S.I.N.

head in sandSelf- Inflicted-Nonsense, that is how the world views sin. Sin is an oppressive concept that stifles human freedom and flourishing. I am my own master. I will do what I desire. No one or government or religion can tell me what I can or cannot do. Why would you constrain your own freedom by nonsensical rules and traditions? The idea of sin is repulsive to the world today because it limits what I can do. It is a remnant of past authoritarian structures and legalistic religiosity. Cast them off has been the mantra of recent decades! Be free!

  • That one day in seven is different and special—sacred to the Lord, na- I’ll do what I want with my time!
  • Respect due to parents, no way—we are equals!
  • Sex before marriage, get with the times!
  • Marriage, what is that anyway…simply what I want it to be…cohabitation, heterosexual, homosexual, bi-sexual, polyamorous, etc, etc.
  • Gender constructs, completely socially fabricated!!!
  • That the government has the right to “bear the sword” of justice, how absolutely medieval that I might be held accountable for my actions.

The list goes on…self-inflicted nonsense! All a complete and utter load of nonsense!!!!!

Well let’s pause and look at an alternative. Recognising that many of today’s trends are an overreaction caused by past abuses of authority and nominal religion, might the idea of sin not be self-inflicted-nonsense but truth and a reality meant to spare us countless and needless dangers and harm? We’ve taken a huge leap from the notion of having some personal freedoms designed to ensure there was some civic freedom within parameters, to a culture of near total permissiveness.

Listen to this counter challenge from 1 John 1:8:

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.

WOW! What a different way of looking at things. Sin is as real as this computer screen you are reading this blog on. If we deny its reality, then we are actually self-deceived, the ones believing the nonsensical idea that there are no moral absolutes. As this verse was initially addressed to Christians who denied they kept sinning, if that was the case the Truth (Holy Spirit) was not in them. Similarly, if you are a non-believer who denies the reality of sin, the truth is similarly not in you and you are a liar.

Sin leads to harm and destruction and death, but walking in God’s Law leads to life. In fact, the Bible says God’s ways were designed for our good (Deut 10:13). It is when we follow them we flourish! It is when we walk in them that we find perfect freedom (Ps 119:45).

But more than speak of sin, the Bible makes clear that bad fruit is not the ultimate issue but the root. It is not merely the symptom we need to address but the underlying disease. The Bible also uses sin to speak of a disease of the heart (Prov 4:23; Mt 15:18–20).

The Law of God is good and true, yes, but it cannot save us because we cannot obey it perfectly, because we are actually not free but our hearts are enslaved to sin (Ro 6:16). We may even come to believe in the truth of 1 John 1:8 but that is still not good enough because we’d still be enslaved to sin even if we acknowledge it is real. We need God to open our eyes to believe the Gospel, the good news of freedom from sin available through faith and forgiveness in Jesus Christ, and to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit who will help us live lives pleasing to God. Then the Law no longer is a threat of judgement but a promise, with God saying ‘I will get you there!’

As much as the world thinks it is free and sin does not exist, the reverse is true, sin does exist and the world is enslaved to it, which is why it loves it so much and will fight under any convenient banner or excuse to self-justify its own sinful actions (Ro 1:32). True freedom can only come in recognising sin is not self-inflicted-nonsense, but something that is real and that we need saving from. Only then will we be free and flourish as the Lord intended.

The Lord’s Sweetest Blessings,

Pastor Chris

A 2.5/3 for the Royal Wedding Sermon (and yet a…)

A 2.5/3 for the Royal Wedding Sermon (and yet a…)
A number of people I spoke with commented on how “good” the Royal Wedding Sermon was that was preached by Bishop Michael Curry of the Episcopal Church of the USA. If you haven’t seen it you can watch it here:

*This brief analysis is not being offered under the old proud preacher’s adage, “it was a good sermon but I could have preached it better.” It also recognises that where the Word of God is faithfully preached, even if it is not entertaining, we are called to listen remembering the story of Balaam, “if God can speak through an ass…,” he can speak through a faithful preacher, no matter how dull or unpolished, so we must listen.

First point. His rhetoric was great. That he managed to raise a few royal eyebrows and break the homiletic mould of traditional nominal Anglican formality and dryness in a way that captured people’s attention was due to his African-American preaching rhetoric (which I confess I have always appreciated). In terms of public speaking at least, it drew people’s attention and engaged.

Second point. He used lots of Biblical examples and metaphors. He referenced many passages of scripture and unashamedly mentioned God, Jesus, love, the Bible, etc.

My half-point. He used a tablet and appeared “cool.”

Yet despite scoring a 2.5/3, his sermon ultimately receives an F. For all that it has been applauded for we must be discerning and see how it failed, and as such gave a false representation of Jesus, the Gospel and Christianity to millions of viewers, most of whom don’t know Jesus (what a millstone!).

