Privileged Hate

It’s really weird what’s going on in the West right now: we hate and maim and murder the least of these (children, via “abortion”) and trumpet the guilt of the “privileged” class. This madness is one reason I feel the need to respond to Dr. Christena Cleveland. 

Dr. Cleveland was asked by Cru (formerly Campus Crusade for Christ) leadership to speak to women, and men, at their recent national staff conference. We’ll leave the obvious “I do not permit a woman to teach or exercise authority over men” violation for another time and just deal with what she said, publicly and on the record. Exploring the “feminist” decision of Cru might be labeled sexist bigotry – forget that it’s addressed plainly in Scripture.

Over and over again, Dr. Cleveland wants Cru staff to feel guilty about their privileged backgrounds (how she knows all of their privileged backgrounds?). This, dear friends, is classism. Dr. Cleveland deeply wants privileged people to feel guilt over their “privilege.” Marx does much the same thing in the pages of Communist Manifesto, so it’s nothing new, really.

If classism is treating people differently based on their social or economic “class,” and it is evil, then we should also clarify the name of its brother, racism. Racism is treating any human differently, positively or negatively, based on skin color. Strangely, in the name of “racial reconciliation,” Dr. Cleveland speaks as a racist, too:

  • “Crusade needs to divest itself of whiteness and maleness,” she claims at one point.
  • The white, privileged class has “inherited a fault,” in gaining land 100+ years ago through government programs.
  • With a bit of class, race, and religious guilt, she claims, “Christians are accommodated in the West.”

The madness of liberalism is the desire to use racism to combat racism, to use murder to combat “unwanted” children, to use welfare to encourage work. The Bible does none of these. In fact, the Word of God goes to great, careful lengths to avoid racism when speaking of race, to avoid classism when speaking of class:

  • For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. Romans 10:12
  • For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace… Ephesians 2:14-15
  • Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all. Colossians 3:11

Phrases like “no distinction” and “there is not” teach us to stop looking at each other through the eyes of class and race. Trying to fight the fires of pride with more fiery arrogant racism is nonsense, Dr. Cleveland. Only Christ is the answer. Of him you spoke very little, seeming more interested in discussing race, class, and “white guilt.”

The Bible, conversely, is careful to condemn all of us – with actual evils we have done, not false ones – that we would come together to Christ.

 

 

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Shearing a Wolf’s Wool

Lots of writers do lots of write-y things with words. Some of them are good, some are bad, and some are just plain evil. The ones that are hard to detect are what the Bible calls “wolves in sheep’s clothing.” These are leaders, thinkers, and wordsmiths who cloak lies in truth-y language. However, once we learn the rules of solid biblical interpretation, the wolves lose their wool.

Once such wolf is Morgan (MA) Guyton. He writes at various places on liberal “Christian” issues, often twisting text after text to suit an agenda. In other pieces, he denounces the importance of a theological faith and decries belief in penal substitution. He also likes to twist the Bible to defend homosexuality.

Tuesday, Guyton posted “Six scriptures I would use to address Kevin DeYoung’s 40 questions for rainbow flag-waving Christians,” a sort of response to the aforementioned first piece by Rev. DeYoung. He first lauds other pro-sodomy responders (leaving out this excellent response by Douglas Wilson) before launching into his torturing of six biblical texts. 

This is the Word of God, let me remind you, that Guyton is handling. Let all the beasts of the field be silent before Him. We’ll take them in Guyton’s ordering, but with a more open Bible and a less “open” mind:

1.  Matthew 9:13: “Go and find out what this means: ‘I desire mercy not sacrifice’”

As will become a theme in our examination of these texts, Guyton has conveniently taken this one out of context. In Jesus’ quote of Hosea 6:6, He addresses the Pharisees’ fear of contamination around obvious sinners. True enough, and Guyton is right to call for association with and around sinners:

If Jesus’ interpretation of Hosea 6:6 summarizes God’s basic demand for humanity, which I think it does, then what God most wants from us is our radical hospitality for other people, not our willingness to make sacrifices to show how much we “glorify” him.

But this is what makes wolves so hard to spot: Guyton implies that this “mercy” removes the naming of sin as sin. But Jesus doesn’t shy away from naming these obvious sins; He never does. This is part of His “mercy.” A quick trip back to the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) or ahead to His diatribe against divorce (Matthew 19) shows us just how serious sexual immorality is to Jesus, and how seriously He loves us out of those sins.

