The Old Preacher

Viewing the World through God's Word

Month: April 2016 (page 2 of 2)

God-Sleep

O PreacherFeel like God’s asleep?  Psalm 44 records a time when Israel actually prayed this . . .

“Awake!  Why are you sleeping, O Lord?” (44:33a).

Sacrilegious?  Offensive?  Does the Lord reject such from-the-heart, frustrated prayers?  Apparently not, since he included this in his Word.

We can’t be sure what national calamity evoked this prayer—perhaps one of the captivities the nation suffered at the hand of foreign enemies.  Whatever it was, the nation didn’t understand the disaster.  She had been faithful to the Lord.  This wasn’t punishment for sin or even discipline for correction.  Whatever the case, here’s the prayer . . .

We remember the Lord’s past power for his people.

We have heard with our ears, O God; our fathers have told us what you did in their days, in days long ago.  With your hand you drove out the nations and planted our fathers; you crushed the peoples and made our fathers flourish.  It was not by their sword that they won the land, nor did their arm bring them victory; it was your right hand, your arm, and the light of your face, for you loved them.  You are my King and my God, who decrees victories for Jacob.  Through you we push back our enemies; through your name we trample our foes.  I do not trust in my bow, my sword does not bring me victory;  but you give us victory over our enemies, you put our adversaries to shame.  In God we make our boast all day long, and we will praise your name forever. Selah (44:1-8).

When I read Scripture, I’m confronted with deliverance from Egypt, opening of the Red Sea, manna in the wilderness, little David sling-shotting Goliath to death and Jesus rising from the dead.  Those are the works of our God!  We celebrate them in song and praise him in worship.

But now we’re stricken and shamed.

But now you have rejected and humbled us; you no longer go out with our armies.  You made us retreat before the enemy, and our adversaries have plundered us.  You gave us up to be devoured like sheep and have scattered us among the nations.  You sold your people for a pittance, gaining nothing from their sale.  You have made us a reproach to our neighbors, the scorn and derision of those around us.  You have made us a byword among the nations; the peoples shake their heads at us.  My disgrace is before me all day long, and my face is covered with shame  at the taunts of those who reproach and revile me, because of the enemy, who is bent on revenge (44:9-16).

Who can read the Old Testament and not be taken aback at the anguish of God’s people?  In the days of the judges ” . . . the hand of Midian overpowered Israel, and because of Midian the people of Israel made for themselves the dens that are in the mountains . . . ” (Judges 6:2).  And in the New Testament we’re transfixed by the cruel, unjust crucifixion of Jesus at the hands of his self-righteous enemies.  In fact, the crucifixion leaps from the all too familiar words of the last half of the text above.

From the Scriptures I remember the Lord’s powerful past works.  Then I think of my pain and the suffering of so many of God’s people all over the world.  And I find myself with the psalmist asking . . .

Why, O Lord, do you sleep?

All this happened to us, though we had not forgotten you or been false to your covenant.  Our hearts had not turned back; our feet had not strayed from your path.  But you crushed us and made us a haunt for jackals and covered us over with deep darkness.  If we had forgotten the name of our God or spread out our hands to a foreign god,  would not God have discovered it, since he knows the secrets of the heart?  Yet for your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered. Awake, O Lord! Why do you sleep? Rouse yourself! Do not reject us forever.  Why do you hide your face and forget our misery and oppression?  We are brought down to the dust; our bodies cling to the ground.  Rise up and help us; redeem us because of your unfailing love (44:17-26).

The people aren’t claiming perfection; they’re protesting that they’ve been true to the Lord’s covenant.  They’ve walked in the direction of obedience and offered the prescribed sacrifices for their disobedience.  So, why?  “Why do you sleep?  Why do you hide your face and forget our misery and oppression?  Wake up, O Lord!”

We know he doesn’t sleep.  “Indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep” (Psalm 121:4).  But, oh, those terrible times when it seems as if he is!  And, with the old Israel, we ask the “why?”

For the Lord’s sake.

