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Councils may err…

July 21, 2014

“You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.  And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others…Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.“ (2 Corinthians 2:1-2,15)

Open Bible

The Women’s Bible Study I resource and lead has begun an 11 week Bible Study on 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus.  And I am elated.  I get a charge out of Sunday School classes and Bible Studies which actually focus on the scriptures rather than the latest NY Times best seller, because the church is all too often faced with decisions which require a well-formed and mature, Biblically grounded faith.  A children’s level Sunday School education is not enough in these matters.  And reading what others say about the Bible should never serve as a prelude to or a replacement for actually reading the Bible.  Deconstructive theologies, post-modern approaches, and gender specific hermeneutics fail us.  “Cliff notes” don’t hack it in serious study circles.

Church statisticians remind us that Biblical ignorance is at an all-time high with too many adults considering Sunday School and Bible Studies to be the realm of women and children – limiting themselves to an infantile understanding of the greatest source of knowledge we have about God and God’s will for us His children.  Few adults are able to name the Ten Commandments, the twelve disciples or how many books actually make up our Scripture, much less comment meaningfully on the more complex matters of differentiating between counsel and command in the Bible.  Too many look to the words of Jesus in the scriptures as having more authority than the other words, not understanding the specifically stated view of scripture that “all Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).  Few realize that the N.T. understanding of O.T. sin is not that sin is no longer sin, but that many of those O.T. standards were to set Israel apart from its neighbors and as a means to help us understand that we are incapable of fulfilling the Law on our own accord.   Not that the Law is inappropriate but that we can’t fulfill it.  There is even confusion between God’s Law and the Mosaic Law.  The truth is, and always has been, that we all need a Savior to deliver us from our inherent fallen state of sin.  Denying that sin is sin can’t do that.

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It is too often the case that people inside and outside of church circles quote scripture without looking at the background.  Many would be surprised to discover Paul’s use of such phrases as “But to the rest I say, not the Lord…” (1Cor7:12), or “Now concerning virgins I have no command of the Lord, but I give an opinion” (1 Cor7:25).

The reality is that too many of us THINK we know what scripture says without understanding the complete counsel of scripture on matters of great importance.  We pick and choose the sections of scripture that seem to support our preconceived notion of what we already consider to be right – a slippery, ever-changing standard determined more by the culture in which we live than the faith which is true and which is able to determine what is acceptable socially and what is not.  We survive on a spiritual diet like unto eating bacon fat and french fries rather than Kale, lean meat, and fresh fruit.

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Today our own minority-western culture and a few minor segments of the church within that particular culture, are embroiled in a great controversy regarding the institution of marriage.  The question has become whether the prevailing cultural consensus will determine what we believe or whether God’s clearly revealed will in this matter are to make that determination for us.

In this discussion I often hear an appeal to the issue of women in leadership (an organizational stipulation more than a question of equality or suitability).  I also often hear an appeal to issue of slavery (which by the way is neither commended nor condemned in scripture).  We hear talk of how the church has changed its mind on these and other matters as if change was inevitable and that society is the conscience of the church or that the church, like our nation, should be ruled by the majority.  The will of God is clear to those who will take the time to read, to pray, to study and to seek the counsel of the Holy Spirit.  The vast majority of the Christian faith throughout the world is of one mind on this matter.

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Rejecting homosexual marriage, my dear brothers and sisters in Christ, is not exclusive.  It is not self-righteous.  It is not arrogant, ignorant, unkind, unloving, homophobic, elitist or bigoted.  It is the simple recognition that God’s design for human interactions on that level is one reserved exclusively for a man and a woman.  Even though long term monogamous homosexual relationships were known in “Biblical times” they were rejected by God and that message was conveyed to us through the prophets, martyrs and others who so eloquently and accurately conveyed God’s will to us.  Even the thought that homosexuals were “this way from birth” was evidenced in the broader culture and known to the church of the day.

Still the Christian church believed and taught then and still does today that the church exists to correct such misguided social standards, based on the clearly revealed will of God, not psychology, not biology, and not social consensus; not in a hate-filled but in a hope-filled manner.  Not that we judge one another but that the Lord Jesus Christ judges each of us and that this is revealed in scripture for the sake of the Kingdom.

There are so many questions like this with which the church of Jesus Christ will be faced in the coming years – but none of them are new.  Is there salvation apart from Jesus Christ?  Does one need to be “born again?”  Is polygamy, divorce, abortion, drunkenness, gossip, or lying wrong?  Our answer to these important questions must always be based on God’s professed will in scripture.

How we deal with ourselves and others caught up in these sins is a different question.  Whether or not we offer a way out, the way of redemption, the way of the cross is equally as important a question.  To deny sin is to deny the opportunity for repentance.  It is to deny the opportunity to yet turn and be saved from that sin.  Salvation is good news.  Good news that God loves each of us too much to want us to wallow in our sin, but to be saved from it.  To be increasingly “transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:18).

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And in Jesus Christ each and every one of us has that possibility.  Thanks be to God.

Truth be told, the Presbyterian Church (USA)’s General Assembly has clearly erred in its own deliberations on this matter and that is to be grieved and to be repented of.  However, thanks be to God, there is yet hope… in Jesus Christ.  And to that end, I pray.  Maranatha

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