Honoring Jesus With Our Gender!

-The Culture Doesn’t Get It!

We honor Jesus in our hearts when we obey Him with our lifestyles! And, by our obedient lifestyle, we create curiosity! The answer the culture is giving, about our sexual identity, isn’t working! And, it never will! But, when we live, sexually, in obedience to God’s word, we earn the right to share it when the world gets curious— to share with them the Gospel and God’s purpose for gender. This is difficult subject matter! It’s layered with lots of abuse & painful injuries dating all the way back to the Garden of Eden; and, it’s just not easy to jump into without laying a foundation of understanding with empathy and love.

-Say It With Empathy & Love!

And, that is what the world needs from us— understanding, empathy and love! It’s simply not helpful when, instead, we offer them self-righteous judgment and vindictiveness! So, let me try and unpack some of the main points from the first 2 chapters of Genesis; especially, as it relates to gender & sexual identity. We need to take note of some of the implications it plays for our homes, our families, and, how it plays into our child rearing. Keep in mind,   from an interpretive standpoint of the text, that Genesis ch.1 presents the “Big Picture” of God’s creative act; and, ch. 2 fills in the “details.” Chapter 1 is like the Super Bowl headlines the day after—  “Patriots Win The Most Boring Super Bowl Ever”; and, ch.2 is like the story that fills in the details how the Patriots pummeled the Rams into submission.

-What Shapes Our Opinions?

Let’s also remember the most important detail as a Follower of Jesus Christ—  When determining our roles, as men and women, God’s Word must shape our opinions, not the culture! And, perhaps, the most significant point, of the text, is that God created humanity to reflect HIS IMAGE.  “Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness. They will rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, the livestock, all the earth, and the creatures that crawl on the earth’” ch. 1:26.  God created humanity to function as His living image over the creation; and, I believe it’s correct to interpret “man” here as “mankind”; including, BOTH man & woman! I believe the next verse bears that out—  God created humanity to bear His image as MALE & FEMALE!

-God Created Maleness & Femaleness!

The text says, “So God created man in His own image; He created him in the image of God; He created them male and female”  ch. 1:27. Our “maleness” and our “femaleness” are essential parts of being God’s image bearers! Somehow—and, I don’t want to get “weird” here—but, somehow it seems that God is saying that it was in the “complementing” or the “completing” of the man with the creation of woman, that humanity was created in the image of God. That image wasn’t clear or evident until woman complemented God’s creation of man. So, here’s my plea:  Men & Women! We need each other to correctly image God in His creation! When we grasp the significance of that we’ll begin to glory in both “MANHOOD” & “WOMANHOOD.” Together, we are God’s intentional design of human diversity!

 

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Living In A Sexually Immoral Culture!

-Where To Find The Best Counsel?

The 7th chapter, of the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Church of Corinth, contains some of the best counsel available on sex and marriage.  And, though he opens with an endorsement for celibacy, he quickly adds that “…because sexual immorality is so common, each man should have his own wife, and each woman should have her own husband” 1 Corinthians 7:2.  In a sexually charged culture, like Corinth was, marriage is God’s gift for most believers.  Why? Because it’s the only sexual activity that God ordains!

-An Undefiled Marriage Bed!

The author, of Hebrews, puts it like this:  “Marriage must be respected by all, and the marriage bed kept undefiled, because God will judge immoral people and adulterers” Hebrews 13:4.  The “marriage bed” was an idiom synonymous with “sex.” So, respect it, because God will judge the immoral or adulterous person who “plays the part” of a married person sexually! But, they’re not married, they’re just “playing house.” When you belong to a culture where sexual immorality is so prevalent—like it was in Corinth & like it is in our own country—God’s answer is, “Get Married!” In the 9th verse of Paul’s Corinthian letter, the Holy Spirit prompts him to write that, “…if they do not have self-control (to REMAIN CELIBATE), they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with desire.

-Marriage: A Deterrent To Immorality!