Homosex is no less than, but is equal to and worse than, other forms of sexual immorality. It is serious enough that Jesus gave His own blood to save us from (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).

Hosea 6-7 has a more colorful explanation in the near context, one which Guyton conveniently forgets. In 6:5, God says He has already “hewn them [Ephraim and Judah] by the prophets… slain them by the words of my mouth, and my judgment goes forth as the light.” God has already delivered the law to His disobedient Israel, and judged them for it. How did they disobey? He calls their temple a place of “whoredom..defiled” in 6:10, and names them all “adulterers” in 7:4. Clearly, sexual immorality is in view.

What Jesus means then, in desiring mercy to sinners and not sacrifice, is that we are wrong when we think removing ourselves from others’ pain and sin looks good to God. This sinful arrogance is no holiness. What He doesn’t mean is that holiness is of no issue, or that there are no more sins. “Mercy,” Mr. Guyton, does not mean the removal of law or of repentance.

Jesus is the most supremely merciful human being (and God) to ever live, and he both ate with these sinners and called them to repentance from their very real, very present sins (parallel in Luke 5:32). In other words, sodomy is still wrong under this text.

2. Genesis 2:18: “It is not good that the man should be alone.”

Here Guyton begins more subtle appeals to the prima facie position that homosexuality is natural, normal, and allowable. He picks a doozy of a text to work from, the very place where God gives the man a woman for special companionship. After quickly tossing aside the creation account as “allegorical story” rather than “historical event,” Guyton is free to interpret as he pleases. He sees the main point of the text not as God giving himself glory, but rather “to provide the man with companionship.” Conveniently, to Guyton, the gender of said companion matters not. He then clarifies his meaning:

Now it’s true that our culture’s idolatry of marriage and the nuclear family (largely orchestrated by evangelical Christianity) has left us with a very diminished imagination for how companionship and community can occur between people, but if we’re using Genesis 2:18 as a moral guide for us, then it’s not good for gay people to be alone just so that fundamentalists can have an easier time interpreting their Bibles.

Notice the lengthy ad hominem against evangelicals. In other words, it is a bad historical tradition, not this text, that teaches one man-one woman marriage. But to say that this passage even allows for Adam-to-Adam companionship in marriage is to make an argument against the text. 

And talk about out of context! Guyton doesn’t even finish the verse, let alone the rest of the chapter. This is deception of a supreme grade. What the text says next (!!!) is that God “makes” a “helper fit for him [Adam].” None of those words are accidental.

What actually happens in the biblical text is that God gives the man a companion, who is specifically and importantly a woman. God even fits her for him. This is no accidental connection in the text. One man-one woman marriage is the precise application of this text according to verse 24, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”

“Man, his, his, his wife, one flesh.” These are all words Guyton has excised from his “bible” in lieu of a more palatable interpretation. This is precisely what wolves do.

3. Mark 2:27: “The Sabbath was made for humanity, not humanity for the Sabbath.”

The context of Mark 2 shows that Jesus is discussing what is good and lawful for the Sabbath. The Pharisees (to Guyton, these are often Bible-believing evangelicals, as we will see) charge Jesus with law-breaking. So he jumps to proof-texting:

This is precisely where the fault-line is between Christians like me and the fundamentalists. They need for there to be some Biblical laws that have no other explanation than “because God said so” or “for the sake of God’s glory.” If every law has an explanation in terms of its benefits for humanity, they think it takes away God’s sovereignty and leaves us with nothing more than secular humanism.

This seems like quite a leap. To Gutyon, if Jesus says the Sabbath is for humanity, then all of our understandings of God’s laws are also thrown out the window! 

The problem is that the author again “forgets” the second half of even one thought: “So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.” The point isn’t that Jesus is a LGBTQ-approving humanist; the point is that He rules and reorients everything to Himself. This has always been the point of marriage (see Genesis 2 in Ephesians 5, for instance), Mosaic law (the “tutor to Christ” in Galatians 3), and our bodies in general (Genesis 1:27f referenced in 1 Corinthains 6:20).

