Friday, June 26, 2015

Everyone out of the Closet

"Everything has changed and nothing has changed." That's how Rev. Al Mohler began his response to today's Supreme Court's decision on gay "marriage," which legalized the practice in all 50 states. Mohler was referring to the culture divide at large, but his statement could just as well apply to the coming divide within the church.

Until today, it's been relatively easy for Christian leaders to avoid the discussion of gay "marriage" and homosexual practice in general. Remember Obama's second inaugural, when Louie Giglio was asked to give the closing benediction prayer? Critics blasted the pastor, but they had to go back to the mid-1990s to find a sermon where he preached on homosexual sin. Although Giglio's primary audience consists of college students—an age group that (statistically) struggles with sexual liberality and experimentation—he didn't preach on the topic in 20 years. And then there's Andy Stanley. He's one of the world's greatest communicators, but he can't seem to give a straight answer on this particular topic.

I'm not trying to single anyone out. (Honestly, because they don't talk about their views much, I don't know where either Louie or Andy currently stands.) But the days of ambiguity and question dodging are essentially over. The Supreme Court has forced every Christian, but especially pastors and well-known Christian leaders, to face the issue head on. Everything has changed, but nothing has changed. 

Nothing has changed. The Bible remains clear on homosexual relationships: 


Do not have sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman; that is detestable (Lev. 18:22). 

But at the beginning of creation, God 'made them male and female.' '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 (Mark 10:6-8).  

Because of this 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 (Rom. 1:26-28). 

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 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God (1 Cor. 6:9-11).

Some writers and theologians have performed exegetical gymnastics to explain away these texts and others, but their efforts do not change the plain meaning of these passages, nor do they add a single positive mention of homosexual activity to the Bible. Love it or hate it, God's Word is crystal clear about His intentions for sex and marriage.

Regardless of what an oligarchy of misguided lawyers decided today, marriage is still the union of one man and one woman. The Supreme Court can no more redefine marriage than they can adjust the laws of thermodynamics.

Everything has changed. With new legal protections, gay "marriage" advocates have tipped the scales in the national struggle to find the balance between religious freedom and gay rights. And it seems there won't be a "balance" at all. Unless something changes soon, preaching and teaching certain portions of the Bible will be considered hate speech. (It already is in some places.) And Christian schools and colleges will come under fire for upholding biblical values. (That one's happened, too.) Make no mistake: Every Christian leader will be asked about their stance on gay "marriage." And ambiguous niceties just won't be enough.

This is a bad day for America. I mourn the fact that my son Jonah will grow up in a country very different than the one in which I grew up. I lament the loss of influence the church will have on our culture. And I am worried that if we don't change course, God will continue to remove His blessings from our land.

But in all that, I actually do see one positive development—at least in the long term. The issue of homosexual sin speaks loudly to how we view Scripture. It is impossible to uphold the authority of the Bible in any real sense if we ignore its clear teaching on this basic issue. The Supreme Court's ruling today had an unintended effect: It will soon become very clear which pastors, Bible teachers, and Christian celebrities are standing on the Word of God.

Jesus said, "But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand" (Matt. 7:26). God's Word is a strong foundation, and how one views Scripture lies at the core of one's faith. A storm is coming. It seems we're about to find out who's on the sand and who's on the Rock.

So let's all come out of the closet. Let's all show our cards. It's no longer possible to be double-minded—the Bible has something to say about that anyway—so stand and be counted. At least then, we'll know who desires to be yielded to the Lord—and who is being tossed about by the waves of public opinion.

A little more honesty in the church is a good thing. It smells like Jesus.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

What the Duggar Scandal Reveals

Imagine a teenager in the 1930s, an active member of the Hitler Youth program in Germany. He buys into the false gospel of Aryanism and pledges his undying allegiance to Adolf Hitler. He's even been seen killing small animals for fun without a twinge of guilt or remorse. He's caught the eye of his counselors and superiors—he seems a prime candidate for a leadership position in the Nazi movement when he grows older.

But then something happens.

The young man is convicted by the Spirit of God. He mourns over his sin, and he turns from it in repentance. Years later, he is not a Nazi. Instead, he's leading a resistance movement to topple the Third Reich and restore Germany to Christian values.

If ever there was a wonderful example of a life redeemed and good conquering over evil, his story is it. Of course, whether this young man's rebirth is celebrated or criticized would largely depend on one's perspective. If the young man were ridiculed in the press, it might be an indication that the paper or its editor has socialist sympathies. 

Now fast-forward 80 years and think about Josh Duggar. Here is a man who, as a teenager, did horrible things. There is no excuse that can erase his evil deeds. It doesn't take a hero in the press to denounce those actions as villainous. Everyone but the most feral of sexual predators would agree with that sentiment. Even Josh himself recognizes the seriousness of his crime.

But things have changed. Josh is no longer in the Hitler Youth ... er, no longer committing sexual sins—and he hasn't for many years. He's a happily married man with small children of his own. Until recently, he worked for the Family Research Council—an organization that promotes pro-marriage and pro-life issues from a Christian perspective. In essence, Josh worked for the resistance, lobbying for stronger marriages and families, and the safety of children. 

Josh's story is a win for the good guys, but the way it's being reported, you'd think he was prowling elementary schools, looking for little girls to touch. So why the outrage? Is it because the Duggar family didn't come out and tell the world on their show? Is it because Josh wasn't prosecuted? I don't think so. I think the outrage is more telling than all that. 

Many in our culture don't like the Duggars. They didn't like them before this scandal, and they won't like them long after it's over. The Duggars let God decide how many kids they'd have—19. They homeschool. They believe in chaperoned courtship. They don't let their kids hold hands with their boyfriends/girlfriends until they're engaged. They believe the Bible is the Word of God. And they love Jesus. 

There it is: Jesus. The great Divider of history and humanity. And I think He's to blame for all the hatred headed Josh's way. 

Walking with Jesus invariably means trying to live the kind of life that pleases God. That means saying no to certain behaviors, certain activities, and certain elements of our culture. And when a watching world believes there should be no rules and nothing off limits, Christians look like judgmental bigots—just ask your local Christian baker. 

So the world cheers with Josh Duggar's fall. Hypocrites! At last, proof that one of them is just like us! They're no better than anyone else! But the Duggars never claimed to be better than anyone else, only to be sinners saved by the grace of Jesus. Josh's life displays that kind of grace in vibrant colors. 

Christians ought to be different than other folks, but not because we're better. It's because we've been forgiven. Paul wrote to the church at Corinth:


Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God (1 Corinthians 6:9-11 ESV, emphasis added).

If Josh can be changed, so can anyone. But based on the media's coverage, it seems many would have preferred for him to remain a molester. And that makes me wonder: In the great battle of history between good and evil, which side are they're really on?