Tuesday, September 30, 2014

“Homosexual And Christian?”

Biblegems #203
Question: How do those who practice homosexuality and who also consider themselves to be Christian defend their position biblically, especially in light of such straightforward passages as Leviticus 18:22 and 1Corinthians 6:9-10?

Here are the verses in question. Note the underlined words.
         Lev. 18:22 Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable.
         1Cor. 6:9-10 Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders 10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.

Those who claim they belong to Christ while defending their homosexual lifestyle typically justify their position as follows:
• The Bible is not to be understood literally.
• God values diversity.
• God values unity in Christ, therefore nothing should divide believers.
• Those who judge people because of homosexuality are guilty of other equally condemned behaviors.
• Condemning homosexuality is legalism; and the law has nothing to do with faith.
• Love, not behavior, marks a true disciple of Christ.

Are these arguments valid? No. Here’s why—

The Bible is God’s inspired Word and our final authority in doctrine and behavior:
2Pet. 1:20-21 Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation. 21 For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
2Tim. 3:16-17 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

Therefore, when Scripture states that certain lifestyle behaviors are “detestable,” “wicked,” “immoral” and descriptive of people who will not “inherit the Kingdom of God,” it is to be understood literally. As Jesus clearly affirmed:
         Matt. 5:18 I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.

Therefore, Christians are not being judgmental or legalistic in denouncing homosexuality; they are simply pointing out what God has already judged as “wicked” in His Word.

When a car passes you on the highway at 100 mph and you say, “he’s going 30 mph over the speed limit,” you are not being judgmental. You’re just stating the facts—the driver is breaking the law and you hope, for everyone’s benefit, he gets caught before he causes serious injury.

In the same way, God does not encourage “wicked,” “detestable” and “immoral” behavior in the Body of Christ in the name of love, unity and diversity. If that were the case, why not condone incest or prostitution? Yet the Scriptures clearly identify all such behavior as sexually immoral and to be zealously avoided by God’s people, just as we are to avoid all other sinful behavior:
Eph. 5:3 But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people.

Note: For further discussion related to this topic please see Bible Gems #102, 103, 104 (Sept - Oct, 2012).

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

“Disowning” Jesus—Matthew 10:33

Biblegems #202
Question: What does Jesus mean when He says in Matthew 10:33, whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven”?

Down through the centuries these words of Jesus have caused so much disagreement in the church as to whether or a not a person can “lose” his or her salvation. Ironically, Jesus’ intent was to encourage His followers in just how deeply we are loved by our heavenly Father! The key to understanding verse 33 actually springs from this whole concept of God’s love for us and our love for God.

The word translated from the Greek as  “disown” or “deny” is arneomai,” which means “to contradict,” to “disavow,” to “reject” or “abnegate” (i.e.: deny, refuse). The straightforward meaning of His teaching is clear: those who acknowledge Jesus, even in the face of persecution or death, Jesus will likewise acknowledge before His heavenly Father.

On the other hand, those who deny or disown Jesus because of persecution or the threat of death will be denied and disowned by Jesus in the presence of His heavenly Father. He will do this because the threat of suffering and death has demonstrated that such people love their earthly existence more than they love Jesus, the giver of eternal life.

The context of verse 33 is like an artist’s photo. Picture this in your imagination: the people Jesus referred to as “those who will kill the body” (v. 28) are like powerful river rapids in the photo that will dash people on its rocks without mercy. Those rapids represent people who would injure and even kill Christians for being followers of Jesus.

But the picture also shows that the rapids themselves plunge over a sheer cliff, and an underground canyon swallows up the entire river. This canyon represents God—the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (v. 28). Even from just the photo it can be clearly seen that the drop into the canyon is far more terrifying and deadly than the rapids.

Then, running across the powerful waterfall, just below the edge of the falls, is a sturdy bridge. It is the bridge of God’s love in Jesus Christ. He will not allow any who belong to Him to be carried away into the inescapable depths. “Do not be afraid,” of the rapids, Jesus says (v. 28), because they are nothing compared to falls and the canyon. Stay on the bridge; remain in Jesus. God loves you. He knows you and loves you so intimately that He keeps track of every hair that washes down the shower drain. He has provided a way over the falls, even if the rapids sweep your body away.

In the foreground, in extremely sharp focus, verse 33 is a question in statement form: which do you love more, your body or Jesus? You will travel the path of that which you love most to its very end.

