The Truth About Grace

From time to time in the body of Christ, teaching about a core biblical doctrine seems to swing to extremes and needs to be restored to the scriptural boundaries for that concept.  For example, it’s common today to hear grace, the unmerited favor of God, described as some kind of license to sin, when in reality, it is the power not to sin (Titus 2:11), and the provision of mercy when one does sin (1 John 1:9).  A growing number of believers have also been bamboozled into believing that the sacrifice of Jesus is not enough.  Advocates of this syncretism between Christianity and Judaism teach believers they must keep the law as well as accept Jesus. 

The Scripture, however, is plain: “Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life” (1 John 5:12).  Jesus described the obligation or duty of the believer as believing “in the one he sent” (John 6:29).  The Apostle Paul described the Judaizers as practitioners of witchcraft for confusing the people with an emphasis on the law over the efficacy of Jesus’ sacrifice (Galatians 3:1).  In other words, as we focus on Jesus we are walking in grace.  Pope Francis recently said, “Some believe they can have a personal, immediate, and direct relationship with Jesus Christ without the communion and mediation of the Church” describing this as wrong, absurd, and dangerous.  I understand he is challenging believers to maintain or restore their relationship with the Church, but neither the Church, nor any man can take the place of the true mediator between God and man, Jesus the Christ.  We need a personal, immediate, and direct relationship with Jesus as well as a connection to the local church that springs from our relationship with Jesus.

We also walk in grace by focusing on love.  Jesus reduced the 613 old testament laws (civic, ceremonial, rabbinic, and moral) to the command to love God and love people (Matthew 22:34-40).  He taught that all of the law and prophets hang or depend on the love commandment.  This means when we truly love God and others we are actually living consistent with the very heart of God.  Choose to love the haters when they treat you wrong or say ugly things about you.  Jesus, with lips anointed with grace (Psalm 45:2), loved no matter what they said or did to him.

Finally, we walk in grace by focusing on the Spirit.  We need the Holy Spirit because grace sets a much higher standard than the law.  The law said we should not murder.  Jesus said a person with anger seething in the heart is just as guilty.  The law said we should not commit adultery.  Jesus said a person who looks at a woman to lust after her in his heart is just as guilty.  Grace means that through the new birth we have the presence of the Holy Spirit operating in us 24 hours a day to help us and guide us.  The law tells us the what to do or not to do, the gospel tells us the why, but the Holy Spirit tells us the how and empowers us to do so.  For example, the law forbids murder, Jesus exposes anger as the root of murder, and the Holy Spirit tells us in real time how to specifically apply Jesus’ admonition to do good to those who mistreat us.

No, grace is not a license to sin or merely God’s merciful response to us when we do sin.  Grace is not lacking and in need of support by a return to the bondage of the law.  Grace is not sloppy living because we are no longer under the law.  Grace is a much higher standard than the law only realized by focusing on Jesus, focusing on love, and focusing on the daily leadership of the Holy Spirit who guides us into a lifestyle far surpassing life under the dictates of the law.   

Oh the Humanity

gracePerhaps the greatest paradox in Christianity is the realization that the Lord sovereignly chose to use imperfect people to preach a perfect gospel and lead people to a saving knowledge of the one true perfect God.  Besides the one flawless example of Jesus, every man and woman charged with speaking or acting on behalf of God throughout history has been flawed.  Abraham was a chronic liar.  David couldn’t keep his zipper up.  Moses needed anger management.  Jeremiah could use some Prozac.  An arrogant Peter sounded a lot like Donald Trump.   Paul was quick to write people off at times.  Despite the flaws and failures, the Lord did amazing things through them and so many others because the anointing is God on flesh doing what flesh can’t do.

Though a preacher of righteousness and recipient of the revelation to build a vessel to rescue God’s creation and his own family before the flood, Noah was found in a compromising position after partaking of wine from the grapes he grew after the great flood waters receded.  The behavior of his sons upon the discovery of their naked and drunk father reflects two contrasting attitudes found readily in the Church today.

