Wednesday, June 25, 2014

What Our Political Views Reveal About Our Love of God and Biblical Conviction

In our world today, especially in the United States of America, we are a part of a democratic system that allows an incredible amount of freedom compared to most other countries. Indeed, this was the one thing that filled the sails of the first pilgrims and settlers as they traveled here and tried to carve out a living in a completely raw land.

For some pilgrims they only wanted freedom to build their own houses wherever they wanted. For many others, they sought religious freedom from persecution back home. No matter the case, the people wanted freedom from oppression.

Only a handful of centuries and 44 Presidents later, we are growing up in a culture that has only ever known this freedom and has become groomed to think in such a context all of the time. The way in which we cast ballots and vote for whomever we want to fill a political office reveals that the people determine what goes on in this country. The people vote themselves freedoms and restrictions. They vote themselves money and taxes. They vote themselves leaders that think like them or that will do what they want. They vote in a way that is informed by their own views on morality and what is “right” to them.

This is the rule of American life. The United States of America is deemed sovereign. The Constitution is deemed as authoritative. The citizens of America are deemed a free people and each century has revealed the growing yearning for more and more freedoms. With the demand for certain freedoms, comes arguments from all sides on what freedoms are necessary and what Constitutional amendments should still apply to modern times.

God, who’s throne is the heavens and the Earth His footstool, has given us governmental institutions to protect us from enemies outside and keep us in control from within. Romans 13 makes very clear that “there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God” (13:1).

Whether a government is Godly or not does not matter. We are still under their authority and expected to be subject to them, no matter the freedoms they allow or disallow us, so long as we are not commanded to sin. If the government took our guns away, we can be upset about it, but in our anger we should not sin and retaliate, though a controllable appeals process could be completely acceptable. If we really understood and rested in the sovereignty of God, then gun control would be the least of our worries.

Some of the Godliest people we read about in our historical accounts lived in the most oppressive governmental situations, under regimes of anti-Christian moralism. Just think back to the medieval ages and into the Reformation period when persecution started coming from the government and even the very church that purported to represent God. John Huss, Martin Luther, John Wycliffe, William Tyndale, John Calvin, to name a few…were not exactly free men like we consider ourselves today in America. Their dedication to sola Scriptura (Scripture Alone) got many of them killed.

Let’s go back further. Think about Joseph and Daniel for instance. They served at the highest levels of governments that did not honor God, but they still did individually, even if it potentially meant their life.

If Daniel or Joseph were given an opportunity to vote for their civilization’s establishment of moral law, how do you think they would make their decisions? Would they vote for laws that allowed gay marriage, or obliterated the lines between men and women in their unique roles? Would they vote for the freedom of killing children in the womb? Would they vote for no-fault divorce? Would they vote for leaders who campaigned on legalizing these rights by calling them “good”?

Put another way, would Daniel or Joseph allow “freedom” to dethrone God and His law?

To our deep shame, I think many professing Christians today do just that. In the name of freedom we have separated our conviction of Scripture from the checkbox on the ballot. In the secrecy of the local school gymnasium voting booth, we are abandoning God’s clear commandments and working against His call for us to be holy and to go out and preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ that will save people from the penalty of the very sins we are voting to make legal.

As Christians, we can’t have it both ways.

The freedom we have in America is an amazing gift in itself! Why would we then take that gift and use it to rebel against God? We have political parties in this country that campaign on legalizing the very things that Scripture has condemned since the beginning of time and we are arrogant about it!

The Democratic Party today prides itself on tolerance of just about everything. Abortion is approved. Homosexuality and gay marriage is approved. Light drug use is approved. These are at federal and state levels. Every Christian that votes for someone with these beliefs and the intention of applying them to governmental rule is sinning against God. I cannot understate this enough. The Bible makes this crystal clear.

In Romans 1, Paul talks about how people rebel against God and suppress the truth by their unrighteousness and, although God is known to them, they exchange the glory of Him for idols. For these reasons we are told that “God gave them up” over and over.

“Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves…” (1:24).

 

God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error” (1:26-27).

 

God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless” (1:28-31).

What we see here is a condemnation of all kinds of specific sin, but it is also generalized in the final list to cover nearly all sin in itself, i.e. “Haters of God”. Hating God means you do not love God and we know that Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (Jn. 14:15). Even the phrase “inventors of sin” implies that you don’t need to have the Bible list every specific sin in order to know it is sin. The fruit of the Spirit of God makes abundantly clear what is good and acceptable, the final characteristic (fruit) in that list being self-control!

The verse you have been waiting for follows our Romans passage. Again, I want to be clear that voting for people who uphold flagrant unrighteousness is a sin:

“Though they know God's righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them” (1:32).

Here, Scripture shows us that the sinner is not only the one fleshing out the sins as outlined above, but it is also the person approving the practice of it. This verse literally reveals the fact that few Christians run in liberal circles at the governmental level because the policy of their liberality is grounded in their being liberated from any outside source placing a limit on their lifestyle.

Furthermore, this verse also reveals the sin involved for any individual approving the practice of it, which means the voters of such politicians and/or policies. God has said this, not me. While we may be tempted to get mad that someone would make such a statement, think again about Joseph and Daniel. Too far removed to be relevant? If someone were to think that, it would just prove the extent to which the Bible is authoritative for their life, which reveals the real problem.

Remember that to God, “one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (2 Pet. 3:8). This means that Daniel and Joseph would have had the chance to vote just 3 or four days ago! Do you really think that time has softened God’s wrath on unrighteousness? Has His holiness slipped? Has His hatred of sin waned? Friends, no.

Christians are people who have been regenerated by the Holy Spirit and now walk according to the Spirit by the grace of God. The Spirit of God would not contradict Himself and His eternal decrees by actually moving someone to vote in favor of legalizing sexual immorality, child murder, and a loss of self-control in drug use.

Is this a politically charged blog post? Yes. For the sake of a political party? No! Even the Republican Party is starting to slip into the same moral dilemma. In fact, some are already there. There is going to come a time when the best vote will be a fill-in-the-blank because you cannot in good conscience use your wonderful right to vote for approvers of iniquity.

