Tag Archives: gospel

Rejoice Always!

There are a lot of people opening up about the abuse that they have suffered.So many must be feeling triggered right now. Holidays are so hard for so many – reminders of betrayal, heartache, loneliness – that we live in a cursed world full of injustice, lust for power, greed. Many are perhaps suffering from illness or ongoing pain. Many have gone to the church for help only to be attacked, shamed and abused in the house of God!

And yet we also see the command of God to rejoice always! How can we do this?

Here is a list of things that we can truly be thankful for, even in the whirlwind of this life in the flesh.

  1. We have been completely washed by the blood and Spirit of Jesus. On particularly rough days, I imagine the meaning of my baptism as I shower. Just as this cool, refreshing, cleansing water is cleaning my body, I really and truly am washed by the blood of Christ. I am clean completely in the eyes of God. He doesn’t see me as I see myself, or as others see me, but as a new creation, fit to enter his presence – clean. He sees me the same way that he sees Jesus – his well-beloved Son.
  2. Because I am in Christ, God loves me with an almighty, infinite, unchanging eternal love. So I can rest in him. Because he is almighty, there is nothing outside of his power. Because he is unchanging, nothing can remove me from his hands.
  3. He sets the lonely into families; he frees the prisoners; he heals the sick; he feeds the hungry. He cares for my broken-down body. He is at work in me and I am fearfully and wonderfully made! His faithfulness is everlasting – unchanging, almighty, infinite.
  4. God is just, and this is a cause for rejoicing! On this earth, justice always comes short. The wicked prosper and the righteous are oppressed. Ahab gets rich and Naboth is stoned and everything seems completely upside-down. There is even great wickedness in the house of God! But God told us there would be. And God told us that he will not forget. He sees it and there will be a reckoning. God’s judgment will be infinite, almighty and unchanging. He will thoroughly clean his threshing floor.
  5. Sometimes we tie ourselves into knots trying to figure out how a just God squares with an evil world. But since 1 and 2 above are true, we can stop trying to figure it all out, and just rest – knowing that God is not fooled, is not swayed by trends and opinions, and already has this sorted. Our job is to wait and hold to Christ. The secret things belong to him.
  6. And the day will come when Jesus will descend with a shout of the archangel and the blast of the trumpet. His people will be gathered together and meet him in the air, and descend triumphantly with him. They will be vindicated before everyone. Every slander will be revealed for what it is, every murderer and reviler exposed, every abuse and every degradation exposed and left without excuse. There won’t be any “mistakes were made” or “besides, I’m gay” or “we were protecting the ministry” or “everybody did it back then”. There will be only perfect justice.
  7. And God’s people, united to Christ by faith, will be vindicated before the world. Every glass of water given freely, every meal shared, every kind word, every prayer – not to prove anything to God, but to reveal God’s people for who THEY are. Slander and reviling and gas-lighting will all be destroyed forever. God knows his own, and his works in his own people will be revealed before the universe.
  8. And there will be no more curse. No more loneliness, no more wickedness and strife, no more illness and pain, no more death, no more lies.
  9. The day will come when we will crush the head of the serpent under our feet and reign over all things forever and ever.
  10. No matter how weak we are on this earth, no matter how many have trodden us underfoot, no matter what we have suffered, we are more than conquerors in Jesus Christ. In him there is no more male and female, slave or free, Jew or Gentile, but we are all one in Jesus Christ. We share in his sufferings together. We share in his glory. We will reign with him over all creation forever. How astounding is that??

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

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How does God see me?

The day is going to come when Jesus will come again and we will all stand before his judgment throne. We will be judged on our works.

This means that we have a problem. To illustrate that problem, take out a blank sheet of paper. On this sheet of paper, write down every sin, mistake, error in judgment, and failure that you have ever committed.

Wait.

Before you start, put down Adam’s sin in the very first spot. When you were conceived, you already had this one on your account.

Now, start with the things that keep you up at night. The kind words you should have said. The ugly words that you did say. The lingering looks over the girl walking by you and the horrible things that went through your mind.

The time you really enjoyed that tiny piece of gossip, destroying someone with your hateful tongue. Maybe the time that you were unthankful to God and doubted his goodness. Add your road rage, your hateful words at the customer that is standing in your way. Add your thoughts of rage against your server or cashier for being an idiot and a moron.

And those are just the things you did and didn’t do. What about who you are as a person? Your first thought isn’t about the glory of God; it is about your own glory. Your first love isn’t the love of God, it is a love for yourself. You don’t wish your neighbor to have success, even if it means you don’t. You want to be first. You don’t want to worship the God who is; your first thought is to worship a god that you like better than the one true God.

Maybe you try really, really hard to love God. Maybe you really want to be a better person, so you have learned to reign in your tongue.

But you still have sleepless nights, don’t you? You know that when Jesus comes again, all of those thoughts will be revealed to the whole universe so that every mouth will be stopped. There won’t be any more excuses. They weren’t indiscretions; they weren’t inappropriate gestures; they were sins, affronts against almighty God and worth his eternal wrath.

And you can’t do anything about it.

Write them down on your piece of paper. Remember that all of the ones that you missed, or excused, or forgot about, God already has written them down. He will never acquit the guilty.

Now think about Jesus. Look at the law. He kept all of that perfectly. Imagine never once failing to act according to perfect love. Imagine loving God with all of your heart and mind and strength, and never once failing. Never saying a cruel word. Never rejoicing in gossip. Never abusing and defiling, even in his mind.

It’s hard to imagine because we have no experience of it. We don’t know what it is like to NOT be corrupted by sin. But we have the law. We have the proverbs – God’s description of wisdom – a character reference of Jesus, the Wisdom of God made flesh.

Imagine perfect righteousness, spotless holiness, and unflagging wisdom written in a book.

Now you have two ledgers. You have the works that you have done and have failed to do. It’s pretty ugly. And you have the works that Jesus did and the sins that he refused. It is beautiful, wise, holy, without blemish. It is clean.

When Jesus stood before Pilate, Pilate declared him innocent. Pilate knew that he had done nothing deserving of death. As the temporal judge, he bore witness to God’s judgment: Jesus committed no sin and had no guile in his mouth. But because of Pilate’s character and the treachery of the Jews, Pilate condemned him to death anyway. But when it came time to write up the charge and nail it to the cross, Pilate had a problem. He didn’t have anything to write.

So he wrote, “The King of the Jews” in order to insult the Jews. He refused to change it.

God says this:

13 And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses;
14 Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;
15 And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it. (Col 2:13-15 KJV)

Even though Pilate had nothing to write on Jesus’ cross, God did. He took that ledger that you just filled out. Your sinful nature, every sin that you committed and every deed of righteousness that you failed to do. God even took the ones that you didn’t add, the ones you didn’t know about, the ones you excused and justified – he took them all and nailed THAT to the cross of Christ.

The charges were against YOU. The condemnation fell on Jesus.

