Discernment, False Doctrine, Southern Baptist/SBC

A Naked Emperor in the Southern Baptist Convention

Originally published April 6, 2018

Think back to your childhood. Remember the story, The Emperor’s New Clothes?

Once upon a time, there lived an emperor. One day two swindlers came to his palace and told him they could weave cloth for his royal robes that was magical: to those who were foolish or unfit for their jobs, it would appear invisible. Only the wise and worthy would be able to see this fine fabric. The emperor hastily agreed to pay the “weavers” an exorbitant amount of money to make him such an amazing garment, thinking he would use it to weed out anyone unfit for royal service.

The weavers set about pretending to weave. From time to time, the emperor sent various folk to check on the progress the weavers were making, and – though in reality, none of them could see the non-existent fabric – all reported back that the garments were coming along nicely and the cloth was beautiful. But strangely enough, when the emperor himself looked in on the weavers, they held up the magnificent fabric, and he could not see it. Not wanting word to leak out that he was unfit to serve as emperor, he pretended to examine the cloth and complimented the weavers lavishly on their fine work.

Finally, the weavers informed the emperor that the garments were finished. They had the emperor strip down to his skivvies and pretended to help him on with his fine new “garments”. Word had spread among the emperor’s subjects about the magical properties of the fabric, and as the royal procession made its way through town, all shouted out praise for the emperor’s fine new clothes.

All. Except for one little boy.

“But he hasn’t got anything on!” the boy shouted.

It took the innocent honesty of a simple child to shock the emperor’s subjects back to their senses. The truth spread like wildfire, and the crowd began to cry out: “The emperor is naked!” “The emperor has no clothes on!” “He’s not wearing anything!”

But did the emperor admit to his foolishness, return to the palace, and get dressed? No. Sadly the story ends this way:

“The Emperor shivered, for he suspected they were right. But he thought, ‘This procession has got to go on.’ So he walked more proudly than ever, as his noblemen held high the train that wasn’t there at all.”¹

And so the “emperor” of leadership in the Southern Baptist Convention and those who carry its train march proudly on, despite the cries of simple peasants and innocent little children crying at the top of our lungs, “The emperor is naked!” “There are issues that need to be addressed, here!” “Listen to us!”

You’ll note that the story doesn’t say that the emperor was a cruel man, that he overtaxed the people, oppressed them into slavery, was a warmonger, or was in any other way an evil leader. In fact, one could argue that he had good intentions of making sure the people who served at various posts in his empire were of the finest caliber.

And while there are many issues that need to be addressed in my denomination, I think this could generally be said of the leadership of the Southern Baptist Convention as well. Call me a Pollyanna, but I have no reason to believe our denominational leadership – as a whole – is evil or has anything less than the best of intentions for the SBC.

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 even benevolent emperors get things wrong sometimes, and, Southern Baptist leadership, your drawers are flapping in the breeze on this one²:

Sin. The public sin our leaders commit that we excuse and the public sin our leaders commit that we discipline, and the fact that there’s a discrepancy between the two.

Recently, Frank Page, president and chief executive officer of the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention (one of the top positions of SBC leadership at the national level) resigned his position due to “a morally inappropriate relationship in the recent past,” which, we are left with little choice but to assume means “adultery”. (As an aside, Christians, when confessing sin, let’s knock off the the terminological hem-hawing and call a spade a spade. “I had a six month extra-marital romantic and sexual relationship with a married woman in my church,” or whatever. You don’t have to give all the gory details or name names, but, for crying out loud, if you’re going to confess, confess- don’t finesse.)

It was right and biblical for Dr. Page to publicly confess and express sorrow over his sin as well as to resign (it would also have been right and biblical for the SBC to remove him had he refused to resign, which, undoubtedly would have happened). He sinned against God, his family, the woman and her family, his church, his co-workers, and the entire denomination. He publicly embarrassed the Southern Baptist Convention and gave unbelievers fodder for scoffing when the report of his sin made the national news. This was a case of a well known Southern Baptist leader whose public, observable sin was handled biblically by SBC leadership. I am thankful for this witness to Christians and to the world that sin is not to be swept under the rug, but that sinners are to repent, be disciplined, and then be restored to fellowship (although, in cases like this, not leadership).

But we don’t handle all cases of public sin that way. Some public sin we reward by making the sinner into a wealthy, lauded celebrity.

“Impossible!” you say?

Check the shelves at LifeWay. Select twenty average SBC churches with women’s ministries and see whose books, DVDs, and simulcasts are being used again and again. Peruse the speakers at popular SBC conferences.

