Sin, Throwback Thursday

Throwback Thursday ~ 9 Things that Are Still Sins Whether We Agree or Not

Originally published June 19, 20159 still sins

 

I do it all the time, Mother, and I’ve decided something-
it’s not a sin.

I heard this line several years ago on a popular sitcom, spoken by an adult daughter to her Christian mother about a behavior the Bible unambiguously calls a sin. I mean, it’s right smack dab in the middle of the Big 10; “thou shalt not” and everything.

It’s one thing to say, “I know it’s a sin, but I don’t care. I’m going to do it anyway,” but how depraved is the world when they think they – in God’s place – are the ones who get to define what sin is? And what’s even worse is that the church has begun to adopt this audacious depravity as well, whether approving of sin by fiat or by simply ignoring God’s word and letting sin slide without rebuke.

When it comes to what’s a sin and what’s not, God made up His mind a long time ago. And He’s not changing it, regardless of what you or I or Joe Politician or Jane Celebrity might think. Maybe we all need a remedial course in hamartiology, so let’s start with the basics. These things are all still sins whether the world and the church agree with God or not:

1. Homosexuality

Let’s just get it out of the way right up front. I don’t care how many celebrity “pastors” and “Christian” authors twist God’s word to say otherwise, or how many people declare themselves to be (unrepentant, practicing) “gay Christians,” or how many homosexuals declare that God made them that way, God’s word is clear: homosexual lust and behavior are sins.

2. Abortion

Abortion is the taking of an innocent human life. We don’t murder people because they’re small or sick or inconvenient or will hinder our sucess. God didn’t say, “You shall not murder, except when…” He said, “You shall not murder.” Period.

3. Extra-Marital (Heterosexual) Sex

Adultery, fornication, whatever form it might take, if you’re not legally married to the person you’re engaging in sexual activity – up to and including actual intercourse – with, you’re sinning.

4. Cohabitation

See #3. And don’t try to whitewash it by saying you’re living together but not sleeping together. A) The Bible says we’re to flee temptation, not move in with it, and B) we’re supposed to avoid every form of evil, even the appearance of it. If you call yourself a Christian and you’re shacking up, you’re living in sin (that’s why they call it “living in sin”). Repent and move out or marry up.

5. Divorce

Yep, still a sin, except in two cases: unfaithfulness or an unsaved spouse leaving a saved spouse. In those two cases the spouse who was wronged is not sinning and is free to marry again.

6. Swearing

The air is saturated with it. Foul language coming from our TVs, music, movies, social media, and the people we’re around all day. But expletives have no place in the vocabulary of a Christian. Is your potty mouth on Saturday the same one you praise God with on Sunday?

7. Taking God’s Name in Vain

It’s gotten to the point where we think so little of casually punctuating our sentences with, “Oh my G-d,”  or using the name of Jesus as an exclamation that pastors are even doing so from the pulpit these days. God’s name is high and holy and should be spoken only reverently and worshipfully. How can we look people in the eye and call them to repentance and faith in a Person whose name we use as a cuss word?

8. Gluttony

We have almost completely amputated gluttony from the spiritual realm by cordoning it off as merely a physical or medical issue. We’ve renamed it “overeating,” but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s a sin. God created good food for us to enjoy, but just as with all the other good gifts He gives us, He expects us to exercise Spirit-enabled self control when we receive it.

9. Female Usurpation

God makes it abundantly clear in His word that women are not to instruct men in the Scriptures or hold authority over them in the church. Women sin when they pastor churches, preach sermons in church, teach men in Sunday School classes, and hold other positions of authority over men in the church. Men, however, bear the primarily responsibility for this when they sin by failing to rebuke usurping women, or when women feel they have no other choice but to take on male responsibilities in the church because men are shirking their own duties before God.

 

We don’t get to decide what sin is. That’s God’s job. And all of us – whether we’ve committed one of these nine sins or not – are guilty of sinning against Him. That’s the bad news.

But, in Christianity, we never give the bad news without following it up with the good news. And, oh what wonderfully good news it is: forgiveness. Jesus paid for our sin at Calvary so that if we will only turn from it and trust Him, He will forgive us for all nine of these sins and countless others.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
1 John 1:9

Gospel, Homosexuality, Salvation, Sin, Throwback Thursday

Throwback Thursday ~ Cancer: A Love Story

Originally published April 7, 2013cancer love story

Cancer.