Here are just three examples that should disturb you:

  1. Curry presented the mainline liberal “Gospel” of social initiative or love (works!). You can listen to a likewise disturbing presentation of such things on his website. He is able to arrive at such conclusions by being vague and subjective in all his approaches to the Bible, Christian terms and truth.
  2. Curry does not know what the Gospel is. He says on his website, “If it’s not about love, it’s not about God.” Yet, he neither knows God nor love. He spoke of following Jesus example of love. He spoke of the power of redemptive sacrificial love and that if we loved we could redeem ourselves, others and the world. Yet God, the Gospel and true love are not rooted in such things, but rather “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” (1 John 4:10). God’s love is displayed in rescuing sinners through the Cross; faith in the Gospel redeems us not human works or actions.
  3. He also quoted 1 John 4:7b (“whoever loves has been born of God and knows God”) to suggest that if you love in any way you are God’s child in a specific sense (universalism!). John’s context, however, is one of speaking to Christians and of love being a fruit of faith and repentance.

Jesus spoke of false teachers being wolves dressed up in sheep’s clothing. Bishop Curry is a wolf. His ecclesial position, Christian-like language, positivity, worldly popularity are all a guise to spread untruths and heresy. That he did not share any robust Gospel truth should come as no surprise to the discerning viewer because he is leader of one of the most liberal sects in the United States. Curry’s Episcopal Church is under sanction by the worldwide Anglican communion for unorthodox views on marriage and sexuality, something of which he proudly acknowledges he is an advocate for.

If you’d like to read a more in depth article on the sermon I would recommend you click here.

The Lord’s Sweetest Blessings,

Pastor Chris

 

 

The Miracle of Christmas

The Virgin Birth is a fundamental belief of the Christian faith. Like the Resurrection, if it is true the Gospel is true and ought to be believed. If it is not true then Christians are to be pitied (1 Cor 15:19).

The Apostle’s Creed summarises the clear New Testament teaching on the Christmas story:

I believe in Jesus Christ, [God’s] only Son, our Lord,

who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,

born of the Virgin Mary,

“Hail the incarnate deity,” the carol Hark the Herald Angels says; fancy words to say that Jesus, the second person of the Trinity, was born of a virgin and conceived by the Holy Spirit and so both fully God and fully man, yet without sin. The Bible says “he tabernacled” [pitched His tent] or dwelt among us (John 1:14) enfleshing Himself, taking on human form to become one of us (Phil 2), so as to live the perfect life, die the perfect death, rise from the dead and bodily ascend into heaven, all to become the Saviour of those who’d call upon Him in faith for the forgiveness of their sins. The Incarnation was God’s rescue plan.

Most dismiss Jesus as simply a good moral teacher and not God’s Son and a saviour. As only ¼ of Brits[1] believe in the Virgin Birth[2] here are three answers to common objections and also three reasons to seriously consider the incarnation, Common objections include

  1. It’s unnatural (or biologically impossible)
    1. Objection: Because the virgin birth cannot occur according to the laws of nature it is impossible.
    2. Response: This naturalistic view is blind for it discounts that as part of creation there is a spiritual reality and also that Creation is a closed system unable to be interacted with by the Creator who is sovereign to engage with His creation. In fact it is deistic and thinks such a God could not engage with a world and laws He made, rather than seeing God as the personally involved and the sustainer of His creation (see my sermon on miracles in our Jonah series here from October 8, 2017).
  2. The simplistic view (the NT is simply a primitive religion)
    1. Objection: Primitive religions may have believed such things but they were naïve.
    2. Response (from C.S. Lewis): “A moment’s thought shows this to be foolish, with the story of the virgin birth as a particularly striking example. When Joseph discovered that his fiancée was going to have a baby, he not unnaturally decided to repudiate her. Why? Because he knew just as well as any modern gynecologist that in the ordinary course of nature women do not have babies unless they have lain with men.
    3. “No doubt the modern gynecologist knows several things about birth and begetting which Joseph did not know. But those things do not concern the main point—that a virgin birth is contrary to the course of nature. And Joseph obviously knew that” (Miracles, New York, Macmillan Pub. Co. Inc., p. 48).
  3. A personal God, come on!
    1. Objection: What kind of God, if there is a God, would stoop so low as to be born in a manger and die on a cross?
    2. Response: A personal God and God of love (again see Phil 2). Consider the evidence of the New Testament, the most trustworthy ancient document in the world!

The Virgin Birth is theologically necessary for a number of reasons (not limited to):

  1. It shows salvation is of God and not of man.
  2. It produced the full deity and humanity of Christ, necessary for Him to sympathise with us, relate to us, be an example to us of the perfect man, and live the perfect life we could never live. His deity was necessary that God the Son might die to save us (again so salvation would be of God), so Jesus would be the perfect sacrifice to atone for sin.
  3. It fulfilled Bible prophecies like the one to Abraham (i.e. “seed” or “offspring,” Gen 12), etc.

The Virgin birth is a mystery but a mystery need not be incoherent or illogical, it simply means we cannot know everything about it, but that does not make belief in it unreasonable. If we trust that God has spoken to us through the Bible we must believe in the Virgin Birth. In fact, belief in the Virgin Birth is a sort of test of belief (of orthodoxy), yet not the only one. Ultimately, have you bowed your knee in awe to the God-man Jesus Christ, recognizing Him for who He is, accepting Him as Saviour and submitting to Him as Lord?

We showed the following video, a modern parable on the Incarnation, at one of our Christmas carol services. It helps impress the key points of this blog post:

The Lord’s Sweetest Blessings,

Pastor Chris

[1] It is not simply modern atheists and liberals who don’t believe in the Virgin Birth, many people throughout history have denied it including the Greeks and the Gnostics.

