April 28, 2016

Throwback Thursday: Angry Facebook Mobs

Throwback Thursday is a series of posts, wherein I will on (some) Thursdays post a piece of writing from back in the day. Generally not from this blog. I will edit lightly for readability, but my intention is to allow each piece to stand basically as written. Over the years my mind has shifted on many things, as my knowledge of life, the Scriptures, and myself has grown. I'm not in the business of hiding this fact, so these will probably (at least on occasion) contain some things which even I think are crazy.

Originally posted on Facebook as: "Because apparently I belong in the White House...or jail" January 4, 2010

So I posted a status about appreciating real news and started World War 7...or whatever World War we are on now. So I thought it prudent to examine some of what other people had to say there, and take the time to flesh my thoughts out more thoroughly.

My original point was that I was thankful for a source of news where I got just that - news. News pertaining to the larger and more important issues of our day. This would most definitely include politics, both on the national and world scale. I took three examples at random that would fit into my 420 character space of a Facebook status. Apparently I picked three that made people very angry. I guess it's more fun to shoot a cow if it's sacred.

First- Sports. Yes, I do love my sports. I love watching football (although the NFL is becoming more sissy and feminized by the day, which is rather sickening) and baseball. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE sports, and there are a lot of benefits. There are many life lessons to be learned through playing sports not the least of which are hard work, dedication, working together with other people, and submission to authority (coaches). All important stuff. And I enjoy watching sports, and have no problem with sports themselves. What I do have a problem with is when people start worshiping them at the expense of other things. Our culture of 24 hour sports coverage is really silly. We focus our lives on them, to the point where people neglect their responsibilities, gamble away their money; men neglect their families, over what? Two teams of fifty some guys trying to cross a line carrying a piece of leather in their hands? That is plain foolishness. I agree, great recreation, and it's nice every once in a while to watch a game and just forget about everything else in the world. But when this becomes a pattern in our lives, it really is nothing more than childish denial. Denial that there is a real world and that we are the ones responsible for taking care of it.
As far as the Olympics representing national pride and such and such. Bunk. Perhaps 30 years ago they were still relevant, but outside of Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt, I'm going to go out on a limb and say 80% of us don't know and really don't care who any of the other Olympic athletes were in 2008. And when those people won, did we celebrate what great countries they came from, or did we celebrate their great personal achievements? No, I really don't think any national identity is derived from sports, that may have been the case in the past, but I think most countries and people are worried about other things. Some third world countries run by Communists or Dictatorships put a great deal of focus on it, but that is merely in an attempt to puff themselves up and put on a nice show before the world in an attempt to shove many of their huge flaws underneath the proverbial rug.

Another issue I have is the focus on these celebrities’ lives; who really cares that Tiger Woods cheated on his wife? It really is no more egregious than your neighbor doing the exact same thing (not to downplay the moral/sin implications here, or to imply that in any way cheating on his wife was okay); it really didn't deserve non-stop coverage for days on end. Steroids. Who cares that Barry Bonds was juicing? While North Korea and Iran are producing nuclear weapons and insisting violence against us and our allies, Congress was investigating whether MLB players were using steroids. It's BASEBALL!!! Yes, steroids are against the rules, MLB can deal with that. Yes, they are illegal; the police can deal with that. But instead it gets so hyped up by the media that Congress decides they need to stick their porky fingers into something where they have no business.

I guess my summary statement would be that sports should be just what they used to be referred to as- a "pastime". Something used to pass time, and to be an occasional escape. Occasional. Because there is a real world out there that demands our attention.

Next- Global warming. I will admit, I have not done a ton of research on this. I have seen numbers, from both sides of the argument, and the few and far between bi-partisan groups looking into the issue. First off-there is absolutely no question that over the course of the 20th Century there was a definite warming trend in our world. This was, however, not a large temperature increase. It also is not (contrary to popular belief) a result of increased CO2 in the atmosphere, in fact CO2 levels actually followed temperatures upward. So while I do not believe CO2 to be a major issue, I do find it humorous that those "doing something" about it (the Al Gores and George Soros or the world) emit more "greenhouse gases" flying around telling us that we need to stop doing just that. Quite an illustration of hypocrisy.
I do however, believe as a Christian that God entrusted us with the care of this planet, and that we ought to be conservationists. Not environmentalists or protectionists, who would stop human progress in the name of saving a tree or an owl. But in Genesis God gives man dominion over the earth, which with it implies responsibility to care for this place we call home. This is an area where on one hand I get really annoyed with the hype, because I do not find it justified, but as Christians I also believe it is dangerous to completely dismiss any concerns for the environment, because to do so is to abdicate a God given responsibility, and therefore it is sin.