Apparently Guyton is uncomfortable here with translating the word anthropos as “man,” but that’s a separate – though related – line of questioning.

4. Romans 14:14: “I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself; but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean.”

It’s hard to get more ridiculous than #2, but this one sure does try. The text speaks of church members arguing over food (14:2) and day-observance (14:5f). The “nothing in itself is unclean” doesn’t refer to sexual license, because Paul summarizes it as “eating and drinking” in verse 17. 

Guyton doesn’t think so: 

Nothing is unclean in itself, but many things are unclean because of how our mind covets idols instead of God.

In Guyton’s terms, as long as we can maintain “our attentiveness to the presence of God in our lives and our ability to experience the bliss of union with Christ,” anything is permissible. Christian experience (Theme alert!) is the new rule of faith, not Scripture. If you can say you still love and experience God, Guyton teaches, go lay with anyone – man, woman, child, relative, animal – you please.

That might sound overstated, but it’s exactly the outcome of Guyton’s teaching.

5. 1 Corinthians 7:32, 35: “I want you to be free from anxieties… I say this for your own benefit not to put any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and unhindered devotion to the Lord.”

The soft wool of a wolf is when he says he follows sheep-flavored rules of interpretation. So Guyton nods along, “The best way to build a sexual ethic from the apostle Paul’s teachings is to look at Paul’s explicit rationale when he is directly offering prescriptive teaching about sexuality (1 Corinthians 7).” The problem is that this text isn’t the chair text; Ephesians 5 is. Ephesians 5 is gives the highest and clearest meaning to marriage: the glory of Jesus Christ in the church, His bride, a whore made a glorious woman. This text is driven by questions from the Corinthian church (7:1), but that still doesn’t allow it to be queerly twisted.

Guyton disagrees: “I believe that any Christian conversation about sexuality should use 1 Corinthians 7 as a foundation.” Thus, the author’s willful inattention to Ephesians 5 is why he can write things like: 

When Paul talks to the Corinthians directly about sex, he doesn’t say that marriage is the way that they will show the world how Christ loves the church or anything like that. He offers marriage as a “concession, not a command” (1 Corinthians 7:6) “because of cases of sexual immorality” (v. 2). In 1 Corinthians 7, marriage is fundamentally a question of social pragmatism.

with a straight face. Paul doesn’t teach that marriage is the paradigm for Christ’s love for the church?!? Have you lost Ezekiel 16, Hosea 1-3, Ephesians 5, and Revelation 19 from your “bible,” Mr. Guyton? What utter nonsense.

In a separate post on the same text, Guyton elaborates: 

So to me, the burden of proof for a Christian who wants to maintain an opposition to homosexuality is to demonstrate why and how monogamous same-gendered sexual intimacy clutters people with anxiety, contradicts good community order, or hinders devotion to God. These are not just proof-texts; they are more than speculative translations of obscure Greek words or mentions in passing of what Paul thinks is “unnatural.” They are reliable ethical principles for a community’s sexuality that Paul presents as such.

There is no “burden of proof for a Christian who wants to maintain an opposition to homosexuality,” and, even if there were one, it certainly isn’t demonstrating how sodomy is bad for our minds, communities, or personal faith experience. The place to look, Mr. Guyton, is in Scripture. Lots of texts, omitted from your false exposition, speak clearly.

Furthermore, say this text, however, even allows homo-practice is to make yet another argument from silence, and a particularly obvious one. Paul covers the gamut of known, lawful situations for marriage and for singleness. He nowhere covers sodomy, because it isn’t in his purview of Christian marital or singleness arrangements. In this text, that might sound like an argument from silence, except that he makes it quite plain in Romans 1 and 1 Corinthians 6. 1 Corinthians, in case he lost his place, is in the chapter immediately before. 

6. Matthew 25:40 “Just as you have done to the least of my brethren, you have done for me.”

Here comes an appeal to pity. Guyton calls this verse an extension of Hosea 6:6 (dealt with in #1 above), summarizing with, “The way that we honor God’s sovereignty insofar as queer people are concerned is by treating the queer people in our lives as though they are Jesus and asking them to pray that Jesus would live in our hearts also.” He again conveniently “forgets” the context.