Is this silly? How could that ever be useful? Why vote at all? Perhaps there are times when we don’t vote, but the main question is whether or not we are honoring God in the voter’s box, or hating God? We must be thinking bigger than us. We must be humbled and recognize who God is and what He has said.

To be specific yet again, I believe one of the worst and most flagrantly sinful platforms someone could possibly campaign on is the Libertarian platform. Again, the term liberty is being used because it is becoming a term that means liberated from moral restrictions. The only way to think about this kind of freedom is to completely ignore God.

The Libertarian agenda would decrease or completely eradicate laws against prostitution, sodomy, gambling, drug use, etc. They don’t consider these crimes. Why? They do not involve hurting other people or their property. They are consensual acts. This is right off of the Libertarian Party website.

What many politicians end up doing is redefining what sin is. They are the recipients of Isaiah’s warning:

“Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter” (5:20).

Our country believes that we are mainly good people who are and should be free to do what we want because that is where the true principle of freedom lays. Moral boundaries have become intrusive and offensive in a culture that rejects God and His authoritative Word.

The Feminist movement has never been happier as the world continues to ridicule actual roles of men and women inside and outside the home. All Biblical counsel is even questioned by professing Christians who grow up with the plan of having two incomes and putting the kids in daycare. While some parents may be forced to do such in the event of abandonment, or what have you, the heart’s desire of every mother should be to stay at home (Titus 2:4) and raise the children in a Godly way that produces more Godly offspring. That’s what God seeks in Christian families (Mal. 2:15). If we don’t operate our families in this way, we actually revile the word of God (Titus 2:5)! May we never be guilty of such wrong.

Men are to provide for the home (1 Tim. 5:8) and also give spiritual leadership and set an example for all in the home. Men and women are not equal in function; they are equal in their spiritual state before God be it as unrighteous or righteous. Regenerated or under condemnation. There is no distinction as far as that goes (Rom. 3:23; Gal. 3:28).

When Christian men and women realize that they are each equipped with different abilities – mentally, hormonally, physically, etc. – they will realize that they are not lesser due to the fact that one works at a building and one works at home and raises the kids. Whoever decided that staying at home to raise children was lesser in importance and consequently a sexist problem? It is of utmost importance! It still blows my mind that women are told it is a substandard role. Only the most ignorant fool would espouse such a belief. If that’s not important, then sure, anyone can raise your kids.

I am writing to Christian parents to consider who your Lord is and to really consider why He told us how the best way to live is. The practical benefits are a blessing. The spiritual and potential eternal benefits are priceless. For us to call good (being a stay at home mom, for instance) – evil (sexism), is wrong and it flies in the face of the God who created us.

It should come as no surprise that there is less concern in the world for who raises the children since there is less conviction in what is right and wrong. Parents aren’t on the hook anymore for teaching their children Godliness since the parents don’t believe there are moral absolutes. They tell their kids the choice is theirs when they get older. Take it or leave it. There is no urgency of being right with God because God Himself has been replaced with Self. No God = No Judgment = No Worries.

In reality, the only freedom we have as sinners, before we are redeemed by God’s grace, is found in our being free of righteousness – but we are enslaved to sin (Rom. 6:20). This is the reality of the state of fallen man. When sinners create laws to allow the freedom to sin, they are really reveling in their slavery to it.

The Apostle Paul goes on in this passage as he speaks to those Roman Christians who gave up their sin and turned to Christ:

What fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (6:21-23).

Where is freedom? It is in the redemptive work of Christ Jesus! Will Christians ever vote America to a perfectly moral state? No! However, we must not aid in its decline. Even if we did see a completely moral country…that doesn’t make anyone a Christian, so our concern for the eternal outcome of even our “moral” friends should be much.

Where is freedom? The Christian should know this more than anyone else. We should not approve and vote for sin to be legal. Voting for the freedom to sin is antithetical to the holiness of God. We will be held accountable/culpable for the people we vote into power.

Where is freedom? It is only found where there is no sin. That is true freedom.

“When one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” (2 Cor. 3:16).


The Democratic or Republican or Libertarian party may have the best plan for the middle class, or tax reform, or crime, but if they can’t get the definition of life, marriage, familial matters and sexuality, right, then they should not have our vote as it would be an offense to God. Not only that, if you can’t get those basic fundamental definitions right, do you really think they will be able to handle the vast complexities of financial reform anyway? Not a chance.

Don’t selfishly prioritize the middle class and financial reform over the preservation of babies and familial constructs. Don’t dethrone God for the sake of our self-perceived notion of freedom. Let us vote and act like people who are indwelled with the Holy Spirit of God, the testimony of the Word and with full conviction (1 Thess. 1:5).

If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land” (2 Chron. 7:14).



Just a final note:  This post is not meant to make anyone mad, but it is written with the believer in mind as an encouragement not to say one thing about belief and faith in God and then act and even vote in a way that God would never approve of. My hope is that I have shown from Scripture why our political leanings are a testimony in themselves and a revealing factor of our own convictions and whether they are based on God’s Word or our own. Oftentimes, Scripture will smooth us out, even if by using the low-grit sandpaper of His Word. Correction and discipline seem painful at the time, but it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it (Heb. 12:11).

Monday, June 16, 2014

When Christians Take God's Name in Vain

I have sensed an interesting trend. It seemed good at first, but now I am left with a sense of grief. Have you ever wondered why it is that Jesus’ name is somehow becoming “easier” to say and use? I mean, really easy. Too easy. Casual, even! Here is what I mean…the context in which people speak of our Lord Jesus Christ seems too often to drop the Lord and the Christ while throwing his first name around for every silly fancy that comes to mind. As a family member recently put it, too many people treat our Lord as if He is just the guy next door that we can talk to however we like. Reverence and awe seem to be a scarce disposition among the saints nowadays.

The name of our Lord Jesus Christ is sacred. Jesus is, after all, God Himself in the flesh. How, and in what context, we utter it ought to be done with the highest regard for Him and His glory. The truth of the matter is…the way we use the Name(s) of God is a direct representation of how high or low we actually view God.

