Sin

Throwback Thursday ~ Repeating Wrongs Renders Right?

Originally published September 17, 2013.repeating wrongs

“Four hundred thirty seven”

“Sorry, that’s not right. Try again, Buddy.”

scribble scribble scribble

“Oh, ok. Four hundred thirty seven.

“No, Honey. You just said that, and I just told you it was wrong. Give it another try.”

“But it’s 437!”

“Son, I have the answer book right here in front of me. The answer is not 437. Repeating the wrong answer over and over again doesn’t magically make it right.”

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had this conversation -nearly verbatim- with each of my four children in the fourteen years I’ve been home schooling.

But I can tell you that this morning was the first time I realized that this is the same way many people relate to God and the Bible.

When this dialogue takes place between my child and me, it is because the child has done something wrong. He has forgotten to carry the one. Confused a peninsula with an isthmus. Mistaken an adverb for an adjective.

But he can’t see what he’s done wrong, or indeed, that he’s done anything wrong. And because he’s blind to his wrongness, his default position is to assume that he is right and I am wrong. Forget that he’s in fifth grade and I have a bachelor’s degree, half a master’s degree, and nearly two decades of teaching experience. Never mind that this is the fourth time I’ve taught fifth grade from this very same book. Completely disregarded is the fact that I have the teacher key right in front of me that shows exactly what he did wrong and what the right answer is.

No. He’s right. I’m wrong. The book is wrong. Math is stupid.

Foolishness is indeed bound up in the heart of a child.

But foolishness is bound up in all of our hearts when it comes to sin:

“My husband annoys me. God wouldn’t want me to be
miserable for the rest of my life, so my
relationship 
with the guy at work is just fine.”

“What the Bible says about
homosexuality only had to do
with male cult prostitutes, so my
monogamous homosexual relationship
with my partner isn’t a sin.”

“I’ve gone to church all my life.
Once, I even repeated a ‘sinner’s
prayer’ and was baptized. It doesn’t
matter what my life looks like now,
I’m sure I’m saved because of that.”

“The Bible says women aren’t
to instruct men in the church?
But I feel that God has called me
to be a pastor, so that verse must
not mean what it clearly says.”

Over and over we say it, hoping to convince ourselves, to drown out God’s law that’s written on our hearts, and to shout down anyone who would call us to repentance. Because we’re blind to our wrongness, our default position is to assume that we’re right and God, and His word, are wrong. Never mind the fact that He’s God -Creator of the entire universe, knows everything, sees everything, has power over everything, and is perfect in holiness- and we’re, well… not.

No. We’re right. He’s wrong. The Bible is wrong. People who agree with God’s word are just haters.

But, just like I tell my children: repeating the wrong answer over and over again doesn’t magically make it right.  When each of us stands before God on the day of judgment, it’s not going to matter how many times we’ve tried to convince ourselves, others, and God that our way is right. It’s only going to matter what God says is right.

There is a way that seems right to a man,
but its end is the way to death.
Proverbs 14:12

Sin

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

Church

It’s Time for a Reformation in the SBC – 3 Issues We Need to Set Right

I’m taking a short summer break this week. I hope you’ll enjoy this article from the archives. The annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention is also taking place this week. Will you please pray that God will bring conviction of sin, repentance, and obedience to God’s Word?


Originally published May 25, 2018

I don’t know the brother who said it, but I saw a remark the other day from a Presbyterian gentleman who said something to the effect of, “It’s time for all doctrinally sound Southern Baptists to leave the SBC.”

I get that.

When you have an organization as large, open, and widespread as the Southern Baptist Convention, problems – even major ones – are inevitable. At this point, there are many things the SBC is still getting right, biblically speaking…

There are many good and praiseworthy things going on in SBC life. We have hundreds of doctrinally sound pastors faithfully preaching the gospel week in and week out. Discernment and biblical literacy among Southern Baptist church members is slowly but steadily growing. The SBC takes a public, biblical stand on abortion and homosexuality while many other denominations do not. Our organizational structure for funding and sending out missionaries, while sometimes flawed in its execution, is without peer. Southern Baptist Disaster Relief is one of the finest relief organizations in the world. And there’s so much more. Find a godly Kingdom effort going on somewhere, and you’ll probably find a Southern Baptist involved in it. By the grace of God, while we’re far from perfect, we’re getting a lot of things right

…But for some individual Southern Baptists and Southern Baptist churches, the biblical error and other problems pervading the SBC have become too much to bear, and they have deemed it time to walk away from what they see as a system damaged beyond repair, seeking refuge in ARBCA, Bible, Independent, or non-denominational churches and networks instead.