There in the bold-face font in the text above is the not-so-satisfying answer:  it’s for the Lord’s sake.  The apostle Paul quoted these words in Romans 8:36.  I see the sense of it all there.  Paul is an apostle.  He suffers to advance the gospel for the Lord’s sake.

But I’m no apostle, just an ordinary guy.  In what way can my being stricken be for the Lord’s sake?  I don’t know.  And even though Israel prayed these words in Psalm 44, I doubt they fully understood either.  At best, in “for your sake”, they expressed their faith in their Lord without understanding.

And so the psalm ends with deliverance.  The people end by begging to be redeemed “because of your unfailing love.”  This is precisely what Paul professes . . .

As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors
through him who loved us. 
For I am convinced that neither death nor life,
neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future,
nor any powers,  neither height nor depth,
nor anything else in all creation,
will be able to separate us
from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
(Romans 8:36-39)

We may face death all day long.  We may be thought of as nothing but animals.  We may not understand how our hardships can be for the Lord’s sake.  But his Word claims they are.  And we are called to boldly trust our Lord from whose love nothing can ever separate us.

Jesus and Disciples at Sea in a Storm

Remember?  In his time he woke up and stilled the storm!

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Gospel Preserves

O PreacherI wish I could begin this blog with a story of how my mother preserved some summer crops for winter eating.  But, alas, no basement shelves of fruit-stuff jars.  Just paper bags from Safeway.  However, here’s a gospel-preserves story from the apostle Paul that’s true.  And we might wonder where we’d be without it.

Spoiler Alert!

This text isn’t an edge-of-your-chair nail-biter, although one commentator introduces this section: “Things get really interesting with this passage. From it we can derive much about ecclesiastical politics in relation to the defense of the gospel” (Commentary on Galatians, Vincent Cheung).  Hmmm.  Nothing like “ecclesiastical politics” to get the juices flowing.

Story Summary.

Anyway, here’s the story summary.  Paul’s new converts in Galatia are being led astray by Jews who insist circumcision and Moses’ law must be added to faith in Christ.  Apparently they charged that Paul’s justification by faith came from the Jerusalem apostles.  In Galatians 1:18-24 Paul argued that he visited Peter and James in Jerusalem for only 15 days three years after his Damascus road Christ-revelation.

Now 14 years later he, with Barnabas and Titus, visit Jerusalem again “in response to a revelation.”  Opinions differ on what that revelation was and how this visit fits with the Acts narrative.  Neither matters much.  Here’s the text . . .

The Text.

Fourteen years later I went up again to Jerusalem, this time with Barnabas. I took Titus along also.  I went in response to a revelation and set before them the gospel that I preach among the Gentiles. But I did this privately to those who seemed to be leaders, for fear that I was running or had run my race in vain.  Yet not even Titus, who was with me, was compelled to be circumcised, even though he was a Greek. This matter arose because some false brothers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves. We did not give in to them for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might remain with you. As for those who seemed to be important– whatever they were makes no difference to me; God does not judge by external appearance– those men added nothing to my message.  On the contrary, they saw that I had been entrusted with the task of preaching the gospel to the Gentiles, just as Peter had been to the Jews.  For God, who was at work in the ministry of Peter as an apostle to the Jews, was also at work in my ministry as an apostle to the Gentiles.  James, Peter and John, those reputed to be pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognized the grace given to me. They agreed that we should go to the Gentiles, and they to the Jews.  All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do.  When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong.  Before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group.  The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray.  When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter in front of them all, “You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs?” (Galatians 2:1-14).

Summary Points.

  • Paul privately told the Jerusalem church leaders the gospel he preached “for fear that I was running or had run my race in vain.”   It seems to me, though again opinions differ, that Paul wanted to be sure the Jerusalem apostles and he were preaching the same gospel and not working at cross-purposes with one another.
  • The Jerusalem apostles didn’t force gentile Titus, who had come with Paul, to be circumcised.  Thus they showed agreement on justification by faith, not faith plus Jewish circumcision, which the “false brothers” demanded.
  • The Jerusalem leaders added nothing to Paul’s gospel, instead extending “the right hand of fellowship” to Barnabas and Paul, having “recognized the grace given to [Paul].”