The context in which people speak of our Lord Jesus Christ seems too often to drop the ‘Lord’ and the ‘Christ’.

When you say His Name, does it reveal your reverence and awe of Him? Respect? Adoration? Love? Fear? The highest regard? The recognition of your depravity which has been regenerated to a new creation by grace and mercy, which you should have never received? Does it?

Or, when we say His Name, is it in jest? Casual? Light-hearted? Silly? Irreverent? Meaningless? Worthless? In vain? With no regard to His sovereignty? No regard to His worthiness? Is it?

Dear Christian, this is serious. The way that we speak of God reveals what we really think of God.

Some of the most painful things for me to hear in this world are not necessarily the vulgar words from the mouths of unbelievers, but the way that the Name of our holy and almighty God is misused. The worst case scenario, though, is when someone who is a professing believer in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior – uses His name in vain.

A.W. Tozer once said something to the effect that anyone who uses God’s name in vain is revealing their lack of the fear of God. You do not fear God if you misuse His Name. Plain and simple.

The most recent article I wrote was on the subject of the words in our worship music and how vital it is that they are theologically sound and God-exalting. Words are important. It is by the very Word of God that we live (Matt. 4:4). It is with words that we understand meaning and ultimately, understand truth.

The Apostle Paul said, “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? […] So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Rom. 10:14-15,17).

God has purposed words to convey meaning.

Additionally, we will actually give an account for every single careless word that we speak (Matt. 12:36). If we cannot bridle our tongue, then our religion is deemed worthless (Js. 1:26). It is out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks, whether good or evil (Lk. 6:45)!

If our day to day words are so important to God and so necessary for communicating meaning, worth, value, or understanding, then why do we ever utter the Name of our Almighty God with anything but careful fear?

The word “fear” is a word with joint meanings, essentially: reverence & awe. It comes from the Greek word phobos.

The command to “fear God” is found all throughout Scripture.

King Solomon said that the whole duty of man is to “fear God and keep His commandments” (Ecc. 12:13).

The Apostle Peter: “Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God” (1 Pet. 2:17a).

The angel in Revelation 14:7 said, “Fear God and give Him glory.”

It is this disposition that marks the true believer. It is this disposition of reverence and awe that will naturally manifest itself in our words, especially in the way that we speak His holy Name.

When the earthquake took place right after Christ yielded up His spirit on the cross and died, Matthew 27:54, in the ESV, says that the centurion was filled with awe (phobos). The NAS says that he was filled with fear (phobos)!

When we are told to fear God, we are told to stand in awe of Him. When we utter His Name, how do we sound doing it? What is the intent of our comment? Are we making a passing comedic comment to someone, or are we elevating one’s gaze to Him in awe? Are we dropping His Name in our anger, or are we praising His Name in reverence?

The kicker is this: Many people don’t understand the extent to which taking God’s name in vain can go. Put another way, there are countless ways that we can use His Name in vain, without ever prefacing it with “Oh my”.

For one thing, when rightly and reverently stated, one can say, “O my God, I am ashamed and blush to lift my face to you, my God, for my iniquity has risen higher than my head, and my guilt has mounted up to the heavens” (Ez. 9:6).

Or consider David: “I delight to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart” (Ps. 40:8). Or, “O my God, in you I trust; let me not be put to shame; let not my enemies exult over me” (Ps. 25:2).

In every instance the writers are crying out to God. They are actually talking to Him. They are not talking to someone else; they are not joking about something; they are not mad at something. They are praying directly to God, so they are addressing God directly.

The definition of “vain” is this: without real significance, value, or importance; baseless or worthless; ineffectual or unsuccessful.

Now let’s have the heart-breaking moment of recalling anytime we said God’s name that wasn’t expressing real value, worth, reverence, or importance.

Friends, I think many more of us are guilty of this than we think. We should never say His Name unless we have an intent to talk to Him in prayer; teach about Him; or speak reverently of Him in general. Otherwise, don’t waste His Name in worthless, unimportant talk. Don’t speak His name in vain.

God has spoken very clearly on this issue. If He has something to say about His own name, then we need to take it to heart:

“You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain” (Ex. 20:7).

Deuteronomy 5:11 reiterates the same thing.

Think about how else the term “in vain” is used in Scripture. It always means unsuccessful, pointless, worthless:

“A scoffer seeks wisdom in vain, but knowledge is easy for a man of understanding” (Prov. 14:6).

In vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men” (Matt. 15:9).

“If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain” (1 Cor. 15:14).

“Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches the city, the watchman stays awake in vain” (Ps. 127:1).

Now let’s use this last verse as a spring-board to understanding something better: On the flip side, nothing that God does is in vain. Since He is all-powerful and sovereign and ordains blessing and calamity, He guarantees the outcome of what He decrees all by Himself. He never says anything in vain because everything He says is of immense value, importance, significance and worth. Everything that He says is going to happen…will indeed happen! It will be effectual and successful.

I have not said in vain that I would do this evil to them” (Ez. 6:10).

“[God’s] grace toward [Paul] was not in vain” (1 Cor. 15:10).

We must seek to be more like our God who has called us to worship Him in spirit and in truth (Jn. 4:23) and in reverence and awe (Heb. 12:28). Only God’s enemies take His Name in vain (Ps. 139:20). May we not align ourselves with them!

Here’s an interesting fact about the saints of God. By definition, we are a reverent people. The Greek word for “saint” is hagios, but it is almost always translated as holy, although it is also used to describe the people of God. No wonder as we are called by God to be what…? Holy as He is (1 Pet. 1:15).

The word hagios is similar to the Greek word hagnos, which means: exciting reverence; pure. When we read the letters from the apostles we see the word hagios used for the saints as well as the Holy (hagios) Spirit to indicate that we are indwelled by Him and made holy by Him. The saints are the holy priesthood, the holy nation chosen by God (1 Pet. 2:5,9). They are the holy people who revere God in word and deed!

Do we act like it? If the Holy Spirit has truly regenerated us, then we will.

The reality is this: the way we use God’s name reveals a very deep truth about us. It reveals if we are people of conviction and maturity, or scant beliefs and immaturity. It could be the difference between being a true Christian or not.

