Drawing Near

A Pastoral Perspective on Biblical, Theological, & Cultural Issues | The Personal Website of James B. Law, Ph.D.

Yearly Archive: 2012

Monday

26

November 2012

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COMMENTS

Avoiding Spiritual Implosion

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I have always been fascinated how engineers can bring down old, unwanted buildings in the middle of a city skyline with relatively little damage to the surrounding area.  One thing is for sure in these projects, the engineers are not haphazard in the placement of the explosives.  They want the building to implode, not explode. The goal is to have the building collapse and fall straight down, as opposed to an explosion that would send shrapnel out into the city.

“Implosion” is a violent collapse inward, a violent compression, and it is the method of choice when it comes to the demolition of abandoned buildings.  However, the word “implosion” has also become a cultural term used to describe someone who has lost control.

A boss who goes on a tirade, a coach who goes on a rant, or a politician whose campaign has lost traction all could be described in popular vernacular as implosions.

I believe such an understanding within the context of God’s people could describe a condition of the soul called spiritual implosion.  Spiritual implosion could be understood as a professing believer, one who once had a seemingly vibrant walk with Jesus Christ, suddenly falling away and pursuing other things.

From a pastoral perspective, I would define spiritual implosion as “a violent collapse inward that causes the hardening of the heart which in turn makes it nearly impossible to receive spiritual truth or the filling of the Holy Spirit.”  Such a spiritual condition is dangerous and devastating.

Scripture is not silent regarding such a condition.  One doesn’t have to imagine very hard the sorrow which filled the Apostle Paul as he wrote of Demas’ spiritual implosion in 2 Timothy 4:10, Demas, having loved this present world, has deserted me.”

It is not difficult for us to understand what is at stake when the writer to the Hebrews warns his readers, “Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God. But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called ‘Today,’ so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.”

A major question for every follower of Jesus Christ is, “How do we get to the finish line in this race called the Christian life? How do I run well for the approval of my great God and Savior? How do I fight the good fight and avoid spiritual implosion?”

I believe the answers to those questions are straightforward. The Lord is aware of our implosive tendencies and has given to us specific instructions on how to be strong in Him.

1.  We must not neglect the word of God and prayer.  There are no substitutes for these spiritual disciplines.   It is meditation on the word of God that carries with it the promise of blessing and success. We must savor the promises of God given to us in the Scriptures.

2. We must not forsake the fellowship of God’s people through a local Body.

Implosion begins in the secret place of the heart. The evil one’s strategy is to get us alone and then beat the life out of us. Our local church is God’s answer to that assassin’s plot. We must get up, show up, look up and say with the Psalmist, “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord.’”  We need the accountability and the sharpening that can only come through a covenant membership in a local church.

3. We must rejoice in the Lord more and more, not less and less.

At the heart of this rejoicing is the cross and resurrection.  We are to be people glorying in the cross and constantly amazed at what God has done for us through his Son. As we grow older, the vicissitudes of life can take their toll if we are not careful.  The resolve of John Piper resonates with me, “I don’t want to be a grumpy old man…. I will resist stereotypes of old people, and play and sing and shout with joy.” With the turning of the calendar, we should be praising Him more and more, not less and less, and with each praise we are fighting off implosive temptations.

4. We must be filled with the Holy Spirit.

What we need in this day of nominal, lukewarm, half-hearted Christianity is to come face-to-face with the command of the Spirit-filled life.  The command to be filled with the Holy Spirit found in Ephesians 5:18-20 is for every believer.  We are to be carried along and empowered by the Holy Spirit which in turn brings joy, power, gratitude, and submission.

To implode spiritually is catastrophic, and it happens to those within the Body who once appeared like a strong, significant building in a city skyline. Then one day, the collapse, and great is the fall. Watch over your soul and run the race that ends at the Savior’s feet.

