Tag Archives: Bible

The Great Signpost To The Other Side Of Death

Skepticism has reduced Christianity to an empty shell for some people. One writer described the unbelieving ‘liberal’ version of Christianity in words like these: A God without wrath brings people without sin into a kingdom without judgment by a Jesus without a cross.

Just one problem: A tomb without a body means a Savior with great power and a life after death. Jesus’ resurrection is a striking reminder that the Bible promises more to our existence than what we see in this world or what we experience in this age.

The Bible assures us that everyone is appointed to die once then to face judgment (see Hebrews 9:27). Many in our skeptical world want to believe that God’s final judgment is a myth, yet people have a surprisingly strong desire for justice.

Justice requires judgment. The ultimate justice requires the ultimate judgment. And the ultimate judgment requires the ultimate Judge: God himself.

Is this world our only chance for justice? If so, we are apparently doomed to tragic disappointment. Justice now is certainly worthy of our best efforts, but it is also important enough for us to be realistic and admit that this broken world always falls short of justice for all peoples, justice in all things, and justice at all times.

Jesus’ preaching and teaching ministry placed much emphasis on the final judgment. Of the 39 or so parables of Jesus recorded in the Gospels, 18 of them focus on final judgment. About half. Jesus’ parable of the 10 virgins, 5 foolish and 5 wise, is about final judgment. It points out that some will be ready, but not all.

The separation of the sheep from the goats is about the final judgment. It points out that judgment will be focused on how we acted in this life, especially with regard to Jesus’ brothers and sisters, the church.

His parable about the wedding celebration is about the final judgment. One who came in without the proper garment was cast out into outer darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, eternal condemnation.

The parable of the talents is about final judgment. The Lord tells each of his servants, “Well done my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful with a little. Take charge of much!” Words that every follower of Jesus should long to hear.

God is able to make perfect judgments. He uses the perfect standard: his own personal holiness. He is not corrupted. Nobody can bribe him because everything is already his. Nobody can force him to act. He has all power. Nobody can deceive God. He knows all the truth.

The final judgment will not be an inquiry to determine the facts. There will be no depositions or investigations. The facts will be fully known. One of the challenges of justice and judgment in this world is that we don’t know all the facts, especially the secrets of the people involved. Sometimes the guilty go free. Sometimes the innocent are condemned.

On God’s judgment day, even the secrets will be revealed. In fact, all the secrets will be revealed. My secrets and yours. Once we know all the facts, even the secrets, we will know that God’s judgments are right, just, and true.

If we are concerned that God is too harsh (or too lenient), we needn’t be. We can trust him to do what is right. We can be certain now that when judgment day comes and all things are finally revealed, God’s judgments will be vindicated.

Judgment day will also reveal God’s grace and mercy. Once we know the full story of evil, we will appreciate the full value of God’s grace. What we know about God’s grace is truly great now, but it is nothing compared to what our understanding will be then. For all eternity, believers will praise God for his marvelous grace, astounded by his love, inspired to worship and enjoy him and his blessings.

The resurrection of Jesus is the great historical marker of God’s justice and mercy. According to his justice, God provided judgment for sin through faith in Christ Jesus. According to his mercy, he offers forgiveness and eternal life through trust in Jesus Christ. The choice is ours. Trust God and his ways, or trust ourselves and follow our own ways, hoping that the Bible gets it wrong.

The resurrection of Jesus is a clear signpost that more awaits us on the other side of physical death. A day of weeping and gnashing of teeth for some. A day of rejoicing and celebration for others. Choose life. Follow Jesus.

May the resurrected and exalted Jesus Christ be Lord of your life both now and forever,

Brother Richard

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Enrich Your Prayer Life: Use All 5 Categories of Prayer

Giving thanks is an important part of prayer. We should express gratitude to God for the personal blessings he has given us. More than that, we should thank God for the promises he has made to bless us in the days ahead, including his promises for us in eternity. Gratitude for future blessings is an expression of praise.

Thanksgiving is one way of praising God. In addition to praising God for what he has done, we should praise God for who he is. We should also praise God for his attributes, his character. We can praise him because he is holy, because he is powerful, and because he is love.

By his power, he made the universe. He made us. He is worthy of our praise for giving us life and for giving us an incredible world in which to live.

By his love, God has given us salvation. We should praise God for sending his Son Jesus to be an atoning sacrifice for our sin.