A person who continually meditates on God’s Word day and night; who knows that it is by His Word that they live; and that the only way to really know God and His heart is through His revelation; then they will not be prone to speak of God casually, or indifferently. They will be very careful not to take His Name in vain. This person will speak with tenderness in their voice and with a humble disposition because they know who it is they are speaking about and they know that the holy God of Heaven demands reverence in our utterance at all times.

A person who doesn’t take the Bible serious enough to study it deeply, let alone read semi-regularly, will be much more prone to taking God’s name in vain because they have much less information to go off of when speaking of God. If you speak about God in an inaccurate way, you are taking His Name in vain. If you speak about God in a deceptive way, then you are taking His Name in vain.

When churches across the globe promise health, wealth, prosperity, power, healings, visions, new revelation, salvation by works, etc…they are all taking God’s Name in vain (Matt. 15:9). They are using His Name in a false, unworthy and irreverent manner. They are using His Name in a way that is ineffectual and powerless.

In many churches today, I fear that the man Jesus is only respected as the Son of Man and that’s it. The way that many Christians speak of our Lord Jesus Christ is in a way that a Mormon or Muslim would be comfortable…a good guy who can show us practical ways to live a good life!

I fear that we are insufficiently addressing our Lord and Savior when we don’t address Him as our Lord and Savior and as God Himself. We must be much more careful in how we teach about God and how we talk about Him in our day to day conversations. If the unbelieving world doesn’t notice a sense of reverence and seriousness in us when talking about God, then what message is that sending?

“From the rising of the sun to its setting, the name of the Lord is to be praised” (Psalm 113:3)!

Let us not be casual or indifferent about the living God. Let us not be arrogant or presumptuous in how we speak of the one, true, holy God. Let us not ever say His Name unless it is in praise, in teaching, or in pointing people to Scripture, or to know Him better. Don’t forget, we’re talking about the holiness of God in all of His manifestations – Father, Son & Holy Spirit. Don’t misuse any of His Names.

If we ever say God’s name in a way that is not meant for praise or reverence or exaltation, then we are taking His Name in vain and we must confess this sin and repent of it (turn away from it) and cease doing it.

Soli Deo Gloria!

 

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Worship Leaders, Step Back and Remember: Lyrics Are Paramount


The statement is true that the lyrics of our music used within God’s Church are of utmost importance. This cannot be understated, yet it seems that too often it is overlooked as a secondary issue. Why? Usually, it is because we lean towards our gut feeling and emotional impulse that the music itself solicits instead. When we hear a song that has been composed with thoughtful dynamics and builds, accentuating the right beats, pulling back at the right time for reflection and then pushing forward with energy, we are left thinking that the song was powerful, captivating, epic, etc. Then if we really want to be philosophical and dogmatic, we can listen to the lyrics.

This shouldn’t be the case.

It is true that music, in and of itself, is emotional. If you were to sit down and listen to well composed thematic songs then you would instantly be brought to think about things that the music helps to conjure up in our minds. Some songs can only leave us feeling like we are sailing on the high seas, or standing in an elevator, or running away from a bear, or about to be run over by a train until someone pulls you out at the last minute, or falling in love. With no screen and no words, our minds can feel these emotions. This is the beauty of music, but this is also the danger of it, especially within the Church.

When Jesus told the woman at the well, in John 4, that true worshipers will worship in spirit and truth, it is important to remember that the truth He is speaking of is the truth of the Word of God. Truth is never subjective. It is always objective. Meaning, it is what it is. What it says and reveals has an objective purpose that is not to be translated in different ways based on the subject receiving it.

He told the woman, “You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews.” (Jn. 4:22)

How is it he can make a statement like that?

First off, the Israelite tribe had always been God’s chosen people and through them God would raise up the Messiah to save them from their sin. Jesus was that Jewish Messiah, so salvation quite literally came from the Jews. Even before Christ, true salvation was found only in those who's faith was in the promised Messiah (to come!).

Another testament to this is found in Paul’s letter to the Romans. Of the Israelites, Paul said, “To them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ…” (Rom. 9:4-5).

They worshiped what they knew to be true because it was God Himself who revealed the truth to them through the giving of the law, the ministry of the prophets and then through Christ Himself.

We are under no different expectation to worship what we know. This is to be contrasted to worshiping how or what we feel.

Paul speaks to this exact issue and we see it clearly addressed in 1 Corinthians 14. He is telling this church in Corinth that they need to get their priorities right in their worship services so that everybody is edified and that God is honored.

Starting in verse 14, he has just finished telling them that they should only speak in tongues (languages) when someone can interpret them. Otherwise, no one knows what they are really saying and it is a fruitless exercise. Paul’s thrust throughout this whole passage is that the congregation is to understand and comprehend everything, so that they are edified with the truth, which happens through clear prophesying (preaching) of words.

“For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful. What am I to do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will pray with my mind also; I will sing praise with my spirit, but I will sing praise with my mind also” (14:14-15).

Make no mistake that while the various un-interpreted tongues were a big part of their problem at Corinth, the big takeaway that Paul wanted them to get out of his corrective letter was to have a service where the mind was fully engaged and not given to mindless emotion. He wanted them edified, not confused.

By being aware of what was being taught and able to sing comprehensible songs, they were being built up (edified!), which is the entire point of the local assemblies of the Church in the first place, even today…to be built up in the most holy faith, always giving glory to God.

All throughout the Psalms we see that we are to ascribe to the Lord the glory that is due His name as well as ascribing attributes to Him that we know are true, based on His Word (Ps. 96:8). We should worship and praise Him for who He is and what He has done. When we do this, we glorify Him and we also edify each other with this truth exultation.

If we are to worship in truth, as our Lord Jesus Christ said in John 4, then we should take note of what David said in Psalm 119:160: “The sum of your Word is truth.”

What else do the words of Scripture say about our God and about the praise and worship of him?

“Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, for His steadfast love endures forever” (Ps. 106:1)!

Praise the Lord, all nations! Extol him, all peoples! For great is his steadfast love toward us, and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever. Praise the Lord” (Ps. 117)!

