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Archive for June, 2011

    

  To most readers, the first chapter of Paul’s letter to the Romans contains the Bible’s clearest condemnation of same-sex relations–both male and female.  Recent scholarship, though, reads the same text and finds just the opposite–that homosexuality is innate and therefore normal, moral, and biblical.

Reconstructing Romans

      In Romans, Paul seems to use homosexuality as indicative of man’s deep seated rebellion against God and God’s proper condemnation of man.  New interpretations cast a different light on the passage. 

      Paul, the religious Jew, is looking across the Mediterranean at life in the capital of Graeco-Roman culture.  Homosexuality in itself is not the focus of condemnation.  Rather, Paul’s opprobrium falls upon paganism’s refusal to acknowledge the true God.

      It’s also possible Paul did not understand the physiological basis of genuine homosexuality.  John Boswell, professor of history at Yale, is among those who differ with the classical interpretation.  In Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality he writes:

The persons Paul condemns are manifestly not homosexual:  what he derogates are homosexual acts committed by apparently heterosexual persons….It is not clear that Paul distinguished in his thoughts or writings between gay persons (in the sense of permanent sexual preference) and heterosexuals who simply engaged in periodic homosexual behavior.  It is in fact unlikely that many Jews of his day recognized such a distinction, but it is quite apparent that–whether or not he was aware of their existence–Paul did not discuss gay persons but only homosexual acts committed by heterosexual persons. [emphasis in the original]

      Paul is speaking to those who violate their natural sexual orientation, Boswell contends, those who go against their own natural desire:  “‘Nature’ in Romans 1:26, then, should be understood as the personal nature of the pagans in question.”[emphasis in the original]  

      Since a homosexual’s natural desire is for the same sex, this verse doesn’t apply to him.  He has not chosen to set aside heterosexuality for homosexuality; the orientation he was born with is homosexual.  Demanding that he forsake his “sin” and become heterosexual is actually the kind of violation of one’s nature Paul condemns here.

Romans 1:18-27   

      Both views can’t be correct.  Only a close look at the text itself will give us the answer.  The details of this passage show why these new interpretations are impossible:

    For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them.

    For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.  For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God, or give thanks; but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened.  Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.

    Therefore, God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, that their bodies might be dishonored among them.  For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.

    For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error.

      Let me start by making two observations.  First, this is about God being mad:  “For the wrath of God [orge] is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men….” 

      Second, there is a specific progression that leads to this “orgy” of anger.  Men “suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (v. 18).  They exchanged “the truth of God for a lie, and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator” (v. 25).  Next, “God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity…” (v. 24).  They “exchanged the natural [sexual] function for that which is unnatural (v. 26).  Therefore, the wrath of God rightly falls on them (v. 18); they are without excuse (v. 20).

      This text is a crystal clear condemnation of homosexuality by the Apostle Paul in the middle of his most brilliant discourse on general revelation.  Paul is not speaking to a localized aberration of pedophilia or temple prostitution that’s part of life in the capital of Graeco-Roman culture.  He is talking about a universal condition of man.

      Regarding the same-sex behavior itself, here are the specific words Paul uses:  a lust of the heart, an impurity and dishonoring to the body (v. 24); a degrading passion that’s unnatural (v. 29); an indecent act and an error (v. 27); not proper and the product of a depraved mind (v. 28).

      There’s only one way the clear sense of this passage can be missed:  if someone is in total revolt against God.  According to Paul, homosexual behavior is evidence of active, persistent rebellion against one’s Creator.  Verse 32 shows it’s rooted in direct, willful, aggressive sedition against God–true of all so-called Christians who are defending their own homosexuality.  God’s response is explicit:  “They are without excuse” (v. 20).

Born Gay? 

      What if one’s “natural” desire is for the same sex, though.  What if his homosexuality is part of his physical constitution?  There are four different reasons this is a bad argument.  The first three are compelling; the fourth is unassailable.

