Sunday, July 20, 2014

A Much Better Alternative to Sermonizing

Sermons dominate the American church landscape. Regardless of denomination, tradition, or style, the vast majority of churches employ professional pastors to deliver monologue lectures to silent audiences at least one time per week.

Is this as good as it gets? The answer is a resounding NO.

God has provided us with an alternative to modern-day preaching that is both much more edifying and more enjoyable.

First, let me provide an important definition. Preaching, as defined in scripture, is actually open air evangelism designed to call the lost to Christ. It is not what occurs when the church gathers. If you read through the book of Acts, you will find preaching always occurring within the context of the spread of the gospel.

Modern preaching has morphed into the ineffective thing we see today. God's alternative to this is teaching that takes place within the confines of Christian community. As the church gathers, whenever and wherever, teaching is one of the things that takes place. Teaching is a gift that some believers possess more than others, but we are all able to teach to one extent or another.

Colossians 3:16 is an extremely important verse. Paul writes to the entire Colossian church, saying in 3:16, "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God." Everyone in the body is to be teaching everyone else. This happens within the body of Christ as it lives life together. Some teaching is more in word while other is more in action. There is always a back-and-forth nature to it. Discussion is an important key.

Body life is exactly that. All parts of the body are necessary (see I Cor. 12). We all need each other to teach each other. The body benefits from this, encourages it, and even corrects it (if anything incorrect is taught). No one person is elevated more than any other.

Teaching is important to the life and health of the body. However, we need to take care that teaching is not thought of as better or more important than other gifts. A balanced perspective is key.

Teaching is to be a part of the multitude of one anothers that permeate body life. As we come together as brothers and sisters in Christ, teaching in all its wonderful forms is one of the things that happens. When we follow this scriptural pattern, the body grows and thrives. Following God's plans is always best for the church.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

5. Sermons Allow the People to Sit


The final reason why sermons won't go away any time soon is that sermons allow the people to sit.

It is currently Sunday morning. Literally millions of American Christians are preparing to "go to church." One thing most of them will do in a few hours is sit passively through some sort of religious ceremony. Most of these folks do this because it's what they've always done. They don't even think about it. They even believe it pleases God for them to sit through the sermon. While I'm certain that most have good intentions, the outcome is basically meaningless.

Where in the New Testament do we see a passive church sitting through a ceremony? It doesn't exist.

Many Christians have very busy lives. Because of this, they are tired. They see Sunday as some sort of Sabbath. Because of this, many are more than happy to sit in a padded seat while the "man of God brings the message from God." The people in the pews aren't going to fight the current system of clergy-led ceremonies because they enjoy the time of sitting. This arrangement also foists most of the responsibility onto the pastors up front.

What we have, then, is an entire process that elevates the clergy while stunting the laity. And everyone seems happy with this (except us trouble makers on the fringes of church life).

God's plan for his church is one of vitality and action. We edify one another, evangelize the lost, and sacrificially serve everybody. At least that's God's plan. Sitting in the pews has nothing to do with any of that.

For now at least the rampant pew sitting isn't going away. In a couple of hours millions of American believers will do what they believe is their duty by sitting and listening. Many of them will be happy to do so, allowing the pastor to earn his paycheck by preaching while they sit.

A much, much better way exists for church life that has nothing to do with all this sermonizing. I'll detail that in my next post.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

4. Sermons Earn the Pastor's Paycheck


Go ahead and take a poll of numerous Christians. Ask them what the most important thing is that a pastor does. If you do this, I guarantee that the runaway number one answer will be, "He preaches."

This is a fascinating phenomenon in light of the fact that the New Testament doesn't provide even one example of pastors preaching. Not even one! The sad reality is that the current situation of pastors preaching week after week is based in man's traditions, not in scripture. As they say in the South: it is what it is.

Preaching is the primary way that pastors earn their paychecks. Of course they do many other things, but the primary one is preaching. Just look at the poll results. The main "work" he does is study for hours each week and then preach the sermon(s).

