with controversy, even on relatively minor discussions like this one. We are quick to feel judged and slow to extend grace and understanding. If we aren’t careful, “Why my family doesn’t do sleepvers” quickly morphs into, “Why you’re a terrible parent and will ruin your children if you allow sleepovers.” Takeaway: We need to grow in our ability to deal well with controversy.

3. Experience
Perhaps the strongest theme I saw in all the comments and responses was this: Our decisions are inseparable from our experiences. I made it clear in my article that my childhood experience with sleepovers was part of the reason I dislike them. Meanwhile, I heard from many other people who essentially said, “I will never allow sleepovers because I was sexually abused during one” or “Sleepovers are great and I never faced any uncomfortable situations during one.” We are all products of our experiences and we necessarily parent out of those experiences. Parents who had difficult or tragic experiences with sleepovers tend to approach them differently from those whose experiences were only ever good. Takeaway: We do well to learn from one another, rather than assuming our own experience is universal.

4. Fear
Every parent makes certain decisions based on fear—the fear of what may happen if they make a poor decision. Sometimes we deny our children privileges out of a desire to protect them. We rate the uncertainty of a situation higher than the benefit of the situation. One of our foremost fears is making a poor decision that exposes our children to sexual abuse. For many people sleepovers introduce too much of the unknown and in that way plays right into the fear that we will put our children at risk. Takeaway: Sleepovers have a way of exposing our fears, and we respond in many different ways.

5. Expectation
What I heard from many parents is that they do not appreciate the expectation that they ought to allow their children to sleep over. Aileen and I have experience with this, and have had parents outright mock us and call us overprotective for not allowing sleepovers (even though we barely know the parents or family!). I don’t think anyone can deny that both options—allowing and disallowing sleepovers—represent legitimate choices for parents. But those who do not allow sleepovers feel like they are facing unfair pressure to conform (while, undoubtedly, those who do allow sleepovers feel like others consider them reckless). As Christians we need to be careful to lovingly affirm those who make a choice different from our own and to refuse to pass judgment on them. Takeaway: Let’s not make sleepovers an expected part of a normal childhood.

6. Change
Different families have always had different rules about movies and bedtimes and other issues that arise during sleepovers. But a new and important issue where parents lead their families in different ways is access to the Internet. Many parents expressed concern about their children being in a home where the rules were far more relaxed than they would want. I read comment after comment from people concerned about the prevalence of pornography today. And, indeed, many people told of how their children were first exposed to porn while sleeping over at a friend’s home. Takeaway: For many parents the possibility of exposure to pornography represents the “bridge too far” that keeps them from allowing their kids to sleep over.


Thursday, January 29, 2015

Alex Haiken: Liar and Deceiver

Over on With All I Am, Prayson Daniel writes an article in response to arguments made by Alex Haiken. In the section titled "Haiken's Objection," the first paragraph summarizes Alex's words, the second paragraph is a direct quotation of Alex's words, the third paragraph is a combination of summarization using quotations from Alex's words, and the fourth paragraph is a quotation of Alex's words again. All the things you find in any document that quotes another document.

In the ensuing comments, Alex Haiken accuses Prayson Daniel of misquoting and misrepresenting his words (ironically, the same things Alex does with Scripture). In a fit of rage, Alex blasts, "YOU HAVE REPREHENSIVELY [sic] MISREPRESENTED MY WORDS, POSTED WORDS THAT I DID USE OUT OF CONTEXT, AND ATTRIBUTED YOUR OWN WORDS TO MY NAME." Alex argues further, "The tile [sic] of this post is appalling. It is appalling because you had the unprincipled audacity to use my name, a screenshot from my blog, and then put them together with words I never used. You are misleading your readers into thinking that the words you wrote are my words. They are not. Your words do not represent me. They do not represent what I have said. On the contrary, they misrepresent me."