In Genesis 9, Ham discovered his father’s nakedness and couldn’t wait to tell his brothers.  When Ham’s brothers, Shem and Japheth were told they placed a blanket between them and walked backwards into the tent to cover their father’s shame making sure they did not so much as turn their head in the direction of Noah.  Notice the different reaction when the humanity of the preacher was discovered and observed.  Ham saw Noah’s humanity and broadcasted that humanity to others.  Shem and Japheth saw the same humanity and chose instead to cover the humanity because “love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8).

So that I am not misunderstood here, Christians and particularly Christian leaders must have accountability in their lives.  But there is a difference between accountability to specific brothers and sisters who, in keeping with Paul’s command, restore the fallen and flawed with gentleness (Galatians 6:1) and others who observe the humanity and work to expose or broadcast the error with no heart for the restoration of the fallen.  Why is it we all want cover for ourselves and exposure for others?

There seems to be an unwritten rule some cynical believers follow that says if they witness the humanity of a Christian leader they do not have to respond in mercy, respect, or discretion, and they no longer have to receive from that leader. That “Ham” spirit, as in the days of Noah who was personally responsible for saving representatives of all of God’s created life on earth, forgets and diminishes the contribution that leader has had in his or her life and the lives of others choosing to focus instead on the imperfection of the leader.

Of course when Noah found out from Shem and Japheth what Ham had done (and understand emphatically here that just like Shem and Japheth, a godly believer does not hold confidences against the leader, but good or bad, keeps the leader informed) he was of course disappointed and prophesied a very different future for Ham in comparison to his brothers.  A simple reading of this story in Genesis reveals a powerful truth that all Christians can and should learn from.  The Hams in the body of Christ witness leadership humanity, broadcast that humanity to others, and end up cursed or empowered to fail.  In contrast, the Shems and Japheths in the Church are not blind to leadership imperfections, but in observing the humanity, choose to cover it with a garment of love and mercy and end up receiving the blessing or the empowerment to succeed.

If we spend any time around Christians and Christian leaders, we will observe imperfections, flaws, and their humanity (and they will observe our humanity).  Make a quality decision to be a blessed Shem or Japheth in the Church who sees, covers, and works to restore the humanity of others rather than a cursed Ham who sees, exposes, and cares little about restoration.  Remember that without love and mercy for others when they fail, we become more susceptible to temptation and failure ourselves (Galatians 6:1).  Without grace for others, we set ourselves up to reap the same when our humanity is observed (and sooner or later our humanity too will come out).

Father Knows Best

Samson 1The story of Samson has all the elements of a major Hollywood blockbuster.  First you have the handsome, supernaturally strong, and unbeatable Samson who, also, unfortunately, has a penchant for the ladies (and the ladies of the night).  Then there’s Delilah who steals Samson’s heart and will eventually cause his downfall and destruction.  During each encounter Delilah seeks to learn the secret to Samson’s strength and success so she can betray him to his enemies, the Philistines.  After toying with her repeatedly (we all know toying with sin never works out well), he finally discloses that his hair is the key to his power.  You know the rest of the story.  Delilah cuts off his locks, Samson loses his strength, he is apprehended by the Philistines, tortured, and then in one final act of supernatural power, pulls down the columns and roof of the meeting hall on himself and the unsuspecting Philistine detractors.

But the secret to the downfall of Samson began long before his betrayal.  Samson’s demise began when he chose to ignore his parent’s sage counsel to not get involved with Philistine women like Delilah, but rather seek out a woman among those of like precious faith and values.  Judges 14:3 says, “His father and mother replied, isn’t there an acceptable woman among your relatives or among all our people?  Must you go to the uncircumcised Philistines to get a wife?”  Samson, pleading his love for the Philistine beauty (all reason is thrown to the wind once the soul tie is formed), rejected his parent’s admonition, eventually took the Philistine woman Delilah as his own, and in ignoring his father, Samson crafted his own destruction.  