“What thou, my Lord, has suffered

Was all for sinners’ gain

Mine, mine was the transgression,

But thine the deadly pain” (St. Bernard of Clairvaux)

What happened to the other ledger – the one with Jesus’ perfect righteousness? It’s the book that is opened when I stand before God on the judgment day. Every work that he did, every perfection, every spotless act of beauty and wisdom, is put on MY account.

It isn’t how much I loved God in this life. It is how much Jesus loved God.

It isn’t how much I desired God or lived a life of Christian hedonism. It is HIS perfect righteousness, faith, and obedience, put on my account.

It isn’t how much I persevered or how tightly I held on. It isn’t about the strength of my faith or the purity of my faith. It is about the strength and purity of my savior. With my empty hands, I cling to him. With my filthy heart, I cry out for mercy. With my sin-filled tongue, I call to Him.

His righteousness is mine. My sin and filth were put to death on his cross, and that puts to death the bondage and power of the devil. That great exchange will always lead to a changed life, but the changed life will always fall far, far short of the righteous requirements of God. The only thing that will EVER stand before God is the perfect righteousness, holiness and satisfaction of Christ put on my account.

If only I accept it with a believing heart.

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Thoughts concerning Slaves and Children

4 But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law,
5 To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.
6 And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.
7 Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ. (Gal 4:4-7 KJV)

A servant, whether a slave or an employee, works for two reasons. Either to earn a wage or to avoid punishment.

But God doesn’t want good employees, or good slaves. He wants sons and daughters. This is why the greatest commandment is:

Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. (Mat 22:37 KJV)

This is why righteousness can never come by the law. The law makes fearful slaves, but God desires our hearts.

It is true that a heart that loves God is a heart that keeps the commandments of God, but it is deadly to our comfort to think that we are working to earn a reward – whether it is final righteousness or final justification or any other “wage”. It is also deadly to our comfort to think that we are working to avoid punishment, for Jesus has already taken the cup of God’s wrath and drank the last drop. There is no more condemnation.

Work that flows from hope of reward or fear of punishment is the work of a servant. And God responds to servants this way:

9 “He does not thank the slave because he did the things which were commanded, does he?
10 “So you too, when you do all the things which are commanded you, say, ‘We are unworthy slaves; we have done only that which we ought to have done.'” (Luk 17:9-10 NAS)

Salvation is not learning to become a good slave, for God would have sons and daughters. Sons and daughters certainly obey and honor their father, but the motive is from a heart of love and gratitude, which is pleasing to the Lord.

Jesus did not come to make us slaves. He came to make us heirs.

And love is only learned from the gospel, received by faith. Love can never be learned from the law.

The apostle James warns of dead faith, which is faith without works. His point is NOT to add works to dead faith, but to repent of dead faith and gain a living faith in the living savior. Living faith always brings forth good works, as a loving son always obeys the father. But we are saved because we are united to Christ by faith, not because we worked hard enough to earn a reward.

The difference between a son and a slave is everything.

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Faith Doesn’t Save Anyone

That got your attention, didn’t it?

But it is necessary to clear up some false teaching. If we don’t get this right, we will be tossed around continually by doubt and fear, and we will be enslaved to bondage again.

The word “faith” is popular in wall art, memes, and paintings. You may have tried to encourage someone who was suffering by saying something like, “Have faith!”

But by itself, faith is a meaningless word. Faith means to believe in…something.

So when you say, “Have faith”, I will say, “in what?” It is simply a question of grammar.

Faith that everything will work out just fine? Well, it probably won’t. Lots of people die unexpectedly and alone and in pain. The cemeteries are full of people who may or may not have believed that everything would work out OK. They all still died. If you believe that everything will work out OK, and your only frame of reference is the things of this world, the odds are overwhelmingly against you. History shows again and again that things usually don’t work out alright.

Are we saying, “Have faith in the goodness of people”? Really? Have you met people? They all let you down. Promises are easy to make, and seldom kept.

Perhaps we are saying, “Have faith in yourself.” You know, like the song, “I believe I can fly”. But it never occurred to anyone that believing he could fly did not actually enable R. Kelly to fly. He probably would have been better off if he had sung, “I believe I can be a decent human”, but it probably wouldn’t have fixed that, either. But I digress.

Perhaps this is why people simply say, “Have faith”, as if that meant something. They don’t have anything to believe in that actually gives purpose and meaning to their lives.

What becomes a problem is when we believe that faith is what saves us. If we take just a second to examine ourselves, some questions come up. How much faith do I need? What do I believe in, then? Am I having faith in faith? But that seems a bit odd. How do I believe in believing?

Now I am in a weird circle of believing in believing in believing, but have nothing to actually believe IN. If I believe in faith, and faith is simply a meaningless word without an object of faith, then I guess I am putting my hope of eternal life in a word that makes me feel like I am accomplishing something when I am really just staring at my navel wondering where all the lint came from…

How’s that for a sentence?

The gospel is never “believe”!” It is always, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ!”

That makes all the difference. Faith doesn’t save anyone. There is only one savior: Jesus Christ. Faith is the arms that hold him, the eyes that see him, the ears that hear him. To put it into theological terms, faith is the instrument by which we lay hold of Christ!

And that is everything. It takes our gaze away from our own hearts and directs it to where Christ is, at the right hand of God (Col. 3:1). We are weak. We are foolish. We still struggle with sin. We are outcasts. We are despised. We are poor and oppressed on every side.

And yes, there are times when we are discouraged. Times when depression crushes us. Times when we certainly do not feel the presence of God, when we are downcast and almost in despair. There are times when we don’t understand anything, when we don’t know what to do. When we are lost and feel like we are drowning.

And there are many gurus who will tell you how to have more faith, how to be more cheerful, how to live a life of power. You can find all sorts of people who give you instruction on how to lift yourself up, climb out of that hole.

But that isn’t the answer of the Bible. The answer of Scripture is this: Lay hold on Jesus Christ. He is everything you are not, and everything that he has is yours. His righteousness is yours. His death was yours, so you are no longer under condemnation. His righteousness is yours, so you can stand before God’s throne with confidence. His resurrection is yours already, so even when worms devour this flesh, I KNOW that in my flesh I shall see God. Because Jesus is already there, and he is mine and I am his.

Eternal God, strong to save, who does all of his own pleasure, became flesh and fulfilled the law of God perfectly in my place. He took the curses of the law so that the blessings of the law might be mine forever.

If only I accept that benefit with a believing heart.

(Psa 40:2 KJV) He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings.

So when you are downcast and fearful, when the storms of life have almost overtaken you, when the devil and his condemnation continually attack – quit looking at yourself, and lay hold on Christ. He lifts you out of the pit. He delivers you from your sins. He cleans you up and presents you to the Father. Everything that is his he gives to you – life, peace, joy, glory, salvation.

He is the same yesterday, today and forever. He is the rock that can never be moved, and faith holds on to him.