To demonstrate that he has not misquoted or misrepresented Alex's words, Prayson provides this link to the precise comments made by Alex. Despite this link with the factual evidence (and a subsequent quoting of the entire thing and re-posting it for everyone to read), Alex continues to claim misquotation and misrepresentation, deliberately trying to avoid the question posed to him by Prayson. Prayson's question? "Would you be kind to show how infant child sacrifice (18:21) and intercourse with animal (18:23) are morally binding despite their association with idolatry, while sexual practices between a male as with a woman (18:22) is not?" The same dilemma three other commenters on Alex's blog caught him in.
"If Leviticus 18:22 forbids sexual intercourse between a male as with a woman only because of its association with idolatry viz. pagan fertility cult ritual, then it would logically follow that Leviticus 18:23 sexual practices with an animal, and Leviticus 18:21 infant child sacrifice are also forbidden only because of their association with pagan idolatry.
Could you show how infant child sacrifice (18:21) and intercourse with animal (18:23) are morally binding today despite their association with idolatry, while sexual practices between a male as with a woman(18:22) is not?"

"So, let me get this straight. You say that these prohibitions in Leviticus were referring solely to practices performed as part of the religious belief at that time, and those prohibitions no longer apply. Therefore, according to your logic, it is quite ok for me to burn my children or have sex with animals.
See how shallow and ludicrous your argument is?"

"You have been quite thorough in your interpretive attempt, but your conclusions are absurd. You claim that 'Leviticus prohibits these acts for RELIGIOUS reasons, not MORAL ones'. Then you must conclude that there is also nothing wrong morally with bestiality or child sacrifice.
You’re right that we should be wary about bringing our own predetermination to the text; unfortunately, it is clear that is exactly what you have done. You are not being honest with the text, and the results are bad exegesis and a wrong interpretation. Without delving too deeply into another subject, I’ll say simply this is the best reason for an interpretive authority."
Alex argues that the title of the post is appalling "because you had the unprincipled audacity to use my name, a screenshot from my blog, and then put them together with words I never used." If Alex's contention was with a screenshot of his blog, possibly suggesting that the words in question might have originated from there, then he might have a case for the removal of the screenshot but everything else would still stand. The use of his name and the summarization and quotation of his comments from another post are legitimately used. The fact is, as the evidence shows, Alex did use those words. Prayson puts quotation marks around direct quotations from Alex's comments, which is what every document quoting another document does (something Alex has yet to learn how to do, as well as providing the source reference information). In Alex's comment, paragraphs 2 through 8 are what Prayson uses in his summarized first paragraph. If you take "Leviticus 18:21-23," the preceding introduction, and the following verses as a paragraph together, paragraph 10 is what Prayson quotes in his second paragraph. The two quotations from Alex in Prayson's third paragraph are taken from the second last paragraph of Alex's comment here, wherein the question is a loaded one (just one of Alex's typical fallacious argument tactics). The quotation from Alex in Prayson's fourth paragraph is from the end of the thirteeth paragraph of Alex's comment.

As anyone can see, Alex is blowing smoke and trying to deceive the readers of Prayson's blog.

Interestingly enough, in this comment Alex writes, "So if one reads the passage in context we see that the Holiness Code of Leviticus prohibits these acts for RELIGIOUS reasons, not SEXUAL ones." Yet, on his website Alex writes, "...the Holiness Code of Leviticus prohibits these acts for RELIGIOUS reasons, not MORAL ones." Which is it, Alex? Sexual or moral? Why did he change his wording? Was he tired of people catching him in the dilemma he created for himself by using "MORAL"? Sexual and moral are not synonymous. Can Alex name an example where incest and bestiality are okay for "SEXUAL" reasons? How about where they are okay for "MORAL" reasons? No? Did not think so. The problem is, his replacement of "moral" with "sexual" makes even less sense, considering the fact that sacrificing children to Molech has nothing to do with "sexual" reasons. This little "boo boo" of Alex's has just demonstrated how he likes to play fast and loose with his eisegetical interpretation because he cannot grasp the context. The fact remains that these acts were prohibited for moral reasons (and sexual, if you like, although that reasoning lacks any kind of coherent sense). For a breakdown of the context as well as an exegetical treatment of both Leviticus 18 and 20, please go here.

Slaves or Sons?

There are Christians out there who attempt to assert their sonship to God while denying their servitude to God. They profess to be sons of God but deny they are slaves of God. In fact, many of them, confused on the issue of biblical slavery versus the slavery that occurred in England and America, downright hate the word "slave" and fight against it with all their might. They deny they are a slave of any kind.

