Outlawed!

It is when a people forget God that tyrants forge their chains.
—Patrick Henry1

We are living in a day far beyond those when we heard the initial pleas for “tolerance” and “openness” with regard to sexual freedom. These voices have morphed. They now issue shrill and oppressive demands that, unfortunately, seem to be carrying the day. One such voice belongs to New York Times op-ed columnist Frank Bruni, who recently wrote of “Bigotry, the Bible and Lessons of Indiana.” The conflict between homosexuality and Christianity is still alive in many churches today, says Bruni, but these elements “don’t have to be in conflict in any church anywhere.” The tradition of deeming homosexuality as a sin, he says, has solidified in the thinking of many Christians, hardening their perspectives and attitudes on the issue. According to Bruni, their outdated viewpoint is a “choice” that elevates Scripture—“scattered passages of ancient texts”—over the enlightened understanding society has acquired on the subject of homosexuality. The Christian perspective also fails to see gays and lesbians as people who, though flawed like everyone else, have dignity like everyone else.2 Bruni then moves to make his primary point: Our conversations about religious liberty need to highlight the need to liberate “religions and religious people from prejudices that they needn’t cling to and can indeed jettison, much as they’ve jettisoned other aspects of their faith’s history, rightly bowing to the enlightenments of modernity.”3 The word “bowing” says it all! Mr. Bruni is speaking of using the government to force compliance among those he sees as unenlightened.

Hillary Clinton has expressed similar sentiments with regard to the issue of abortion. Speaking in New York City at the sixth annual Women in The World Summit, Clinton said “deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs and structural biases have to be changed” so women can have increased access to “reproductive health care.” One cannot dismiss the possibility she feels the same way about convictions that homosexuality is a sin, because she also said, “We move forward when gay and transgendered women are embraced as our colleagues and friends, not fired from their jobs because of who they love.”4

It’s important to understand that despite the façade of an early call to toleration and a live-and-let-live perspective, progressives didn’t begin talking this way only a few days ago. In 2009, Chai Feldblum was nominated by President Barak Obama to serve on the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission [EEOC]. Obama appointed her to the position through a recess appointment in March of 2010, and she subsequently was confirmed by the U.S. Senate a number of months later. In 2013 the Senate confirmed her for a full five-year term. She is the first openly homosexual individual to serve on the commission.5 Her confirmations were controversial because of statements like this one, which Feldblum wrote in 2006: “Just as we do not tolerate private racial beliefs that adversely affect African-Americans in the commercial arena, even if such beliefs are based on religious views, we should similarly not tolerate beliefs about sexual orientation and gender identity that adversely affect LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender] people.”6 Also, “When questioned regarding a Christian employer’s right to hire an employee of his choice, Feldblum stated: ‘Gays win; Christians lose.’ Similarly, Feldblum, when questioned about how she would decide when religious liberty and homosexual ‘rights’ conflict, said she would have ‘a hard time coming up with any case in which religious liberty should win.’”7

So we see that talk against religious liberty has been around for a number of years, yet recently the rhetoric has increased in both volume and intensity. It’s intensified because of the HHS Mandate in Obamacare as well as the debate over same-sex marriage—and these voices may soon gain additional legal weight. Writing for the Christian Post, Wallace Henley states that if the United States Supreme Court finds a constitutional right to same-sex marriage this June, Christians may be treated in the United States as the early Christians were treated in the Roman Empire during the 1st century.8

Rome was a society where worship of pagan gods was commonplace. In the empire, it was a widespread practice to offer libations to pay homage to various deities. For example, an individual might pour oil or wine on an object or an altar in honor of a designated god or goddess. Christians, who had affirmed Jesus as Lord, steadfastly refused to do this. They wouldn’t call Caesar Lord, either, so they were widely accused of being atheists. They were given many opportunities prove they were innocent of the charge—if they would disown Christ, that would bring honor to the gods of Rome and appease their accusers. Many believers resisted and were thrown in prison, tortured, and/or executed.9