[2] In 2008 it was 1/3 and I presume this has dipped since this time.

A Question from the Philippines

A friend of mine who is a pastor was contacted by a man in the Philippines who was seeking discipleship. As the two have developed a relationship the following question arose. This was my initial answer to assist my friend’s response.

If the Bible teaches that only men are to be pastors, why then do ministries under women often prosper?

Why do unorthodox churches seem to prosper from a worldly perspective?

Why does the church down the road that does preach the Gospel but whose form of church government is not Biblical become flooded with people?

How is it that someone is converted under an unregenerate minister who happens to state the Gospel?

How can it be that a Gospel-centred church that appears to abide by New Testament principles not grow, or even perhaps shrink under persecution?

Some of these questions relate to God’s providence, which can sometimes be mysterious.

Returning to the original question, I would say that because complementarianism[1] vs. egalitarianism[2] is a secondary matter and that above all else the Lord desires people to be saved (primary issue) the Lord at times works through unorthodox means. Complementarians must also remember that some female pastors are sisters in Christ (just like some female [and male!] pastors are not). I think the best example to answer this questions is found in Judges.

Formal positions of leadership in Israel were always male. The case of Deborah (Judges 4:4) appears to be an unusual exception.[3] It appears to be an exception until one sees that Old Covenant prophetess does not equal New Covenant pastor. It appears an exception until “to judge” (which literally means defend) is coupled with her role as prophetess (a woman, in this case, who spoke the word of God, often to people in formal positions of power). In summoning Barak she shows she is not indeed the formal leader in the sense that he is, otherwise she would not have told him to gather the troops (v. 6b). We further see their mutual-leadership in the song of Judges 5. Though Barak ultimately went out into battle he did not get the glory, not because he relied on a woman (the Lord spoke through her![4]) but because he did not assume the role of faith and leadership that he should have (v. 9). As a result the glory of the victory was given to Jael who the Lord used to kill the enemy leader Sisera. The Lord used two faithful women (in this case) who stepped up in the absence of a faithful man, instead of the faithless man, because the Lord’s ultimate aim was deliverance from Israel’s enemies.

This question and the story of Deborah and Barak reminds me of Ezk 20:30, “And I sought for a man among them, that should build up the wall, and stand in the gap [of the wall] before me for the land, that I should not destroy it; but I found none.” The Lord is using many sisters in Christ today to accomplish salvation because Christian men are not standing up to the positions of leadership in the home, church and society that God calls them to.

Correct gender roles are not about capability but faithfulness to design. When this is not heeded, it doesn’t mean the Lord won’t use a woman when she steps up into the role of a man, even if this is not the Lord’s ultimate design. Why? Ultimately men and women are called to be faithful to the Lord’s purposes in gender, but because salvation is His ultimate end, He will not stop at this even if this means using a woman and giving the glory to her instead of the man to whom (in this case) it would normally rightfully belong.

The Lord’s Sweetest Blessings,

Pastor Chris

[1] That men and women are equal before God but created for complementary roles.

[2] That men and women are equal in ALL things.

[3] See: http://www.adfontes.ca/posts/post/article/deborah-and-the-defeater-verses/index.php. I believe Paul is spot on here.

[4] Godly men would do well to listen to the counsel of godly and respectful women. I have listened and am the wiser for it. They have spoken and have contributed to the work of the body (in my case part of the head).

What happens to children when they die?

What happens to children when they die?Baby

This question was asked in this summer’s People’s Choice summer series and because of space in that series and also because it may be more clearly delivered in type, I address it in this blog.

This is not a question unique to today (though emotionalism and universalism perhaps make it more difficult to address). Infants died in Bible times, pre-modern Britain, and indeed still today. Although infant mortality has decreased, still children die, particularly the unborn (miscarriage, abortion[1], the disposal of embryos in fertility treatments, etc).[2] So long as there are children and so long as there is sin and death this question will be relevant.

Before I begin to give a basic and introductory response, I want to emphasise that I do not embark on seeking to answer this question as if from a distance. My wife and I lost a child through miscarriage and we have had close friends and family members suffer the loss of both unborn and newborn children. Something else that I must stress before I proceed is that this question is often approached through emotionalism. While our affections have a role to play we must submit ourselves to Scripture, conceding that our ways are not God’s ways (Isa 55:8–9). Generally when we are uncomfortable about something in the Bible God is correct and we are wrong. If you proceed in reading this blog please pause, pray and be open to reason [or reasoning] (James 3:17). Christianity is like a train and the order of that train is important. First must come the locomotive, then the car and finally the caboose. Put another way, first must come fact (or the promises and truths of God), then faith (or belief in those) and then feeling. Get the order wrong and the train soon runs off the track. Get the order right and it runs smoothly along.

The question centres around salvation and namely, if the Bible teaches human depravity and the need of salvation (which it clearly does), what about children? It also touches upon our beliefs about what the character of God should be in relation to this question, either leaning toward His love (how could a loving God allow…) or His justice (God is soft on sin if…).

Numerous passages and verses in the Bible teach human depravity, but three are perhaps most pertinent to this subject.[3]

The first is Psalm 51:5 where the Spirit says through David: Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me. This verse teaches that not only from birth but from conception we are sinners.