Friday

26

October 2012

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COMMENTS

The Misuse of God’s Name

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I’m grateful for the reminders of this time of year to give thanks to the Lord for all of his care and provision in our lives.  As Matt Redman has eloquently stated in his song 10,000 reasons,

“Bless the Lord, O my soul
O my soul
Worship His holy name
Sing like never before
O my soul
I’ll worship Your holy name

You’re rich in love, and You’re slow to anger
Your name is great, and Your heart is kind
For all Your goodness I will keep on singing
Ten thousand reasons for my heart to find.”

However, in the course of life, we find that Redman’s words are a rarity, and instead we hear more often than not God’s name blasphemed and not praised. God has gone on record in the third commandment to addresses the problem of misusing His name. Exodus 20:7 reads, “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain.”

The word “vain” is describing an empty expression or usage of God’s name.  This would include broken oaths or vows; irreverence; scorn; or cursing.  These violations carry  consequences, “…the LORD will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain.”

“The abuse of His name snaps open an umbrella that deflects the showers of grace God desires to give us,” wrote R. Kent Hughes.

The third commandment deserves some serious thought especially as we live in a culture that has become increasingly vulgar and irreverent.  We have become like the friend of Lord Byron, who according to Byron was described this way, “He knew not what to say, and so he swore.”

The right to free speech has been turned into everyone saying whatever they want without regard for how those words will impact others or how they line up with what God has established in the third commandment.

The advent of the Internet and email has not enhanced healthier communication either.  In fact, many seem empowered by the impersonal buffer of a computer screen to expel brazen and profane rants without a blush.

The profaning of God’s name is so commonplace that it is hardly noticed by many, and in fact, if “done well” is viewed as stylish and cutting edge.

While it may be popular to use God’s name as a throw away expression, God’s Word still stands: “You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses His name.”

In the book of James, we are told that while we stumble in many ways, if we master what we say, we have mastered life.  However, an honest assessment of the words that pass through our lips in a given week cause us to admit that our speech is anything but mastered.

In Matthew 15:18-20, Jesus said that what comes out of our mouth reveals our greatest problem, “But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders. These are the things which defile the man.”

Every violation of the third commandment is a reminder that we need a Savior who can transform our heart and forgive our transgressions.  In Christ, we find such a redeemer who came to this earth and as He died upon the cross he heard soldiers curse and blaspheme his name.  We need such a Savior because one day we will give an account of every word we have ever spoken. One of the first signs of a transformed heart is a changed vocabulary.

Thinking about the third commandment should lead us to such a resolve: Of the millions of words I will speak in my lifetime, I will save my references to God for worship, speaking the truth, and building up other people. 

Monday

22

October 2012

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COMMENTS

A Word of Appreciation for George McGovern

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When I learned yesterday morning that George McGovern had passed away, I was taken back to Stephen Ambrose’s portrait of McGovern’s earlier life as a U.S. airman in World War II.  Masterfully, Ambrose presented McGovern’s tour of duty in, “The Wild Blue: The Men and Boys Who flew the B-24s Over Germany.”

As I read of McGovern’s sacrifice and sincerity during the war years, I developed a respect for this man that has stayed with me.  His courage was unparalleled as he flew 35 sorties. Few pilots survived such a feat. On one mission, McGovern flew his plane with over 100 holes in the fuselage and wings and a failed hydraulic system.  The physical problems with the aircraft were complicated by an injured waist gunner, and a flight engineer who was so traumatized by the experience that he would subsequently be hospitalized with battle fatigue.  Against these circumstances, McGovern managed to bring back the plane safely with the assistance of an improvised landing technique.

In the years after the war, McGovern entered politics in his native South Dakota. While I could never vote for George McGovern because I reject many of the planks of his political platform, I would acknowledge that he was a man with strong ideas and genuine compassion.   I especially appreciated this anecdote coming later in his life as recorded by Stephen Ambrose:

George McGovern was lecturing in Austria at the University of Innsbruck.  He was contacted by the director of Austrian television’s state-owned station requesting an interview with McGovern to talk about bombing Austrian targets.

Reluctantly he agreed.  He was asked in the interview, “Senator, did you ever regret bombing beautiful cities like Vienna, Salzburg, Innsbruck, and others?”