The dreadfulness of the word hung heavy in the air between Jana and her friend Denise.

“The doctor says it’s terminal,” Denise choked, “I’m so confused. I don’t know what to do.”

Jana’s heart broke as she envisioned the difficult emotional road ahead for Denise and watched the tears streaming down her face.

“I’d do anything to take that pain away,” thought Jana. “Anything.

For days after they parted, Jana’s thoughts were consumed with how she could help Denise accept and feel better about her condition. By the weekend, when they met for coffee, Jana was ready.

“Denise,” she began, “I’ve been giving it a lot of thought, and I think I know why you’re so uncomfortable with having cancer.”

“Oh? Why?” asked Denise.

“Well, first of all, you shouldn’t be fighting against the idea of having cancer. It’s a completely natural biological event. In fact, you were probably born genetically predisposed to cancer. It’s part of who you are. Accept it and embrace it as something that makes you unique and wonderful!”

Denise seemed skeptical, but Jana plunged ahead.Girlfriends Enjoy A Conversation

“You’re also worried about what other people will think of you. Maybe they’ll think you’re weak and try to help you with things that you’d rather do for yourself.”

“But maybe I’ll need some help,” Denise suggested quietly.

“Nonsense!” Jana retorted, “Having cancer doesn’t make you different from anybody else. It’s exactly the same as not having cancer. What we need to do is show that to the world. Maybe we should have a rally for cancer equality!”

“Jana, that’s great and all,” Denise whispered somberly, “but I’m going to die. That makes all the stuff you’re talking about seem a lot less important.”

Jana seems like a very loving and kind person, but does the “help” she was offering Denise seem…well…helpful?

What if I told you that during this entire scenario, Jana personally knew a doctor who had a proven cure for Denise’s type of cancer, and was giving it away, yet Jana never told Denise? How loving and kind does Jana seem now?

Now read back through this story and substitute “homosexuality” for “cancer”.

We live in a culture that tells Christians that we are to “love” our homosexual friends and loved ones by embracing homosexuality as good and natural. We even hear people who claim to be Christians saying this. But is this how the Bible defines love? Is this how Jesus loved people?

In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
1 John 4:10-11

Think back over the encounters Jesus had with people, from the woman at the well, to Zaccheus, to Nicodemus, to the woman caught in adultery, to the rich young ruler, to anybody else Jesus ever interacted with.

Did Jesus ever “love” someone by telling him it was OK to stay in his sin?

No, He didn’t.

Jesus loved sinners by calling them to repentance, forgiveness, and a new life in Christ.

Why? Because it isn’t love to help the slave to embrace his chains. It’s love to set him free.

Christ loved us by going to the cross and becoming the propitiation –satisfying God’s wrath—for our sins. He laid down His life for our freedom.

And, Christian, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. We must lay down our opinions, our politics, our ideas of what we’d like the Bible to say, maybe even our actual lives, in order to help people know freedom in Christ. We have the cure for their spiritual cancer—the gospel—and it is not “love” to knowingly misdiagnose them or keep that cure from them.

Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.
John 15:13

blurry-sky-cross
But as important as it is to rescue the perishing, there’s an even greater issue at stake here for those of us who claim the name of Christ.

For our sin, our Savior endured wrongful conviction, ridicule, mockery, and bullying.

For our sin, our Savior was slapped, punched, spit on, had His beard yanked out, and thorns and brambles mashed into His skull.

For our sin, our Savior had the skin flayed off His back, buttocks, and legs, whipped nearly to death until He was a bloody mess.

For our sin, our Savior, beaten, bloody, and broken of body, hoisted a heavy, splintery cross onto His shoulders and carried it through town and up the hill to His execution.

One nail.

Two nails.

Three nails.

For your sin. For my sin. For our neighbors’ sin.

How dare you, or I, or anyone spit in the face of our bleeding, dying Savior by saying that the sin that put Him on the cross is OK?

How dare we?

How can any of us claim to love Christ while celebrating the nails, the spear, the crown of thorns?

By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.
1 John 2:5b-6

Jesus walked the way of leading people to repentance from sin and to the beauty, the freedom of a glorious new life through faith in Himself. Will we, who say we abide in Him, love Jesus and our homosexual neighbor enough to walk in the same way in which He walked?