The second is Ro 5:12, which addresses why we are born sinners. Here the Spirit says through Paul: Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned. This means that because the head of the human race—Adam—sinned, all humans are born sinners (original sin). Not only are we born guilty sinners by nature but we also co-opt into sin through sinful choices throughout our lives.

Thirdly, and perhaps the most challenging, come passages like Deut 20:16–18 and 1 Sam 15:2–3 where the Spirit says the following about the destruction of the Canaanites:

Thus says the Lord of hosts, ‘I have noted what Amalek did to Israel in opposing them on the way when they came up out of Egypt. Now go and strike Amalek and devote to destruction all that they have. Do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.’”

We must remember that these last passages speak of judgement because of societal sin of a great magnitude (with simply a different means than say Sodom and Gomorrah) and not genocide. Traditionally this total judgment has been understood by Christians as a real event backed up by archaeology, but also as a picture of hell.

If children had no sin, children wouldn’t die. As death is a result of sin generally, children as well as adults tragically die.

In light of these three passages, we return to the question.

There have been at least 7 ways that Christendom has sought to answer this question.

  1. All children go to heaven (universalism: that God ultimately accepts everyone because He is “love”).
    1. This has been the death knell of ‘liberal Christianity.’ The basic teaching of the Bible is that sinners are saved through faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ (John 3:16). Jesus’ death did not save everyone but only made that salvation possible. Jesus died to save those who would believe in Him, He died to save His own (Jn 10:14). The Bible clearly teaches that notall humans are saved.
  2. No children go to heaven.
    1. Based on the above passages and that children cannot believe some do not think any children go to heaven.
  3. Christened children go to heaven (Roman Catholicism).
    1. Roman Catholics believe one is saved by faith+sacraments+works. One of the sacraments is to christen children. In a sacrament the church is seen as having the authority to dispense God’s grace on earth. As such those children who are baptised are saved, hence why Roman Catholics are so quick to want to baptise their children. The clear teaching of the Bible that we are saved by faith and not by works (whether personal or ecclesial [by the church]) discounts this view.
  4. Children who die before the “age of accountability” go to heaven.
    1. Another popular view that seeks to balance accountability for sin and the need for faith in salvation is this one: that children are only subject to the penalty of hell if they reject Christ after some arbitrary or subjective “age of accountability.” If they haven’t reached that age they go to heaven. But what is this age? Is it 4, 6, 8, 12, 20, 40, 80? The Bible doesn’t say, because it doesn’t exist. Anyone who has worked with children knows that children wilfully choose sin from a very early age and should be held accountable much earlier than 18!
  5. In His mercy God applies the meritorious work of Christ to children because He is a God of grace.
    1. In this view children do not exercise normal faith in Christ that is needed by those who can choose, but rather He has mercy upon whom I have mercy (Ro 9:15). While it is true that God has mercy upon whomever He will (in this passage as it relates to election), the consistent teaching of Scripture associates receiving this mercy in faith. The strength of this view is it fights universalism by appealing to the need for the work of Christ. The downside is that nowhere in the Bible is this clearly stated.
  6. Only elect children go to heaven (or children of the elect are saved).
    1. This was the view held by the founders of our chapel. Article 10.3 of our founding confession said this: “Elect infants, dying in infancy, are regenerated, and saved by Christ, through the Spirit,[12] who works when, and where, and how He pleases:[13] so also are all other elect persons who are incapable of being outwardly called by the ministry of the Word.[14]” (The Scriptural proofs for some of these show that even the most robust theologians need to bend Scripture to address this question). In this view infants who are elect are saved without faith shown on earth[4] according to the mercy of God. A similar view believes children of believing (elect) parents are saved on account of the faith of their parents. This view would account for why not all children (like those of the Amalekites) are saved and why some possibly are, but no one could know who an elect child was or was not, because the elect are normally only justified through faith on earth.
  7. This is a mystery best left to the Lord (my personal view).
    1. I do not stay awake at night wondering about the eternal state of my unborn child. Why? Because I entrust its soul to an all wise, good and sovereign God and accept His will, whatever it may be. While point 6 comes closest to sounding reasonable, I believe that because the Bible does not even remotely touch upon this subject clearly, it therefore must not be a subject God wants us to concern ourselves with, otherwise He would have told us.

There are two things, however, that the Bible does clearly teach: 1) personal comfort grounded in the promises of God (vs. speculation) for those who mourn the loss of a child, and 2) the personal need to respond to the Gospel.

  1. For those who have suffered the loss of a child comfort is available in the face of such loss but it does not come from speculating about your child’s salvation but hoping in the promises of God such as, Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted (Matt 5:4).
  2. The Lord commands all people everywhere to repent… (Acts 17:30).

The Lord’s Sweetest Blessings,

Pastor Chris

[1] In 2015 there were 185,824 in England and Wales (https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/may/17/abortion-rate-england-and-wales-five-year-high).

[2] I believe it is possible to differentiate between the immorality of abortion for instance and issues of infant salvation.

[3] Jesus saying, “let the little come to me” has as little to do with salvation as it does baptism, rather Jesus is breaking down barriers in the apostles hearts, because the Gospel was not meant for “us” (the disciples or the Jews) but for them (Jews and Gentiles and all who believe).

[4] This is very similar to forms of universalism where it is believed people will get a second chance before entering heaven to believe (but see Heb 9:27).