Here is a list of Bible saints who explicitly identified themselves as slaves of God or Christ: the virgin Mary, Paul, James, Jude, and John. Peter said, "Live as slaves of God" (1 Peter 2:16). Paul wrote, "You have become slaves of God" (Romans 6:22). Jesus commanded His disciples to regard themselves as slaves of God (Luke 17:10).

The Bible affirms both our slavery and our sonship to God. It is utterly impossible to read the Bible, pay attention when you read it, and miss this point. We call God "Father" because we are His children, and "Lord" ("Master") because we are His slaves. God's fatherhood does not trump zhis lordship, and our sonship does not trump our servitude.

I have already addressed the issue of slavery here.

When Your Pastor Sins

borrowed from Stephen Kim
  1. Outside of God’s grace, it could happen to us. We must always be vigilant in killing sin. We must diligently root out and kill lust in our hearts. “Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall” (Cor. 10:12).
  2. Your church is right in calling for your pastor’s resignation if caught in sin. Pastoral leadership is a privilege—not a right. If your pastor commits adultery, he has violated 1 Timothy 3:2 and disqualified himself from the ministry.
  3. Grace is available to your pastor. Even in the wake of a heinous sin, your pastor can still run back to the foot of the cross. The blood of Jesus can cleanse adultery—even adultery committed by Christians.
  4. Disqualifying sins committed by spiritual leaders ought to be reprimanded in front of the full public view of the church. Why? Leaders are held to a higher standard—particularly elders/pastors. Listen to this: “But those elders who are sinning you are to reprove before everyone, so that the others may take warning” (1 Tim. 5:20).
  5. Though forgiveness is available for your pastor, he must never be allowed to pastor again—anywhere. He is no longer above reproach (1 Timothy 3:2) and hence, he has disqualified himself from the pastorate.
  6. This is not the same issue as King David who committed adultery. If you think that the pastorate and a monarchy are somehow analogous, then there is a serious problem at your church. Pastoral ministry is a God-given calling and privilege—one that can be revoked and taken away.
  7. Theology matters. Not long ago, there was a conference where a well-known evangelical preacher was the main speaker. Several people were shocked at his inappropriate exegetical work. Essentially, he used a justification text for the purposes of sanctification. He went on and on about how, if the prodigal son was alive today, no matter how many times the son would re-lapse to parties and girls the Father would still give him a Ferrari (or some greater gift) upon his continual returns. Little did we know that this preacher was applying that sort of theology and view of holiness upon his own life. Let us never forget to strive to be holy as our God is holy, “for the LORD disciplines those he loves, and he punishes each one he accepts as his child” (Heb. 12:6).
  8. Your heart should go out to your pastor's wife and children (if they have any). Enough said.
  9. There is a certain lesson to be learned through vicarious living. In other words, the wise man learns from the mistakes of others. Fools make the same mistakes as those who’ve gone before them.
  10. Fear. God is holy. The Christian life (though it feels long) is really short. Ministry is a privilege. Family is a gift. The pastorate is a holy calling. And it could all be taken away in a moment—a moment of selfish indulgence.
O God, keep my heart. May I finish the race well by your grace alone!

Monday, January 26, 2015

Goliath: Four Sons or Four Brothers?

Quite a while ago, a friend of mine brought to my attention a break through he had come across while reading the Bible. He asked if I recalled how preachers tend to refer to Goliath's four brothers. I affirmed. He then informed me that they were four sons—not four brothers. His evidence? "These four were born to the giant in Gath, and fell by the hand of David, and by the hand of his servants" (2 Samuel 21:22 KJV). After all, Goliath was a Gittite from Gath and "these four" referred to the four giants discussed in the previous verses. Upon reading the passage myself, it seemed that he had a solid case. Seems like very convincing information, right? 

Well, in the parallel passage found in 1 Chronicles 20, one of the giants slain is named Lahmi, and he is referred to as "the brother of Goliath." In verses 4 and 6, the other two giants are referred to as "descendants of the giants" and "descended from the giants," respectively. Plural. In 2 Samuel 21, they are referred to as "descendants of the giant" and "born to the giant." Singular. If the singular is the proper rendering, who is this giant? Is it Goliath, as would seem to be the case based on a simple reading of the text? One of the four giants mentioned is listed as Goliath's brother while the other three are listed as descendants of the giant(s). Did he have three sons and one brother? If so, why then does verse 22 say "these four"? This became confusing, so I did what I do best and started digging.

