Bracing for the Inevitable Rape Culture

John Calvin rightly identified one of the primary purposes of the Law of God being the restraint of evil. The Law of God is like a damn which holds back the waters of sin.

America’s culture has for many years now been taking hammers to the concrete, and water has been spilling out. The water being held back is a ferocious force, capable of more than we dare to imagine, and the problem for those releasing the damn is that they live in villages below.

harveyWhat we are witnessing in the Harvey Weinstein incident is the realization that once the damn has been broken, water is going to get into our homes. Harvey Weinstein, for those who have not heard, has been, for years, a person of great importance in Hollywood, primarily as a producer, but was successful in other areas too. He also was well-known in the political arena as he was a prominent financial donor and advocate for liberal politicians like Hillary Clinton.

Recently, he has fled out of the nation for “rehabilitation” as a number of women have come out and accused him of sexual assault and rape. Weinstein was, at worst, a serial rapist, and a serial sexual assailant at best, and the testimonies support the former. Using the power of his position, he abused and preyed upon young women desperate to make it into the industry, of which he had so much authority.

In the continued wake of this, a movement has started online known as the “Me, Too” movement. The #metoo began as a way for women to publicly admit that they have been victims of sexual assault.  The goal (I am assuming) is to bring awareness to just how many women have been victims of sexual cruelty, with little to no justice being obtained in the process.

What This Post Is Not Saying

Let me be clear with my intentions for this post right from the get-go as I try and anticipate how some may be tempted to interpret me. Allow me to explain what is not happening in this post.

First, I am not condoning rape or sexual abuse of any kind. God hates it and will punish it severely. In fact, I hate sexual abuse more than the many folks who inhabit this American culture alongside me, because I call it sin. I call those guilty of this sin sinners. It’s not a “mistake” of the “ill,” but a wicked sin of a sinner.

Second, I am not condemning any woman who has participated in the “Me Too” fad, nor am I trying to communicate women do not have the right to express grievances over sexual abuse. I do have issues with a lot of what’s going on with the hashtag, but I am not addressing those concerns here.

Third, I am not claiming that rape did not exist prior to secularized America. Sexual sin existed long before the novel religion of Secularism came into being. However, sin is always caused by people and religions refusing to bow their knee to God’s Law. Thus, Secularism is not the only factory of sexual sin, but it is our factory for sexual sin. It is not responsible for all sexual sin everywhere, but it is responsible for our current state of affairs. All false religions reject God in different ways, and that rejection always leads to sins which are common to man. My contention is that Secularism is the generator of sexual sin, and remains a slippery slope for a continued slide into more sexual sin.

Secularism’s Crusade

The Secular worldview in this nation has been on a crusade against God’s righteous decrees of human sexuality. Our nation runs rampant with fornication (pre-marital), adultery, and lust. Some married couples have “open-marriages,” which is ecclesiastical jargon for what we in the Christian tradition call “unfaithfulness.” They principles established the growing acceptance of “gay-marriage” have opened up the floodgates for the abolition of marriage. Now, through the “love is all that matters” approach to sexuality, even things like polygamy, incest, and pedophilia are on the table.

Perhaps nothing demonstrates our lack of sexual ethics as the widespread pornography usage in our country. Today professional marriage counselors will encourage couples to watch pornography together. And let’s not even get started on the pornography. This is an industry more lucrative and powerful than most in the world. And the reason is because of such a high demand.

Porn is one of the greatest means toward the abuse and enslavement of women, but never mind that. Sexual promiscuity is too important for “feminists” to care about all that stuff. That is why we live in such a pornographic culture. From the rampant use of porn, to the gradual decline of Hollywood movies, and their constant need to sell tickets by putting in raunchy, inappropriate sex scenes, it is clear that lust is as natural and accepted in our culture as is breathing.

Homosexuality was the first sacred cow. The Bible clearly prohibits that and warns us of the dangers of that lifestyle. But men have been unashamedly sleeping with men for a long time, and women have done the same. Now, it’s nearly a legal crime to express disapproval of that fact. However, the LGBTQ hysteria has evolved into something almost more difficult to comprehend, transgenderism.

All this wonderful “progress” has created a system where manhood and womanhood are archaic words we scratch our heads at and try to remember what they mean. Are those words from Shakespeare or something?

We now find ourselves in a nation where boys can be girls and girls can be boys, and since those words have no objective definition, that sentence hardly stands on its own.

Allegedly, gender is a “social-construct” and is therefore fluid and relative. We have lost all sense of what a men and women are. We cannot even define sexuality, let alone create sexual standards.

Douglas Wilson put it this way,

“We have spent millions [of dollars] on sex education and to what result? The whole country has now officially descended into the maelstrom condition of not knowing the difference between boys and girls, and not a few young people are lining up at AMA-approved hospitals to have their genitalia mutilated for ready money. In the old days, professionally-trained doctors would fix you for money. Now they fix you for money.”

The transgender movement is the nail in the coffin for Secularism’s sexual ethics. The worldview is so hollow and false, that when all of its presuppositions are carried out consistently, there ceases to be men and women. Seventy genders and counting must be added to the English language thanks to the rejection of Scripture over our lives.

The anthem of this nation is that people can have sex whenever they want, with whomever they want, as whatever they want.

To top it all off, when people sin the natural way, heterosexually, sometimes their bodies do what God designed them to do, which is work. Our bodies were made to create children.

And when our bodies work those natural consequences that arise from natural unions can be swiftly terminated. Beautiful babies are created from these out-of-context unions, and then people murder them.

Not only does this nation allow and promote any kind of sexual perversion, it engages in further immorality to cover up all consequences of its perversion.

And what has been the foundation for all of this? Autonomy and hedonism. Whatever feels good is good, and no external law is allowed to have any authority over someone’s life and body.

