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Posts Tagged ‘sin’

Jesus sittingJesus has risen! He is risen indeed!

But wait. Has He really? Is what He has said about Himself true? Is what He says about us true? Is anything He says true?

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1:1-5, 14).

Doubting this, I am left to struggle with feelings, opinions, and the influence of every power and principality that despises the God of created order. Doubting what Jesus says about Himself, I also doubt what He says about me and my neighbor, sin and salvation, what is good and what is not.

Believing this, I understand that Jesus is God. He is the entire Word—Old and New Testaments— and not just the words printed in red. Jesus Christ is the Word on marriage, sex, family, law (biblical, not Shariah), ethics, character, morality, and love.

“Amen!”  It is so!  With all believers in the Word made flesh I sing:

If Christ had not been raised from death Our faith would be in vain,
Our preaching but a waste of breath, Our sin and guilt remain.
But now the Lord is risen indeed; He rules in earth and heaven:
His Gospel meets a world of need—In Christ we are forgiven.

If Christ had not been truly raised His Church would live a lie;
His name should nevermore be praised, His words deserve to die.
But now our great Redeemer lives; Through Him we are restored.
His Word endures, His Church revives in Christ, our risen Lord.

(Lutheran Service Book,
CPH, St. Louis, MO., p. 486;
Text: Christopher M. Idle)

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older couple's handsWe are witnessing the deconstruction of marriage. But, how did it happen and why? Can we place the blame on those who advocate same-sex “marriage”?  Are they the only ones  chipping away at the institution of marriage?

Long before society began to tolerate the “marriage” of two men or two women, it accepted cohabitation, adultery, and no-fault divorce. It accepted the lie that we are, first and foremost, sexual beings who have the “right” to love, be loved, and have our needs met. Society, however, would not be left in such darkness if we in the Church had trusted the Light and resisted the sexualization of marriage.

What does this mean? In 1961, Mary Calderone, the co-founder of SIECUS (Sex Information and Education Council of the U.S.) and former medical director of Planned Parenthood, lectured on the role of churches in sex education to 500 delegates from 38 Protestant denominations. Calderone worked her way into churches and homes because she feared that parents did a poor job of teaching their children about “sexuality.” She wanted parents to teach children the “yeses” of sex instead of so many “thou shalt nots.” She wanted boundaries and inhibitions removed. Calderone wanted children to experience the “wow” factor of sex. There were those in the Church who embraced this thinking. It was their hope that talking about sex with children beginning at an early age would help boys and girls grow up to be husbands and wives who would experience the “wow” factor of sex.

And so, for half a century and from kindergarten on, children hear: “God created sex to be beautiful within marriage.” “Sex in marriage is the best thing ever.” “Sex is worth waiting for.” “Sex within marriage is when we are the closest to God.” “Sex is so amazing, my dear child, that we are going to talk about it a lot.”

Because sin permeates all relationships, including marriage, is it possible that years of fantasizing on the ecstasy of sex might have an impact on a husband and wife? Might sexual expectations be so high that when marriage is put to the everyday challenges of real life, husbands and wives are disappointed? Might they be so disappointed that they are tempted to believe that sex with someone else might be better, maybe even with someone of the same gender who might better understand their partner’s needs?
Has marriage been sexualized?

Consider the husband and wife who desire to bring new life into the world, but are barren. Rebecca Mayes writes, “One of the aspects of barrenness that is so awkward is the fact that the ‘success’ of your marital relations (more modernly called your ‘sex life’) with your spouse is often scrutinized by those around you, either privately in their own minds, or quite publicly to your face. The joining of two fleshes into one in the bonds of holy matrimony used to be treated with such modesty and respect. No one would dare ask you whether you’re ‘doing it’ right or if you’ve tried such-and-such a method. But the sexual revolution has changed all that, and in numerous Christian publications we read that the act is a beautiful, natural part of marriage and there’s nothing to be embarrassed about. We should celebrate our ‘gift of sexuality’ and teach children in our Church all they need to know to be prepared for utilizing this ‘gift.’ But is this what the Bible says? When we blush at the questions about what’s wrong with our reproductive organs, is that for a good reason, or are we just prudes?” (He Remembers the Barren, 6-15-2014)

Sex matters, but marriage matters more. Some pastors take care during pre-marital instruction not to overemphasize sexuality because they believe that it could threaten the hierarchy of values in marriage and assume too predominant a place in terms of producing a well-grounded and joyful marriage. The “wow” factor of sex can be wonderful, but it is the friendship, trusted companionship, communication, and agape love of a husband and wife that carries them through good times and bad, sickness and health. With an identity that is primarily “sexual,” we are limited in the ways we can serve others. Not so with our holy identity; for indeed, when we see ourselves as “uncommon” and set apart for use not just by anyone but by God, our opportunities to serve are multiplied.