In Genesis 6:4 it says, "The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men, and they bore children to them. Those were the mighty men who were of old, men of renown." In Numbers 13:33 it says, "There also we saw the Nephilim (the sons of Anak are part of the Nephilim); and we became like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight." The Hebrew word, which is here retained from the original, is nepiyliym (נפילים), a masculine noun used only in the plural meaning "giants," and most translations render it thus. The word used in 2 Samuel 21 (rapah [רפה]) and 1 Chronicles 20 (rapa [רפא]), interestingly enough, does not mean "giant(s)." So why do the KJV, the NASB, the NRSV, the NKJV, the ESV, and the HSCB all render it incorrectly?

These words (rapah [רפה], singular, meaning "Rapha"; rapa [רפא], plural, meaning "Raphaim") are proper nouns designating a person—Rapha, the father of several giants among David's enemies. Ironically enough, the NIV is one of the only other Bibles, along with Darby's translation, to render it correctly, as did the Wycliffe, the Matthew-Tyndale, and the Geneva Bible centuries ago. In the Wycliffe Bible, the word in 2 Samuel 21 is rendered as "Harapha," while the word in 1 Chronicles 20 is rendered "Raphaim." In the Matthew-Tyndale Bible, the word in 2 Samuel 21 is rendered as "Haraphah," while the word in 1 Chronicles 20 is rendered "Haraphah." Here are the verses from the 1560 Geneva Bible:
2 Samuel 21
16Then Ishi-benob which was of the sonnes of Haraphah (the head of whose speare wayed thre hundreth shekels of brasse) euen he being girded with a newe sworde, thoght to haue slaine Dauid.
18And after this also there was a battel with the Phiistims at Gob, then Sibechai the Hushathite slewe Saph, which was one of the sonnes of Haraphah.
20Afterware there was also a battel in Gath, where was a man of a great stature, and had on euerie hand six fingers, and on euerie foote six toes, foure and twentie in nomber: who was also the sonne of Haraphah.
22These foure were borne to Harapha in Gath, and dyed by the hand of Dauid and by the hands of his seruants.

1 Chronicles 20
6And yet againe there was a battel at Gath, where was a man of a great stature, and his fingers were by sixes, euen foure and twenty, and was also the sonne of Haraphah.
8These were borne vnto Haraphah at Gath, and fel by the hand of Dauid: and by the hands of his seruants
Rendering these words as "giant(s)" when the words clearly do not even come close to such a meaning (in any lexicon or dictionary I looked up), even though the Raphaim were likely all giants, only serves to confuse the issue for someone who merely reads the Bible at face value rather than studying it deeper. Once we understand this information, everything becomes clear. Rapha was a giant who had five sons: Goliath, Ishbi-benob, Saph (or Sippai), Lahmi, and the unnamed 24-digited brother. So Goliath did have four brothers—not four sons.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Vicky Beeching Comes Out

Another so-called professing "Christian" has just come out of the closet. Like those who have gone before her—Ray Boltz, Jennifer Knapp, Clay Aiken, and Tonex—Vicky Beeching has failed to grasp the Gospel and fails to understand Who God is and what He expects. She has neglected to actually get saved. She claims that "What Jesus taught was a radical message of welcome and inclusion and love." Uh... sorry, no, that is incorrect. That is what the modern liberal church teaches with its watered-down "gospel." That is not what Christ Jesus taught. The radical message that Jesus taught was a complete 180-degree turn; turning from your sins (repentance), turning toward God (believing), forsaking everything (your sins, your right to yourself) and following Him. Jesus began His ministry with the word Repent. Essentially, the word means “change.” Change your orientation, change the way you are approaching things. Repent, change. Contrary to the lies vocalized by the LGBT community, you can change your orientation. What is orientation? It is the relative physical position or direction of something. Ever hear the words, "I'm feeling disoriented"? Disorientation is the loss of one's sense of direction, position, or relationship with one's surroundings. Homosexuals are disoriented. They have a disorientation. Like all sinners without Christ, they are broken. Unfortunately, many celebrate their brokenness as wholeness. Ray Boltz, Jennifer Knapp, Vicky Beeching, and others like them have not forsaken their sins and repented thereof. Instead, they choose to embrace their sin and lie to themselves that Jesus loves them the way they are. How many times did Jesus tell people to "Go, and sin no more"? How many times does the Bible tell us we need to kill sin in our lives? Why did Paul say "such were some of you" if Jesus loved them the way they were?