In Psalm 18, David illustrates beautifully how awesome, mighty and merciful God is to him for His provisions in David’s life. He starts out with, “I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised…”

For about the next 44 verses, we see reason after reason for why David knows that God is worthy to be praised. He says things like, “the earth reeled and rocked; the foundations also of the mountains trembled and quaked, because he was angry” (vs. 7); and then, “He brought me out into a broad place; he rescued me, because he delighted in me” (vs. 19).

He marvels after God: “For who is God, but the Lord” (vs. 31)? “The Lord lives, and blessed be my rock, and exalted be the God of my salvation” (vs. 46).”

Then he ends with, “For this I will praise you, O Lord, among the nations, and sing to your name” (vs. 49).

Even Moses and all the Israelites sang a song about their rescue from the Egyptians through the parting of the Red Sea (Ex. 15).

Friends, this is why we still sing about God, to God. Too often we are caught up with the subjective feeling of a song and how the tempo is too slow, or too fast. Why would we ever care about the tempo of a song as long as the song accurately expresses praise and worship based on the revelatory truth of God Himself? This is not to downplay the practicality of choosing an appropriate, predictable, tempo, but it is important that we are not demanding the surface at the expense of the deep.

How many churches would do themselves a favor by shaping their congregation’s theology of worship, rather than changing the superficial elements of the music based on who gets annoyed the most?

It is important, again, that you don’t drag your music so much that it is distracting. If people are barely getting through a word when they need another breath, then you could be dragging a song down and playing at a sub-excellent level. This takes discernment and the careful, constructive criticism of gracious people who have the same desire for theological accuracy and doxological excellence as you do. I have had such help and it is necessary to consider and helpful to hear.

I will be dealing with the styles and genres of music in a future post to help think biblically along that vein. Make no mistake, though, our first priority in our music should always be on the words. Start there. Every time. That is what reveals the spirit and truth behind your music; not sixteen measures of synth.

Let’s take this a step further for the sake of practicality.

Instrumental Worship leaders, if someone sends you a song asking you to consider playing it in church as a worship song, then read the lyrics first before you even listen to the song. Let your doxology be informed by proper theology. If it doesn’t pass that test, then who cares what it sounds like?

Consider what passage your pastor is preaching on in order to bring a song in behind it that will drive that truth home. This is something I have been trying to get better at myself. Sure, any appropriate song could be sung after a sermon, but why not sing “In Christ Alone” by Keith & Kristyn Getty after hearing a sermon on Acts 4:12: “There is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

Why not sing the gripping hymn “It Is Well” by Horatio Spafford after the pastor preaches on 2 Corinthians 12:10: “For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities.”

Why not sing “Jesus Messiah” by Chris Tomlin after having Communion and hearing a sermon on 2 Corinthians 5:21: “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” Or Philippians 2:8: “He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

It’s not just that the titles to the songs have a topical match. No, we must be better than that. We must be more theologically informed than that.

From “In Christ Alone”: “In Christ alone, my hope is found. He is my light my strength, my song. This cornerstone, this solid ground, firm through the fiercest drought and storm.” And: “In Christ alone, who took on flesh, fullness of God in helpless babe!” The Getty’s were writing about the exclusivity of God incarnate (in the flesh), our Lord Jesus Christ! This distinguishes the Christianity of the Bible from all other religions. Let’s sing that in God’s Church.

From “It Is Well”: “When peace, like a river, attendeth my way; When sorrows like sea billows roll. Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say: “It is well, it is well with my soul.”” Horatio, after losing all four of his children in a sea-faring journey, as well as all of his wealth in the Great Chicago Fire, could still say “it is well with my soul” because he trusted the sovereignty of God and knew he would see his children in Heaven again.

From “Jesus Messiah”: “He became sin who knew no sin, that we might become His righteousness. He humbled Himself and carried the cross. Love so amazing! His body the bread, His blood the wine; Broken and poured out all for love. The whole earth trembled and the veil was torn. Love so amazing!” Chris Tomlin pulls this right out of Scripture and puts it to music, singing about the substitutionary atonement of Christ.

If anyone has heard Keith Getty talk about writing songs for the Church, there is no doubt you have heard him say: “We are what we sing”. This is not to mean we can sing ourselves into salvation, but the words we put in people’s mouths are words that they will start believing, just like a pastor who is preaching. We need to be careful and thoughtful with what we are having people sing.

When I attended one of Keith’s workshops in Annapolis, he recounted how his grandfather, though losing some of his memory, could still sing the hymns he grew up with, without missing a beat. Those of us who lead the songs in our churches are responsible for putting solid theology in the mouths and minds of the people in the pews. Let’s not forget that. We are really a musical type of preacher.

Keith wrote a great article for The Gospel Coalition a number of months ago on What Makes "In Christ Alone" Accepted and Contested? In it, he says:

“Truth put to music remains with us. It's why we still sing the powerful lyrics of hymns written centuries ago. Speculation and questioning about theology will come and go, but truth remains.”

He also said:

“We must sing wholeheartedly about concepts such as penal substitution, as well as the many other attributes of God that unfortunately go ignored in some churches today. The songs we sing have a powerful way of shaping our soul and becoming grafted into our being.”

Remember, the whole reason God had Moses put the Law (essentially, the book of Deuteronomy) into the form of a song was for remembrance of the truth. He told Moses, “Write this song and teach it to the people of Israel. Put it in their mouths, that this song may be a witness for me against the people of Israel” (Deut. 31:19).

Scripture also tells us that we will give an account for every careless word we have spoken (Matt. 12:36). This includes lyrics sung. I certainly don’t want to stand before God confessing I picked songs that were musically energetic even though I knew they were theologically shallow and insufficiently articulate of His majesty. The word of Christ ought to dwell in us richly as we sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs (Col. 3:16).
 
If we are living with an expectation of worshiping God who sits on the Great White Throne and that we will be joining the elders and creatures of Heaven by singing, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!” then let’s start now.