Our sin reminds us of another category of prayer.

Confession and repentance are vital parts of our prayers. When we confess our sin, we affirm God’s holiness and righteousness. If we refuse to confess our sin, then we are defying God by rejecting his standard of goodness, his commands.

Repentance is also necessary. Not only do we agree with God’s standard of righteousness, including our agreement that we have fallen short, but we commit ourselves to turning away from sin and turning toward God. By following God and submitting to his Spirit, we learn to live in a manner that is not only in compliance with his standards, but in a manner that is pleasing to our heavenly Father.

After acknowledging God through worship and reconciling with God through repentance, we can move on to the next category of prayer: petitions and intercessions. Petitions are requests that we make to God for ourselves. God invites us to bring our requests to him in prayer. We should be transparent with God about the desires of our heart.

Intercession is like petition. We intercede by asking God to do something for someone other than ourselves. The other person may be someone we love deeply or someone we have never met. As followers of Jesus, we even intercede for our enemies and those who persecute us.

When we approach God with our petitions and intercessions, we must remember that God is not a cosmic vending machine. We don’t just ‘pull the lever’ of prayer and get anything and everything we want. Our wise and loving Father in heaven hears our requests and responds as he should. He sometimes says yes. Other times he says no, or not now, or yes, but. . . .

The fourth category of prayer may be a surprise to some people: questions and complaints. We can ask God questions in prayer. Most of us are full of questions about spiritual realities. God’s answers may come to us as we read the Bible, listen to Bible preaching and teaching, or through other avenues, but we can learn to recognize his responses to our questions.

Saints from Bible times onward have lodged their complaints with God. He is willing to hear them. The secret to complaining in prayer is to avoid disrespect. We can bring our frustration, disappointment, and impatience to God without slandering him.

The fifth category of prayer is covenants and commitments. Covenant is a word from Scripture that speaks of agreements between two parties. God has made certain commitments to us. We should make commitments to him. Prayer is an appropriate place to do so. We commune with God in prayer not just to get things, but also to give something.

The five categories of prayer are not rules to follow, but tools to handle. Having fewer tools makes the job more difficult. The more tools we have, the more details and the more beauty we can create in our prayers. Learn to use all five categories of prayer and your prayers will be enriched!

May God always hear and answer our prayers,

Brother Richard

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Following Jesus Is More Than Personal

Jesus said to Peter, “Come, follow me!” This was a very personal decision for the fisherman. Peter had to decide if he was willing to leave his established life and trust Jesus with his future. Peter took ‘the plunge.’ He became a disciple of Jesus. He soon developed a very close personal relationship with the carpenter-turned-preacher from Nazareth.

Jesus still urges us today, “Come, follow me!” He is currently in heaven at the right hand of God, but God’s Holy Spirit, also known in the Bible as the Spirit of Christ, speaks to our hearts now just as clearly and forcefully as Jesus spoke to Peter almost two thousand years ago.

Like Peter, we must decide if we can trust Jesus enough to leave our current way of life behind and trust him with our future and our eternity. When we do, we find an enriching and empowering personal relationship with Christ through the indwelling presence of God’s Spirit in our hearts.

But Peter learned that he was getting more than just a personal relationship with Jesus.

Peter also learned that following Jesus was a group project. He and Jesus did not leave the crowds behind and have a best-friends-forever bond, keeping everyone else at ‘arm’s length.’ Following Jesus meant being close to the others who were following Jesus, like James, John, Andrew, Matthew, and many more.

In one of his most important sayings in the New Testament, Jesus said to Peter, “You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church” (Matthew 16:18). Students of God’s word dispute the exact meaning of this statement but clearly Peter was being included in Jesus’ Church in some vital way. By following Jesus, Peter became an essential part of Jesus’ Church.

Like Peter, we become an important part of Jesus’ Church when we become followers of Jesus. Jesus is the ‘head,’ and his Church is the ‘body.’ It is impossible to be connected to the ‘head,’ without being part of the ‘body,’ which is composed of other believers. This fact does not cancel our personal relationship with Jesus, it enhances it.

Peter was a Jew, but his decision to follow Jesus required him to rethink his perspective on his Jewish roots in some profound ways. In a vision from heaven, God himself insisted that Peter kill and eat food that was prohibited by the Old Testament dietary laws (see Acts 10). The vision forced Peter to redefine his understanding of being a Jew.