So, marriage is a helpful deterrent to sexual immorality! That might not seem like the best motive for getting married; but, Paul & the Spirit of God are just being practical! It’s better than immorality!  At the same time, Paul qualifies the gift of marriage with some stipulations. Marriage does not guarantee freedom from sexual immorality. Marriage partners have a sexual responsibility to each other. Don’t misunderstand what Paul is saying here! Marriage is a deterrent to living a life of sexual immorality; but, ONLY if the husband and wife carry out their sexual responsibilities to one another.  “A husband should fulfill his marital responsibility to his wife, and likewise a wife to her husband.  A wife does not have the right over her own body, but her husband does. In the same way, a husband does not have the right over his own body, but his wife does. Do not deprive one another sexually” 1 Corinthians 7:3-5

-Being Sexually Responsible!

There’s a lot going on in those 3 verses. Paul is preaching “monogamy.” He’s preaching a “heterosexual” relationship. And, he’s preaching that a husband & a wife have a sexual responsibility to fulfill with each other. Some translations actually speak of it as a “debt” or an “obligation.” Again, that doesn’t sound very romantic; but, this is serious stuff Paul is talking about. You can’t say it much stronger than he does in v.5—”Don’t DEPRIVE one another sexually…” Some translations render it, “…don’t DEFRAUD one another…” The husband’s body does not belong to him alone! And, the wife’s body does not belong to her alone! When you use sex as a “weapon” to punish some bad behavior, you think your spouse committed against you, you defraud them & place them in a vulnerable place to fall into sexual sin, Paul says. Don’t do it!

 

The Mysteries Of God!

-Why Doesn’t He Fix The World?

In my lifetime I’ve been in several conversations with individuals who had set themselves up as “judges” of God. “If God is all-powerful & knows everything,” they ask, “then why doesn’t He do something about all the bad stuff in the world?” Job’s picture could be placed next to that question! He serves as the epitome of unanswerable questions like that! How does God determine His will? Why does He seem to step into certain situations & not into others? Why does He permit wicked people, like ISIS, to continue ripping open pregnant women & beheading little children & killing people just for loving Jesus?

-Can You Fathom God?

The Book of Job seems to be an appropriate book for addressing the mysteries of God— “Can you fathom the mysteries of God? Can you probe the limits of the Almighty? They are higher than the heavens — what can you do? They are deeper than the depths of the grave–what can you know? Their measure is longer than the earth and wider than the sea” Job 11. Scripture tells us that God’s paths are beyond our ability to trace out! So, what is an appropriate response, on our part, to God’s wisdom & knowledge? To His unsearchable & untraceable ways? The answer: HUMILITY! That is the only appropriate response! To humble ourselves before him & admit we haven’t got a clue! And, that He alone knows it all! And, He is under no obligation to share any more answers with us than what He has in His Word!

-Who Can Know God’s Mind?

We need to give God glory for His counsel— “For who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been His counselor? Or who has ever first given to Him, and has to be repaid?” Romans 11:34-35. Who has ever known the mind of God? Who can know what He’s thinking? So, who could ever offer God any useful counsel? But, still, we try telling God what He needs to do with His universe, don’t we? If you were God would you do things differently? If you say “YES” that’s exactly why the rest of us are glad you’re NOT God! And, you all ought to be equally glad that I’m not God, either! Ponder this thought— because God knows everything that’s knowable, that means He’s already considered your ideas & tossed them out as an unacceptable response to the situation! Right?

-The End From The Beginning!

Because you & I don’t know the end from the beginning, like He does, we really can’t offer Him any thoughts that He hasn’t already considered! “The secret things belong to the Lord our God…” Deut 29:29; “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways & My thoughts than your thoughts, says the Lord” Isaiah 55:9 . So, let us give God the glory He is due for His wisdom, knowledge & counsel! And, by faith, trust Him with all the things you don’t have answers for! I love how Tony Evans says it:  “Everything is either caused by God or allowed by God; and, there is no third category.” Paul concludes, “To Him be the glory forever” Romans 11:36. Let’s glory in God, His Son & the cross!