In reading the story in the Bible you will notice that the voice of his parents became silent.  Believers following in Samson’s footsteps should not take the eventual silence of the father or mother on this matter as an endorsement of what they are doing.  The silence is motivated in a desire to not alienate the child over the relationship he has chosen to enter against his father’s wishes.  The silence, is actually an indictment of the lack of honor shown to the father on such a critical matter.  The true reason for Samson’s downfall was that he failed to honor his father in such an important life decision.  Think of how different the story would have read if Samson had listened to his parents.  Think of all the divine appointments he missed and the destiny he failed to fulfill all over one simple decision.  I encourage you to keep you heart open to the guidance of your natural and spiritual parents.  Their wise counsel in due season could save you from a world of hurt and disappointment later on in life.

Skunked

Peppy 1The Warner Brothers animated skunk Peppy Le Pew was one of my favorite cartoon characters as a kid.  You couldn’t help but laugh at the irony and feel a little sorry for the object of Peppy’s affection, a black and white female feline.  For obvious reasons, the cat wasn’t thrilled about getting too cozy with the skunk.  Oddly enough, I notice a lot of Christians who would never have a skunk for a pet have no problem living their lives with a skunky attitude.  Skunk or skunky attitude, the result is the same – people just don’t want to be around you…and who can blame them?

Peppy Le Pew with his unmistakable stench visited Hope Harbor today.  The origin of the aroma, powerful enough to knock you down upon entering the church office suite, was probably outside, but we could not rule out the possibility that the critter was somewhere in the building.  After a little investigation, a staff member (kudos to Rodney, aka “Skunk Man” – after all we are in Kentucky) discovered a dead skunk right next to one of our air conditioning units (the unit feeding the office complex).  The unit repeatedly sucked up and dispersed the skunk smell throughout the office every time it kicked on. 

Our attitude is a lot like the skunk odor.  First, like the skunk, individuals with a bad attitude rarely notice they are the source of the smell.  Second, people with bad attitudes fail to understand how easily it is to fill the air around them with negativity and pessimism.  Like the skunk, it’s amazing how much pollution can come from one person with a lousy attitude.  Third, once in the air, the foul smell is difficult to eliminate.  It’s always much wiser to prevent the skunk from spraying than to deal with the stink once it comes out.

We should monitor our lives daily for the condition of our attitudes.  Do you stink?  Are you the source of the smell?  Are you bombing others with your pungent attitude?  Are you stinking things up at work, in your home, or in your church?  The Apostle Paul said, “But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place” (2 Corinthians 2:14, NIV). We can’t perpetuate the fragrance of Christ wherever we go if we are suppressing His essence with the foul odor of a bad attitude.  

Let me encourage you to “deskunk” your attitude on a daily basis.  First, skunk experts say bathing in tomato juice will neutralize the skunk smell.  As Christians, we know the key to removing any stench and stain is the blood of Jesus.  The moment you smell something coming from your heart that doesn’t belong there like bitterness, resentment, or sarcasm, be quick to repent and apply the blood to your life.  Like the skunk smell, there is not enough perfume to cover up the smell of a sinful attitude.  Second, dip your heart daily in God’s presence.  In the fullness of God’s presence is joy, not belligerence (Psalm 16:11).  The believer who fails to seek God often manifests that prayerlessness through a lousy attitude.  Third, wash your mind daily in the Word of God.  Saturating your thinking to line up with God’s Word is central to maintaining a godly and positive attitude and outlook on life.  Watch and see how much more attractive you’ll be when you smell like Jesus instead of Peppy!

It’s the Sin Stupid

Phil Robertson I remember the presidential campaign of 1992 and how the Clinton election team pushed itself to remember their fundamental and playful campaign message, “it’s the economy stupid.” When other issues would rise to divert Clinton from that message, staffers would forcefully remind the campaign staff that the election would hinge on the existing economic malaise at the time and the hope a fix through Clinton’s policies.