By accepting Jesus’ claim to be the fulfillment of God’s Old Testament promises and prophecies, Peter found himself out-of-step with most of the Jewish community in the first century. Peter and other Jewish Christians were shunned and persecuted for accepting Jesus as the ultimate fruit of the Jewish root and tree.

We, too, may find ourselves shunned (canceled?) by our culture when we decide to follow Jesus. But there is more.

Those of us who are Gentile believers also have a new relationship with the patriarchs, promises, and prophecies of the Old Testament. The Bible tells us that we were once separate and without hope, but through faith in Jesus we have been brought near (Ephesians 2), grafted in (Romans 11), and made a part of God’s people. In Christ, we also trace our spiritual roots back to Abraham (Galatians 3).

As followers of Jesus, we are now citizens of his kingdom, members of his family, and living stones in his temple, the Church. We are essential parts of the body of Christ. Together with all other believers, Jew or Gentile, we are the Bride of Christ.

We enjoy a personal relationship with God through faith in Jesus. We have a family relationship with our brothers and sisters in Christ’s Church. We share the same ancient roots through our common forefathers in faith, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. We have the same promises from God of a place in his victorious eternal kingdom.

As we follow our Lord Jesus, let us always seek to know him better, to fellowship with our brothers and sisters in the Lord often, and to understand and appreciate fully our rich Old Testament heritage.

May our Lord give us eyes to see and a heart to respond to him and his truth in all things,

Brother Richard Foster

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God Is Still At Work

Vacation Bible School is back! Hallelujah!

The Bible verse for VBS this year is Philippians 1:6, “I am sure of this, that he who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (CSB).

This is part of a letter written by the Apostle Paul to Christians in Philippi during the first century. The apostle expresses confidence that “he who started a good work” will finish it. Who started the good work and what was the good work?

God is the one who had started a good work in the lives of the Christians in Philippi. When they put their faith in Jesus, God’s Spirit began working in them. Paul was confident that God would finish his work in the Philippian believers.

When we put our faith in Jesus, God begins a work in us. The Bible promises that God’s Holy Spirit takes up residence in our lives, enabling us to enjoy God’s presence and serve him in ways that go far beyond our natural desires and abilities. God’s work in us is a process. Right now, we are unfinished. But what God starts, he completes!

What was the work that God started in the Philippian Christians? Students of this text take the statement to mean one of two things. Either God was working to complete their personal spiritual growth, or he was working to complete their participation with Paul in spreading the gospel. Which one was the Apostle Paul thinking about when he wrote these words?

In verse 5, Paul mentions the partnership that the Philippian believers had with him in spreading the gospel. Perhaps he was thinking about that great work when he penned verse 6, expressing optimism that God would bring his gospel work to completion through the Philippian church.

God always invites his people to be partners with him in spreading the good news about Jesus. The Bible promises that the gospel will be proclaimed in the whole world before Jesus returns. Vacation Bible School is one way that we spread the word about Jesus.

Many Bible students believe that the work God started in the Philippian believers was their personal spiritual growth as followers of Jesus. God’s Spirit was transforming them into the image of Christ Jesus, empowering them to walk in God’s ways and to contribute to God’s kingdom.

When we put our faith in Jesus for salvation, God’s Spirit begins working in us to transform us from the inside out so that we will be more like Jesus. We have God’s presence and power available to empower and inspire us so that we can live in a way that is pleasing to God and so that we can represent him well in a dark and dying world.

Paul wrote that God would carry his work on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. The day of Christ Jesus is a reference to the very end of this age when Jesus will return for those who belong to him. The Bible says that when Jesus appears, those of us who belong to him will be like him. God’s work in us will be completed!

When we see God at work, we can be confident that good things will result. Please pray that God will be at work in us and in our Vacation Bible School to start good work that he will carry on to completion!

May our Lord inspire and empower us to serve him well,

Brother Richard Foster

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Responding To The Riots And Protests

How should Christians respond to the disturbing and violent protests and riots in the streets of our cities?

As God’s people, we always begin with prayer. In this case, we have plenty to pray for. People are getting hurt, sometimes killed. We must pray for God’s healing to those who are injured and for God’s comfort to those who have lost loved ones.

We should also pray for a stop to the violence, that God’s Spirit will intervene and bring peace to our troubled nation. We can ask God to change people’s hearts because he has the power to do so.