Mostloving

Church, Throwback Thursday

Throwback Thursday ~ Servanthood

Originally published July 26, 2016brush-629657_1280

When we think about “ministry” or “serving the church,” we often – sometimes exclusively – think about Paul’s preaching, and forget about things like Jesus washing the disciples’ feet, the seven men who served the widows (Acts 6:1-6), the generous givers in Corinth (2 Corinthians 9), the Shunamite who provided a room for Elisha (2 Kings 4:8-10).

Ministry and servanthood are often dirty and unglamorous jobs that nobody else wants to do, but they’re filling a need. When you clean up the church kitchen after a fellowship meal, you are doing ministry. When you sit with a church member at the hospital, you are doing ministry. When you take a turn in the nursery, you are doing ministry. When you pray for your church, you are doing ministry. When you mow the church grounds or fix the leaky baptistery or watch someone’s child so she can keep an appointment, you are doing ministry. You’re not going to be applauded for doing these things. Few, if any, will even notice that they’ve been done, and some of those folks will complain about the way you did it.

And that’s OK, because ultimately, we aren’t doing it for them. We’re serving Christ (Colossians 3:23-24).

Notice the kinds of ministry Jesus commends believers for at the final judgment (Matthew 25:31-40). Not teaching dozens or preaching to hundreds or singing to thousands (though those things are certainly needful and commendable when done biblically), but providing food, drink, and clothing to needy brothers and sisters in Christ, welcoming strangers into the church, visiting sick or imprisoned church members. It’s the little, personal, one on one, taking care of each other’s needs that Christ praises.

“Truly, I say to you,” our King will say, “as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” (Matthew 25:40)

May we all get out of the mindset that the spotlight is the only route to ministry, put on our grungy clothes, roll up our sleeves, get down on our hands and knees, and do the dirty, lowly work of servanthood.

Christian women, Church, Throwback Thursday

Throwback Thursday ~ 10 Ways Godly Women Can Help Improve the Spiritual Health of Their Churches

Originally published June 10, 201610 ways healthy churches

Let’s face it, ladies- not one of us goes to a church that’s one hundred per cent spiritually healthy. Every church has its problems. Some, just a few; others, well… they’re more like “fixer uppers”. From the encroachment of false doctrine to women serving in improper places of authority to toxic personalities to sin being swept under the rug, what are we to do when we see things in our churches that conflict with Scripture? How can we bring about spiritual change without stepping outside the boundaries of biblical womanhood?

1. Make sure you’re understanding, viewing, and responding to the problem biblically
Are you basing your concern about the situation on a correct or incorrect understanding of Scripture? Is the problem actually a violation of Scripture or just something that rubs you the wrong way personally? Is it possible something you’re doing is contributing to the problem? Sometimes what needs to be changed in your church might be your incorrect understanding of Scripture, your behavior, or your heart attitude.

2. Pray
We are waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay (yes, it really does require that many a’s) underestimating the role prayer plays in our churches in general, but especially the role it plays in changing things in the church. Don’t blow prayer off as unimportant or a last resort. Pray for your church every day. Pray about the problems you’re seeing in the church and the people involved. Pray for wisdom for your pastor and whoever is in charge of handling the problem. Pray about it faithfully, fervently, and according to Scripture. It’s not just a biblical motion to go through. I’ve seen God change things in response to prayer time and time again.

3. Approach the appropriate person
If you’ve been praying about the problem and the people involved, and you’re certain you have a biblically correct understanding of and outlook on the situation, and you think you need to address the issue with someone, go to the appropriate person in humility, kindness, gentleness, and patience and discuss it with him or her in the same way you would want to be approached. (And use wisdom- in some cases it might be best for your husband or another man to approach the person.)

Most of the time, the appropriate person to approach first is the person at the center of the problem. A lady in your Sunday School class is a gossip? Go to her first, not the Sunday school teacher. The women’s ministry director is selecting materials authored by false teachers? Go to her first, not the board of elders. Hopefully, you’ll “win your brother.” If not, Matthew 18:15-20 outlines the appropriate subsequent steps to take when dealing with sin. (And, P.S., don’t stop praying. Pray more.)

4. Set a good example
Conduct yourself like a lady – a godly lady – whether you’re dealing with a problematic issue, worshiping, serving, fellowshipping, teaching, learning, or whatever you’re doing at church. Be a velvet covered brick. Strong, firm, and unwavering from Scripture on the inside, meek, gentle, kind, and loving on the outside. Be obedient to Scripture. Repent and seek forgiveness when you sin. Maintain a reputation that’s above reproach. People are watching you, even looking up to you.