Third on the agenda, politics...wow. Big one. This one is something I have wrestled a lot with lately because I haven't had a lot of direction in my life. All I've known is that I need to write and I need to speak. Two of the main professions where both of these are done are being a minister and being a politician...two occupations which seem diametrically opposed at the core, yet are truly the only things I have any passion for anymore. So I was quite confused. And I came to the conclusion that any political movement of force starts at the bottom, which means it must start in people's hearts, which means the way I could best affect the political scene would be not running for office, but by preaching the Word of God. But then comes a major pitfall, that being losing the focus on people and their relationship with God, and simply using Christianity as a means to a political end. This in the end would not only be unfruitful, but sinful and wrong. It really misses the fact that the Gospel is truly a powerful thing that touches not blind masses, but individuals. Jesus died to save your soul from Hell, not save us from nationalized health care. So then I wrestled in my head more what I was supposed to do, and the conclusion I came to is this. God has given me a vision for what would happen if people's hearts were changed. Ultimately, who is in power will be determined by God, but it generally is an outworking and expression of where the heart of the people is at. So essentially, Christians need to quit focusing solely on issues. Don't get me wrong, saving marriage as the union of one man and one woman is important. Stopping the murder of unborn children is important. Making sure that we're free to express our beliefs is important. But in the end, it's people's hearts that matter. Not as a means to an end, but the end. Christians go about change backwards. We try to control people's actions to conform to our beliefs, when in reality it is foolish to even think that way. People will ultimately act out what they believe, and that's what we need to focus on. People. Their beliefs, their thoughts, motives, and their inmost being. Because they need Jesus. So my summary here would be that as Christians we need to focus less on issues and more on people. Now in our concern for people it will behoove us to push for certain types of government and to support certain leaders, but this is not our end goal. Jesus came to save people because He loved them, now it's our job to convey that love to them.

4th- Little kids saving cats...I hate cats...I think that covers that one fairly well. 

April 25, 2016

Commonplace Monday #31

"[H]e does not save independent, unconnected individuals in isolation from one another; he is calling out a people for his own possession." -John Stott, Basic Christianity, pg 129

Commonplace Monday is a series of posts wherein, on Monday mornings, I share short quips, sentences -perhaps as much as a paragraph- which I have collected in my various commonplace books and files. If I wrote down or recall where it came from I will certainly give attribution. However, sometimes I write down things and not where they came from. So if you see anything like that here and recognize it, that's what comment sections are for. 

April 19, 2016

Review: The Question That Never Goes Away

The Question That Never Goes AwayThe Question That Never Goes Away by Philip Yancey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Yancey is always a good read. I find myself constantly disagreeing with him, yet unfailingly helped by his questions, probing, and tone.

View all my reviews

April 18, 2016

Commonplace Monday #30

"I have continued to write for the general reader, based on my belief that if I can't say it in plain English, it must be because I don't understand what I am writing about."
Rodney Stark

Commonplace Monday is a series of posts wherein, on Monday mornings, I share short quips, sentences -perhaps as much as a paragraph- which I have collected in my various commonplace books and files. If I wrote down or recall where it came from I will certainly give attribution. However, sometimes I write down things and not where they came from. So if you see anything like that here and recognize it, that's what comment sections are for. 

April 14, 2016

Throwback Thursday: The Prayer, Predestination, & Evangelism

Throwback Thursday is a series of posts, wherein I will on (some) Thursdays post a piece of writing from back in the day. Generally not from this blog. I will edit lightly for readability, but my intention is to allow each piece to stand basically as written. Over the years my mind has shifted on many things, as my knowledge of life, the Scriptures, and myself has grown. I'm not in the business of hiding this fact, so these will probably (at least on occasion) contain some things which even I think are crazy.

