Friday 6 January 2017

Emotions in the Life of the Christian

Every person is familiar with the feeling of a knot rising in their stomach, cold tears threatening to leak out of their face, and perhaps equally familiar with the thrill and delight of friendship, of reunion or of success. Emotions are an intrinsic part of being human, but as such, a few very important questions must be asked. What role does God play in the emotions of man? Similarly, what role does sin play in the in the emotions of man? And after these questions have been answered, a third, equally important query is raised; how should Christians understand their emotions?
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines emotions as”a conscious mental reaction (as anger or fear) subjectively experienced as strong feeling usually directed toward a specific object and typically accompanied by physiological and behavioral changes in the body.1” With this broad definition in mind, this paper will began to answer the questions cited above. First it will examine the origin of emotions, namely where they come from, both in the world and in a person. Secondly, it will examine emotions in the Biblical narrative, when used in both a positive and negative light. Finally this paper will seek to provide an outline for the role emotions ought to play in the life of a Christian.

1: Where do Emotions Come From?
A: In Creation
The first question that must be answered is the origin of emotions. To answer this, an astute researcher must begin at the creation of all things as outlined in Genesis and ascertain if emotions had their beginning before, after or during these events. First it shall be asked if emotions originated in God's creation. Of course, emotions as a concept are not named in the created order, but this does not mean they did not originate here. It is assumed by many that Adam and Eve contained the capacity for a wide degree of emotive responses. Some writers would go so far as to say that eliciting emotive responses was part of Adam's created purpose. “Through his intellect, free will, and emotions, man was to be the showcase for God's glorious character. Adam was, therefore, a very important creation to God.2” This sentiment seems to be standard among scholars and is founded upon a twofold assumption. Because emotions are not mentioned in the cursing of man (Genesis 3), and because mankind is made in the image of an emotive God, mankind must have been created as emotional. This assumption has legitimacy because most psychological sin problems are based on “conscious and unconscious conflict.3” This brings about the second are of inquiry, namely, whether emotions originated during the fall of man. Since sin is primarily a twisting of what already had been created (such as sexual desire into lust), and not a creation of anything new, the introduction of this invisible conflict would indicate that mankind had at least the capability for emotional experience prior to the introduction of sin into the world. More than this, the observation has been made that “our Lord and Savior was neither fallen in His nature or sinful in His living, yet He wept. In His humanity, God has given Him a capacity for tearfulness.4” It is probable then, that Adam contained emotional capacity before the Fall. Finally, the question of emotions having existed before Creation must be asked. The question of God's emotional nature will be examined in a moment, but this paper will focus primarily on human emotions. With that in mind, having no conclusive statement from Scripture, it would be logically concluded that emotions have been a part of humanity since humanity's creation.

B: In God
This, of course, raises another issue, and that is the emotional nature of God. It is commonly seen that as God made man in His image He placed emotional capability similar to His own in the heart of man. Examining the character of Jesus is of little help on this issue, because while He was sinless, His emotional responses could easily be written off as having been part of His human nature. God is seen to be angry (Deuteronomy 9:22), He is described as laughing (Psalms 37:13), He has compassion (Judges 2:18), and shares grief (Genesis 6:6). This is not to mention the host of other emotions attributed to God. It is conclusive that throughout the recorded history we have seen interactions with God, He has shown Himself to be an emotional being.

C: In Man
Though emotion has always been a part of humanity's existence, the origin of emotions in a person's daily routine is another question entirely. Would it be possible that a person's feelings spring from their mind, which is known to be in need of renewal (Romans 12:2)? Or would it be preferable to state that emotions come from a person's heart, which is described as “deceitful above all things and desperately sick” (Jeremiah 17:9)? This of course, raises a deeper theological issue on the nature of humanity, and specifically how many different functional aspects there are to a man. Many have concluded that mankind is made of three parts, the spirit, soul and body.5 Others argue that this, being a Greek concept, is not Biblical. Regardless, Paul wrote that “the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body” (1 Corinthians 12:12). Regardless, many experts distinguish between natural (or physical) and spiritual emotions, presumably coming from the various parts of a person. On crying, Olford has written,
“In our consideration of the capacity for tearfulness...first of all, there is the shedding of natural tears. For example, there is the sorrow of parting...but with natural tears, there are also spiritual tears...there are some salutary things that need special attention in this superficial age in which we live.6
Although this does not address the motivation for emotion, it can be safely concluded that the source of motivations could be from any part of the human psyche. Whether man is a trinity, a singular unit or something else, it is still safe to conclude that emotions come in various forms in a person's life. They are not limited to a singular aspect of humanity's inner workings, but are a response of the person as a whole. Whether a person is affected by something cognitively or spiritually, they will elicit emotions accordingly.

2: Emotions in the Biblical Narrative
Before examining the role emotions should play in the life of a Christian, it will be important to examine the role of emotions in the Biblical narrative. To do this will give insight into their presence throughout the scope of Scripture. It would be impossible to contain every reference to strong feelings, so the following will specifically examine positive and negative emotions within contexts that make it clear whether this is an act of righteousness or unrighteousness. This section will examine the context of each stated emotion to say how they were used in a righteous or unrighteous way throughout the Bible.
To begin, it is worth noting that there is no use of emotions explicitly stated in the Garden of Eden. However, as was discussed earlier, it is logical to assume that there were emotions prior to the fall. Although no explicit statement tells the reader that Adam experienced love or affection for his wife, Christ is said to love the church, typifying perfect marriage (Ephesians 5:25). Thus, logically, Adam's pre-sin marriage must also have contained love.