You’ll find names like Beth Moore, Priscilla Shirer, Lysa TerKeurst, Christine Caine, Ann Voskamp, Sarah Young, Andy Stanley, Steven Furtick, Rick Warren, and T.D. Jakes, just to name a few.

Have they committed adultery? Voiced approval of of homosexuality? Committed theft, abused their spouses, or promoted pornography? No. But those aren’t the only types of sins the Bible prohibits.

Every single one of them teaches false doctrine, from Sarah Young’s blasphemous “channeling” of Jesus, to T.D. Jakes’ denial of the Trinity, to Christine Caine’s Word of Faith heresy, to Lysa TerKeurst’s teaching of contemplative prayer.

All of these women who do speaking engagements unashamedly and unrepentantly preach to co-ed audiences. All of these men allow women to preach to co-ed audiences from their pulpits.

All of them who join in ministry with others have yoked or affiliated themselves with false teachers. Beth Moore and Joyce Meyer. Priscilla Shirer and T.D. Jakes. Steven Furtick and Joyce Meyer and T.D. Jakes. Rick Warren and the Pope.

Scripture plainly prohibits the teaching of false doctrine. It’s a major theme of the New Testament, for goodness sake. The Bible tells us that women are not to preach to men or exercise authority over them in the gathered body of Believers. And God’s Word makes very clear that we are to have nothing to do with false teachers, especially not partnering with them in “ministry”.

In the wake of Frank Page’s resignation, I asked this poll question on Twitter

followed by this one

Why are Southern Baptists leaders so quick to – rightly and biblically – oust Frank Page for, as far as we know, one isolated sin which he publicly confessed to and repented of, and yet overlook three major – and much more publicly observable and harmful to Southern Baptists – ongoing sins from pastors and teachers who have been rebuked and refuse to repent? Why, instead of disciplining them for their sin, do those in leadership give them fat book deals, invite them to speak at all the cool conferences, fawn over them on social media, and make them into celebrities?

How many sins will it take to disqualify and discipline these people? Four? Eleven? Ninety-six? Is there any amount of sin these pastors and teachers, and those like them, can commit that will cause those in SBC leadership to pull their materials off the shelves of LifeWay, deny them a seat at the table, and urge them to repent and step down from their positions?

I’ve been a Southern Baptist from the day I was born. I’ve been taught since the cradle roll that if God’s Word says not to do something and you do it anyway, that’s a sin. If God’s Word says to do something and you don’t do it, that’s a sin. And that sin is sin in the eyes of God.

Well is it, or isn’t it, Emperor?

If sin is sin in God’s eyes, why aren’t you treating Beth Moore’s sin like Frank Page’s sin? Why are you rewarding her for her sin and disciplining him for his?

The Bible says in James 3:1:

Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.

Those who teach and lead bear more responsibility to teach sound doctrine and walk worthy because they are teaching and leading us by example.

Why are all the aforementioned pastors and teachers better examples to us in their rebellion and unrepentant sin than Frank Page was in his repentance of sin?

Why?

Southern Baptist peasants and little children see right through your foolishness on parade on this issue and we want answers. Biblical answers.

Don’t just stand there shivering, suspecting we are right, but thinking, “This procession has got to go on,” and walking more proudly than ever. Go back to the palace. Repent. Clothe yourselves with humility and obedience to Scripture, and come back and lead us rightly. Biblically.

Because the Emperor of Southern Baptist leadership has been naked for far too long.


¹H.C. Andersen Centret (The Hans Christian Andersen Centre). The Emperor’s New ClothesAccessed April 5, 2018.

²I am well aware that this is not the only problem in the SBC that needs to be addressed. It would be impossible to address every issue in one article, so this time I’ve chosen to focus on this one particular issue.

Holidays (Other)

40 Things to Give Up for Lent

Originally published March 3, 2017

Although, as a Louisiana girl, I’ve had a decades long love affair with king cake, and I totally support the increased availability of fish entrées at local restaurants and getting a few days off school or work, I’m not a big fan of Mardi Gras and Lent.

The intrinsic philosophy behind Mardi Gras – a day of revelry, indulgence, and debauchery to get it all out of your system before you have to start “being good” for Lent – is patently unbiblical.

The practice of Lent often is, as well. Lent is the forty day period, beginning with Ash Wednesday and ending with Easter Sunday, observed by Catholics and some Protestants. Originally, it was simply a time of fasting, prayer, and worship in anticipation of Easter, and for Christians who continue to observe it this way, it can be a valuable and meaningful time of respite and renewal with the Lord.