Several other things about the Christians irritated the Romans as well. Although not perfect, followers of Christ lived morally pure lives. Their lives therefore stood in stark contrast to the accepted ways of life among the Romans. This included resisting institutionalized practices that had moral components unacceptable to Christians, and the Romans hated the believers for refusing to be involved. Here is how Minucius Felix, a Christian apologist at the time, summarized the Romans’ objections: “You do not attend our shows; you take no part in the processions; you are not present at our public banquets; you abhor the sacred [gladiatorial] games.”10 Moreover, Christians opposed these practices that were common in 1st century Rome: suicide; abortion; the killing of infants; abandonment of infants; homosexuality; the degrading of women; and patria potestas, which, simply put, made the father a dictator in the family.11,12

We can look to the early Christians for guidance and wisdom on how to live out our faith in an inhospitable world. Not only did they remain faithful to Christ as they lived among individuals who disagreed with them, opposed them, and hated them, but they also remained faithful as they endured the wrath of a hostile government. Still, the church grew!13

These lessons from history are important for us today as we await the upcoming ruling on marriage from the U.S. Supreme Court. Should the U.S. Supreme Court “find” in the U.S. Constitution a “right” for same-sex couples to marry, we should first understand that it will have overstepped its authority and will have issued an illegitimate ruling. Mario Diaz is a legal counsel for Concerned Women for America. Mr. Diaz explains that in Obergefell v. Hodges, the marriage case before the Court, the question the Court has to answer isn’t “Does the U.S. Constitution permit same-sex marriage in all 50 states?” but “Does the Constitution require it?”14 Diaz declares, “Anyone can read the Constitution and see it does not deal with the issue of same-sex marriage in the least and, therefore, the Court should leave it to the states to establish their marriage policy.”15 But there is more. Diaz goes on to warn that if, in the end, the Justices decide to impose same-sex marriage nationwide by judicial decree,

they should…consider the ramifications of such a reckless decision. They will be effectively opening the door to the criminalization of Christianity. At the very least, they will be kicking the door wide open to the persecution of Christians (and other religious groups) who believe marriage to be an institution created by God, which they cannot re-define of their own accord. Christians simply have no choice in the matter.16,17

We already cited Wallace Henley’s observation that Christians are on the verge of being treated as were the Christians in 1st century Rome. Henley sees this as yet another step in a process that began with “marginalization” and continued with “caricaturization” and “vilification.” American society is vilifying Christians and Christianity right now. The next steps are “criminalization,” and finally, “elimination.”18 A Supreme Court ruling adverse to natural marriage will bring America across the threshold of criminalizing the Faith that made America both strong and free.19 In other words, it will not be long before people and institutions with principled objections to same-sex marriage will clash head-on with the law. For example, churches that do not recognize the marital rights of same-sex couples should be prepared to lose their tax-exempt status. With justification, conservative journalist Ben Shapiro predicts,

Once non-profit status is revoked for churches on the basis of supposed discrimination against homosexuals, those churches become private institutions engaged in commerce. Which means that they are regulated as common businesses under anti-discrimination law. Which means they can be shut down or fined for failure to perform same-sex weddings. The left says this will never happen. Which means we are a few years away from it happening.20

It might happen sooner than that! Who would have dreamed even thirty years ago that we would face a day when Christianity would be outlawed? Yet this is a very real probability in the days ahead. The oral arguments in Obergefell v. Hodges established this. When asked by Justice Samuel Alito if Christian institutions that refused to recognize same-sex marriage would have their tax-exempt status revoked, Solicitor General Donald Verrilli responded, “It’s certainly going to be an issue.”21

This includes religious universities and schools, which also will be targeted22—and with the legal leverage given progressives by federal recognition of same-sex marriage, the liberal elites will have almost unlimited power to demand compliance from every entity that resists. We are seeing parallels to this already with state governments in cases like those of Elaine Huguenin and Robert and Cynthia Gifford, to name just two of many.23 Given this, we cannot expect even that homeschooling families will be exempt from a federal mandate to teach that gay and lesbian sex are normal expressions of human sexuality.