This arrangement guarantees that sermons aren't going away any time soon. The people in the pews believe the pastor should preach, and the pastor needs a paycheck to live. There's a sort of co-dependant thing going on there.

Regardless, the pastor's need to pay his bills is just one more reason that we should not expect sermons to go extinct any time in the near future.

Monday, July 7, 2014

3. Sermons Are Fun to Preach


Although the idea of preaching sermons may be intimidating to many people, the reality is that it's a lot of fun. Because of this, sermons aren't going away any time soon.

I've heard over and over that preaching sermons is incredibly difficult work. I can tell you from my experience that this is hogwash. Although preaching can be tiring, it is not all that difficult. Frankly, it's mostly just plain enjoyable. After having studied for hours during the week, the pastor gets to talk to a silent, captive audience about all that he has studied. The people sit and listen (to some extent). The whole process is gratifying to the pastor and his ego.

This may sound harsh on my part. However, it is also reality. The pastor is the center of attention for as long as the sermon lasts (probably anywhere from 25-45 minutes). No one gets to ask any difficult questions. Rather, it is simply the pastor getting to say what he wants about what he wants. It's great fun.

After the sermon is over the pastor gets told repeatedly what a great job he just did. This further strokes the ego. It also encourages the pastor to preach more, and more, and more.

Please let me be clear on one related point: I believe the vast majority of pastors preach with good intentions. They are doing what they think they should. They believe that what they are doing has a sound biblical basis (it doesn't). They want the folks in the pews to benefit by growing spiritually. They even think they are working hard and sacrificing for the kingdom.

Despite these good intentions, the pastors are wrong. I'm saddened to even write this. However, I must write the truth. The preaching of sermons by the clergy to the laity does more harm than good by stifling the saints and elevating the pastor(s). It's not sacrifice on the pastor's part; rather, it is an easy paycheck.

As a bonus for pastors, preaching sermons is downright fun. In light of this, most pastors are thrilled to continue doing it week after week after week, etc.

Preaching is far too much fun for pastors to stop or even think of doing so. Because of this, sermons aren't going away.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

2. Sermons Are Fun to Prepare

A second reason Why Sermons Won't Go Away is that sermons are fun to prepare.

Imagine sitting behind a desk with a cup of coffee in hand. The top of your desk holds a computer, a bible, a few commentaries, a notepad, and several pens. BibleWorks, Logos, or some other bible program shines on your computer screen. You've been given the gift of studying the bible for numerous hours every week in order to prepare one or two speeches.

Sermon prep is awesome for the pastor! He actually gets to read the bible and dig into its meaning for hour after hour every week. While most of us regular people struggle to find any time to read scripture during a busy week, the pastor gets tons of time. It's a blast!

For over two years as a professional pastor I was able to study all I wanted while I prepared sermons. It was great fun. This is not to say that it was always easy, but it was still a great experience for me. What Christian wouldn't want to get paid to study the bible?

Because putting sermons together is so much fun, the vast majority of pastors want this practice to continue. They certainly aren't going to speak out against it. Why give up such a good thing?

If, on the other hand, sermon preparation was drudgery I could see many pastors speaking out against it. However, that's simply not going to happen because studying the bible is wonderful.

Let's do the simple math here. Most Christians think modern sermons are biblical in nature and sermons are fun to prepare. This adds up to sermons not going anywhere anytime soon.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Trying to Blog, But...

I've been trying to blog lately, but I just can't find the time. I do have a good reason: my job required me to work 77 hours last week. I want to continue with the series on Why Sermons Won't Go Away; this coming holiday weekend may provide opportunity for that.

My hope is that you are having a blessed week in the Lord. Take joy in living as the saint you are and as the active priest He has called you to be!

Monday, June 23, 2014

1. Sermons Are Thought to be "Biblical"

This is my first post in a short blog series entitled Why Sermons Won't Go Away. The primary reason sermons aren't going away anytime in the near future is that most Christians think they are "biblical." In other words, the majority of Christ-followers believe that we should have sermons today because we find sermons in the bible. This line of reasoning shows a complete misunderstanding of context.