Instead of detailed sex talk, parents do better—with the support of the Church—to help boys understand the vocation of manhood and girls to understand the vocation of womanhood. Boys need to know how they, as the stewards and defenders of life, should regard women, most especially their someday wives. Girls need to know how they, as the co-stewards and nurturers of life, should regard men, most especially their someday husbands. Parents go a long way in preparing sons and daughters for marriage by mentoring respect, patience, selflessness, and forgiveness. Parents also do well in preparing young men and women for the realities of married life. Because of the Fall, marriage is hard work. It requires appreciation of our differences as male and female, the commitment to work together, trust, friendship, and more agape than eros love. Marriage can be a beautiful relationship, not just because of the sexual union, but sometimes even in spite of it.

It is God’s design that the marital union of man and woman become the nest for new life; the foundation for home and family. Sin has distorted God’s perfect design but, even in disappointment and difficulty, a faithful marriage is the bedrock of a finely-tuned and healthy society. Marriage is the amazing teamwork of male and female; indeed, the two eyes of the human race. Both eyes are needed for a proper perspective on all matters of life. Biblical marriage is the only pairing that allows a man formed from the dust of the ground to welcome the help of a woman made from his rib. The world is better for it.

Intimacy in marriage is not all about the sexual act. It is the most perfect trust, companionship and loving faithfulness this side of heaven. It is the unity of two spirits in this life—male and female, each encouraging the other to journey well to a sure and certain destination.

Photo Credit: Dreamstime.com
Linda Bartlett strives to help mentor
biblical womanhood through Titus 2 for Life .
She is the author of The Failure of Sex Education in the Church:
Mistaken Identity, Compromised Purity (Amazon.com)
Visit: Our Identity Matters

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crown of thorns with crossJesus Christ welcomes sinners.  He wants us to acknowledge and repent of our sins, but He does not identify us by our sinful desires and inclinations.

It is for this reason that I, a confessional Lutheran, am appreciative of the documentary produced by Blackstone Films to help the Catholic Church share its view on homosexuality.  The film is entitled The Third WayMercatorNet notes that even though it is “not perfect” and features “stereotypical religious” settings, the film is powerfully compelling because of the “authentic, convincing and coherent” voices of seven men and women who live with same-sex attraction.  These men and women  do not deny their personality nor do they argue that same-sex attraction must lead to same-sex lifestyle and same-sex “marriage”.  They confess that homosexuality is a sin even as they confess the struggle to live self-controlled and pure lives.  In the struggle, however, comes joy.  Joy comes when we relinquish our own identity and, in Jesus Christ, see ourselves the way God sees us.

The Word tells us to remember Whose we are and to live accordingly.  In Baptism, Jesus assures our true identity as sons and daughters of God through His sacrificial and redemptive work.  What does this mean?  It means that we are daily called to resist the devil, the world, and our own sinful nature.  It means that we are not common for use by anyone, but uncommon for use in the hands of the holy God.

I am especially appreciative of The Third Way because, for many years, I have been moved by the stories of men and women who were caught in a lifestyle shaped by the lie of a homosexual identity.  Their life experiences and encouragement of the Holy Spirit motivate me to speak Truth on their behalf.  Forgiven of every sin, the repentant sinner stands at the foot of the Cross where we hear Jesus say: Come!  Deny yourself!  Take up your cross and follow Me!  Lose your life and in Me you will find it.  (Matthew 16:24-25).

Please.  Take the time to watch this film.  Its message is for all who are deceived by mistaken identity.

Linda Bartlett is the author of
The Failure of Sex Education in the Church:
Mistaken Identity, Compromised Purity (Amazon)

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children of all colorsChristians should see racism for what it is: sin. It is an assault on the fundamental dignity of men and women who are created by God. Racism is not always about skin color or ethnicity. We dehumanize a person who is in a coma by calling them a “vegetable”.

So what is behind hatred, discrimination and racism? “We are,” says John Stonestreet. He quotes G.K. Chesterton who responded in the following way to a newspaper editorial asking what’s wrong with the world: “Dear Sir, In response to your question what’s wrong with the world, I am. Yours Truly, G.K. Chesterton.”

“Out of the heart,” says Jesus, “come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander” (Matthew 15:19) and discrimination.