A1: Righteous Weeping
There are many mentions in the Bible to crying weeping in a contect that is clearly not nrgative or sinful. In fact, several verses portray crying in an extremely positive light, showing it to be an emotion that can be used righteously. It is shown throughout the Old Testament as a means by which certain people entreatied and made requests of God. “And Elkanah, her husband, said to her, "Hannah, why do you weep? And why do you not eat? And why is your heart sad? Am I not more to you than ten sons?" (1Samuel 1:8) Hannah's tear-filled prayer would ultimately be answered, and used as a means by which the whole nation of Israel would experience salvation. The prophet Zechariah understood this means of making requests known to God. “Now the people of Bethel had sent Sharezer and Regem-melech and their men to entreat the favor of the LORD, saying to the priests of the house of the LORD of hosts and the prophets, "Should I weep and abstain in the fifth month, as I have done for so many years?"” (Zechariah 7:2-3). It is clear that Zechariah made weeping, along with abstinence, a habitual part of his holy prayer life. Prayer is not only referred as a part of prayer, but something that God seeks to rectify when He hears. “For a people shall dwell in Zion, in Jerusalem; you shall weep no more. He will surely be gracious to you at the sound of your cry. As soon as he hears it, he answers you” (Isaiah 30:19). Weeping is also seen as an element of godly contrition or sorrow. Jeremiah, known as 'the weeping prophet' wrote this, “But if you will not listen, my soul will weep in secret for your pride; my eyes will weep bitterly and run down with tears, because the LORD's flock has been taken captive” (Jeremiah 13:17). In the New Testament, Jesus makes mention of prayer as part of a righteous person's life in His sermon on the mount. “Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh” (Luke 6:21b). As was previously stated, of the Son of God Himself spends time crying at the death of His friend, “Jesus wept” (John 11:35). As the elders of the church in Acts send Paul off, they are seen elciting the emotion. “And there was much weeping on the part of all; they embraced Paul and kissed him” (Acts 20:37). Paul later writes to Timothy, “As I remember your tears, I long to see you, that I may be filled with joy” (2Timothy 1:4). Throughout these Biblical examples, weeping is seen in a positive light when used in a holy or righteous manner.

A2: Unrighteous Weeping
Weeping is said to accompany the grumbling and complaining of the Isralites in the desert, an act that would be marked as disobedience, and bar them from the Promised Land. Moses asks, “Where am I to get meat to give to all this people? For they weep before me and say, 'Give us meat, that we may eat'” (Numbers 11:13). When God curses Saul and his descendants, he lists weeping, along with death, as one of the punishments. “The only one of you whom I shall not cut off from my altar shall be spared to weep his eyes out to grieve his heart, and all the descendants of your house shall die by the sword of men” (1Samuel 2:33). Nehemiah and Ezra command the people not to weep, for he indicates that it violates a holy day. “And Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, 'This day is holy to the LORD your God; do not mourn or weep.' For all the people wept as they heard the words of the Law” (Nehemiah 8:9). Finally, at the end of all time, part of God's established peace will be a world without weeping. “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4). In these verses, crying is seen to be something distinctly negative, or with an unrighteous connotation.

B1: Righteous Frustration
Frustration, or vexation is seen throughout the Scripture. It is described in one case by Ezra as being the work of God Himself. When our enemies heard that it was known to us and that God had frustrated their plan, we all returned to the wall, each to his work” (Nehemiah 4:15). It is seen that God can not only cause frustration, but He Himself cares for it. “You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book?” (Psalms 56:8). In fact, it is specifically stated that “The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit” (Psalms 34:18). Frustartion and vexation are also seen in the work of Paul as the necessary response when waiting for the work of Christ to be completed. “For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now” (Romans 8:22). “For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling” (2 Corinthians 5:2).

B2: Unrighteous Frustration
There several instances where frustration, or dismay, is associated with fear. God intends to remove both the frustration along with the fear. “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9). “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10). In these two instances, God specifically commands people not to be dismayed, having associated this with fear.

C1: Righteous Happiness
There has been a longstanding debate in the Christian community over the difference between joy and happiness. Without further allusion to that discussion, it will simply be noted that historically and grammatically there has never been a significant difference, and the two will be referenced synonymously.7 There are many references in the Scripture to rejoicing, joy, happiness, being joyful and laughter. Happiness is seen in the Biblical narrative as a blessing from God. “So Israel lived in safety, Jacob lived alone, in a land of grain and wine, whose heavens drop down dew. Happy are you, O Israel! Who is like you, a people saved by the LORD, the shield of your help, and the sword of your triumph! Your enemies shall come fawning to you, and you shall tread upon their backs” (Deuteronomy 33:28-29). This sentiment of joy as a blessing from God is repeated throughout the Bible. “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalms 16:11). The author of Ecclesiastes writes of joy as something useful to fill one's life with. I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live” (Ecclesiastes 3:12). The author of Proverbs wrote of it in a similarly positive light. “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones” (Proverbs 17:22). It is seen as an emotion that accompanies salvation. “With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation” (Isaiah 12:3). In the New Testament, joy is seen as a work of the Holy Spirit. “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17). “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope” (Romans 15:13). Jesus Himself made promises of giving joy. “Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full” (John 16:24). The apostles noted joy as something that was to be accompany avariety of circumstances. “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds” (James 1:2). “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice” (Philippians 4:4).

C2: Unrighteous Happiness
Happiness is portrayed in a negative light, albeit very briefly throughout the Bible. It is shown to sometimes be temporary, “Even in laughter the heart may ache, and the end of joy may be grief” (Proverbs 14:13). Pleasure is described as something that may accompany sin, “choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin” (Hebrews 11:25).

D: Conclusion Regarding Emotions in the Biblical Narrative
This insight into the Bibles references to emotions is far from complete. For the sake of space, only a handful of references to each emotion have been used. This is not to mention that a host of emotions have gone altogether unnamed. This list is neither comprehensive nor complete, but simply scratches the surface of the narrative in an attempt to prove a simple point. Emotions on their own are amoral. No single emotion can be seen to be used solely for good or evil. All emotions contain the possibility of being used for both righteousness and unrighteousness.