Secularism’s Impotency

Weinstein’s behavior is the inevitable outcome of presuppositions established by the current sexual revolution, and so any attempt to destroy this behavior and change men like him will require the destruction of many other sexual activities our culture has recently decided to celebrate.

The current worldview propping up sexual autonomy does not have an arsenal capable of equipping anyone to fight against the lustful behavior of men like Harvey Weinstein without undoing all it sought out to establish. To put it in cliché terms, you cannot have your cake and eat it too…

The only foot that can be put down with the size and power necessary to stop the behaviors of Weinstein from going any further would have to necessarily be big enough to crush all of the paper-mache idols that have recently been erected along the way. We cannot maintain the principles of Secularism and condemn sexual abuse at the same time. The principles of secular sexual ethics are counterproductive to establishing proper authoritative guidelines.

Jacob and Joseph Philips say this,

“Whatever laudable goals secularists might set as they seek to eliminate rape culture, they will not fully realize their goals so long as their desire to protect victims and destroy misogyny is limited by the confines of hedonism and autonomy.”

Our society has set in motion a sexual revolution, and Secularism cannot destroy what it itself is responsible for upholding. All of us must now must now reap the fruit of its impotence.

When a bowler hurls a bowling ball down those greased ally lanes, he does not do so expecting the ball to obliterate the first three rows of pins, only to abruptly and immediately stop at the last row, never making contact. It does not take being in the P.B.A. to know that’s not how it works.

American culture has greased the lanes, and we are now speeding ahead with full momentum. All of the pillars of sexual ethics God has established are coming down, and coming down hard. This bowling ball has destroyed almost all of the vestiges of Biblical sexual ethics remaining. Some remain standing, but are under assault (i.e. incest). But, there is one pin still standing firm: consent.

Weinstein’s “illness” caused him to cross the one sexual boundary we still have. He was trying to sleep with women without their consent. That last vestige of sexual ethics we all agree on is this pillar consent. We may not sleep with a person against their will. The Bible certainly is not silent on the issue. But I ask, why do we expect this principle to remain standing? Why are we expecting this ball to suddenly stop before hitting this last pin? We already discussed this: it doesn’t work that way.

There is no reason to expect the pillar of consent to remain much longer. Many in the culture are trying to pump the breaks, which is exactly what the “Me Too” hashtag is attempting. But, in reality, they are merely kicking their foot around looking for a brake pedal that does not come with this model of religion.

Potentially, the most thrilling scene in Christopher Nolan’s Batman movie, The Dark Knight, is an interrogation scene between Batman and the Joker. In this interrogation, the Joker states a haunting truth.

After describing the general public’s moral code as “a bad joke” and predicting that, when push comes to shove, “they’ll eat each other,” the Joker describes himself, seemingly wicked and evil, this way:

“You see, I’m not a monster, I’m just ahead of the curve.”

And this, ladies and gentlemen, is the exact description of men like Harvey Weinstein provided we continue on this trajectory.

To many, this notion may sound like a wild conspiracy theory. The idea that rape would ever be justified in our societal garden, especially one with such strong feminist weeds growing out of the ground, is simply unfathomable. But hear me out….

There was a time in the nation when someone who was not a prophet by trade could have predicted that America would one day legalize, sanction, and even celebrate, murdering little tiny babies, by the tune of over 60 million. These “conspiracists” may have predicted a nation where mothers would decapitate, burn, dismember, or drown their babies, and they would even pay good money to willing doctors to do so. And to top it all off, the government would know this is going on, and do nothing to stop it.

“Are you insane? America would never do that! We would never get to a point where we are slaughtering our own children, how dramatic!”

That is not a direct quote, but it can be easily deduced that it would be the echo of many past generations had someone predicted the current state of affairs we have found ourselves in today.

The details may not be what would have been expected. Very few people are killing their babies in the streets with guns and knives, which the fictional prediction above would likely insinuate. But Secularism has provided a way of tearing down one of the most important pillars of any society under the authority of Christ: the right to life. Innocent people should not be murdered, especially precious babies, and yet, that is exactly what is going on, in broad daylight. And it’s largely due to the sexual revolution. The secularist sacraments of abortion stems from their theological commitment to sexual and bodily autonomy.

I may not know what it will look like, I may not know the details of how it will be arranged, but the idea that “consent” can remain standing, when every other sexual pillar has collapsed under the weight of Secularism is illogical. It must come down along with the rest.

And if the Lord, in his patience toward sinners, allows us to get there, we will find out that Harvey Weinstein was not actually a monster, he was just ahead of the curve. He was simply acting more consistently with the worldview of his day, the one we teach our children in schools. He was simply more progressed and enlightened than the Neanderthals trying to maintain the ethics from “the good ol’ days.”

And speaking of abortion, none of those children are receiving any hashtag-sympathies. That is a hashtag fad that would have 60 million retweets, but those “Me Toos” won’t be retweeting anything, ever.

We killed them.

The Hope of the Gospel

The condemnation of Weinstein’s behavior requires a transcendental. His actions are wicked precisely because of transcendental truths.

Sex has a proper context.

Human beings deserve love and respect because they bear the image of God.

Physical abuse of the innocent is objectively wrong.

Weinstein’s behavior denied all of these things. He made contrary transcendental claims.

This is why Secularism cannot fight. It cannot provide the necessary transcendental foundations to condemn this man.

What it is that can derail this locomotive? What is it that can stop this momentum? None of the principles of Secularism can stop this train; they fuel this train. The answer is, and always will be the Gospel.

The Gospel is the immovable rock that must come into violent collision with the tides of sexual revolution. It is only Christ crucified and Christ ascended that can change the hearts of men, and establish a consistent, unchanging, objective Law for all men in every nation to obey.

No hashtag can right the wrongs of sexual abuse, only the blood of Christ or the fires of hell can do that.

Weinstein’s secular, European rehabilitation efforts cannot bring him peace, cannot change his heart, and do not have the authority to forgive him what he has done. But Christ Jesus can do all those things.