For many, however, Lent – particularly the aspect of giving something up for Lent in an act of self-denial – is nothing more than an empty religious ritual, or worse, works righteousness. Giving something up for Lent because, “I’m Catholic and that’s what good Catholics do,” or to atone for your sins, or to curry favor with God, or to flaunt your self-righteousness flies in the face of grace alone, faith alone, Christ alone biblical Christianity.

If you give something up for Lent, why do you do so? If it’s for one of the aforementioned unbiblical reasons (or others), or even if you don’t observe Lent at all, I’d like to challenge us all to give up the things below for Lent:

1. Give up Lent for Lent.

2. Give up attending any church that requires the observance of Lent in a sacramental way and find a doctrinally sound one.

3. Give up thinking your good behavior earns you right standing with God.

4. Give up the idea that there’s any such thing as truly good behavior.

5. Give up thinking your good deeds could ever outweigh your sins.

6. Give up willfully indulging in sin as long as you “make up for it” later.

7. Give up the notion that penance or self-denial can pay for your sins.

8. Give up thinking that penance or self-denial curries favor with God.

9. Give up the idea that repentance and obedience belong to a certain season on the calendar. We are to walk in repentance every day.

10. Give up the concept that Christmas and Easter are Christian “high holy days.” We celebrate Christ’s incarnation and resurrection every Sunday, and should prepare ourselves all during the week. Every Sunday is a high holy day for the Christian.

11. Give up rote participation in church rituals. Search the Scriptures and see if they’re biblical first.

12. Give up thinking God concerns Himself strictly with your external behavior rather than the condition of your heart.

13. Give up “sounding a trumpet before you” with humblebrags on social media and in real life about giving things up for Lent, fasting, giving offerings, or any other good works you might do. You just lost your reward, baby.

14. Give up approaching church attendance as punching the time clock for God. The Christian’s entire life, our very beings, belong to Christ, not just a couple of hours on Sunday.

15. Give up the delusion that you’re basically a good person. You’re not.

16. Give up biblical ignorance and become a good student of God’s word.

17. Give up forsaking the assembly and become a faithful, serving member of your local church.

18. Give up thinking that everyone and everything that calls itself “Christian” actually is.

19. Give up the desire to have your itching ears scratched and long for the truth of God’s word. Even when it’s hard to hear.

20. Give up neglecting the daily study of God’s word.

21. Give up rejecting parts of the Bible you don’t agree with. We don’t sit in judgment over Scripture. Scripture sits in judgment over us.

22. Give up neglecting your prayer life.

23. Give up making excuses for failing to memorize Scripture. You can do it!

24. Give up being a non-serving member of your church.

25. Give up being a non-giving member of your church.

26. Give up thinking you’re hearing God speak to you. If you want to hear God speak to you, open your Bible and study it. God has spoken in His word and many are largely ignoring what He has already said.

27. Give up following false teachers and be a good Berean.

28. Give up being afraid to share the gospel and just do it.

29. Give up thinking you can please God apart from faith in Christ.

30. Give up basing your doctrine and beliefs on your own (or anyone else’s) opinions, experiences, and feelings, and base them on correctly handled Scripture instead.

31. Give up following your wicked and deceitful heart, take up your cross daily, and follow Christ.

32. Give up thinking you have to do big things for God in order for Him to be pleased with you and “aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands.”

33. Give up worrying and trust God.

34. Give up neglecting to fear God’s wrath if you don’t know Christ.

35. Give up fearing God’s wrath if you do know Christ.

36. Give up the idea that “God is love” means God is a pushover who won’t judge you.

37. Give up thinking you’ve been so bad that God could never forgive you.

38. Give up thinking you’re so good that you don’t need God to forgive you.

39. Give up refusing to forgive others when Christ has forgiven you so much.

40. Give up everything and be saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, and walk in His ways, all the days of your life, to the glory of God alone.

Guest Posts

Guest Post: The Blessing of a Bothered Conscience

If your theology pretty much matches up with mine (as outlined in my “Welcome” and “Statement of Faith” tabs in the blue menu bar at the top of this page) and you’d like to contribute a guest post, drop me an e-mail, and let’s chat about it.

The Blessing of a Bothered Conscience
by Cale Fauver


The Infused Courtroom

The Apostle Paul unfolds for us in Romans 2 that even the Gentiles who don’t have the Law actually know it by nature because it “is written on their hearts” (2:15). Paul then communicates to us the global, natural purpose of this God-infused courtroom in the heart of every man: to either accuse or excuse (2:15b). Therefore, everyone knows God’s Law (literally: con [with] + science [knowledge]). Every sin, every trespass against God’s moral Law expressed in the 10 Commandments is a known sin, i.e. the sinner knows that when he lied, committed adultery, stole, blasphemed God’s name, etc. it was wrong, and his conscience will either accuse him or excuse him. The unbeliever knows with absolute certainty that it is sinful to lie on that paperwork at the office, and so does the one who has been born again. So, what is the difference?