We should ask God to give us understanding, which leads us to our second response. We must discern. In other words, we must make sound judgments. The issues are political, moral, and spiritual. They require choices. Ours should be godly choices.

Discernment begins with information. We should be informed. This requires listening, reading, and thinking. More than merely considering the various human perspectives, we must understand God’s perspective on the issues. This comes from prayer, Bible study, and fellowship with mature believers.

When these hot-button subjects come up in our daily lives, we must use our discernment. First, we discern when to speak and when to be silent. Sometimes we say too much, other times we are too silent. God’s Spirit helps us to achieve the right balance.

In addition to knowing about the issues, we should know the people we interact with. Our conversation should reflect the circumstance. Speaking to an aggressive partisan whose heart and mind are closed requires a different approach from speaking to a confused seeker who is honestly searching for answers.

When we speak, we speak the truth in love. God’s truth is more powerful than our opinions. When we speak in accordance with God’s word, we are on solid ground and our words will have a ring of spiritual authority. All else is fleeting.

Truth can be spoken with anger and hatred. We must speak the truth in love. Biblical love is more than emotion. In the moment, we may not feel positive emotions toward the other person(s), but we can act in love by seasoning our speech with grace.

Finally, our goal in speaking must ultimately be to win the soul, not the argument. Political conflicts tend to have a great sense of urgency because they effect our lives now. But we must also remember the eternal context.

It is possible to win political arguments and battles that are here today and gone tomorrow, and yet lose souls for eternity. At times, we may even lose the political struggle yet win souls. Which will we prioritize?

God’s word reminds us that our struggle is not against flesh and blood. People are the objects of God’s redemption, people of all political persuasions! Jesus died on the cross for people, not politics.

Yes, Jesus will reign with truth and righteousness as King of kings and Lord of lords in his eternal kingdom. Every political foe will be defeated. We get impatient for that great victory. So did Jesus’ disciples. They asked him, “When?!” He told them not to worry about the when, but to get busy with the what. The what is winning souls for Christ.

We are ambassadors for Christ. We represent him. Our response to the things in this world, including the riots and protests, reflects on our Lord. We speak for Jesus. Let’s do it well!

May God’s Holy Spirit give us the words to speak,

Brother Richard

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No Righteousness, No Justice

Social justice is a hot topic in today’s current events. Angry groups are in the streets demanding changes to our society’s public institutions and policies. They threaten violence and instability until their demands are satisfied.

Social justice has been an important subject in the Bible for many generations. God denounced social injustice through his prophets in the Old Testament. Amos is a good example. He lived at a time of relative prosperity in Israel. Despite their economic and political blessings, the people of God oppressed the poor and ignored the Lord. Their courts were corrupted. Their economy was rigged. Their worship was idolatrous.

“Let justice roll on like a river, and righteousness like a never-failing stream,” Amos wrote (5:24, NIV). Through his prophet, the Lord insisted that the nation change course and live up to their calling, live up to his standards of justice and righteousness.

Notice the words “justice” and “righteousness.” Amos and the other prophets consistently presented more than a one-sided equation when promoting solutions to social injustices. Social justice cannot hang in midair. It requires a sure footing. Social justice requires spiritual righteousness. In order to be right with one another, we must be right with God.

The Bible includes a powerful expression of social justice that is still repeated today: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” But when God gave his law to his people through his servant Moses, he said, “Love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord” (Leviticus 19:18, NIV). Those last four words are vital.

Loving one’s neighbor is not merely an abstract legal or social principle. It’s not just a good idea. It is God’s word. It carries the ultimate authority. Disobedience to God’s word comes with dire results, not just in society, but in eternity.

Jesus drew a close connection between these two important dynamics in human life. He insisted that we must love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, and mind, and we must love our neighbor as ourselves (see Matthew 22:37-39).

Don’t miss the addition of the word “love.” Secular appeals for justice aim no higher than tolerance and equality. Spiritual maturity includes tolerance but does more than simply endure those who are different.

Jesus commands his followers to love their enemies and pray for those who persecute them. God’s grace challenges us to go beyond what people deserve and to bless when blessings are unearned.

Godly solutions to injustice recognize the vital connection between the spiritual and physical realities of humanity. To be right with one another, we must be right with God.