Faith doesn’t save anyone. Jesus saves. Faith that believes in faith is the sound of one hand clapping. It’s as meaningless as the grasshopper quotes from “Kung Fu”.

Faith in Jesus Christ is something far different. He who believes on him will never be ashamed, can never be lost, and is already in possession of eternal life.

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“I will give you rest…”

2 And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made.
3 And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made. (Gen 2:2-3 KJV)

The seventh day, God rested. Of course, we finite creatures cannot possibly understand what this means for an infinite God, but it was written for our benefit. God rests, and created man to enter into that rest.’

But man fell, and was driven from the Garden. I am one of the few that take the history of Genesis literally. I can’t explain men and women, their desires, their loves, their hates, their unfulfilled longings any other way. Man was created to enter into God’s holy habitation. But man became unholy, defiled and corrupt, with a memory of what was lost.

But God did not cast them into hell. Instead, he provided a way of salvation. He provided a way of restoration. We call this the covenant of grace, and it was first announced after man’s fall in the Garden of Eden.

The bondage that mankind put themselves in was illustrated perfectly in Israel’s hard bondage in Egypt. They were slaves to Pharaoh and there was nothing that they could do about it. Pharaoh was too strong, and Israel was too weak. So also with all mankind. Sin is too strong and we are too weak.

We commit our way to God and tell ourselves that today we are going to live righteously. And if you understand God’s holy law, you realize that your commitment lasted until your feet hit the floor. We sin because we are born corrupt and twisted, serving ourselves and our own lusts continually. We hate our sins and yet continually return to them. We loathe ourselves at night and make more resolutions. And break them again first thing in the morning. Over and over again. Sin is a harsh and undefeatable task-master.

Unless God intervenes.

God intervened with Israel in Egypt. He gave them the Passover lamb. They put the blood of the lamb on the door of their houses, and that night the firstborn of Egypt died and Israel was free.

Think of it – they had their first day off in their whole lives. They were free from their taskmasters. And that day, their first day of freedom, marked the first Sabbath. From them on, every seventh day Israel rested.

God told them why in Exodus 31:

13 Speak thou also unto the children of Israel, saying, Verily my sabbaths ye shall keep: for it is a sign between me and you throughout your generations; that ye may know that I am the LORD that doth sanctify you. (Exo 31:13 KJV)

Israel was given the Sabbath as a sign – that Jehovah is the only one that sanctifies his people. God himself makes us holy and fit for the holy habitation of God. Only then can we enter into God’s rest. Just as God delivered them from Pharaoh, so also God promised that he would deliver them from the bondage of sin. But just as Israel could not deliver themselves from Pharaoh, so also mankind could never deliver themselves from the bondage of sin. But that which is impossible for God is possible for man.

This was also signified in the land of Canaan. Joshua led them around Jericho once for six days and on the seventh, he led them around 7 times. On the seventh time of the seventh day, the walls fell flat and Israel entered their rest.

But those who didn’t believe the promise – the God would give them rest – their bodies fell in the wilderness:

10 Forty years long was I grieved with this generation, and said, It is a people that do err in their heart, and they have not known my ways:
11 Unto whom I sware in my wrath that they should not enter into my rest.

(Psa 95:10-96:1 KJV)

By the time Jesus came into the world, the Jews had changed the meaning of the Sabbath. Instead of the Sabbath pointing to Jehovah sanctifying his people and giving them rest, the Sabbath day became a harsh burden of a thousand different things that could or could not be done. They had 39 categories of work, each with 6 sub-categories – all of which were forbidden. And the different Rabbinical traditions had their own interpretations and their own rules. All were inflexible. All were merciless.

To the Pharisee, the Sabbath meant that if you worked really hard, did the right things, and separated from those horrible sinners then you could perhaps convince God to begrudgingly allow you entrance into Abraham’s bosom.

As long as you didn’t miss anything.

The conflict between Jesus and the Pharisees over the Sabbath wasn’t over which works were allowed and which were not allowed. The point was over the meaning of the Sabbath to begin with. The one promised who would give them rest, who would sanctify his people, who would bring his people into his eternal rest,  was standing right in front of them!

How could they have known he was the one promised? Isaiah wrote:

4 Say to them that are of a fearful heart, Be strong, fear not: behold, your God will come with vengeance, even God with a recompence; he will come and save you.
5 Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped.
6 Then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing: (Isa 35:4-6 KJV)

Israel would know that God had come to their aid when they saw the eyes of the blind opened, the tongue of the dumb loosened, and the lame man walking. And this was exactly what Jesus did. And he did it on the Sabbath day. What was more fitting? The lamb of God sanctifying his people and preparing them for heaven on the very day that was a sign of that reality?

The reason Israel was forbidden to work on that day was so they would always remember the sign. God sanctifies his people. God delivers his people. God saves his people.

We don’t save ourselves; God saves us. What a tremendous promise! To rest on the Sabbath meant that you had to trust God for your daily bread. And if you lifted your eyes upward, you would see that you also were to trust God to fulfill his promise to sanctify his people. God would give us His righteousness if only we accept it with a believing heart.

30 What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, attained righteousness, even the righteousness which is by faith;
31 but Israel, pursuing a law of righteousness, did not arrive at that law.
32 Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as though it were by works. They stumbled over the stumbling stone,
(Rom 9:30-32 NAS)

The Pharisees of every age, on the other hand, followed the natural religion. If we are good enough, God will bless us. And they worked hard at it. They slaved for God’s approval. And they despised Jesus for being gracious to those who didn’t work near hard enough for that favor.

“We have worked, and slaved, and done hard labor our whole lives for God’s favor, and you are telling us that this beggar, this sinner, this publican, this “loose woman”, this Gentile, can just waltz right in and God will accept them??”

This is a big study, but a worthwhile one. A modern Pharisee won’t see the point, and will probably get irritated. But here is why I am telling you about the Jewish Sabbath and the conflict between Jesus and the Jews: We still have the same conflict today.

We have experts of every stripe telling us how to sanctify ourselves to make ourselves worthy of God’s favor. We have annual conferences on how to be manly husbands, feminine wives. We spend millions of dollars on books on how to pray, how to gain God’s favor, how to act, how to marry, how to live. We have our celebrity preachers who will tell you, for a cost, about their schemes, and their soundbites and their plans and their programs. Here’s how you must raise your kids. Here is how you must homeschool. Here is what to wear, what to eat, what to watch on TV, what not to watch on TV. Here’s is how to be a good wife. Here is how to be a good husband. Here is how short your skirt must be; here is what kind of blouse you must wear and what material it must be made of.

All for money or power. We have made Christianity so complicated and so full of so many rules and regulations. And every church has their own rules and regulations.

God only gave us Ten Commandments, but we have multiplied statutes to ourselves and ignored the law completely. We kill, maim, slander, rape, assault, and give approval to those who do the same. But we make sure the skirt is the right length, the wrong beverages are avoided, the appropriate demeanor is put on the face.