Bothered, or a Holy Bothered

Perhaps one of the most concrete examples of this distinction can be found in the life of Joseph in Genesis 39. At this point in Joseph’s life, he has been bought by Potiphar (the captain of the guard in Egypt) as a slave to work in his house. Thus, after some time he moves up the ranks and is now in charge of Potiphar’s house and is entrusted with the care of it all.

Enter Potiphar’s wife who finds the very handsome Joseph, handsome (v.6-7). She throws herself at Joseph and Joseph responds thus: “[Potiphar has not] kept back anything from me except you, because you are his wife. How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” (39:9).

According to Romans 2, the typical unbeliever might respond with thoughts similar to Joseph’s, but different. And the distinction is an eternity of difference.

If Joseph were a pagan, he may have initially responded the way he did with, “No, I’d better not, you’re the boss-man’s wife.” But then he could think, “Well, Potiphar is a jerk. And his wife is here alone with me. And who would find out anyway?”. It is possible to keep sin enclosed and secret for a lengthy amount of time if there is the utmost precaution. The sinner’s conscience would be, by the Apostle’s authority, bothered. It would accuse him for doing that to someone. Adultery against another man’s wife, even to a pagan, is pretty messed up at the least, especially considering the husband becoming angry if he finds out (cf. Proverbs 6:30-35).

Even unbelievers can have a bothered conscience, but Joseph had a holy bothered conscience. His concern was that he had sinned – not primarily against his neighbor, but against God.

Signs of Life

Christian, consider your life. When you have the opportunity to (or are in the act of) sin, your conscience is going to sound like the tornado alarm, similar to a pagan’s. But, consider the strength of your conscience’s appeal – not to man, but to God. Yes, part of obeying our conscience is loving our neighbor as is summed up in the Law, but when we sin, the primary offense is always against God (cf. Psalm 51).

Do you know that loud, keeping-you-awake-at-night, bothersome conscience? Do you feel that holy bothered conscience? Thought it is painful, though it is strong, when you respond in repentance and faith in God’s Law and God’s promise and find your conscience clean before the Lord, rejoice! Rejoice that this is a sign of your being made alive together with Christ (Ephesians 2:4-5)! Your new and highest desire is to please the Lord, to fear God and to keep his commandments because they have been supernaturally written on your heart as part of the New Covenant (cf. Jeremiah 31:31-34). Unbelievers do not feel any guilt about offending the God who created them because there is no fear of God before their eyes (Romans 3:18). Their main thought in this process is one of great rebellion, as if God didn’t exist in the first place (Psalm 10:4).

When God’s Word convicts you and accuses you of trespassing against God’s Law, your conscience will loudly remind you and accuse you for your good. You have a fear of God before your eyes. It is good that this is your experience; this is a gracious blessing that the Spirit has worked within you. You are alive to Christ and his glory! How could you sin against that God?

Your Conscience Before the Court

The good news of the gospel is that as you stand before God, Christian, you can do so with a clean conscience cleansed from evil (Hebrews 10:22) because you are standing in the New Covenant. We can have full assurance that God has declared us righteous in Christ because of “the blood of Jesus” (Hebrews 10:19). Your final courtroom day before the Most High will be one of absolute freedom of judgment for your sins. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ. Therefore, your rest ultimately lies in Christ’s work for your rest and safety from condemnation and not in your conscience.

But, because of Christ’s work for us and his cleansing blood, we must listen to and work to obey our conscience when it accuses us before God and his Law. Seek renewal and direction from God’s Word by seeing more of his revealed will in the Scriptures. Desire wisdom and direction from your local church and your pastor when you are unclear or unsure about an issue. Trust your conscience by binding it to God’s Word. And may we sing with Charles Wesley:

Almighty God of truth and love,
to me thy power impart;
the mountain from my soul remove,
the hardness from my heart.
O may the least omission pain
my reawakened soul,
and drive me to that blood again,
which makes the wounded whole.

Cale is an MDiv student at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He and his wife Kelly live in Kansas City with their son, Jude, and baby #2 expected imminently. You can find some of his other writings at News From Afar, and follow him on Twitter.

Sanctification, Sin

Guilt and Shame- Burden or Blessing?