Let us lead with God’s glory in mind. Let us lead with a conviction that we are helping people to remember the truths of Scripture. Let us lead with an overflow of our own study of Scripture, so that our doxology is truly informed by proper theology. Let us sing to God about who He is and what He has done and is doing and will do…

“And I saw what appeared to be a sea of glass mingled with fire—and also those who had conquered the beast and its image and the number of its name, standing beside the sea of glass with harps of God in their hands. And they sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, “Great and amazing are your deeds, O Lord God the Almighty! Just and true are your ways, O King of the nations! Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship you, for your righteous acts have been revealed” (Rev. 15:2-4).

In His Sovereign Grip,

Ben

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Worship Leaders, Step Back and Remember: Worship Is Not Summed Up In Music

It should go without saying, especially in light of our recent posts, that worship is not summed up in music. To say that worship is music, or that church music is worship, is to miss the very definition and understanding of what true and acceptable worship is.

This issue of the proper identification and definition of worship is by and large the most difficult misconception that many people in the Church have. When a church hires someone to lead the music in their local assembly, what do they call him? The “worship leader”. Thus, churches tend to equate worship and music as synonymous terms, which is a far cry from reality. I would almost prefer my own title at my church to be changed from “Director of Worship Ministries” to “Director of Instrumental Worship”. The latter is more true to what I am actually doing. I am leading a type of worship: one of songs, music, melody, instrumentation, etc.

Let’s look at some Biblical text. Worship, as found in Scripture, is commonly defined as service. Not just any service, but service to God; a religious type of service for our holy God.

When Satan was tempting Jesus in the desert in Matthew 4, Satan showed Jesus all the kingdoms of the world and said to Him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” To which Jesus replied, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, ‘you shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’”

The word here for “worship” is the most common one we find in the Greek, proskuneo. It literally means to “kiss towards” and physically means to bow down, or kneel down, which would often entail kissing someone’s hand in the process. Notice that Satan told Jesus to “fall down and worship me”. “Fall down and worship” is what proskuneo means.

The other word we see here that Jesus follows up to proskuneo with is “serve”, which is latreuo, the second most common word for worship in the Greek. This starts to shed light on the multi-faceted diamond that worship is. Worship is not just bowing down, it is also reverent service.

We see latreuo in other places of Scripture, translated both ways: serve & worship:

Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 1:3, “I thank God, whom I serve (latreuo) with a clear conscience the way my forefathers did…”

Paul also wrote in Philippians 3:3, “We are the circumcision, who worship (latreuo) in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus…”

Different translations do their best to get the exact context right, but both translations are acceptable as latreuo is a word to connote reverent and obedient service, or even ministry, to God as a form of worship.

When David was old and nearing death, he wanted to set up his son Solomon for success by organizing the Temple construction and staff. We read in 1 Chronicles 22:5, “David said, ‘Solomon my son is young and inexperienced, and the house that is to be built for the Lord must be exceedingly magnificent, of fame and glory throughout all the lands. I will therefore make preparation for it.’”

He then organizes different aspects of the entire project, including getting mass quantities of supplies, i.e. iron for nails and clamps, bronze (too much to be weighed), cedar timbers (too many to count), etc. (22:3-4). He also provided Solomon with an abundance of workmen, i.e. stonecutters, masons, carpenters, metal workers, etc. (22:15-16).

He also organized different groups of people for the religious service: the Levites (chap. 23), the priests (chap. 24), and the musicians (chap. 25). In each chapter, they are said to be set apart for “the service”. One of these services of religious worship to God was indeed a music ministry! This was not just a fun time for the people to request which tempos and styles they liked best. This was a time for the people to sing songs that cried out to God with jubilant, repentant, obedient hearts.

In fact, the word “jubilee” comes from Noah’s brother’s name, Jubal. Guess what Jubal did in his spare time? Played the lyre and pipe. He is forever known as “the father of all those who play the lyre and pipe” (Gen. 4:21).

We see in 1 Chronicles 25:1 that there were three different instruments used in the Temple: lyres, harps and cymbals; and they were run by three different families: the sons of Asaph, and of Heman, and of Jeduthun. We also see that these instrumentalists had brothers, who were “trained in singing to the Lord” and they were “skillful” (25:7).

We can consider many practical things from this one passage, in that the musicians and singers should be trained (not necessarily professionally), skilled individuals, but the larger theological truth we can see in this is that it is not considered the only worship of the Temple. In fact, the word “worship” isn’t found in this chapter, but “service” is and it is used to describe the acts of the priests as well. This is because the worship of the temple included the instrumental and musical service, but it was not defined and summed up by it. Big difference.

True worship is worship that is done in spirit – the right heart – and in truth – grounded in the Word of God (Jn. 4). The Temple was a physical place of worshipful acts, but obedience was always demanded and expected by God, no matter where His people were. Remember that before the Temple was built, the Lord had often highlighted the importance of obedience over that of stark ceremonialism.

“Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams” (1 Sam. 15:22). This was said by the prophet Samuel to a disobedient King Saul who thought he could keep the animals God said he couldn’t keep if he simply sacrificed some in heartless, or spiritless, ceremonialism.

Saul fell into the group of people that Jesus decried when He said, “For the sake of your tradition you have made void the word of God. You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said: ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; In vain do they worship me…” (Matt.15:6-9).

We must force ourselves to speak a little differently when we throw the word worship around. Don’t speak as if music and worship are synonymous terms. They are not. When we speak of worship, we must speak of obedient lives, surrendered to our Master and Lord in humility and reverence and awe, in fear and trembling, for our God is a consuming fire!

When the Psalmist wrote in 29:2 & 96:9: “Worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness” he was essentially saying, worship the Lord by being holy. This can only be granted us by our holy Father in Heaven, along with our faith. See my post on this very topic, Acceptable Worship. In The Splendor of Holiness.

This means that only true Christians can truly worship because they are the only ones that God has truly redeemed and made holy and righteous in God’s sight because of the substitutionary atonement by Jesus Christ, our Lord, for our sins. What grace and mercy!

Friends, don’t cheapen the meaning of worship by limiting it only to music played for 30 minutes on one day of the week. Worship = Obedience. This is a 24/7 gig.

In His Sovereign Grip,

Ben

Friday, March 28, 2014

What Lessons Can Be Learned From World Vision's Flip-Flop?

