Daily Archives: May 24, 2013

Questions about Sin: Is it possible to be a gay Christian?

“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” (1 Corinthians 6:9–10). There is a tendency to declare homosexuality as the worst of all sins. While it is undeniable, biblically speaking, that homosexuality is immoral and unnatural (Romans 1:26–27), in no sense does the Bible describe homosexuality as an unforgivable sin. Nor does the Bible teach that homosexuality is a sin Christians will never struggle against.

Perhaps that is the key phrase in the question of whether it is possible to be a gay Christian: “struggle against.” It is possible for a Christian to struggle with homosexual temptations. Many homosexuals who become Christians have ongoing struggles with homosexual feelings and desires. Some strongly heterosexual men and women have experienced a “spark” of homosexual interest at some point in their lives. Whether or not these desires and temptations exist does not determine whether a person is a Christian. The Bible is clear that no Christian is sinless (1 John 1:8, 10). While the specific sin / temptation varies from one Christian to another, all Christians have struggles with sin, and all Christians sometimes fail in those struggles (1 Corinthians 10:13).

What differentiates a Christian’s life from a non-Christian’s life is the struggle against sin. The Christian life is a progressive journey of overcoming the “acts of the flesh” (Galatians 5:19–21) and allowing God’s Spirit to produce the “fruit of the Spirit” (Galatians 5:22–23). Yes, Christians sin, sometimes horribly. Sadly, sometimes Christians are indistinguishable from non-Christians. However, a true Christian will always repent, will always eventually return to God, and will always resume the struggle against sin. But the Bible gives no support for the idea that a person who perpetually and unrepentantly engages in sin can indeed be a Christian. Notice 1 Corinthians 6:11, “And that is what some of you were. 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.”

First Corinthians 6:9–10 lists sins that, if indulged in continuously, identify a person as not being redeemed—not being a Christian. Often, homosexuality is singled out from this list. If a person struggles with homosexual temptations, that person is presumed to be unsaved. If a person actually engages in homosexual acts, that person is definitely thought to be unsaved. However, the same assumptions are not made, at least not with the same emphasis, regarding other sins in the list: fornication (pre-marital sex), idolatry, adultery, thievery, covetousness, alcoholism, slander, and deceit. It is inconsistent, for example, to declare those guilty of pre-marital sex as “disobedient Christians,” while declaring homosexuals definitively non-Christians.

Is it possible to be a gay Christian? If the phrase “gay Christian” refers to a person who struggles against homosexual desires and temptations—yes, a “gay Christian” is possible. However, the description “gay Christian” is not accurate for such a person, since he/she does not desire to be gay, and is struggling against the temptations. Such a person is not a “gay Christian,” but rather is simply a struggling Christian, just as there are Christians who struggle with fornication, lying, and stealing. If the phrase “gay Christian” refers to a person who actively, perpetually, and unrepentantly lives a homosexual lifestyle—no, it is not possible for such a person to truly be a Christian.[1]

 


[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Catholic Questions: What is the rock in Matthew 16:18?

The debate rages over whether “the rock” on which Christ will build His church is Peter, or Peter’s confession that Jesus is “the Christ, the Son of the Living God” (Matthew 16:16). In all honesty, there is no way for us to be 100% sure which view is correct. The grammatical construction allows for either view. The first view is that Jesus was declaring that Peter would be the “rock” on which He would build His church. Jesus appears to be using a play on words. “You are Peter (petros) and on this rock (petra) I will build my church.” Since Peter’s name means rock, and Jesus is going to build His church on a rock—it appears that Christ is linking the two together. God used Peter greatly in the foundation of the church. It was Peter who first proclaimed the Gospel on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:14–47). Peter was also the first to take the Gospel to the Gentiles (Acts 10:1–48). In a sense, Peter was the rock “foundation” of the church.