Christians have incredible opportunity, writes Stonestreet, to contrast evil with good. Secular humanism always dehumanizes people by “reducing them down to their sexual inclinations, or color, or socioeconomic status or looks, or some other arbitrary category. Secularism simply does not possess the worldviews resources to confront person-to-person discrimination in all of its forms. But Christianity does.”

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the Good News of dignity for all people. Christians can explain that there is only one race: the human race. We are different skin tones and cultures, but all are lovingly created by God for His purpose. This stands in vivid contrast to the teachings of secular humanism. “The Church needs to be at the front of the conversation,” writes Stonestreet.  I agree.  Jesus restored relationships and showed how to treat people like brothers.  Only Christianity sees the value of each human being because no one but Jesus Christ makes people so valuable.

Jesus saw all people as treasures in a field.  He paid the price of His life for each and every one of them (Matthew 13:44).  With that understanding, we can see all people–of all colors and in every circumstance–as our neighbors.  We can love them as we love ourselves.

With appreciation to John Stonestreet,
Breakpoint, 5-7-14

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prison cellThe 28th of October — three days from now — marks the tenth year of incarceration for my young friend Travis.  His life was forever changed when the jury pronounced him “guilty.”  He has no excuses.  Travis knows that he made terrible choices that led to life-threatening drug addiction.

He remembers that day in court when the verdict was read.  His mom reached for him, begging for one last hug but was denied by the U.S. Marshall who cuffed him and dragged him away.  Travis describes himself as a scared little boy in a man’s body unable to grasp the reality of what was happening, yet conscious of frightful images.  Where was he going?  With whom would he be imprisoned?  What would they do to him?  Would he be raped, stabbed or killed?

Travis writes, “I began to plot in my head how to end it all . . . life was not worth living anymore.  I thought of creative ways to use a bed sheet, or perhaps I could pick a fight and hopefully be killed in the process.”  But God was with Travis.  “The comfort I felt when I cried out to Him in one last ditch effort before I ended my life was so amazing.  God really did put His arms around me and lifted me up.”

It would be easy to languish in prison, to let the depression win and the hopelessness take root.  But there, in the most unlikely of places and under the Potter’s own hand, Travis has learned his true identity.  The world calls him a criminal.  A drug-abuser.  A law-breaker.  A bad boy.  A misfit.  But that is not how God identifies him.  God calls Travis His son in Jesus Christ.  A forgiven sinner.  A person of value.  A man with a future of hope.

Travis could remember October 28 as the end of his life.  Instead, he remembers it as the beginning of new life.   Before prison, Travis was captive to the lies.  In prison, he was set free in the Truth.  Before October 28, Travis had forgotten who he was.  On October 28, The Father reminded his child, “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine” (Isaiah 43:1).

It is in darkness that light shines brightest.  Travis admits to struggling with fear, doubt, sadness, anger, and depression.  But knowing who he is in Christ, Travis also knows he is being transformed.  As a son of God in Christ, Travis has purpose.

You are . . . his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light . . . once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy (1 Peter 2:9).

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John StonestreetIn my vocation of helper, I sometimes have to do difficult things.  It’s not easy for me as a Christian to point out that the Church has failed the culture, but it has.  Keith Getty’s song “In Christ Alone” and Rachel Held Evans’ blog on why the millennials are leaving the church were already added to my Facebook page.  John Stonestreet’s commentary reminds us that Jesus — as He defines Himself and what He has done for us — is all that matters.  Thank you, sir!  As for the rest of you, tell me.  Do you agree with John who writes:

Recently, the Presbyterian Church (USA) dropped the hugely popular hymn, “In Christ Alone,” from its hymnal after its authors, Keith Getty and Stuart Townend, refused to omit a reference to Jesus satisfying the wrath of God.

In a powerful response over at First Things, which we’ll link to at BreakPoint.org, Colson Center chairman Timothy George quotes Richard Niebuhr who, back in the 1930s, described this kind of revisionist Protestantism as a religion in which “A God without wrath brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a cross.”

The response from the PCUSA, that their problem was not with God’s wrath but with the idea that Christ’s death satisfied God’s wrath, doesn’t change the fundamental problem of what George calls “squishy” theology. Theology is supposed to be true, not palatable.

Along these lines, maybe you’ve seen the recent viral opinion piece on CNN by my friend, Christian blogger and author Rachel Held Evans. In it, Evans offers her answers to the truly important question, “why are millennials leaving the Church?”

To counter the exodus of young people from American churches, Evans says it’s time to own up to our shortcomings and give millennials what they really want—not a change in style but a change in substance. The answer to attracting millennials, she writes, is NOT “hipper worship bands” or handing out “lattés,” but actually helping them find Jesus.