Like I said, I get that, and I don’t blame them one little bit. Believe me, I’ve had leaving on my mind more than once. And if the SBC continues its downward spiral, it’s an inevitability for nearly all of us who hold to sound doctrine.

But there are still plenty of us crazy, “glass half full” doctrinally sound optimists out there who, like Luther, don’t want to abandon the SBC to the rubbish heap if it can be avoided, but would rather see it reformed (little “r”), renewed, and restored to the glory of God.

If you’ve ever labored through the entirety of the Old Testament (and if you haven’t, stop denying yourself that blessing, and study it), you know that God exercised patience with Israel through centuries of idolatry, rebellion, and paganism of the vilest sorts, sending them prophet after prophet, warning after warning, discipline after discipline, lovingly calling, urging, and commanding them to repent and be reconciled to Him before finally executing judgment on them.

I’m just not sure we’re quite at the point of exiling the SBC… yet. I think maybe these are the days of Elijah. And Jeremiah. And Isaiah. And even Luther. A time for godly Southern Baptist men and women to stand firmly on the written Word of God and speak prophetically, chapter and verse, into their beloved churches and denomination, “Thus saith the Lord.”

And in that same spirit of the prophets of old, we don’t speak from a position of “I’m right and I’m here to prove it,” or because we’re haters, or because we’re power-hungry. It’s because we’re cut to the heart over the sin and idolatry we see among our brothers and sisters. We’re grieved that those things dishonor our precious Savior and bring His judgment and discipline upon those who participate in and propagate them. We deeply desire that our denomination and our churches experience the joy that comes with being spiritually healthy and biblically submitted to Christ.

So, while there are probably at least ninety-five theses that could be nailed to the doors of the Executive Committee in Nashville, here are three that would be a good start.

1.
The Authority and Sufficiency of Scripture

Nearly forty years ago, Southern Baptist movers and shakers in the conservative resurgence went to war for the inerrancy of Scripture. It was a long, hard battle, but they won. Now it’s time to fight for the authority and sufficiency of Scripture in the SBC.

The Bible is our authority as Christians, not the ideas, opinions, and traditions of denominational leaders, SBC celebrities, pastors, or any other person. The Bible. If the Bible commands us to do something, we do it. If the Bible commands us not to do something, we don’t do it. We don’t formulate our own programs and methods and try to squish the Bible in to make it fit. We start with the Bible. We stay with the Bible. We end with the Bible.

Because the SBC does not always submit to the authority of the Bible, we have leaders, celebrities, and pastors looking to, and promoting, sources outside the Bible for direction instead of simply trusting and obeying God’s written Word. We have influential “Bible” teachers who stand on stages in front of thousands and dare to proclaim, “God told me…”, functionally denying the sufficiency of Scripture by relying on supposed extra-biblical revelation (and teaching their followers to do the same). We have pastors and denominational leaders who look to polls and surveys to decide how to conduct their worship services or which social issues need to be addressed and how to address them. We have church growth gurus teaching our pastors to adopt all manner of worldliness that “works” to get sinners in the doors of their churches.

If the Southern Baptist Convention is to survive as an entity of biblical Christianity, the authority and sufficiency of Scripture is the number one issue that must be dealt with.  If this issue is properly addressed and corrected, it will alleviate or minimize nearly all other problems facing the SBC. We must submit to God’s written Word and give Scripture its proper place – first place – in our denomination, our individual churches, and our personal lives.