The Action.

Now, finally, comes a little drama.  The scene shifts to the Antioch, Syria church.  Peter is visiting.  At meals, he eats with Gentiles.  (Not allowed by Jewish law.  But, since Christ has “cleansed”these Gentiles by faith, Peter knows he’s free to eat with these new brothers.  Soon “certain men came from James” (the leader of the Jewish Christian Jerusalem church).  And Peter now eats only with Jewish Christians.  His actions move Barnabas to do the same.  Paul calls it hypocrisy and argues “they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel.”  So in front of everybody, Paul confronts Peter:  “You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. (by eating with Gentiles before).  How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs”  (by now staying away from Gentile believers)?

Before this Antioch affair, Paul explained that “his” gospel (justification by faith, no circumcision or Jewish law) and that of the Jerusalem apostles was one.  The “circumcision party” could have said, “Aha!  Paul is just mouthing Jerusalem’s ‘gospel’!  But when Paul publicly rebukes a Jerusalem apostle, they have to admit Paul is no Peter-puppet.

So What?

After all that excitement, time to ask what all this means to us.  Back to the highlighted clause above:  so that the truth of the gospel might remain with you.”  That’s what this is all about.  Paul being sure that he and the Jerusalem apostles are on the same gospel-page.  Paul bringing the uncircumcised Gentile believer Titus with him.  Paul refusing to cave to the “circumcision party” at the meeting.  Paul publicly opposing Peter to his face over his hypocrisy.  It was all about saving the truth of the gospel of justification by faith alone from corruption.

No big deal?  Just imagine where we’d be without Paul’s gospel-preserving purpose.  We’d put our faith in Jesus.  Have to be circumcised.  And take on the yoke of Old Testament law.  All the sacrifices, all the commandments, all the laws.  All added to our faith in Christ.  We’d be weighted down with demands we couldn’t keep and would never be right with God.

So my mother never preserved peaches.  And this text would be rough to read for devotions early in the morning.  (Yawn!)  But without Paul’s faithfulness (stubbornness?) to the gospel of justification by faith alone in Christ alone, we’d be lost.

 

 

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What Do I Love When I Love God?

P.Allan“God, who needs nothing, loves into existence wholly superfluous creatures in order that He may love and perfect them. He creates the universe, already foreseeing – or should we say “seeing”? there are no tenses in God – the buzzing cloud of flies about the cross, the flayed back pressed against the uneven stake, the nails driven through the mesial nerves, the repeated incipient suffocation as the body droops, the repeated torture of back and arms as it is time after time, for breath’s sake, hitched up. If I may dare the biological image, God is a “host” who deliberately creates His own parasites; causes us to be that we may exploit and “take advantage of” Him. Herein is love. This is the diagram of Love Himself, the inventor of all loves.”
C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves

Lewis’ words shut my mouth in silent wonder at the God of whom he writes.  I must read them again to drink in their fullness.  Yet, they are only a man’s words.  Remarkable to be sure.  But the author is merely one of us “superfluous creatures”.  How great, then, is God!  How unparalleled his love!

“This is love: not that we loved God,
but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”
(1 John 4;10)

“In God there is no hunger that needs to be filled, only plenteousness that desires to give.”
C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves

God is so far “other” than we, it’s beyond us to comprehend him fully.  We see him in Jesus, the God-Man.  Yet in power and wisdom and eternality and holiness and love, yes, in love, he is so “other” than we.  What is a being without hunger needing fulfillment?  What is One so profuse that his longing is to give and give again and still not be less than he is?

Jesus taught the greatest commandment is  to love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength (Mark 12:30).  Why, when he doesn’t need my love?  Were I to love him fully, would such meager love be worthy?

How can I love such a God?  Yes, by believing and obeying and praising him.  But I am like the little boy with a few fish and loaves facing 5000 hungry souls.  Could my gift fill even a tiny place in a God who has no need to be filled?

And what is this God before whom all comparisons crumble?  Augustine, early church theologian, asked the question (Confessions, 397-398 A. D.) . . . .