How endorsing homosexuality crosses the Rubicon

I would much rather write today about the wonders of authentic Christian faith but in the day and age in which we are living in often find it necessary to equip us against the tossing seas of error that threaten the truth (Jude 1:3).

Since homosexual marriage was legalised in the UK in 2013 many in the church have entered into great discussion on the subject, jostling between the direction culture is heading and what the Bible says (don’t be conformed to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind [Ro 12:2]). Trying to make the church relevant by giving into culture in certain matters will only make it less potent and relevant. Given that I am from Canada, the fourth western nation (after the Netherlands, Belgium and Spain) to make such unions legal in 2005, I have had even more time to reflect on the subject and write today to briefly demonstrate how endorsing homosexuality as a church or Christian crosses the Rubicon.

Firstly, what is the Rubicon? It is a figure of speech, quite similar to the phrase “past the point of no return.” It refers to a river in north-eastern Italy that the general Julius Caesar crossed heading south in 49 B.C. The significance? It was illegal under Roman law for a legion to enter Italy and by crossing he effectively declared war on the Senate and eventually brought about the end of the Roman Republic and the beginning of the Roman Empire. Caesar was intentionally doing something that he knew would have far reaching consequences that could not be [easily] undone. In a nutshell to cross the Rubicon means “to commit oneself irrevocably to a risky or revolutionary course of action.” Endorsing homosexuality is a departure from the “faith once for all delivered to the saints.”

History_Ask_History_Crossing_the_Rubicon_SF_HD_1104x622-16x9

How does endorsing homosexuality cross the Rubicon in ways which other authentic Christians may disagree yet still enjoy varying degrees of fellowship and cooperation? Many Christians disagree over the place of women in ministry, the subject and mode of Baptism, predestination, forms of church government, pacifism/ just war, and divorce.

The answer to the above question is that those are all secondary issues, which whilst very important (and an improper view will produce negative effects on personal and corporate Christian life), are not primary issues. Divorce is an interesting comparison to homosexuality. The reason why it does not cross the Rubicon is because while condemning divorce the Bible does make some exceptions, unlike homosexuality. The greater the theological agreement between Christians the greater the level of missional cooperation (Amos 3:3) and this begins with primary theological matters related to the Gospel (what it means to be saved and know and please God through Jesus Christ). The issue of homosexuality crosses at least three primary lines of Christian beliefs: Scripture, the Gospel, and sexuality.

Rejects the doctrine of Scripture

Central to the Christian faith is that the Lord has spoken light into our darkness by revealing Himself in the Bible. While we must remember context when studying the Bible (literary, theological, historical) the book in question is no ordinary human book but “sacred writings” inspired by God, because “All Scripture is inspired by God and useful…” (2 Tim 3:15­–16) and “every word of God proves true” (Prov 30:5).

Therefore Scripture is trustworthy, authoritative and sufficient. Because God is “the same yesterday, today and forever,” (Mal 3:6, Heb 13:8) the truths He has spoken to us remain the same today just as they were 2000 years ago, from eternity past, and into eternity future. If the Bible is from God we listen and obey, if it isn’t we can do what we want, but that is not Christianity.

The problem with endorsing homosexuality is it forces one to crop out significant portions of Scripture as uninspired (under the guise they are culturally bound texts) such as Gen 19; Lev 18:22, 20:10–16; Rom 1:23-27; 1 Cor 6:9; 1 Tim 1:10; Jude 7. The problem is that not only is the cultural argument untenable, but that in dismissing these passages one dismisses a consistent teaching of the Bible that is intricately interrelated to other key texts and teachings of the Bible. To affirm homosexuality is to dismiss Scripture, including Gospel passages.

Rejects the Gospel

The Gospel message begins with the bad news of sin and ends with the good news of forgiveness from sin through faith in Jesus Christ and [eternal] life in His name. To reject homosexuality as sin is also to reject the Gospel. In 1 Cor 6 (cited above) verse 11 reminds the Corinthian believers that “such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” When we know we fall short of God’s perfect standard (Mt 5:48) and that faith in Jesus offers us not only forgiveness but the power to change, that is good news in light of our present circumstances. Homosexuality, similar to other sins, separates us from God. The good news is that—whatever our sin(s) or past— we can be restored to God through faith and repentance in Christ and transformed by His Spirit into new creations (2 Cor 5:17). If sin is not sin and the Gospel does not have the power to change it is not a message of good news.

Rejects God’s design for marriage, sexuality and gender

To endorse homosexuality is not simply a different Christian view on human sexuality, it is an entirely different worldview. All Christian teaching on marriage, sexuality and gender (including Jesus and Paul) trace their roots to Gen 1:26–28 and 2:22–24. This is further filtered through the lens of God’s moral standard in the Law such that when in the NT Jesus and Paul quote Genesis and the Law they are showing continuity and agreement with God’s original design consistent throughout Scripture. When Jesus warns the “sexually immoral” that includes homosexuality because it is a stock phrase used by Jesus to refer to the moral standard for sexuality expressed in the Law.

People can dismiss what the Bible clearly teaches on the subject, they are free in matters of conscience to do that, however, it is misguided to say the Biblical worldview for marriage, sexuality and gender is in anyway compatible with those views that endorse homosexuality.