Sigh.

The sermons we see in the New Testament are preached out in the marketplace by non-pastors to unbelievers. This is critical to our understanding. Sermons were evangelistic in nature. They were designed to call the lost to repent and believe. A prime example of this is Paul's sermon to the Athenians recorded in Acts 17:22-34. In that passage Paul says, "The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent."

The sermons we see preached today are far from biblical in nature. They are preached not in the marketplace but in special church buildings (something foreign to the New Testament church). They are preached by pastors. They are preached to saved people (or at least those in the pews; we assume they are saved).

Simply put, most of the sermons we see today have little to nothing to do with the model we are given in scripture. However, since most people think they are "biblical," they will continue unabated. How sad this is for the church.

WARNING: this blog series will be somewhat negative and fairly depressing in nature. However, at the end I will suggest, to borrow Paul's words from the end of I Corinthians 12, "a still more excellent way."

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Why Sermons Won't Go Away


Sermons are ubiquitous. Just about any time most churches get together for their big meetings some sort of sermon takes place. These extended monologues come in various shapes and sizes, but they amount to the same thing. It is almost always (>99%) one person - usually clergy - speaking from an elevated platform to a quiet audience. No participation is expected or invited.

It is my contention that sermons do much more harm than good to the church. Sermons act to separate the clergy from the laity. Sermons stifle the priesthood of all believers. Sermons play a big part in turning church gatherings into formal ceremonies. Sermons give the message that sitting and listening pleases God. Sermons turn Christianity into an exercise in rhetoric. Sermons elevate the speakers to "special status" within the church. Sermons bore most people. This list goes on...

Despite all these problems, the sermon has had remarkable staying power. At least since the Reformation the sermon has dominated church meetings around the globe. It doesn't appear to be going away any time soon. Some excellent sermon preachers have even gained rockstar status within evangelical Christianity (see John Piper, R.C. Sproul, John MacArthur, Albert Mohler, N.T. Wright, Tim Keller, Mark Driscoll, etc.).

Why won't sermons go away? I've thought about this a lot recently. My background is full of sermons. I listened (sort of) to them during all my growing up years. I attended seminary, where I was trained to preach sermons. As a professional pastor, I preached hundreds of sermons. All this sermonizing has given me a full perspective on what keeps sermons going year, after year, after year...

Five reasons stand out why sermons aren't going away. That's what I'll be discussing in my next five posts.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Homosexuality Series Summary

Homosexuality is here to stay. We followers of Jesus Christ must know how to respond appropriately to this issue. Far too often the church falls into the trap of letting culture dictate what we believe about things. As for homosexuality, some Christians have already welcomed it completely, while others act as if all homosexuals are the worst people on the planet. Instead of following our secular culture's path, let's let God direct us through scripture. When we look in the bible we read many helpful principles for how we should deal best with homosexuality. This series is my simple attempt to look at some of these principles. Click on any link below to read the article:

1. God Loves Homosexuals
2. We Must Love Homosexuals
3. We All Sin Every Day
4. Homosexuals Are Individuals
5. Homosexuality Is Sin (the Action, Not the Attraction)
6. Love Does Not Equal Acceptance of Behavior
7. Let's Befriend Homosexuals
8. This Is a Gospel Issue
9. Focus on New Testament Passages
10. We Must Not Give In On Homosexuality

Thursday, June 12, 2014

10. We Must Not Give In On Homosexuality

In this blog post title the word "We" refers to the church. We simply cannot afford to give in on this issue.

It saddens me a great deal that many Christians have already caved. Several large denominations have recently given approval to the gay lifestyle (as if denominations have the right to do this). It amounts to a surrender to societal pressures and political correctness. It stems from allowing feelings to trump scripture.

As Christ's followers, we cannot afford to follow this cultural trend. The gospel itself is at stake. I do not consider this hyperbole.