The message is clear. Grace is free and unmerited, as long as you do all of the right things, act the right way, go to the right conferences, and do what you are supposed to do. And I will tell you what those things are, as long as you fill out this registration form and send your check or money order to the registrar on time. Can we not see the contradiction? Is the righteousness of God freely given, or bought with money and works?

What has happened to the gospel of Jesus Christ? I don’t even recognize it anymore.

Aren’t you tired of it? Aren’t you tired of self-appointed prophets gaining wealth over the backs of the poor and downtrodden? Aren’t you tired of watching your every step, making sure that you are manly enough, feminine enough, righteous enough, a good enough parent, a good enough citizen? Are you weary of the constant vigilance? Don’t you need a Sabbath rest?

Then here is the message of the Sabbath again:

4 Say to those with anxious heart, “Take courage, fear not. Behold, your God will come with vengeance; The recompense of God will come, But He will save you.” (Isa 35:4 NAS)

To you who have been made afraid, you who have been abused and cast away like garbage, know this: God is gathering a people for himself. He is sanctifying those people and preparing them to enter into His rest. And he will come with vengeance. Egypt, Jericho, Babylon and earthly Jerusalem all fall to the ground.

It is the meek, the oppressed, the poor, that inherit the earth. And nothing unclean will enter in.

And you cannot barge your way through the gates. The only way is through the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.

So don’t be afraid. There aren’t a thousand different rules by a thousand different men. There is only one way to salvation, only one way to sanctification.

Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house. (Act 16:31 KJV)

And

20 “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me.
21 “I do not nullify the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly.”
(Gal 2:20-21 NAS)

And here:

28 Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Mat 11:28-30 KJV)

If you have not found rest for you souls, you have not yet found Christ. Come to him, I urge you, and rest.

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Taking a small break

I was reading through Luke and read where Jesus withdrew himself for a while to pray.

This really convicted me. I don’t spend near enough time withdrawing and praying. So I am going to do just that. I will be away from my computer and my smartphone and my email for a while.

But I wanted to leave you something to think about. What do you think is the greatest problem with our country, our world, our society?

What is the greatest problem with mankind?

I fear that the modern celebrity church sometimes gives the wrong view as to what is wrong with our country.

But the fact is this: The greatest problem in this country is not that there is no prayer in schools. It isn’t the divorce rate. It certainly isn’t foreigners, no matter if they are here legally or not.

It isn’t the homosexual lobby, or the change in cultural values. It isn’t transgender bathrooms and corrupt politicians.

The greatest problem today isn’t lack of Biblical manhood or womanhood, whatever that means. It isn’t colleges teaching Marxism.

The greatest problem, if you are on the other side of the political spectrum, isn’t Donald Trump, or racism or even sexism. It isn’t income inequality or poverty.

The greatest problem facing mankind is this: we worship and serve the creature, rather than the creator. We are idolaters. THAT is the problem. Everything else flows from there.

We rage against the “others;” we steal; we fornicate; we gossip; get drunk; murder each other with words, guns, knives and thoughts. We lie and cheat, and rob widows and orphans. We seek to find our identity in our sexuality (whether heterosexual or homosexual) rather than the image of God.

We were created to worship and serve our Creator. We were created to love him with our whole hearts. And instead, we hate him and hate our neighbor. Sure, we will have some sort of love towards those who can benefit us, or who agree with our own self-deification. But the heart of the issue is that we love ourselves. We (to borrow from Dr. Horton) are the stars of our own movie. And if the movie is a comedy, a tragedy, a mystery or a farce, it is ours and we will destroy anyone who takes the spotlight from us.

In the desert

I saw a creature, naked, bestial,

Who, squatting upon the ground,

Held his heart in his hands,

And ate of it.

I said, “Is it good, friend?”

“It is bitter—bitter,” he answered;

“But I like it

“Because it is bitter,

“And because it is my heart.”

(“In the desert” by Stephen Crane)

We put our trust in money, comfort, politics, country, law-keeping. We hold on to misery as a lifeline, refusing to let it go.  We will fight tooth and nail to keep the Ten Commendment plaques on our courtroom walls and we will fight with equal fervor against anyone who tries to make them relevant in our homes. We are all for the Law of God as long as we can use it as a weapon against those who are different than us.  But we will invent many schemes, fire many ministers, rail against many friends, rather than apply them to ourselves.

At bottom, the problem is idolatry. We worship and serve ourselves rather than the Creator who made us.

Since this is the problem, there is only one cure. Jesus Christ.

(Eze 37:23-28 KJV)  23 Neither shall they defile themselves any more with their idols, nor with their detestable things, nor with any of their transgressions: but I will save them out of all their dwellingplaces, wherein they have sinned, and will cleanse them: so shall they be my people, and I will be their God.
  24 And David my servant shall be king over them; and they all shall have one shepherd: they shall also walk in my judgments, and observe my statutes, and do them.
  25 And they shall dwell in the land that I have given unto Jacob my servant, wherein your fathers have dwelt; and they shall dwell therein, even they, and their children, and their children’s children for ever: and my servant David shall be their prince for ever.
  26 Moreover I will make a covenant of peace with them; it shall be an everlasting covenant with them: and I will place them, and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary in the midst of them for evermore.
  27 My tabernacle also shall be with them: yea, I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
  28 And the heathen shall know that I the LORD do sanctify Israel, when my sanctuary shall be in the midst of them for evermore.

We need a new heart. Our own flesh has an incurable wound and we are dying under God’s wrath little by little. We are unclean, all of us. But Jesus took it all upon himself, and gives us freely HIS righteousness and holiness, as long as we accept it with a believing heart.

He doesn’t give us white Anglo-Saxon values. He doesn’t give us 1950’s culture. He doesn’t give us validation. He tells us to take up our cross and follow him.

The only thing that we inherited from our parents was idolatry, sin, death and misery. We must be born again with new values, new hearts, new affections, or we will perish forever. And only Jesus can give us a new heart.

And he gives us that only one way: Through the proclamation of His gospel in faithful churches throughout the world. He works faith by the preaching of the gospel, and confirms it with the use of the sacraments: baptism and the Lord’s Supper.

The Gospel isn’t  politics, coalitions, denouncing of sin, or culture wars. It isn’t found in either patriarchy or feminism, either in complementarianism or egalitarianism or any other “ism” for that matter. There is only one Savior, and it isn’t a system. Salvation only comes one way. Through the blood of Jesus Christ.

A system of doctrine is taught in scripture and confessed by the church, but we must not ever confuse the system with the savior. The system points to the savior. You can be quite orthodox and still be far from God. There is only one savior – Jesus Christ, the Son of God and the Son of David, King of Kings, and Lord of all.

5 For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;
6 Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time. (1Ti 2:5-6 KJV)

As a church, we pat ourselves on the back for a “unified” statement of sexuality, but at the same time we tolerate those who make Jesus a submissive wife in the Trinity. We missed the boat somehow…

We thought that salvation would come from us telling people very clearly as a coalition what was wrong with them. But righteousness never comes by the law.

