Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The True Church Is Not Being Divided—It Is Being Distinguished

The recent ruling that the Supreme Court made on Friday, June 26th, regarding the affirmation of homosexual “marriage” is one that is sadly unsurprising. An honest look at the American landscape—even abroad—would reveal that it would only be a matter of time before these types of measures would come to pass. You can trace the line back through the allowable levels of premarital sexual activity that was hardly discouraged, but implicitly, if not explicitly, encouraged in young children and adults through various public school forums and media outlets. This is traced back ultimately to the rejection of the Bible in the public school system—and public discourse in general—as being the standard for all that is right and true. When God is rejected—all hopes of defining anything with any degree of certainty is utterly and completely abandoned.

This, however, is not news to the man or woman who has been regenerated by the Holy Spirit. We see things as God sees things and we know that when the Bible speaks—God speaks. This is not an actual moral dilemma for us as it pertains to our own convictions of such issues. This requires little digging into the text of Scripture to know what the clear answer is. That is, it is clear to those who are truly Christians.

The most painful thing about the last few days is all of the people who profess to be Christians that are coming out in support of the homosexual agenda. It is in this light that I offer some biblical perspective on the real issue at hand. I submit to you that the difference between professing Christians and confessing Christians are becoming more recognizable. The true Church is not actually becoming divided, but becoming more and more distinguishable.

The World’s Argument is not with the Christian, Per Se, It is With God

It may be helpful to remember that at the core of any issue that defies a biblical mandate is a disagreement with God. This is not a battle of the intellect; it is the manifestation of rebellion against God. This is not merely some personal battle that Christians must “win” in order to feel good about America’s spiritual veneer. No, this is an all too clear opportunity that at the individual level of society is a worsening spiritual malady that is keeping people separated from God. The evangelical duty of every Christian is to be ready to help any soul recognize their sin for what it is and the eternal consequences thereof and then offer them the only hope of salvation through the Gospel of Jesus Christ to wrest them from their sin’s bondage.

As the Apostle Paul said to the church that resided in the sexually perverse city of Corinth: the fornicators, adulterers, effeminate, homosexuals, drunkards, swindlers, etc. will not inherit the kingdom of God. He then says, “Such were some of you; but you were washed . . . sanctified . . . justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor 6:9–11).

True Christians will grieve when God grieves and seek to reconcile their family members and friends to God when they see them enslaved to sin. This is real love. When you know that the wages of sin is death in eternal hell, then you are committed to doing everything you can to saving people from that end. The most unloving thing to do would be to encourage someone to embrace their sin and give into their evil desires, knowing all along what the final judgment of that lifestyle will be.

Anyone who affirms a sinful lifestyle as inherently good is proving their own disbelief in God; their own lack of commitment to His Word; their own disbelief in what it says about sin and its eternal consequences. I urge all people who are tempted to take this stance to consider what that implies about your own perceived faith. You cannot hold the hand of Christ while you embrace the spirit of the age.

Hostility to the Truth Was Promised by Christ—Religious Freedom Was Not

I believe one of the most debilitating vices in the so-called church today is its inability to accept an impasse with the world; its inability to accept belittling for the sake of Christ; its inability to be deemed and esteemed by the world’s standard as anti-intellectual; its inability to accept ridicule, persecution, false accusations, and insults because of Jesus Christ.

In order to avoid all such possible outcomes, the church has capitulated to the culture. Its commitment to Christ has become anything but and His Word has been deemed unknowable. In an effort to “evangelize” the culture, the church has engaged the culture by becoming just like it, thus destroying true evangelism and ultimately corrupting the visible church itself in the process. Evangelical “success” in the modern day has been redefined to mean being liked by every possible enemy of the Gospel as is humanly possible. There is now no need for confrontation of sin, thus no need for repentance. There is now no need for understanding the full counsel of God, thus no need for expositional preaching. This has created a wide-open platform for biblically anemic personalities, such as Rick Warren, Bill Hybels, and Joel Osteen, to name a few, to lead astray more biblically anemic and gullible populations into thinking that sin is a vice that Jesus can overlook without repentance and all religions have the same god to worship anyway.