 

I agree with what you’re saying, I’m just afraid it might arouse guilt and shame in newer believers, as well as those with sensitive consciences,” a follower recently said in response to a statement of biblical truth I posted on social media. I’ve been pondering that ever since she said it. It was good food for thought.

Guilt and shame are not subjects we often talk about outright. Rather, they seem to be a taboo silently woven into the fabric of our collective consciousness in 21st century Western culture – even in evangelicalism. It’s an unspoken law with the direst of consequences: “Thou shalt never say or do anything that causes anyone to feel guilty or ashamed for the choices she has made or the way she lives her life.” If you do, cancel culture will hunt you down and publicly eviscerate you. You’ll be shunned, and you can kiss your reputation goodbye. Why? Because our society tells us that guilt and shame are the absolute worst things someone can feel.

But is that really true? Or could it be that the prince of the power of the air is lying to us yet again?

While the church has historically done a stellar job of sharing the good news that Christ took away our guilt and shame on the cross, it has not always done a good job of explaining what the emotions¹ of guilt and shame are or the proper function they are to serve in the lives of both Believers and unbelievers.

There are two kinds of emotional guilt and shame: biblically appropriate and biblically inappropriate. Biblically appropriate guilt and shame is when you feel guilty and ashamed as a result of doing something wrong. Biblically inappropriate guilt and shame is when you feel guilty and ashamed when you haven’t done anything wrong.

Biblically appropriate guilt and shame are good gifts from God. They are like a fever that tells you you’re sick and need to take some medicine. Lost or saved, new Believer or seasoned Saint, sensitive conscience or not, if someone is sinning, she should feel guilt and shame, because she has transgressed a holy God. For the lost person, that guilt and shame is an internal reminder that she stands forensically (legally) guilty before God and needs a Savior. For the Believer, that guilt and shame is the conviction of the Holy Spirit leading her to repent and obey Christ instead of sinning. Biblically appropriate guilt and shame are biblically appropriate because your feelings about what you’ve done match the facts of what you’ve done. You feel guilty and ashamed because you are guilty of doing something shameful: sin.

The warning sign of guilt and shame is a blessing from a good, kind, and merciful God calling us to repent immediately and return to Him before we dig ourselves into a deeper pit of sin. Like a loving father who starts with a stern look when his child first misbehaves and then progressively moves on to increasing levels of discipline, God does not pour out the full fury of His wrath at our first bobble toward sin. He starts with the “stern look” of guilt and shame.

Have you ever read the Old Testament and explored some of the more drastic warning signs God had to send His people, and the pagans they lived among, when they sinned and hardened their hearts against the guilt and shame He blessed them with? Have you contemplated the horrors of eternal conscious torment in Hell, lately? When we consider…

  • how dangerous sin is for us in this life,
  • how petrifying the prospect of what God could do to us, has every right to do to us in His anger over our sin if He were so inclined,
  • how the heart of God is not to punish and destroy, but to redeem and reconcile

…it is much easier to recognize biblically appropriate guilt and shame as an act of unfathomable love from God.

If a professing Christian doesn’t normally feel guilt and shame when she has clearly sinned, she should be extremely concerned. That is usually the fruit of someone who is unregenerate, not someone who is saved, and she would do well to follow Scripture’s mandate to examine herself against rightly handled Scripture to see if she is indeed in the faith.

But what about experiencing biblically inappropriate shame and guilt? In the life of a genuinely regenerated Christian, biblically inappropriate shame and guilt mainly takes one of two forms:

  • feeling shame and guilt for your own pre-salvation sins, or post-salvation sins you’ve already repented of
  • feeling shame and guilt for someone else’s sin or for something else outside your control

This kind of shame and guilt is inappropriate because it is misapplied. God intended shame and guilt to bring you to repentance for your sin, not to haunt you for sin you’ve already repented of or for someone else’s sin or something outside your control.

If you have bowed the knee to Christ in repentance and faith that His death on the cross, burial, and resurrection paid the penalty for your sin, then God’s good gift of guilt and shame has done its job. It’s over. Christ took your guilt and shame and sin, nailed it all to the cross – and it died there. It did not come down off the cross with Jesus, and it was not resurrected with Him. You have the glorious privilege as one robed in the righteousness of Christ, to rebuke those feelings of guilt and shame over past sins any time they rear their ugly heads, armed with the knowledge that you are forgiven and free. Christ paid with His blood to give you the right not to have to feel those feelings. Send them packing by praising God for His wonderful gift of grace and mercy to you in Christ.

And what about feeling guilt and shame for someone else’s sin? Perhaps you did your best to raise your child in a godly way, but he grew up to become a rapist or murderer, and you feel guilty. Maybe someone committed the sin of abuse against you and you’re dying of shame inside. If I just hadn’t done this, or if I had only done that, he wouldn’t have done what he did. It’s my fault.