Godly solutions to injustice go beyond tolerance and equality. We must find ways to reflect the grace of God. We must find ways to express the love of God. While aiming at God’s love and grace, we will be much more likely to hit justice.

Brother Richard Foster

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The Pope Made A Mistake With The Lord’s Prayer

The Pope says we should change the Lord’s Prayer.  Pope Francis is the world leader of the Roman Catholic Church. News reports say that he believes our English rendering of one phrase in the Lord’s prayer is wrong.

The phrase in question is this: “Lead us not into temptation.” Jesus taught his followers to ask God in prayer not to lead them into circumstances that would tempt them to sin (to disobey God).

The Pope takes issue with this because he believes a loving Father is never “pushing” his children into temptation (note: the prayer says “lead” not “push”). The Pope endorses the following rendering: “Do not let us fall into temptation.”

Apparently Pope Francis thinks that his version makes God sound more friendly. Did Jesus reveal an unfriendly God? Was Jesus having a bad day when taught the Lord’s Prayer? Should we listen to the Pope over Jesus?

First, the Pope’s suggestion finds zero support from the thousands of ancient Bible manuscripts. Matthew’s Gospel is clear and has been faithfully rendered for generations. The Pope has no linguistic leg to stand on. The word is “lead,” not “fall.” His view sounds more like a surrender to popular opinion than a scholarly treatment of the biblical text.

Second, the Pope’s suggestion is out of step with the rest of the Bible. From Genesis to Revelation we find clear examples of God testing his people by leading them into temptation.

Job would be surprised by the Pope’s understanding of God. God allowed Satan to wreak havoc in his life. As a result, Job’s wife tempted him with this advice, “Curse God and die!” Job refused.

Peter would be surprised by the Pope. Jesus told him, “Satan has asked to sift you like wheat.” What did Jesus do? He said that he would pray for Peter, not that the temptation would be removed, but that Peter’s faith would not fail.

Jesus would be surprised by the Pope. The Bible tells us that God’s Holy Spirit led him into the wilderness. Why? To be tempted by the devil!

True, in the book of James we read that God cannot be tempted by evil and he never tempts anyone to do evil. Is this a mixed message? No. A clear distinction exists between temptations meant to cause defeat and tests meant to encourage growth.

Testing is a teaching tool meant to identify strengths and weaknesses. God sometimes tests his people by leading us into temptations. His desire is to reveal our weak spots and inspire us to trust his word and to walk in his ways.

Satan is the Tempter. He tempts us to destroy us. God’s plan for us is not doubt and destruction, but faith and deliverance. God trains us to walk in the power and wisdom of his Spirit.

The Pope’s suggestion misrepresents God. Wrong expectations about God are dangerous. If we believe that God will never lead us into temptation, we may have a crisis of faith when he does.

Better to accept the Bible’s clear testimony about God’s ways and live accordingly. In other words, let’s build our lives on God’s truth, not on popular opinion.

May the Spirit of God not lead us into temptation,

Brother Richard Foster

 

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Teaching Kids About God

In Psalm 78 the people of God say, “We will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord . . . so the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their children” (NIV).

The Bible addresses this subject frequently. God instructs his people to tell their children about him. God’s work of redemption is multi-generational. Stretching from Genesis to Revelation, God’s plan spans this entire age.

This is our generation. We are a link in the chain of God’s work that reaches back to Jesus and even further to the patriarchs of faith, a chain that will be forged into the future until the day Jesus returns. Those who came before us taught us about God. Now it is our turn.

We teach children about God.

Teaching children about God can be intimidating. God is a big subject. So the Lord has given us a method for teaching kids about him which is tried and true: Bible stories. The Bible is filled with accounts of God working in various people’s lives.

By telling kids the stories in the Bible we transmit great theological truths to them. As they grow and reflect on the accounts in Scripture, God’s Spirit will continue revealing himself to them. Every Bible story is a theological package filled with eternal truth. Telling Bible stories and hearing them is a theological journey that unfolds over a lifetime.

What a joy it is to be the first one to tell children about Adam and Eve, Noah and the ark, Moses and the Ten Commandments, David and Goliath, Daniel and the lions’ den, Jesus feeding the 5,000, Jesus’s death and resurrection, and so much more.

We teach children about God by telling them Bible stories.