Why is the gospel at stake? Let me clarify. The truth of the gospel is not at stake; God has made it true. This will never change. However, our understanding of the gospel is at stake. For most of us the gospel was transmitted to us by someone else. We heard it through the medium of speech. However, we know it to be true because of what we read in the bible. Additionally, the Holy Spirit testifies to our hearts that what we read about the gospel in the scriptures is true.

The bible is a book of words. Words have meaning. Sentences and especially paragraphs have even more meaning. The scripture writers did not intend to be confusing. They wrote in a straightforward manner with an intention that those reading it and listening to it being read would understand it. Why else write anything?

The bible is clear on the gospel. We can easily understand what it says. The bible is also clear on homosexuality. Like the gospel, we can easily understand what the scriptures say about the gay lifestyle.

In order to say that homosexuality is valid, Christians have to say that the bible is not actually clear on homosexuality. I already had one commenter on this blog series say that. My response: poppycock. The wording is clear enough for a middle school student to understand it. In fact, the bible is as clear on homosexuality as it is on the gospel.

Here's the key: if we say that the bible is not clear on homosexuality, then to be consistent we also have to say that the bible is not clear on the gospel itself. If we give in on homosexuality, we may as well throw out the gospel. If we cannot understand the one, the other will soon follow.

The bible is clear. If we are going to be people of the book, we absolutely cannot cave in on homosexuality. No matter how hard society pushes us, we must take a stand on this issue. The gospel itself is at stake.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

9. Focus on New Testament Passages

The current climate of political correctness in our culture certainly favors homosexuality. It is being normalized in all sectors of our society. Every week something new happens. For example, just a few days ago a judge in Wisconsin struck down the state's ban on gay marriage. With the cultural tide flowing in this direction, we need to know both why we believe what we do and how to explain it.

It is right and good to turn to the bible for what we believe about homosexuality. In fact, the scriptures must be our supreme source of authority in what we think on this issue (along with all other issues). That said, where we turn in the bible is extremely important. I believe we should focus primarily on New Testament passages. The reason for this is that if we turn to the Old Testament law we can easily end up in the middle of a debate over which O.T. passages still apply today. I've seen this happen numerous times; it ends up accomplishing little.

When looking in the bible, my suggestion is to first turn to Genesis 1-2. This shows God's creation of male and female. We also see Adam and Eve form a binding relationship together. After setting this as the foundation, move to the New Testament to focus on New Covenant practices. The New Testament praises marriage within the confines of God's standards. The N.T. also consistently condemns homosexuality. The following verses illustrate this:

Romans 1:26-27, "For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error."

I Cor. 6:9-10, "Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God."

I Timothy 1:8-11, "Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully, understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine, in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted."

There is certainly a time for turning back to the rest of the Old Testament to show that God has been consistent in his views on homosexuality all throughout scripture. However, in order to avoid debates over which sections of the O.T. law apply to the church today, I advise to focus primarily on what we see in the N.T.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

8. This Is a Gospel Issue

Homosexuality is a difficult issue. When the topic of a conversation turns to homosexuality, strong emotions often follow. We've probably all seen arguments begin quickly and end poorly when the gay lifestyle is the focus.

Because of the emotions involved, it's often easiest to wish that the whole issue would just go away. Well, it won't. In light of that, many of us believers choose to just ignore it as best we can. Our lives are too busy; we just don't want to get involved.

As Jesus Christ's emissaries to this world we must realize something critical: homosexuality is a gospel issue.

It is a gospel issue in the sense that homosexual behavior is sinful. While God loves homosexuals, he also does not tolerate sin.

For example, in Exodus 24:6-7 we read in God's description of himself, "...'The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children's children, to the third and the fourth generation.' "

We see in that passage that while God is forgiving, he also will not clear the guilty (those whose sin has not been paid for).

Later in I Corinthians 6:9-11 we see the following, "Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God."

No sin is too big for God to forgive. However, God does not forgive sin that is not repented of. When people engage in repeated, sinful behavior over extended periods of time with no remorse, no regret, and no repentance, they are in serious danger of facing the wrath of God. This is a scary place to be.