3: The Response of the Believer
Thus far, this paper has sought to examine the nature of emotions. Namely, it has addressed where they come from, and consequentially that they are a natural part of the human life, created by God. It has also examined the presence of emotions throughout the Biblical texts. This has shown that emotions of themselves are neither good nor evil. With all of this in mind, the final topic for examination is the role of emotions in the life of the believer. What should Christians do with their emotions? The answer to this is as vague as it is practical. They must use them as a means to fulfill the commandment “Be holy for I am holy” (Leviticus 11:45). Mankind, when told to image an emotional God, is being asked to use every capacity of their humanity, emotions included, to reflect God's character. In Christ, there is a divine model for the reflection of humanity and divinity. One writer put it this way,
“[Jesus] brought divinity into our humanity. But just as significant is what Jesus did in the other direction. He brought humanity into the heart of God. When we say that Christians are the body of Christ, we're not just saying there's a divine dimension to everything Christians do together. We're also saying that the joy, the struggle, the sin, and the pain of human striving on earth are taken up into the life of God.8
For the Christian, emotions are neither to be feared nor ignored. Rather, they are a part of the human life, placed their by God and empathized with by Christ. All human struggle should be seen as an opportunity to worship God. A conscious mental action or strong feeling is natural way to reflect the holiness of God in a situation. It is no wonder that Paul wrote, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds” (James 1:2). The question then, for the believer, should always be, 'in the situation I am in, what emotion would God elicit, and how?' Their response should reflect a desire to bear the image of God on the earth.

Emotions are an intrinsic part of being human, but totally different from a sinful nature. Emotional responses do not rise from depravity, but are part of the character of God and have been a part of humanity since Creation. They appear in various forms as the cognitive and emotional parts of man respond to various situations. Throughout the Biblical narrative, emotions are seen as amoral. That is, they can be used for both righteousness or unrighteousness. The believer then, is tasked with utilizing emotions as a means to become more holy. As part of God's character, the believer should practice each emotion in the same manner to which God uses it. In this is found a Biblical and theological understanding of emotions.
1Merriam-Webster (Accessed 2016), web source.
2McGee (1998), p. 16.
3Backus (1991), p. 93.
4Olford (1999), p. 52.
5Von Buseck (Accessed 2016), web source.
6Olford (1999), p. 53.
7Reinke (Accessed 2016), web source.

8Wells (2011), p. 139.

Wednesday 24 August 2016

What Every Person Needs

Be appalled, O heavens, at this; be shocked, be utterly desolate, declares the LORD, for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water. (Jer 2:12-13)Our lives are meant to be reflectors of God. Being made in His image, we are to mimic His character. This is holiness. He is love, therefore we love in the same way. We reflect His character not by mimicking His nature but by absorbing from His provision. When we entrust our hearts to God's provision, we find not only holiness, but satisfaction in living holy lives.At the same time, the mind is wired to protect itself, the same way the body is designed to protect itself.

The mind naturally feels that it has needs;-To be heard and understood
-To be affirmed
-To be blessed
-To be safe
-To be touched
-To be chosen
-To be included
When your mind believes your 'self' lacks value it either
-Creates a model of living that provides value for itself or
-Justifies it's lack of value.

These are the 'cisterns' our mind drinks from rather than returning to our life-giving Lord. To put that in a practical example, if a young boy sees his drunk father stumble in the door, and hears his mother screaming about what an out of work failure that man is, and how he is tearing apart their family. If this is a defining moment for the boy, he will most likely grow up believing that security is found in keeping a job and being successful, while his significance will be rooted in keeping a family together.The conscious mind sees and interprets circumstances and the subconscious feels the pain of having unmet needs.
When we don't get what we need, we are designed to subconsciously alter its behaviour in an effort to survive. For example, if you stop eating, your body will digest much slower, holding onto whatever food it has. The mind, intrinsically connected to the body, functions in the same way. Whether the mind feels threatened by external circumstances (i.e. what others expect from us) or from inner turmoil (i.e. damaged emotions), it will respond much like your body does when you stop eating; the mind will grab onto what it can and try to defend itself from further damage.The truth is that all of our needs can be met in Christ. The solution is to find and understand what our mind identifies as an unmet need, and why it feels the need to fill that cistern via a spring other than Christ. Ultimately what we believe is that Christ is a sufficient lifesource for all our desires

Sunday 12 June 2016

A Letter To Fundamentalist (Literal Bible) Christians

Today I woke up to tragedy. Sometimes the only thing that sickens me more than tragedy, is people's response to it. After seeing a few 'I don't mind, they were gay,' tweets, I wrote this letter. It is addressed to people who believe the Bible to be literal and innerant (that's what a Fundamentalist is). It is specifically written to those who think this might be 'less tragic' because of sexual orientation.

Dear Fundamentalist Christian,

You believe the Bible to be true. Literal. Relevant. I respect that. In a postmodern world, those devoted to their core beliefs are often few and far between. In the past year, you have become the center of much attention. Maybe not you personally, but people who think like you. America's worst shooting ever was recorded today (June 12, 2016), and now eyes will swing to you again. This shooting appears to have been the result of an anti-gay agenda.

(If you aren't familiar with what happened, catch up on CNN)

Perhaps you are not convinced this is a bad thing. Since you believe the Bible to be literal, you believe homosexuality is wrong. You know that 'the wages of sin is death.' Perhaps you've compared America to Sodom and Gomorrah. After all, they were struck down.

I want to explain to you why this tragedy is heart-breaking. Why you, a Fundamentalist, should empathize and identify with the LGBT community. Why you should love them. And I want to do that while taking the Bible literally.

Homosexuality as Sin

Sometimes being gay is singled out as a great offense. Does the Bible call homosexuality sin? Yes. Twice by name (1 Cor 6:9, 1 Tim 1:10). But bear in mind that both those verses come in a broader context. In Corinthians, Paul is speaking about sexual immorality in general, regardless of gender. In Timothy he is speaking about being 'lawless' as a whole.

When the Bible speaks of sexual sin, it refers to something that defaces an image God gave us. Ephesians 5 describes sex, and marriage as a whole, as something that represents the relationship
between Christ and the church. This union is something so sacred it is not even to be joked about(Eph 5:4). He details that any sexual relationship that does not represent the Christ-church union is immoral. This includes homosexuality, but it puts it on a level playing field with all other sexual sin.