         John 6:40 For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Judging Others

Biblegems #201
Question: Can you tell me where in the Bible (if anywhere) believers  are called to "judge" others, especially another human being's spirituality or their relationship with the Lord?

The word used most often for “judge” in the New Testament is “krino,” (pronounced kree´-no). It means to distinguish between two things, such as right and wrong. It is often used in terms of a judge’s ruling in court. Jesus tells us not to put ourselves in the position of a judge over other people. However…that is not so much a commandment as it is a warning.
         Matt. 7:1-2 Do not judge, or you too will be judged.

Romans teaches explicitly what Jesus implied—God Himself will judge our judgment over the behavior of others:
Rom. 14:10 You, then, why do you judge your brother? Or why do you look down on your brother? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat.

That does not mean we will be automatically condemned for judging others, but that God will determine if our judgment was correct and judge us accordingly.

God knows the heart. He knows we are prone to step over the line from discerning judgment of right and wrong to condemnation:
         Rom. 2:1 You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.

So, as a general rule…
1Cor. 4:5 judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes.

Are there exceptions? Yes.

The Bible does instruct believers to “judge those inside the church” who persist in “wicked” behavior.
1Cor. 5:12-13 What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked man from among you.”

Jesus gave very specific instructions for dealing with the sinful behavior of others (Matt 18:15-20). To correct sinful behavior, of course, requires identifying sinful behavior—judging between right and wrong. There’s no avoiding it.
         Luke 6:44 Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thornbushes, or grapes from briers.

In fact, the church is in training for the day when the followers of Jesus will exercise judgment over the fallen angels, and indeed, the world:
1Cor. 6:2-3 Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if you are to judge the world, are you not competent to judge trivial cases? Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more the things of this life!

The truth is, the Lord wants to train His people to become wise, discerning people who know how to judge between right and wrong and act appropriately upon that judgment. We are not to play God and condemn people. But we cannot be wishy-washy either when it comes to how God’s people treat one another.
1Cor. 6:5 I say this to shame you. Is it possible that there is nobody among you wise enough to judge a dispute between believers?     

Let’s exercise good “judgment” in how we use the word, and do the word.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The “Sin That Leads To Death”

Biblegems #200
Question: In 1 John 5:16, what is meant by “sin not leading to death,” and is the person who witnesses the sin being committed able to confess and repent for the sinner?

This is probably one of the most difficult verses in the New Testament, leading to many different explanations. And the question, what is meant by “sin not leading to death,” gets at the heart of the problem, because all sin leads to death (Rom. 6:23).

The verse tells us that the person committing the sin (whatever it is) is a “brother” (i.e., a believer); and the phrasing in the Greek makes it clear that this follower of Jesus is committing this sin intentionally (Gk. aJmarta¿nonta aJmarti÷an: “sinning to sin”). And whatever this sinful behavior is that the follower of Jesus is about to act upon “does not lead to death.”

We know from Scripture in general that all sin that is not atoned for by the blood of Jesus ultimately leads to judgment and death—complete, eternal separation from God physically and spiritually:
Rom. 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

         Matt. 25:41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 46  “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

Therefore, the word “death” in 1 John 5:16 must refer simply to physical death, not eternal condemnation. In that case, the verse tells us that there is some sin that leads to physical death and other sin that does not. The verse goes on to say that when one believer sees another believer tempted to act in a sinful way, he should ask God to give his tempted friend “life.”  This word for “life” (Gk. zwh/) can also mean “the way of life.” In other words, we should pray that God would steer our tempted brother or sister away from sin and toward the path of obedient life in Christ.

But that still leaves the question: What kind of sin does lead to physical death, and are we supposed to let someone about to commit that kind of sin go un-prayed for?

There are some examples of sin leading to physical death recorded in Scripture. Ananias and Sapphira lied to God, and when their sin was exposed they collapsed and died on the spot (Acts 5:1-10). Some believers in Corinth who selfishly abused the Lord’s Supper, stuffing themselves with food, became sick. Some even died, as a judgment by God (1 Cor. 11:27-34). Likewise, the apostle Paul warns believers to avoid sexual immorality, using the experience of the Hebrews in the Wilderness as an example:
         1Cor. 10:8 We should not commit sexual immorality, as some of them did—and in one day twenty-three thousand of them died.  

Finally, the word translated “pray” at the end of 1Jn. 5:16 specifically means “interrogate,” “question” or “ask.” So when God does exercises capital punishment upon the believer, this verse tells us we should not question God about His decision to do so.