One must wonder – and indeed many have – What were they thinking?

If they really did care about the Bible’s authority, how did they come to their conclusion in the first place? Such a basic understanding of sexuality and life is understood by the most immature of Christians…or so we thought.


First Lesson Learned: Conviction Is Needed Because Conviction Is Steadfast

If any one person does not have an unwavering commitment to the inspired, inerrant and sufficient Word of God, the conviction of almost anything will be subject to decay and evolution, if not entirely sucked out of you over time. This cannot be understated.

When speaking of the one faith in the one true and living God, Isaiah said, “If you are not firm in faith, you will not be firm at all” (7:9).

Or in Psalm 119 we read, “The sum of your word is truth, and every one of your righteous rules endures forever” (160). The eternality of the Word of God must be so if God Himself is eternal. If we really believe that God is eternal and immutable (unchangeable) then we have to concede that so are His instructions and laws.

A conviction of these truths will not wax and wane with the shifting sands of cultural trends because they are founded and grounded on the solid rock of our Lord Jesus Christ and His Gospel. They are steadfast. The consistency of Scripture shines brighter as the world moves away from biblical morality.

The Apostle Paul told his beloved son in the faith, Timothy, “This charge I entrust to you, Timothy, my child […] wage the good warfare, holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting this, some have made shipwreck of their faith (1 Tim. 1:17-19).

Paul also wrote to the faithful church in Thessalonica, “We know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction (1 Thess. 1:4-5).

As my pastor once said, “A belief is something you hold; a conviction is something that holds you.”

When you truly have a conviction from the Word of God, you will not so easily be swayed by popular opinion and you will say with the Psalmist, “I shall have an answer for him who taunts me, for I trust in your Word (119:42) and “I will also speak of your testimonies before kings and shall not be put to shame, for I find my delight in your commandments, which I love (119:46-47).

Second Lesson Learned: Christian Theology Cannot Be Separated From Christian Operation

In Christianity Today’s article, “World Vision: Why We’re Hiring Gay Christians in Same-Sex Marriages”, they shared that World Vision decides “to defer to churches and denominations on theological issues, so that it can focus on uniting Christians around serving the poor.”

The President, Richard Stearns, said, “We’re an operational arm of the global church, we're not a theological arm of the church.”

This is one of the most pressing lessons we can get from all of this. This has become the tendency among many evangelicals. It is the hopeful step of neutrality that many Christians seem to think they can take without compromising their faith. In reality, it’s a cop out to making up your mind. There tends to be this idea that since feeding the poor (or other socially helpful ventures) is highly looked upon in the eyes of the world and of God, that both of these parties will then be able to overlook any matters of compromise in other areas like, in this case, biblical sexuality.

Suddenly, altruism becomes the new evangelism, but with an emphasis on the works of the altruistic individual, rather than the salvation of the hungry. It is all well and good to feed the poor, but if you do not share the Gospel with them, then they could still be heading to Hell with a blanket and a bowl of food. The real mission of the Christian Church is to provide temporal and eternal needs. The temporal needs help now, but the eternal need of salvation from sin lasts forever. Lots of people will like us for giving away free things to needy people, but we can’t consider that as an approval of the Gospel, as if we are fulfilling the Great Commission.

This may be an easy temptation to fall into when you are running Christian organizations, but with a personal conviction on biblical theology comes a proper application of biblical theology. Think about it from a personal and individual perspective. Can you merely be an Operational Christian and not a theological one? Of course not.

When you start drawing lines in places like these you end up in a precarious situation, which is exactly what happened with World Vision. In Christianity Today’s first article, they clearly stated where they were drawing their authority from: “This is not us compromising. It is us deferring to the authority of churches and denominations on theological issues.”

As Dr. Al Mohler said in his first response on his blog, “These arguments are pathetically inadequate.”

He goes on to say, “The distinction between an “operational arm” of the church and a “theological arm” is a fatal misreading of reality. World Vision claims a Christian identity, claims to serve the kingdom of Christ, and claims a theological rationale for its much-needed ministries to the poor and distressed. It cannot surrender theological responsibility when convenient and then claim a Christian identity and a theological mandate for ministry.”

A Christian is, by nature, theologically informed. To do anything in the name of Christ while surrendering some type of personal responsibility to sound doctrine is delusional.

Is this harsh? Ask the Apostle Paul who directly linked a biblical view of sexuality with sound doctrine and sexual immorality, including homosexuality, as contrary to it (1 Tim. 1:9-10). Later in chapter six, Paul says that those who do not teach sound doctrine “understand nothing” and are “depraved in mind and deprived of the truth” (6:3-4).

Finally, Paul stresses to Titus the importance of rebuking those who contradict sound doctrine, holding firm to the trustworthy word (1:9).

Third Lesson Learned: Flip-Flopping Reduces Trust

If World Vision had a firm conviction on representing Christ and upholding the authority of Scripture rather than the authority of “churches”, then this matter of the biblical view of sexuality would not have been an issue whatsoever in the first place. They didn’t hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so they contradicted sound doctrine by considering committed sexually immoral people as being right with God:

“Changing the employee conduct policy to allow someone in a same-sex marriage who is a professed believer in Jesus Christ to work for us makes our policy more consistent with our practice on other divisive issues […] We are absolutely resolute about every employee being followers of Jesus Christ. We are not wavering on that” (emphasis mine).

This reveals the fundamental flaw in their real world-view. This is no accidental slip-up of semantics, or Biblical interpretation. They are making a theological statement by saying committed sinners can be Christians. Never mind what the Apostle John said: “No one who lives in God keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen God or known God” (1 Jn. 3:6).

Again, their deprivation of the truth shines forth.

Now, as we have seen, World Vision has recanted of their plan for the new policy change after threats of support withdrawal and backlash from the Christian community as to their capitulation from sound doctrine. Is it legitimate?

I don’t believe a true Christian leader committed to God’s word would ever have made this mistake. These men are old enough and mature enough to know this simple, basic truth.  It would be like changing their policy to say that “not all employees must believe in the resurrection of Christ because whether or not you believe that has no bearing on saving faith” and then two days later saying, “Oops, we didn’t realize that was usurping Biblical authority. We’re so thankful people pointed that out to us.”