Some argue that homosexuality is unique because it is described as unnatural (Rom 1:26). But you'll be hard pressed to see it separated as 'different than other sexual sin' in Old Testament law. You'll see that homosexuality (Lev 20:13) is treated the same as all other sexual immorality (Lev 20:10-23).

The broader message of Scripture is 'all have sinned.' And this is far more essential to the gospel than teaching 'homosexuality is sin.'

God As Judge

God created humans and gave us dominion (Gen 1:26). This made us rulers of the world, but according to His conditions. When sin entered the world, we made our own rules. Mankind acted as though they were in charge. Essentially told God that the dominion He gave them was theirs and not His. This resulted in Cain killing Able. God, as giver of life, determines the length of the life of His creation. But Cain took this into his own hands.

When God chooses to judge humanity, whether by flood (Gen 6), by fire (Gen 19) or opening the Earth to swallow people (Num 26), He does so Himself. We don't get to be judges. We didn't give life. We aren't qualified to take it away.

Murder is always tragedy. It is an act of rebellion against God's dominion. It is always sin. It is never to be celebrated. Someone has named themself (like Cain) as a better judge than God.

In the case of the non-Christian it means the end of their opportunity to repent. As sign waving street-corner preachers keep reminding us, the Bible says sinners go to hell. In fact, the only death the Bible sees as worth celebrating is the death of the Christian (Phi 1:21).

Is Love the Answer?

The word love is being misused. And not just by the #Loveislove people (See my post on that here). So please understand me as I say this.

We are to love all people equally.

Consider Jesus and the adulterous woman (John 4). Or the other adulterous woman (John 8). Or the other one (Luke 7). Consider the accusation against Jesus, “The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, 'Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!'” (Luk 7:34).

He's accused of this many times. Many, many times. He hung out with sinners. A sinless friend of sinners. If you were the same way, people wouldn't call you intolerant so quickly after this shooting.

Do you see Paul express disdain or hatred toward Corinth? They were sexually immoral in many ways (1 Cor 5-7). What we see is careful instruction. 'Be pure.' 'Glorify God in your body.' Never, 'don't worry so much if those temple prostitutes you stay away from get killed.' In fact, he never even goes so far as to say 'stay away from temple prostitutes.' And Paul says A LOT about sexual immorality.

In Closing

Ask yourself some questions about the Orlando shooting. Would you be more heart-broken if straight people had been targeted? Consider other great tragedies in the U.S. Could there have been anyone in the twin towers who had sex before marriage? Anyone in Columbine addicted to pornography?

Are you less saddened because the targets of today were at a gay bar? Are you qualified to judge the length of someone's life? Do you have as much love for these victims as Jesus did? Do you love their families?

If the Bible is right, people are in hell today. Mourn. Weep. From today onward make it a priority to love unconditionally. To teach about grace to all people. You are responsible to tell them the gospel, which includes telling them they have sinned. You are not responsible for their condemnation.


A Fundamentalist Christian

Tuesday 1 March 2016

Why Joseph?

When you only get one shot at something, you want to make it count. The Christian drama team I help to run is as short-term as ministries come. In many places, we are in and out in a day. We get one chance, sometimes only an hour, to communicate truth through the telling of a Bible story. Now, after

four months and nearly 100 shows, I want to answer a very common question.

Why Joseph?”

With only an hour to hit people with the gospel, why not the life of Christ? Why not the crucifix? Why write a play about Joseph?

For those of you haven't seen Out of The Pit, it follows the story of Joseph, as accounted in Genesis, and highlights some comparisons between this Old Testament figure and the person of Christ. I chose Joseph because I see him as unique in the Biblical narrative; unique in that he is described as a sinless man. While he certainly sinned at times in his life, it is interesting to note that in the Joseph narrative there is no Bathsheba, he kills no Egyptian, and he doesn't come from a past of persecuting the church. The author of Genesis describes him in such a way as to make him stand out among his Biblical buddies.

Most major Old Testament characters have traits or life experiences that are repeated in the person of Jesus. Moses stands between God and man and asks that his life be taken in place of the people (Exodus 32:32). Joshua saw victory given and sin defeated (Joshua 2:24). Jeremiah tells the people that if they carry a yoke (much like a cross is carried) they will live, but if they do not, they will die (Jeremiah 27, Matthew 16:24).

The event we focus on in Out of The Pit is the fact that Joseph is placed into the ground, and then rises out to become a ruler. The first time, he is placed into a well by his mocking brothers, and the second time into a prison by Potiphar. It's an imperfect picture of exactly what happened to our Saviour. Jesus is placed into His grave after being rejected by his Jewish brothers. Like Joseph, he was condemned and punished though he had done nothing wrong.

While the gospel may centre around the event of the crucifixion and resurrection, it's divine message of redemption had been echoing through history hundreds of years before Jesus was born. And this was no mistake on God's part – He chose to unveil salvation slowly. To use people as His divine object lesson. When we see the Old Testament characters as imperfect images of who our Saviour would someday be, we have taken the first step into unlocking the message behind a gospel that has been unfolding since time began. In the theological world we call tools like this 'hermenutics.' Little keys that unlock the meaning of big passages.

Sometimes people need to be equipped to find truth on their own, rather than having it spoonfed to them. I grew up reading the Bible, but I never knew what it meant. No one ever showed me all the great Old Testament 'study tips' the writer of Hebrews seems to use so well. So I read up to Malachai like every good pastor's kid. And when I hit the gospels, I found the same well-combed, loving, gracious and one dimensional Jesus most people in North-American churches have cheapened him to be. You need the backstory – the wrath and redemption, the blood and the sacrifices, to understand Jesus.