May I make a suggestion? Do a good, long, hard study of Ezekiel 18. God is crystal clear – in such a loving and comforting way – that He does not hold you responsible for anyone’s sin but your own. You are – not as a matter of subjective opinion or feelings, but as a matter of forensic, objective fact – not guilty of that person’s sin. So if you’re feeling guilt and shame, your feelings don’t match the facts. Your feelings are boldly and brashly lying to you in the face of what God says is true about you. He says you’re not guilty. Your feelings say you are. Who are you going to believe?

That’s why it’s incredibly important that we believe God’s objectively true written Word over and above our feelings. It’s also why it makes me so angry when seeker driven churches and women’s “Bible” study materials focus on your personal feelings, opinions, preferences, and life experiences instead of properly teaching you the Bible. How can you believe God’s Word over your feelings if you don’t even know God’s Word? When all you know is your raw emotions and not what God says, that leaves you trapped, a slave to your con artist feelings, when you could be completely set free from the shame and guilt God never intended for you to feel for someone else’s sin.

And, finally, you could be feeling biblically inappropriate guilt for an accident or something else outside your control. If we had just bought a different house, we wouldn’t have been living in this one when the tornado hit, and my husband would still be alive. If I had just taken a different route, I wouldn’t have encountered that unexpected traffic accident and missed my daughter’s senior recital.

There’s a key truth all Christians need to come to grips with here: God is sovereign over every atom and event in the universe. You are not. God knows the future. You do not. God is God. You are not. When you feel guilty for things you had no way of knowing, preventing, or avoiding, you are essentially saying you should have God’s omnipotence and omniscience. You’re feeling guilty for not being God.

And your feelings of guilt over something like this are also saying that God was wrong for allowing what happened to happen, because if you were God, you wouldn’t have let it happen. Take a moment and let that sink in. Your feelings of guilt over something unforeseen and unavoidable say that you think you could do a better job of being God than He can. Well, let me tell you what we both already know. You can’t.

God determined from the foundations of the earth exactly which day, and how, and where, your husband was going to die. If it wasn’t God’s will that he die in a tornado on that day, in that house, he wouldn’t have. If God wanted you at your daughter’s recital, you would have been there.

You don’t have control. Control is an illusion. God has control. (And that’s good. Because God knows faaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaar better than we do the right thing to do in every situation.) And if you don’t have control, then you didn’t do anything wrong. And if you didn’t do anything wrong, feeling guilty is biblically inappropriate, a) because God’s purpose for guilt is to draw you to repentance over your sin, not for failing to achieve Godhood, and b) because your feelings (“I’m guilty!”) don’t match the facts (you’re not).

God is sovereign. He always does what is right and best in every situation, even if you can’t see it and don’t understand. And because He always does what is right and best, you can trust Him in those terrible incomprehensible situations. Take some time to study what God’s Word says about trusting Him.

 

A major problem in evangelicalism today is that we have followed the world’s lead and made people’s feelings into a god. We are more worried about hurting people’s feelings than providing them actual biblical help. And we all, including me, need to repent of that and stop it. It is infinitely better to fleetingly hurt someone’s feelings with biblical truth that leads her to Christ, than to allow her feelings to be an untouchable idol that keeps her in sin.

There has to be something higher, more important, than protecting someone from feeling biblically appropriate guilt and shame. There has to be something lofty enough to rescue people out of biblically inappropriate guilt and shame.

There is: God and His Word.

Exalting God and His Word to their proper and deserved place of preeminence and authority, and submitting to them in our hearts, minds, churches, and relationships is not simplistic, it’s foundational. And when it comes to the veneration of people’s feelings (and far too many other issues) we have become the foolish man who has traded a foundation on the rock of God’s truth and His ways for one on the enticingly sandy beach of worldly “wisdom”.

And, y’all…

…it’s starting to rain.

 


¹There is also a forensic definition of guilt. For example, if you rob a bank, you are forensically (legally), objectively guilty of the crime of robbery regardless of how you feel about it. This article deals mainly with the emotion of guilt– feeling guilty, or having a guilty conscience.
Mailbag

The Mailbag: Is lust a sin for women, too?

Originally published September 17, 2018

In the past, I’ve had lots of trouble wondering about my desire and tendency to look at, and get excited by, physically attractive men, especially men who reveal a lot of themselves in underwear modeling and soft-core porn. I think this is a sin, but I’m not sure.