We must remember that the true church will not ultimately be overcome (Matt 16:18), but it will not always be comfortable in this world either. The writers of the Scriptures were, more often than not, in a culture of extreme hostility to the Word of God. Not only were the surrounding pagan nations hostile to the people of God, but eventually the nation of Israel itself would start killing their own people—the prophets commissioned to warn them of their sin and impending judgment if there was no repentance. This has been recorded in both the OT and NT portions of the Scriptures: 1 Kgs 19:14; Neh 9:26; Matt 23:37; Lk 11:47.

Consider how Jesus leveled with his would-be followers: “The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head” (Matt 8:20).

In his classic and timeless book ‘Holiness’, J.C. Ryle comments, “[Christ] dwelt in a despised city [Nazareth] . . . He preached in a borrowed boat, rode into Jerusalem on a borrowed ass, and was buried in a borrowed tomb.” He had nothing! He goes on to say, “Are you misunderstood, misrepresented, slandered, and persecuted? So also was Jesus . . . False charges were laid against him. An unjust sentence was passed upon him, and, though innocent, he was condemned as a malefactor, and as such died on the cross.”

The entire pinnacle of Jesus’ life was summed up in the fact—yes, made possible by—the rejection of the culture of the day. Had everyone accepted Him and thought Him a kindly fellow who affirmed every sinful bent as acceptable and in need of extra comfort, then He would not have found himself hanging and suffocating on a Roman cross. No, in His own words: “[The world] hates Me because I testify of it, that its deeds are evil” (Jn 7:7).

Compare that with the attitude of many professing Christians who claim they are more like Christ by affirming homosexuality. Compare that to some of the articles floating around by people who claim to be evangelical Christians, yet feel “called by Christ” to affirm people who are dedicated to unrepentant sin. Their tongue and their pen have not flexed in a way as to articulate words like “evil” and “sin”—they can’t do it. This is no marvel—no profound paradox of two harmoniously-existent, though fundamentally opposing, paradigms. No, to affirm unrepentant sin is to mock the Lord Jesus Christ and thicken the separation between the sinner and the Savior as the Gospel is not being offered to them by those who feign love for them. It is a grave disservice to a soul in need of regeneration. This goes for every sinner.

In His sermon on the mount, Jesus said, “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Again, to His disciples He said, “In the world you [will] have tribulation” (Jn 16:33).

Again, Jesus clearly warned His disciples, “They will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name. At that time many will fall away and will betray one another and hate one another. Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many. Because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold” (Matt 24:9–12).

The Christians in the first century suffered severe persecution for the sake of the Name and the Way and the Truth and the Life. There will come a day when our generation, or our children’s, will feel the rising temperature of the heat of persecution that attempts to do away with the truth for good. The true Christians who will persevere will be the ones who stay consistent while the world gets worse—and they will suffer for it. The ones who continue to demand that there is room in their religion for accommodating sin under the pretense of love will continue capitulating more of their lives to the world—Satan’s domain.

J.C Ryle cautions us: “The world hated Christ, and the world will hate true Christians, as long as the earth stands . . . If you are never persecuted for religion’s sake, and all men speak well of you, you may well doubt whether you belong to ‘the church on the rock’ (Matt 5:11; Lk 6:26).”

Friends, may you not be counted in that broad way, but may you be ever so desirous to save people out of it. Remember, “He who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins” (Js 5:20). Why? “Because love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Pet 4:8). Love, friends, corrects.

The Bible Is Our Highest Authority—Not the Constitution

This is something that needs some consideration. The Constitution is a helpful and needed document, but it is a man-made document that has many amendments. Considering that the Bible has been in its final form—in its entirety—for about 2,000 years, it is a moot point what the Constitution says about anything moral. It is helpful when governing men essentially write out a doctrinal statement on how to govern insofar as it does not supersede or contradict God’s Word, but when it does, it becomes—at that point—a worthless document.

Many Christians feel inclined to argue that homosexuality is nowhere supported in the Constitution. While this argument can legitimately be made, is it really our end goal to convince people that they our unconstitutional? Should it not be that they are unreconciled to God because of unrepentant sin? We must look deeper than a document that will change with time as the country sees fit. Abusive slavery was once a fully acceptable practice until the Constitution received its 13th amendment. Not allowing women to vote was normative until the 19th amendment. The Constitution has been proven to be a fallible document and in need of being changed from time to time. Appealing to that type of document for some sort of moral and ethical substantiation of biblical standards is completely backwards. You start with the Bible—every time.