Ever.

No buts.

Righteousness will never come by the law.

The law can make people obedient slaves. But God doesn’t want slaves. He wants sons and daughters. God’s biggest concern for us is not that we keep ourselves from sinning through fear and guilt. Not at all. What he wants is that we love him with our whole hearts. When we have that, we have everything, and even the law is fulfilled.

There won’t be tables of stone in heaven, for we will all be made perfect. You don’t need a law against murder when men and women love each other as themselves, for it would never enter their minds.

Our goal is not to become good little slaves. Our goal is to be like Jesus, a perfect Son, an obedient Son. And this only comes through the preaching of the gospel.

My wife suffered the past two years with a horrible pain condition. In the US, the doctors repeatedly told her about pain management and gave her a lot of options. None of them worked, but some let her sleep fitfully for a while.

Then we heard that Italian doctors had the cure. We went, and she was cured. There was no longer any discussion about whether tens units or ultrasound would be best. No longer any fees for doctors. No longer any debate over gabepentin or cymbala. She was cured.

Why do we as Christians seek to ease the symptoms when Christ has promised the cure? The outward symptoms are adultery, fornication, heresy, witchcraft, reviling, drunkenness, anger, wrath and malice.

And we are getting angrier and angrier every day, because we forgot the cure. Die to self, and come to Jesus. With his touch, he heals your uncleanness; with his spirit, he cleanses you and gives you a new heart. With his baptism – not with water, but with his blood and spirit – he washes away all of your filth and all of your misery. Come to him and live.

I was born and raised in the church by godly parents. I never went through a phase where I didn’t go to church. I married a godly woman and tried to raise my children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

And without the blood of Christ, I would be doomed to die under God’s curse. Apart from my savior, I am filthy, unclean and defiled.

Because it doesn’t matter how you self-identify, how you view marriage, whether you tried hard or didn’t try at all.

It doesn’t matter if you spend years at therapy trying to become a better person, or whether you sit on your couch naked and eat Cheetos night and day while your parents pay your bills.

It makes no difference if you are a respected member of society, recognized as a pillar by the most orthodox church in town, or if you spend every evening in the gay bar. It makes no difference if you give your money to the poor or spend it all on booze and meth.

You still desperately need the blood of Christ or you will perish forever in your sins.

But if you come to him, confessing your sins and guilt, casting away every excuse and every justification, if you cease the continuous “well, at least I’m not THAT guy” as if God’s holiness were measured on a curve, if you believe the gospel and confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, you will be saved.

You WILL be. It is a promise from the one who cannot lie.

And if you are in Christ by faith, you WILL be conformed to the image of God’s Son.

This doesn’t mean that you will look like me, or Ward Cleaver, or Pastor Danny at the Big Church on the corner whose name I just made up. It doesn’t mean that you will be like Spurgeon or Calvin or Wesley or Luther or Mother Teresa.

It means that you will be like Jesus Christ, who loved God with his whole heart, even in suffering. He loved his neighbor as himself. He touched those who came to him. TOUCHED them! And the leper was cleansed, the unclean woman was cleansed, the sinner was cleansed, even the Pharisee was cleansed – once he realized that he desperately needed to be (See Romans 7).

So while I am gone, I have a suggestion that I will follow myself. If you haven’t read Romans in a while (just skimming doesn’t count), then take every other book you have and put them on the shelf for a while and read Romans. Think about it. Pray for guidance. Then read it again.

Learn who Jesus is. Learn what the gospel is. THIS is the gospel if Jesus Christ, and it is what the church is here to proclaim. If you are in an organization that doesn’t proclaim this, then flee. They aren’t a church.

I would submit to you that the lawless are very aware of our position on their lawlessness. Let’s quit making that the center of our message. Instead, let’s teach, preach, show and live Christ. Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today and forever. True eternal God, the Great I AM of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, who became flesh for us and for our salvation.

Come to him, and be saved, all the earth.

See you all in a while!

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Random thoughts on race

These thoughts are in no particular order. Just some things racing through my mind.

  1. I have come to wince whenever I read a blog or a comment that begins with “First, I want to say that I condemn all racism; and white supremacy is bad and wicked.” I have found that whenever a comment begins that way, invariably the writer is about to say something horrible.
  2. I applaud this business for firing this openly racist employee.
  3. I wonder if the others who paraded the Nazi symbol and shouted inflammatory hate speech were immediately excommunicated from their congregations as soon as they returned. Something tells me not.
  4. God told Abraham that in his seed (who is Jesus Christ) all the families of the earth would be blessed. You cannot then shout curses at the families of the earth and have any part in Christ.
  5. God forbade the making of images to worship him. Images are powerful. When a statue becomes more important to you than peace and love, or even the lives of men and women in God’s image, you might have a worship problem.
  6. You might say to yourself, “It isn’t the statue, it’s what it represents.” This is exactly what Jeroboam would have said.
  7. If you are more committed to defending the confederacy than the proclamation of the gospel and the advancement of the kingdom of God, you have a worship problem.
  8. #7 can apply to any ideology or any nation.
  9. The kingdom of God is not the United States, the confederate states, or any nation under the sun. The color of your skin is not the criteria of membership in the kingdom of God, but faith in Jesus Christ.
  10. If your fear of other people causes you to take part in or support hate rallies, then you fear the wrong thing.
  11. “Well, the other side does it too!” is the argument of a 2 year old. Eventually, someone has to act like an adult.
  12. My heart breaks for the family and friends of the young woman who was killed. May God’s peace be upon them and may they find comfort in Christ.
  13. #12 has no “but”. Only that.
  14. The Scripture condemns all racism, idolatry, hatred, bigotry, and murder. There is no “but”.
  15. To my Presbyterian friends, something to think about: When you publicly defend the “good things” that Dabney wrote, you immediately alienate half of the country. I don’t understand why you do this.
  16. That’s all for now. I’m going to retreat. This kills me.

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I Love Your Church, O God

At times it is discouraging. At times, it feels as if God has forsaken her. At times, you wonder how many pastors will fall into scandal, how many children will be abused in her day care centers, how many wives will suffer at her hands, how many husbands will have nowhere to go.

At times, you watch evil men soar away in their 60 million dollar jets paid for out of the pensions of widows they have defrauded and abused.

How many times will the sheep be driven away to make room for the wolves? You find them huddled at home, in caves, barred from the communion of the saints – and you wonder, “Has God forsaken the church?”

I understand the voices of those who have declared that they are done with the organization, that they will never join a church again. I hear the stories and I understand. It makes me sad, though. The church is the bride of Christ, the fellowship of the saints is precious. The preaching and the sacraments are indispensable means of grace. So I understand, but I cannot agree with cutting yourself away from the body of Christ. So perhaps this will help.