5. Be faithful
As Christians we are supposed to be faithful members of the local body of Christ. That means you become an official member. You attend services unless Providentially hindered. You show up on time. You give offerings. You join a Sunday school/Bible study/small group class. You plug in and serve. You bond with your brothers and sisters in Christ. You get invested in the life of the church. You can’t be a strong, godly influence on your church or have people take you seriously when you address a problem if you’re lackadaisical in your approach to church or you’re only there half the time.

6. Be humble and willing
Sometimes helping to resolve a problem in a godly way might require you to do something that, while biblical and appropriate, makes you feel uncomfortable. Maybe you’re introverted and scared to death to address an issue of sin with a fellow church member. Maybe you’re needed in a position of service you don’t have much experience in. Maybe that sister at church that you don’t really like needs a friend. Are you willing to humble yourself, put your own preferences aside, and serve the body of Christ in whatever way is needed?

7. Teach
If you know how to properly handle God’s word and you’re able to teach, find an open position and get in there, whether it’s a children’s Sunday School class, a women’s Bible study, discipling a younger sister one on one, or helping out with the youth girls. Biblical illiteracy is absolutely and astonishingly rampant in the church, which means there are Christians in your church who don’t know how to behave biblically, which means issues of sin will arise. Prevent those issues before they happen by correctly teaching God’s word to as many women and children as you can. (And if you don’t know how, get trained.)

8. Put on your work clothes and roll up your sleeves
We can no longer go to church with the attitude that we’re going to just row our boats gently down the stream and if a problem arises and somebody else doesn’t deal with it to our satisfaction, we’re leaving. Church isn’t the buffet line at Golden Corral, existing only to provide us with multiple options and opportunities for a pleasant worship experience. Church is often more like being employed by Roto Rooter- it’s hard, hot, sweaty, unpleasant work. Don’t turn tail and run at the first sign of trouble. God may have put you in that church to be a catalyst for biblical change. Maybe the problematic situation at church is not about your comfort. Maybe it’s about you helping the body of Christ.

9. Encourage, help, and pray for your pastor and other church leadership
Pastoring (and other ministry leadership positions) is a tough, often thankless job. Your pastor, associate pastor, minister of music, elders, deacons, teachers, etc., can use all the support they can get. Be generous with your attaboys. Volunteer to help out where you can (teach, disciple, train others, help vet curricula and conference speakers, mediate, visit). And, again, pray. Pray for wisdom and discernment for your pastor and leadership. Pray that God will grow them in their understanding and teaching of the word. Pray for their marriages and parenting. Do what you can to support your leadership so they can be strong, healthy shepherds for the flock.

10. Keep your focus on Christ and trust Him
It’s easy to get so wrapped up in the details of a problem at church that we forget about God. Are you remembering that God loves and wants what’s best for your church and the people involved in the problem far more than you do? Have you stepped back, taken a deep breath, and recognized that changing people’s hearts and growing the church to maturity is on God’s shoulders, not yours? Are you acknowledging the fact that God is in control and is working in the situation even if you can’t see it? Do you believe that God is out for His glory and the good of His people even if visible circumstances suggest otherwise? Are you trusting in Christ Himself or are you trusting in a positive outcome to the situation?

 

No church is perfect, ladies. Your church has problems. My church has problems. Let’s work together with our brothers and sisters in the local body of Christ – humbly, lovingly, patiently, and as mature, godly women – to solve those problems and encourage our churches toward holiness and spiritual health.

Church, Throwback Thursday

Throwback Thursday ~ Is It Really All Our Fault?

Originally published July 15, 2016all our fault

“If the church would just _________,
the world would flock to us.”

“The world is in the state it’s in because
the church has fallen down on the job.”

Over the past few years, I’ve been hearing and reading statements like these more and more frequently. But are they true? Is the world really in such sad shape as a result of the failings of the church?

Yes!…and…no.

It is absolutely true that the visible church – everything that wears the label “church” or “Christian,” whether or not it’s biblical Christianity – has a lot to be ashamed of. Westboro. TBN. Homosexual church leaders and members. Pastors caught in adultery. Child molestation scandals. Female “pastors.” All manner of demonic behavior masquerading as “worship,” blasphemously attributed to the “Holy Spirit.”