Many objections have and will be made to similar lines of thought as those presented here. I would refer such people to 2 Tim 4:1–5. If we degrade Christ (His Word, Gospel and designs), He will surely degrade us. Recent studies show that generally those churches that remain true to orthodox Christian teachings (such as marriage and sexuality) grow, whilst those who go ahead of such teachings (2 John 1:9) are in general state of decline. Unlike many divisive issues within the church in the past this issue is a Rubicon that will separate the wheat from the chaff. Many churches and individuals have already or are considering crossing the Rubicon. To the former I would exhort you with the aforementioned words, to the latter I would say the following. While Caesar crossed the point of no return, whilst endorsing homosexuality does depart from orthodox Christianity, unlike the Rubicon, through repentance in Jesus Christ, a turning back to Him, restoration is graciously possible.

The Lord’s Sweetest Blessings,

Pastor Chris

Post-truth, alternative-facts and fake news

Post-truth, alternative-facts and fake news

What is truth? (John 18:38)

Those are famous words uttered by Pontius Pilate. Whether he meant them as a retort, a genuine question, or both has been debated, but his question has been echoed down through the centuries.

“What is truth?” Pilate asked Jesus as the Truth himself stood before him. Here was the man who brought truth and reality into being at creation. Here was the man who delineated the bounds of truth (morals) and told us to tell the truth because otherwise we would be acting contrary to His very nature. Here was the man who will judge all people by the truth and whether they knew the Truth at the end of time. It is a perennially good question to ask!

Truth, simply put, is “that which is in accordance with fact or reality.”

Sadly, we are living in an age that relativizes truth, pushes it to the corner, says it is in the eye of the beholder, that it is not relevant. Humanity has moved from knowing the Truth (pre-Gen 3) to a place where very often it is suppressed in favour of our version of the truth.

In 2016 Oxford Dictionary defined their word of the year as post-truth. Here “post” doesn’t mean “after” as in “post-war” but “beyond” or “irrelevant.” They define it as:

Relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.

Truly, this signifies that we’ve moved from being a theonomos culture (where the law of God or the law of nature is self-evident), to where we are not even a heteronomous culture (where someone else sets the law, like a king or a dictator) but have arrived at an ever increasingly autonomous culture where each person decides what truth is for them (the irony being that as soon as they disagree with another’s version of the truth they protest and cease to be autonomous but become heteronomous wishing to impose their view militantly on the other. Hence they operate under the guise of tolerance which is really selfishness).

little-golden-bookMost recently we have seen post-truth at play in politics with the coining of another new term: “alternate facts.” This was poked fun at by countless people on social media including by this meme (or spoof) of the old children’s book series Little Golden Book, where a dog is a cat and an egg is soup. It seeks to make the point that post-truth is downright silly.

Fake news has also come into our vocabulary with trust in the mainstream media falling to 32% in the USA. Who are we to believe? Who is telling the truth? What is truth? While I believe in the freedom of speech I cannot help but see that many of those who are “crying wolf” have contributed to the epidemic. The reason why some are using “fake news” is not so much because news has been fake but because it has very often been highly biased and very often interpreted facts narrowly within one worldview (liberal). The very people who have often called evil good and good evil are now upset a similar tactic is being used against them.

It is my prayer all of this post-truth, alternate facts, and fake news nonsense will not drive people into their particular prejudices and result in ignorance but cause us to wake up and ask what is truth?

God asserts that truth is real and that it matters: “do not bear false witness” (Ex 20:16) and “abhor what is evil; cling to what is good” (Ro 12:9), and that the Bible is God’s standard of truth (Amos 7). Christianity is based on facts (Luke wrote “an orderly [eyewitness] account…that you may have certainty” about Jesus [Lk 1:3–4]). Jesus claimed to be the Truth (Jn 14:6), and that in knowing Him as the Truth would “set you free” (Jn 8:22). That upon believing in Jesus for the forgiveness of our sins we would not only be reconciled to God (the greatest reality) but receive the “Spirit of Truth” who would “guide us into all truth” (Jn 16:13). This is not arrogance but a recognition that sin clouds our minds, and that when we have come to Christ and put on Christ we receive a new worldview, a new lens, a new way of looking at things.

It is my hope that as people react against post-truth it might lead them to consider the life giving truth claims of Christianity. The horrible alternate is that we truly are living in a time when people will “turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into lies” (1 Ti 4:4).

The Lord’s Sweetest Blessings,

Pastor Chris

YIKES!

There are many things I would rather write about, the wonders of Jesus, the depths of what it means to follow Him, however, pastors—in every age— often spend a great deal of their time speaking into the particular issues of the day, which morally speaking centre right now around the LGBTI and gender inclusive agenda. Like I said, this is not a hobby horse but something I feel I must address.

Many Christians have reluctantly acknowledged that until a move of the Holy Spirit comes upon our land to awaken us to the truth and reveal our sin and need for Jesus, there is a very small likelihood that the recent tide of laws against marriage will be reversed. And that we can very comfortably sit behind a belief that while these things may exist in society (and even grow as they are promoted as a choice) that we are safe because of our “freedom of religion” and “freedom of speech.” If you read the fine print of the Article 9 of the 1998 UK Human Rights Act[1] you’ll see there are loopholes that permit a way to circumvent these “freedoms.” This, however, is not the news that concerns me today.