None of us should be in the business of judging whether or not someone else is saved. Only God knows this. Instead, we should focus on loving and serving all people. This includes sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ when the Holy Spirit leads us to do so. The frightening thing for homosexuals is that many have been engaging in the gay lifestyle for a long time. In light of how God feels about sin, many of them are in great danger eternally. It would be unloving of us to either accept their behavior as valid or fail to at least try to befriend them and share Christ with them.

To summarize: homosexuality, like any sin, is a gospel issue. Anyone engaging in a chronic sinful lifestyle faces great danger. Only Jesus Christ can save them from this now and eternally. As those with the good news, we must always remember this and act upon it.

Friday, June 6, 2014

7. Let's Befriend Homosexuals

Many Christians do not know any homosexuals. Even fewer Christians have homosexual friends. This is extremely problematic.

If the only homosexuals we see are on television, then we fail to see homosexuals as they are. Homosexuals are individuals. They are not primarily a political group fighting a culture was (although the culture war is real). Rather, they are primarily people going about their busy lives.

Jesus saw people as individuals. He spent time with people. He befriended them. In light of this, what does it say of us if we avoid homosexuals?

In order to actually see homosexuals as they are, we must make an effort to befriend them. I'm not talking about anything artificial here. I'm referring to getting to know homosexuals either at work or in the neighborhood. If you don't know of any, then pray that God will bring some into your comings and goings.

We make the greatest impact in life on those who are our friends. If our goal is to share Jesus Christ with homosexuals, then friendship is the best context in which to do this. Friends listen to what we say; culture warriors do not.

What I'm suggesting is neither easy nor comfortable (although it may be). However, it is what we must do. As Christ's ambassadors, we have a great privilege and duty. We are to care for the poor and hurting. Many homosexuals are hurting in many ways. We are also to share the only truly good news in this world. We know the one person who can free homosexuals from their sinful behavior. It is within friendships that we will be most effective.

Let's do it.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

6. Love Does Not Equal Acceptance of Behavior

This blog post is part of my continuing series entitled Ten Thoughts on Homosexuality.

Our culture has foisted upon us something that is both interesting and troubling. Secular society has made it clear that the only way to show love to homosexuals is to accept their behavior as completely valid in every way. Anyone who has anything negative whatsoever to say against the homosexual lifestyle is labeled a bigot and a hater. The culture no longer tolerates or allows the idea that we could love the homosexual but hate their sin.

In the bible we read a far different story. In looking at the life of Jesus Christ, we see him again and again come into contact with people in sin. Jesus always treats them with grace. He also always confronts them about their sin. The woman at the well in John chapter four is a prime example.

Jesus Christ knew that it would actually be unloving to leave people in their sins. To confront them was the right thing to do. Jesus understood the power and significance of sin so well that he died to pay for sin. In his earthly ministry Christ never failed to talk to people about sin in their lives. Because he loved them he did this.

As we think about loving homosexuals, we must be careful not to fall into our culture's trap. We can and must remember that homosexuality is sin. While we lovingly serve and get to know homosexuals, we cannot ever accept their lifestyle as right or valid. This, of course, does not mean that we must confront them with their sin on every occasion. However, when the Spirit leads, we must make it clear that we both love them and do not accept their behavior as right and good.

Culture must not ever be allowed to determine what we think about issues such as this. Instead, we follow Christ's example of loving everyone but accepting no sin.

Monday, May 26, 2014

5. Homosexuality Is Sin (the Action, Not the Attraction)

So far in this series we've established that God loves homosexuals, that we must love homosexuals, and that we all sin every day. Additionally, we must treat homosexuals as individuals as opposed to simply being a part of some group.

In this post we'll look at the fact that homosexuality is sin. Homosexuality misses the mark by transgressing the law of God.

More specifically, the action of homosexuality is sin. This includes not just outright sexual behavior but also lustful thoughts. In other words, acting on homosexual temptations is sin. However, and I want to be clear on this point, homosexual attraction itself is not sinful. Some people struggle with homosexual temptations and attractions, but fight against these every day. When we see homosexuality condemned in the bible it is always those involved in the action who are mentioned.

