Holy Rigidity

1_Peter_1_15_16Pope Francis is no stranger to making absurd and controversial remarks. When you run your own city-state and roughly a billion people think everything you say is “infallible,” you usually get away with it. Unfortunately, the fall-out from the Synod of Bishops on the Family illustrates this point.

At the conclusion of the two-week conference, most of the bishops in attendance rejected the idea of making the Roman Catholic Church more accepting of homosexuality and divorce. Francis wasn’t happy, and he threw a mini-tantrum. He said the Roman Church needs to adapt to the “changing conditions of society” and added that “God is not afraid of new things.” He also accused anyone opposed to his agenda of “hostile rigidity.” Curiously, he removed Cardinal Raymond Burke from his post for disagreeing with him. That seems mildly hostile, and it’s definitely rigid. Regardless, Francis received a standing ovation, but why?

After all, there isn’t a single place in the Bible where Christians are commanded to compromise God’s Word to suit the culture (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Quite the opposite, Jesus said “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you” (John 15:18). He added that “If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also” (John 15:20). Jesus didn’t say adapt to the “changing conditions of society.” Frankly, such compromise reeks of cowardice, and there’s no place for that in the Kingdom of God (Revelation 21:9).

In addition, God doesn’t change because society does. On the contrary, God has declared that “I, the Lord, do not change” (Malachi 3:6). As a result, what He said about homosexuality in the Bible hasn’t changed. Of course, the Bible says “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 6:9-10). It doesn’t matter what Pope Francis says or does, because God doesn’t show partiality (Acts 10:34-35). He is no respecter of persons (Colossians 3:25).

Certainly, men who claim to speak for God can bless same-sex marriages all they like. Yet, it will not legitimize the sin of homosexuality in God’s eyes. Sure, you can try to convince yourself otherwise, but that’s a dangerous game. The Bible says “God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should repent; has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?” (Numbers 23:19)

When it comes to sin, God has a zero-tolerance policy (James 2:10). You might call it holy rigidity (1 Peter 1:15-16), and that’s why Jesus is the only way to Heaven (John 14:6). Now, for agreeing with God that sin is still sin, you’ll probably be accused of “hostile rigidity.” That’s fine. Jesus said “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away” (Matthew 24:35). I’d rather hear the angels singing in Heaven (Luke 15:7, 10) than have a standing ovation on this earth. Who wouldn’t?

Houston, We Have a Problem

Acts_5_29Compared to the rest of the world, Christ-followers in the United States have it pretty good. Yet, the Bible is very clear; everyone who wants to live a life that glorifies Jesus will be persecuted (2 Timothy 3:12). Recently, the city of Houston proved this point.

Indeed, the city of Houston tried to subpoena the sermons and communications belonging to a number of pastors in the area. The Alliance Defending Freedom filed a motion to stop the attempt, with ADF Litigation Counsel Christiana Holcomb saying “The city council and its attorneys are engaging in an inquisition designed to stifle any critique of its actions.” Why did Houston care so much about sermons and communications from a few pastors?

Well, in June, the Houston City Council passed a law which allows members of the opposite sex to use the restrooms of whatever gender they identify with. Sexual predators likely rejoiced. After all, now they could “identify” as a woman, and then stalk women and children in public bathrooms. Naturally, some residents of Houston were a bit concerned, and several pastors in the area have opposed the law. A lawsuit against Houston’s mayor, Woodfill v. Parker, was even filed. So, it’s hardly surprising that the city of Houston responded by demanding pastors give them their sermons and personal communications.

Despite what most people think, when it comes to what we believe about the world, there is no such thing as a “neutral” position. Houston’s mayor, Annise Parker, is a lesbian. What does the Bible say about homosexuality? Let’s just say it would offend Ms. Parker, because the Bible says people who engage in homosexual behavior are suffering “the due penalty for their error” of having “exchanged the truth about God for a lie” (Read Romans 1:24-27 for the full passage). In other words, this isn’t about discrimination. This is about imposing her anti-God view of human sexuality onto people, because she has suppressed the truth about God in unrighteousness (Romans 1:18) and loves darkness rather than light (John 3:19-21).

Jesus once said that “from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female’” (Mark 10:6). Homosexuality is a sin (1 Corinthians 6:9-10), and there are only two genders (Genesis 1:27). I’m sorry I’m not sorry. That’s how God made things. If you have a problem with me about it, you have a problem with Him. Since He has all the power, I’m not the least bit worried about what you might do to me. Jesus commanded me to “not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28). I will respect God and His Word. I will obey Him no matter what (Acts 5:29). I will stand with the Houston pastors who refuse to compromise the truth. What about you?

Youth Ministry Probs

Eph_4_15According to George Barna, “A majority of twenty-somethings—61% of today’s young adults—had been churched at one point during their teen years but they are now spiritually disengaged (i.e., not actively attending church, reading the Bible, or praying).” Obviously, most youth groups aren’t making solid followers of Christ (Matthew 28:19). After recently attending the National Youth Worker’s Convention in Sacramento, I understand why.

The current youth ministry model isn’t hard to figure out. Essentially, it’s daycare for young people. It’s all about attracting young people by being “cool.” No form of amusement is off-limits, and the trendier the better. What about the young people who are truly interested in God’s Word, because they are struggling to make sense of life? They’re introduced to a shallow, cotton-candy version of Christianity that has little to do with following Christ and more to do with convenience. Self-denial is replaced with accommodation, and respect for God’s Word is replaced with compromise.