Pray for our nation. Pray that we would turn to God. Pray for repentance. And pray for personal humility. For those of us not on board this train, full steam ahead, driving off a cliff, refusing our ticket was by God’s grace alone. Had it not been for His mercy toward us, we would be satisfied customers, indulging in every avenue of sin we could find, and giving hearty approval to all those engaged in the same behavior.

We are not better, but we are better off. So, pray for our nation and preach the Gospel. Through the message of the risen Messiah who conquered death and reconciled the world to himself by the blood of His cross, we can stop this train.

 

On Singleness in Heaven

I had the privilege this last weekend to officiate the wedding of one of my most cherished friends, and roommate of nearly four years.

The ceremony was as lovely as it was sacred, and for all of us fortunate enough to be involved in such an event, marriage has been thoroughly saturated on our minds.

As I have been musing marriage of late, a couple Scriptural texts seemed oddly relevant to matrimony.

Psalm 139: 16, “Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.”

Job 14: 5, “Since his days are determined, and the number of his months is with you, and you have appointed his limits that he cannot pass…”

These texts indicate that our deaths belong to God just as much as our lives do. In Scripture, we see that God is just as much in control of how our lives end as He is how they begin. No one dies a day later than God intended, and no one’s death catches God off guard, takes Him by surprise, and forces Him to rummage through His notes wondering where He went wrong in His calculations. God is sovereign over death.

To state the obvious, no one comes into existence because they asked for it. God is in control of that. Although procreation is the human means He uses to accomplish that purpose, He does not have to (Genesis 2: 7). In fact, many couples have participated in that means and have still been unable to bear fruit. Ultimately, creation belongs to the Lord (Psalm 139: 13-14).

The reason this is all relevant to marriage is because it has a direct impact on how we understand one of the most iconic passages about marriage in all of Scripture.

In Matthew 19: 4-6, from the lips of our Lord,

He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”

Marriage’s weight largely rides on its incredible permanence. Marriage is a big deal because it’s a long deal. However, we know that marriage is not eternal. It is not everlasting. It’s heavy, but not that heavy. This is found implicitly in Jesus’ words “let not man separate.”

Marriage may not be separated by the decree or will of man. It’s too big for us; it’s too sacred for that. Marriage is resolved in heavenly courtroom, one where the courts of men have no jurisdiction. However, when a spouse dies, that is not the works of men (even if they are involved in the means), but ultimately is decided and allowed by God.

Death can separate husband from wife because death is determined by no man. When a spouse dies, that is God separating what God has joined together, and since God is the one Jesus credits with joining the marriage together, He retains the right to separate it.

Paul makes this explicitly clear in Romans 7: 2-3,

For a married woman is bound by law to her husband while he lives, but if her husband dies she is released from the law of marriage. Accordingly, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is alive. But if her husband dies, she is free from that law, and if she marries another man she is not an adulteress.

So, death does separate the wedding union. And one theological doctrine, of which can be quite discouraging to the un-initiated, is Jesus’ teaching to the Sadducees that this separation through death is actually more permanent then the marriage itself ever was. Matthew 22: 23-33,

The same day Sadducees came to him, who say that there is no resurrection, and they asked him a question, saying, “Teacher, Moses said, ‘If a man dies having no children, his brother must marry the widow and raise up offspring for his brother.’ Now there were seven brothers among us. The first married and died, and having no offspring left his wife to his brother. So too the second and third, down to the seventh. After them all, the woman died. In the resurrection, therefore, of the seven, whose wife will she be? For they all had her.” But Jesus answered them, “You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. And as for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God: ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not God of the dead, but of the living.” And when the crowd heard it, they were astonished at his teaching.”

The Scriptures ultimately give two reasons for the separation of marriage, with the possibility of giving only one. Paul and Jesus make explicit that death ends a marriage, and that this is a rightful termination. Jesus does seem to explicitly state that divorce is permissible when one spouse commits adultery (Matthew 5: 32; 19: 9). That is the majority opinion of the Church today, but the Church historic largely rejected this, and compelling arguments as to why that is not actually the case are made today.

It is not my intention here to get into the divorce/remarriage debate, but is instead to remind us of this important thing: marriage is not eternal. Marriage will eventually be undone by something. And when separated by death, it will never be re-enacted.

In a certain light, this can seem dreadful and dire. Here we stand at the ceremonies of these holy unions, and emphasize the glory, wonder, and permanency of the marriage covenant. We then turn to Scripture to find out that it is not so permanent after all. Marriage is as fleeting as life itself is given that is in inextricably tied to this fleeting life. When life is gone, so is marriage. But this is a glory of the marriage covenant, not disrepute.

For one, it reminds wedded couples that marriage is a design with purpose. It is not a casual act of life all human beings are bound to wander into as they stroll through their journey. It is not some societal construct human beings created as a pragmatic genius. Marriage, however, is designed by God, and given to men with specific purposes. The temporal nature of marriage makes those specific purposes more intensified and perspicuous.

This is why Christians, in part, must stand so firmly opposed to “gay-marriage.” We do so, not just on the basis that it is sinful, but because this mentality of marriage is missing the point. The point is that marriage has a definition which was objectively defined, not by any nation or government, but by God. And thus, any view of marriage which alters that definition, is then altering the specific purposes marriage is designed to fulfill.

You cannot redefine how engines work, and expect your car to run and operate as all the others do. To take apart an engine, try and duct-tape pieces together where they don’t fit, and attempt to call the mangled, mechanical mess “an engine” will leave you disappointed when it comes time to head to work.

Marriage does not work when we misunderstand it. When couples keep in mind the temporary and intensely specific purposes of marriage, it allows them to set proper expectations, and deal more appropriately with the joys and trials which accompany their union.

Second, this more firmly establishes the words of Paul in 1 Corinthians 7 about the blessings of singleness, and the life that he, and our Lord Jesus, lived.