Let's back up just a bit. We need to lay the groundwork for what God believes about human sexuality. God has made this clear in Genesis chapter 2. Even before the fall of mankind, God says in Genesis 2:24, "Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh." This verse is the basis for not only marriage in general, but also for all human sexuality. We know that this verse still applies in the New Covenant because Jesus himself quotes it in Matthew chapter nineteen when questioned about divorce.

God's design for human sexuality is for it to fall within the confines of a one man-one woman relationship for life. Any deviation from this is sin, whether it be heterosexual or homosexual deviations.

The scriptures are consistent that homosexual activity is condemned by God. Romans 1, I Corinthians 6, and I Timothy 1 illustrate this:

Romans 1:26-27, "For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error."

I Cor. 6:9-10, "Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God."

I Timothy 1:8-11, "Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully, understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine, in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted."

What, then, about homosexual attraction? If it is not sinful, then what is it? I believe it is a reminder that we live in a fallen world. We all struggle with various temptations that, if given in to, will be sinful. However, it actually honors God when we fight against these temptations by not surrendering to them. Only through the power of the Holy Spirit can we do this. Therefore, when a person is tempted toward homosexuality but resists this urge by turning to God for help, this actually pleases God.

Whenever we discuss this topic, let's make sure that we don't slip into the trap of thinking that homosexuality is some sort of unforgivable sin. God is far more gracious, loving, and forgiving than we are. He is ready and willing to forgive any person who is involved in even the most despicable forms of sexual perversion (if the individual genuinely turns to God in repentance and faith).

Our culture tells us today that we cannot both love homosexuals and believe their behavior is wrong. We're told that we either accept the behavior or we're bigots. Well, culture must never determine what we Christ-followers believe. Since God believes homosexual behavior is sinful, so must we. Let's go out of our way to lovingly serve any homosexuals that God brings into our lives. At the same time, we must never fail to remember that their behavior is sinful.

(Just a quick reminder to keep us humble: we all sin every day).

Sunday, May 25, 2014

4. Homosexuals Are Individuals

When we watch the news we frequently see homosexuals portrayed as groups. Such-and-such a group is fighting for such-and-such a right, etc. The battle lines are drawn, with homosexuals on one side and conservatives on the other. The groups line up for war.

When we buy into this way of thinking it is difficult for us to see homosexuals as individual people. We must make every effort to overcome the simplistic thinking that suggests that all homosexuals are the same. As with any group, its members are diverse. If we, as Christ's church, are going to make a positive influence on homosexuals, we must begin by treating them as individual people.

Let's focus for just a moment on one key difference among individuals within the homosexual community: some struggle with their homosexuality while others embrace it (and there are likely others who fall somewhere in the middle of this continuum). Some homosexuals are not comfortable with their feelings and fight against them each day. On the other hand, many homosexuals have completely given themselves over to this lifestyle. They live it in every sense of the word. Many of those in the middle probably do not know what to do. I use this one example to illustrate that homosexuals are not all the same.

We always need to treat all people as persons as opposed to simply members of a larger group. Only when we do this can we truly get to know them. Without knowing them we will have little to no success in reaching them with the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is only Christ who can free them from their homosexual cravings.

To sum up: we must treat homosexuals as individuals. As long as we treat them as a group we will make no substantive impact upon their lives.

The Dark Side Always Loses...

For a brief respite from my current series on homosexuality, please enjoy this fun Star Wars themed video that reminds us that the dark side always loses in the end:

Friday, May 23, 2014

3. We All Sin Every Day

As we think about homosexuality, we must remember that we all sin every day. Frankly, we all probably sin, at least in thought and/or intention, every hour. If we know Jesus Christ, we should be sinning less frequently than before salvation, but nevertheless we still sin.

The apostle Paul laments his struggle with sin in Romans chapter 7. At the conclusion of the chapter Paul rejoices in his salvation by exclaiming, "Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!" Paul needs this salvation because of his propensity to sin.