He answered, “Well, nobody thinks that war is a lovely affair. It is humanity at its worst, it’s a breakdown of normal communication, and it is a savage enterprise. But on the other hand there are issues that sometimes must be decided by warfare after all else fails… I thought Adolf Hitler was a madman who had to be stopped.   So, my answer to your question is no, I don’t regret bombing strategic targets in Austria. I do regret the damage that was done to innocent people. And there was one bomb I’ve regretted all these years.’”

The reporter snapped that up.  “Tell us about it.”

McGovern told her about the bomb that had stuck in the bomb bay door and had to be jettisoned, on March 14, 1945. “To my sorrow it hit a peaceful little Austrian farmyard at high noon and maybe led to the death of some people in that family. I regret that all the more because it was the day I learned my wife had given birth to our first child and the thought went through my mind then and on many, many days since then, that we brought a young baby into the world and probably killed someone else’s baby or children.

When the documentary appeared on Austrian TV, the station received a call from an Austrian farmer. He said he had seen and heard McGovern. He knew it was his farm that was hit, because it was high noon on a clear day and exactly as McGovern described the incident.

“I want to tell him” the man said, “that no matter what other Austrians think, I despised Adolf Hitler. We did see the bomber coming. I got my wife and children out of the house and we hid in a ditch and no one was hurt. And because of our attitude about Hitler, I thought at the time that if bombing our farm reduced the length of that war by one hour or one minute, it was well worth it.”

When McGovern heard, he said it was “an enormous release and gratification. It seemed to just wipe clean a slate.”

Reflecting on his death today, I am grateful for his sacrificial service to our country in a great time of need. My prayers are offered for his family and friends as they mourn his death.  I hope that Mr. McGovern knew the Lord Jesus Christ, the One who through his sacrificial death and resurrection gives to all who call upon him a clean slate, forgiveness of sin, right standing with God, and a future and a hope.

Monday

20

August 2012

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COMMENTS

A Tribute to Calvin Miller: A Man Who Sang the Lord’s Song in a Foreign Land

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I was first introduced to the writing of Calvin Miller on a bus from Lexington, KY to Tuscaloosa, AL.  I was a new believer attending the University of Kentucky on a baseball scholarship, and we were traveling to play Alabama in the spring of 1987.  My baseball coach, Keith Madison, gave me a copy of Miller’s book The Singer.   

As a new believer, this book resonated with me. Miller’s poetic style communicated for me the life changing power of Jesus Christ. As I read, I was touched by how he expressed the compassion of Christ in the face of human brokenness.  Having just tasted that the Lord was good through the new birth, reading The Singer was a revival for me. On that bus ride, I was overcome by the love of the Savior who had redeemed my life from destruction and had crowned me with lovingkindness and tender mercy.

Soon after, I was given a copy of Miller’s work Once Upon a Tree, which is a collection of essays on the cross. As a new believer, he made statements in this book that had a profound impact on my worldview.  Having been nourished at the fount of secular humanism, I can remember for the first time having a redirection of actually seeing history through the lens of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. 

A sense of equilibrium came to me when I read Miller’s words, “History is nailed together! Literally it is! The story of man from its beginning to the present, is so varied and disconnected that it had to be nailed together to give it continuity. Since the nail was driven, human history reads more smoothly.”

When I graduated from the University of Kentucky, my wife and I packed all our earthly goods and drove to New Orleans where I began my seminary training.  I soon discovered that Calvin Miller had also written a homiletics book which I read right away.

When I began doctoral work, because of previous exposure, I was naturally drawn to the preaching ministry of Calvin Miller.  His 25 years at Westside Church in Omaha was quite a story in Church growth as Miller began his pastoral labor in 1966 with ten people, and in 1991 when he retired there were 2500 members many of whom he had personally led to Christ.

In time, I wrote to him expressing how his writing and ministry had encouraged me greatly, and that I was very interested in studying his preaching as a part of my doctoral work. As a preacher of some years, I can now understand the hesitancy he expressed by that exposure.  What living preacher would want 25 years of pulpit work examined by a doctoral student?