For example, consider the issue of evolution and the biblical account of creation. When you flip through the first few pages of the Bible, it’s clear that God created everything in six ordinary, 24-hour days. Yet, many Christians think evolution is true, so they promote the idea that God used evolution. As a result, they claim Genesis is just “poetry.” Now, the Bible may not be a science textbook, but it is a history book. Well, evolution is a theory of history. If you trust in God, why wouldn’t you trust His eyewitness account of what really happened in the beginning over human speculation?

Naturally, many young people view this compromise as hypocrisy. You can’t say you believe the Bible is God’s Word and then reject page one. In addition, if compromising the Bible is acceptable for their youth pastors, why shouldn’t they compromise the passages about fornication, homosexuality and drunkenness? If there is no respect for God and His Word, there’s no reason to obey Him. Besides, even if youth group is entertaining, college can provide a much better time. Is it any wonder that the majority of young churchgoers are “spiritually disengaged” after high school? Many of them weren’t truly spiritually engaged to begin with.

C.S. Lewis once said “I didn’t go to religion to make me happy. I always knew a bottle of Port would do that. If you want a religion to make you feel really comfortable, I certainly don’t recommend Christianity.” Here’s my plea to youth ministers around the country: stop trying to make the Gospel “relevant” and just submit to God. Acting like the world might bring more of the world into the church, but it won’t keep them for very long. If you want to actually be relevant, preach the Word, because only it “is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword” and “able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).

 

Count the Cost

Luke14_27_33Following Jesus costs something. After all, Jesus said that “any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:33). This is why He encouraged everyone to “count the cost” of following Him (Luke 14:28). These days, the choice between the world and Jesus is becoming more costly. Just take the case of the Benham brothers.

At the 2014 Values Voter Summit, Jason and David Benham spoke about losing their show because of their biblical stance on homosexuality. They noted that “It is a fun thing to follow Jesus until you find out where He’s going, because He’s going to a cross and He’s asking you to come follow Him; and we got that experience in real life.”

It may not be popular to preach about, but Jesus died so that we would live for Him. The Bible says “he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised” (2 Corinthians 5:15). Paul, who enjoyed the good life of being a well-educated Jewish leader, said “I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ” (Philippians 3:8). Power, prestige, and prosperity can’t compare to serving Christ out of love. It’s why Moses “considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward” (Hebrews 11:26). He eagerly awaited the promise of Christ, choosing persecution instead of the pleasures of sin (Hebrews 11:24-25).

Jesus died for the world, that whoever would trust in Him would also die—to this world, to sin and to themselves. It’s why He said “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 16:25). If you’re a follower of Jesus, your life is not your own (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). It belongs to Jesus, and that’s a really good thing because only the slave of Christ is truly free (1 Corinthians 7:22-23). If you’re not serving Christ, you will be a slave to your own desires, to the fear of man and to the fear of death.

Sure, serving Christ isn’t easy. What happens when things get rough? Well, the Benham brothers got on their knees and prayed “Lord Jesus, we committed to serve you with all our hearts whatever the cost. Whatever happens to this show, happens to this show, but we will not back down because you’re worth it. Jesus is Lord.” They may have lost the show, but they’ve got everything they need: Jesus.

Cheating Death?

John_3_16In most circles, death isn’t a dinner party conversation starter. It’s not the best way to make friends and influence people, that is, unless you’re a transhumanist. In that case, it’s the only thing worth discussing.

After all, transhumanists believe in the power of technology to enhance the human condition. Naturally, they view death as their biggest foe. For example, in a recent interview, billionaire PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel said of death that “You can accept it, you can deny it or you can fight it. I think our society is dominated by people who are into denial or acceptance, and I prefer to fight it.” He added “It is true that you can say that death is natural, but it is also natural to fight death.” Actually, death is not natural, and there’s no reason to fight it. I know, that may sound absurd, but it’s quite biblical.

You see, death and suffering were not a part of God’s original creation. In the beginning, things were “very good” (Genesis 1:31). Yet, God warned Adam and Eve, the first humans, not to eat the fruit of a certain tree. If they did, they would immediately die spiritually and begin dying physically from that moment forward (Genesis 2:17). They disobeyed, and death entered the world as the just punishment for sin (Romans 5:12). So, death is not natural. It’s a curse, but with an important purpose.

Although it’s also not a common conversation starter, humans are proud. Transhumanist Richard Seed, in eerie fashion, illustrated this when he said “We are going to become gods, period. If you don’t like it, get off. You don’t have to contribute, you don’t have to participate but if you are going to interfere with me becoming a god, you’re going to have trouble. There’ll be warfare.” While he may be a bit more extreme than most people, his desire isn’t all that different from what Adam and Eve wanted. Indeed, Satan tempted Eve by saying that if she ate from the forbidden tree, she would “be like God” (Genesis 3:5). Obviously, Adam and Eve liked what they heard. Ironically, death was the result of believing this lie (Genesis 3:19).

Still, this judgment served a loving purpose. Death and suffering are intended to humble us, and make us realize our need for Jesus. The only way to “cheat death” is by trusting in Jesus for the forgiveness of our sins (John 14:6). If we do, we’ll have eternal life (John 3:16). If you’re a follower of Jesus, you don’t need to worry about death. If you’re not a Christian, it’s not death that you need to worry about. It’s what happens after death that should worry you.

In the future, God will put an end to death, pain and suffering, on His terms (Revelation 21:4). Until then, death will exist, so fighting against it is a losing battle. Instead, we should be soldiers for Christ (2 Timothy 2:3-4), fighting a different battle: doing as much as we can for Him.