Monday, June 23, 2014

1. Sermons Are Thought to be "Biblical"

This is my first post in a short blog series entitled Why Sermons Won't Go Away. The primary reason sermons aren't going away anytime in the near future is that most Christians think they are "biblical." In other words, the majority of Christ-followers believe that we should have sermons today because we find sermons in the bible. This line of reasoning shows a complete misunderstanding of context.


The sermons we see in the New Testament are preached out in the marketplace by non-pastors to unbelievers. This is critical to our understanding. Sermons were evangelistic in nature. They were designed to call the lost to repent and believe. A prime example of this is Paul's sermon to the Athenians recorded in Acts 17:22-34. In that passage Paul says, "The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent."

The sermons we see preached today are far from biblical in nature. They are preached not in the marketplace but in special church buildings (something foreign to the New Testament church). They are preached by pastors. They are preached to saved people (or at least those in the pews; we assume they are saved).

Simply put, most of the sermons we see today have little to nothing to do with the model we are given in scripture. However, since most people think they are "biblical," they will continue unabated. How sad this is for the church.

WARNING: this blog series will be somewhat negative and fairly depressing in nature. However, at the end I will suggest, to borrow Paul's words from the end of I Corinthians 12, "a still more excellent way."

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Why Sermons Won't Go Away

Sermons are ubiquitous. Just about any time most churches get together for their big meetings some sort of sermon takes place. These extended monologues come in various shapes and sizes, but they amount to the same thing. It is almost always (>99%) one person - usually clergy - speaking from an elevated platform to a quiet audience. No participation is expected or invited.

It is my contention that sermons do much more harm than good to the church. Sermons act to separate the clergy from the laity. Sermons stifle the priesthood of all believers. Sermons play a big part in turning church gatherings into formal ceremonies. Sermons give the message that sitting and listening pleases God. Sermons turn Christianity into an exercise in rhetoric. Sermons elevate the speakers to "special status" within the church. Sermons bore most people. This list goes on...

Despite all these problems, the sermon has had remarkable staying power. At least since the Reformation the sermon has dominated church meetings around the globe. It doesn't appear to be going away any time soon. Some excellent sermon preachers have even gained rockstar status within evangelical Christianity (see John Piper, R.C. Sproul, John MacArthur, Albert Mohler, N.T. Wright, Tim Keller, Mark Driscoll, etc.).

Why won't sermons go away? I've thought about this a lot recently. My background is full of sermons. I listened (sort of) to them during all my growing up years. I attended seminary, where I was trained to preach sermons. As a professional pastor, I preached hundreds of sermons. All this sermonizing has given me a full perspective on what keeps sermons going year, after year, after year...

Five reasons stand out why sermons aren't going away. That's what I'll be discussing in my next five posts.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Homosexuality Series Summary

Homosexuality is here to stay. We followers of Jesus Christ must know how to respond appropriately to this issue. Far too often the church falls into the trap of letting culture dictate what we believe about things. As for homosexuality, some Christians have already welcomed it completely, while others act as if all homosexuals are the worst people on the planet. Instead of following our secular culture's path, let's let God direct us through scripture. When we look in the bible we read many helpful principles for how we should deal best with homosexuality. This series is my simple attempt to look at some of these principles. Click on any link below to read the article:

1. God Loves Homosexuals
2. We Must Love Homosexuals
3. We All Sin Every Day
4. Homosexuals Are Individuals
5. Homosexuality Is Sin (the Action, Not the Attraction)
6. Love Does Not Equal Acceptance of Behavior
7. Let's Befriend Homosexuals
8. This Is a Gospel Issue
9. Focus on New Testament Passages
10. We Must Not Give In On Homosexuality

Thursday, June 12, 2014

10. We Must Not Give In On Homosexuality

In this blog post title the word "We" refers to the church. We simply cannot afford to give in on this issue.