They both were single. And knowing that the single lifestyle is the eventual, permanent destination for all the Saints, singles on earth can establish the proper sentiment that singleness is a stage of life which has more than enough room to welcome in contentment.

Related to this is that heavenly singleness keeps God the focus. When we get too lost in the wonders, pleasures, and satisfactions of marriage life, our hearts, which are prone to wander, begin to scamper off like undisciplined children in a grocery store. If marriage were an eternal relationship, it would become increasingly difficult to avoid obsession on earth. After all, we are missing out on an eternal blessing. Thus, the desire to be married intensifies, and what comes with that territory is the construction of a new idol within a world already plagued with a plethora of false gods to go around.

Marriage is not merely augmented, and nor is it disparaged, by its temporal nature; it is enhanced. Remembering that it is a temporary union enables us to better glory in the relationship our marriages were designed to reflect: our union with Christ.

What makes heaven so great is not reunion with our wives, our husbands, or our children. Certainly, the prospect of being with loved ones is an incentive and delight of heaven, but these non-marital reunions do not make heaven desirable. Many people will be reunited with loved ones in hell, and their company is no consolation there. The true delight of heaven is Christ.

He will be the fountainhead of all joy, and He already is that now, even during our present condition, whether we sojourn single or married. The channels of that Fountain flow just as ferociously and intensely through the unmarried heart as they do through the married. Christ is our joy.

To the married saint: revel in this glorious, pleasurable, and altogether necessary-for-life, union. It is good, it is holy, and God wants you to enjoy it. But it is not eternal. Your wife is not your everything; your husband is not your everything; your children are not your everything. These earthly relationships are surpassed by a superlative covenant vow much more permanent, and much more consequential then the vow you made to your spouse, the vow of faith you made to God. Your baptism is a symbol of the faith-vow you made to the Lord.

No sins are ever forgiven at the altar of a wedding. All our sins are forgiven at the altar of the cross, where the Lamb of God was slain. The faith we express to God there joins us in a spiritual marriage more satisfying than anything the mind can imagine.

To the single saint: This present condition is glorious, as it was Paul’s condition, Jesus’ condition, and is the future condition for all of God’s people. Pray to the Lord that He might give you a heart which refuses to idolize a temporary design. Refuse to desire the gift over the Giver.

If you desire marriage, then desire marriage. Pray for a spouse, hope for one, but do so within the perspective of eternity.

The Westminster Confession of Faith famously answered the question about man’s purpose on earth this way:

“Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and enjoy Him forever.”

Notice that absent from this answer is anything related to human marriage. No one was put on this earth to be married. Mankind was put here to enjoy Jesus Christ, and this is a purpose which can be achieved through marriage, or apart from it.

How do I know this? Because the now-married will glorify and enjoy God for all of eternity, and they will do it without a spouse. And in the presence of the glory of the Lord, that is not a disappointing eschatology.

When kneeling before the risen Lord, basking in His glory, with a perfect and resurrected body, no person will lament the fact that they are no longer wearing their wedding ring. I do not know much about heaven, but I doubt that in Jesus’ presence the thought could even cross our minds.

Jesus DOES Offer You Your Best Life Now

The “prosperity gospel” has been a contagion slowly infecting much of the nation, and many places around the world, for over a decade now. I add the quotation marks for many reasons. First of all, it offers only the leaders of the movements prosperity. The masses get ripped off and grow poorer. So it is false advertisement as it offers no one prosperity of any kind. The more important reason behind the quotation marks is the fact that it is a false gospel, and that there is not actually another Gospel, as Paul makes clear in Galatians 1: 6-9,

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.

Paul’s words make clear the kind of hostility we ought to have toward anything which sets itself up as the Gospel, when it is in fact not the Gospel. It is Paul’s desire for Christian churches that they not be so gullible as to accept false gospels, rather than anathematize them. 2 Corinthians 11: 3-4,

But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough.

However, what also must be noticed about the false-gospels Paul deals with within Galatia and Corinth is that they are very Christianesque. They distort the true Gospel more than they present a completely novel way of thinking. This means that typically false-gospels which parade around as sound Christian doctrine is typically more devastating that those false-gospels which openly repudiate Christianity all together. A wolf in sheep’s clothing is more dangerous than a wolf in a wolve’s clothing. creflo

Because of this principle, much of the false teaching today has some truth to it. It has principles which are biblical and true, and that is what makes them so tantalizing to so many people. Just like the false-gospel in Corinth, the falsity is covered in Christian like language. There is a lot of “Jesus,” lots of “the Spirit,” and lots of “the Gospel.” The problem is that Paul says they are all the wrong ones.

bennyI find this to be genuinely true of the “prosperity Gospel” and all of it’s many forms today. It is a false gospel that cannot save. It does seek to bring Jesus into people’s lives, but it does so in a way which keeps idols on the throne, and asks Jesus to bow His knee to them.

“For what is idolatry if not this: to worship gifts in the place of the Giver Himself?” – John Calvin

The prosperity gospel is a virus, and the true apostolic Gospel is the only successful vaccination. However, given all that, there is a kernel of truth in this message that must not be lost. The phrase which has come to be so vintage to the prosperity movement, that God wants us to have our best lives now, is in some way true.

The issue came up for me during a staff discussion, and the theological question of what God desires for His people needs to be thought of in certain ways as to reject the prosperity heresy, but maintain God’s love and good desires for His covenant people at the same time. We never want to be a people that adopt and confess the prosperity gospel. But may we also never be a people who maintain a fundamental attitude that our loving and gracious God is apathetic and disinterested toward us. May we never accept a version of God wherein He so much delights in our misery that He cares nothing about our well being.

Jesus calls out to His sheep this way,

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” 

Jesus offers us a light yolk. He extends to us a life that is less burdensome and less wearisome then any we are currently living. Jesus wants to give us a better life. That is true.