The context of Matthew 25:31-48, the famed “Sheep and Goats” passage, is the professing church. Note that the kingdom is prepared for the sheep “from the foundation of the world” (25:34) and that the sheep loving, feeding, and housing the poor is done to “My brothers” (25:40). “Queer” people, to use Guyton’s term, are excluded until they repent (1 Cor. 6:9-11). So this text doesn’t work for that purpose.

Secondly, the goats are the ones who refuse to love Christians (25:41-48) and go to “eternal punishment” (25:46). Unrepentant homosexuals hate the Word of God, and, if they do come to a “Christian” “church”, either hate Him actively, or hate Him implicitly by remaking Him in their own image.

It is a lie, a dirty, dirty trick, to use this text to promote loving homosexuals apart from repentance, when their very lack of repentance is the warning for which this passage was written. In other words, unloving, unrepentant LGBTQ men and women, whether they attend “church” or not, are goats. They are not sheep, not brothers; the unrepentant are goats.

Concluding Questions for Mr. Guyton…

  1. What does “call sinners to repentance” mean in Luke 5:32? Did Jesus call sexually immoral sinners, like the prostitute, to turn away from sexual immorality, or not?
  2. What bearing do Genesis 2:18b (which you forgot in your exposition) and the end of the passage (2:24-25) have on your interpretation of Genesis 2:18a?
  3. Does the Sabbath being made for man mean that sodomy was made for man? If so, how does sodomy picture Christ and His church, as taught plainly in Ephesians 5?
  4. Does Romans 14:14 also teach that bestiality is permissible for Christians, as long as it doesn’t interfere with their experience of God and the bliss of union with Christ?
  5. If a believing community were to approve of consensual incest, would this be permissible under your interpretation of Paul’s sexual ethics from 1 Corinthians 7?
  6. What does the phrase “My brothers” mean in Matthew 25:40? What about in places like Matthew 12:50 and Matthew 18:21f? Could it possibly mean “everyone” in any of those passages?
  7. What place does the word “repentance” have in any of these texts? How exactly is sodomy not a sin to be repented of?

…and a Charge

Mr. Guyton, if you can write things like, “When I use these criteria [1 Cor. 7], I find pedophilia, incest, polygamy, bestiality, promiscuity, pornography, and adultery to be out of bounds, while monogamous straight and gay companionship are legitimate,” then you are a wolf without question. I am praying for your very soul as I write this, and these words are surely harsh. I pray the Lord waken you from death in your sins. He is life, He is truth, He is good. Repent of your unbelief in His Word, the person of His Son, and turn to Him.

But if you will not repent, please at least be honest with your family, church, ministry, and writing audience that you do not believe the Bible on its own terms. Resign from whatever posts you have that are associated with Christ, and stop trampling His name to advance your unbelieving interpretations.

You are tearing at the body of Jesus, for whom He gave His life. He will not take it lightly on the last day.

Losing the Gospel By Being “Missional”

“Missional” seems to be the new shibboleth for “Hey, we live for Jesus, and we think we’re cool.” The problem isn’t the emphasis on discipleship, but the emphasis on what we do instead of what Christ has done.

Theologians have warned over and over (and over and over) and over and over again that Christianity will always tend to return to works rather than grace. This is plainly true throughout Scripture and history. When the emphasis lies more on what we do than on what Christ has done, we are preaching man-centered works rather than Christ-centered grace.

Scan the blog posts, books, sermons, and Twitter feeds of our modern “missional” teachers, and you’ll see that many are more obsessed with the day-to-day of individuals living “missionally” (even going to lengths to show how “missional” their own churches are) than the age-to-age of Christ’s accomplishments in the gospel.

The proof is in the pudding. We can talk all day long about the gospel being great; but, until we preach it with great weight, urgency, and emphasis, we really don’t believe in its greatness. We’d simply rather talk about us.

The defense generaally comes back that such preachers are just “trying to help people” and “recover what’s been lost” in Christian discipleship. The funny thing is that’s not how the Bible does it. The Bible relentlessly, unapologetically, directly preaches Christ and Him crucified. Too often, Christian leaders don’t.

I appreciate the heart behind wanting to be “missional,” but only to a point. As C.S. Lewis cautioned, however, if we put second things first, we lose first and second things.