But what do I love when I love my God? . . .

Not material beauty or beauty of a temporal order.

Not the brilliance of earthly light;

not the sweet melody of harmony and song;

not the fragrance of flowers, perfumes and spices;

not manna or honey;

not limbs such as the body delights to embrace.

It is not these that I love when I love my God.

And yet, when I love him, it is true that I love a light of a certain kind,
a voice, a perfume, a food, an embrace;

but they are of the kind that I love in my inner self,

when my soul is bathed in light that is not bound by space;

when it listens to sound that never dies away;

when it breathes a fragrance that is not borne away on the wind;

when it tastes food that is never consumed by the eating;

when it clings to an embrace
from which it is not severed by fulfillment of desire.

This is what I love when I love my God.

How great (for him a paltry word) he is! 
With my hands lifted and my mouth open,
Sing with the video and with me and worship our infinite, unfathomable God!

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One Man’s Revelation

P.AllanDonald Trump attacks his opponents personally.  He charged former Florida governor Jeb Bush with being “low energy”.  He calls Senator Cruz “lying Ted”.  The apostle Paul could identify.  Trying to win over the Galatian churches to their doctrine, Jewish Christian teachers attacked Paul They might have said something like this . . .

“His gospel is just man’s gospel.  He’s trying to please the Jerusalem apostles.  After all, what he preaches, he learned from them. And they got it wrong.  Yes, we’re justified by faith in Jesus Christ.  But we also have to be circumcised and devote ourselves to keeping Moses’ law.”

So what difference does that long-ago battle make in my life?

Suppose we discovered that a group of men fabricated the Bible?  That somehow they convinced people their book was true?  That generations passed with belief growing stronger with each?  But now we learn it’s religious fantasy.  Would we think any differently about those writers and the “Bible” they produced?  I don’t know about you, but if it was proven beyond doubt, I’d realize I’d been building my life on a lie and burn all my Bibles.  It makes a life-changing difference, then, whether Paul’s gospel came from men or Jesus himself.

In Galatians 1:10-24 Paul begins a defense with two important points . . .

I Had Limited Contact with Jerusalem Church Leaders.

Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.  I want you to know, brothers, that the gospel I preached is not something that man made up.  I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.  For you have heard of my previous way of life in Judaism, how intensely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it.  I was advancing in Judaism beyond many Jews of my own age and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers.  But when God, who set me apart from birth and called me by his grace, was pleased  to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not consult any man,  nor did I go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went immediately into Arabia and later returned to Damascus.  Then after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to get acquainted with Peter and stayed with him fifteen days.  I saw none of the other apostles– only James, the Lord’s brother.  I assure you before God that what I am writing you is no lie.  Later I went to Syria and Cilicia.  I was personally unknown to the churches of Judea that are in Christ.

The bold face font highlights Paul’s limited contact with the Jerusalem church  Over the course of three years he spent only 15 days with Peter and James.  Hardly enough time to learn the depths of the gospel!

I had a Revelation of Jesus Christ.

The second point of Paul’s defense frankly makes me uneasy.  It has echoes of the Muslim claim that Allah revealed himself to Muhammad (http://www.allahsquran.com/quran_divine_book.phpand that God the Father and Jesus Christ appeared to young Joseph Smith alone in the woods to reveal the true teachings of Mormonism (http://josephsmith.net/article/the-first-vision?lang=eng).  Paul’s claim went like this . . .

I want you to know, brothers, that the gospel I preached is not something that man made up.  I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ (Galatians 1:11,12).  I think Paul was referring to his Damascus road experience (Acts 9)If so, his authority as an apostle preaching Christ’s gospel was rooted in Jesus actually, historically appearing to him after his resurrection.

Furthermore, he claims, “God . . . set me apart from birth and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me . . . ” (Galatians 1:15,16a).  Paul contends that from birth God had acted to set Paul apart for his purpose.  And that, in the Damascus road revelation, God called him by his grace (no merits on Paul’s part).

Already in his greeting, Paul had summed up his defense to the charge that his gospel had a man-source:  “Paul, an apostle—not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father—who raised him from the dead” (Galatians 1:1).