 

Don’t Worship God Empty-Handed

-Bring An Offering!

So, my last few posts have focused on King David’s communication to Israel, in 1 Chronicles 16, about the proper way to worship God.  It’s never acceptable to worship God according to our own homespun rules! We must worship Him in the way that He demands to be worshiped! One way, that David commanded the congregation to worship God, was with an offering! “Ascribe to Yahweh the glory of His name; bring an offering and come before Him. Worship the Lord in the splendor of His holiness” v.29.  In other words, do NOT come to worship God empty-handed!

-We’re Not Owners!

Remember that we’re stewards of God’s “stuff.” Nothing, we have, actually belongs to us! We’re not really an owner of anything! We’re managers of a portion of God’s estate! God owns it ALL; and, proper worship includes a return, of a portion of His blessings to us, in the form of an offering! He’s the Creator! He’s created all the wealth, in the universe; and, He lends it to us! So, worship God because He’s the Creator! That’s how David continues his admonition to the people of Israel:  “…the world is firmly established; it cannot be shaken. Let the heavens be glad and the earth rejoice, and let them say among the nations, “The Lord is King!” Let the sea and everything in it resound; let the fields and all that is in them exult. Then the trees of the forest will shout for joy before the Lord, for He is coming to judge the earth” v.30-33.

-All Creation Worships God!

All of creation—the heavens, the earth, the sea & everything in it; the fields and all that is in it; the trees of the forest—ALL creation worships Him! Finally, David concludes with a charge to worship God NOW because it’s what we’ll do for all eternity:  “Give thanks to the Lord, “ he says, “for He is good; His faithful love endures forever. And say: “Save us, God of our salvation; gather us and rescue us from the nations so that we may give thanks to Your holy name and rejoice in Your praise. May Yahweh, the God of Israel, be praised from everlasting to everlasting” v.34. Clearly, it’s a sign that a believer has not spent a lot of time in prayer & the Word when they express a fear that heaven may be boring!

-We Can Only Imagine!

After a billion years, in heaven, we’ll still not know God entirely! No amount of intimacy, with Him, will close the gap in our knowledge & understanding of an eternal, infinite God! I’m certain that I’ll find Him more fascinating than all the Super Bowls and Star Trek reruns I’ve ever watched! Then all the people said “AMEN” & “Praise the Lord” v.36. And, there was great joy as God dwelt with His people as His Glory descended on the Ark of His Covenant with His people! One day, the book of Revelation says, “God will dwell among us”; literally, “He will pitch a tent among us.” Joy flows from worship! If we’re genuine God worshippers, we won’t be able to hide it! It’ll show on our faces! Grumpy Christians just aren’t worshipping God as they should! So, worship God! It’ll change your life! It’ll change everything!

 

How Do You Measure Spiritual Growth?

-Measuring Physical Growth Is Easy!

Measuring “physical” growth is relatively easy, isn’t it? And, we begin measuring physical growth from birth, don’t’ we? How long is the baby, in terms of inches; and, how much does baby weigh? Right? That’s always one of the first questions asked! And, the measuring continues as baby grows into a toddler; and, then elementary age. Many homes have a measuring wall; or, a doorway, with all kinds of little pencil marks & words alongside it with a child’s name & age representing how tall they were at that specific age. Do you have such a place? Measuring physical growth is also a pretty exact science too, isn’t it? This is your “HEIGHT”; this, is your “WEIGHT”! This is your “inseam”, your “waist”; and, your “neck size.”

-Measuring Spiritual Growth!