At the risk of beating a dead horse (or dead duck show in this case), I can’t help draw a comparison to the current situation with Phil Robertson recently pushed off the A&E hit reality television show Duck Dynasty.  Now I don’t really care about ducks, duck calls, beards or A&E for that matter.  What I do care about is the boldness of this man to take the platform the Lord gave him to spread the good news of Jesus Christ and clearly communicate the teachings of the Word of God.  Time after time I’ve witnessed God promote believers to a national platform only to see them compromise once they reached that pinnacle.  Phil and his family should be commended not criticized for their stand and for honoring the Lord for the gift of their platform.

The liberal media and activists groups want Americans to believe that Robertson’s language in a GQ interview was crude, vile, inappropriate, insensitive, and even hate speech.  What believers need to remember at a time like this is whenever a believer quotes the Bible on morality and sexuality it is not hate speech but the Word of God. What if GQ had interviewed the Apostle Paul?  Enough said.  The real issue here is that the powerful demonic spirit behind human sexual perversion goes ballistic (especially when it ends up printed in black and white) whenever it is called out and exposed for what it is – SIN.  Just like the irrational response of the people of Sodom and Gomorrah in Lot’s day when the men threatened to rape angelic beings (Genesis 19:5) or Herod’s violent treatment of John the Baptist for calling out his sexual immorality (Matthew 14:3-4), that spirit bristles today whenever the behavior is correctly labeled as sin.  One can attempt to quote and address these Scriptures with a gentle spirit, loving heart, a twinkle in the eye, and a smile on the face but the reaction of equating homosexuality with sin with always be met with the same ferocious response.

Notice Robertson paraphrased Scripture about drunkenness but no one called him a drunkaphobe.  He addressed idolatry but was not labeled an idolatorphobe. He mentioned the greedy but no one called him a greedyphobe.  He called out swindlers but no one said he was a swindlerphobe.  He spoke of slanderers but no one cared to call him a slandererphobe.  But when he mentions what the Bible says about homosexuality he is called a hater and a homophobe. In other words, it’s fine to label other areas of immorality as sin but one must simply not equate homosexuality with sin.  Make no mistake about it.  The modern persecution leveled at Robertson and others who dare to speak up is about identifying rightly sexual behavior that is sin. “It’s the sin stupid” and we would be wise to remember that everyone who will live a godly life in Christ Jesus and care enough to share that godliness will be persecuted (2 Timothy 3:12).  

We should also remember that no one need remain in the clutches of sin – any kind of sin – for God has provided the remedy for all manner of sin, the blood of His Son Jesus Christ. The catch is that our personal redemption hinges on confessing our sin (saying the same thing God says about it) and not redefining or dismissing our sin.  It is unscriptural and naive to believe that we, as the modern church, can lead people to Jesus without addressing the sin issue.  After all, Jesus’ first message to the world was, ‘Repent (change your mind and corresponding behavior), for the kingdom of heaven is near’ (Matthew 4:17).  Repentance gives us access to the supernatural power that will set us free from the sins that we confess.  Consequently, there is no substitute for the place of repentance in our redemption, salvation, and deliverance.

Hijacking Jesus

passionhome“From that time on Jesus began to preach, Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near” (Matthew 4:17, NIV).

It’s quite interesting to hear marginal Christians, the secular media, politicians, and liberal theologians describe Jesus’ essential message as one of tolerance without any expectation of change or conformance to his Father’s moral code and standards. In fact, the primary, essential, and original message of Jesus has almost been drowned out completely and hijacked (to divert from the original message, destination, or purpose) by a chorus of voices demanding that the Church of Jesus Christ cease its stand for righteousness. Jesus certainly came to this earth to die for the sins of mankind because of love, but Jesus’ first message was not tolerance or love. His first message to the world was, “repent” which means to change your mind with a corresponding change of behavior. People today want the love and favor of God but they do not want the message and mandate of repentance that goes with the broader message of the gospel. Jesus has been hijacked so that people can live how they want to live, justify that lifestyle, and decry any divine accountability for living that way.