Free Will and Free Reading

How Autonomous Free-Will Ruins Theology

Once in conversation, I noticed a connection between our (wrong, evil, disastrous) idea of “free will” and how we read the Bible. It works like this: once the door of “free-will” is open to ourselves, we apply it to everything we read, too. Once we are free to “choose” God, we think we are free to “choose” whatever other “truth” fits our selfish hearts.

The alternative, should we not yet see, is to submit ourselves wholly to the Word of God  in personal decisions, in interpreting the Scripture itself, and in interpreting the world around us. Either the Word rules you, or you think you rule. It really is that simple.

But what most (though not all) bad interpretations come down to is simply an amplified sense of self. In all bad theologies, we become divinized versions of ourselves, able to contort and invent the Scriptures as we see fit. We don’t submit to the rules of Scripture (context, context, context; theological principles and reading the whole as a unit) because we have better rules.

Indeed, out of this false sense of righteous self, we reject the rules and make God’s Word (should we actually be able to “make” it) say what we say. Instead of speaking the Scripture, we force the Scripture to speak us.

Dear Pastor, Why Not Preach the Word?

One of my favorite radio hosts is always reviewing sermons, and I love it. So it made me wonder: why don’t you, dear pastor, preach the Word?

  1. Do you think that your ideas are wiser than God’s? No? Then preach the Word.
  2. Do you fancy your stories to be more entertaining than God’s Word? No? Then preach the Word.
  3. Do you find your topical sermons to be more directly applicable to people’s lives? Never! It canot be that you are a better exegete than the Holy Spirit! Preach the Word.
  4. Do you think your pop culture references are better connections than those inspired of the Spirit? No? Then preach the Word.
  5. Do you long to see souls saved from sin, death, and hell? God promises only one means, so preach the Word.
  6. Do you want to see Jesus Christ exalted over your own means, methods, and mole-hills? If not, leave the ministry. If so, preach the Word.
  7. Do you want to see Christ’s church upbuilt? Then preach the Word.
  8. Do you want to see your wife and children saved, strengthened, and sustained until the end? Your family vacation stories won’t do it. Preach the Word.
  9. Do you struggle with pride in your ministry? Only one means slays pride, so preach that Word.
  10. Do you care about the gospel ministry more than anything else you could give your life to? You’d better, so preach the Word.

There Ain’t No “Man Sauce”

I was talking to my students the other day about the Christian doctrine of manhood and womanhood, found preeminently in Genesis 1:27:

So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.

What we learn here is at least three key points:

  1. God is the creator of man, and He gives us a God-centered meaning. We are not self-created nor self-determining. From the beginning, autonomous humanity is a contradiction in terms.
  2. God created male and female in His own image. Both male humans and female humans glorify God by their respective designs. Men and women are different by design and yet united in their purpose to glorify their Creator.
  3. God created male and female persons from the beginning. God never thought of Adam as an gender-less being, only later to add on the “man sauce.” God never thought of Eve as an androgynous person, later deciding to dip her in a “lady potion.”

The fact that God created two genders, alike in purpose but different in design, means that from the beginning He conceived of us as gender-centric humans. All that we are, in the personhood-identity sense, is wrapped up in our identity as either male or female, but not both and not neither.

To put a point on it, God never thought of you as X person and later decided you would be a man or a woman. He always conceived of you as either a man or a woman because your gender is intrinsic to your personhood.

Our world would avoid an army of confusions if we understood that gender is not an afterthought, not an add-on. It is essential as males and females made in the image of God.

Archives: “Do Stuff” Still Isn’t the Gospel

Talking with a friend tonight, we were both reminded of the great glory of the grace of God in the gospel. God requires not that we “do stuff” to earn His favor or His forgiveness, but commands us to trust Jesus Christ for forgiveness of sins and eternal favor. The gospel isn’t that we “do stuff,” but that Jesus has already done all we need.

Here’s a rundown:

  1. Jesus Taught Justification by Faith Alone
  2. Did Jesus Teach Justification by Works?
  3. What Preaching the Gospel Is, and Isn’t
  4. Matthew 23: More Reasons “Do Stuff” Isn’t the Gospel
  5. “Do Stuff” Isn’t the Gospel
  6. Drink Deeply of Jesus Christ
  7. Hate at the Bottom of Your Heart
  8. Opinions We Make Into Law
  9. Is Your Church Characterized by Commands or Christ?