However, he was very clear that he would support me, and support he did. He allowed me access to his life and sermon files. He gave me extensive interviews and extended incredible hospitality to me. His dear wife Barbara was a significant part of that ministry to me. She picked me up from the airport and treated me with such generosity and kindness. A hotel was not an option. They insisted that I stay in their home.

As I have now finished 24 years in the pastorate, and 19 years at the same church, it makes me smile when I think of how Calvin Miller and I are almost polar opposites. He was artsy and creative, while I have been bestowed with the creativity of vanilla ice cream.  He was innovative in his preaching, and me? Well, not so much.

During his Westside pastorate, he removed the pulpit from the platform.  He was told that he couldn’t do that because the pulpit represented authority to which he quipped, “So does the Berlin Wall!”  There were further protests that the pulpit was part of an estate bequeathed to the church.  Miller’s recollection to that objection was, “So, we compromised and put it in the basement.”

For me, I stand behind the wooden desk Sunday after Sunday, and am not driven to be creative in the discharging of my preaching duties. Having been impacted by the Puritans and the Reformers, my approach to ministry and my theology are much different.  However, my gratitude for the deposit of Calvin Miller into my life brings tears of appreciation.

Twenty years have come and gone since the completion of my doctoral work. When I heard of Dr. Miller’s passing on Sunday, August 19th, 2012, my heart was mixed with a mingling of joy and sorrow. I was reminded again of how God brings people into our lives to whom we owe unpayable debts.  I am also reminded that everything precious to the believer is heaven, and we are heading to that place where in His presence is fullness of joy and at His right hand are pleasures forevermore.

I thank God for how He used Calvin Miller in my life and in the lives of countless others. He was a preacher who sang the Lord’s song in a foreign land, and as he did we saw the beauty and the hope of Christ. (Psalm 137:4) His love for Christ, and for others, will be an enduring legacy, especially in the life of this preacher.

 

FAVORITE CALVIN MILLER QUOTES:

*In recounting his early years of poverty, he commented on how his mother seemed “to give dignity to thrift” and that in spite of their poverty they viewed life in this way,  “With never so much as a goose of our own for Christmas dinner, we all felt sorry for the Cratchits.”

*Calvin Miller was winner of souls and had little tolerance for “Churchianity” as he called it.  Moved by the spiritual state of the lost, he commented on misplaced commitments of the church and Christian organizations, “Apathy bakes casseroles for church fellowships while battles rage….And turnpike-wide, they drive forward like lemmings into hell. Churches don’t cry. Seminaries don’t cry. Book stores don’t cry. Only God cries!”

*Having grown up in central Florida next to one of the largest passion plays in the country, I appreciated his statement on the cross, “Golgotha is not a Bavarian passion play where the actors only mimic the final chapters of the book of Matthew for so much per seat.  It was God, caught up in the violence of life and death, extending the new agreement of life and death.”

*“There is no way to God that does not depend upon nails, thorns, ropes, and wood. There, where the soldiers gambled over garments, and the priests mocked a dying carpenter, is the very place where God makes His new agreement with man.”

*In a personal conversation, he admonished me to be about the winning of the lost, not only for God’s glory in salvation, but for the needed discipline to keep ministry in line with God’s priorities, “It is my observation that pastors who are committed to winning souls seem to have a protective covering over their lives and ministry that keeps them from a hundred sins.” 

*I once kidded him that he could write a book faster than I could read one.  He lived by this conviction that “God never champions the lazy mind.”

*“Designed to bear the power of God, we are haphazardly filled with the trivia of our world.”  

*He was very committed to the nurture of one’s inner life with Christ. I was helped by his counsel that finds biblical warrant in Philippians 2:1-11, “Christifying is consciously viewing the people and circumstances in our lives with the eyes of Christ. Ordinary events become cosmic when seen this way. Ordinary people explode with meaning as we see their potential salvation and service to the Holy Christ. In Christifying, the whole world will speak to us and shout to us of the reality of God.”