Take, for example, the woman caught in adultery (John 8). Jesus knew this woman was being used to try to trap him into saying or doing something that the Pharisees could use as a basis to accuse him. Jesus’ response is amazing but it also reveals the connection between his love, compassion, and the need to embrace his requirement of repentance. He challenged her accusers to go ahead and throw the stones and let the one without sin begin the execution. Of course, one by one they withdrew starting with the oldest among them. Jesus then issued the powerful statement together with a caveat: “Then neither do I condemn you…Go now and leave your life of sin” (John 8:31). Notice he did not say, “I don’t condemn you and feel free to sin even more.” This is the missing element. Yes, there is grace, love, and mercy for the sinner – for all of us, but there is also the command to “sin no more” not to sin all the more. In one powerful moment Jesus gave this woman God’s compassion, God’s correction, and God’s power to make the necessary changes, for the Lord never gives us a command without giving us the power to keep that command.

In this current environment where what is wrong is called right and what is right is called wrong (Isaiah 5:20 – “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil”), the Church needs to stand up boldly and declare that we do preach the love and mercy of God but we must also follow Jesus’ example and preach repentance as well, which means to stop the offending behavior (stop the behavior that is offending God’s heart and His Word). To preach mercy and love without repentance is to hijack both the message and mission of Jesus Christ and to totally misrepresent the truth (the misrepresentation of the truth is also known as a lie). In the end it is not loving or compassionate to let people believe a lie to their own destruction. The handwriting is on the wall and the moral trajectory has become clear – our society more and more is rejecting the clear teachings of Scripture and choosing a philosophy where everyone does “what is right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25). Yes, it would be less controversial and we could save ourselves from further name calling and vilification if we just say the “ship has sailed” on opposing the moral slide of this nation, but the consequences of this would be to hijack Jesus ourselves, dishonor His sacrifice, and then render ourselves completely irrelevant in the process.

Mouse in the House

The Word teaches that the Lord has an expected future and hope for all of His people. It is common for some believers to hold onto a religious mindset when it comes to the plans of God for his children thinking that such a destiny is only for a few select believers. But without a doubt the Lord has prepared a path for all of us. Ephesians 2:10 (AMP) states, “For we are God’s [own] handiwork (His workmanship), recreated in Christ Jesus, [born anew] that we may do those things which God predestined (planned beforehand) for us [taking paths which He prepared ahead of time], that we should walk in them [living the good life which He prearranged and made ready for us to live].” All believers have a specific plan and path for their lives and on that path we find our call, our vocation, our marriage partners, our blessing. God has already strategically placed everything we need to accomplish His will on that path and if we just keep going we will run right into His power, supply, and goodness.

Of course if we choose not to take God’s path we can never live the “good life” that the Lord has planned for us. He will never force us to take the path prepared for us in advance. Even if we take that path there are weights, hindrances, and things that can slow us down from walking in God’s best and fulfilling our destiny. The Bible says, “… let us strip off and throw aside every encumbrance (unnecessary weight) and that sin which so readily (deftly and cleverly) clings to and entangles us, and let us run with patient endurance and steady and active persistence the appointed course of the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1, AMP). It’s clear that weights as well as sins will keep us from our destiny. We know that sin is anything that contradicts God’s standard revealed in His Word for our lives. Most of us know if we are tolerating some sin or compromise in our lives. We need to understand that the sin we tolerate will overtake us and ultimately compromise God’s best for our lives. Weights are not necessarily sins but they are behaviors, attitudes, and practices that are non-profitable. They are slowing us down, keeping us back, and in fact can cause us to slip behind or even take a wrong turn. Weights, just like sins. have the ability to stop us from reaching our full potential in God.

Many individuals in the Bible compromised their future because they refused to make the needed course corrections or adjustments. Adam and Eve gave up paradise for a piece of fruit. Cain gave up the life of his brother and his own wellbeing and peace over an offering. Ham lost the blessing of his father because he could not keep his mouth shut. Esau gave up his birthright for a bowl of soup. Saul gave up his Kingdom over a few choice sheep. Samson gave up his future for sex. Gehazi gave up the prophetic anointing for some clothes and money. Judas traded his eternity for a few pieces of silver. Nothing was so great and valuable that it was worth the loss of God’s best in the lives of these individuals.