My prayer is always that we treasure Jesus Christ more through believing the gospel.

How to Disagree on the Insider Movement

. . . without being disagreeable. Kevin DeYoung posts three questions and three concerns in response to the current Christianity Today cover article on the “Insider Movement,” in which former Muslim converts to Christ decide to stay in their Muslim worship context.

He closes with this:

Christianity Today is to be commended for highlighting such an important issue for the global church. What is less encouraging is the cautious endorsement of the insider movement in their editorial and the many weaknesses evident in this featured interview. Let us pray for seminaries, denominations, pastors, missionaries, mission committees, churches, and parachurch agencies as they think through these significant challenges and try to avoid these attractive compromises.

The Wrong H-Word

On days like today, I’m thankful for the clarity of Scripture. The Bible makes no “if”s, “except”s, or “only-when”s about it: unrepentant homosexuality is a damning sin.

But, when the pagan President of the United States invites a high-profile (celebrity?) pastor to pray at his highness’ inauguration, the homosexual crowd seizes the opportunity to use “anit-gay” sermon quotes to publicly break the pastor’s well-profiled bones. Before fracture is finished, the pastor runs away.

I understand not wanting to be lied about in public, but for the words of Scripture? Christians have to hold on better than that. Jesus said, “You will be hated by all for My name’s sake.”

Christians who run away fear the H-word “homophobe” more than “Holy One.” God is holy, and His holiness is more fearsome than the slanderous blurbs on ABC News.

The holiness of God doesn’t excuse homosexuality, and it doesn’t excuse cowardice, either. Calling homosexuals, thieves, adulterers, and coveters to repentance is brave, loving, and absolutely necessary for salvation. Those who fail to do so may find themselves joining unrepentant sinners in eternity:

    But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death. (Revelation 21:8 ESV)

A Land Dripping with Testosterone

Lately, research and anecdote have found that the result of Western feminism has been . . . the loss of femininity.

Imagine that.

Controversial as his insights may be, Turkish writer Yuksel Aytug was onto something when he explained how “Womanhood is Dying at the Olympics.” The Daily Mail’s photos, meant to retort Aytug’s thesis, were de facto support of it. In competitive settings, some female athletes have begun to look rather (fe)MALE.

Feminist’s abortion and “reproductive rights” wars have only further embedded the idea that women are better removed from the biology that displays their God-given differences from men. Feminists, in the end, would rather have women – business suits, power attitude, lean muscle and all – look and act like men.

Rather than God’s land dripping with milk and honey, where men and women complement each other with their beautiful differences, feminists envision a land dripping with testosterone.

Hiding Behind Conservatism

On “Christian” Cowardice, the Lukewarm “Church,” and False Converts

In my state, we’re in the midst of a popular vote on whether or not we should exclusively define marriage as a union between one man and one woman. Several professing “Christians” have posted statements like this:

  • “Love is love is love.”
  • “Doesn’t Jesus tell us to love each other?”
  • “Legal marriage and spiritual marriage are two different, unrelated things.”
  • “I’m not sure this law should be in the state constitution.”

What troubles me more than the muddled thought processes behind such statements is the fact that they reveal an ignorance of the whole of Scripture. Such words have yanked passages out of context, used them in ways God never intended, and thrown them aside.

Such issues shine spotlights on our supposedly converted Christians and evangelical churches. If someone has no concern for God’s Word as He wrote it, is that person converted at all? Has he truly been transferred from the domain of darkness and into the kingdom of God’s beloved Son? Wouldn’t it show in the way he looks at the world?

A converted man would he care more for people’s souls than for the supposed pillars of conservatism. A converted man would stand up against evil, even when everyone else stood against him. A converted man would preach this gospel, live this gospel, and die for this gospel.

“Hold on, that seems harsh.” Is it? When professing Christians cajole, contort, and apologize to get around God’s Word, do they really love God?

The way that Christians respond publicly to abortion and marriage will be one true test of our faith. Do we believe God’s Word or do we care more for other man-centered issues? Do we fear God or man? Indeed, who is our God?

Are You a Christian Coward? Am I?