I’ve gotten mixed reactions when I’ve mentioned this to people. There are some who say that, yes, this is the sin of lust. Yet there are others who have told me that women cannot possibly struggle with lust, only men do. I once dealt with one particular man who was very dogmatic that God created men and women to be tempted differently, and that lust is not a temptation women deal with, so he dismissed my struggles with this subject.

When I tried to search Scripture, using Matthew 5:28, it would also seem that this is a male-only sin. So is it OK for me to keep looking at male models, including underwear modeling and soft-core porn?

This is an awesome question for three reasons. First, you’re concerned about whether or not you’re sinning with the aim of mortifying this behavior if it is a sin. Second, you’re not relying on your own feelings, opinions, or experiences to determine whether or not this is a sin, you’re turning to Scripture to find out. Those are both very encouraging things. They demonstrate that the Holy Spirit is working in your heart to sanctify you and make you more like Christ. Third, it gives us an opportunity to take a look at the Scriptures in more depth and give an example of handling God’s Word correctly and in context for everyone reading this article. So, thank you for asking!

The short answer to your question is, yes, lust is sinful for the women who experience it just as much as it is for the men who experience it. But I don’t want you to just take my word for it, so let’s look at why.

The Scripture you’ve cited, Matthew 5:28, is definitely one of the passages that addresses this issue. It says:

But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

I suspect this verse might be the reason the man you spoke with said that lust is a male-only sin, because this particular verse speaks to men lusting after women. However, to make a blanket statement that because God created men and women differently, lust is never a temptation for women is foolhardy and shows a lack of biblical knowledge and understanding as well as a denial of reality.

Let’s address reality first. It is true that God created men in such a way that they are more likely to be sexually stimulated by what they see than women are. However, that does not mean that no woman anywhere has ever experienced lust. God also created men in such a way that men are usually taller and stronger than women and women are usually more emotionally expressive than men. But we can look around us and see that some women are taller or stronger than some men, and some men are more emotionally expressive than some women.

Furthermore, while you really can’t do anything about how tall you are (and, to some extent, how strong you are), lust is something that can be introduced to women and encouraged in women by culture. A hundred years ago, it would have been unthinkable to see advertisements featuring nearly naked men, or strip clubs with male dancers, or pornography aimed at women, so readily available and with so little shame attached. And at that time there were probably far fewer women who struggled with the sin of lust.

These days, it’s right there on your phone or computer or TV or at the bachelorette party for your friend. Lust, lewd behavior, and lurid talk by women are actually encouraged by the feminist movement. (If men are going to objectify women with lust and porn, we’re going to objectify them right back. Really? This is equality? The right to sink to the same depth of degradation as the scuzziest of men? No thanks.) Watch any sitcom or drama on TV. You’ll see it soon enough. And, of course, there’s money to be made by making women into consumers of porn and other sexual material, so the businesses that peddle these things encourage women to lust as well. All of which means that today, just a hundred years later, far more women are struggling with the sin of lust.

So we can see that the reality is that lust is a temptation experienced by some women, even though men are more prone to it.

But is lust a sin for women if Matthew 5:28 is speaking in terms of men lusting? Yes. There are a couple of different reasons for this, one cultural, and one biblical.

Let’s go cultural first to understand more clearly why this particular verse is addressed to men rather than men and women. We start off with the knowledge that men are much more likely to experience lust than women. Then we take the culture of the time into account.

Jesus spoke these words in a patriarchal society. In His culture, there were no women in positions of authority and power. Men ran the political system, the religious system, and men were the heads of their households. (By the way, despite what our culture today would say, this wasn’t a bad thing in and of itself. In fact, most of this was perfectly biblical.) Normally, women were not educated, and they depended on men – first their fathers, then their husbands, and finally, their grown sons – to take care of them their entire lives.

So when Jesus was teaching to the crowds as with the Sermon on the Mount (which Matthew 5 is part of) the cultural understanding was that He was primarily teaching the men, and any women and children they brought with them were basically along for the ride. Indeed, many would have thought the women incapable of understanding teaching (since they were intellectually inferior to men) or unworthy of receiving teaching (because God had created them as “lesser” than men).

The Jewish understanding that Jesus was primarily teaching the men would have been similar. Rabbis didn’t teach women, they taught men. Any intentional biblical instruction women received would have been from their fathers or husbands at home. We can see further evidence of this cultural and Jewish understanding in several different Scriptures. A few examples:

At the feeding of the five thousand, the feeding of the four thousand, and some other New Testament “crowd scenes”, the crowd is numbered by the number of men present.

Both the woman at the well herself and the disciples “marveled” that Jesus was speaking with a woman.