It saddens me a great deal that many Christians have already caved. Several large denominations have recently given approval to the gay lifestyle (as if denominations have the right to do this). It amounts to a surrender to societal pressures and political correctness. It stems from allowing feelings to trump scripture.

As Christ's followers, we cannot afford to follow this cultural trend. The gospel itself is at stake. I do not consider this hyperbole.

Why is the gospel at stake? Let me clarify. The truth of the gospel is not at stake; God has made it true. This will never change. However, our understanding of the gospel is at stake. For most of us the gospel was transmitted to us by someone else. We heard it through the medium of speech. However, we know it to be true because of what we read in the bible. Additionally, the Holy Spirit testifies to our hearts that what we read about the gospel in the scriptures is true.

The bible is a book of words. Words have meaning. Sentences and especially paragraphs have even more meaning. The scripture writers did not intend to be confusing. They wrote in a straightforward manner with an intention that those reading it and listening to it being read would understand it. Why else write anything?

The bible is clear on the gospel. We can easily understand what it says. The bible is also clear on homosexuality. Like the gospel, we can easily understand what the scriptures say about the gay lifestyle.

In order to say that homosexuality is valid, Christians have to say that the bible is not actually clear on homosexuality. I already had one commenter on this blog series say that. My response: poppycock. The wording is clear enough for a middle school student to understand it. In fact, the bible is as clear on homosexuality as it is on the gospel.

Here's the key: if we say that the bible is not clear on homosexuality, then to be consistent we also have to say that the bible is not clear on the gospel itself. If we give in on homosexuality, we may as well throw out the gospel. If we cannot understand the one, the other will soon follow.

The bible is clear. If we are going to be people of the book, we absolutely cannot cave in on homosexuality. No matter how hard society pushes us, we must take a stand on this issue. The gospel itself is at stake.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

9. Focus on New Testament Passages

The current climate of political correctness in our culture certainly favors homosexuality. It is being normalized in all sectors of our society. Every week something new happens. For example, just a few days ago a judge in Wisconsin struck down the state's ban on gay marriage. With the cultural tide flowing in this direction, we need to know both why we believe what we do and how to explain it.

It is right and good to turn to the bible for what we believe about homosexuality. In fact, the scriptures must be our supreme source of authority in what we think on this issue (along with all other issues). That said, where we turn in the bible is extremely important. I believe we should focus primarily on New Testament passages. The reason for this is that if we turn to the Old Testament law we can easily end up in the middle of a debate over which O.T. passages still apply today. I've seen this happen numerous times; it ends up accomplishing little.

When looking in the bible, my suggestion is to first turn to Genesis 1-2. This shows God's creation of male and female. We also see Adam and Eve form a binding relationship together. After setting this as the foundation, move to the New Testament to focus on New Covenant practices. The New Testament praises marriage within the confines of God's standards. The N.T. also consistently condemns homosexuality. The following verses illustrate this:

Romans 1:26-27, "For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error."

I Cor. 6:9-10, "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."

I Timothy 1:8-11, "Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully, understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine, in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted."

There is certainly a time for turning back to the rest of the Old Testament to show that God has been consistent in his views on homosexuality all throughout scripture. However, in order to avoid debates over which sections of the O.T. law apply to the church today, I advise to focus primarily on what we see in the N.T.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

8. This Is a Gospel Issue

Homosexuality is a difficult issue. When the topic of a conversation turns to homosexuality, strong emotions often follow. We've probably all seen arguments begin quickly and end poorly when the gay lifestyle is the focus.

Because of the emotions involved, it's often easiest to wish that the whole issue would just go away. Well, it won't. In light of that, many of us believers choose to just ignore it as best we can. Our lives are too busy; we just don't want to get involved.

As Jesus Christ's emissaries to this world we must realize something critical: homosexuality is a gospel issue.

It is a gospel issue in the sense that homosexual behavior is sinful. While God loves homosexuals, he also does not tolerate sin.