God does not excuse sin. R.C. Sproul put it well when he described sin as cosmic treason. All sin is an affront to God. This is why we all need a redeemer and advocate. Each of us needs Christ.

As humans we have a tendency to rank order sins. For whatever reason we generally think of homosexuality as one of the "worst" sins. My guess is that we do this because it grosses us out. Since it seems nasty, it must be really bad. Although we may think this way, it has little biblical backing. God wants us to reject all sin because it is all rebellion against him. We must deal with the sin in our own hearts before casting proverbial stones at others.

I am in no way excusing sin of any kind. Rather, my point is to encourage all of us to be humble as we discuss homosexuality. We must never come pridefully to this issue, as if we are somehow free from sin. Instead, let's remember that we were once lost, apart from God's goodness. Only because of God's mercy and grace do we know him.

We're all sinners. We're no better than homosexuals. Anything good we have is a free gift of God.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

2. We Must Love Homosexuals

God is a god of love. He loves all people. This includes homosexuals.

As Christ's followers, it is our duty to love as God loves. We will never be completely successful in this, but we should try. In fact, the love of Jesus ought to be a natural outpouring of our relationship with Christ. In Galatians 5 we read that the fruit of the Spirit is "love, joy, peace..." Notice that the first mentioned is love. As God regenerates our hearts and we respond to him in faith, something amazing happens. He turns our hearts from stone to flesh. This enables us to truly love in a Christlike manner. Christlike love is compassionate, sacrificial service.

As we read through the bible, especially the New Testament, we see God's expectation again and again that we will be loving people. God does not give loopholes for those we are allowed to not love. As difficult as it is, we're even expected to love our enemies. In Matthew 5 we're instructed by Jesus, "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you." This is only something we can do through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Nothing we do matters apart from love. I Corinthians 13:1-3 says, "If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing."

Love is the number one characteristic of the Christian.

In light of all this, it is clear that we should love homosexuals. Regardless of how we are treated in return, our response must be the love of Christ. Many homosexuals are kind people. Some are not. It doesn't matter. As Christ's people, the way we interact with others does not depend on how they treat us. Our attitudes and actions depend on our relationship with Jesus. He loves homosexuals.  God has changed our hearts so we can do the same. Now we must. There are no loopholes.

Monday, May 19, 2014

1. God Loves Homosexuals


This is the first post in my series entitled Ten Thoughts on Homosexuality. When I use the term "homosexual," I'm referring to both males and females who are sexually attracted to people of their own sex.

My first thought is this: God loves homosexuals.

Theology must begin with God. What God thinks should always determine what we think. Frankly, what we believe matters not at all if it does not stem directly from what our Creator believes.

We can learn much from God about God himself. In Exodus 34:6-7, God describes himself to Moses, saying, "The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children's children, to the third and the fourth generation."

We can learn much from the above passage. One key is that God is "abounding in steadfast love." We will return to this passage later in this series, but for now I want to point out God's description of himself as a God of steadfast love.

In the New Testament (I John 4:8), we read that God is love.

When we study the gospel accounts we encounter Jesus Christ, the most loving person of all time. Jesus routinely went out of his way to show love to all sorts of people. All these people were sinners, like you and me. Jesus showed compassion by talking to and caring for many, many different people. For example, in John chapter four Jesus encountered the Samaritan woman at the well. Christ broke several different social customs by talking to her. He showed her love despite her sin.

It's important to note that Jesus never left people in their sin without confronting them about it. This, however, does not mean that he didn't love them. Rather, it showed his love. Also, Jesus' harshest words were not for the sexually sinful; instead he aimed those at the religious leaders of his day.

The God of the universe is also a God who loves people. It's clear that he loves sinful people; if he didn't, then he wouldn't love anybody. God does not love sin, but he does love people who sin. That is a key difference.

Since God loves sinful people, we can safely conclude that God loves homosexuals. This must be our starting point as we think through this issue. How God thinks must directly determine how we think.

It is a profound thing that God loves homosexuals. This will be the foundation for the remainder of this series.