Originally posted on Facebook as "Further musings..."
February 10, 2010 at 1:06pm
So this one I will preface. Not because I worry about offending people or having people disagree--I fully expect that with most things I say and do. But because I want you to understand where I'm coming from. First off, I'm not claiming to be some super smart guy who is infallible, quite the contrary. I've never taken any Bible classes, I'm not educated, I'm just a blue collar working guy who loves Jesus. And I like to think, and my writing is a result of that. So while I wouldn't be writing this stuff if I weren't convicted of its truth, I am more than open to learning and being corrected where I am in error. I pray that God will at the same time use me to teach others and help them. That being said, let's begin.

In my previous note I brought up some points I had been thinking about in regards to "the sinners prayer", evangelism in the typical sense...and rethinking them, looking at things from a Biblical perspective. Some of those things I either didn't cover very well, and some of it brought up other questions, so I will try to address them as thoroughly as I can here.

1-"The prayer": honestly, while this is what I discussed the most previously, it is what has been on my mind for the shortest period of time, and I have studied the least. Again, I see no evidence in Scripture of there being "a prayer" that leads to Salvation. Many calls are made to confess sin out of a repentant heart, and turn from that sin; but this does not lead to Salvation, this is a result of Salvation.

Romans 3:10-12 (NIV)-As it is written: "There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one."

1 John 4:9-10 (NIV)-This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.

The problem with believing a prayer leads to Salvation is that it contradicts what God tells us: that no one loves Him, no one seeks Him. It is our nature as sinful human beings to flee from God, flee from the presence of holiness. Only God Himself can create that spark, that interest, at least in any meaningful way. We can be spiritual people, we can be nice people, we can be a lot of things, but without the gift from God that is not only grace, but the very faith to accept that grace, we are nothing, and have nothing.

2-Predestination/free will: this is an issue that has split churches, denominations, it's huge. It used to be a real struggle of mine until I really read this passage:

Romans 9:10-21 (New International Version) Not only that, but Rebekah's children had one and the same father, our father Isaac. Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad—in order that God's purpose in election might stand: not by works but by him who calls—she was told, "The older will serve the younger." Just as it is written: "Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated." What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! For he says to Moses, "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion." It does not, therefore, depend on man's desire or effort, but on God's mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh: "I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth." Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden. One of you will say to me: "Then why does God still blame us? For who resists his will?" But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? "Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, 'Why did you make me like this?' " Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use?

Before they were born God had picked out which He would love and which He would hate. I hear people question all the time how this could possibly jibe with God's perfect love...and my answer is, I don't know. What I do know is that His love is perfect, and both my love, and my understanding of His love, are flawed. That's not always the most comfortable thought, we're humans, and we like understanding. The fact of the matter is that while God does give you freedom to choose, in the end He's going work out His plan. In the words of CS Lewis, "For you will certainly carry out God's purpose, however you act, but it makes a difference to you whether you serve like Judas or like John." We can do nothing to save ourselves.

Ephesians 2:3-4 (NIV)-All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.

Ephesians 2:10 (NIV)-For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

It's grace. Total, complete, grace that we can't even comprehend. Salvation is a gift from God, there is nothing we can do to earn it or get it for ourselves. We are held to account for how we respond to that though. Which is why in the book of James it tells us faith without works is dead. Saying you love Jesus, "praying the prayer", putting on your Jesus life preserver...that's not good enough.

Matthew 7:21-23 (NIV)-"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'

Interesting. By grace through faith...but works are required? How do those ideas mesh? And there will be those who prophesy and cast out demons in His name whom He will turn away. This is why I believe the idea of election and predestination is so important. Because it is by grace that we are saved. The unilateral decision of God, not something we work together on. But here's where our responsibility, our "free will", if you will, comes in. When God reveals to us, and gives us faith to trust in Him, He calls us to something more. He calls us to be set apart, holy, and do the good works He has prepared in advance for us to do. We can't be the sit on our butts lacksidasical "Christian" who prays a prayer and thinks that's that. And we can't be the person who thinks anything we can do will affect our status with God or affect our salvation. We have to realize that this salvation we have is an enormous gift, and this should spur us on to a life of set apart worship of Christ. Everything we do, every encounter we have. I kind of attacked evangelism in my previous post; perhaps I was a bit on the harsh side, but it was to illustrate a point.