Monday

6

August 2012

0

COMMENTS

Reduced to a Loaf of Bread

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The explosion of Internet pornography into a multi-billion dollar industry seems to have come together like a perfect storm as the spiritual decline of our culture, with the jettisoning of biblical truth, merged with the rapid advance of the Internet.

Thomas Friedman, in his insightful work “The World is Flat,” wrote that the proliferation of the Internet has empowered and connected individuals globally through convergence of the personal computer with fiber optic cable and the rise of work flow software.

With this phenomenal global connection comes the good, the bad, and the ugly.  With a flat world, believers can advance Kingdom causes freely from anywhere.  And at the same time, purveyors of pornography have shown a brilliant entrepreneurial strategy which has catapulted pornography into the top spot of Internet commerce.

Once there were obstacles that had to be crossed to partake of pornography. One had to go to a place of business or subscribe through mail to make a purchase. Now, there is full accessibility from the privacy of one’s own home. No identification is necessary, just a few clicks and you are there.

Once there was a stigma attached to the public purchasing or partaking of pornography. That is gone, for now, with Internet access, one can view any and all the pornography one desires in full anonymity. 

With its accessibility and stealth protection, we could rightly call Internet pornography a category 5 with regard to moral storms, and its effects have become catastrophic to the soul of this nation with well documented devastation to marriage, children, and productivity.

The surge in pornographic consumption has also impacted the church.  From pastors, to deacons, to the rank and file of our churches, weekly we read or hear of the slaughter among the redeemed at the hands of pornography.

‘How shall we live?’ is the question believers in Jesus Christ have always had to ask.  Whether in Ephesus, Corinth, or Rome, believers in the first century had to live as salt and light in sexually permissive cultures. 

‘How shall we live?’ was the question that the Apostle Paul addressed to church at Corinth where he wrote, “Flee immorality!…You are not your own, you have been bought with a price—therefore glorify God with your bodies.” (I Corinthians 6:18-20)

Even a millennia before the Apostle Paul’s words, “How shall we live?” was the question addressed in the wisdom literature of Proverbs. In this valuable book we come to a series of “my son” passages in which an older man/father imparts seasoned counsel to his son.

In reading Proverbs 5-7 purity is high on the list of his wisdom talks. In these three chapters, the language is intense as the elder speaks of being intoxicated with the wife of one’s youth (5:18,19), underscoring that such affection is a glorious blessing. However, within the same conversation, he also warns this son, perhaps with tears in his eyes, “For on account of a harlot one is reduced to a loaf of bread.” (6:26)

What a word picture that is! This father had seen the fallout of immorality in his lifetime, and concludes a man having sex with a prostitute is reduced to nearly nothing.

This is a tragic step down from the position God has created us to be. We are created in His image to be the glory bearers of His creation, and when we fall into immorality the toll is great.  In fact, this wise father gives a summary statement to it all, “The one who commits adultery with a woman is lacking sense; He who would destroy himself does it.” (6:32)

Someone may argue, “Yea, but Internet pornography is just looking, not actually doing.” Such thinking is irreconcilable with the teaching of Jesus who said in the Sermon on the Mount that lust in one’s heart was adultery.

Furthermore, since we are admonished in Scripture to think on “whatsoever things are true…honorable…,right…,pure…,gracious…, of good repute,” (Philippians 4:8) there is no room for the believer in Jesus Christ to be dismissive in regards to the dangers of pornography to one’s soul. 

A. W. Tozer once said, ““No man suddenly goes base.”  In other words, no one suddenly becomes a pervert.  Like a battering ram which strikes a gate, the gate does not fall on the first blow, but over time the gate yields to the force of the blows. Even so, yielding to the sexual offerings of the Internet breaks down important barriers of the conscience that must be trained by biblical truth if we would live for God in this world.