This is consistent with much of the Old Testament. The Law given to Moses (although the New Testament reveals much about the impossibility fulfilling it) was given in many ways to bless God’s people. Most of the covenants made and Laws given were accompanied with promises from God to bless and remain faithful to His people. Many of those Laws were for the protection and perseverance of the people and their nation. Following God’s Law made life better.

By giving us a holy Law, God is offering us something good. God’s Law is not arbitrary. The Law of Christ (1 Corinthians 9: 21) is objectively good. It is good, so by therefore enabling us to do His will, and by revealing His will, He has offered us a better life. James 1: 25 says,

“But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.”

A life lived in obedience to God’s holy and righteous Law will be a better life than one lived in direct opposition to it. The Law is freedom!

So, if the Law is good, and if Jesus wants us to submit to His Law, then Jesus offers us a good life. The best life now is one of forgiveness, holiness and obedience. Jesus’ commands for us to know Him, be His disciple, and obey His Law, is Jesus offering us the best life possible.

This is why Peter describes communion with Jesus as causing us to be filled with inexpressible joy. 1 Peter 1: 8,

“Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory…”

That is what Jesus offers: goodness, holiness, glory, and joy. Even in the midst of pain and trials, we have a joy so great it cannot be expressed. That’s a best life, and we can have it now; Jesus wants you to have your best life now.

The fundamental difference then becomes one of an objective good over and against a subjective good.

The difference between the true Gospel’s version of “your best life now” and the modern prosperity proponents’ is who gets to define what “best” means. The latter insists that we get to define what our best life would be, and that Jesus is obliged to accomplish that for us as if He is the brand new intern taking our coffee orders in the office of our lives.

The former says that Jesus not only wants to give us our best life, but that He gets to define and decide what that life looks like and consists of. Jesus does not offer you the best version of your life that you can envision; Jesus offers you the best version of your life that He can envision.

And that version of life can come through riches or poverty. The trail of that journey can pass through sickness or health. But it always leads to holiness, it always leads to obedience, and it always leads to Christ. And that is why every step of the way is one taken with “inexpressible joy.”

In one story, we decide, subjectively, what life ought to be like, and then expect God to come up with it in prime-time. In the Bible’s version, Jesus gets to define what our best life would be, and then hands it to us, expecting the Spirit to conform us to it. He opens our eyes and compels us to embrace the new understanding of what we actually want and need.

Discipleship is, in one way, the process whereby Christians are conformed into the image of Christ (Romans 8:29). Christ does not offer us a life contrary to His image, and that is why the life He offers can be riddled with much of the poverty and pain He was acquainted with, but that is also why this life is so much superior to any fantasy concocted in the deep recesses of the feeble and finite minds of men.

A life of discipleship is the best life you can have, and it’s available now. Your life will be better in Christ, both on earth and in eternity.

Repent of your sins, follow Jesus everyday, and love Him whom you have not seen. And it is there that you will find your best life, one better than any you previously desired.

Adding Atrocity to Atrocities

There are two kinds of nations who love the shedding of innocent blood. There are nations whose people do this regularly and habitually, in spite of the prohibitions against such behavior, and then there is a whole different kind of nation. One which sheds innocent blood with legislative approval.

A nation that regularly murders the innocent is wicked and deserves judgment. However, there is still more wickedness to grow into. That nation is still not as bad as it could be. To approve of these abominations through law is simply adding atrocity to atrocities. Psalm 94: 20-21,

“Can wicked rulers be allied with you, those who frame injustice by statute? They band together against the life of the righteous and condemn the innocent to death.”

The Psalmist here draws an important point about “those who frame injustice by statute.” Those who would build an infrastructure of unjust laws, specifically, laws which “condemn the innocent to death” are those who cannot be “allied with” God. In other words, to write and support pro-abortion legislation (those statutes which condemn innocent babies to death) is to simultaneously come out as an enemy of God.

Abortion is not a political issue; it is a Gospel issue with political implications. Abortion is not a party platform, but is a practice which throughout Scripture consistently and regularly characterizes God’s enemies.

The Bible gets to define the severity of error. There are points of doctrines brothers and sisters can disagree on, and remain friends with God, and therefore, friends with one another. On every major dispute in the church today, someone is wrong, but they are wrong while still maintaining their peace with God (Romans 5:1).

However, some doctrinal issues cannot be held while also living in the blessing of God according to Scripture, and murdering children is one of those grave errors. You are not an ally of God when you love, support, and practice murder.

This is not to say that murderers cannot be forgiven. If that were the case, heaven would be empty (Matthew 5:21). But it is to say that having a pro-abortion heart is an attack on the Gospel, and makes one any enemy of God (1 John 3:15). To carry out a pro-abortion heart in practice is an attack on the Gospel, and makes one an enemy of God (Exodus 20: 13). And to frame these injustices by statute, that too, makes one a divine enemy.

Thanks be to God, however, for He forgives His enemies. Turn from your sin, repent, and place your faith in Christ Jesus, and you will be saved from the wrath to come.

Balaam on the Nashville Statement

Balaam in the Old Testament is not admirable for many reasons. As a pagan who practiced divination, he is most notably known for enticing the Israelites to sin (Numbers 31:16). John’s commentary on him, in Revelation 2:14, states that Balaam “taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, so that they might eat food sacrificed to idols and practice sexual immorality.”

However, Balaam does have his fifteen minutes of fame. When called on by Balak, and enticed with money and pressured via power to curse the Israelites, Balaam receives a true revelation from the Lord. And his response to Balak, since it was prompted by God, is worth taking note of, but more on Balaam later.

As Balak was able to view the landscape of Moab from the field of Zophim, at the top of Pisgah, and inquire on exactly what was going on, so also does social media provide a window into our modern Moab, replete with all the pagan idolatry and hatred for God’s people as one could find then. Social media is our field of Zophim, and the view of the cultural landscape here is bleak.