Yes, we do need to share the love of Christ, and if that's with a stranger, awesome. Everyone needs to hear. But where we get into trouble is being that person who goes around sharing with strangers at the expense of taking time to build relationships. The whole purpose of Christ's sacrifice was to bring you back into relationship with God--God is all about relationship. This is not at the expense of things like preaching and teaching; quite the contrary, Jesus himself preached to the masses, and the church as we know it started with a sermon by the apostle Peter. But we have to be a community, a church body, a church family, where relationships are being built to build up that body, that family. And we need to be building relationships with unbelievers so that we have a relationship with trust and honesty. Are you more likely to talk to some weird whack job who randomly walks up to you, or someone you have a friendship with? Yeah, that's what I thought. My point on evangelism is that talking to strangers, and having big meetings are good things, but if that's where it stops it useless and without point. It's scary, it's not comfortable, and it's not easy...neither was Jesus' work. He hung on a tree for three hours with nails in His hands, was beaten, bruised...and He who was God Himself, and one with the Father had the Father turn His face, and faced complete separation while carrying the load of your sin. Makes our efforts seem pretty pathetic.

From the ridge road.

April 11, 2016

How Will We Stand?

I have oft pondered the question, especially in recent months, are American Christians ready for what is coming?, a question which I must firmly answer with a no. But what do I mean by the question, let alone the answer?

What is coming in America, indeed is already upon certain parts of our nation, is the full-scale rejection of Christian virtue. By rejection, I do not mean in a personal sense. That happened long ago for many Americans; what might be considered "orthodox" Christian views on issues of homosexuality, the nature and purpose of marriage, etc, have long been turning away from "our side", though these turns have been accelerated in recent years. But what I mean when I say rejection, is the rejection of any possibility that such values may be right or have any potential validity. In short, it is the refusal to acknowledge Christian virtue, particularly as pertains to sexual ethics, as anything besides unabashed bigotry and hate. This rejection is largely in place already, and will be complete within the next 2-3 years, if trends hold.

What will this lead to? It will lead to cases like those we have become familiar with in Oregon and Washington, of florists and bakers, being the norm, such that they will no longer be news. These stories are paraded in the news now to show us the hate and bigotry of the people attempting to politely refuse to put their stamp of approval on a wedding service. They will, soon enough, be so commonplace as to not need parading in the national media. Or so many people will simply fold under the pressure that such cases will all but cease to exist.

Here's what I really mean when I ask are Christians ready for what is coming?: Are Christians ready for those people whom they considered friends, loved ones, and the like, to totally turn their backs on them? Are we ready to be ostracized because of our beliefs about who God is and what He says? Right now if a florist makes such a call, they can still get their opinion published in the Seattle Times, they will still be able to find a network of friends all over the country who think like they do, and will speak in their defense. In the future, these things, these broader networks of cultural support, which are already thinning, will all but vanish. What will believers be left with then?

I fear too many Christians in this country pin their hopes on America. We believe that we are just a few good elections from turning this ship around. But nothing could be further from the truth. Very little of the undoing of this culture is centered around elections, especially presidential ones. These things are important, but other things carry far more weight.

The sexual revolution of the 20th century which brought us rampant promiscuity (at least in an accepted way), cheap birth control which detached the sexual act from its natural end, no-fault divorce and its erosion of familial stability, and here in the last few years, the widespread acceptance of same-sex sexual activity and marriage. The values of this revolution, which prize personal satisfaction and self-realization in sexual activity above any other goals or restraints--consequences be damned--are deeply embedded into the minds of nearly every person alive in the West today. This is why many people think nothing of the fact that upwards of 8 in 10 men in my age group (18 to 30) view pornography at least monthly. Why would we ever deny ourselves the ability to immediately gratify our every sexual desire? Isn't this the reason iPhones exist?

What those of us who desire to live and promote a Christian virtue, a Christian sexual ethic, must come to realize is that most of our fellow church goers and believers share the underlying assumptions about sexuality and personhood that the rest of the culture holds in common. Presidential elections, Supreme Court appointments, and majorities in either House of Congress mean nothing in terms of moral change, advancement of virtue, or course correction, when almost everyone believes that what the Bible teaches about sex (insofar as they grasp it) is outdated, hateful, mean, and unenlightened. Restrictions upon what we view as our chief means of self-expression constitutes an attack upon personhood, so far as this culture is concerned.