      First, this rejoinder assumes there is such a thing as innate homosexuality.  The scientific data is far from conclusive, though.  Contrary to the hasty claims of the press, there is no definitive evidence that homosexuality is determined by physiological factors (see “Just Doing What Comes Naturally,” Clear Thinking, Spring, 1997).

      There’s a second problem.  If all who have a desire for the same sex do so “naturally,” then to whom does this verse apply?  If everybody is only following their natural sexual desires, then which particular individuals fall under this ban, those who are not aroused by their own gender, but have sex anyway?  Generally, for men at least, if there is no arousal, there is no sex.  And if there is arousal, according to Boswell et al, then the passion must be natural.

      Third, this interpretation introduces a whole new concept–constitutional homosexuality–that is entirely foreign to the text.  Boswell himself admits that it was “in fact unlikely that many Jews of [Paul’s] day recognized such a distinction,” and that possibly even Paul himself was in the dark. 

      If Paul did not understand genuine homosexuality, though, then how can one say he excepted constitutional homosexuals when he wrote that they “exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural”?  This argument self-destructs.

      Further, if Paul spoke only to those violating their personal sexual orientation, then wouldn’t he also warn that some men burned unnaturally towards women, and some women towards men?  Wouldn’t Paul warn against both types of violation–heterosexuals committing indecent acts with members of the same sex, and homosexuals committing indecent acts with members of the opposite sex?

      What in the text allows us to distinguish between constitutional homosexuals and others?  Only one word:  “natural.”  A close look at this word and what it modifies, though, leads to the most devastating critique of all.

Natural Desire or Natural Function?

      Paul was not unclear about what he meant by “natural.”  Homosexuals do not abandon natural desires; they abandon natural functions:  “For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another…” (1:26-27)

      The Greek word kreesis, translated “function” in this text, is used only these two times in the New Testament, but is found frequently in other literature of the time.  According to the standard Greek language reference A Greek/English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other  Early Christian Literature, the word means “use, relations, function, especially of sexual intercourse.”

      Paul is not talking about natural desires here, but natural functions.  He is not talking about what one wants sexually, but how one is built to operate sexually.  The body is built to function in a specific way.  Men were not built to function sexually with men, but with women.

      This conclusion becomes unmistakable when one notes what men abandon in verse 27, according to Paul.  The modern argument depends on the text teaching that men abandoned their own natural desire for woman and burned toward one another.  Men whose natural desire was for other men would then be exempted from Paul’s condemnation.  Paul says nothing of the kind, though.

      Paul says men forsake not their own natural desire (their constitutional make-up), but rather the “natural function of the woman..”  They abandoned the female, who was built by God to be man’s sexual compliment.

      The error has nothing to do with anything in the male’s own constitution that he’s denying.  It is in the rejection of the proper sexual companion God has made for him–a woman:  “The men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts….” (v. 27)

      Natural desires go with natural functions.  The passion that exchanges the natural function of sex between a man and a woman for the unnatural function of sex between a   man and a man is what Paul calls a degrading passion.

      Jesus clarified the natural, normal relationship:  “Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female and said ‘For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother and shall cleave to his wife and the two shall become one flesh [sexual intercourse].’?”  (Matthew 19:4-5)

      Homosexual desire is unnatural because it causes a man to abandon the natural sexual compliment God has ordained for him:  a woman.  That was Paul’s view.  If it was Paul’s view recorded in the inspired text, then it is God’s view.  And if it is God’s view, it should be ours if we call ourselves Christian. 