Psalm 78 goes on to say, “Then they would put their trust in God” (NIV). The goal of telling kids about God is not just to inform them. The goal is to inspire trust in them, to encourage them to exercise saving faith in the Lord.

As New Testament believers, we understand that trust in God means faith in Jesus Christ. We want children to become followers of Jesus, filled with God’s Spirit and fulfilling God’s call on their lives, which includes telling kids about God when they become adults.

We teach children about God so that they will trust and obey Jesus.

May God’s Spirit inspire us to be faithful in our generation,

Brother Richard Foster

See also What Happens When We Fail to Tell Our Children Bible Stories?

 

 

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A New Christian Cult?

Some proponents of the LGBT movement insist that it is compatible with Christianity. Is that true? Christianity is defined by the Bible. Does the Bible allow for a new or evolving Christian sexual ethic?

Early in the Bible God established his design for human sexuality. Immediately following the account of God presenting Eve to Adam in Genesis 2, God’s word says, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and will be joined to his wife and the two will become one flesh.”

More than a thousand years later Jesus was questioned about marriage and divorce by the Jewish religious leaders. In his response, in Matthew 19, he affirmed God’s original design for marriage. Jesus asked the religious leaders, “Have you not read? ‘In the beginning he created them male and female,’ and ‘for this reason a man will leave his father and mother and will be joined to his wife and the two will become one flesh’?” The joining of male and female is fundamental to God’s creation.

After Adam and Eve disobeyed God they were cut off from God’s presence and blessing. They began to suffer under the curse that comes from rebellion against God’s word. In the generations that followed, disobedience to God became a sad but predictable trait of humanity.

God was not finished with humanity. In Moses’ day the Lord established a covenant with the Hebrew people, his chosen nation (Israel). That covenant included a body of law that is summarized in the Ten Commandments. The details of God’s law forbade sexual relationships that departed from his established design, which was revealed early in Scripture and subsequently affirmed by Jesus.

The prohibited sexual relationships in God’s law included premarital sex, adultery, incest, bestiality, and same-sex relationships (Leviticus 18). Only the original design for marriage and family was endorsed: One man and one woman freely committed to one another for a lifetime. The prohibitions from Leviticus are affirmed by the New Testament. Regarding same-sex relationships, the letter to the Romans affirms God’s prohibition (chapter 1). We are warned that those who persist in participating and promoting such sinful behavior will be “given over.”

Jesus acknowledged that his appearance and ministry fulfilled certain aspects of the Old Testament law, thus relieving God’s people of their need to observe them. For instance, in an argument with the Jewish religious leaders, Jesus proclaimed all foods clean (Mark 7). Prior to this, certain foods were considered ritually unclean by the Mosaic Law.

Jesus never advanced any deviation or alteration in God’s design for human sexuality. Indeed, he never acknowledged any change in God’s prohibitions against murder, adultery, lying, and many other commandments. In other words, Jesus himself revealed certain changes in the relationship of God’s people to Mosaic legislation, but not regarding human sexuality. There is no positive statement about same-sex relationships anywhere in Scripture.

Any attempt to use Old Testament legislation about trimming hair, making clothes or planting crops as a comparison with human sexuality fails to recognize the special position of marriage and family in God’s plan and his word.

The Bible treats sexual relationships as unique. Although it is true that all sin is alike because all sin separates us from the love and blessing of God, Scripture notes the special status of sexual union. The letter to the Corinthian church warned believers that all other sins are outside one’s body, but sexual sin defiles one’s inner self, a serious matter for any Christian since all believers are living stones in the single structure of God’s temple, his church (1 Corinthians 6; 1 Peter 2).

Why should human sexuality be treated differently from all other sins? God’s gift of sexuality is meant to do more than provide for procreation and pleasure. The marriage relationship is designed by God to reflect his love for his people (Ephesians 5). A Christian marriage is meant to be a living parable of the love relationship between Christ and his church. The church is the Bride of Christ (not any one believer, but the church in total). The Christian wife submits to her husband as the church submits to Christ. The Christian husband loves his wife as Christ loves the church and gave himself for her, a love willing to sacrifice self.

Are faithful, loving, monogamous same-sex relationships true to the intent of Scripture? The “B” in LGBT creates problems with this proposal. To be active bisexually requires more than one partner, thus raising serious questions about fidelity. Since the L and the G stand in solidarity with the B, they apparently express approval of polyamory against the clear design of Scripture.