Basic Training: The Bible Is Our Authority

Basic Training: The Bible Is Sufficient

2.
False Doctrine and False Teachers

If the SBC truly regarded the Bible as authoritative and sufficient, the cancer of false doctrine and false teachers that is slowly killing us would be cured or in remission. Indeed, the aforementioned false teaching of extra-biblical (God told me, showed me in a dream, spoke to me, etc.) revelation is probably the most pervasive false doctrine accepted among Southern Baptists.

When Hilkiah found the Book of the Law in the temple (Imagine a house of God in such a shambles of idolatry that people had to dig and search for the actual Scriptures. Selah.), and Shaphan read it to Josiah, Josiah tore his clothes in grief and began to set God’s house and God’s people in order. After covenanting together with the people to obey God’s Word, the very first thing Josiah did was to have the altars and vessels of false gods carried out of God’s house and destroyed. If the SBC would follow in Josiah’s footsteps we would see things like:

LifeWay would immediately remove and destroy any and all materials by Beth Moore, Andy Stanley, Priscilla Shirer, TD Jakes, Lysa TerKeurst, Sarah Young, Christine Caine, Bethel Music, Jesus Culture, Hillsong, and all other false teachers and promulgators of false doctrine.

There would be no more conferences, simulcasts, or leadership training seminars featuring false teachers, and false teachers would certainly not be invited to speak in any capacity at the annual Southern Baptist Convention.

Pastors, authors, and speakers who attempted to build a career inside the SBC by teaching false doctrine would be subject to church discipline for their sin, not turned into celebrities or appointed or elected to denominational leadership positions.

Messenger voting privileges at the Convention would be revoked for churches which habitually and unrepentantly welcome false teachers.

If the Bible were to become our sufficient authority for both orthodoxy and orthopraxy, our eyes would quickly be opened to the enormity of the hold false doctrine has on our denomination, churches, and individuals, and we would act accordingly and biblically.

A Naked Emperor in the Southern Baptist Convention

10 Things I Wish Southern Baptists Knew About Southern Baptists

The Peterson Predicament and LifeWay’s Peculiar Policies

3.
Disfellowshipping Errant Churches

Earlier this week, the Southern Baptist Convention severed ties with the District of Columbia Baptist Convention (DCBC- an association of Southern Baptist churches in the Washington, D.C. area) for refusing to disfellowship one of its member churches, Calvary Baptist, which had called a legally “married” lesbian couple to serve as its co-“pastors” over a year ago.

It was absolutely the right thing to do (the SBC has disfellowshipped several churches that embrace homosexuality), and I’m glad that this standard remains in tact, but…lesbian co-pastors…? That’s how bad it has to get before the SBC can, or will, act to remove a church? What about churches that are embracing sins other than homosexuality?

There are plenty of apostate Southern Baptist churches, and we have no mechanism in place for kicking them out of the SBC.

This is a verbatim quote from the FAQ section (5th question from the top) of the SBC’s web site:

“According to our constitution, if a church no longer makes a bona fide contribution to the Convention’s work, or if it acts to ‘affirm, approve, or endorse homosexual behavior,’ it no longer complies with the Constitution of the Southern Baptist Convention and is not permitted to send messengers to the annual meeting. These, however, are the only explicitly stated instances in which the SBC has the prerogative to take action.”

What does that mean? As long as your church doesn’t affirm homosexuality and gives to the Cooperative Program, you’re in. Never mind if your pastor twists God’s word until it’s unrecognizable. Or lets women and false teachers get behind the pulpit like Steven Furtick does. Or plays AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell” on Easter Sunday and says he probably wouldn’t have strippers on stage like Perry Noble does. Or any of the other ridiculous and blasphemous shenanigans so many of the seeker sensitive types in our denomination pull. Nope, as long as you give your money and stand on the right side of homosexuality, you’re good to go.² ³

I’ll be the first to admit, it would be a difficult standard to set and implement, but look at the standards the New Testament required of churches. We’ve got to set the bar higher than a homosexuality litmus test and an offering for a church to be in good standing with the SBC. Doctrine and practices simply have to be a factor.

 

Can there be another conservative resurgence that brings reform to the SBC? I believe there can.