One bright example of hope among the darkness was the recent releasing and signing of The Nashville Statement (NS). I encourage all to follow the link and read it in its entirety. The statement was composed by the CBMW and the ERLC.

Without trying to summarize every article of the Statement, it essentially presents a conservative, non-progressive, biblical view of sexuality and gender, and calls on Christians to sign it.

Many well known Christian leaders have publicly attached their name to it. Denny Burk, John Piper, Russell Moore, J. I. Packer, Wayne Grudem, Albert Mohler, D. A. Carson, John MacArthur, R. C. Sproul, Rosaria Butterfield, Francis Chan, Ligon Duncan, Christopher Yuan, and H.B. Charles, Jr. are among some.

With the public pronunciation and signing of a document like this, the biblicly illiterate came crawling out of their dens to spew their venom all over social media. Follow the hashtag, and you will see the hatred and judgments of those who think this document is hateful and judgmental. Apparently, they read the verses in Scripture about not having double-standards with the same integrity as they read the verses that deal with human sexuality.

And if you think that all too harsh, I would call your attention to read 1 Corinthians 6. Read about how the very practices these people are promoting, celebrating, and indoctrinating into our youth are not only sinful, but they are actually a false gospel. And people who promote false gospels do require, from time to time, pointed and caustic language (Galatians 5:12). The online attacks on Christ, the slander on the testimony of Scripture, and the mutilations of the good creation of God, deserve nothing less. But I digress… Where was I?

Al Mohler described the statement as being historic, biblical, and timely.

It is certainly historic. The modern notions sweeping the nation about sexuality, marriage, and gender, certainly cannot be found anywhere in the annals the church historic.

It is certainly biblical as the clear reading of chapters like Romans 1 and 1 Corinthians 6 reveal.

And, all the vitriolic responses have done is demonstrate just how timely this is. Throughout church history, councils and leaders have met to make statements and declarations in response to cultural tidal waves. The famous councils of church history like Chalcedon, Nicea, etc. were largely responses to growing heretical beliefs. Even infamous and false councils like Trent and the Vatican were still responding to cultural trends (the Reformation).

Had the NS have been released in a time and culture when there was no push back, no dissent, and the culture largely responded with a resounding “Duh,” accompanied by a high shoulder shrug, one would wonder how necessary this whole shindig was. Given the widespread hatred for this document, and thus the widespread hatred for the Bible, and thus the widespread hatred for what God has done and said, and thus the widespread hatred of God, even by professing Christians, this could not be more timely. It is time that Christians and leaders take public stands on the issue of sexuality and gender.

These crazed, bigoted, and zealous responses to the NS have also demonstrated that no matter how kind, loving, and politely we express our disagreements, the progressive mob will eat us up.

The rhetoric of the NS bears no bad fruit. It is covered in love. It engages in no hateful rhetoric, vile words, name-calling, or even ALL CAPS screaming. It is adorned in a peaceful temperament.

This means it is the content that is found to be hateful, not the expression. The slippery slope has reached a major turn in our downhill slide into chaos. The prophetic pronouncements of my younger years, that this movement would be insatiable, are being fulfilled right before my eyes. The public’s unabashed admission is that tolerance is no longer acceptable. Widespread celebration and love for these ideals about sexuality and gender is the new standard.

Romans 1: 32,
“Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.”

How does our diviner Balaam fit in to all of this? As Douglas Wilson once said in a podcast, we are currently facing a battle over the dictionary. Who gets to decide what words we can use? When we look around and survey the culture before us, are we allowed to think God’s thoughts about it afterword? Are we allowed to call things as God sees them?

The culture expects to dictate to us Christians how it is we must define concepts like marriagegender and sexuality. They want to define our nouns, and then provide a limited selection of adjectives we can use for those nouns.

In other words, they require our blessing. We must curse what they curse, and we must bless what they bless. And this is where Balaam comes in. His response to Balak is the one emblematic moment in his life.

Balak, a king, trusts that his military conquests will only be successful if Balaam gives his blessing, and curses Balak’s enemies, in this case, Israel.

Numbers 22: 6,
“Come now [Balaam], curse this people for me, since they are too mighty for me. Perhaps I shall be able to defeat them and drive them from the land, for I know that he whom you bless is blessed, and he whom you curse is cursed.”

Balaam disobediently goes to Balak. Balak entices his response with many things. He paid him both money and honor. He built him altars and slaughtered sacrifices for him. Yet the Lord visited Balaam, and revealed to Him His will, that Balaam not curse Israel. How, then, does Balaam respond to Balak’s consistent pressure?

Numbers 23: 8,
“How can I curse whom God has not cursed? How can I denounce whom the LORD has not denounced?”

Balaam responds with a rhetorical question, and a good one to boot. It is absurd to even entertain the idea of cursing what God has blessed and denouncing what He has not. And it would take a strange hermeneutic (of the likes of a 21st century progressive) to argue this does not work in reverse. If it is wrong to curse what God has blessed, then it is likewise wrong to bless what God has cursed.

We are not permitted to “call evil good and good evil” (Isaiah 50:20). If God has spoken, that settles the issue. And God, in His Word, has revealed to us His thoughts about gender and sexuality with the same authority and clarity in which He revealed His thoughts about Israel to Balaam.

Our response must be the same. We must not look at these things the culture has blessed, that the culture promotes, and bless them. They are demanding our blessing, but we must not give it to them, for God’s sake.

What the NS statement ultimately is, is a call to maintain our dictionary; it is resistance. We will not surrender, we will not fold. We will stand for the truth of the Bible as it is revealed in its context. We will not bless what God has not blessed.

Humbled by Harvey

Al Mohler released some haunting statistics about the flooding situation in Houston due to Hurricane Harvey. Quoting from the Washington Post, Mohler put the rainfall into perspective, as the sheer statistics are hard to comprehend.