Due to Martha’s cultural and Jewish understanding of women’s roles, Jesus had to explain to her that it was OK – even good – for Mary to sit at His feet and learn.

At Pentecost, Luke refers to the “multitude” as “devout men“, and Peter addresses this crowd as “men of Judea“, “men of Israel“, and “brothers“.

So, in Jesus’ secular and Jewish cultural context, He was understandably speaking to the men present. (And what was He telling these men who lived in a world that taught them that women were inferior to men, and that men could regard and treat women any way they wanted to? Jesus elevates the status of women by telling the men they’ve got to respect women even in their hearts. They’ve got to respect their wives by not committing adultery with other women in their hearts, and they’ve got to respect those other women by not using them as objects of sexual gratification in their hearts.) It would have been an unnecessary distraction from His message to address the women directly, and it would certainly have been viewed as inappropriate, maybe even perverted, for Jesus to have suggested that women lusted after men.

So Jesus’ culture, and the fact that lust is largely a sin committed by men, required Him to address this remark to men. But those two things do not have any bearing on the intrinsic sinfulness of lust itself, and they do not mean that this instruction applies only to men. In the section of Matthew 5 preceding the section on lust, Jesus deals with the sin of being angry with your “brother”. Does this mean anger is only sinful if you’re angry with a man instead of a woman? The section of Matthew 5 immediately following the section on lust says men may not divorce their wives except for unfaithfulness. Does this mean women are free to divorce their husbands for any reason? Of course not.

But it’s important to remember that Matthew 5:28 is not the only passage of Scripture that deals with lust. Let’s look at some others.

These passages describe lust as female attribute:

a wild donkey used to the wilderness, in her heat sniffing the wind! Who can restrain her lust?
Jeremiah 2:24a

Oholah played the whore while she was mine, and she lusted after her lovers…everyone after whom she lusted…the Assyrians, after whom she lusted…Her sister Oholibah saw this, and she became more corrupt than her sister in her lust and in her whoring, which was worse than that of her sister. She lusted after the Assyrians…all of them desirable young men.
Ezekiel 23:5a,7b,11,12a,c,

Ezekiel even describes Oholibah viewing pictures of men lustfully. Doesn’t it sound like a woman viewing pornography?:

But she carried her whoring further. She saw men portrayed on the wall, the images of the Chaldeans portrayed in vermilion, wearing belts on their waists, with flowing turbans on their heads, all of them having the appearance of officers, a likeness of Babylonians whose native land was Chaldea. When she saw them, she lusted after them and sent messengers to them in Chaldea.
Ezekiel 23:14-16

In the Jeremiah passage, the lusting woman represents Israel. In Ezekiel, Oholah represents Samaria, and Oholibah represents Jerusalem. So these are not individual women lusting, rather, God is using the illustration of a woman lusting after her “lovers” to describe the unspeakable abomination of Israel’s idolatry. He was using the severest language He could to disgust His people over their sin and move them to repent and turn back to Him. God could have chosen any sin – male lust, robbery, murder, etc. – to represent how horrific their idolatry was to Him, but what did He choose? Female lust. Let that sink in.

Romans 1:18-32 clearly refers to the sins of both men and women, with verse 24 stating:

Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves,

These passages speak of lust in neutral, rather than male or female, terms:

and especially those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion
2 Peter 2:10a

For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.
1 John 2:16

Lust is a form of coveting – the greedy yearning to have something that God has not given to you or has given to someone else, and that is certainly not limited to men. Also notice in these passages that you can covet a person, and that coveting is often linked to sensuality or sexual immorality.

You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.
Exodus 20:17

coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.
Mark 7:22-23

But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints…For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.
Ephesians 5:3,5

Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.
Colossians 3:5

Finally, lusting after another person – adulterous coveting – is not loving your neighbor:

For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
Romans 13:9

When you look at another person with lust, you are loving yourself. You are thinking selfishly about how that person could gratify your base desires, make you feel good, serve you. That is the antithesis of everything Jesus taught and stood for. Our Master, the One we follow and strive to be like, said:

For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.
Mark 10:45

Jesus came to die on a cruel rugged cross to pay for the sins of the flesh. He would never have thought of using another person to gratify His own selfish desires. How could we?

Is lust a sin for women too? Absolutely. Stop it. Repent. Receive the merciful grace and forgiveness Christ offers.

Additional Resources:

Just Stop It: Instructions on how to repent at The Cripplegate

Hey, Porn Addict: Stop It by Gabriel Hughes

God Over Porn (for men and women)

Every Woman’s Silent Struggle: Fighting Lust with Sisters in Christ by Marian Jacobs


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.