It is true that the Bible reports times when God’s people engaged in polygamy, but never with approval. In fact, God’s word always highlights the inevitable failures of alternative designs of marriage and family (see Jacob and his wives in Genesis).

Are same-sex relationships in modern times different from those in Bible times? If that were so, it would be logically possible that God did not address modern relationships in the Bible. This would be either a terrible omission by God (creating conflict among us unnecessarily) or evidence that God cannot see the future (discrediting his sovereignty). Neither option is true to the claims made for God in Scripture. God is sovereign and he made no mistakes in his word. His design for human sexuality stands, just as his prohibitions against murder and adultery stand.

Another possibility would be that God has only recently decided to reveal this new view about same-sex relationships. This would put proponents of the New Sex Ethic into the same category as Joseph Smith, who assured his wife that God told him he could have other wives in addition to her. Smith tried to make the case that Christian churches had been wrong for more than a thousand years about human relationships (among other things). He claimed a new revelation directly from God, one which apparently undermined centuries of Christianity.

Proponents of forcing LGBT on God’s church are in the unfortunate position of being another pseudo Christian cult, like Joseph Smith’s group (Mormons), or Charles Taze Russell’s (Jehovah’s Witnesses), or Mary Baker Eddy’s (Christian Science), or one of countless others. Each of these false teachers also claimed special revelation from God that disagreed with the clear word of the Bible.

Those who question the clear word of God are risking association with the Father of all lies (John 8). He was the first to utter the words, “Did God really say. . .?” (Genesis 3). In fact, the biblical prohibitions about human sexuality are stated in clear language. Circumventing them requires twisted and strained logic which serves to justify sinful human desires and passions.

The LGBT community insists on defining personal identity by sexual orientation. Followers of Jesus find their identity in Christ. Jesus calls on anyone who would follow him to deny himself, take up his cross, and follow him (Matthew 16). Jesus will not take second place to any human ideology, desire, or philosophy. His followers must renounce all idols, including sinful notions of human sexuality.

When responding to skeptics about the resurrection, Jesus surprised his listeners by revealing that marriage will be absent in heaven (Matthew 22). We may conclude from this that sexual orientation is a matter for this age only. At best, sexual orientation is a temporary part of our identity. Our eternal identity will not depend on our sexuality. For those who have taken the blessing of sex and perverted it into the ultimate goal of life and the cornerstone of their identity, Jesus’ heaven may sound more like hell.

The great missionary Apostle Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, wrote to the believers in Rome, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the ways of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds” (Romans 12).

“Living sacrifices” is a reminder of Jesus’ exhortation to “deny self.” The follower of Jesus is not pulled through life by the ebb and flow of human desire. Jesus’ people find their pathway in life from him, from his example. Jesus was willing to deny himself of his very life in order to complete his mission. These are the footprints he has left for all who wish to be his disciples (1 Peter 2).

So what about the one who is attracted to the same sex? What is he or she to do? Predictably, the Bible’s answers have already been attacked, mocked, and deemed to be completely unacceptable by pop-culture proponents of LGBT. Nevertheless, like God’s design for sex, his word to those with same-sex attractions stands.

First, God’s word to the one with same-sex attraction is the same as it is to all people: Seek him in prayer. Don’t misquote me. I am not saying “Pray away the gay.” Despite the derogatory tone of this phrase, I know from first-hand experience that God has the power to change our desires. But God works according to his time table and his agenda. We must patiently endure. Prayer is not merely about persuading God to do something now. Prayer is communion with God which includes listening for his Spirit and gaining wisdom from our experiences in life (see the Book of Job).

Second, God sometimes calls people to celibacy. It is no surprise that worldly minds reject this option without any serious consideration. The world says, “Indulge yourself!” Jesus says, “Deny yourself.” Jesus recognized celibacy as a special calling in God’s kingdom (Matthew 19). The Bible envisions a church where most are married but some are freed from the commitments of an intimate physical relationship in order to invest more time and energy in kingdom pursuits (1 Corinthians 7).

Same-sex relationships undoubtedly include authentic human desire and affection. But human emotions are notoriously prone to manipulation and to unpredictable fluctuations. Human affection is not a dependable moral compass. In fact, the power of sexual attraction has shipwrecked many a life and family. Any who choose to “follow their heart” instead of submitting to God’s word should beware the consequences.