Joseph isn't just a godly man...he is an image of who Jesus
would be.
And you can't be taught that. As great as Sunday School is, people need to discover Jesus for themselves. To read his story and say, 'Wow! Look at this guy!' So the best teachers will always be ones who let students discover things for themselves. And that's what we try to do with Out of The Pit. Give people the tools to discover Jesus for themselves. He's hidden inside the Old Testament, and when you can find Him on your own, you're headed somewhere great.

When you've found the Bible to be more than just a book, you've found the beginning of the true gospel. After all, Jesus Himself is the Word (John 1:1), and this truth is prominently stated as a prelude to His life. John's introduction to Jesus as a man is, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us,” (John 1:14). You can not have Jesus the man without taking Him as Jesus the Word. Those Old Testament truths were His. Those stories, about Him. And His gospel is reflecting off of every single letter from Genesis to Revelation

So we tell the story of Joseph. And we teach one,very basic hermenutic. We hand a little 'key' to adults and children alike and invite them to discover the Biblical narrative for themselves. One hour to teach truth. And the simple message of Scripture is all this dying world needs.

Monday 20 July 2015

The Advance of the Gospel (Sermon)

This sermons was preached by Kevin Deane on June 14, 2015 at Fairmont Baptist Church in Saskatoon. You can listen to the sermon online here.

WWI was filled with heroics, battles and bloodshed. One of the most significant battles and pivotal moments in Canadian history was the battle of Vimy ridge. There were 4 Canadian divisions against 3 German divisions. Vimy Ridge is a ridge in France that overlooks a very crucial pass. Take it, and the armies can advance. The battle began at 5:30 am on April 9. It was during a heavy and cold snowstorm. By 6:30 am they had captured the first line of defense. By 7:30 am, three of the four divisions had captured the second line. The 4th division was almost entirely wiped out. After 4 days, Canada had captured the ridge. You can well imagine the commander behind this attack. His orders would have been very simple, "keep on advancing." There was no adequate excuse for the troops to stop. Their conversations, had there been any, would have been something like, "It's snowing." "Advance!" "The fourth battalion has been wiped out." "Advance!"

I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.
(Php 1:3-5)

Paul is thankful for this church. He is filled with joy every time he remembers them. Why? Because of their participation in seeing the gospel go forth.
The gospel is like an advancing army, and they have supported that army.
Stop and think of all the reasons Paul could have been filled with joy for these people. He is not filled with joy because they were once saved – although I'm sure when they were converted He was jubilant. He's not filled with joy when he remembers them because of their hospitality or great memories he has of them. He's not filled with joy because they are particularly knowledgable, or have something new and exciting going on in the church, or even because they are growing. Paul is filled with excitement, filled with joy, because when he thinks of these people, he is reminded of the fact that the gospel is going forth.
It is the advance of the gospel that is of the primary importance to Paul.

If you think of being far from home, it's not hard to relate to the concept of being filled with joy. Your letters home might say something like,
'I'm excited to know you are safe and healthy,' or, 'I was excited to hear about the marriage of so-and-so' or that someone got a new job.
Even when we are absent from the people we love, we still celebrate with them and for them. Paul is filled with joy every time he remembers them, but not because of their well-being or because of any accomplishment, he is filled with joy because of the role they play in seeing the gospel go forth.

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel.
(Php 1:6-7)

So here Paul is expressing the same thing. He says he is confident that God will bring them to completion at the day of Christ Jesus. Why is it ok for him to think that? Because he holds them in his heart. In the greek, that is his inward being, the center of all emotion. So there's this deep yearning that is going on in Paul. He loves them deeply – why does he hold them in his heart? Read verse 7 – because they are partkaers in grace, in his imprisonment and in his defense and confirmation of the gospel.

For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.
(Php 1:8-11)

The love he has for the Phillipians is not his own. This deep love, this passion, it is because Christ is loving through him. He deeply loves them and gives them a model for how they ought to live.
And now here is Paul's desire for them – he desires them to grow and grow and be more holy. More love. More knowledge. More discernement. Approve what is excellent. Be pure. Be blameless. This is what Paul wants for them.

And it's an absolutely incredible call for us to examine our own affections. To examine what brings us joy. Because what we are going to see in the rest of this book is that there is absolutely nothing Paul is not willing to go through, nothing Paul is not willing to give up in order to see the gospel advanced. Knowing that Jesus' message is advancing is so high on Paul's priority list that it should put all our selfishness to shame.

So while we live our lives in our comfortable homes with our nice leather bound Bibles. What the book of Phillipians is asking us today, is how much of a role do we play in seeing the gospel advance. And how well do we on Paul's model of living? Do you love more? Know more? Than yesterday?

"I see so few of our churches risking everything for the mission. We have retreated into our nice big buildings, where we sit in our nice, cushioned pews and chairs, where we are insulated and isolated from the inter-cities and spiritual lostness of the world. We have given a tip of our hats to world missions and evangelism as an optional program for the faithful few while we go on designing endless programs that revolve around us; and when we should be on the firing lines for God...most of our people are still in the nurseries of our churches drinking spiritual milk." - David Platt

Is a ticket at a parking metre what makes or breaks your day? Or is it the advance of the gospel that gives you joy?

What gives you joy? God is the giver of joy. And in the cross we see every attribute of God represented. In looking at the cross we see God. Knowing God and seeing others given the opportunity to know God should be the greatest thrill we can encounter.

Think about the fact that in the last week, dozens of funerals have taken place in this city. About 4 thousand people died worldwide because of Aids. Thousands worlwide have been sold into the sex trade. And what really grabbed hold of your attention this week was if the Blackhwaks would beat the Lightning. Shouldn't our focus be riveted on a message that can counteract all the darkness?

See we're like, 'what an awful day I got stuck dealing with people all day long,' and Paul's like, 'I just got thrown in prison and am now chained to a guard. This is awesome, the guard can't go anywhere. I'm going to preach all night long. Even if I sing he can't leave.'