One of the most important questions Christians face daily is, “What will I choose to view on my computer or phone today?” Certainly, we need to consider practical help and accountability, but above all we need grace and resolve.  King David who had his own brush with immorality resolved that he would walk within his house in the integrity of his heart and that he would put no worthless thing before his eyes. (Psalm 101:2,3)

For the glory of Jesus Christ, the one who has redeemed us to shine as bright lights in this wicked and perverse generation, may we do our work on the Internet for the cause of His Kingdom, lest we find ourselves bobbing for apples in a bucket of sewage and reduced to a loaf of bread.

Thursday

14

June 2012

0

COMMENTS

“Trad”/Calvinism Debate, Elephants, Dr. Fred Luter and Meeting in the Big Easy: My Brief, Simplistic Process of the Last Two Weeks

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I have been challenged greatly over the last two weeks with the launch of the “Trad” document on soteriology by Dr. Eric Hankins et al. I have followed the posts on SBCToday, and other places, and have read seriously their arguments on a host of issues. Many of their points have led me to a further search of the Scripture and church history. I have spoken to brothers and friends who have signed the document, and while we will probably not find agreement on many of these issues in this life, I am committed to love them and seek to fulfill the Great Commission as the Spirit of God gives us grace and strength.

In these weeks, I have been personally edified by this serious plunge into the doctrine of salvation which has produced within me a greater resolve to proclaim Jesus Christ and Him crucified to a lost and dying world.  I am especially grateful for Dr. Tom Ascol for his helpful theological and historical response to the “Trad” document (www.founders.org). His work “on the fly” has been anything but “exceedingly stupid.”

These type of debates can fray emotions and give rise to the sound of war in the camp.  I am prayerful as we have hard discussions about “the elephant in the room” that we can move forward with respect and conviction.  This is a time for us as a convention to behold the preeminence of Christ, so that He may have first place in everything we do. (Col. 1:18)

Next week will be filled with excitement with the election of Dr. Fred Luter! In the fall of 2007, he preached at First Baptist Church Gonzales. As I introduced him to a packed house, with many coming from the African-American community, I explained with sorrow that in the 100 year history of our church, he was the first African-American preacher to preach from this pulpit on a Sunday morning. His ministry to us on that day has been blessed tremendously, and our church is beginning to resemble more and more the diversity of the redeemed of heaven. (Revelation 7:9)

In thinking about the election of Dr. Luter, let’s be clear, his election is not an accommodation. This dear Brother is eminently qualified to lead Southern Baptists.  From his exaltation of Jesus Christ in his preaching, to his love for the local church, to his contagious leadership, to his evangelism and mission mobilization, and to his thorough understanding of SBC work, we will be well served by Dr. Fred Luter as president of SBC!

Looking forward to being with the SBC family next week in New Orleans and praying that the love of the brethren would continue (Hebrews 13:1)!

 

Tuesday

29

May 2012

0

COMMENTS

“Same-Sex Marriage and The Prophetic Role of the Church”

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I was putting my final thoughts together on this article when Pastor Charles L. Worley’s rant against gays and lesbians went viral on the Internet.  Collective outrage and censure rightly followed his merciless rhetoric. 

Worley’s words have aggravated a conversation that was already shrill between gay activists and those who oppose them.  Pastor Worley’s comments have not been helpful in lifting the hate-filled stereotypes leveled against evangelicals by gay activism.

The gay agenda in America has been an incredible success story if gauged by advances in acceptability and influence.  Gay activists Marshall Kirk and Hunter Madsen reveal the simplicity of their strategy when they wrote ,  “Almost any behavior begins to look normal if you are exposed to enough of it.”

Gay activism has been relentless in pressing the issues throughout culture, and gay ideologies now have permeated virtually every fabric of American life. What is remarkable is how over the last forty years 2 percent of the American population has been able to dictate its agenda on the rest of the nation and virtually marginalize opposition. Yes, it is quite a success story.

Erwin Lutzer was not exaggerating when he wrote, “We cannot list…all of the advances of the gay agenda, except to say that virtually everything they have wanted has come to pass.”

The issue of same-sex marriage is yet another plank in the homosexual agenda, and it is well on its way to national legitimacy.

In the face of these developments, the Church of Jesus Christ has been given a prophetic role in this world which means that we are to stand on biblical authority and proclaim the good news of a crucified and risen redeemer. 