The Bible says “nothing will be impossible with God.” I believe that. I believe that the God who spoke the universe into existence from nothing, who opened sealed tombs and barren wombs, who parted seas and walked on water and turned water into wine can change the hearts of Southern Baptists and the trajectory of the Southern Baptist Convention.

By His grace. For His glory. For our good.


¹A Naked Emperor in the Southern Baptist Convention
²10 Things I Wish Southern Baptists Knew About Southern Baptists
³This verbiage has been removed from the FAQ section of the SBC website. See “Susan’s” comments and my replies in the comments section for more info.

Mailbag

Throwback Thursday ~ The Mailbag: May Christian Women Wear Pants?

Originally published April 3, 2017

 

What are your views on women wearing pants?

For readers who are a little confused by this question, you may not be aware that there are various churches that require women and girls to wear skirts or dresses rather than pants. The local churches I’m familiar with which carry this requirement are Pentecostal and Independent Baptist, though there may be others. (Some of these churches also require women to have long hair and abstain from wearing makeup.)

The initial basis for this requirement is Deuteronomy 22:5…

A woman shall not wear a man’s garment, nor shall a man put on a woman’s cloak, for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord your God.

…along with the general desire to encourage God-given femininity for women and masculinity for men. Definitely a good idea these days.

But, since my opinion is of zero importance – it’s what God thinks that counts – let’s look at what the Bible says. Is it biblical for a church to make this requirement of Christian women, or, for a Christian woman to choose, on her own, not to wear pants?

Let’s tackle that last question first.

There’s nothing in the Bible that says women have to wear pants, so if you want to wear skirts and dresses all the time, you’re absolutely free to do that. What you may not do (biblically) is think, or say, that wearing skirts and dresses somehow makes you holier or more obedient to God than women who choose to wear pants- because there’s nothing about that in the Bible either.

But what about Deuteronomy 22:5?

Well, let’s take a look at that Scripture using good hermeneutical principles. We need to look at the context, culture, audience, and intent of this verse.

First we need to recognize that Deuteronomy is in the Old Testament. Right off the bat, we must keep in mind that, while there are many underlying, timeless principles in the Old Testament that still apply to Christians (usually because they are reiterated in the New Testament) the particular pronouncement of the Old Testament verse we’re reading may not apply.

Next, Deuteronomy 22 is smack dab in the middle of the Levitical law that was given as a part of the Mosaic covenant. The Mosaic covenant was fulfilled in Christ, which means its laws are no longer binding on us as Christians. We are under the New Covenant of grace through Christ. This is why you’re not sinning if you build a house without a parapet around the roof (verse 8), sow your vineyard, if you have one, with two kinds of seed (verse 9), wear fabric that’s a wool-linen blend (verse 11), or go tassel-less (verse 12). If you think Deuteronomy 22:5 prohibits women from wearing pants, a good question to ask yourself is: “Why would I feel required to obey verse 5 of Deuteronomy 22, but not verses 8-12?”

The next thing we need to look at is the actual wording of Deuteronomy 22. Does it say anything about pants or any other specific item of clothing? No. It says women are not to wear men’s clothes and men are not to wear women’s clothes. Now, keep in mind that the audience for this verse was Old Testament Israel, and that, at the time, in that culture, both men and women wore what we would technically describe today as a “dress.”

Were Moses and rest of the Israelite men – who were actually receiving this law from God at the time – sinning because they were wearing “dresses”? (And, let’s remember, Jesus dressed the same way.) Of course not. In our time and culture, they’re wearing dresses, and dresses are for women. In their time and culture, they’re wearing a garment designed for men. God has never said, “Pants are for men. Dresses are for women.” Pre-twentieth century western culture has said that. So if the men of the Bible weren’t sinning for wearing “dresses” designed for men, how could Christian women be sinning for wearing pants designed for women?

Deuteronomy 22:5 is not addressing the construction of specific garments. It’s addressing the intent of the heart. Since men and women of that culture both wore garments of similar construction (i.e. sleeves, an opening for the head, and a sheath for the torso and legs), there must have been differing accessories (veils, turbans, sashes, belts, cloaks, etc.) that clearly distinguished between male and female outfits. A woman could wear those male accessories and still be wearing a “dress,” but what would her motive for doing so have been? The only motive she could have had was to appear to others to be a man.