I taught a class in our Bible college not too long ago helping students to put together practical Bible messages. One student in her message told the humorous story of a mouse in her house. Her words perfectly illustrate the tension between what we need to do and our reluctance to do it:

“On two separate occasions I made a half hearted attempt to kill a mouse in my house. I was hoping he would just go away. I had to remind myself that they are destructive, filthy rodents that multiply quickly and carry diseases. I couldn’t continue to ignore it. The mouse appeared again another day wounded from my previous blow. We first prayed for God to heal it then debated whether to throw it in the fire or the field. Weeks later the Lord spoke to me about this incident. He said we make half hearted attempts to rid ourselves of things that are displeasing to Him. He said sin, like a rodent, is filthy and destructive and if left unchecked, multiplies and carries diseases such as apathy, and hardness of heart.” – Colin Royal

Take an inventory of your life today. Are you tolerating sinful or hindering words, thoughts, or practices in your life? If so, you have become your own worst enemy. The Lord desires to use and promote every believer but we are not promotable when we are clanging and hobbling slowly down the path of God trying to carry all sorts of baggage. It will be very difficult for us to arrive at our destination with all that extra weight. What are you willing to give up God’s best and destiny for in your life? What is more important to you than God’s blessing, favor, and perfect will? I encourage you to cut off every sin and every weight, get on your path, and complete your course. In the end, it will not be the devil, the Church, the pastor, the teacher, our parents, our spouses, our kids, our employers, religion, or the world that will keep us from tapping into God’s best for our lives – it will be our refusal to cut off the things that are hindering us. There’s absolutely nothing in your life that you are holding on to right now that’s worth losing the blessing in your life. So find the mouse and get it out of your house.

The Un-Sin

“Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable” (Leviticus 18:22). “Even the women exchanged natural 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 indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion” (Romans 1:26-27).

Confusion about sexual morality (and normality) in this nation is at an all time high (and that includes self-professed believers). Because of the social and political correctness environment in this nation right now, droves of people are accepting behaviors that are clearly out-of-bounds biblically. The pressure and influence is so strong that many believers who may have struggled with certain sins are now being influenced to embrace a lifestyle that totally contradicts the Word of God. Many more believers are exacerbating the situation through the development of an “oh, well, to each his own” attitude having been worn down by the constant drumbeat of the activist agenda trying to shame anyone holding to traditional biblical values and morality.

At the outset I want to be clear. Christians do not and should not hate anyone on the basis of a lifestyle choice, behavior, practice, sin, or stronghold (our mandate is to love the person without endorsing the sin). The genuine Christian is, however, committed to the integrity and authority of the Word of God and should not be expected to turn a blind eye to the teachings of Scripture on human sexuality just to keep from looking like they are intolerant or bigoted. The homosexual and the homosexual activist should remember that opposition to homosexuality by Christians is based in biblical morality and not hatred for any person or group.

Recently, an award-winning Christian recording artist announced that she was in fact a lesbian. She equated the ban on homosexuality in the Old Testament with restrictions on eating shellfish or wearing fabrics from mixed materials. To set the record straight, Paul himself denounced this behavior so the homosexual activists can stop pretending that the practice called an abomination in the Old Testament is somehow ignored in the New Testament. I would also point out that Sodom and Gomorrah were not destroyed for eating shellfish or mixing their wool with their polyester but because of the specific practice of homosexuality which resulted from selfishly rejecting God (Genesis 18:20-21; 19:5).

The truth is we are all born into sin and we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Sunday School 101). This means in real life that we are all capable of doing just about anything in violation of God’s law and because of the fall, life experiences, and influences we each may have specific types of behaviors that we are particularly tempted to allow or pursue. Some people can’t seem to keep their hands off of the property of others and theft is a constant temptation while others find it hard to tell the truth even in the absence of a reason to deceive. Some people may struggle with alcohol or drugs. Some people may deal with a violent temper constantly on the verge of a wrong choice and a violent act. Some people feel hopeless and often tempted to end their own lives. There are people who have struggled with pornography. Others are tempted to engage in pre-marital or extramarital relationships. Some have struggled with homosexual feelings throughout their lives.