Everything must be viewed through a biblical lens, not a democratic one. It could well be that America falls just like Sodom and Gomorrah, Israel, and Rome, with a thousand years left before Christ returns. If you follow the Romans 1 checklist, you see that God’s wrath is being revealed against all unrighteousness since men are rebelling against God. It starts with rejecting His Word and revelation through nature and it ends up in rejecting Him as Creator and giving into lustful impurities (24–25). Then the impurities become unnatural and degrading, seen in homosexuality (26–27). Finally, God just gives them up completely to their own devices as they increasingly become “haters of God” and “inventors of evil” (30).

Our lives and our identity are not ultimately in the fact that we are Americans, or any other nationality, rather we are identified by the sanctifying blood of Jesus Christ and we must be faithful to Him and His authority. We must not waste our time pointing to the Constitution for our appeal, but to the inspired, inerrant, infallible, unchanging Word of God.

It’s High Time to Get Off Of the Fence

I have noticed over a number of years now a trend among professing Christians to take no clear public stance on controversial issues. They are on the fence. They are out to sea. They are ambiguous and desperately seeking to appear diplomatic and humble above all else. They fear being labeled by the world as hateful, or arrogant, or bigoted, more than they fear the judgment of God as to their faithfulness.

I have seen this when the debate of evolution versus creation comes up, or homosexuality, pre-marital cohabitation, smoking marijuana, drunkenness, etc.

It looks like this:

They will not out rightly denounce a false belief, or a sin—they will find some strand of notability in spite of it. They always look for the “good” no matter how heinous the matter in God’s eyes. They go further and actually criticize a brother in Christ who does take a firm, biblical stance. They don’t seek to distance themselves from false doctrine—they would rather distance themselves from having to answer directly and publicly about their own conviction. Their position on the fence allows them to feel good about themselves having the right “balance” and possessing “critical thinking” skills. While they recognize it or not, they are the spiritual politicians of their day who are in danger of keeping people out of the narrow way as this type of mentality is no different than any other unregenerate altruism.

Compare that with the words of Christ to the church of Laodicea: “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot. So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth” (Rev 3:15–16).

Or the Apostle Paul: “Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction” (2 Tim 4:2). We don’t merely talk about the Word and then do nothing. We preach the Word and we must then reprove, rebuke, and exhort with great patience.

Friends, it was only 10–20 years ago that preaching the Word was still in season—acceptable. Before that—my grandparent’s era—it was even more so. Yes, sins prevail in every century, but the general acceptance of the existence of the Christian faith and its impact on the public square was still considered and even respected. We are fast heading into the “out of season” time in this country, but 2 Tim 4:2 will not disappear from the pages of our Bibles. Our call is the same.

Why must we do these things? Why not take a position that takes no public position?

“For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths” (3–4).

Again, the Rick Warren’s, Bill Hybel’s, and Joel Osteen’s, and outright sin affirmers of our day do not preach the Word and they do not refute, rebuke, or exhort. They find the good in every unrepentant sinner and affirm their standing with God. They find the good in every religion and refuse to denounce its heresy. The consequence and the type of following they get prove what the Apostle said.

He then shifts his thought from the faithless minister—the faithless, professing Christian—to the faithful one: “But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry” (5).

Get off of the fence, friends. Determine to devote yourselves to the Word of God. If you cannot speak to the hottest topics of our day from a biblical perspective with conviction that God will be true and every man a liar, then it could be indicative of a heart not yet fully committed to Christ. We cannot be ruled by God and mammon—the world.

The world is going to create an atmosphere that helps to distinguish the true Church. It will look smaller and smaller more than likely. We have seen denominations embrace homosexuality altogether—sealing their fate and proving it to the rest.

We must be the ones who can offer the hope of redemption, sanctification, and justification! We can empathize with the world as to the blinding effect of sin, so let us not cast stones and walk away, but correct with patience and tell the world that they should sin no more and bow their knee to the Lord Jesus Christ.

I’ll close with the words from the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Roman church:

“Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery which has been kept secret for long ages past, but now is manifested, and by the Scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the eternal God, has been made known to all the nations, leading to obedience of faith; to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, be the glory forever. Amen” (Rom 16:25–27).

In His Sovereign Grip,