Can there be true repentance? Absolutely and I hope so! Unfortunately, the damage has already been done with their reputation. They have already and legitimately cast doubt on their whole view of Scripture and the sudden withdrawal does not necessarily prove any spiritual change of heart has taken place.

This can be proven from Scripture, for there are two types of grief when confronted with sin according to 2 Cor. 7:10: 1) Godly grief that produces repentance, and 2) worldly grief that produces death.

One will feel bad for dishonoring God with sin, the other will feel bad for getting caught.

This is where we must continue to pray, in that this company makes it clear who their captain is, men or Christ? Do I seem skeptical? I admit, I am a little.

The reason is because of some of the bold statements already outlined, but there are a few more. How can such clearly articulated statements be said in the first place?

“Our board felt we cannot jump into the fight on one side or another on this issue. We've got to focus on our mission. We are determined to find unity in our diversity."
“This is also not about compromising the authority of Scripture . . . . People can say, ‘Scripture is very clear on this issue,’ and my answer is, ‘Well ask all the theologians and denominations that disagree with that statement.’”

 

"I hope it's a statement that says when Christ left, he gave us the Great Commission [to make disciples] and the Great Commandment [to love others as ourselves], and we're trying to do just that," said Stearns. "Bridging the differences we have, and coming together in our unity."

 

"I'm hoping this may inspire unity among others as well," he concluded. "To say how can we come together across some differences and still join together as brothers and sisters in Christ in our common mission of building the kingdom."

 

"I think we've got a very persuasive series of reasons for why we're doing this, and it's my hope that all of our donors and partners will understand it, and will agree with our exhortation to unite around what unites us. But we do know this is an emotional issue in the American church. I'm hoping not to lose supporters over the change. We're hoping that they understand that what we've done is focused on church unity and our mission."

 

The agenda is clear and it is theological – as much as they deny it. Gay marriage is merely an “emotional issue” that is “tearing apart the church” and they want to make the statement that people should unite together “in love” as “brothers and sisters in Christ”, gay or straight, based on their desire for unity and on the authority of liberal churches.

In a best case scenario, the leaders of World Vision lack even a moderate understanding of the implications of the Bible. The most frightening aspect is that they would consider people who profess Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior to still be allowed to commit to a sexually immoral lifestyle.

What this means is that when polygamy is the next hot topic, they will be forced to apply their same logic based on their perception of “unity in the church”. Perhaps, as long as a man and his three wives are all professing believers in Jesus Christ and they are all faithful to each other (yes, all four of them) then they would be granted employment as a Christian – of course without World Vision actually endorsing polygamy.

Stearns: “It's easy to read a lot more into this decision than is really there," he said.  "This is not an endorsement of same-sex marriage. We have decided we are not going to get into that debate. Nor is this a rejection of traditional marriage, which we affirm and support."

Though the caveat in his statement that we may be reading into it too much is included, the very statements that Christians can live homosexual lifestyles and commit themselves in marriage as such reveals such a bankrupt understanding of Christianity that the implications to how wide reaching their world view may be and how that will affect their future decisions is cause for legitimate concern.

When a spouse cheats in their marriage, we would be suspect to an apology that included statements like: “I failed to seek enough counsel before I decided to cheat”, or, “I am broken hearted over the pain I have caused my spouse who saw this as a reversal of my strong commitment to my marriage.”

Again, World Vision believes many things that may be true, however with no conviction the future is depressingly unreliable.

Fourth and Final Lesson Learned: This Is Not About Ranking Sin

What tends to happen in a situation like this is that the sin in question gets so much attention that people will often banter about how other sins aren’t highlighted as much, so why bother with homosexuality? Are we ranking sin?

This is not about ranking sin. It is about Biblical fidelity. If someone is a professing believer in Christ, or an organization is a professing Christ-centered organization, then they have just accepted the standard that God has laid out in His Word. If the sociopolitical topic of the day was drunkenness, or disrespecting parents, then there would be much more time spent in Biblical exposition around that, but that’s not the buzz-word of our day. The world is pushing an agenda to normalize homosexuality, so the Scriptures will shine brighter on these areas that are being challenged.

It is not as if the Church started a revolution to prove a point on sexuality that was already largely accepted as morally agreeable in the world. No, as the demand for accepting homosexuality as “good”, rather than sinful, was increasing, so did the witness of Scripture on the subject. It is what it is. What would anyone expect?

When Paul wrote what he did in his letters to various churches on the topic, homosexuality was more rampant then, than it has ever been in America until today. This blows the cultural argument out of the water for anyone who says that the Bible is outdated. Only people who don’t know the real contextual and historical scenarios in the Bible would say that, so it is largely due to ignorance, but this is why a faithful representation of Scripture is so important. What was written then is still just as binding for us today.

My prayer for World Vision is that this rocks them so much that their personal convictions are awakened by the Holy Spirit to flow through the organizational convictions. I pray that they aren’t subjecting themselves to churches that have no conviction. I pray that the Bible is taken more seriously and personally, so that they will not consider it as separate from their business.

They will no doubt receive much negativity from the world for almost supporting them and then not, so this will not be an easy ride for them and may be what the Lord uses to shine the light brighter on purity in our country.

My prayer is that the leaders of World Vision don’t just feel a grief that is temporary and leads to death, but is a Godly grief that produces real repentance to salvation if it wasn’t there. How can we tell the difference?

“See what earnestness this Godly grief has produced in you, but also what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what punishment! At every point you have proved yourselves innocent in the matter. So although I wrote to you, it was not for the sake of the one who did the wrong, nor for the sake of the one who suffered the wrong, but in order that your earnestness for us might be revealed to you in the sight of God. Therefore we are comforted.” -2 Cor. 7:11-13

Why did Paul write his former corrective letter (1st Corinthians)?

Even if I made you grieve with my letter, I do not regret it—though I did regret it, for I see that that letter grieved you, though only for a while. As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief […]” (vvs. 8-9).

May it be so with World Vision.

In His Sovereign Grip,

Ben