The point is that the temptation or the feelings toward a certain class of sin or behavior does not constitute the sin. The action or the behavior constitutes the sin (I also agree that not doing certain things is equally sinful). When a person says they were “born” this way or that way they are correct. We are all born sinners and wanting to sin. The liar, the thief, the adulterer, and the drug addict are all born with the possibility of yielding to those feelings but they can also find redemption in Jesus and the power as Titus reveals to say “no” to ungodliness. To say a homosexual was born that way and therefore incapable of living any other way is the same thing as saying that the person tempted to rob a convenience store was born that way and will inevitably rob the store. The truth is we are born sinners but through the impartation of the righteousness of God in Christ and the resulting transformation that takes place we are not destined or doomed to a lifestyle of moral compromise and sin of any kind including homosexual behavior.

This entire “coming out” phenomenon of people in the world as well as people in the church is actually a decision on the part of the individuals to accept the feelings and temptation and then yield to them. The phenomenon is also a blatant demand by political activists, educators, and liberal theologians that the world (and the Church) accept homosexuality as a perfectly normal and acceptable lifestyle. Saying people do not choose to engage in homosexual behavior but they are driven to it is tantamount to making homosexuality a special class of sin or the “un-sin” that denies personal responsibility for one’s life choices and actions. The growing and repeated chorus coming from governments, academia, the entertainment business, the liberal church, and now the courts that denies homosexuality is a sin and demands special protection will never trump, alter, or change what God has said about homosexuality.  We should remember that after Jesus refused to condemn the woman taken in adultery, he nonetheless commanded her to “go and sin no more.”  We too can demonstrate compassion for the sinner without ignoring the plain teachings and commands of Scripture – stop the sin.

So what should we do as believers? First, we should without condemnation help people to understand that in a fallen world feelings and desires that violate God’s word will come, but we have the power and authority to reject those feelings and temptations and live the way God prescribes. Second, we must also speak the truth in love but speak the truth about the sin nonetheless, just as we would do if we were dealing with the liar, the thief, the murderer, or the adulterer. Third, our attitude toward the homosexual should be no different from the person who struggles with any other sin. If we can muster grace for the drug addict let’s have the same respect and love for the homosexual or any other type of sinner. Fourth, we must never succumb to the pressure of the growing chorus of voices telling us that the morality of the Bible is wrong, outdated, or misinterpreted. The Bible is clear and the only decision at this point is whether we are going to stand on the side of truth or be shamed into silence and allow our foundation to be decayed by the changing culture around us.

Goodbye Curse

“God blessed them and said to them. ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground’ ” (Genesis 1:28, NIV). “I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you” (Genesis 12:2-3, NIV).

From the beginning in Genesis it has always been God’s desire to bless his people profusely. In fact, the very first words the newly created man ever heard were the blessing (Genesis 1:26-28). The Lord could have said anything at this point to get across his will for man, but he plainly desired that his people would be blessed – that is they would be empowered to succeed, to excel, to increase, to be very fruitful, to have longevity, and walk in dominion on his behalf in the earth. If it was ever God’s will to bless his people, it’s God’s will today because he does not change. The implication is that this blessing would be used to spread the garden of Eden throughout the earth. But because of sin, the curse, not the blessing, would fill the earth prompting the Lord (Genesis 3:15) to unleash his prophetic word about the plan to restore the blessing that was compromised by sin and disobedience. Without the coming covenant with Abraham and the eventual disclosure of Jesus, his descendent who would go to the cross for our sin and bring back what sin had taken from us, we would be totally lost and without hope for all eternity.

We often think of the benefits of the cross to human beings like the fact that God’s justice was fulfilled by what Jesus did, or the reality that we are now forgiven of our sins and have access to the Father and to heaven. But the Scripture itself points to the foundational reason Jesus went to the cross: “He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:14). Justice has been served and we have been forgiven but the cross points to the reality that because sin (that which compromised the blessing – sin is anything that blocks, hinders, or stops the blessing) has been obliterated for those that repent and express faith in Jesus, the curse (the empowerment to fail) has been removed and the blessing has been restored.