In other words, Deuteronomy 22:5 is not addressing American women wearing pants designed for women’s bodies, sold in the women’s department of the store, marketed to women, and purchased by women who have no intention of trying to impersonate, or appear to others to be, a man. It is addressing the sin of cross-dressing (transvestism).

And that is a prohibition that does carry over into the New Testament under the heading of sexual immorality. We are to respect and honor God’s perfect and holy decision to create us as women or men. We are not to alter our clothing, accessories, cosmetics, hair styles, gait, body language, speech patterns, lifestyles, or anatomy in order to appear to others, or ourselves, to be the opposite sex. To do so is to tell God that His decision to make you a woman or a man was wrong. That is rebellion.

So, if a church today really wants to correctly handle and apply Deuteronomy 22:5, it will do so in light of the New Testament passages on sexual immorality. The church should teach that God always makes the right decision to create someone male or female, and that to rebel against God’s perfect design by altering one’s appearance to impersonate the opposite sex is sin which needs to be repented of and forgiven by the shed blood of Christ.

Deuteronomy 22:5 is not about 21st century American women wearing pants designed for women. So, when a church prohibits women from wearing pants – even when done with the best of intentions to honor God – what they are doing is mishandling Scripture and making a law where none exists. Jesus wasn’t too happy when “church leaders” of His time did that, and our churches today shouldn’t be doing it either.

All of that being said, I’ve had the privilege of knowing and, on occasion, worshiping with some dear saints in an IFB church which required skirts for women. These folks truly loved the Lord and honored His word. Any time I attended one of their activities, I wore a skirt so as not to be a stumbling block or draw attention to myself. Churches which carry the requirement of skirts for women but are otherwise doctrinally sound should not be regarded as apostate.


If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.

Homosexuality, Salvation

Throwback Thursday ~ God Loves Gays

Originally published May 8, 2015god loves gays

Last week, as I was mindlessly flipping through Facebook, this picture caught my eye. It was attached to a news article about the Supreme Court’s hearing on same sex “marriage”. I was already at my saturation point with the reporting on the day’s events, but this picture just reached out and grabbed my heart.

“God loves gays,” the young man’s sign says. Rarely, perhaps never, has a statement been so beautifully true and so painfully false all at the same time.

For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Romans 5:7-8

It’s true. God does love gays. He doesn’t love them because He sees what they might someday become after leaving the lifestyle behind. He doesn’t love them because they’re great “fixer upper” projects. He doesn’t love them because He feels sorry for them. He just loves them. Right where they are. Not after they get cleaned up. Now.


 God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.


Have you ever really thought about the implications of that statement?

God loves the homosexual man while he is sodomizing his partner.

God loves the gang banger while he is pulling the trigger of his gun.

God loves the prostitute while she is servicing her client.

God loves the child molester while he is violating that precious little one.

God loves the atheist soldier in a godless country while he is torturing Christians.

In the deepest, blackest night of our sin, God loves each and every one of us. Only a profoundly, unfathomably good and kind God could, or would, do such a thing.

But the story doesn’t end there.

You see, as unbelievable as it is that God could love someone so drenched in evil, He takes things a step further. God’s love motivated Him to act.


while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.


Rescue. Redemption. Salvation. However you want to put it, God personally came down and sacrificed Himself so that even the most wretched sinner would have a way out. No more enslavement to evil. No more being pawns of the devil in his never-ending quest for revenge against the King. No more separation from God, now, or in eternity.

God drove a cross-shaped stake into the ground at Calvary and said, “No more.”

God does love gays. And murderers. And child rapists. And hookers. And even prideful, rebellious, good little Sunday School girls like me. But not like this young man’s sign implies. He thinks God shows love by approving of his homosexuality. But an all-powerful God who would say He loves sinners and yet leave them to rot in their sin without lifting a finger to help them isn’t loving. Isn’t all-powerful. Isn’t God.

God does love you, my young friend. You simply have no idea how much.