But, measuring “SPIRITUAL” growth isn’t as easy, is it? It’s our tendency to measure others “SPIRITUALLY”  by how much they know about the Bible, doctrine, and, theology. So, if someone’s level of Bible knowledge is how we judge their level of spirituality, than it follows that we think of “SPIRITUAL GROWTH” as adding more “KNOWLEDGE”—more Bible reading; more Bible studies; and, more Church activities! And, yet, it’s curious that the Apostle Paul taught the Church of Corinth that, “…knowledge puffs up…” (1 Cor. 8:1); or, it INFLATES us with PRIDE! Who hasn’t met the arrogant “know-it-all” that keeps reminding you how much they know about the Bible? They beam proudly when others brag about their Bible knowledge. Paul is saying that—in their case—knowledge isn’t a measure of how spiritual they are; but, how CARNAL & FLESHLY they are! Knowledge is their IDOL!

-Bible Knowledge & Spirituality!

Now, please understand that I’m not ragging on anyone who has a growing knowledge of God’s Word! On the contrary, Scripture demands that we read it; memorize it; and, meditate on it! In fact, it’s impossible to grow spiritually apart from a steady diet of God’s Word. I’m simply saying that Bible knowledge is NOT an accurate measuring tool for spirituality! So, if it’s not more Bible knowledge; than, what is it that grows us spiritually? I like to say that spiritual growth happens as you become more like Jesus; & less like you! How does that happen?

-It’s Not By Osmosis!

How do we become more like Jesus? Well, it doesn’t happen by some process of osmosis! Rather, it happens by our “SANCTIFICATION” Scripture says! At the moment of our salvation—when we exercise faith in Christ’s atoning work on the cross—God “JUSTIFIES” us! That means He pardons us from sin’s penalty—death! And, from that point forward, we are destined for “GLORIFICATION”—that day when we’ll finally be set free from the very presence of sin; and, we’ll be “like Jesus.” And, “SANCTIFICATION” is everything that God is doing in your life, in that time in between, our SANCTIFICATION & our GLORIFICATION! If you’re a follower of Jesus, you’ve been set FREE from the “power” of sin! Your spirit long’s to be rid of sin; while, your broken, totally depraved flesh continues to lust after it! It’s in that tension where God works in us!

Daniel: What Revival Looks Like!

(NOTE: This Continues A Series Of Posts On Daniel’s Life)

-It Starts With Humble Prayer!

I don’t know that there’s a more beautiful & spiritually moving prayer than Daniel’s prayer in the 9th chapter of the book named after him. There’s a humility & a brokenness that’s often missing from the hurried & self-centered prayers of our day! When revival occurs, in the hearts of believers, this is what it looks like! Prayers, uttered by a revived saint,  admits a brokenness & even shame over their sin, selfishness, and idolatry— “Lord, righteousness belongs to You, but this day public shame belongs to us: the men of Judah, the residents of Jerusalem, and all Israel—those who are near and those who are far, in all the countries where You have dispersed them because of the disloyalty they have shown toward You. Lord, public shame belongs to us, our kings, our leaders, and our fathers, because we have sinned against You.  Compassion and forgiveness belong to the Lord our God, though we have rebelled against Him and have not obeyed the voice of the Lord our God by following His instructions that He set before us through His servants the prophets.  All Israel has broken Your law and turned away, refusing to obey You” (Daniel 9:7-11).  Wow! What brokenness & transparency!

-Admitting Public Shame!

“…PUBLIC SHAME belongs to us…” he confessed in v.7; and, in v.8 he says it again, “…PUBLIC SHAME belongs to us…” Daniel’s greatness, in the eyes of God, was not because he was without sin! None of us are! It was Daniel’s sensitivity to his sin! He admitted the depth of his sin! He owned it! For our world—and, our NATION—to experience revival, it has to begin with the broken humility of God’s people! With us! We, the Church, have to take ownership for our sins—for our IDOLATRY! For our failure to love all the world’s people groups & every kind of sinner!

-Looking In A Mirror!