* * * * *

See what this means?  I’m staking my life on Paul’s claim to a revelation from Jesus Christ.  Can I trust that what he writes he received from Jesus?  I don’t know Paul.  I only know what I read that he said and did.  Is that enough for me to regard his words as Christ’s?

Yes.  Because Paul saw the risen Lord.  To be an apostle one had to have been a witness to his resurrection (Acts 1:21,22).  Paul claims he did (on the Damascus road).   Paul was accepted by the Twelve on that basis (Galatians 2:7-9).  And was willing to die to be true to that gospel (2 Timothy 4:-8).

The gospel we believe isn’t a spiritual fairy tale conceived by men.  Nor was it given in a private spiritual vision.   Nor did its founder die (and stay dead).  Muhammad died in the evening of the twelfth of Rabi’ al-Awwal (June 8, 632 A.D.) at the age of sixty-three.  He was buried the next day (http://www.cyberistan.org/islamic/death.html).  Joseph Smith died June 27, 1844.  He was killed while in jail, charged with destroying the facilities of a newspaper which revealed Smith as a polygamist who intended to set himself up as a theocratic king (https://en.wikipedia.org/w/Death_of_Joseph_Smith).

Paul died too.  But the One whose gospel he preached lives . . .

Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand.  By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.  For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,  that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,  and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve.  After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep.  Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also . . . ” (1 Corinthians 15:1-8a).

 

 

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All Creatures of Our God and King

O PreacherIn an effort to keep the old theology-rich hymns alive, I pass along this video.

It comes from Denny Burk, Professor of Biblical Studies at Boyce College, the undergraduate school of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY.  This is the Norton Hall Band. They have a new album out that can be downloaded from iTunes.

First time I listened, I looked at those young people.  I don’t know any of them.  Don’t know their struggles or dreams.  Don’t know the depth of their devotion or how they’ll serve Jesus in years ahead or what serving may cost them.  But as I looked I was reminded that the gospel is held in the good hands of the next generation.  As mine passes, the Lord has another he’s raising up to herald his name.  Not just at Boyce College or Southern Seminary, but all over the country, all around the world.These young men and women will pay a price to follow Jesus in this darkening world. But they will give themselves to the greatest mission a human can.

Lord Jesus, strengthen and sustain them.  Give them hearts of joyous devotion to you.  Fill them with the power of the Holy Spirit.  Preserve them safe from the work of the evil one.  Cause your gospel to flourish through them.  As they delight themselves in you, please give them the desires of their hearts.  And may they be the means of a greater and greater multitude singing praises to you, our God and King.

I invite you to join me in joyful worship.  Turn up the volume.  Lift your hands.  For the next few moments, forget about everything you have to do, and just stop.  Make wherever you are a sanctuary.  And sing the praises of our God and King.

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Gender Ideology Is Harmful

O PreacherPsychologists  and sociologists speak of “the gender assigned” at birth.  Gender assigned at birth.   According to Psychology Dictionary, “gender”refers to the classification of an infant at birth by parents, nurse or doctors as either male or female.  To be more accurate, I suggest the word recognized instead of assigned, since “assigned” can mean “chose”.

I also suggest sex would be more accurate than gender.  Why?  Because, the Merriam-Webster Dictionary’s second definition for gender is “the behavioral, cultural, or psychological traits typically associated with one sex.”  At birth gender can’t be assigned or even recognized; gender is developed over time.

So why “gender assigned”.  I think it’s a great Republican conspiracy!  Not really.  I suspect that gender is used instead of sex to make gender reassignment or transgenderism appear natural or normal.  “Gender reassignment”—you’ve heard of that, right?  And of “transgender”?

Merriam-Webster defines “transgender” as “of, relating to, or being a person (as a transsexual or transvestite) who identifies with or expresses a gender identity that differs from the one which corresponds to the person’s sex at birth.”  Or we might say a transgender person is one born male, but at some point “identifies” with female.  Thus the person may dress female or even undergo what used to be called “a sex-change operation”, but is now euphemistically called “gender reassignment surgery.”