Nine-trillion gallons have fallen over that city, and 20 trillion is expected. Just the nine trillion dumped thus far would fill The Great Salt Lake in Salt Lake city…twice.

Or maybe it helps to think of it like this: the Mississippi river would need to be dumped out, in its entirety, on the city of Houston, for nine straight days to match this storm. The entire Mississippi river has flooded Houston.

The water could occupy over 33,000 Empire State buildings.

Perhaps the most helpful way to try and imagine the figure is to think of the entire United States covered in a quarter of an inch of water. You heard that right: Texas has experienced continental rainfall. Enough water to cover our entire country has flooded this city.

Some insurance companies, whose job it is to calculate how often to expect storms like this, are saying this could be a storm that happens once in a million years.

It truly numbs the mind to think of it. And as I think of the catastrophic water dumped there, I am reminded of how small of a fraction that water is when compared to the water all over the world.

Even before hearing these figures, I was deeply distressed and heartbroken to see the images I saw on the news. I see images of Americans driving around street corners in speed boats to rescue children. I see images of houses, cars, buildings, and schools submerged in water. I see images of people walking to safety in water up to their waist and chest lines. I see reports of casualties. I see reports of missing people. The images I am seeing do not look like they are coming out of first century America. They look like 3rd world countries from many years ago. I cannot help but be humbled by this storm

We have so many blessings in this nation, and we have so many capabilities, it is hard to be reminded of how small and pathetic we still are. I would never have guessed that a major city would see people die because of rainfall in the 21st century.

This storm forces us to come face to face with how little control we have as a nation, and as a human race. And this humility ought to bring us to God, for the moment, in fear. May we be reminded of His power and control over our lives. May we be reminded of how terrible it would be to fall into the hands of a God who controls things like Hurricane Harvey (Hebrews 10:31).

I am not suggesting for a moment that Houston is a particularly wicked city being judged by God. Is this the judgment of God? Probably, but I do not know that. I will not speak for the Scriptures what the Scriptures have not revealed to me. But the point I am able to make is that God not only will not be mocked (Galatians 6:7), He cannot be mocked.

The tower of Babel was one of man’s lamest attempts at vainglory, and American secularism is right there in the Vanity hall of fame as well.

American Hubris is our Tower of Babel. We are a prideful and arrogant people. We are a people who believe “science” can replace God. We are a people who believe that being male or female is determined now by our whims. We are a people that can redefine person-hood, excluding babies in the womb. We are a people that believe sex is not up to God nor defined by how He created us, but is ours for the taking.

The secular, scientific, and sexual revolutions this country has experienced and promoted over the last few centuries is our tower, reaching high to the sky, showing the world who we are. (Thank God for the rainbow; what is happening in Houston once happened on a much bigger scale and was much more catastrophic [Genesis 6]. And that kind of judgment is what we all deserve. But God is rich in mercy.) Whether through science, through government, or through secularism, Humanism has planted its flag in our soil. We are self-obsessed and have created many impressive things to replace our need for the Triune God of Scripture.

But as the Tower of Babel went up, God quickly brought man down, and storms like Katrina and Harvey have a similar effect.

We have built many good things, and we have technology that human minds in past generations never dreamed possible. We have accomplished many great feats. But may we be reminded of how pathetic and incapable we still are. May we be humbled under the feet of Jesus and remember who is King. Our fancy technology and crumbling democracies are not impressive to a holy God who, by Himself, stretched out the heavens (Isaiah 44:24). We control nothing He does not allow us to control. He is the one who calms the storms (Matthew 8: 23-27). This hurricane will go nowhere Jesus does not want it to go, and it will last no longer than He wants it to last. He is the Creator, He is the one with the power to tame the winds and command the waves.

We live in a big world. And our world dwells in an prodigious solar system. And our solar system floats around in a colossal galaxy. And our galaxy exists in a capacious universe. And God merely spoke it all into existence.

Pray for Houston. Pray to the God who judges nations, extends grace to sinners, and creates galaxies. Pray to the God who controls the winds and the waves.

Take Down the Statues

I am not a history buff. Read that as a confession, not an assertion. I am not proud of this. If I have learned one thing as of late, it is the importance of knowing history. Whether it is personal history, church history, national history, or world history, knowledge of the past is more important than I used to recognize. This severe lack proficiency in me is why I have been so hesitant to write about the statue conundrum.

I have avoided this conversation because I feel so ill-equipped to speak into that issue. I openly admit, I know next to nothing about Robert E. Lee. To engage myself in a debate about who he was and what potential merits he has to defend is argumentative suicide. Others have tried, but I am out of my league in that conversation. I never learned much about him, and to be honest, I doubt the public education portrayal would be historically worth defending regardless. My lack of awareness about the history of the war between the States, and the men involved, leaves me indifferent in regards to these monuments. I could live with them or without them. In fact, I had no idea so many were still around. I think reasonable people exist on both sides of that debate, and strong points are made respectively.

However, Douglas Wilson recently wrote a blog which inspired me, because he articulated exactly what I have been feeling. Douglas Wilson is masterful with words. His writing is as an epic battle between wit and words, and if you are wanting commentary on this topic worthwhile, this ought to be the last sentence of this blog you read.

For those who stick around, I would like to make what was a final point of Wilson’s post the central focus of mine.

When it comes to all of the hysteria of the toppling statue movement, there seems to be three responses among those who are not joining in on the parade. One is to defend the statues themselves. The arguments are being made as to why these statues should be standing, whether or not the men portrayed owned slaves.

The second position to take is to bypass presenting a specific stance on the civil war monuments, and express grievance with the process of how they are being removed. Perhaps the statues should come down, but not like this. The anarchist, rule-of-the-mob style of government being witnessed on the news is a slippery slope. Soon enough the things we cherish far more than busts are coming down. The precedent established in these events is, to put it lightly, haunting.