The other popular interpretation of the rock is that Jesus was referring not to Peter, but to Peter’s confession of faith in verse 16: “You are the Christ, the son of the living God.” Jesus had never explicitly taught Peter and the other disciples the fullness of His identity, and He recognized that God had sovereignly opened Peter’s eyes and revealed to him who Jesus really was. His confession of Christ as Messiah poured forth from him, a heart-felt declaration of Peter’s personal faith in Jesus. It is this personal faith in Christ which is the hallmark of the true Christian. Those who have placed their faith in Christ, as Peter did, are the church. Peter expresses this in 1 Peter 2:4 when he addressed the believers who had been dispersed around the ancient world: “Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”

At this point, Jesus declares that God had revealed this truth to Peter. The word for “Peter,” Petros, means a small stone (John 1:42). Jesus used a play on words here with petra (“on this rock”) which means a foundation boulder, as in Matthew 7:24, 25 when He described the rock upon which the wise man builds his house. Peter himself uses the same imagery in his first epistle: the church is built of numerous small petros “living stones” (1 Peter 2:5) who, like Peter, confess that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, and those confessions of faith are the bedrock of the church.

In addition, the New Testament makes it abundantly clear that Christ is both the foundation (Acts 4:11, 12; 1 Corinthians 3:11) and the head (Ephesians 5:23) of the church. It is a mistake to think that here He is giving either of those roles to Peter. There is a sense in which the apostles played a foundational role in the building of the church (Ephesians 2:20), but the role of primacy is reserved for Christ alone, not assigned to Peter. So, Jesus’ words here are best interpreted as a simple play on words in that a boulder-like truth came from the mouth of one who was called a small stone. And Christ Himself is called the “chief cornerstone” (1 Peter 2:6, 7). The chief cornerstone of any building was that upon which the building was anchored. If Christ declared Himself to be the cornerstone, how could Peter be the rock upon which the church was built? It is more likely that the believers, of which Peter is one, are the stones which make up the church, anchored upon the Cornerstone, “and he who believes on Him will by no means be put to shame” (1 Peter 2:6).

The Roman Catholic Church uses the argument that Peter is the rock to which Jesus referred as evidence that it is the one true church. As we have seen, Peter’s being the rock is not the only valid interpretation of this verse. Even if Peter is the rock in Matthew 16:18, this is meaningless in giving the Roman Catholic Church any authority. Scripture nowhere records Peter being in Rome. Scripture nowhere describes Peter as being supreme over the other apostles. The New Testament does not describe Peter as being the “all authoritative leader” of the early Christian church. Peter was not the first pope, and Peter did not start the Roman Catholic Church. The origin of the Catholic Church is not in the teachings of Peter or any other apostle. If Peter truly was the founder of the Roman Catholic Church, it would be in full agreement with what Peter taught (Acts chapter 2, 1 Peter, 2 Peter).[1]

 


[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about Life Decisions: Can a Christian be a model? Is a modeling career something a Christian can consider?

As Christians, our goal is to please the Lord. So with that goal in mind, we should prepare ourselves for careers that are rewarding to ourselves, beneficial to others, and most especially, pleasing to God. It could be possible that the Lord would allow a Christian to pursue a career in modeling, but generally He has a higher calling for His people. Romans 12:1–2 says “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” The question for the Christian decide is whether modeling is consistent with our command to offer our bodies to God and whether such a career is “holy and pleasing” to Him.

The whole purpose of the book of Romans is for Christians to know the truth of how we should live, the truth about what God expects of us, the truth about God and His judgments of our way of life. The first eleven chapters are about righteousness—the unrighteousness of fallen sinners, our need for God’s righteousness, and His provision of that righteousness through Christ. When we get to chapter 12, the first word is “therefore.” Having built the case that we have been redeemed by God out of our hopeless, sinful state, it is obvious that our calling is to be different from the world and no longer to buy into the lies of image-obsessed cultures.

There are some sad realities in the world of modeling. Many aspiring models work at minimum wage jobs waiting for their big break which, for most, never comes. The lifestyles of fashion models is also a reason for concern. There is a considerable amount of drugs and immoral behavior in the fashion industry. Young women are often used and abused by those in power. The highly competitive nature of the industry leads to greed, dishonesty, and cutthroat tactics. Those whose living is dependent upon the success of a designer, fashion house, or product line are at the mercy of these tactics. While it may be possible for a Christian to be in this world and not be affected by it, 1 Corinthians 15:33 warns us, “Do not be misled: ‘Bad company corrupts good character.’ ” If God warns us to avoid bad company so as not to be corrupted by it, we would be foolish to ignore that warning.