 

 

 

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For my part, my soul is like a hungry and thirsty child; and I need His love and consolation for my refreshment. I am a wandering and lost sheep; and I need Him as a good and faithful shepherd. My soul is like a frightened dove pursued by the hawk; and I need His wounds for a refuge. I am a feeble vine; and I need His cross to lay hold of, and to wind myself about. I am a sinner, and I need His righteousness. I am naked and bare; and I need His holiness and innocence for a covering. I am ignorant, and I need His teaching; simple and foolish, and I need the guidance of His Holy Spirit. In no situation, and at no time, can I do without Him. Do I pray? He must prompt, and intercede for me. Am I arraigned by Satan at the divine tribunal. He must be my Advocate. Am I in affliction? He must be my Helper. Am I persecuted by the world? He must defend me. When I am forsaken, He must be my support; when I am dying, my life; when moldering in the grave, my Resurrection. Well, then, I will rather part with all the world, and all that it contains, than with Thee, my Savior.

                                   

Gotthold

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Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin!
(Psalm 51:1-2 ESV)

I am a mass contradictions; I don’t want to be but I am. I preach the gospel of peace, but my life isn’t always driven by peace.
I talk about a Jesus who alone can fully satisfy the soul, but I am often not satisfied.
I celebrate the theology of amazing grace, but I often react in ungrace.
And if rest in God’s control, why do I seek it for myself?
Even in moments when I think I am prepared, I end up doing what I didn’t want to.

Irritation
Impatience
Envy
Discontent
Wrong talk
Anger
Self-focus

Are not the fruit of the new life, are not the way of grace.
So there is this law operating inside of me.
When I step out with a desire to do good, evil follows me wherever I go.
There is this war that rages inside of me, between a desire to for good
and sin that is anything but good.
There are times when I feel like a prisoner. held against my will.
I didn’t plan to be mad in the grocery store, but that guy made me mad.
I didn’t plan to be discontent, but it just enveloped me in the quietness of the car
That discussion wasn’t supposed to degenerate into an argument, but it did.
I am thankful for God’s grace, but there is daily evidence that I’m still in need of help.
That battle inside me cannot be solved by

Theology
Strategies
Principles
Techniques
Plans
Preparation
Helpful hints
Outlines

I have been humbled by the war I cannot win.
I have been grieved by desires I cannot conquer
I have ben confronted by actions I cannot excuse.
And I have come to confess that what I really need is rescue.

Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
and cleanse me from my sin!
For I know the transgressions
And my sin is always before me
I embrace the rescue that could only be found in You.
Thanks be to God — through Jesus Christ our Lord!

TAKE A MOMENT

1. Is there a place right now where how you live is not consistent with what you say you believe? Isn’t it wonderful that you do not have to panic, hide, or be depressed? Stop and confess your inconsistency to the One who was consistent so that you could be accepted and forgiven even in your moments of greatest inconsistency.

2. What temptations tend to hook you again and again? Are you holding onto and celebrating the grace that have been given that really is greater and more powerful than any sin that hooks you?

 

Source:  Whiter than Snow  by Paul David Tripp

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Our eternally sovereign and holy God,  

You have been so gracious in your works.

Your grace is bountiful in all of Creation.

You lifted the veil and shared with us your light.

You restrained your wrath and sent us instruction.

You gave us your Word. You gave us your Son.

Graciously you were born a mere man, fulfilled your promises and carried The Cross.

Mercifully you drank our just reward, our cup greater than a thousand burning hurricanes of destruction, shame and suffering .

You chose us. Only because your righteousness demands justice and mercy, you chose to remove the stone in my heart.

How blessed to be spared, how blessed to be among the few, how blessed to be able to approach you, how blessed to know you.

You gave me life, you give me life, you sustain my life, you are my life and to die is gain.

Keep me in your ways oh Lord, guard me from my wickedness, my flesh is weak, the enemy is strong, but You are mighty.

Guard me from pride, kill my idolatry, humble me, break me, Let me serve you. Let me bring you glory.

You are pure and holy. You instruct us in The Way. You spared me from eternal torment.

Oh Lord of Lords,

My sinful heart asks how am I ever to honor You enough?

I am not able, I do not have the power. I cannot.

But under the glow of your sufficient imputed righteousness, I have all that I need.

Lord, may I be reminded to rejoice in you and your work on that tree.