It’s time for the born again believers to say “goodbye” to the curse and embrace once again God’s original desire for us – the blessing. Let us be quick to resist any remnant of that curse that is trying to linger in our lives and press in by faith to see the fullness of the blessing manifest in every area of our lives. That empowerment is standard equipment for us to get the job done in these last days. This is why we can say with great confidence and boldness, “if God be for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31). As we pause to reflect on the sacrifice and resurrection of Jesus Christ, let’s remember that the far-reaching and destructive power of sin has been neutralized and celebrate that the eternity shaking power and influence of the blessing has been restored. Develop a new habit in your life – declaring the blessing: “I’m blessed, I can’t be cursed. I’ve been redeemed from the curse.”

FOR FURTHER STUDY ON “THE BLESSING” GO TO THE STUDY CENTER.

Hot Tub Theology

“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life” (Psalm 139:23-24, NLT).

A few years ago we were given a hot tub and it has truly been a blessing after many a challenging day in ministry. For the most part, maintaining water clarity and balance has been pretty easy. I recently switched from a non-chlorine, non-bromine based system to a bromine based chemical system because the water clarity is better. I learned a valuable lesson in the world of hot tub maintenance when a chalky film began to settle on the tub after a minor battle trying to regain the pH balance in the water. The film didn’t seem like a big deal at the time so I figured I would just come back a few days later and eventually wipe the film off without having to get too consumed with the issue (like having to drain the water and start all over again).

When I finally got around to addressing what I thought was a chalky, pasty residue, I discovered that normal wiping, scrubbing, and extra pressure would not remove the film. In fact nothing would remove what had become like a layer of stone deposited on seventy-five percent of the surface of the tub. As the tub drained revealing the enormity of the problem, I immediately regretted letting the thing go as long as I did. Nothing I tried would remove the film. Those magic erasers, I discovered, are not all that magic when it comes to removing scaly calcium mineral deposits on the sides of a hot tub. I learned by going online that white vinegar heated and then sprayed on the surface will cause the deposits to bubble up. After about ten minutes on the surface, that vinegar did in moments what could not be done previously. All I had to do was wipe and then rinse the area thoroughly. My tub surface was once again shiny and good as new.

My hot tub challenge reminds me of two very powerful spiritual principles when it comes to putting off dealing with things in our lives the Lord wants to remove: First, it never pays to delay judging that area of sin or compromise in our lives. It may not seem like a big deal today, but if we keep putting off our repentance we might just discover that thing is harder to get rid of than we thought. It is always better to embrace the mercies of God daily (Lamentations 3:21-23) than try to gain victory over something that has become entrenched and habitual in our lives. Many things appear to be “no big deal” until it becomes obvious that it would have been much better to remove it immediately rather than give it time to harden our hearts. Second, when it comes to the stubborn sins and strongholds in our lives, we need to break out the most powerful sin solvent in the universe – the blood of Jesus. The cosmetic and quick fixes the world offers (like the magic erasers) or the “putting our elbow into it” (the futile efforts to deal with things in our own strength) cannot bring the deliverance and peace we are looking for. Only the blood of Jesus can obliterate the crusty and hard residue of sin that attaches to our hearts over time. Only the blood of Jesus can burn off the sin and leave us clean, shiny, and ready to once again be filled with refreshing water and prepared for use.

I want to encourage you to pray the Psalm 139 prayer – Lord search me. You will never regret becoming a “quick to repent” believer (one who changes the mind with a corresponding change of behavior – that is to stop the offending behavior) in this day where rationalizing attitudes, thoughts, and behaviors (even in the body of Christ) has become an epidemic. Guard your heart and life daily and when you compromise or sin against God don’t put off making it right. You will find that it is better and easier to deal with your failures immediately rather than stacking the sin until your heart becomes a hard shell of indifference and apathy.