Bruce Jenner is a case in point.  He is now Caitlyn Jenner.  As far as I can discover, no surgery—just hormones and dresses and hair styles and make-up, along with cheers from the Lesbian, Bisexual, Gay, Transgender, Queer (LBGTQ) community for his/her courage.

Because we’re hearing more about this, I thought we should consider what a biblical worldview would say about it.  The first two texts at least imply intentionality on God’s part.  That is, he intentionally created “man” male and female.

So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them (Genesis 1:27).

He created them male and female and blessed them.
And when they were created,
he called them “man” (Genesis 5:2).

This third text, the wonderful poetic prayer of Psalm 139, virtually makes the implicit explicit . . .

For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place.
When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,
your eyes saw my unformed body.
All the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be (Psalm 139:13-16).

Certainly God’s “knitting me together” included my biological sex as well as the color of my eyes.  Therefore, logic demands that “gender reassignment surgery” (which is actually sex-change surgery, since surgery cannot change my “behavioral, cultural or psychological traits”) is contrary to God’s will. 

In view of the Scriptures above, encouraging either my taste for pornography or for female-ness is wrong.  I need God’s help to overcome what is contrary to the good he wants for me.  What follows is an important article from the American College of Pediatricians.

 American College of Pediatricians Say ‘Gender Ideology’ Is Child Abuse

03-20-2016

The American College of Pediatricians (ACPeds) is urging educators and legislators to reject all policies that condition children to believe that identifying with a gender other than their biological one is beneficial.

Dr. Michelle A. Cretella, president of ACPeds, vice president Dr. Quentin Van Meter, and pediatric endocrinologist Dr. Paul McHigh write that adopting these policies is harmful to a child’s well-being and is child abuse.

The organizations of pediatricians and other healthcare professionals derail claims that a child can be born as the wrong gender by citing eight reasons why “gender ideology” instead of treatment is harmful.

“The norm for human design is to be conceived either male or female,” they state. “No one is born with a gender. Everyone is born with a biological sex.”

The group explains that no one is born aware of their gender. It is a sociological and psychological concept that develops over time but it does not negate your biological sex.

“People who identify as “feeling like the opposite sex” or “somewhere in between” do not comprise a third sex. They remain biological men or biological women.”

“A person’s belief that he or she is something they are not is, at best, a sign of confused thinking,” they added.

“When an otherwise healthy biological boy believes he is a girl, or an otherwise healthy biological girl believes she is a boy, an objective psychological problem exists that lies in the mind not the body, and it should be treated as such,” they explain.

The organization also states that prescribing chemical drugs and surgical procedures to stop the physical changes that happen during puberty can damage children.

“Children who use puberty blockers to impersonate the opposite sex will require cross-sex hormones in late adolescence. Cross-sex hormones are associated with dangerous health risks including but not limited to high blood pressure, blood clots, stroke and cancer.”

ACPeds says that suicide rates are 20 times higher for those who use cross-sex hormones and that 98 percent of boys and 88 percent of girls eventually accept the reality of who they were born to be.

“Conditioning children into believing a lifetime of chemical and surgical impersonation of the opposite sex is normal and healthful is child abuse,” they said.

* * *

In a world awash in “sex” of all sorts, I hope this sharpens our biblical worldview.
so we can see this societal development through God’s eyes,
and respond to it God’s way.

(You may also wish to read these “N.Y. Times” columnists—http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/05/opinion/sunday/frank-bruni-same-sex-sinners.html & http://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/03/opinion/sunday/the-republicans-gay-freakout.html?rref=collection%2Fcolumn%2Ffrank-bruni&action=click&contentCollection=opinion&region=stream&module=stream_unit&version=latest&contentPlacement=1&pgtype=collection.  (They’re not friendly!)

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Let Him Be Damned!

O PreacherGalatians1:6-9 is one of the most politically incorrect texts in the New Testament.   Offends everyone, except (hopefully) Bible-believing Christians.

In it, Paul is clearly shook up.  No warm greeting to the converts made and churches planted.  No from-the-heart thanksgiving and prayer for them..  So stunned by events in the Galatian churches, he slams right into the subject.