A quick scan of Scripture’s calls to boldness in the gospel quickly reveals that the swath of American Christianity just doesn’t measure up:

  • Boldness is one distinguishing mark of righteousness: “The wicked flee when no one pursues, but the righteous are bold as a lion,” (Proverbs 28:1).
  • The early church prayed first for boldness following persecution: “And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness,” (Acts 4:29).
  • God answers this prayer immediately by sending His Spirit: “And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness,” (Acts 4:31).
  • Because of the resurrection of Christ, Paul boldly fought with wild beasts at Ephesus: “What do I gain if, humanly speaking, I fought with beasts at Ephesus?” (1 Corinthians 15:32).
  • In Christ, we have bold access to the Father: “in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him,” (Ephesians 3:12).
  • Christians are meant to preach the gospel boldly: “And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear,” (Philippians 1:14).
  • Again: Paul was “proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance,” (Acts 28:31).

Recently, my state had a much-discussed vote on a marriage amendment, and, though I won’t be discussing that amendment directly here, it did shed some light on a particular subject. Many Christians are afraid (read: opposite of bold), sinfully afraid, to speak out against sin.

Jesus was bold. He told sinners they were vipers, children of Satan, lost, rebels, worse than prostitutes, and the like. And many sinners didn’t like that. By their will, that’s why He got killed. He was bold, too, in death and resurrection.

Because He’s risen, we’re called to be bold lions, not cowards. So let us ask ourselves, maybe for the first time, “Am I a Christian coward?”:

  1. Do I take every opportunity to preach the good news, when people lead me to it (in season) and when they don’t (out of season)? If not, why not? We may find that our reasons are couched in fear: fear of losing friends, fear of losing popularity (worship of fame), fear of the government, fear of exalting God’s Word over other words, and the like.
  2. When I do speak the gospel, do I emphasize sin, righteousness, judgment, and hell, before I even get to the cross? If not, it could be that I am too afraid of those “negative” topics and their potential effects on my hearers.
  3. Do I speak boldly when someone is sinning boldly? (Think here of public child abuse, misogyny, abusive speech, stealing, reviling God’s Word, and the like.) The Bible says that the righteous rebuke the wicked. Do you?
  4. Do I speak publicly on moral issues? This doesn’t mean we become Bible-thumping hate-mongers. It means that our country is constantly discussing moral issues, particularly two at this time, marriage and abortion, and we have a social and moral mandate for God’s glory to speak His Word. Do you do it?

To the degree that we do these things, our hearts are trusting in the substitutionary death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In Him, we become bold, gracious, gospel-dependent, and alive.

To the degree that we do not do these things, God says we are cowards, afraid to trust in Christ and valuing our own sinful culture over the riches of the God of heaven.

God forgive us and help us.

T4G Panel #1: Complementarianism

Below are some highlights from the first panel discussion at Together for the Gospel 2012.

John Piper:

  • “[Complementarianism] a vision that steers a path between the nullification or minimization of differences as they are played out in society and the abuse of those differences.”
  • “We want to call women to full personhood and men to initiative and leadership in a Christlike demeanor.”
  • “I fought battle after battle with college students in the late 70’s and early 80’s over these things, but now we have thousands of young men and women who are receiving this [complementarianism] and flourishing.”
  • “The question that egalitarians can never answer for me is, ‘What do you do with a little 8-year-old boy that asks, “Daddy, what does it mean to grow up and be a man, and not a woman?” Or a girl who asks, “Mommy, what does it mean to grow up and be a woman, and not a man?” ‘ “
  • “Carefully walk through Ephesians 5 about marriage. It’s what every woman wants in her marriage.”
  • “Walk through the eight or nine evidences from Genesis 1 and 2 [sic, he included 3 in his explanation] that show that role reversal is what wrecked the world.”

Russell Moore:

  • “I fear that we have many people within evangelicalism who ‘check off’ complementarianism but live functionally egalitarian lives and marriages.”
  • “I recently spoke with a woman who told me her husband wants to get a sex-change operation. He didn’t want to leave her. They were going to stay together. Now, Martin Luther never had to deal with that.”
  • “When a wife submits herself to her own husband, when a young woman submits herself to a future husband she does not yet know, she refuses to submit to other men and the culture’s idea of women being defined by how men see them.”
  • “We as the church need to stop mimicking the outside culture in the way women are portrayed.”
  • “[You have to pay attention to complementarianism because] you have to deal with specifically complementarian texts: Ephesians 5, 1 Peter 3, 1 Timothy 2, and others. And you have personal sanctification issues to deal with.”
  • “Complementarianism bears the cross.”
  • “When Jesus washes the feet of the Church, she refuses Him. . . When He is going to die for her, Peter tries to stop him.”
  • “Jesus always gently and lovingly, but decisively, leads His bride.”