For example, in Exodus 24:6-7 we read in God's description of himself, "...'The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children's children, to the third and the fourth generation.' "

We see in that passage that while God is forgiving, he also will not clear the guilty (those whose sin has not been paid for).

Later in I Corinthians 6:9-11 we see the following, "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."

No sin is too big for God to forgive. However, God does not forgive sin that is not repented of. When people engage in repeated, sinful behavior over extended periods of time with no remorse, no regret, and no repentance, they are in serious danger of facing the wrath of God. This is a scary place to be.

None of us should be in the business of judging whether or not someone else is saved. Only God knows this. Instead, we should focus on loving and serving all people. This includes sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ when the Holy Spirit leads us to do so. The frightening thing for homosexuals is that many have been engaging in the gay lifestyle for a long time. In light of how God feels about sin, many of them are in great danger eternally. It would be unloving of us to either accept their behavior as valid or fail to at least try to befriend them and share Christ with them.

To summarize: homosexuality, like any sin, is a gospel issue. Anyone engaging in a chronic sinful lifestyle faces great danger. Only Jesus Christ can save them from this now and eternally. As those with the good news, we must always remember this and act upon it.

Friday, June 6, 2014

7. Let's Befriend Homosexuals

Many Christians do not know any homosexuals. Even fewer Christians have homosexual friends. This is extremely problematic.

If the only homosexuals we see are on television, then we fail to see homosexuals as they are. Homosexuals are individuals. They are not primarily a political group fighting a culture was (although the culture war is real). Rather, they are primarily people going about their busy lives.

Jesus saw people as individuals. He spent time with people. He befriended them. In light of this, what does it say of us if we avoid homosexuals?

In order to actually see homosexuals as they are, we must make an effort to befriend them. I'm not talking about anything artificial here. I'm referring to getting to know homosexuals either at work or in the neighborhood. If you don't know of any, then pray that God will bring some into your comings and goings.

We make the greatest impact in life on those who are our friends. If our goal is to share Jesus Christ with homosexuals, then friendship is the best context in which to do this. Friends listen to what we say; culture warriors do not.

What I'm suggesting is neither easy nor comfortable (although it may be). However, it is what we must do. As Christ's ambassadors, we have a great privilege and duty. We are to care for the poor and hurting. Many homosexuals are hurting in many ways. We are also to share the only truly good news in this world. We know the one person who can free homosexuals from their sinful behavior. It is within friendships that we will be most effective.

Let's do it.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

6. Love Does Not Equal Acceptance of Behavior

This blog post is part of my continuing series entitled Ten Thoughts on Homosexuality.

Our culture has foisted upon us something that is both interesting and troubling. Secular society has made it clear that the only way to show love to homosexuals is to accept their behavior as completely valid in every way. Anyone who has anything negative whatsoever to say against the homosexual lifestyle is labeled a bigot and a hater. The culture no longer tolerates or allows the idea that we could love the homosexual but hate their sin.

In the bible we read a far different story. In looking at the life of Jesus Christ, we see him again and again come into contact with people in sin. Jesus always treats them with grace. He also always confronts them about their sin. The woman at the well in John chapter four is a prime example.

Jesus Christ knew that it would actually be unloving to leave people in their sins. To confront them was the right thing to do. Jesus understood the power and significance of sin so well that he died to pay for sin. In his earthly ministry Christ never failed to talk to people about sin in their lives. Because he loved them he did this.

As we think about loving homosexuals, we must be careful not to fall into our culture's trap. We can and must remember that homosexuality is sin. While we lovingly serve and get to know homosexuals, we cannot ever accept their lifestyle as right or valid. This, of course, does not mean that we must confront them with their sin on every occasion. However, when the Spirit leads, we must make it clear that we both love them and do not accept their behavior as right and good.

Culture must not ever be allowed to determine what we think about issues such as this. Instead, we follow Christ's example of loving everyone but accepting no sin.