Amen. I couldn’t agree more.

Then she goes on, “[the Church is] too political, old-fashioned, unconcerned with social justice and hostile to [LGBT] people.” Well, okay—anytime political programs co-opt our faith, or we ignore the needy and fail to love those with whom we disagree, we do the Gospel of Christ great harm.

But when she writes that attracting millennials to Jesus involves “an end to the culture wars,” “a truce between science and faith,” being less “exclusive” with less emphasis on sex, without “predetermined answers” to life’s questions, now I want to ask–are we still talking about the Jesus of biblical Christianity?

The attempt to re-make Jesus to be more palatable to modern scientific and especially sexual sensibilities has been tried before. In fact, it’s the reason Niebuhr said that brilliant line that I quoted earlier.

He watched as the redefining “Jesus Project” gave us mainline Protestantism, which promotes virtually everything on Evans’ list for millennials. The acceptance of homosexuality, a passion for the environment, prioritizing so-called “social justice” over transformational truth are all embodied in denominations like the United Methodist Church, the Episcopal Church and the Presbyterian Church (USA).

But religious millennials aren’t flocking to mainline Protestant congregations. Mainline churches as a whole have suffered withering declines in the last few decades—especially among the young. What gives?

Well, in an another essay which appeared in First Things over twenty years ago, a trio of Christian researchers offered their theory on what’s behind the long, slow hemorrhage of mainline Protestant churches:

“In our study,” they wrote, “the single best predictor of church participation turned out Newsletter_Gen_180x180_B to be belief—orthodox Christian belief, and especially the teaching that a person can be saved only through Jesus Christ.” This, said the researchers, was not (and I add, is still not) a teaching of mainline Protestantism. As a dwindling denomination rejects a hymn which proclaims salvation “in Christ alone,” this research sounds prophetic.

Evans is right that evangelical Christianity is responsible in many ways for the exodus of millennials. But ditching the Church’s unpalatable “old-fashioned” beliefs to become more “relevant” to the young won’t bring them back.

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Bill O'ReillyMany people attempt to speak for God.  But it is a dangerous thing to play fast and loose with God’s Word.  Bill O’Reilly, who consistently reminds his listeners that he attended Catholic school, is one example.  He recently told his guest, a priest, that the whole homosexual thing doesn’t trouble him.  Really?  And, I wonder, why might that be?

Two thoughts come to mind.  O’Reilly is a deceived creature who has raised himself above the Creator. He dangerously follows the example of Eve who, after putting herself in God’s place, spoke for Him.  When Satan asked, “Did God really say . . . ?” Eve responded, adding words that God never spoke (compare Genesis 3:2-3 with 2:16-17). Does O’Reilly doubt that Jesus Christ is The Word (John 1:1-5, 14)?  Jesus, who is God, calls homosexuality a sin in both the Old and New Testaments.

Second, it’s quite possible that O’Reilly has no difficulty with two men or two women living a gay or lesbian lifestyle because of another deception.  It is much easier to accept homosexuality as just a personal form of sexual expression when we are deceived by false identity.  That false identity is sexuality.

Identifying humans as primarily sexual beings is what motivates women to aggressively support “reproductive rights” and an American president who blesses Planned Parenthood.  But with little or no fear of God, men and women worship the created rather than the Creator.

Once we have been deceived to see ourselves as “sexual from birth,” our thinking, speech, clothing and behavior soon reflect the lie.  When we celebrate our sexuality — rather than the God who made us — we are more easily captive to the flesh.  We may, indeed, proclaim: This is who God made me to be!

Homosexuality is accepted when we believe the lie: “my body, my choice.”  At the core of all issues of life — abortion, marriage, homosexuality and euthanasia – is identity.   We will most certainly have an identity problem when we deny or doubt the Word of God.

God identifies us not as sexual beings, but as holy beings.  God is holy.  He calls us to be holy.  Holiness means seeking after the things of God, not the things of the flesh.  It means denying self and, instead, being a vessel for noble purpose.  This goes against the grain of the world’s thinking.  “Express yourself,” we’re told.  “Satisfy your natural desires.”  And, in this present culture, what could be more natural than expression of our sexuality which appears to be the sum total of who we are.

O’Reilly (and the rest of us who call upon the name of Christ) should take care.  It is a dangerous thing to play fast and loose with things of God.  Our identity – and with it, our behavior – is defined by God.

To everyone who is called by God’s name, who has been created for His glory, He says, “. . . I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine” (Isaiah 43:1, 7).

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