What Christians who hold to the teachings of the Scripture on issues of marriage, sexuality, and perhaps other issues such as abortion and euthanasia, must realize is that they are already out of step with most of the people in this country, and that divide is going to sharpen, and we will find ourselves in the very clear minority. Are we ready for this? Again, I say no.

And so I am left with the question, How will we stand? Rod Dreher is proposing what he terms the "Benedict Option." My suggestion is that you follow that link and just start reading what he has to say; and then sit tight for the book he has coming out next year If I were to summarize in my own words what he is calling for, it is the purposeful forming of Christian communities wherein we self-consciously disengage from certain aspects of the broader culture in order to more thoroughly engage with God, ourselves, our families, and with whom we are in community, in order that we may be more deeply rooted in our faith. We need to pursue this in order to withstand the cultural pressure to fall in line, to pass along to our children a faith with genuine substance, and to have a faith worth sharing with the world.

I just wrote yesterday trying to give a very brief, positive, outline of Biblical sexuality. I think as believers we need more of these sorts of things. Positive statements of our faith, clear affirmations of what we do believe. Not lists of things we don't believe, don't like, or want to avoid. Such things are not unimportant, but it would seem that for some believers, it's all they have. And series of negative statements will not take you through the cultural wringer intact.

Read your Bible. But don't read it as an inspirational book full of pithy life-helps. Don't look at it with some stilted, clich├ęd, "basic-instructions-before-leaving-earth" mindset. Pick it up and realize that in your hands you hold the very words of the Living God. The self-revelation of the God of all the universe. That in it He does reveal how He would have us live, but that life He calls us to is a life lived in light of His glorious character revealed therein.

Pick up great statements of faith such as the historic catechisms and confessions. Read classic works of literature, and be read by them. Become less technology-driven machine, and more human. And in your newfound humanness, your newfound creatureliness, relate to the Creator of your body and your soul. Read His book in humility, and pray to Him in reverence. Ask for His help to live every day in increasing obedience, and seek to instill a deep awe of God in your children and those whom you have the opportunity to influence. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge. Fearing Him and knowing Him is the beginning of wisdom. And living in this sort of God-birthed wisdom is the only way in which we will stand,

Commonplace Monday #29

"The closer you get to what makes Christianity ghastly, the closer you get to what makes it glorious."
John Piper

Commonplace Monday is a series of posts wherein, on Monday mornings, I share short quips, sentences -perhaps as much as a paragraph- which I have collected in my various commonplace books and files. If I wrote down or recall where it came from I will certainly give attribution. However, sometimes I write down things and not where they came from. So if you see anything like that here and recognize it, that's what comment sections are for. 

April 10, 2016

What does go?

What Does Go? A Brief, Positive, Framework of Biblical Sexuality

A little over a year ago I wrote, “Does anything go?” What I want to do this morning is give a slightly longer (though still unjustly brief), positive, outline of the Biblical doctrine of sex. Here is why I think it is important: evangelical Christians tend to be good (at least sometimes) at knowing what can be wrong about sex, or knowing what it isn’t for, but I doubt that very many of us could give a good explanation of what it is for. (And I’ve made this point in other blog posts, here, and here). Why does sex exist? Our lack of a solid response here is a problem, a very big problem. We live in a society steeped in assumptions about human personhood and sexual expression that run totally contrary to what the Scriptures would teach us, and often times we ourselves buy into these same assumptions without realizing it. And when our underlying assumptions meet the commands of Scripture, we run into problems. We want to believe and obey God, but it seems hard. How can I understand why God would be so restrictive in what He allows or permits in this area? How can I explain my views on homosexuality to a coworker without coming off as anything except a complete bigot? These, along with other questions we face today, are difficult in large part because, as I said, we have bought hook-line-and-sinker into many of the world’s presuppositions and then tried to mesh Biblical teaching with them, and it leaves us feeling rather precarious. But God is not silent in this area. He gives us all that we need to be equipped for righteous living, to train ourselves and our children in godliness, to be transformed by the renewing of our minds, and to communicate His truth, as we come to know it, to those around us; friends, coworkers, and family members.

So: what is sex?