Please hear me closely, and think about this, especially if you have been driven away from your church by wolves. My goal is not to throw stones at those who have been greatly hurt. I long for your healing. My goal is only to be faithful in my calling and point you to Christ. Christ still loves his bride and still calls you to fellowship with the saints. So think about this: Were you truly driven from the church? Or were you delivered from a synagogue of Satan?

I was thinking this through as I was preparing a Bible study on King Jeroboam.

The Book of the Kings of Judah and Israel (1 and 2 Kings) opens with King Solomon. Solomon is given a great kingdom, promised the blessing and favor of God, and has been granted the privilege and responsibility to build the great Temple of Jehovah in Jerusalem.

The Temple is where God had chosen to place his name. He revealed himself there, accepted the sacrifices and the worship of his people there, atoned for sin there, and there he communed with his people.

But Solomon rebelled against God towards the end of his life, and God divided the kingdom. The ten tribes in the north rejected their allegiance to the house of David in the days of Solomon’s successor, Rehoboam. The northern tribes established their own king. His name was Jeroboam.

Jeroboam made a crucial and deadly theological error. Jeroboam believed that God, whatever he might be named, was an indifferent or hostile being that could be manipulated and controlled through religious ceremonies.Religion, to Jeroboam, was for the purpose of gaining control of the favor and blessings of God, or the gods. The most important thing to Jeroboam was the establishment of his own kingdom, not the fellowship of the one true God.

If Jeroboam had understood the truth, he never would have built for himself temples and calves at Dan and Bethel. God cannot be manipulated or controlled by men. The distance between God and man is so great and profound that it can only be crossed by God himself. Man cannot reach up to God; God must reveal himself to man.

The Westminster Confession puts it like this:

The distance between God and the creature is so great, that although reasonable creatures do owe obedience unto Him as their Creator, yet they could never have any fruition of Him as their blessedness and reward, but by some voluntary condescension on God’s part, which He hath been pleased to express by way of covenant. (Westminster Confession of Faith, 7:1)

Men don’t manipulate, control, or coerce God. God said to Job,

11 Who has first given to me, that I should repay him? Whatever is under the whole heaven is mine. (Job 41:11 ESV)

But God, who was under no necessity and no compulsion, chose freely to condescend to reveal himself to men. This is what we mean by the word “covenant”. He made a covenant with David, that David’s house would be established forever. Eventually, that would be fulfilled in David’s greater son, Jesus. Through David’s house, the usurpation of the devil would finally be overthrown and the kingdom of God established. This was pictured in the kingdom of David and Solomon, but not fulfilled until the King of Kings was raised up on a cross, to finally crush the power of death by his resurrection.

God chose the tribe of Levi to mediate the sacrifices, pointing to Christ who would be the Great High Priest as well as the flawless Lamb of God. God chose the Temple in Jerusalem to picture his own throne in heaven, where we now have perfect access to the God of Mercy because of our true great High Priest, Jesus Christ. Jesus is the Word of God made flesh, for us and for our salvation. Outside of David’s Seed, through the covenant made to the house of David, there is no salvation. There is no fellowship with God apart from God’s covenant with David.

But Jeroboam was a true pluralist. He believed that there are many ways to God. He offered sacrifices because he thought that God perhaps was hungry or needed something from him. He made his worship huge and magnificent, and devised it from his own heart, thinking that God would be impressed and be forced to bless him. Look at how the bible describes what he did:

26 And Jeroboam said in his heart, “Now the kingdom will return to the house of David.
  27 “If this people go up to offer sacrifices in the house of the LORD at Jerusalem, then the heart of this people will return to their lord, even to Rehoboam king of Judah; and they will kill me and return to Rehoboam king of Judah.”
  28 So the king consulted, and made two golden calves, and he said to them, “It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem; behold your gods, O Israel, that brought you up from the land of Egypt.”
  29 And he set one in Bethel, and the other he put in Dan.
  30 Now this thing became a sin, for the people went to worship before the one as far as Dan.
  31 And he made houses on high places, and made priests from among all the people who were not of the sons of Levi.
  32 And Jeroboam instituted a feast in the eighth month on the fifteenth day of the month, like the feast which is in Judah, and he went up to the altar; thus he did in Bethel, sacrificing to the calves which he had made. And he stationed in Bethel the priests of the high places which he had made.
  33 Then he went up to the altar which he had made in Bethel on the fifteenth day in the eighth month, even in the month which he had devised in his own heart; and he instituted a feast for the sons of Israel, and went up to the altar to burn incense.
  (1Ki 12:26-33 NASB)

He wanted to establish his own kingdom. He had no interest in obedience and in trusting Jehovah for salvation. He wanted nothing to do with restored fellowship with God. He wanted money and power.

So he appointed his own priests, he devised his own theology, he created his own worship days, he chose his own place and his own architecture. Notice how many times the Scripture says, “which he had made”.

I imagine him as the first Frank Sinatra, singing in his heart as he ascended the steps of the altar,

“I planned each charted course
Each careful step along the byway
And more, much more than this
I did it my way.”

But God had commanded him to do the exact opposite:

38 ‘Then it will be, that if you listen to all that I command you and walk in My ways, and do what is right in My sight by observing My statutes and My commandments, as My servant David did, then I will be with you and build you an enduring house as I built for David, and I will give Israel to you. (1Ki 11:38 NASB)

The inauguration day of new form of worship at Bethel arrives. The faithful, including the Levites and a few from the other tribes, have narrowly escaped and fled to Judah. The rest of the people (so, so many of them) gathered around the new calf at Bethel. It was magnificent. All the movers and shakers were there. All the singers and wise men and famous people in Israel were there. And Jeroboam solemnly ascends the stairs to the great and wonderful altar – that he devised out of his own heart.

But suddenly from the crowd, there is one voice calling out the Word of the Lord:

“O altar, altar, thus says the LORD, ‘Behold, a son shall be born to the house of David, Josiah by name; and on you he shall sacrifice the priests of the high places who burn incense on you, and human bones shall be burned on you.'” (1Ki 13:2 NASB)

Jeroboam reacts as expected. He throws out his arm and commands “Arrest that man!”

There is much more to say here and wonderful truths to be meditated on. But there is really only one thing I would like to talk about here (blogs can’t address everything):

The man of God wasn’t persecuted by the Church of God. He was persecuted by a usurper, an enemy of the cross of Christ, and an enemy of God masquerading as a religious leader.

Jeroboam devised his own theology, created his own worship, ordained his own priests according to his own criteria, chose his own days of worship, and built his own temple according to the plan of his own mind. And he did it all for only one reason: to establish his own kingdom. It was all about money and power.

The same issue arises frequently in the church. Money and power are powerful aphrodisiacs. This is why Jesus said, “You cannot serve God and Mammon.”

500 years ago, the whole church was under the bondage of the papacy. They faced the same questions while the faithful were driven away from the church, locked in prisons, beaten, and burned alive as criminals. We will soon approach the 500th anniversary of Luther’s bold stand.