The 35-year-old former-Charismatic-turned-Anglican describes experiencing same-sex attraction starting at age 13, and says, "I feel certain God loves me just the way I am, and I have a huge sense of calling to communicate that to young people." First of all, experiencing temptations toward sin does not determine who or what you are. For whatever reasons, people have experienced attraction to animals. A sudden experience, or even several experiences, does not mean you are inclined toward bestiality. They are temptations toward sin. Nothing more. You become guilty of bestiality when you give in to those temptations and commit the sin. The same is true of homosexuality. Second of all, emphasis should be placed on the words "I feel." It does not matter what God's Word says, it is how she "feels" that apparently makes the difference, and this is the same kind of statement made by Ray Boltz and Jennifer Knapp before her. However, what she "feels" is not a determiner of truth or reality. Like Jennifer Knapp before her, Vicky Beeching has stated that God (1) made her a lesbian and (2) led her to declare it unashamedly to all who would listen. Such a declaration is in contrast to the revealed will of God found in His holy Word.

Beeching says she began to "feel conflicted in evangelical settings, where church leaders would pray against the demon of homosexuality they believed to be within her." She "no longer attends charismatic evangelical services and now prefers the more traditional services of London's main cathedrals." Why? Because the Anglican church is largely liberal and has sadly embraced homosexuality, even going so far as to allow homosexual ministers. She left one church that stood against her sins (despite all its other short-comings) in favour of another that tolerates and excuses her sins. Like Ray Boltz and Jennifer Knapp before her, Beeching thinks and professes herself to be a Christian, but the Bible clearly indicates otherwise.

Beeching tries blaming the church, saying, "The Church's teaching was the reason that I lived in so much shame and isolation and pain for all those years." Sorry, but the church's teaching comes from the Bible, the Word of God, which comes directly from God Himself, seeing as how it was inspired by and through the Holy Spirit. She is really blaming God for the shame she felt (although she will not admit it because she has committed idolatry by creating a god who accepts her sin), but her shame should have informed her that what she was doing was a sin. That is why we have a conscience. That is why we feel guilt. Apparently God's Word, and what it teaches, has no place in her life because she either ignores or tries to explain away the many passages that condemn the practice of homosexuality as a grievous sin; a perversion of what is normal.

Beeching has previously vocalized her support for equal marriage and LGBT rights, and has said that speaking out about LGBT rights is costing her: "As a result of raising my voice to support equal marriage, I’ve received lots of messages from conservative American churches saying they will 'boycott my songs.' If they don’t get sung in the mega-churches of North America, my royalties basically stop." Good! Let them stop. Maybe then she will realize how sin is no small thing with God. Like Jennifer Knapp's albums before her, I will be deleting Vicky Beeching's albums from my collection of music. She is not an ex-Christian; she was never a Christian to begin with. That is what people need to understand. People need to read their Bibles more and pay closer attention to what it says. She is not a "carnal Christian" (of which there is no such thing), she has not "back-slidden" (because she never slid forward to begin with), she was never a Christian to begin with. She neglected to get saved, the product of the modern church's watered-down gospel: easy-believism. Go read my blog entry on Genuine vs False.

The human race is clearly designed as male and female, with sexually complementary equipment. We are obviously intended to grow through childhood and enter puberty attracted to the opposite sex—because that is the only thing that makes sense of the biological design inherent in humankind. For many—or even most—homosexuals, in order to be Christians they will have to accept that their "orientation" is a manifestation of brokenness—not wholeness. Like the rest of us who are broken in some other way, they will have to reject that lameness and give it to God. They will hobble through life learning to love Him more and more—and yes, learning to obey Him. This is the character the Bible teaches us in regard to true Christians. Accept what God says to be true: Homosexuality is a sin. Though they may be tempted often, even strongly, they will fight against these temptations and submit themselves to God. "For if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God" (Romans 8:13-14). The Spirit does not lead us to embrace sin and make excuses for it.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Misquoting the Bible: Ephesians 5:21