God is very concerned about how we use or abuse our bodies. “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19–20). Christians are not to try to look like the world, but rather we are to be a special, purified people (Titus 2:14), people who are set apart as belonging to the Lord. Christians should be well-dressed and appropriately fashioned, not to bring the focus on ourselves, but so that we can go about the work God has for us without being overly concerned about our appearance. Women especially are exhorted to dress modestly (1 Timothy 2:9) and since only the most successful models are given the choice of which clothes to model (unless the model wants to remain unemployed), it is hard to see how the modeling industry is compatible with a Christian worldview and dressing modestly.

Romans reminds us that Christians are to be set apart from the world, especially aspects of the world which are ungodly. Once we have accepted Christ and pledged our lives to Him, then we are ready to do some real modeling, because there is no greater calling in this world than to model Christ.[1]

 


[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about God: What does it mean that God is Almighty?

In Hebrew, the title “God Almighty” is written as El Shaddai and probably means “God, the All-powerful One” or “The Mighty One of Jacob” (Genesis 49:24; Psalm 132:2, 5), although there is a question among most Bible scholars as to its precise meaning. The title speaks to God’s ultimate power over all. He has all might and power. We are first introduced to this name in Genesis 17:1, when God appeared to Abram and said, “I am God Almighty; walk before me and be blameless.”

God has many names and attributes. He is the Almighty (Genesis 49:25), the Creator of heaven and earth (Genesis 14:19), Builder of everything (Hebrews 3:4), the King of heaven (Daniel 4:37), God of all mankind (Jeremiah 32:27), and the Eternal King. (Jeremiah 10:10). He is the only God (Jude 1:25), the Eternal God (Genesis 21:33), the Everlasting God (Isaiah 40:28), and Maker of all things (Ecclesiastes 11:5). He is able to do more things than we can ask or even imagine (Ephesians 3:20). He performs wonders that cannot be fathomed and miracles that cannot be counted (Job 9:10). God’s power is unlimited. He can do anything He wants, whenever He wants (Psalm 115:3). He spoke the Universe into existence (Genesis 1:3). Furthermore, He answers to no one as to His plans and purposes: “All the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing. He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back his hand or say to him: ‘What have you done?’ ” (Daniel 4:35).

When we see God as the Almighty, we are struck by His power and that He is indeed a great, mighty, and awesome God (Deuteronomy 10:17). The identity of God as Almighty serves to establish the sense of awe and wonder we have toward Him and the realization that He is God above all things without limitation. This is important in view of how He is described next in the Bible. In Exodus 6:2–3, we are told that God said to Moses, “I am the LORD. I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac and Jacob as God Almighty, but by my name the LORD I did not make myself known to them.” How is this significant? It is significant because God, whom we previously knew only as God Almighty, has now given a new, more personal and intimate name to Moses (and Israel). This desire on God’s part for a more personal relationship with mankind would culminate later when God Almighty sent His only Son to earth—God in flesh—to die on the cross so that a way for forgiveness of our sins could be provided. The fact that God Almighty would humble Himself in this way for us makes it all the more remarkable.[1]

 


[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about the Church: What are the pros and cons of short-term missions?

Although short-term missions have drawbacks, they can be overcome with godly wisdom, training, and heart.

The Pros:

1. Short-term missionaries better understand the ministry and purpose of missions.

Those who have never experienced cross-cultural missions often have wrong impressions about it. They may view missions as a glamorous ministry with thankful natives coming to Christ each day. After participating in a short-term missions trip, they better appreciate the goals and service of missions.

2. Short-term missionaries become more sacrificial supporters of long-term missionaries.

A short-term mission trip often increases a person’s interest in and support of missions. God may use a short-term mission trip to call a person to long-term missions. Besides going long-term, multiple opportunities await to support missions.

The short-term mission trip itself strengthens missionaries. The church group brings fresh hands to work, enthusiasm for the ministry, and Christian fellowship to encourage. They can help with tasks the long-term missionaries don’t have the time or numbers to do: relief projects, tract handouts, children’s clubs, etc.