And they struggled with the same question: We know that Jesus loves his church, but I am separated from the church because I confessed the truth. Am I schismatic? Am I guilty of dividing the body of Christ?

And the wise pastors of that day realized something. There is a true church and a false church. There is a difference between the two. We know that Christ loves his bride. We know that Jesus commanded us to never forsake the gathering of ourselves together. The apostles commanded the faithful to submit to the pastors and elders of the church.

Does that mean that those who have been driven away from the church are sinning in God’s eyes for not submitting to the wolves in power?

This is why it is so important to learn how to distinguish the true church from the false. The old confession of faith of Reformed Churches summarizes the teaching of scripture this way:

ARTICLE 29 of the BELGIC CONFESSION

THE MARKS OF THE TRUE CHURCH, AND WHEREIN IT DIFFERS FROM THE FALSE CHURCH

We believe that we ought diligently and circumspectly to discern from the Word of God which is the true Church, since all sects which are in the world assume to themselves the name of the Church. But we speak not here of hypocrites, who are mixed in the Church with the good, yet are not of the Church, though externally in it; but we say that the body and communion of the true Church must be distinguished from all sects that call themselves the Church. The marks by which the true Church is known are these: If the pure doctrine of the gospel is preached therein; if it maintains the pure administration of the sacraments as instituted by Christ; if church discipline is exercised in chastening of sin; in short, if all things are managed according to the pure Word of God, all things contrary thereto rejected, and Jesus Christ acknowledged as the only Head of the Church. Hereby the true Church may certainly be known, from which no man has a right to separate himself.
With respect to those who are members of the Church, they may be known by the marks of Christians; namely, by faith, and when, having received Jesus Christ the only Savior, they avoid sin, follow after righteousness, love the true God and their neighbor, neither turn aside to the right or left, and crucify the flesh with the works thereof. But this is not to be understood as if there did not remain in them great infirmities; but they fight against them through the Spirit all the days of their life, continually taking their refuge in the blood, death, passion, and obedience of our Lord Jesus Christ, in whom they have remission of sins, through faith in Him. As for the false Church, it ascribes more power and authority to itself and its ordinances than to the Word of God, and will not submit itself to the yoke of Christ. Neither does it administer the sacraments as appointed by Christ in His Word, but adds to and takes from them, as it thinks proper; it relies more upon men than upon Christ; and persecutes those who live holily according to the Word of God and rebuke it for its errors, covetousness, and idolatry. These two Churches are easily known and distinguished from each other.

I know it is long, but I trust it will be helpful for you. Notice the three marks: first, is the gospel preached purely? Do you know who Jesus is and what he has done. Does the pastor preach what he has been commissioned to preach? Has he been called and set apart according to the command of Christ (1 Timothy 3, Titus 1, many other passages) or is he self-appointed? Remember that Paul said, “How can they preach unless they are sent?” They might be doing something up there in something that looks like a pulpit, but if he is  not qualified and not properly called and set apart, it isn’t preaching, and there is no voice of God there.

How much pain and suffering could be avoided if we insisted that those who fill our pulpits have the qualifications that God commands us to look for!

What does he preach? What is his confession? What does he believe? Is the church about money and power, or about the exaltation of Jesus Christ. Usually those churches that exalt Christ are small, struggling, and insignificant in the eyes of the world. The reason this is so is that Jesus will never give his glory to another. He is most glorified when men are weak and insignificant and small.

Are the sacraments administered faithfully, or do the church leaders think that they know better than Jesus and invent rites and ceremonies out of their own hearts? Is Jesus worshiped purely according to the scriptures, or is the worship invented by the cunning of the hearts of men?

What about discipline? Are the wolves praised and sheep driven away? This does not simply mean “do they practice excommunication?” for the popes practiced excommunication. So did Jeroboam, Jezebel, Ahab, Sennacherib, Nebuchadnezzar. Their excommunications were particularly brutal, as is always the case with the children of the devil. What the scripture speaks of is not that, but of wicked men, children of the devil, driven away no matter how much money and power they have. Are the littlest ones protected? Does the church seek to imitate Jesus, who said,

42 “And whoever causes one of these little ones who believe to stumble, it would be better for him if, with a heavy millstone hung around his neck, he had been cast into the sea. (Mar 9:42 NASB)

And here:

11 Sing praises to the LORD, who dwells in Zion; Declare among the peoples His deeds.
  12 For He who requires blood remembers them; He does not forget the cry of the afflicted. (Psa 9:11-12 NASB)

This is what we should be looking for. When you visit a church, look for these things. Does the church seek to be faithful to the marks of Christ? Or do they cover up sin and deny affliction and oppression? Are they too busy throwing arrows at far away places that they cannot cleanse the filth in their own nest? Are their pastors self-appointed and self-ordained? Are they accountable?

I love the church of God. I love the communion of the saints. I long for her houses to be full of the saints of God. But I fear that what mostly passes for the church in this day is closer to the calves at Bethel than the temple in Jerusalem. Don’t look for the programs, the money, the entertainment, or where all the popular kids go. Look for the marks of the church, and join with them.

I know that there are times when God’s people are exiled from the temple. I know David fled for years – but he longed for the day when he again would walk on the streets of Jerusalem. This was where God chose to place his name.

Today God still reveals himself. But not in the synagogues of Satan. He reveals himself in the still, small voices of mostly forgotten and insignificant men proclaiming his word to the few faithful in the pews. It isn’t in the flash and show. It isn’t in the money and power. These guys aren’t getting invitations to the White House. They are building the kingdom of God one soul at a time, so they don’t make headlines.

But their names are written in heaven. The Lamb knows those who are his.

For another post on the same topic, see here.

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Thoughts on Psalm 68:11

The Lord gave the word: great was the company of those that published it. (Psa 68:11 KJV)

The context of this Psalm is holy warfare. God goes with the armies of Israel and achieves the victory. When the enemy kings flee, the good news is announced at home. God is indeed a mighty conqueror and defender of His people!

Unfortunately, the traditional translations of this text miss something very important. The first three words are indisputably translated “The Lord gave the word.”

The next three words are rich with meaning. The first word is based on the Hebrew root that means “to announce good news.” The Greek equivalent of that word is “euangelion”. We get our word “evangelism” from that. It means also, “to announce good news.”

The form of the word is a participle – which in Hebrew is a verbal adjective, here used as a noun. There is no noun that it modifies. So it would be translated “Those who announce the good news” – in the context, it is the good news of God’s victory over the armies of the enemy.

The next two words are the word for “army” or “host”, and the word for “many” or “multitude”. Added with the first word, the sentence would translate thus: “Those who announce the good news (are) a great army”. So far, so good.

But here’s the tricky bit.  The participle (“those who announce the good news”) is feminine plural. This is not a grammatical feminine gender, but an actual feminine suffix taking the place of a feminine pronoun. English distinguishes between feminine and masculine pronouns in the 3rd person singular (“he” or “she”), but there is no distinction in the plural. “They” can be either. But Hebrew DOES distinguish, and the participle is clearly feminine plural. The only possible translation is “Those (the women) who announce good news”.

