Tag Archives: christ

Thinking about Gay Marriage on Independence Day

The Supreme Court of the United States of America legalized same-sex marriage. Will freedom be denied those of us who believe that same-sex relationships are sinful? What about the spiritual future of our culture? Can we get a word from our Lord about how we should respond?

In 1 Peter 3 we read that “the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears on their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those doing evil.” This is a quote from Psalm 34, which was written some 1,000 years earlier. Peter applies an ancient and established truth to current circumstances. The passage of time had not diminished the Bible’s truth.

This is a much-needed affirmation about the Bible and about the God of the Bible. Our circumstances will change, but God’s word and his character do not change. His holiness and righteousness, his love and mercy, they are established and they will never alter.

Leviticus 18 has not changed. Romans 1 has not changed. God’s design for human sexuality, for marriage and for family has not changed. God’s design for marriage is still one man and one woman committed to one another for life, raising their children together and enjoying their grandchildren. And more than that, Christian marriage is still meant to be a living parable of the love relationship between Christ and his church. None of this has changed. Nobody, not even the Supreme Court of the United States of America can change these fixed realities.

But our country’s definition of marriage has changed. It has moved sharply away from God’s design. Will those who believe in God’s design for marriage be penalized in this rapidly changing moral storm?

The text from 1 Peter 3 continues: “Who will do you harm if you are zealous for good? But if you suffer because of righteousness, you are blessed.” Jesus agrees with the notion of suffering for doing what is right. In Matthew 5 he says, “Blessed are the ones persecuted for the sake of righteousness, because theirs is the kingdom of the heavens.” But do American Christians actually believe that suffering is a blessing? In other countries, China for instance, Christians understand these frequent Scriptural statements about suffering for the truth. Because of our religious freedom, this aspect of the faith is unfamiliar territory in the U.S.

1 Peter 3 continues: “Don’t fear what they fear, nor be upset.” Fear is not the answer. Fear is never to be our master. God has not abandoned his people or his plan. He can still be trusted. Some may fall away, but those who believe will discover the anointing of God’s power enabling them to represent him faithfully regardless the cost.

So what should we do? Next, 1 Peter says, “Set apart Christ as Lord in your hearts, always be ready with an answer to everyone who asks you for a word about the hope which is in you.” Notice that it does not say that we should always be ready to defend our right to speak, but we should be ready to speak.

Christians in America have sometimes been quicker to defend a right than to exercise it. Tell believers that they cannot pray and they will line up for battle, rightly so. But do those same believers take the time to attend a prayer meeting? Instead of fighting for the right to speak, we must speak what we know is right.

But what about religious freedom? Is legal same-sex marriage not a threat to our religious freedom? Should we not fight for our religious freedom? It has become popular to call religious freedom our first freedom. But is this really true? Religious freedom is a great heritage, a right for which many fought and bled and died. Our first freedom as believers, however, is our freedom in Christ, not political liberty but spiritual freedom.

A person can be politically free and spiritually bound. It is also true that one can be politically bound and spiritually free. Given the choice, we would embrace both freedoms simultaneously. Forced to choose, we relinquish our political liberty in order to remain faithful to our Lord.

The kingdom of God has advanced for millennia, often without the benefit of religious freedom. In fact, sometimes religious persecution has spread the fire of the faith more effectively than religious freedom, which sadly seems to produce spiritual complacency.

We are instructed by 1 Peter 3 to be ready to give a word about our hope. What is our great hope? It is not freedom of religion, nor is it freedom of speech. Our great hope is not the Constitution of the U.S.A. Religious leaders who tell followers of Jesus that they should put their hope in freedom of speech, freedom of religion or the Constitution are at best confused and at worst false teachers.

The Bible tells us to set apart Christ as Lord in our hearts, not our political freedoms or our political documents, as helpful and brilliant as these things may be. Our struggle is not a battle for religious freedom but a battle for spiritual truth. What should we do? We must set apart Christ as Lord in our hearts and be prepared to speak about him, nothing less.

Richard Foster, Grace Baptist in Camden, AR, July 3, 2015

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The Battle For Life

The fortieth anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the court case that legalized abortion in the U.S., is a reminder of some sobering truths. First, more than 55 million babies have been denied life over the past four decades. In addition, millions of women have been wounded by a society that promotes a cheap version of freedom; a “choice” that falsely promises to erase personal responsibility.

The ongoing struggle over abortion has demonstrated that political and legal efforts often fail to yield significant changes. Nevertheless, some limited victories have been won. Laws have been passed that enforce reasonable regulations on the horrible practice of abortion, but abortion is still the law of the land and millions still suffer each year.

