Mixed Messages

I was browsing Facebook recently and came across one of those “________ changed his cover photo” posts that displayed the following new cover photo.

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Due to the reference to “MY Bible” set against a rainbow flag known primarily as meaning the LGBTQ community, it raised questions in this old guy’s mind, but not about God’s commandment to love others. Let me explain.

The author of the FB post was a Jewish military Chaplain, with whom I had a pleasant online conversation. The unstated reference was to the recent mass shooting here in Colorado Springs at a night club (the “Q Club”) catering to those identifying as part of the LGBTQ community, a fact which I did not know when I first saw the post.

Obviously the “MY Bible” was a reference to books of the Old Testament and not the New testament. I’m not sure why he felt the need for emphasizing the Bible he reads as an observant Jew because the NT also tells us to love our “neighbors”. In fact, in the books of Matthew and Luke there’s are passages quoting the Shema “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength” (Deuteronomy 6:4–5), both of which add the commandment to love our neighbors. (Matthew 22:37-39 & Luke 10:27).

What I wanted to gently clarify was the Chaplain’s position concerning the sinful lifestyles represented by the rainbow flag, so I replied to his post with the question: “Sir, Do you hate what God hates?” I probably flunked the “gentle” part, which led to further discussion with him, which, to a degree, clarified some things for me..

So here is the critical issue, from my point of view. I saw a message that could be, and is often misunderstood to mean that loving one’s neighbors also means approving or accepting of lifestyles that God unequivocally calls sin. It was posted by a military Chaplain. The message however, was, as I see it thr0ugh a Christian lens, was incomplete.

Those engaging in what God considers sin will call those who want to “love the sinner but hate the sin” (hate what God hates) will accuse anyone who disapproves of their behavior of hating them personally. As a result, some of us, and even entire churches, will, for a number of reasons, refuse to confront issues of sin. I’m not just talking about LGBTQ issues, although it is front page news again.

The excuses (yes, I said “excuses”) for minimizing sin are many, and quite “creative”. I’m not going to name any of them, but I do know that the Bible tells me that sinners love their sin (John 3:19) and I know that telling someone that what they love is wrong doesn’t go over very well. So we focus on the “love” of God, thinking that when people know how much God loves them they will run to the cross. We try and remove the “offense” of the Cross, that by nature offends those who do not yet believe in Christ (1 Cor 1:18).

I submit to you, dear friends that to minimize the issue of sin, whatever it might be, is to minimize the Gospel of Christ. And I submit to you that a minimized gospel is no gospel at all.

The Apostle Paul told young Pastor Timothy:

“This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.” (1 Tim 1:15).

Paul also defined very clearly the Gospel message of which he was not ashamed (Rom 1:16) and not afraid to preach:

“Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.  For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,  and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, .” (1 Cor 15:1-4)

My friends, if, for the sake of sounding loving and not being rejected as “haters”, we omit the issue of sin from our sharing of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, can we claim to be sharing the the message that saves sinners, no matter what the sin? The Apostle Paul answers that question quite clearly:

“I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.” (Gal 1:6-9)

My brothers and sisters, let us indeed love our neighbors and demonstrate that love most supremely by sharing the complete gospel with those who live apart from Christ, with His love in our hearts! We don’t need to send mixed messages. If God has opened a heart to pay attention to the gospel we share, the gospel that is offensive to an unregenerate heart, salvation will surely follow!

Be blessed!

No Truth Without Love, No Love Without Truth: The Church’s Great Challenge

No Truth Without Love, No Love Without Truth: The Church’s Great Challenge

Al Mohler, May 30, 2013

The church’s engagement with the culture involves a host of issues, controversies, and decisions–but no issue defines our current cultural crisis as clearly as homosexuality. Some churches and denominations have capitulated to the demands of the homosexual rights movement, and now accept homosexuality as a fully valid lifestyle.

Other denominations are tottering on the brink, and without a massive conservative resistance, they are almost certain to abandon biblical truth and bless what the Bible condemns. Within a few short years, a major dividing line has become evident–with those churches endorsing homosexuality on one side, and those stubbornly resisting the cultural tide on the other.

The homosexual rights movement understands that the evangelical church is one of the last resistance movements committed to a biblical morality. Because of this, the movement has adopted a strategy of isolating Christian opposition, and forcing change by political action and cultural pressure.

Can we count on evangelicals to remain steadfastly biblical on this issue? Not hardly. Scientific surveys and informal observation reveal that we have experienced a significant loss of conviction among youth and young adults. No moral revolution can succeed without shaping and changing the minds of young people and children.