We need to lay a groundwork, or perhaps better, build a framework for understanding this issue in light of the Scriptures. The first question we need to ask is, "what is sex?" The first place we look in answer to that question is the opening part of Genesis:

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (Genesis 1:27-28 ESV)

The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him. So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.(Genesis 2:20-25 ESV)

We see here in Genesis chapters one and two that sex is, at its foundation, two things:

1) first we see that sex is a good creation of God Himself. This fabulous thing called sex is God's idea. Some people, often calling themselves Christians, have tried to paint sex as bad, disgusting, or filthy. Nothing could be further from the truth. God makes man and woman naked, tells them to multiply, and calls it very good. It's His idea, He calls it very good, and who in the world am I to argue with God about that? This plays out even more clearly in other places in Scripture; places that give us a glimpse of what God intends in marriage. In Song of Solomon 4:16, The Lover says,

Awake, O north wind,
and come, O south wind!
Blow upon my garden,
let its spices flow.

His bride comes back with this reply,

Let my beloved come to his garden,
and eat its choicest fruits.

If you take the time to read through the Song of Solomon, you will find an unrestrained celebration of married love, including its sexual aspect. In this book, as illustrated in the poetic quotation above, sex is shown to be a pleasurable gift from God.

This is not lost even on more “restrained” parts of Scripture such as the Proverbs. For example, we read in Proverbs 5:15-19,

Drink water from your own cistern,
Flowing water from your own well.
Should your springs be scattered abroad,
Streams of water in the streets?
Let them be for yourself alone,
And not for strangers with you.
Let your fountain be blessed,
And rejoice in the wife of your youth,
A lovely deer, a graceful doe.
Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight;
Be intoxicated always in her love.

That’s the sort of thing that we could feel uncomfortable reading, if it weren’t in the Bible! God isn’t bashful in what he wants married couples to pursue in terms of pleasing one another, and being pleased in one another. Of course one thinks of 1 Corinthians 7, which we don’t have time to turn to, but it’s very helpful on this point.

2) the second thing we note from the passages we read in Genesis is that sex is, in fact, a command of God. This does need some qualification, as this command is given to a man and a wife in the context of their marriage. But part of His charge to the human race is to multiply. And being as they didn't have laboratories back in those days, there is only one way that was going to happen. It is important to note that all biblically approved sex occurs within the context of monogamous, heterosexual marriage; and so this command is what we might call a qualified, rather than universal command. The qualification being marriage. But it remains, nonetheless, a command. Why? Well, we have already seen from the writings of Solomon the perspective of mutual pleasure; had we turned to 1 Corinthians 7 we would have seen Paul’s emphasis on the fighting of temptation. Namely, that one of the ways we avoid sexual temptation (and perhaps other sorts of temptation in marriage, such as anger and bitterness) is to enjoy one another in one flesh union. But the command in Genesis specifically relates to the multiplication of the human race, the raising of a godly offspring to rule, reign, and take dominion over all the earth. Let’s turn to Malachi 2:13-16,

And this second thing you do. You cover the Lord’s altar with tears, with weeping and groaning because he no longer regards the offering or accepts it with favor from your hand. But you say, “Why does he not?” Because the Lord was witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant. Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and let none of you be faithless to the wife of your youth. “For the man who does not love his wife but divorces her, says the Lord, the God of Israel, covers his garment with violence, says the Lord of hosts. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and do not be faithless.”

God desires godly offspring to come from our unions. That is, sex is not, contra the sexual revolution, mainly a means of happiness, fulfillment, and self-expression. Faithful marriage, including its sexual element, has as part of its meaning the creation and discipling of the next generation. This, of course, does not mean that all sex must have as its goal the having of children. God has allowed many couples to not receive this benefit of marriage, whether they desire it or not. It can be one of the most painful realities couples face. It doesn’t mean older people have to stop enjoying one another once they are past childbearing years. And I don’t think it prohibits, necessarily, all forms or uses of birth control. However, on that last point, Christians need to take a critical look at what the world is selling us. First of all because of the potential abortifacient nature of many types of birth control, but also because of this: if God designed sex in marriage for raising godly offspring, why are we so quick to and to limit the number of offspring we have? I don’t have all the answers on this, and I don’t think the Bible paints in black-and-white principles here. I would advise here that you purchase God, Marriage, & Family by Andreas Kostenberger. The chapter on Birth Control is worth the price of the book. End rabbit trail.