Far too frequently have I encountered individuals online who incorrectly refer to the passage in Ephesians dealing with marriage and the home. They deliberately misquote it and twist Scripture to say something it clearly does not say. The ones most guilty of this offense tend to be Liberals, who are frequently in rebellion against what Scripture teaches and commands. These Scripture-twisting individuals who deliberately ignore context quote the Ephesians passage as such:
21and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ. 22Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. 24But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything. 25Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her; 26that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she should be holy and blameless. 28So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; 29for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, 30because we are members of His body. 31FOR THIS CAUSE A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER, AND SHALL CLEAVE TO HIS WIFE; AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH. 32This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church. 33Nevertheless let each individual among you also love his own wife even as himself; and let the wife see to it that she respect her husband.
What is wrong with these people quoting Scripture in this way? Verse 21 has absolutely nothing to do with the context of the passage on marriage and the home (verses 22-33). Verse 21 ends several passages addressing the church and how the Christian ought to walk and be an imitator of God. The church is supposed to "submit to one another in the fear of God" (v. 21)—not husbands and wives to each other. In the hierarchy of the family, only the wife is to submit herself to her husband, "as the church submits to Christ" (v. 24). She is to do so "as to the Lord" (v. 22). The only time she is not to do so, but to still honour and respect her husband (v. 33), is where sin is concerned (e.g., if he wants her to do something that is clearly against God's commands). Her first obedience is to God. The same concept applies to children. Children are to obey their parents, except where sin is concerned. But they are still to honour and respect their parents. Their first obedience is to God as well. A good husband will consult his wife for her wise counsel, including her in the decision making process, but ultimately the final decision is his to make—for good or bad—and he will be held accountable before God for it. She should not try and usurp this position from her husband because then she will be held accountable before God. In every area of life there is a hierarchy of authority. Would you, as a low-end employee, want to be held accountable to the manager or CEO for a decision that was made by your supervisor? Would you, as a soldier, want to be held accountable to the General or Commander-in-Chief for a decision that was made by your commanding officer? Would you, as a student, want to be held accountable to the principal or the school board for a decision that was made by your teacher? Hierarchy exists everywhere. Within God Himself (Father, Son, Holy Spirit); within the angels; and within the family.

Why do these so-called "Christians" deliberately misquote this passage? Because they are disobedient and rebellious, and rather than obey God and what He has commanded in Scripture, they want the husband to have to submit to his wife, which is entirely unbiblical. That is like requiring God the Father to submit to God the Son, or parents to submit to their children. It is a deliberate rearranging of the hierarchy established by God for authority and accountability. The concern and argument regarding an abusive husband is without foundation. Verses 22-24 and 33 address the wife, while verses 25-31 and 33 address the husband. This passage, as well as others, does not allow for a tyrannical husband who abuses the authority given him by God. Any husband who attempts to use such passages incorrectly by misquoting them—quoting only the parts that address the wife while glossing over or skipping the ones addressing himself—is being disobedient and rebellious. In such cases, the wife is allowed to separate from her husband with the goal of reconciliation in mind once he gets help and submits to the Lord as he ought to do.

The passage in Ephesians on marriage and the home is correctly quoted when it looks thus:
22Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. 24But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything. 25Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her; 26that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she should be holy and blameless. 28So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; 29for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, 30because we are members of His body. 31FOR THIS CAUSE A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER, AND SHALL CLEAVE TO HIS WIFE; AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH. 32This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church. 33Nevertheless let each individual among you also love his own wife even as himself; and let the wife see to it that she respect her husband.
Any attempt at inclusion of verse 21 is Scripture twisting and the individuals who do such have an agenda to get others to rebel and be disobedient toward God and His Word. Be obedient toward God and content with the position He has given you.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Both Apostles Are Right

by William Bacon Stevens

"What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him?" James 2:14

The religion of Jesus Christ is made up of two parts: faith and works.
Faith is the root of works.
Works are the fruit of faith.

A belief, however true and pure, if it is accepted only by the intellect, and is not carried out into practice, translating the faith held by the mind into active duties, is a barren faith, which will not be accepted by God, and which will not secure salvation.