Greg Gilbert:

  • “We have men who think that complementarianism really has no feet on it until you come to a disagreement, that they have no role in leading in the home, in establishing an environment in the relationship, in taking initiative.”
  • “To get to an egalitarian position, you have to bring in some bad DNA, some bad principles and ideas, into your interpretation of Scripture. And eventually you will bring that to other texts as well.”
  • “As a pastor of a local church, you can’t ‘back-burner’ the issue [gender relations, complementarianism, etc.], because it’s so practical.”
  • “Too often, we let the discussion [about gender roles] be about negatives rather than positives.”
  • “God-given role does not speak to God-given dignity.”
  • “God has every right to give out roles to His created people.”

For more resources, go to CBMW.org . Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, and other resources, are available as free pdfs.

A New Creation Like a Loaded Arrow

Another one of the most misquoted/misused passages in the Bible has to be 2 Corinthians 5:17, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has gone; behold, the new has come.” People tend to explain this passage in one of two inadequate ways:

  1. Blank: This way says, “Look, you’re new! Everything has changed! You’re a different person, better, invigorated, alive!” But this way fails to explain what this new creation entails.
  2. Glorified: This way emphasizes the newness of this re-creation, “You won’t suffer any more! You’re a new creation, just like the heavens and the earth!”

Now look at the context. Verse 15 says explicitly, “And [Christ] died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.”

Note the purpose statement here: “That those who live might no longer live for themselves for him who for their sake died and was raised.” This purpose of Christ’s death, which re-creates believers, has a negative element and a positive element.

  • Negative: Christ’s death and resurrection accomplish repentance for us to turn from our former way of life. And what was that evil way of life? Living for ourselves.
  • Positive: Christ’s death and resurrection further buy grace for us for the faith to live for Christ, our substituting Savior.

The problem with the common explanations of 2 Cor. 5:17, then, is that these fail to focus the new creation on Jesus Christ. Verse 15 speaks through the ages: “that those who live might no longer live for themselves for him who for their sake died and was raised.”

This is the new creation: not money or health or more energy but an all-encompassing, sin-slaying love for Jesus Christ. We’re not blank creations nor do we yet have glorified bodies; we’re loaded arrows headed for Christ our Treasure.

Good Deeds And/Or Gospel?

I intentionally inverted the order in the title, because Paul gives us the correct connection in Titus 3:4-8:

But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared,
he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness,
but according to his own mercy,
by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,
whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior,
so that being justified by his grace
we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things,
so that those who have believed in God
may be careful to devote themselves to good works.
These things are excellent and profitable for people.

As someone who struggles to be devoted to “good works” that are “excellent and profitable for people,” hearing a ton of “do better” from well-meaning advisors, it is refreshing and life-giving that God doesn’t do that here.

Let me repeat: the Lord of the universe, all-wise and powerful, full of zeal for His glory and compassion for His children, doesn’t just tell us to “be devoted to good works” first. Instead, He teaches his leaders to remember the gospel (v.4-7): that God saved us in His goodness, not because of our own, through the Holy Spirit through Jesus Christ, who justifies us and gives us a sure hope of eternal life. Then, because of this, he wants us to be zealous for good works.

Note the order: gospel, then good works. Gospel then good works. It’s not the other way around.

When people have a “works” problem, they really have a heart problem, and only the gospel addresses the heart. Good works can “adorn” the gospel (Titus 2:10), but never are the gospel.

So, when I fail in good works, remind me of the gospel. Remind me of God’s grace in Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit to helpless sinners like me. Remind me that Christ died to redeem me from lawless deeds and purify for Himself a people for His own possession who are zealous for good deeds (Titus 2:14).

Then, and only then, there is a place to explain these good deeds. But, please, don’t just tell me to do good works. That’s “do stuff.” That’s legalism. That’s not the gospel.

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