Monday, June 29, 2015

Seven truths as we face a new day as the church

While many have said much about the Supreme Court's June 26 decision legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide, it is important for the church of Jesus Christ not to be silent in the wake of this grievous, barrier-breaking ruling. I introduced yesterday's sermon on I Peter 2:11-12 -- a passage that was providentially appropriate for the occasion -- by declaring seven truths on behalf of Covenant Community Church and our Lord and as a reminder to us as a congregation. Here they are, based on my manuscript, with a few tweaks and, in the seventh point, an additional sentence:
1. God is still sovereign. We may find it difficult to grasp the reason why such a ruling can come forth from five Supreme Court justices who live under the providential rule of the holy God. Yet, we know God does not align Himself with evil. This action did not soil God’s perfect character, but it did occur within His absolute control of all things. God is not without purpose in His sovereign rule.

2. God’s Word is still authoritative. Where the Bible speaks, God still speaks. The Bible has not been reimagined or reinvented to fit the fickleness of a frequently shifting culture. It still judges “the thoughts and intentions of the heart,” Heb. 4:12 says.

3. God’s design for marriage and sexuality is still in effect. The Supreme Court can decide what the governments of this country must recognize as marriage, but it cannot define what marriage is. Marriage was God’s idea. He defined it as only one relationship. The first chapter of the Bible tells us when God made human beings in His image He made them male and female. He gave the female to the male for them to be distinctive and complementary partners. God has made marriage to picture the gospel, and only a man and a woman can portray the Bridegroom and the bride who are the parties in the gospel. So much has happened in the last four weeks, it is difficult to remember what occurred on the first day of this month. Then, the most famous transgender transfer so far was unveiled, when Bruce Jenner appeared on a magazine cover looking like a female. The sexual revolution is bearing bitter fruit its proponents of 50 years ago likely did not imagine. These truths remain: God has made each human being permanently as either a male or a female; He has designed marriage as only between a male and a female; and He has given sexuality as a good gift only to be expressed by a male and a female within marriage.

4. Jesus is still the only Lord and Savior. As has always been true, the Son of God and His life, death and resurrection in our place are the only hope for sinners, and that includes each of us. Whether a person considers himself heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual or transgender, no new marriage, no new gender identity, no acceptance of a new sexual orientation will deliver from the guilt, condemnation, shame, penalty, power and presence of sin. Only Jesus will.

5. We are still ministers of reconciliation. As with all our neighbors, no matter where they live, we remain ambassadors of Christ to them. The lesbian or gay in a same-sex union and the transgender person are not enemies to be reviled or avoided. They are fellow image bearers of God to be loved and served. We have the message of reconciliation with God to share with them. As Russell Moore has pointed out, same-sex marriage will produce great disappointment in many who find it does not satisfy, and we need to be prepared to love, serve, evangelize and disciple these “refugees from the sexual revolution.”

6. We will face new challenges. We should not minimize this reality: This is a new day for evangelical Christians in this country. We are in a strange land for ministry and liberty. We must prepare ourselves, our families and our church for friendship with and ministry to same-sex couples and the children of same-sex couples. We also must prepare ourselves for the intolerance to come. A winnowing is coming. We will face pressures of various kinds to bend the knee to a culture and likely a government that will brook no dissent. Many of us, if not all, will suffer harm. This is our heritage. Our faith sprang up amid hostility, and we have the privilege of joining the suffering saints who preceded us in this great cause.

7. We still win. No matter what happens, victory is assured – not because of any achievement of our own but because of the absolute triumph of King Jesus. We “overwhelming conquer through Him who loved us,” Rom. 8:37 says. We will reign with Him. This calls for humble trust, not haughty triumphalism. While we await that day, may we be joyful soldiers. May we reject fear, anger, frustration and depression. May we practice humility, gentleness, compassion, courage, holiness, faith, hope and love as we follow our Captain, and may we do it together.
It will be helpful to remind ourselves of these truths, and more, as we live as the church and walk united in truth and grace in the days to come.

* -- Photo attribution.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Lessons from a long airport wait

Last Sunday, Linda and I spent nearly five hours waiting to fly out of Dulles International Airport, most of that time in the terminal but some waiting on the plane at the gate and on the tarmac. The experience prompted some observations, as well as some applications for the church.


1. There is something exceptional and wondrous about a gathering of the nations, including in an airport terminal.

2. A common cause during difficult circumstances produces an atypical camaraderie.

3. Some people serve sacrificially during difficult circumstances to help the needy.


1. All the nations will be represented eternally in the exceptional and wondrous gathering around the throne of God.

2. Our common Savior and common cause -- the discipling of the nations -- produce a unique fellowship.

3. All of us have the opportunity to serve sacrificially like our Servant Savior to help the needy.

* -- Photo attribution.

Friday, June 5, 2015

How to respond to Bruce Jenner and transgenderism

Monday's unveiling of Bruce Jenner with a new appearance raised the transgender issue to a previously unknown level of cultural consciousness. There are a number of questions Christians face on how to respond to this growing phenomenon, but we must first get the basics right.

Last summer, I preached a sermon series titled "Gender, Sexuality, and the Purpose and Power of God." I addressed the transgender issue in that series' first sermon, which was on Genesis 1:26-27. In that text, the Bible says, "God created man" -- which is the word for human being -- "in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them."

Here are excerpts from that sermon's manuscript that relate to transgenderism:
Man, as used in these two verses, consists of both male and female. Both are made in God’s image. Both have a responsibility to rule over creation.

Yet, they are different. And there are only two kinds of them – male and female. There is purposefulness in this distinction, a purposefulness by God that is fleshed out in the verses that follow. . . .

God has not changed His pattern from creation. There is nothing in the Bible that indicates a revision in this truth – human beings are male and female. There is a distinction between the two. Each of us is whom God made us to be. And a vital part of who we are is our gender. We are either male or female. That is a reality to be embraced by each of us. A male should embrace the fact he is a male. A female should embrace the fact she is a female. It is God’s purposeful design in our lives. . . .

[H]ow should we respond? With truth and grace. In addition to embracing our gender and thanking God for making us exactly the way He has:

(1) We should not be shocked that such misguided thinking as that of transgender people is found in human beings. They, and we, live in a fallen world where the sin nature blinds us and causes us to believe lies. But we also should not surrender on this reality of Scripture and creation: God has made us male and female.

(2) We should not see those who have what is described as a gender identity disorder as monsters, mutants or freaks. They, like all other human beings, are made in the image of God.

(3) We should love, care for, serve, evangelize – and hopefully – disciple them. They, like all other sinners, need the gospel. And once they have received the gospel of Jesus, we should help them see that part of repenting and following Jesus is not rebelling against their Creator but accepting the gender they were given by God.