For it is in Christ’s name we plea, rest and rejoice,

Amen

 

(Marc E. Mullins, April 14, 2011)

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THE BELL
I KNOW WHO I AM
I am God’s child (John 1:12)
I am Christ’s friend (John 15:15)
I am united with the Lord (1 Cor 6:17)
I am bought with a price (1 Cor 6:19-20)
I am a saint (set apart for God) (Eph 1:1)
I am a personal witness of Christ (Acts 1:8)
I am the salt & light of the earth (Matt 5:13-14)
I am free forever from condemnation (Rom 8:1-2)
I am a member of the body of Christ (1 Cor 12:27)
I am a citizen of heaven; I am significant (Phil 3:20)
I am free from any charge against me (Rom 8:31-34)
I am a minister of reconciliation for God (2 Cor 5:17-21)
I have access to God through the Holy Spirit (Eph 2:18)
I am seated with Christ in the heavenly realms (Eph 2:6)
I cannot be separated from the love of God (Rom 8:35-39)
I am established, anointed,  sealed by God (2 Cor 1:21-22)
I am assured all things work together for good (Rom 8:28)
I have been chosen and appointed to bear fruit (John 15:16)
I may approach God with freedom and confidence (Eph 3:12)
I am God’s temple (1 Cor 3:16); I am complete in Christ (Col 2:10)
I am the branch of the true vine, a channel of His life (John 15:1-5)
I am hidden with Christ in God (Col 3:3); I have been justified (Rom 5:1)
I am God’s co-worker (1 Cor 3:9; 6:1); I am God’s workmanship (Eph 2:10)
I am confident that the work God has begun in me will be perfected (Phil 1:5)
I have been redeemed and forgiven (Col 1:14)
I belong to God,
Do you?

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Defining our Terms

Sanctification:

Taken from the Greek root meaning “holy” (hagios), sanctification is the doctrine in Christian soteriology (salvation) that is normally used to describe the growth process of a believer. To be sanctified literally means to be “set apart unto God.” Theologically, the force of the doctrine is less an idea of separation from sin, but a closeness to God that necessarily separates from sin. In this sense, sanctification is both a position and a process. The Christian has been sanctified, or set apart unto God (1 Cor. 6:11), but there is also a sense in which he or she is being sanctified, or working toward a realization of this reality in their spiritual walk (Rom. 6:22; Phil. 2:12).

(www.reclaimingthemind.org/wordoftheday/sanctification/)

 

John Murray provides some good insight in regards to the nature of our works and the work of the Spirit in our growth in holiness:

 

God’s working in us is not suspended because we work, nor our working suspended because God works.  Neither is the relation strictly one of co-operation as if God did his part and we did ours so that the conjunction or coordination of both produced the required result. God works in us and we also work.

But the relation is that because God works we work. All working out of salvation on our part is the effect of God’s working in us, not the willing to the exclusion of the doing and not the doing to the exclusion of the willing, but both the willing and the doing….

The more persistently active we are in working, the more persuaded we may be that all the energizing grace and power is of God.

 

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What is driving you?

by Gary Chaffins

“It is now common practice in most churches to offer a maximum of entertainment and a minimum of serious instruction. One can only conclude that God’s people are bored with Him, for they must be wooed to meeting with religious movies, games & refreshments.”

-AW Tozer

I originally wrote and posted this in January of 2010, my thoughts have yet to change….. 

I spent most of the last night,  tossing and turning, carrying a heavy burden as I pondered the words of Paul in his 2 letter to Timothy.

“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.” -2 Timothy 3:16-17

 

It seems as if Paul had no doubt in regard to the necessity of the scriptures and biblical teaching in the life of the believer.  His instruction was simple, God breathed out these words so that you may know Him and you are to depend on them for EVERYTHING…but has this understanding been lost in the Church?