You may have seen a recent news article where the European country of Malta passed legislation banning “gay cure conversion therapy.” Click here to read the BBC article. There are a number of things that I think are disconcerting about this law:

  • That the law “enshrines” that sexual orientation or gender identity is not wrong or a “short coming of any sort”
  • That others who disagree for religious or non-religious reasons are therefore legally “wrong.”
  • That religious freedom is outweighed by others “rights.”
  • That if you believe such things are not acceptable and seek to help change someone you will face up to £8,450 in fines and a year in prison (sending a clear message that freedom of religion is really freedom from religion and that this freedom is at best secondary).
  • That if it has gained a foothold in Europe, how much longer until such laws are advanced in the UK?
  • Lastly, that it strikes hard against two Biblical truths, the first is that what the Bible describes as right and wrong is the standard, there is no other; and the second, the Gospel itself.

While the law targets professionals such as psychiatrists who offer various forms of gay conversion therapy, it also would apply to Christian leaders, preachers and teachers who preach the life transforming message of the Gospel. While physical and psychological routes for gay conversion may assist they ultimately fall short of offering true hope to the individual because the issue is ultimately about sin and requires a spiritual solution.

This is what we read of in 1 Cor 6: 9–11 (emphasis added):

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

This passage identifies a representative list of various sins (which includes but is not limited to homosexuality) that separate us from God. Paul then reminds the Corinthians “and such were some of you” meaning they had been CHANGED by believing in the Gospel (that’s the “but”). They once were and were now no longer. The hope of change from homosexuality is possible (though many prefer to continue to walk in darkness). However, it comes not through gay conversion therapy but by trusting in Jesus.

May we never lose sight of the wonder and power of the Gospel which can transform any sinner and make them a new creation in Christ Jesus, regardless of the consequences. May we never cease to be defined by the message of the Gospel that sets us apart as Christ’s.

The Lord’s Sweetest Blessings,

Pastor Chris

[1] Article 9 Freedom of thought, conscience and religion

1Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief, in worship, teaching, practice and observance.

2Freedom to manifest one’s religion or beliefs shall be subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of public safety, for the protection of public order, health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.

<http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1998/42/schedule/1/part/I/chapter/8&gt;

No Surprise

It is no real surprise that those churches that believe the Bible is true tend to grow, whereas generally those that don’t are in a state of decline.

Such is a recent finding from a study conducted in my home province from Canada posted in this country through UK Christian Concern (sign up for their helpful newsletters and prayer list too). It is short and well worth a read.

The Bible itself urges us to not wander from the truth revealed to us by God in the Bible:

Jude 3b: “contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.”

2 John 1:9–10: “everyone who goes ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ does not have God.”

Eph 4:14: do not be “carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.”

Prov 3:5–6: “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths.”

C.H. Spurgeon said that, “the coals of orthodoxy [correct belief] are necessary to fan the flames or revival [kingdom growth].”

This is especially important at Christmas. Thankfully at Cromhall Chapel when we talk about:

  • Prophecies fulfilled in Christ foretold in ages past,
  • Angels and choirs of heaven,
  • Dreams,
  • A young teenager becoming pregnant through the Holy Spirit (the Virgin Birth),
  • God becoming man in the person of Jesus (the Incarnation),
  • And that He came to save us from our sins (SIN is real), and
  • That by believing who Jesus is and why He died you will be transformed into a new person and given eternal life [the ultimate personal testimony to the truth of the Bible’s message, the Gospel]…

we actually believe what the Bible says!

Happy Christmas—IT IS ALL TRUE!

Pastor Chris

Calling evil good and good evil (a word to Christians about the LGBTI agenda)

Woe to those who call evil good

                               and good evil,

               who put darkness for light

                               and light for darkness,

               who put bitter for sweet

                               and sweet for bitter! (Isaiah 5:20 ESV)

 This was true of Isaiah’s day and it is certainly true today, where people live sinful lives as if they were the norm (Proverbs 14:12). We live in an age of moral confusion. What was once viewed as evil and unacceptable has witnessed a 180 revolution where evil is touted as being good, and liberating—the epitome of a “liberal” society.[1] Many people begrudgingly go along with the LGBTI[2] agenda or shrug it off by saying things like, “they can do what they’d like” or “so long as it doesn’t hurt anyone or bother me…” The reason behind the shift? Our present state of moral confusion has derived from their ceasing to exist in the minds of the populace a moral authority as to what is right and what is wrong. Even for those who have mild moral bearings standing up for what is right is often hard to do and so if the squeaky wheel gets the grease… “hang on a second shouldn’t we think about this…oh bother with the fuss, I’d rather go watch tennis.” This article attempts to reasonably think through this vast issue of gender confusion in an introductory manner from a Biblical and Christian perspective. While many other helpful arguments that support the Biblical view of gender can be found in natural law, etc, (appealed to by non-Christians of religious and non-religious persuasions alike), this post will limit itself to the Biblical argument believing the Bible to be the authoritative Word of God and therefore sufficient in all matters of morality, faith and practice.