Continuing on, if we turn to the epistle to the Hebrews we read the following,

Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous. (Hebrews 13:4 ESV)

Here we encounter another idea. We’ve already seen that sex is God’s creation, His good and enjoyable creation, and that [within the confines of Biblical marriage], it is indeed a command of God himself, given for the production of godly offspring. Here in Hebrews, we encounter the concept of the sacredness of sex. God has created the marriage bed, and it is to be held in honor among all, undefiled.

In summary, sex is a creation of God, commanded to those whom are married, but not commanded as some form of punishment, Rather, it is a beautiful and pleasurable gift, one that is to be held in high esteem among all. Sex is sacred. Sex is, in a very true sense, holy.

The Holiness of Sex

We saw above in the passage from Hebrews that God will judge the sexually immoral and the adulterous. The assumption behind that is what we saw in Genesis, namely, that God is the creator of our bodies, and the creator of sex. As creator, He has absolute rights and authority over His creation, and thus sets the boundaries of what constitutes good, acceptable, and ethical behavior. Humans, of course, do not like this. Ever since our first father, Adam, took of the fruit and plunged humanity into sin (Romans 5:12-14) we have been rejecting God's authority over our lives. Thus we run headlong into all sorts of sins. Included in this sprinting away from God is a run headlong into sexual transgression. Scripture contains several passages listing different kinds of sexual sins and their consequences (eg, Leviticus 18, Romans 1, Galatians 5).

As I stated above, God created sex to live and flourish inside the confines of monogamous, heterosexual marriage. There is no more unpopular concept than this today. Our flesh hates it, because all of the promises which the world offers for sexual enjoyment, like fresh experiences, quick hookups with hot babes, the perfectly romantic and ruggedly handsome man, passionate lovemaking all the time...these are not the realities of marriage. You marry one person. You spend an incredible amount of time with that one person, mostly outside the bedroom. You make each other mad, irritate one another, and are quite simply: human. And sinfully human, at that. This complicates the matter of sex. Because what Hollywood and pornography have told me was supposed to be a constant rip-each-other's clothes off passion becomes in fact a self-giving, a sacrificing my needs for the needs of another.

Don't read this wrong. Sex, as we’ve already argued from Scripture, is a most wonderful and beautiful gift. The exposure, the intimacy, the one flesh (Genesis 2:24) can be one of the most enjoyable things God gives us on this earth. But the joy, while including the physical pleasure that God intended, goes a whole lot deeper and past that. When God said that the man and woman become one flesh, He wasn't just saying "piece a fits into slot b." The oneness that takes place in marriage, and in the marriage bed, is one of physical, emotional, and spiritual unity. Ephesians 5 would tell us that it pictures an even greater unity, namely of Christ and His church.

When we remove sex from the realm of marriage, we make it a very dangerous thing. All of that exposure, intimacy, and oneness has now been offered to one who has promised me nothing in return. If I open myself up like this to my wife, I can feel safe. She has pledged to walk with me, stay with me, and love me until death parts us. Not so with another. In casting off God's law here, we cast off not a burden, but a safeguard for our soul.

I titled this section the Holiness of Sex, and you may be wondering why I am saying so little about that. The word Holy carries the idea of being set apart, and this is exactly what I'm attempting to communicate here. That God has set sex apart, in the bond of marriage, for the safety, well being, and lasting pleasure of His creatures.

So: what does go?
So now we come to the question we set out to answer: what does go?We see from Scripture that there is much freedom within marriage (see again the Song of Solomon). But if we are to embrace the biblical model of marriage there are very clear principles as play.