The ways of this world have always pulled God’s people away from his truth. Pop-culture in the West has embraced LGBT in a rapid and unprecedented way, sweeping away established cultural norms and laws about marriage and family while threatening to ruin any who stand in the way. To disagree with this New Ethic is to risk being charged with hate speech, a circumstance that reveals the intolerance of the LGBT movement. But we must choose between God’s word and those who claim that God’s word doesn’t mean what it clearly says.

Any attempts to promote prohibited sexual relationships as acceptable expressions of human sexuality misunderstand and misrepresent God’s word. Unfaithful relationships do not reflect the pure and faithful love that God has for his people and that his people are to aspire to for him. Same-sex relationships do not reflect the joining of what is different yet compatible, God and his church, husband and wife.

The writer of this article is sympathetic with those who find themselves attracted to people of the same sex. Human affections are strong. God made us passionate people. He is a passionate God and we are made in his image. But our passions are wounded by sin and subject to manipulation, temptation and deception.

If you are struggling with same-sex attractions, please do not despair. The story of your life is yet to be finished. We all struggle with sin. Sinners are not the enemy of the church. Sinners are the intended targets of God’s grace and mercy! God’s word assures us that he opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble (James 4).

If you are promoting the erroneous idea that same-sex relationships are endorsed by God and working to persuade others to agree with you, I urge you to reconsider. Jesus warns that anyone who breaks the least of God’s commands and teaches others to do likewise will be called least in the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5).

Christ Jesus assures us that heaven and earth will pass away, but his words will never pass away (Matthew 24). How many popular movements that questioned God’s word have come and gone in the past two millennia since he made that promise? Every generation sees its challenges to God’s truth, but the challengers have always eventually faded away and they always will. Each of us should decide to build on the rock of God’s faithful and unwavering truth, not the sand of the world’s shifting desires and ideas.

Brother Richard Foster

Please note: Bible references above give only book and chapter. This is by design. Too often debates about the Bible’s message employ verses and even smaller sections of Scripture without due consideration of their context, thus misrepresenting God’s intended meaning. I invite the reader to examine carefully the context of my biblical quotations, testing their applications for faithfulness to God’s word.

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What Is A Great Christian?

Jesus’ disciples asked him who is greatest in the kingdom of the heavens. In other words, who is greatest among Jesus’ followers? If they expected him to choose one of them, they got a surprise.

Jesus called a child and had him stand among them. He told his disciples that unless they changed and became like children, they would certainly not enter God’s kingdom. Notice the switch: not just fail to be great in God’s kingdom, but fail to enter God’s kingdom!

So, Jesus said that the one who humbles himself like a child is great in God’s kingdom. But why is humility so great?

The Bible tells us that Jesus emptied himself of his heavenly glory and became not just a man, but a servant. In another place Jesus says that whatever we do to the least of these brothers of his, we do to him. So Jesus humbled himself and he identifies personally with those who are humble.

To be great in God’s kingdom one must be like Jesus: humble and willing to identify with others who are humble.

Jesus goes on to say that anyone who causes one of these little ones who believe in him to stumble would be better off if they had a large millstone tied around their neck and be drowned in the depths of the sea. That’s harsh!

He also says that if our hand or foot causes us to stumble then we should cut them off and throw them away because it’s better to enter life maimed than go to hell with both hands and feet. Jesus is calling for radical action to keep from sinning, not literal dismemberment, but his figure of speech gets our attention.

Our personal sin can lead others astray, especially the “little ones.” Christian humility demands that we live holy lives not just for ourselves, but for one another. Christian humility is not just words. It is actions. It is putting others before ourselves.

Finally Jesus says, “See that you do not look down on one of these little ones because their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven.” Popular opinion values the “big ones”: the big celebrities, the big politicians, the big money makers, and so forth. So we may be tempted to look down on the “little ones.”

Sinful pride tries to convince us that we are better than the “little ones.” But when we lift ourselves up by putting others down we are not acting like citizens of God’s kingdom, much less great citizens. And sinful pride comes before a painful fall.

Jesus did not rebuke his disciples for wanting to be great in God’s kingdom. But he did make sure that they understood God’s criteria for true kingdom greatness. The one who humbles himself like a child is great in God’s kingdom (see Matthew 18:1-10).

May God’s Spirit enable us to be great Christians,

Brother Richard Foster

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