On the other hand, works, however good, which do not spring out of faith in the Lord Jesus, but which are done merely from human and worldly motives, are of no avail before God, because "whatever is not of faith, is sin."

Thrice has James told us, "Faith without works is dead!"
And just as distinctly has Paul declared, "By the works of the law, shall no flesh be justified in His sight."

Both apostles are right!

Works without faith have no living root.
Faith without works has no authenticating fruit.

They are the two parts of the one tree, namely, the root and the fruit. They are the two halves of the one whole; together they make up the true Christian.

"In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by works, is dead!" James 2:17

Friday, January 2, 2015

Genuine vs False

Jesus frequently addressed the issue of genuine believers and false believers, making a clear distinction between possessors of Christ, who own God in their hearts and souls, and professors of Christ, who merely honour God with their lips but their hearts are far from Him. In several of Jesus' teachings, He told us plainly that the kingdom of heaven, also called the kingdom of God, would consist of genuine believers and false believers together.
1On that day Jesus went out of the house, and was sitting by the sea. 2And great multitudes gathered to Him, so that He got into a boat and sat down, and the whole multitude was standing on the beach. 3And He spoke many things to them in parables, saying, "Behold, the sower went out to sow; 4and as he sowed, some seeds fell beside the road, and the birds came and ate them up. 5And others fell upon the rocky places, where they did not have much soil; and immediately they sprang up, because they had no depth of soil. 6But when the sun had risen, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away. 7And others fell among the thorns, and the thorns came up and choked them out. 8And others fell on the good soil, and yielded a crop, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty. 9He who has ears, let him hear."
18"Hear then the parable of the sower. 19When anyone hears the word of the kingdom, and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is the one on whom seed was sown beside the road. 20And the one on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, this is the man who hears the word, and immediately receives it with joy; 21yet he has no firm root in himself, but is only temporary, and when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he falls away. 22And the one on whom seed was sown among the thorns, this is the man who hears the word, and the worry of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful. 23And the one on whom seed was sown on the good soil, this is the man who hears the word and understands it; who indeed bears fruit, and brings forth, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty."
Matthew 13:1-9, 19-23; cf. Mark 4:1-9, 13-20; Luke 8:4-15
24He presented another parable to them, saying, "The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field. 25But while men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed tares also among the wheat, and went away. 26But when the wheat sprang up and bore grain, then the tares became evident also. 27And the slaves of the landowner came and said to him, 'Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?' 28And he said to them, 'An enemy has done this!' And the slaves said to him, 'Do you want us, then, to go and gather them up?' 29But he said, 'No; lest while you are gathering up the tares, you may root up the wheat with them. 30Allow both to grow together until the harvest; and in the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers, "First gather up the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them up; but gather the wheat into my barn."'"
36Then He left the multitudes, and went into the house. And His disciples came to Him, saying, "Explain to us the parable of the tares of the field." 37And He answered and said, "The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man, 38and the field is the world; and as for the good seed, these are the sons of the kingdom; and the tares are the sons of the evil one; 39and the enemy who sowed them is the devil, and the harvest is the end of the age; and the reapers are angels. 40Therefore just as the tares are gathered up and burned with fire, so shall it be at the end of the age. 41The Son of Man will send forth His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all stumbling blocks, and those who commit lawlessness, 42and will cast them into the furnace of fire; in that place there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43Then THE RIGHTEOUS WILL SHINE FORTH AS THE SUN in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear."
Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43
47"Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet cast into the sea, and gathering fish of every kind; 48and when it was filled, they drew it up on the beach; and they sat down, and gathered the good fish into containers, but the bad they threw away. 49So it will be at the end of the age; the angels shall come forth, and take out the wicked from among the righteous, 50and will cast them into the furnace of fire; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 51Have you understood all these things?" They said to Him, "Yes."
Matthew 13:47-51
After Jesus said these things, He said something so profound, yet simple, that most people seem to miss it. Contrary to what some professors claim from their unbelieving lips, a person's faith is not personal and private. Observe what Jesus had to say on the issue.
21And He was saying to them, "A lamp is not brought to be put under a peck-measure, is it, or under a bed? Is it not brought to be put on the lampstand? 22For nothing is hidden, except to be revealed; nor has anything been secret, but that it should come to light. 23If any man has ears to hear, let him hear."
Mark 4:21-23; cf. Matthew 5:14-16; Luke 8:16-18
Jesus said other similarly revealing things as well.
15"Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes, nor figs from thistles, are they? 17Even so, every good tree bears good fruit; but the bad tree bears bad fruit. 18A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. 19Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20So then, you will know them by their fruits."
Matthew 7:15-20
In other teachings from Jesus, contrasting genuine believers and false believers, He informed us of the kind of character that genuine believers would exhibit.
1"Then the kingdom of heaven will be comparable to ten virgins, who took their lamps, and went out to meet the bridegroom. 2And five of them were foolish, and five were prudent. 3For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, 4but the prudent took oil in flasks along with their lamps. 5Now while the bridegroom was delaying, they all got drowsy and began to sleep. 6But at midnight there was a shout, 'Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.' 7Then all those virgins rose, and trimmed their lamps. 8And the foolish said to the prudent, 'Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.' 9But the prudent answered, saying, 'No, there will not be enough for us and you too; go instead to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.' 10And while they were going away to make the purchase, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding feast; and the door was shut. 11And later the other virgins also came, saying, 'Lord, lord, open up for us.' 12But he answered and said, 'Truly I say to you, I do not know you.' 13Be on the alert then, for you do not know the day nor the hour."
Matthew 25:1-13
1"I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. 2Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it, that it may bear more fruit. 3You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. 4Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you, unless you abide in Me. 5I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me, and I in him, he bears much fruit; for apart from Me you can do nothing. 6If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch, and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. 7If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it shall be done for you. 8By this is My Father glorified, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples.
9"Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. 10If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father's commandments, and abide in His love. 11These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full."
John 15:1-11
The good soil versus the rocky soil and the thorny soil, the wheat versus the tares, the good fish versus the bad fish, the wise virgins versus the foolish virgins, the branches that bear fruit versus the branches that are barren, and the sheep versus the goats, etc. All of these are pictures of genuine converts and false converts growing up in the universal church together until Jesus returns to separate the wicked from the just (see Matt. 25:31-46). This is why Jesus says things like this:
21"Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven. 22Many will say to Me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?' 23And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.'"
Matthew 7:21-23
These people believe themselves to be saved, otherwise they would not say, "Lord, Lord." However, Jesus, knowing their hearts, exposes the truth that they were merely professors whose lips honoured God but whose hearts were far from Him. This lends to why the Bible tells us to examine ourselves so much, to take the log out of our own eye before trying to take the speck out of another's eye. The heart is very deceitful, and with so many false gospels being preached of "easy believism," it is very easy for us to convince ourselves we are saved when in fact we are not. Do we hide our Christianity and refuse to speak about it? Or are we bold and confess Jesus before others regardless of what they might think of us?