Read these verses:
I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.
(Php 1:12-14)

Do you hear that? He's happy, or even pleased with what has happened because it serves as an opportunity to advance the gospel. I think the modern parallel would be to write something like, “I want you to know, brothers, that I have cancer. But this has really served to advance the gospel, for I now have opportunity to preach it to a variety of hospital staff.”

We as a culture are so self-absorbed. Our first priority is our own well-being, and the well-being of our children. Just think how many children have been discouraged from going to the mission field, or from bible college, because their parents didn't want them to encounter a life of poverty and hardship. But here's Paul, 'I am excited to see the gospel is advancing.'

I was at a youth conference a few weeks ago with about 400 young kids and several youth leaders. I was working with this one youth group and staying with the leaders. And from these two ladies that helped organize it, every morning we got up we heard new complaints. “These matresses are thin, my back hurts. Oh, I'm so tired from that late night. I'm having to runa round with these kids. I'm too old to do these weekends more than once a year.” And I remember sitting in a session and hearing the gospel proclaimed so clearly and we brought 8 youth. I think 5 of them went forward to receive Christ. And I could see visible, tangible changes in these kids lives. Maybe you should sleep on thin mattresses more often. Maybe tiredness is really just selfishness. Paul would have been thrilled to sleep on thin matts – he's thrilled to sit in prison! and run around all night with those kids if they got to hear the Word of God.
But here's Paul, 'I am excited to see the gospel is advancing.'

Paul isn't excited about seeing different giftings used (and he wrote Corinthians). He's not excited about new or different programs going in churches. He's excited about the advance of the gospel. I think our priorities are wrong, when we get excited that the awesome games we play has helped our youth group grow to 40 kids.
When the reality is, we should be more excited that 5 kids were taught, grown, mentored, sanctified, and made into evangelists. The Christian has a very different view of success than the world does.

Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former proclaim Christ out of rivalry, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again.
(Php 1:15-26)

Our understanding of success, and our understanding of endurance changes dramatically. See the average person when faced with difficulty clings to the hope that the sun will come up tomorrow. That they will make it though the darkness. But for the Christian, every roadblock, every barrier, is an opportunity to proclaim the gospel, whether we make it through or not.
We are a faith built on upon a history of men and women who have endured unto death.

The priority of the Christian faith is seeing the gospel advance.

Think of Stephen, proclaiming the gospel to the Jews. And they begin to hate him and become angry. He is not looking for a light at the end of the tunnel. If you think a happy ending means peace and prosperity, and good prevailing, then Stephen's story does not have a happy ending. As they pick up stones and kill him, the happy ending is seeing the gospel travel from Jeruslaen to the ends of the earth.

As the apostles are murdered, one by one, they are not looking for silver lining in those dark days, but they are singing hymns as they go to be publicly murdered because they know the gospel is advancing.

In more recent times, Jim Elliot marches into Ecuador and is murdered. If you read his diary, he was ready to pay that price. And his wife knew what was important – not the memory of her husband, but the advancement of the gospel, and she marched into the tribe and preached herself.

Regardless of what we face, our priority is always the gospel. It's the only thing that ought to stir the affections of our hearts. Seeing it advanced is our first priority. And if we will spend our lives advancing the gospel, it must mean the death of our self-centred love of our own comfort.

Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God. For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.
(Php 1:27-30)

I can't help but think of the story of George Whitefield. A man who preached daily until he died of exhaustion.
  • He started preaching at 24
  • On average, preached about 1,000 times every year, or three times a day
  • He preached for 30 years
  • This included 18,000 different sermons and 12,000 different talks and lectures.
  • Most weeks he was speaking more than he was sleeping
  • He preached on average for 60 hours a week
  • He never took time off (there was no private life or family life)
  • No one has ever really preached as much or as widely
  • He preached until the age of 54, when he was on his way from town to town and was intercepted on the way. He was asked to preach and could barely finish he was so tired. He continued on to the town he was headed to and had to be carried from the boat because he was so tired. The house didn't hold all the people, so he preached outside. Despite being almost two weak to finish, he completed his sermon. He went to bed, got up in the morning, prayed on his knees, lay down on his bed and died of exhaustion.

Let us be the same way. Let us not be concerned for ourselves. Not concerned for our safety, or our well-being or our reputation. Let us see that te gospel advances through Saskatoon. Whether they martyr us or we see revival. Let us make it our priority.

Thursday 16 July 2015

The Need for Wisdom (Sermon)

This sermon was preached by Kevin Deane at Fairmont Baptist Church in Saskatoon on
 July 12, 2015.

When Adam and Eve ate that fruit they lost their relationship with God, but there were many things they gained (or gained the knowledge of). Justice, for example had never been known, because God had never previously had anyone to judge. No one in the garden had ever preached a sermon on righteous living. They gained the knowledge of both good, and also of evil. The problem was their natural tendency to choose evil. So just as an example, Cain knew that God was not pleased with his sacrifice of vegetables. He knew that was wrong according to God. But he did not discern that God would be even less pleased with him killing his brother. Cain could have asked God what he should do. He could have sought out wisdom. But instead he ended up being a wicked man. It was not that God was not willing to show what justice and righteousness looked like, but Cain was not willing to listen.

And the rest of human history has been the story of men and women continuing to do evil, because although God has revealed the path of righteousness, we are bent and wired to do otherwise. So I believe the Bible is one large story and one large cry for mankind to rely on something outside of ourselves. That to be righteous we need something that we do not naturally posses. To be made righteous once and for all we need to be justified through Christ's blood, but more than that in, order to live a righteous life we need a wisdom that only God can provide.

The book of Proverbs, is no exception, and highlights the value of wisdom. And I think the first three chapters are one big dissertation, or one big poem on the importance and necessity of gaining wisdom. In order to live righteously, we're going to need a God-given wisdom. Now Solomon writes about gaining wisdom with the assumption that it isn't something we naturally have. But he does write about it as something we need. In fact, he says several times that it is the start of the fear of the Lord. That is to say that in order to understand righteousness or justice or equity, we will need wisdom. So lets' read Chapter 2.