Even churches with an orthodox statement of faith – which, to onlookers, seem to be doing fine, biblically – water down the gospel in the name of being seeker sensitive, use materials produced by false teachers, invite false teachers to speak at their conferences, fail to evangelize, place women in unbiblical positions of leadership, have pastors and teachers whose main form of teaching is eisegesis and pandering to felt needs, fail to provide for the needs of their members and their surrounding community, focus on fun and silliness in their youth and children’s ministries instead of Scripture and holiness, allow members to gossip, backbite, and exercise selfishness, fail to practice church discipline, make their worship services into irreverent entertainment-fests, have “pastors” who are little more than stand up comedians, and have largely biblically ignorant congregations.

Some churches are spiritually healthier than others, but nobody’s getting out of this one with clean hands. Even the healthiest church is doing something wrong in some little nook or cranny. And as Christ’s bride, it is incumbent upon us, whenever we discover those nooks and crannies, to repent, set things right, and do things biblically as we move forward.

Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. Ephesians 5:25b-27

That’s Christ’s vision of the church. A vision all churches fall woefully short of. And when the church fails in any area, it does contribute to the downhill slide of the world, because it is not being the city on the hill Christ wants it to be, and it is producing individual Christians (or false converts) who aren’t being the salt and light Christ wants them to be.

But is it fair to lay all the world’s woes and sinfulness at the doorstep of the church? Is it really true that if we would just clean up our act in this area or on that issue that we’d magically see an influx of pagans begging, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

No, it isn’t.

The world isn’t steeped in sin because of the failings of the church. The world is steeped in sin because of the Fall.

Look back over history. The world was vicious and depraved long before the church ever came on the scene. And, for that matter, long before God set apart and established Israel as His chosen people. (Hello? The ante-diluvian world? Sodom and Gomorrah? Ancient Egypt? Baal and Molech worship?)

Examine any era in the last two millenia when you think the church was doing a better job than it is now and take a look at the society that church was situated in. The New Testament church? It was surrounded by a world of war, oppression, torture, debauchery, sexual deviance, slavery, misogyny, poverty, famine, and child abuse.

The head of the church, Jesus Christ, spent over thirty years physically present on this earth. We know He conducted His ministry perfectly. Not once did He fail to preach the gospel or provide for people’s needs or fall short in any other way. He even went so far as to lay His life down for the sin of the world. And what impact did that have on His immediate society? Did all the Pharisees repent and temple worship was restored to godliness? No. Did Rome stop ruling the world with an iron fist? No. Did acts of sedition and perversion and persecution suddenly disappear? No. In fact, some of those things actually got worse during and after Jesus’ time.

Just like He prophesied.

You see, Jesus didn’t say, “Be more like Me and the world will come running,” or “The church can solve the ills of the world.” He said:

If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. John 15:19

Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. 2 Timothy 3:12-13

The more the church and individual Christians look and act like Christ, the more world will hate, persecute, and ostracize us.

The church is not going to fix all the evils of society. And it’s not fair to lay that burden of responsibility – one that even Jesus’ earthly ministry didn’t accomplish – on believers who genuinely love their Savior and want to serve Him. Holding out the stick and carrot of a utopian world to the church – if only we’ll get our act together – does nothing but breed hopelessness, despair, and futility in the pews.

Does the church have a lot of repenting to do? Yes. Are there right hands we need to chop off and right eyes we need to gouge out in order to facilitate obedience to Christ? You bet. Should we be exponentially more proactive and passionate about preaching the gospel and meeting the needs of a lost and dying world? Absolutely.

But we do not do those things because we’re failing the world. We do those things out of love for and faithfulness to Christ. Christ is our goal, not a changed world. Christ is the prize we’re to fix our eyes on, not a society that behaves itself. Christ is the finish line we press toward, not domestic tranquility and morality.

Christ.

Because if it’s the church’s job to set the world right, we’re doomed. The world sins because the world is made up of sinners. And the world will continue to sin – even if every church on the planet suddenly becomes perfect – because the world is made up of sinners. But if the church’s highest attainment is love for Christ, faithfulness to Christ, and obedience to Christ, then we are successful in God’s eyes regardless of what the world around us looks like.

Let’s be faithful and trust God to handle changing the world.