Advances in technology have consistently eroded the argument that an unborn child is nothing more than a blob of tissue invading a woman’s body. Three-dimensional sonograms now yield images of a fetus that are so detailed that one feels as if the baby’s privacy is being infringed.

The photo of a tiny hand reaching out of its mother’s womb to grasp the finger of the surgeon working to save his life is worth far more than a thousand words. The burden of proof is increasingly on those who say that unborn babies are not persons.

Sadly, the accumulating data also proves that abortion is harmful to women. But this is also a reminder of the great grace of our Lord Jesus. As is true with any sinner, anyone who has been involved in abortion can turn to God and experience his mercy. To leave behind the violent ways of this deceptive world and follow Christ is the path to true freedom.

One encouraging development in recent years is the changing attitude of young people toward abortion. A new generation is making their views known and they are more pro-life than the general population. They are expressing reservations about the views of their parents, views that have led to a massive and prolonged killing spree.

The new attitude among young people is a reminder that we can lose political battles and still win the war. The societies and cultures of this dark and broken world establish institutions and traditions that are often dysfunctional. Yet the gospel of Jesus Christ changes individual lives, bringing new life, new hope, and new direction.

Finally, the abortion issue reminds us that our spiritual battles are very real and that they have very real consequences. Lives are at stake. The astronomical numbers can render the issue faceless but we cannot let that happen. Each child and each mother are of untold value.

Recently a baby was born so early that she had to be weighed before doctors could decide if they should help her to survive. The scales said 1 pound, the minimum weight, and so they kept her alive. Later someone discovered that a pair of scissors had been on the scales, tipping the balance in little Maddalena’s favor. A lot of other babies need someone to tip the balance in their favor, too.

Many young people still need to hear the truth. Many not-so-young people still need to experience God’s mercy. And this is only one of many pressing issues we face. What a comfort it is to know that our Lord is capable of the impossible and that our labor in the Lord is not in vain. Let’s fight the good fight!

May the light of God’s love shine clearly through us despite the darkness,

Brother Richard Foster
Grace Baptist Church, Camden, AR

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Growing Up

When the Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Corinth he addressed them as brothers because they were fellow believers, followers of the Lord Jesus Christ.  He expressed real affection for them.  Nevertheless, he also conveyed some frustration and disappointment over their lack of spiritual growth.

Paul wrote, “I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet able.  But now you are still not able”(1 Corinthians 3:2).  Paul was comparing spiritual life with physical life.  He said that the believers in Corinth were infants in Christ.  In other words, they were not growing up spiritually as they should.

Peter encouraged followers of Jesus to crave pure spiritual milk, like newborn babies, so that they could grow up in their salvation (1 Peter 2:2).  Milk is good for babies.  Healthy adults require more than milk.  New believers are satisfied with the basics of faith.  But healthy Christians grow and require an expanded spiritual diet.

The writer of Hebrews also compared spiritual growth with physical growth, noting the necessary change in diet.  He was frustrated with the believers to whom he wrote because they should have been teaching others about God’s truth but they still needed someone to teach them the basics (Hebrews 5:12-14).  Baby Christians, he said, were those who still struggle to distinguish good from evil.

Paul wrote to the believers in Ephesus and encouraged them to grow spiritually so that they would no longer be infants, tossed around by false teaching and deception (Ephesians 4:14). He explained that Christ is the measure of spiritual maturity (Ephesians 4:13, 15).  The Christian life is a life of being transformed into the likeness of our Lord (2 Corinthians 3:18).

The leaders of the Early Church expected followers of Jesus to grow in faith, building on the basics of salvation and moving ever closer to spiritual maturity, living like Jesus. Spiritual growth requires greater understanding of God’s Word and greater passion for God’s glory.  Growing spiritually requires health and vitality that comes from God’s indwelling Spirit.

Of course, to grow toward maturity in Christ one must first be in Christ.  In other words, to grow spiritually a person must first be saved. New birth is the first step in spiritual growth just as birth is primary in physical growth.  If a newborn fails to grow then everyone agrees that something is wrong.  The same is true of Christians.  When a follower of Christ fails to grow spiritually then something is wrong.

Our task as a church family is to help lost people get saved and to help saved people get strong.  We are in the business of growing spiritually mature Christians.  Paul told the believers in Corinth that there is a message of wisdom for the mature. We want to help as many people as we can to enjoy the message of wisdom that is for the mature.

What a joy it is for me to see brothers and sisters who are spiritually healthy, growing in Christ and being transformed from glory to glory into his image.  But like Paul, I also see those who are struggling to move beyond the basics.  Let us continue to labor together in the Lord’s power and wisdom until we all become mature, “attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13, NIV).

May the Lord bind us together and strengthen us in His great power and wisdom,

Brother Richard Foster

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