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel–which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ.  But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned!  As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned! 

I see two politically incorrect points  in Paul’s words . . .

THERE IS ONE GOSPEL:  “JUSTIFIED BY FAITH”.

Soon after Paul and Barnabas left their newly-planted churches in Psidian Antioch, Iconium, Lystra and Derbe (Acts 13:13-14:28). itinerant Jewish Christian preachers showed up.  According to Paul, they were “throwing [the new converts] into confusion and trying to pervert the gospel of Christ.”  Consequently, many were “turning to a different gospel–which [was] really no gospel at all.”

Later in the letter, two texts make clear what this “different gospel” was . . .

We who are Jews by birth and not ‘Gentile sinners’  know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified (Galatians 2:15,16).

Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all (Galatians 5:2).

There’s the difference.  These itinerant preachers insisted justification (being declared righteous before God) required faith in Jesus plus circumcision and devotion to Jewish law.  For Paul, not only was circumcision unnecessary; it made Christ valueless.  They were deserting God who had called them “in the grace (unmerited favor, undeserved love) of Christ”.  Attempting to be justified by faith plus law. they were losing the very justification they had by grace through faith.

The false preachers’ equation looked like this . . .

FAITH IN JESUS CHRIST + CIRCUMCISION + LAW-KEEPING = JUSTIFICATION

The gospel Paul preached—the one gospel—looks like this . . .

FAITH IN JESUS CHRIST + NOTHING = JUSTIFICATION

Or, to say it another way . . .

GOD’S GRACE IN CHRIST ALONE + (OUR) FAITH ALONE = JUSTIFICATION

The second politically incorrect point I see in this text  is  . . .

The Preacher of a Different Gospel:  “Be Damned”.

But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned!  As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned! 

Politically incorrect.  Not only does Paul insist on one gospel; he damns the preachers of another.  “Damned” is my synonym for “eternally condemned”, which is the NIV’s translation of the Greek anathema.  Let him come under God’s curse!  Let God pour out his wrath on him!  Let him be eternally condemned!

Not a breath of tolerance!  Paul is so agitated and this doctrine so foundational,  he wishes its opponents condemned forever.  But since this is Holy Spirit-inspired writing, it can’t be just Paul’s anger; it must be God’s too. His gospel must be uncorrupted.  His adopted children must be protected.  Therefore, gospel-corrupters and child-abusers must be condemned.  It’s the height of political incorrectness.

Offensive Christians.

I’ve met a few obnoxious Christians over the years   By their attitude, word choice and demeanor, they seem to delight in offending.  I’m not talking about them here.  By “offensive Christians” I mean Christians who offend  because they believe and speak and practice the politically incorrect gospel.

To say there is one gospel of justification by faith offends because popular “gospels” claim many roads to God.  And because our prideful sin-nature insists we can “work” at rituals or commandment-keeping or something (in addition to believing) to be right with God.

A gospel so narrow that it damns preachers of “a different gospel” offends the popular mantra that chants “God is love, God is love; he won’t send anybody to hell.”  Surely we can be tolerant of other belief-systems!  D. C. Carson (Reformed theologian, author and research professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) titled one of his recent books, The Intolerance of Tolerance.  In it he argues that the old tolerance (respect everyone’s right to hold their own beliefs) has been swallowed up by the new tolerance (everyone’s belief is true for them and debate with them is intolerant.)  In other words, the new tolerance is actually intolerant toward all who reject their definition!

We may mock “political correctness”, but must take care that we don’t surrender to it.  None of us wants to be branded or shunned.  But let’s face it:  the gospel of Jesus is politically incorrect.  If we let ourselves be “corrected” by another “gospel”—a gospel that preaches faith in Christ plus any meritorious efforts on our part—we will have a different gospel, “which is really no gospel at all.”

Remember my swimming buddy Ernie who panicked in deep water and thrashed about on top of me?  We would both soon drown.  Ernie needed the lifeguard to save him.  There was nothing he could do to save himself.  And once the lifeguard came, there was nothing he needed to do.

 

 


 

 

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