Which type of Christian are you? Genuine? Or false? There is no such thing as a "carnal Christian."

Thursday, January 1, 2015

A New Year's Resolution


by Matthew Henry

"My times are in Your hand!" Psalm 31:15 

Firmly believing that my times are in God's hand, I here submit myself and all my affairs for the ensuing year, to the wise and gracious disposal of God's divine providence. Whether God appoints for me . . .
     health or sickness,
     peace or trouble,
     comforts or crosses,
     life or death,
may His holy will be done!

All my time, strength, and service, I devote to the honor of the Lord Jesus, and even my common actions. It is my earnest expectation, hope, and desire, my constant aim and endeavor, that Jesus Christ may be magnified in me.

In everything I have to do, my entire dependence is upon Jesus Christ for strength. And whatever I do in word or deed, I desire to do all in His name, to make Him my Alpha and Omega. I have all from Him and I would use all for Him.

If this should prove a year of affliction, a sorrowful year to me, I will fetch all my supports and comforts from the Lord Jesus and stay myself upon Him, His everlasting consolations, and the good hope I have in Him through grace.

And if it should be my dying year, then my times are in the hand of the Lord Jesus. And with a humble reliance upon His mediation, I would venture into the eternal world looking for the blessed hope. Dying as well as living, Jesus Christ will, I trust, be gain and advantage to me.

Oh, that the grace of God may be sufficient for me, to keep me always in a humble sense of my own unworthiness, weakness, folly, and infirmity, together with a humble dependence upon the Lord Jesus Christ for daily grace and strength.