Thursday, May 23, 2013

Such were some of you

Do you feel it? ... The pressure? I sure do, and it is steadily increasing. On the news, in my twitterfeed, and at the workplace. Everywhere I turn I see and hear discussion about the promotion of homosexuality and same-sex marriage. Can I be honest about something: I'm a Christian man and I don't particularly enjoy talking about this subject.

But you know what? It is being crammed down our throats, and there is no way to avoid this issue. I wish that we could; I wish there was a way to not focus on this. But as Christians we should "always [be] ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence" (1 Peter 3:15b, NASB).

Therefore, if we want to be honest and engage the people around us with the gospel then this issue is bound to come up. The issue is partially about homosexuality, to be sure, but it goes deeper than that. Our message is one of hope for a lost and wicked generation: Christ came to save sinners and has accomplished His purpose on the cross of Calvary. Going beyond the brunt issue of sexual preferences, the underlying issue is the rulership of God over the lives of humanity. 

You see, God is the Creator of heaven and earth and He has the sole right to determine what is right and what is wrong. We shouldn't deny that homosexuals have same-sex attraction. In fact, the Bible acknowledges this. However, simply because one has a desire to do something does not mean it is morally good. For example, the thief has a desire to steal from others and this is declared as sinful in Scripture. Even though stealing might bring temporary happiness to the thieving person, it can only bring negative consequences. It harms others and himself in the long run. The same is true of homosexuality.

Paul, describing the church at Corinth, says: "Such were some of you..." (Emphasis MINE). This begs the question: what were they? He explains just prior to saying this, "Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God." Corinth was a wicked city, full of wicked people. In God's free grace, He delivered many Corinthians from the consequences of their sins. Praise be to God that He did not just declare them not guilty of their iniquities! No; He then saved them from themselves and their sinful lifestyles! Notice: "Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God."

What we have to proclaim to our fellow citizens is a message that everyone needs to hear: God is just and holy, and we are not. He gave us laws to obey, and we have broken them every day of our lives. Because of this we deserve to die, face His judgment, and be cast into Hell to pay for our crimes for all eternity. But God sent His one, unique Son - God in human flesh - to live the perfect life we could not, and die on the cross in the place of His people. We are commanded to turn from our wicked ways and trust in Christ to save us from our sins. We must count the cost, because Jesus requires the utter denial of ourselves in order to follow Him.

Ironically, the world doesn't have a problem with Jesus or with Christians, until we arrive at this point: repentance. Jesus preached it; He requires it of all people everywhere because there is a final Day of Judgment coming where we will all stand before His judgment seat.

Did Jesus shy away from this issue? Surely he must have known how unpopular it sounds to the culture (then and now)! 
Now on the same occasion there were some present who reported to Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. And Jesus said to them, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were greater sinners than all other Galileans because they suffered this fate? I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or do you suppose that those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them were worse culprits than all the men who live in Jerusalem? I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” (Luke 13:1-3, NASB). 
Faced with 2 difficult scenarios, Jesus was asked whether the murder of innocents by Pilate, or the tragedy of a tower collapsing and killing people, meant that those people were greater sinners than the rest. The Lord put things in perspective for those asking and simply said this: "...unless you repent, you will all likewise perish." This is our message - the wrath of God abides on you. Therefore, turn from your sins, towards Christ, trusting Him to save you.

I say all of this, knowing Christ's message is a hard message. Even the disciples were frustrated about Christ's message: "This is a difficult statement; who can listen to it?" (John 6:60, NASB).  Here was Jesus' response to the disciples: 
But Jesus, conscious that His disciples grumbled at this, said to them, “Does this cause you to stumble? What then if you see the Son of Man ascending to where He was before? It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life. But there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who it was that would betray Him. And He was saying, “For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father.” (John 6:61-65, NASB).
The Lord of all things, however, knew what he was doing - He still knows what he is doing. Rather than appealing to worldly wisdom to persuade the culture, Christ preached a message of repentance and faith in himself. This is our message to proclaim today.

Even though many who call themselves Christians keel over at the first sign of pressure from the world, we cannot do this. We can either be friends with the world or with God. My pastor said it best recently: 

"The only power the world has over you is what you give to it by loving the things in the world." 


We need to be a people concerned about God's truth found in His inspired Word. We need to live lives consistent with the message we claim to believe in. We need to speak to our friends, family, coworkers and acquaintances about the gospel of Jesus Christ, all in humility and love. May we not shy away from the opportunities Christ has given us, especially while we have freedom to do so.

I will leave you with this, one of my favorite texts of Scripture: "Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord." (1 Corinthians 15:58, NASB). 

Thanks for reading,

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