  • God created marriage to be between one man, and one woman, for life.
  • God created sexual union to live exclusively within this union of monogamous, heterosexual marriage.
  • God created sex for this relationship with a number of goals in mind, including the pleasure of the married couple, increased intimacy, protection from sin, the raising of godly offspring, and ultimately (perplexingly, perhaps?), the display of His love for His bride.
  • This truth rules out all other forms of sexual expression. Not because God is a restrictive killjoy, but because all other forms of sex lie about what sex actually is. A few examples follow.
  • Premarital sex lies about the nature of Christ’s love for His people. It promises pleasure without commitment, exposure without security, sweet fruit without hard labor. It denies reality, and leaves brokenness and destruction in its wake.
  • Adultery lies about the nature of Christ’s covenant keeping love with His people. Those whom the Father has given Him He will by no means cast out, nor will they be lost from His hand. He loves with a never stopping, never giving up, unfailing, always and forever love, as those of you with the Jesus Storybook Bible (or the prophet Hosea) will know.
  • Pornography lies in much the same way premarital sex does in that it promises gain without risk, then leaves destruction behind. It further lies about the meaning of sex, because of course there may be immediate physical pleasure involved, but there is no self-giving, no oneness of body, spirit, soul. It is an utterly selfish act, without giving to another, and of course, no opportunity for procreation. Practically speaking, it also carries the danger of being easily kept under the radar in our lives, killing us slowly from the inside out. It creates desires and promises results which it cannot ever satisfy.
  • Homosexuality of course flies directly against God’s creative order of man and woman, ordered toward the having and raising of children. It is important to note here, that homosexual advocates have a very legitimate point when say that Evangelicals have been soft on all kinds of sexual sins from porn, to divorce, to seeing sex as a mere object for personal gratification with no orientation towards children and family, and that to pick on homosexuals the way we do is inconsistent, hypocritical, and unfair. I frankly think that point is spot on, and it has caused me to reflect, why have we reacted this way? And I think it is because this is the first aspect of the sexual revolution which has triggered, if I may be frank, our gag reflex. The other sins were more familiar and comfortable to us, so we can let them slide, sweep them under the rug, or deal with them, but lightly so. However two guys getting married freaks us out. And this is why I think we desperately need to build a more constructive picture of what sex is biblically, to help us, our children, and our church continue into the future. Because the reality is, the gag reflex will not keep us on the straight and narrow of Biblical sexuality. It may deter us from particular sins at particular times, but it will not lead us to true, robust, holiness. And it won’t even guard against this particular area of homosexual sin much longer, because people my age and younger have all come of age in an era when same-sex relationships, and now marriage are simply considered “normal”. We desperately need to see what the Biblical norm is, and it is going to make us all uncomfortable, in different ways. We all have really messed up ideas in the realm of sex, and in all of life.

So what do we do? A few quick thoughts in closing.

  1. We must gather weekly with God’s people to hear His word preached, read, sung, prayed, and taught. We must encourage one another, we submit to the teaching of the Book, through the men God has placed over us; including in matters so personal as marriage and sex when they arise.
  2. We ought to scour the Scriptures daily, to take the book and eat, as it were. God speaks to us through this book. He leads us in the way we should go. Study biblical passages like Romans 1, 1 Corinthians 7, Song of Solomon, Proverbs 5-7, Genesis 2, Ephesians 5, etc. Work, over time, to become so Bible soaked that you will be like a tree planted by streams of water, which bears its fruit in season, and whose leaf does not wither.
  3. Educate yourself with topical helps on what the Bible says about this. I cannot recommend highly enough Kostenberger’s book. You may find it a dry read, but it is rich. If you are a married couple, work through it together.

We often pursue sex, as we pursue everything, in an endless drive to satisfy our lusts. We have a craving that we haven't been able to satisfy. We fantasize, and we chase those fantasies into life wherever we think we can get away with it. But the biblical picture of love, the biblical picture of sex, is utterly different. Sex was never designed to fill me up. It is a place for me to give of myself to the one I have covenanted myself to; to model the love that Christ pours into the one He covenanted Himself to, the church. This ought to command how we view it. It is a beautiful gift, and its boundaries do not hinder our happiness, ut rather exist for our everlasting joy.

April 05, 2016

Review: Orthodoxy

OrthodoxyOrthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Chesterton's most famous book is everything I expected in terms of pithy quotes, appreciation for paradox, and cutting analysis of modern man. While I didn't enjoy it quite as much as I did Heretics, this certainly is a book worth anyone's time, especially if you aren't real sure about Christianity. The case he presents, I feel, is compelling.

View all my reviews

April 04, 2016

Commonplace Monday #28

"We shall never find comfort or assurance by looking within."
Charles Spurgeon

Commonplace Monday is a series of posts wherein, on Monday mornings, I share short quips, sentences -perhaps as much as a paragraph- which I have collected in my various commonplace books and files. If I wrote down or recall where it came from I will certainly give attribution. However, sometimes I write down things and not where they came from. So if you see anything like that here and recognize it, that's what comment sections are for. 

About Me

Follower of Jesus. Husband of one. Father of four. Pastor at Remsen Bible Fellowship (remsenbible.com).