These translations get it right:

The Lord gives the word; the women who announce the news are a great host: (Psa 68:11 ESV)

The Lord gives the command; The women who proclaim the good tidings are a great host: (Psa 68:11 NAS)

The King James follows the Greek translation, which inexplicably translates the feminine participle with a Greek masculine participle. It shows how necessary it is for Bible interpreters to learn the original languages. Translations, even old, established ones, err.

So what does this mean? I have simply given you a grammar lesson so far, but it shows at least that the inspired word of God does not expect women to keep their mouths shut. Miriam sang of God’s victory over Pharaoh. Deborah sang a song of victory over Sisera.

The good news of Jesus, David’s greater son, is to be proclaimed to all, by everyone who confesses his name. He has conquered Satan and death and sin and misery by his death and resurrection. The joyful tidings are to be sung and proclaimed and announced throughout the world, and the women ALSO are to make the proclamation!

I once knew a man that refused to sing any hymns by Fanny Crosby because he viewed it as a woman teaching in the church. God clearly doesn’t have the same view.

I do not believe that this has any bearing on the New Testament offices of the church – pastors, elders, or deacons – and I know that there are those who disagree with me. But I DO think this has a great deal to do with the dignity, worth, and value of the women in the congregations. There is no hint here of the women proclaiming the good news ONLY to other women. They are simply said to “announce the good news.” I think this has to do with the universal office of every believer. The Lord gives the word. The women, a mighty army, proclaim it.

Tell your neighbors, sing the songs, proclaim the good news to all. When churches leave the task of evangelism to the ordained offices, the church withers and dies. Go into all the world and proclaim the news! Satan is conquered. Death’s sting is vanquished. The armies of the enemies have fled! This is good news indeed!

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How Shame Drives Us From Christ

This story came up in my newsfeed today. I am taking a sick day today, but there is so much wrong here, and it is so prevalent, that I wanted to make a few comments.

For some reason, Evangelical America has decided that shame is an effective way to battle sin. My whole life, I have heard that “Israel forgot how to blush” (Jer. 6:15) which led to their destruction. Therefore (so it is taught) when we catch someone in some kind of sin, the best thing we can do for them is publicly shame them so that they won’t sin any more.

This is actually practiced in so many churches, but it seems to always be selectively applied. The only people I have ever heard of being publicly shamed like this – forced to stand before the whole church, or the whole school, and confess their sins – are teenage girls who are found to be pregnant. I find it abhorrent, and contrary to the gospel of  Christ. And yet, it still seems to be the consistent practice of Evangelical America.

The article linked above does an excellent job in its critique and how it actually encourages abortion. But there are a few theological issues as well.

First, to clarify the Jeremiah passage, the prophet was not addressing those with tender consciences who needed comfort and hope, already plagued with guilt. He was speaking to the hardened, oppressive, idolatrous leaders who were casting their children into the fire, crushing the poor and the widows, and abusing and destroying without any twinges of conscience whatsoever. Jeremiah is rebuking their hardness of heart and was not expecting any repentance from them. It was not written to teach us that shame is an appropriate corrective to sin but to warn us of those with “seared consciences”. There are those who can do the most horrific things and feel no pains of guilt whatever. To apply this passage solely to teenagers found pregnant is simply abusive.

There is no biblical warrant for public confession of private sins. And, no, sex before marriage is not a sin against the whole school – or the whole church, for that matter.

Even in the Old Covenant, before the Gospel of Jesus Christ was fully revealed, two kids who got pregnant before marriage was not considered the worst imaginable sin that must be publicly exposed and shamed. The boy was either to provide a dowry and marry the girl. Or if the father thought that marriage was a bad idea, the boy was to provide a dowry and leave town.  Neither one was stoned or publicly shamed.

That being said, it might be good for us to remember our first parents after their first sin. Shame drove them into the bushes, hiding from the face of God. It was the voice of God that lovingly drew them out of the bushes. “Adam, where are you?”

They didn’t die. God told them the truth, but he didn’t shame them. Rather, he provided for them coverings, pointing to the perfect sacrifice of His Son, to be revealed in due time. Now that the gospel has been revealed to us, we know that the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ covers our sin and our shame and brings us out of hiding. That is what being a Christian is. We live openly and honestly, not seeking to cover our shame by shaming others, but by coming again and again to the cross. Why an organization that calls itself Christian would drive sinners into the bushes is beyond my understanding.

The kind of “Christianity” practiced by so many, which publically shames young girls for sin, is not the Christianity of the Bible. Shame is intolerable to the human spirit and must be covered. We have only two options: Cover with fig leaves of our own making, or come to Christ for what he has offered us. When we come to Christ, shame is taken away so that we might stand before God and one another. When we try to cover our own shame, we increase it. We may temporarily feel better, but eventually, the shame returns.

The worst part of what happened to this young woman is that she learned about a false Christ – a Jesus who shames sinners, who turns an angry and harsh face on those who confess and repent, who demands his pound of flesh before he offers peace. She was taught that Jesus first ridicules and gleefully watches us weep before he grudgingly offers forgiveness. She was taught that even after she goes through all of that, Jesus is still ashamed to be seen in public with her. She was taught that Jesus was ashamed to be her God, ashamed of her and her baby!

No wonder the young people are leaving the church in droves! They aren’t leaving the Church of Jesus Christ, they are leaving the Church of the Blind Leaders of the Blind.

Jesus came to call us out of hiding. To offer covering for our shame by taking it upon himself. He came, not to ridicule and mock us, but to bear all of that shame and guilt and take it out of the way, nailing it to the cross.

For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers, (Heb 2:11 ESV)

Jesus offers salvation, not shame, to all who come to him in faith. Shame is reserved for those who refuse to come, who refuse to repent. Shame is reserved for the Day of Judgment, but it has no place in the Gospel.

How should the church respond then when a young girl is found to be pregnant?

First, reach out with love and support. Do not pretend that sin is not sin, but respond to it honestly according to scripture. I would hope that the pastor and elders have forged an open relationship with this girl before this happened, so that she will feel safe with them, because there are some important questions. Was this assault? Who is the father? Did she feel compelled? Was there a power imbalance?

If this is simply a boyfriend/girlfriend situation that got out of hand, they will need counseling and help to deal with the shame and guilt that they already feel. Otherwise, if they get married, they will carry that shame and guilt into their marriage bed, which will be damaging to the “one-flesh” relationship. But those are topics that are far bigger than can be addressed here.

But more importantly than all of this, they need to know again the gospel of Jesus Christ. He offers his perfect righteousness without shame, without reproach, without grudging, to all who come to him. No strings, no penance, no public ridicule. This is what the free offer of the gospel IS. It’s about time we got it right.

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