"My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God. For the LORD gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding; he stores up sound wisdom for the upright; he is a shield to those who walk in integrity, guarding the paths of justice and watching over the way of his saints. Then you will understand righteousness and justice and equity, every good path; for wisdom will come into your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul; discretion will watch over you, understanding will guard you, delivering you from the way of evil, from men of perverted speech, who forsake the paths of uprightness to walk in the ways of darkness, who rejoice in doing evil and delight in the perverseness of evil, men whose paths are crooked, and who are devious in their ways. So you will be delivered from the forbidden woman, from the adulteress with her smooth words, who forsakes the companion of her youth and forgets the covenant of her God; for her house sinks down to death, and her paths to the departed; none who go to her come back, nor do they regain the paths of life. So you will walk in the way of the good and keep to the paths of the righteous. For the upright will inhabit the land, and those with integrity will remain in it, but the wicked will be cut off from the land, and the treacherous will be rooted out of it."
(Pro 2:1-22)

So if we gain wisdom we will understand the fear of the Lord. These are the promises for the one who gains wisdom: We will understand righteousness and justice and equity and every good path. Knowledge will be pleasant to our souls. We will be delivered from the way of evil. Delivered from men of perverted speech. Be delivered from the forbidden woman. We will walk in the way of good and keep to the paths of righteousness. Godliness is in the hand of the wise.

See all of us naturally know the difference between good and evil (more or less). We know that perverted speech and adulterous women are wrong. But what we lack is the perspective of eternity. We lack a sufficient knowledge of God and His rewards to continually make the right choices. We knowingly choose wrong, not because of a lack of self-control, but a lack of wisdom. We need something that we do not naturally possess. So we are going to look at three tendencies or three common foolish choices that you and I make. They are outlined in the book of proverbs so we can really see and understand how much we need wisdom and where we can get it.

The sluggard says, "There is a lion in the road! There is a lion in the streets!" As a door turns on its hinges, so does a sluggard on his bed. The sluggard buries his hand in the dish; it wears him out to bring it back to his mouth. The sluggard is wiser in his own eyes than seven men who can answer sensibly.
(Pro 26:13-16)

I believe every one of us contains at least some tendencies to be the sluggard. The sluggard is the kind of person who makes excuses for not doing the work given to him. There are no lions in Israel. He invents imaginary foes so he may continue to hide comfortably inside.

The sluggard is the kind of person who doesn't give to the church because of an impending financial crisis
The sluggard is the kind of person who can't help with youth because they don't want to be overworked, and goes home to watch TV.
The sluggard is the kind of person who refuses to volunteer at a soup kitchen for the sake of their own safety.
The sluggard is the kind of person who won't lead a Bible study because they don't know enough, but hasn't bothered to try studying or preparing.
The sluggard is the kind of person who wants to cancel church because there is an inch of snow on the ground.

They take a problem that could be a problem, something with very small potential to be real, it grows into a certainty in their minds and they end up staying in their house doing nothing because they believe 'there is a lion in the streets.' And this could be a very genuine belief. It isn't always a conscious excuse. Sometimes it's birthed out of insecurity. Sometimes it comes from a bad experience in the past

The other thing a sluggard does is turns on his bed like a door on a hinge. And buries his hand in a dish but can't find the strength to bring it back to his mouth. Now when eating or sleeping is used to rejuvenate you for working it is a good thing. A God-given thing. But when resting becomes unproductive it is simply a waste of time. I think we are all prone to this. Many people, after a long day of work want to come home, turn the TV on and turn their brain off. We want to do something that doesn't engage, doesn't require effort or a response. One of the most common trends among my age bracket is to take a day off as a day to spend watching through a whole season of a TV show or just watching netflix. We fill our heads with media. When even our resting is unproductive, we are the sluggard he describes.

I think we all contain at least some 'sluggard' tendencies. So what is wisdom? What we lack is the perspective of eternity. Knowing how long eternity is and how short life is changes our work ethic. The wise man knows and understands righteousness. Which means he no longer lives for Himself, but says with Paul, “Whether I eat or drink or whatever I do, I do all for the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31)

The second tendency we all have is to desire things that appear good. Let's read 5:1-6:
My son, be attentive to my wisdom; incline your ear to my understanding, that you may keep discretion, and your lips may guard knowledge. For the lips of a forbidden woman drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil, but in the end she is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword. Her feet go down to death; her steps follow the path to Sheol; she does not ponder the path of life; her ways wander, and she does not know it.
(Pro 5:1-6)

This is like a man who is extremely hungry and he walks to a restaurant. But as he gets closer to the restaurant he is so hungry he can not contain himself, and he dives into the garbage can and starts chewing on the rubbish. Is his hunger satisfied? Yes. But is he given the strength and nutrition he needs? No. See the temptation has all the appearance of being good – this adulterous woman drips with honey and is smoother than oil, but in the end she is as bitter as wormwood.

I want to borrow an illustration from John Piper. He was speaking on the subject of pornography, but I think it is more widely applicable.

If you were sitting at your computer screen, caught fully in the sway of sexual desire, more powerfully than you ever felt before, with every intention to look at something innapropriate online, and suddenly an ISIS member with a black mask burst into your room with a knife to the throat of your best friend. And they said they would kill your best friend, perhaps its your wife, if you clicked on that site, you would suddenly find you have all the self control you need. Likewise, if someone burst into your room and offered you one million legitimate tax-free dollars if you did not click on that site, you would have all the self control you need. There is no one who has a true sexual addiction, there are only people who make poor sexual choices.

He's speaking of pornography but I think the lesson is far more broad. Sin costs us intimacy with God. Purity offers us a chance to experience the riches of Jesus. If we actually knew and believed that losing intimacy with God was more costly than losing our best friend, we would have self-control. If we actually believed the riches of Jesus Christ were more valuable than a million dollars, we would have the self-control we needed.

The Holy Spirit's job is to constantly reveal to us the cost of sin and the riches of Jesus. What is wisdom? Knowing and believing how much sin cost us.