Daniel didn’t just throw “…our kings, our leaders & our fathers…” under the bus (v.8).  He said, “…WE have sinned against You…WE have rebelled against you…” (v.9).  I fear the American church has been too preoccupied with pointing fingers at political leaders when WE are the real problem! We should be looking in the mirror, spiritually speaking! God will only use a broken church to bring the world to revival!

-Concern For God’s Reputation!

Daniel was concerned that Israel had hurt God’s reputation in the world! “LORD, bring revival to your people,” Daniel prays, “…for the LORD’S sake” (v.17); “…make us a city called by YOUR name” (v.18); “LORD, HEAR! LORD, FORGIVE! LORD, ACT…” (v.19). Did you notice that? “…for YOUR SAKE”, Daniel prayed, “We base our prayers on YOUR abundant compassion” (v.18). Do you pray like that? I’m afraid that, for most of my life,  my prayers sounded nothing like that! Is it possible that the reason so many of our prayers go “unanswered” is because we’re not offering “God-Centered” prayers? Can we begin to pray—as Christ’s Church—that God would act in HIS own BEST INTEREST? And, for HIS GLORY? Let’s do it!

 

Quit Trying So Hard!

-Is Change Even Possible?

Have your “New Year Resolutions” already hit the skids! Perhaps you’re at a place in your life where you think it’s impossible to change! What you’ve confirmed is the weakness of your flesh. The Apostle Paul, in his letter to the Church of Colosse, points out that human “regulations”—like “New Year Resolutions”—are powerless to change our fallen flesh:  “If you died with the Messiah to the elemental forces of this world, why do you live as if you still belonged to the world? Why do you submit to regulations:  ‘Don’t handle, don’t taste, don’t touch?’ All these regulations…are commands and doctrines of men.  Although these have a reputation of wisdom by promoting ascetic practices, humility, and severe treatment of the body, they are not of any value in curbing self-indulgence” Colossians 2:20-23.  That’s a sample of the world’s system for “behavior modification.” In our flesh, we wanna prove we can discipline ourselves to a “better behavior.” That gives us bragging rights to judge all the other wicked sinners by—but; that’s “legalism.”

-Legalism Is Simply Self-Effort

Legalism is our attempt to reach holiness through our own self-effort; or, “regulations” as Paul calls them here! Let me be clear—Paul is NOT referring to God’s law! You’re not a legalist for keeping His law! Sexual promiscuity, lying, stealing & murder are ALWAYS sin! It’s all the other stuff they ADD to God’s law that makes them a legalist!  I used to be a legalist—I wouldn’t play cards; or, go to the movie theatre! I wouldn’t think of going to church unless I was wearing a suit! I would never consider being part of a church where there were drums & guitars; or, anything other than a King James version of the Bible used in the pulpit! You may find that bizarre; but, be careful! Legalism is rather chameleon in nature—your “list” might be different; but, you’re “extra biblical” rules to perform by & force on others is just as legalistic!

-To Be “In Christ”

If you’re “in Christ” you’ve “…died to the elemental forces of this world,” Paul says, “Why do you live as if you still belonged to the world?” Jesus Christ is the great liberator! He set us FREE from “performance-driven faith”! If you’re “in Christ” remove the masks! Stop pretending you’re a super saint! Quit trying so hard to make yourself acceptable to the Father! He’s already accepted you “in Christ.”

-Declared Righteous!

If your faith is in Christ’s work on the cross, you’ve been “declared righteous.” That is your forever standing before God! There is NOTHING you can do that will ever make you more acceptable to God; and, there is NOTHING you’ve done that makes you less acceptable to Him! Jesus bore ALL YOUR SIN—past, present & future; and, His righteousness was placed in your account when you trusted His work by faith! Then, God’s Holy Spirit moved in; and, told your spirit that He’s ready to go to work in you! But, it will be HIS WORK! He doesn’t need you to get in the way & put on that “HOLIER than thou mask” by keeping a bunch of man-made, human-inspired rules! It’s in your “weakness” that He is strong! God rejects all human effort!