 

I can’t help but think of how many, who claim to “stand” upon the word of God yet reject the power of this amazing truth.  So many go on their merry way, believing what they want, thinking what they want and doing what they want but do they ever examine these things according to the scriptures?  This way of life only leads to confusion, a distortion of the truth, a shallow walk and the most frightening consequence is that it opens the flood gates for every form of false teaching….yet most does not even realize it!

 

This mindset is a result of at least three important issues:

(not in any particular order) 

 

1)    Lack of true conversion-

Matthew 7:21-23 offers one of the most frightful passages in the entire Bible:

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.   On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.”

 

Even today, there are many who profess Christ, yet serve a god outside of teaching of scriptures. They live a life of morality and use words such as God, Jesus, cross, they may even be active in the local church and still be serving a god made up in their mind.

 

I specifically remember speaking about the God of the Bible with someone and this was their reply “I will not serve a God like that”.  Unfortunately this is a true statement for many!

 

2)    Lack of personal study-

Life today is busier than ever!  We have our jobs, our family, run here, run there and at the end of the day when the sun is finally covered with darkness…We are exhausted!  We have so much to do, yet so little time for the word, for personal studies and devotions.  I once heard it said like this “Lack of Bible reading is not caused by lack of time, lack of time is caused by lack of Bible reading”.  Maybe we need to get our priorities into a biblical perspective.

 

What is your theology (what you believe about God)?  Where did you get it?  Did you simply adopt it?  Have you truly scrutinized yourself and held your beliefs to the light of scriptures?  What determines your lifestyle?  Are you raising your children correctly?  Are you living in sin?   How do you know?  These things can only be determined by constant duty of the word.

 

I challenge you as brothers and sisters in Christ to fall in love with His word.  It is your life! Jesus said that man cannot live by bread alone but by every word of God (Matt. 4:4).  The word is the true food that will help you grow, develop doctrine, determine your lifestyle, reveal sin, it will lead you into all truth…it is the truth!  This is also the very source of our sanctification.

 

“Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” John 17:17

 

3)    Lack of Biblical teaching/preaching-

Ready, lights, action!  We put on our Sundays best and head to church.  We are prepared to visit with friends, hear good music and typically the preacher will deliver a sermon then we go home until our next appointed time. 

 

We have developed every gimmick known to man to draw people into the church, to keep them interested by our “Christian” entertainment. We have our traditional services, our contemporary services, our youth programs, our drama teams, our puppets, our men’s groups, our ladies groups, our singles group, our married groups, program after program…you name it, the church has it!

 

Although some of these things are not bad in and of themselves, the  question should be this, Are you in a Biblical church? Is your pastor teaching biblically?  What is the substance of his sermons? Are you gradually moving from the milk and on to the meat? Are you receiving sound doctrine? Are the passages being exposited in such a way that you now understand what it was saying to the original audience?

 

This is what you need, what you should desire, not the gimmicks, not the entertainment but a solid teaching of the word. Is this what is driving you? If there are false converts in the congregation, biblical preaching will reveal it.  If you are in false doctrine, biblical preaching will reveal it. If you need discipline, biblical teaching will reveal it…”scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.”

 

I found the following words from Sam Storms.  I think we would do well to get a grasp of the importance of the power of the word in the life of the believer and the emphasis that we need to make on ensuring that we are under solid Biblical preaching/teaching.

 

“8  Reasons for Biblical Preaching”

By Sam Storms

  1. We must preach because of the power of the Word of God to change human lives and to transform the experience of the church.
  2. We must preach because preaching is God’s ordained means for making himself known to us.
  3. We must preach because preaching not only communicates truth about God, it also mediates the very person and power of God.
  4. We must preach because preaching (aside from reading) is the most effective means for transmitting the truths of Holy Scripture.
  5. We must preach because preaching is the fuel for worship. Preaching fans the flames of passion for Jesus.
  6. We must preach because preaching is not simply the fuel for worship, preaching is worship.
  7. We must preach because preaching is the catalyst for church growth, renewal, and revival.
  8. We must preach because preaching is the means by which the glory of God is revealed and imparted to those who listen with faith.

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