Over the last few weeks, with the legalization of homosexual marriage in the States and the rise of gay pride worldwide, I believe the church is headed into a new and bigger battlefield than ever before. The early church faced martyrdom, the Reformation era saw political and social rejection, but I think our era will be remembered for a different fight. I believe we will be remembered for our sexual purity. I think the church is entering a new age where a pastor having an affair will no longer be a 'scandal,' it will be a permanent stain on the ministry. Now, more than ever, the purity of the believer is of utmost importance.

The third tendency Solomon talks about in Proverbs is having a loose tongue.
Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble. "Scoffer" is the name of the arrogant, haughty man who acts with arrogant pride.
(Pro 21:23-24)

If you can keep control over your tongue you can stay out of trouble. How you use your tongue is a huge key to righteous living.
How and when we speak can have a huge effect on our life.
Think about what words can do in the context of:
Church life – gossip can rift quicker than murder
Evangelism – We can have the right words but lack compassion. We can offend with our presentation rather than message.
Work – The break room can easily become the complain room

Proverbs talks a a lot about quarrels. It takes wisdom to know when and which fights to become a part of. Jesus knew when to rebuke pharisees and when to stand silent before Pilate. We need His wisdom.
Proverbs also talks a lot about speaking when it isn't necessary. A common image in the book is of the nagging wife – a favourite image for some. Words can put unnecessary tension in a family. Too many words can tear apart a marriage.

So here we are – the sluggard, the one who is tempted by what appears good, and the one with a loose tongue. Maybe you identify with one of those images, maybe you identify with all of them. The point is that we all have tendencies to make foolish decisions. Tendencies to live unrighteous. What we need in order to live Godly daily lives is a perspective of eternity. To know the length of eternity and the value of knowing Jesus Christ.

Proverbs 2 told us very clearly that when we look for wisdom we will find it. The Fear of the Lord and wisdom are two things that inspire and cause each other. God has given the eye, and given light to meet the eye's need, and in the same way, God has not only given the heart, but given wisdom to help meet the heart's need. Wisdom is offered as freely to man as folly is. God 'stores it up' for the upright. Meaning it is free, but it is hidden away for those who seek it according to his conditions. As gold is found by those who dig deep in the ground, wisdom is found by those who dig deep into the Word. Searching for wisdom is a process of refining and purification. As it comes into your heart, knowledge will become pleasant to your soul. When we are given wisdom, it can be put into practical use.

When we are given wisdom, we will understand the Fear of the Lord. And when we understand the fear of the Lord, we will begin to see the value of the time on Earth we have been given, and we will not waste it. As we are given the fear of the Lord, we will see the cost of sin and the riches of Jesus and we will remain pure. As we are given the fear of the Lord we will learn to guard our tongues and use them for building others up. This is the heart of the gospel; we need God's help. And that He is willing to give it. Wisdom calls from the streets. Seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures.

Monday 29 June 2015

Christians Don't Need More Blogs About Homosexuality

What we need is another Christian blog post about homosexuality. Said no one, at all, in the last few days. Instead, as Facebook feeds slowly fill up with rainbow themed decor, what we have heard again and again is, “If you don't want their beliefs forced on you, don't force yours on them.” We've heard it from the Pride and the homophobic community alike. The fact is, this 'freedom' that Christians have been celebrating, thanking God for and taking for granted for years has finally come back to bite them. And we are left in a world where, as a rule, everyone has settled on an opinion and doesn't want to hear yours. And while rainbows are flying higher than ever, Christians are responding with innumerable posts stating that 'we can love you but still disagree,' which will continue to be misunderstood, but needs to keep being repeated.

In truth, 99% of people on both sides just want peace. In fact that's what most of the hashtags #lovewins on Twitter are about – from those both for and against legal gay marriage. You have freedom, they have freedom, and everyone values that freedom. We get it.

So what exactly are Christians doing in this quickly developing culture? For the most part, awkwardly trying to remind people that they value traditional marriage, because they feel overwhelmed by a rainbow coloured Facebook newsfeed, and feel the need to raise their own banner and remind the world we are still here.

The world is already clear on what the
church believes about traditional
marriage. What they're still missing
is what we believe about Christ.
But, for the record, I haven't seen any pictures recently of a famous preacher's face bearing a quote about honesty. Or about covetousness. In fact, even with the rise of #lovewins I haven't seen anyone talking about the great sin of hate. Nope. Just homosexuality. Despite the fact that the Bible takes a stance on a multitude of common issues, we don't proudly wave our flags on every issue. Why? Because our actions have always said more than our anti-sin declarations. The apostles were accused of turning the world for publicly declaring that Jesus was the Christ, not not for taking firm and public stances on sin (Acts 17:1-8). So do we remain silent on the issue of marriage? No. But we make holiness, and not clarity of opinion our priority.

The church is headed into a new and bigger battlefield than ever before. The early church faced generations of martyrdom, the Reformation era saw political and social rejection, but our era will be remembered for a different fight. I believe we will be remembered for our sexual purity. I think the church is entering a new age where a pastor having an affair will no longer be a 'scandal,' it will be a permanent stain on the ministry. I think the church's purity, and not her opinions, will be what is mocked and paraded in the streets.

In the last few weeks, we received the resignation of a very famous conservative preacher in the States because of 'an inappropriate relationship.' I a convinced that if this becomes a common occurrence it will be the new 'Crusades' – the foolishness of men paraded for generations as the foolishness of Christ.

Be careful, Christian. For we are being judged by our conduct. Because guess what? The world already knows the church's stance on homosexuality. You don't need to put up another post. But what you do need to do is very seriously consider the following verses for yourself. Not for anyone outside the church (for this was written specifically to a church), but consider this for yourself.:

And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.” (Eph 5:2-5)

Now, more than ever, our sexual purity matters. It will rise to be the icon of this generation. Before you worry about reminding the world of your marriage stance, let your conduct reflect Christ. Let purity be our defining mark, and may it blaze as a bright witness.