We are also to declare with compassion and conviction that homosexuality, along with adultery, fornication, and all sexual expression outside of monogamous marriage is sinful behavior from which we are to repent.

The advances of the gay agenda, and in particular the same-sex marriage initiative, should be a tremendous wake-up call for the Church. We have a great need to look into the mirror and come to terms with our own sin which has made our witness anything but powerful.

We must admit the gay community has a point when they charge us with hypocrisy as we put on battle regalia against homosexuality and virtually ignore adultery, fornication, pornography, and divorce in the ranks.

The Church’s paralysis by her own immoralities is a call for us to repent first. In 1965, Billy Graham wrote with prophetic insight in World Aflame, “If America does not repent, God will have to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah. When Sodom and Gomorrah became guilty of the same sins that we commit, God judged them with fire and brimstone….we cannot claim to be God’s pets.”

The church, broken over her sin and reliant on the grace of Christ, should respond to the gay agenda with the following biblical strategy:

Compassion

God’s people are to be a redemptive people who have never forgotten how much God has forgiven us. (Luke 7:40-50) We, like the Corinthians before us, have been washed from our sins, and we are called to go and sin no more. (I Corinthians 6:9-11)

Our mission as the Church is not to fix anyone, let alone homosexuals. Our mission is centered in Gospel proclamation.  Christ is the One who redeems our lives from destruction and crowns us with lovingkindness and tender mercy.

Should we not respond with compassion when we learn that 80% of all lesbians have been molested or otherwise mistreated by men?  Should we not have some understanding that through the humiliation and shame brought about by sexual abuse and destructive behaviors that such hurt has fostered same-sex attractions?  Should we not sympathize with those who battle with their sin nature in ways that are different than ours?

The media portrays the homosexual life as a care-free existence, but such is not the case.  Many men and women are trapped in the lifestyle and battle hopelessness in whether there is any way out. Isn’t this an opportunity for the church to extend compassion and hope? May it never be said of us that we have to choose between compassion to homosexuals and opposing same-sex marriage 

Conviction

The church should also show conviction as a part of her prophetic calling.  God’s people must enter into this issue and be informed, and the first order of business is a study of what the Bible actually says about homosexuality.  This is not conviction based upon emotion or what seems right to us. We must be rooted and grounded biblically. True prophets speak God’s word.

Presently, there seems to be a majority of Americans who oppose same-sex marriage, but that should offer little comfort to the church because such support is tepid. We should have no reason to believe that such opposition is driven by biblical conviction, and if it is not anchored there, then public opinion will blow with the wind.

The gay agenda is one of the strongest movements in America, and it is not going away.  A  church without biblical conviction must awaken to her calling.

Courage

And finally, we must have courage to fulfill our prophetic role.  We are on a cultural trajectory that is taking us to a place that we have not gone in the history of our nation.  With the same-sex marriage debate, we are facing the loss of religious freedoms that we have enjoyed from the founding of our country.

We are headed to a place where the church may face lawsuits, fines, or loss of tax exemption status for declaring a biblical message about homosexuality.  However, we must remember that a prophet’s life has always been in danger for speaking truth.

No one knows that better than Alan Chambers who was named “Daniel of the Year” by World magazine last December. This award is bestowed upon a Christian who stands for Christ against ungodly trends.

Chambers is a former homosexual who helps others struggling with same-sex attraction through the ministry of Exodus International.  Through years of an active gay lifestyle, he was gripped by biblical conviction that his behavior was wrong and that Jesus Christ could change his life by helping him overcome the sinful patterns of homosexuality. 

Chambers has now been married for 13 years, and he and his wife have two adopted children.  He has demonstrated great courage in proclaiming that homosexuals can actually change.  In his book Leaving Homosexuality, Chambers wrote, “the opposite of homosexuality isn’t heterosexuality. It’s holiness.”

May God raise up his church for such a time as this and may we assume our prophetic role with tears, conviction, and courage.

(Article to be published in Baptist Message, June 2012)