Inevitably, the schools have become crucial battlegrounds for the culture war. The Christian worldview has been undermined by pervasive curricula that teach moral relativism, reduce moral commandments to personal values, and promote homosexuality as a legitimate and attractive lifestyle option.

Our churches must teach the basics of biblical morality to Christians who will otherwise never know that the Bible prescribes a model for sexual relationships. Young people must be told the truth about homosexuality–and taught to esteem marriage as God’s intention for human sexual relatedness.

The times demand Christian courage. These days, courage means that preachers and Christian leaders must set an agenda for biblical confrontation, and not shrink from dealing with the full range of issues related to homosexuality. We must talk about what the Bible teaches about gender–what it means to be a man or a woman. We must talk about God’s gift of sex and the covenant of marriage. And we must talk honestly about what homosexuality is, and why God has condemned this sin as an abomination in His sight.

Courage is far too rare in many Christian circles. This explains the surrender of so many denominations, seminaries, and churches to the homosexual agenda. But no surrender on this issue would have been possible, if the authority of Scripture had not already been undermined. And yet, even as courage is required, the times call for another Christian virtue as well–compassion.

The tragic fact is that every congregation is almost certain to include persons struggling with homosexual desire or even involved in homosexual acts. Outside the walls of the church, homosexuals are waiting to see if the Christian church has anything more to say, after we declare that homosexuality is a sin. Liberal churches have redefined compassion to mean that the church changes its message to meet modern demands.

They argue that to tell a homosexual he is a sinner is uncompassionate and intolerant. This is like arguing that a physician is intolerant because he tells a patient she has cancer. But, in the culture of political correctness, this argument holds a powerful attraction. Biblical Christians know that compassion requires telling the truth, and refusing to call sin something sinless. To hide or deny the sinfulness of sin is to lie, and there is no compassion in such a deadly deception.

True compassion demands speaking the truth in love–and there is the problem. Far too often, our courage is more evident than our compassion. In far too many cases, the options seem reduced to these–liberal churches preaching love without truth, and conservative churches preaching truth without love.

Evangelical Christians must ask ourselves some very hard questions, but the hardest may be this: Why is it that we have been so ineffective in reaching persons trapped in this particular pattern of sin? The Gospel is for sinners–and for homosexual sinners just as much as for heterosexual sinners. As Paul explained to the Corinthian church, “Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God” [1 Corinthians 5:11].

I believe that we are failing the test of compassion. If the first requirement of compassion is that we tell the truth, the second requirement must surely be that we reach out to homosexuals with the Gospel. This means that we must develop caring ministries to make that concern concrete, and learn how to help homosexuals escape the powerful bonds of that sin–even as we help others to escape their own bonds by grace.

If we are really a Gospel people; if we really love homosexuals as other sinners; then we must reach out to them with a sincerity that makes that love tangible. We have not even approached that requirement until we are ready to say to homosexuals, “We want you to know the fullness of God’s plan for you, to know the forgiveness of sins and the mercy of God, to receive the salvation that comes by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, to know the healing God works in sinners saved by grace, and to join us as fellow disciples of Jesus Christ, living out our obedience and growing in grace together.”

Such were some of you . . . The church is not a place where sinners are welcomed to remain in their sin. To the contrary, it is the Body of Christ, made up of sinners transformed by grace. Not one of us deserves to be accepted within the beloved. It is all of grace, and each one of us has come out of sin.

We sin if we call homosexuality something other than sin. We also sin if we act as if this sin cannot be forgiven. We cannot settle for truth without love nor love without truth. The Gospel settles the issue once and for all. This great moral crisis is a Gospel crisis.

The genuine Body of Christ will reveal itself by courageous compassion, and compassionate courage. We will see this realized only when men and women freed by God’s grace from bondage to homosexuality feel free to stand up in our churches and declare their testimony–and when we are ready to welcome them as fellow disciples. Millions of hurting people are waiting to see if we mean what we preach.

Faith and Love

“We are not to suppose that Christian love can exist independently of faith. Paul did not intend to set up one grace in rivalry to the other. He did not mean that one man might have faith, another hope, and another love–and that the best of these, was the person who had love. The three graces are inseparably joined together. Where there is faith, there will always be love; and where there is love, there will be faith. Sun and light, fire and heat, ice and cold, are not more intimately united than faith and love!”

~ J.C. Ryle

Tract: Christian Love

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