Sunday, July 29, 2012

This will be on test.

As an Economics professor at a community college, I will often conclude an important point in my lectures with the following statement, “This will be on test.” And then, because oftentimes college freshmen miss statements mentioned only once, I will repeat the statement several times, each time emphasizing a different word. It goes something like, “THIS will be on test. This WILL be on test. This will BE on test. This will be ON test. This will be on TEST!” Occasionally then, I will have some wise guy raise his hand and say, “Mr. Fisher, will this be on test?” I'm not real sure how to respond to that. 
I emphasize to the point of “over-kill” for two reasons. First, I don't want students to be surprised when they're asked exam questions about the material. Secondly, and maybe more importantly, I want the information cemented in their minds as a building block for the rest of the course. I'll use the same strategy here for basically the same reasons. 
I am a sinner. I AM a sinner. I am A sinner. I am a SINNER! I do this to remind all of us, myself included, first that there is a test coming. One day we will all stand before the judgment seat of Christ and give an account for our lives here on earth. Second, and again more importantly, I'm about to talk about sin and I don't want anyone to think that I have a “holier than thou” attitude, or my remarks to come off as judgmental.

I am sinner. When I did not pay a tithe to my church, that was sin. My heterosexual promiscuity before marriage, that was sin. Failing to play an active role in my children's spiritual development, that is sin. When I am rude to a waitress that is sin. These are sins not because I want them to be, need them to be, or declare them to be. (In fact, my fallen nature desires them.) They are sin because they are at their very core a rebellion. They are a rebellion against a sovereign God who a) knows all things, b) loves us, and consequentially c) wants what's best for us.

Homosexuality is a sin. There I said it. It is no worse than any of the other sins I mentioned (or left unmentioned), but it doesn't get a pass either.

The Biblical Evidence

The quick Scripture that some use as a reference on this topic is Leviticus 20:13 which reads “‘If a man has sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They are to be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.” A proper understanding of the Bible, however, reveals that this is one of many Old Testament Laws given to a specific people (the Jews) at a specific time (while wandering in the wilderness) for a specific reason (to set them apart, to make them "peculiar", from the other people in the region). Jesus gave us freedom from these rules (specifically food and washing) in the New Testament through His death, burial and resurrection. This does, however, begin to paint a picture for us about how seriously God takes His original plan for the institution of marriage. 
This also begins the continuous and congruent message throughout the entire Bible about God's established arrangement for marriage being one man, and one woman, for one lifetime. In Matthew 19:4-6, Jesus reaffirms the design that God deemed good in Eden: “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” That’s because Jesus, of all people, understood what marriage represents: him and his people. Many times the church is called the bride of Christ. Anything that marred the metaphor, that distorted God’s living picture of the gospel, Jesus most certainly considered sin—homosexuality included.
Jesus also commissioned disciples to carry his truth to the world. Paul was one of those disciples, and he has a lot to say about the sin of homosexuality:

           Romans 1:26-27, “Because (man worshiped the created rather than the Creator), God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.

         1 Corinthians 6:9, “Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men.”

         1 Timothy 1:10, “for the sexually immoral, for those practicing homosexuality, for slave traders and liars and perjurers—and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine.”

Paul’s words, like all of Scripture, are God-breathed and Jesus-approved (2 Timothy 3:16).

Now we can say, “those are harsh words”, “I don't agree with that”, or “I don't like the way that makes me feel”, but what we can't say is that God's stance on homosexuality has been taken from an obscure Old Testament passage, and twisted to mean something that satisfies a political or social agenda.

If you do not believe there is a God, then I offer no logical argument against homosexuality. If you believe that the Bible is a collection of man-made fairy-tales, then I am, as the snake in the garden, left without a leg to stand on. But if you believe that the teachings of the Creator of the Universe are revealed to mankind in the inerrant Holy Bible, then we must call sin what He calls sin, whether we agree with it or not.

The “Rational” Arguments:

“But how can God call this sin if He made me this way?” God did indeed make humans in his image, but the one fruit fiasco in the Garden of Eden destroyed that. We now have an intrinsic sin nature. If we say “I do not choose these feelings”, that is exactly right. But that does not mean that God put them there. Remember: “I AM A SINNER.” Romans 3:23, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Proverbs 14:12 and 16:25, “There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death.” The point is that, ultimately, we don't get to determine what sin is, and therefore just do “what feels right in our heart” because “every inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood” (Genesis 8:21).

“This is just like when people used the church to perpetuate racial discrimination.” It is certainly true that many atrocities have been committed throughout history in the name of religion in general and Christianity in particular. (Read Donald E. Collins “When the Church Bell Rang Racist” if you don't believe me.) But those movements were about tradition and fueled by selfish, sinful motives. They were not backed by a Biblical standard. In fact, just the opposite occurred. The leaders of those awful movements were filled with hatred, and rejected God's sovereign Word.

“I have a great relationship with God.” If my children went through their lives rejecting every loving suggestion I made and rebelled against any type of positive influence I tried to have on their lives, that might put a strain on our relationship. Would I still love them? Absolutely! But I really doubt I would categorize our relationship as “great”. It wouldn't be intimate because of their rebellion. Jesus says in John 14:15, “If you love me, keep my commands.”

“But God is just about love.” God is indeed love (1 John 4:8). He loves all of mankind, but that doesn't mean He loves everything we do. Do you think He loves what Hitler, Ted Bundy or Jerry Sandusky did? God loves me and He loves you, and He loves peace, and joy, and life and love. And because of all of this He hates sin. And our sin does not have to be notorious to prevent us from being in a right relationship with Him. The sins I mentioned about myself earlier are more than enough to condemn me to an eternity in Hell apart from the God who loves me.

But It Doesn't Stop There!

The good news is that the Gospel of Salvation is available to all people. God has made a way through the sacrificial death, burial, and resurrection of His one and Only Son, Jesus, to restore that matter the extent of our sins. Jesus invites us all, “Come unto me all you who are weary and heavy burdened, and I will give you rest”(Matthew 11:28).

After I submitted to God's authority in my life, did I still want to sin. You bet. But by the grace of God, through studying His Word, surrounding myself with His people, and daily attempting to surrender my will to His, there is a decreasing pattern of sin in my life. Do I still sin? Absolutely! But the difference is that now I have a desire to do and to have what He knows is best for my life, rather than living in rebellion apart from Him.

We were meant to serve God. To do so we must realize that He has all authority, and submit to it. Then we must seek to discern what business He has for us, and work toward it. My prayer is that He will reveal these things to all of us in a mighty way. This WILL be on test!

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