Once back home, the short-term missionary doesn’t easily forget the need. They often become life-long supporters of missionaries through prayer, gifts, and letters. Their passion for missions spreads to others back home.

3. Short-term missions develop passion for knowing Christ and making Christ known.

A short-term mission trip teaches people dependence on God. They face customs to get through, an unfamiliar language to understand, and culture shock to overcome. As they turn to God for help, short-term missionaries experience the power of prayer. Seeing God move in and through lives, they develop a love for Christ and the Gospel. This passion does not end at the mission trip’s end but should continue to energize the short-term missionary back home. By God’s grace, personal evangelism increases. Prayer and Bible study become a delight, not a duty or drudgery.

The Cons:

1. Short-term missions are expensive.

If cost were the only factor, short-term missions would not be worthwhile. Some people point out that the money used to fly 30 teens to Peru could be sent to the long-term missionaries there. After all, the youth group could do missions at home: passing out tracts at a park, teaching a children’s Bible club, or helping in a soup kitchen in the inner city.

2. Short-term missions may not require “counting the cost.”

Some who go on a short-term mission trip still don’t understand the sacrifices of missions. They haven’t spent the grueling hours learning the language; they haven’t had to leave family and friends for more than a few weeks; they haven’t experienced the years of service without visible results. Besides, short-term missionaries sometimes only add to the burdens of long-term missionaries.

3. Short-term missions may not have a lasting impact.

Some short-term missionaries come with the haughty idea that they can single-handedly change the nation in the few weeks they serve. Without regard to the long-term missionaries, native church leaders, or even the Lord, they hand out a few tracts, hold a puppet show, or put a new roof on an orphanage. Their impact on the community fades as soon as they hop on the plane back home. Even with the proper heart attitude and goals, short-term missionaries have more limitations than long-term missionaries. Short-term missions may not provide the time it takes to learn the language and culture, build relationships, and make disciples.

Conclusion: Are short-term missions worthwhile?

God uses both short- and long-term missionaries to make disciples of all nations (e.g. the apostle Paul vs. Timothy). The call and heart of both types of missionary are most important. While long-term missionaries carry out the bulk of missions work, short-term missions can lighten the load. Short-term missions are usually most effective under the direction of long-term missionaries and the national church. Although short-term missions has drawbacks, they can be overcome with godly wisdom, training, and heart.

Possible Short-Term Missions Opportunities:
http://www.shorttermmissions.com/
http://www.missionfinder.org/summerbW.htm
http://www.adventures.org/
http://www.wycliffe.org/Explore/throughSERVICE/ShortTermTrips.aspx
http://www.ntm.org/missiontrips/index.php?page=mission%20trips
Short Term Missions Trip Search[1]

 


[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

LETTER: ELDER FORCED TO LEAVE FOR STANDING AGAINST SPIRITUAL FORMATION

Possessing the Treasure

I received an email today from my friend and fellow CRN writer Amy Spreeman. It contained a link to a post on her site Stand up for the Truth. The link is a post that contained a letter that was sent by an church elder to his former church questioning its adoption of Spiritual Formation and Transformational techniques throughout all of its ministries. His treatment by the elder board and pastor brought back some very bad memories of my own clash at a former church over its going full bore into the Purpose Driven paradigm back in 2006. For me It was tough reading this letter and the aftermath, but as I have been teaching you for quite some time now, to stand for the truth and never compromise under the Lordship of Christ will be costly for the true disciple. God is sovereign and does allow his saints…

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Pope Francis: All go to Heaven, even atheists

Oh, yes he did. In perhaps one of the most blatant and blasphemous statements in history, Pope Francis has declared that everyone – including atheists – are redeemed through Jesus. Did Jesus die for the sins of the world? Indeed He did. But that’s not what the Pope meant. No, what saves you isn’t believing and trusting in Christ alone for His atonement for our sins; it’s your good works. Your deeds. Why is he saying these things? Because he wants world peace. And unity. One-ness. You have to see the video on this:

http://standupforthetruth.com/2013/05/pope-francis-all-go-to-heaven-even-atheists/