The LGBTI agenda has been the squeaky wheel that has got the grease. It has been a silent and stealthy force creeping through Western civilization, often without any thought or resistance. Recently transgenderism[3] has been the issue in vogue. The US has been debating toilet laws and whether transgendered people could join the army. Canada is moving towards gender neutral statements on government issued ID cards as if we are all androgynous.[4] Suddenly transgenderism and homosexuality are being plastered across the media and film in an attempt to enculturate society into believing that the old evil is the new norm.

Part of the issue in trying to stick one’s neck out and offer an honest plea for common sense is that one’s neck risks being cut off. Opposition is branded as the enemy or as hate speech. Let me stop and be clear. This article is not hate speech, it is being offered calmly and collectively, putting forward the Christian view, one filled with truth and love. This is being done in a traditionally liberal spirit (meaning the view open to broad learning and dialogue) and indeed the LGBTI view represents the illiberal view (close-minded to other views than its own). Funny how words change in meaning when those who used to espouse the liberal arts of listening and dialogue, and have largely come to believe the worldview that there is no grand truth and yet militantly use threats to quell any challenge to the norm that is being imposed. For those who are illiberal I am already the enemy. For those who are open to reason and would like to know more of the teaching of the Bible on the subject, I invite you to continue with me.

Before we turn to the Bible one helpful clarification on gender and sexuality.

The World Health Organization records that, “Sex refers to the biological and physiological characteristics that define men and women. Gender refers to the socially constructed roles, behaviours, activities, and attributes that a given society considers appropriate for men and women.”

To be fair there have been times in the past where aspects of gender have been stereotypically pinned to one sex or another whilst in reality they could be common to the sexes (i.e. the old saying that girls couldn’t play sports). So in this sense the challenge to aspects of traditional gender association has been liberating (for men and women). However, while there are some gender attributes that may be legitimately shared across the sexes many find their roots not in what “society considers appropriate” but in the sex that God assigned to us. For example, there is something in the biological hardwiring of men that make them providers and women nurturers. What separates men and women is not just our physical anatomy. Men really are men and women truly are women. The differences do not only revolve around reproductive systems, but the totality of our biology and calling as being created in the image of God fashions us as men and women, distinct but equal in God’s sight. Therefore the Biblical view sees gender and sex as being inextricably linked and assigned by God, whereas the contemporary developing view sees gender (and sex via sex changes) as a subjective matter of choice.

The Biblical View of Gender

 Why is it that Deut 22:5 says,

A woman shall not wear a man’s garment, nor shall a man put on a woman’s cloak, for whoever does these things is an abomination to the LORD your God. (Deuteronomy 22:5 ESV)

This verse against transvestitism (dressing like the opposite sex) is a prime example of how the Bible places boundaries between male and female because God has fearfully and wonderfully made us and assigned to us our sex which is a gift to be cherish and not denied or confused. To deny your sex is to deny who God has made you to be and to rebel against God.

On the creation of the sexes let’s turn to Genesis 1:27:

 So God created man in his own image,

in the image of God he created him;

male and female he created them.

(Genesis 1:27 ESV) [emphasis added]

This truth is the fountainhead of all other conversations about human gender and sexuality in the Bible. Every one of them harkens back to this truth. After Gen 1:27 it says God saw that it was “very good” (Gen 1:31). Therefore to deny who we are is to rebel against God’s good design for us. It bespeaks arrogance, pride, revolt, selfishness and self-indulgence whereas accepting and rejoicing in who God made you speaks of humility, celebration, gratitude, submission and worship.

This is why as part of the FIEC we have collectively proposed adopting the following statement on gender:

God created us male and female, and calls us to live according to our gender identity which is inseparable from our biological sex determined at conception. Our gender may not be changed or reassigned.

 *This said we need to acknowledge that there are difficult and very rare cases such as biological “transgenderism” (when a child is born as a hermaphrodite or intersex [having both sets of sexual organs]). As Jesus said, “there are eunuchs who have been so from birth” (Mt 19:21). Physical defects such as this are a general result of the Fall. Being confronted with these parents have an enormous decision to make, one in which I would argue they as parents have the authority to exercise parental judgement in one way or the other. In such cases families require all the care and counsel Christians can offer. However, a rare exception should never be allowed to trump the rule.

 How Christians Should Treat Transgendered People

Have compassion on the lost and confused as Jesus did:

When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. (Matthew 9:36 ESV)

Because these people are troubled, insecure and often possess deep wounds, they are therefore in great need of healing, teaching and care. We need to do this firmly but with gentleness and respect (1 Pet 3:15) remembering they are our fellow sinners and that the only thing that separates us is grace:

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

We must love them while presenting the truth to them with the firm believe that true healing for their gender confusion can only be found in their finding their identity in Christ.

In a generation in which morality sways with the wind may those who follow Christ resolutely place their feet upon the rock trusting He will be the anchor that will keep us in the storm, and may the Lord use such steadfastness to be a light in the moral confusion of our time.

The Lord’s Sweetest Blessings,

Pastor Chris

[1] “Freedom” however is often pure licentiousness and underneath its cover is the truth that people who think they are free—free from God, authority, moral obligations— are actually slaves to Satan and sin (Ro 6:18). Our inalienable rights are truly only those that God has established in His word.

[2] Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual, Trans-gendered or Inter-Sex.

[3] To be transgendered refers to a person whose self-identity does not conform unambiguously to conventional notions of male or female gender.

[4]Being neither male nor female in sex and gender.