However, I would like to dedicate my commentary to an even different issue: the worldviews fueling the statue-topplers. What I would like to address is what Wilson refers to as faux-righteousness,

“One of the reasons we should resist toppling these statues is because it is being done in a frenzy of faux-righteousness, with people trying to gin up a sense of purity.”

The difference between a statue and an idol is what we do with it. The Robert E. Lee monument was a statue, but had groups of people bowed down before it, paid homage to the old general, and worshiped him, rather than remove him, then it would be much more than a statue, it would be an idol. And were it an idol, nothing would have delighted me more than to witness its total destruction.

Exodus 34: 12-16, “Take care, lest you make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land to which you go, lest it become a snare in your midst. You shall tear down their altars and break their pillars and cut down their Asherim (for you shall worship no other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God), lest you make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, and when they whore after their gods and sacrifice to their gods and you are invited, you eat of his sacrifice, and you take of their daughters for your sons, and their daughters whore after their gods and make your sons whore after their gods.”

The taking down of idols is a game I am happy to cheer on. It is a game I am willing to take part in. But we need to focus and pursue the right ones. Namely, the self-righteous personal busts mounted up within our own hearts. Those are the statues that must come down.

What has bothered me most in all of this is not that I think Robert E. Lee deserves to live long through a public dedication of his image. What has bothered me is not the objective reality of his moral character being honored. What has bothered me is that we think we are in any place to pretend that even the grossest caricature of Robert E. Lee is something our culture has risen above. Wilson exposes that this way,

“One of the central reasons why our generation has gone off on this binge-like moral crusade is that we are trying to compensate for all the guilt. We are sinking further and further into that demented state where we rebel against God’s standards, one after another, and are accumulating guilt because of it. But because we are created in the image of God, we still have a need to feel righteous. We have a deep need to feel more righteous than some other group. In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king, and we want to be that king. We desperately want to feel like we are moral beings, but since we are not, we have resorted to grading on a curve.”

Recognizing there are Christians who provide meaningful argumentation for pursuing the removal of civil war memorabilia, most of the angry mobs who are vandalizing and destroying these monuments, on their own, without a vote, are simply those whose vested interest is in the continued virtue-signaling of the progressive movement. Unfortunately, Progressivism offers our country anything but progress, and their acts of force will continue to misidentify the trajectory of our culture as long as the kowtowing of civil magistrates persists.

This nation has hardly progressed in the slightest. Apparently progress means boys are girls, girls are boys, and we have no means of actually defining either of those terms.

Apparently, progress is introducing more than a handful of new genders into the pot of genders without objective definition.

Apparently, progress is Donald Trump competing with Hillary Clinton for the office of the presidency.

Specifically in regards to slavery, where have we come? We once enslaved 388,000 people. Robert E. Lee, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, and many other American icons participated in this atrocity. But how many Americans participate in the new national sin, whereby 50 million babies have not only been enslaved, but also slaughtered? Some of them are sold, but unlike the slaves of the South, they are not being sold in one piece. How does a country claim progress when our slaves have increased numerically from the thousands to the millions, and are treated unimaginably more barbarically? Remember, a bust of Margaret Sanger still stands in a public place in this nation. That woman is responsible for far more African-American deaths than general Lee was capable of. Wilson articulated it this way,

“So the real problem, and the real shock in all of this, is that by any number of metrics we might use, we are not better than the sinners whose statues are being scrubbed. Adultery is worse than racial bigotry, and we are a nation of adulterers. Abortion is worse than slavery—the slavers when they sold you at least allowed you to live. They didn’t chop you up and sell your parts. They didn’t elect congressmen who gave major amounts of money to the choppers… America has more blood guilt than the Nazis, by a factor of millions, and we disguise this from ourselves by not having our soldiers march goosestep. But if we are comparing the blood of innocents, apples to apples, we are worse. America has far more sexual confusion and perversion than did the Old South. There used to be a huge slave market in Charleston. Before we take spiritual pride in the fact that it is gone (and thank God it is gone), remind yourself what isn’t gone. Black children are still being executed in Charleston and elsewhere, and on a grand scale… ‘I thank thee, God, that I am not like this white supremacist. I thank thee, God, that I am not like those slave-owners. I thank thee, God, that I am not like those Germans during the war.’ Beg pardon, but our generation is exactly like them. We are a people with lust in our hearts, pride in our brains, and blood on our hands. We are not anywhere near as good as we want to think we are.”

So, you’re superior to those white-supremacists, huh? You’re better than Robert E. Lee, huh? Christopher Columbus cannot hold a candle to your holiness, right? By what standard? By whose standard?

The bad news is that we are not moral; we are not righteous. Hatred is not a problem reserved for and unique to Confederate soldiers, slave-owners, and neo-Nazis. As Pastor Wilson puts it,

“This generation may not want to hear more gospel, but they most certainly need to hear more gospel. Jesus Christ died to save sinners, and we most certainly qualify. And by we, I mean all of us, white and black, men and women. We are in a wretched state.”

And that is the real issue here. Let Robert stay, let Robert fall, but what is going to happen to you? All of the men involved in the Civil War, all those involved in southern slavery have died and will give an account, but they will give an account of themselves. What will happen to you on judgment day? I promise you, boasting of a resume replete with statue removals will not cover your sin before a holy God, no matter whose faces were engraved therein.

There is good news. Because of the cross, we can be forgiven; we can be saved. Our faux-righteousness can become real righteousness (Phil. 3: 9). Our self-righteousness can instead become the righteousness of God (2 Cor. 5: 21). However, this only comes through faith and repentance. Jesus will share the throne with no one. The idols we currently serve must come down, even if we idolize ourselves. We must bear our own cross (Luke 9:23), we must come to Christ and die. The Holy Spirit of God must wreck us, regenerate us, and make us new.

Speaking for myself, I am eternally thankful to the Holy Spirit of God who has toppled my idols, for He is truly righteous, much more so than any angry American mob.