These and other repercussions of a Supreme Court decision adverse to traditional marriage underscore the importance of a united stand to defend it. Accordingly, a team of Christian leaders has forged and is promoting a statement of resolve that you can sign and share with others. The team includes Dr. James Dobson, founder and president of Dr. James Dobson’s Family Talk; Mathew Staver of Liberty Counsel Action; and Rick Scarborough of Vision America. The Pledge in Solidarity to Defend Marriage notes that

marriage and family have been inscribed by the Divine Architect into the order of Creation. Marriage is ontologically between one man and one woman, ordered toward the union of the spouses, open to children and formative of family. Family is the first vital cell of society, the first government, and the first mediating institution of our social order. The future of a free and healthy society passes through marriage and the family.24

The pledge goes on to affirm that government has an obligation to support and promote natural marriage and has no authority to redefine it. It states that on more than one occasion in the past, the U.S. Supreme Court overstepped its authority and issued illegitimate decisions. For example, in Dred Scott v. Sandford in 1857, the Court ruled 7-2 that neither enslaved nor free African-Americans could be citizens of the United States, and that they therefore had no legal standing to sue in a U.S. federal court.25 Today, of course, we rightly view this ruling as illegitimate. It was just as illegitimate at the time it was issued. Why? Because the ruling violated a higher, timeless law that affirms the dignity of all human beings, regardless of race. If the Supreme Court rules that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to “marry,” it will have overstepped its authority once again, because it also will have violated a higher law. Marriage was designed and initiated by God (see Gen. 2:21-25). No human entity has the right to redefine it.

In conclusion, the pledge states:

Our highest respect for the rule of law requires that we do not respect an unjust law that directly conflicts with a higher law. A decision purporting to redefine marriage flies in the face of the Constitution and is contrary to the natural created order. As people of faith we pledge obedience to our Creator when the State directly conflicts with higher law. We respectfully warn the Supreme Court not to cross this line.

We stand united together in defense of marriage. Make no mistake about our resolve. While there are many things we can endure, redefining marriage is so fundamental to the natural order and the common good that this is the line we must draw and one we cannot and will not cross.26

The days ahead likely will be increasingly difficult for Christians and for the church. Even if the Supreme Court rules that states have the right to define marriage, the marriage debate isn’t over! The church, both individually and corporately, will have to contend for traditional marriage at the state level, where multiple battles must be waged. Neither is the debate over if the Court rules against traditional marriage.

Thus, either way, we must prepare for the probability that standing for the truth of marriage will be very costly. Advocates of same-sex marriage have many segments of society on their side—allies such as the media, business, and many government institutions.27 Moreover, many who personally oppose same-sex marriage are afraid to defend man-woman marriage because homosexual activists have bullied them into silence. Ultimately, it isn’t primarily institutions but individual hearts and minds that will need to be convinced of the truth about marriage. Wallace Henley writes that Christians and churches must begin to prepare now for what lies ahead: “Leaders should begin thinking about what will happen if non-profit status is lost. Christian institutions must embrace a Book of Acts strategy for corporate operation. Schools must train future church leaders in New Testament strategies.”28

How did the early church survive and even thrive in a hostile culture? Part of the answer is that these believers loved God above all else, and God blessed, sustained, and strengthened them. Alvin Schmidt observes, “The early Christians, during their first three hundred years of bloody persecutions, neither sought nor expected the government to support them in their religious activities. They only yearned for freedom to worship their Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. They differed remarkably from the pagan Romans for whom religion meant being linked to a particular city or state.”29

As the pressure to bow in compliance to government edicts regarding marriage and sexuality intensifies, may we as 21st century believers also stand out in our culture as different from those who acquiesce. As we remain faithful to the Lord, perhaps He will use us to transform America, just as he used the early Christians to transform the then-known world. Relying on Him for strength, resolve, and charity toward all, let us pray and work wholeheartedly toward this end.

A condensed version of this article is available here.

Notes

1http://www.davidstuff.com/usa/henry2.htm

2Actually, it is precisely because we as Christians believe homosexuals have inherent dignity as people made in God’s image that we are compelled to speak out against harmful behavior. See http://www.wordfoundations.com/2015/04/23/compassions-mandate/.

3http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/05/opinion/sunday/frank-bruni-same-sex-sinners.html?_r=0

4http://www.christianpost.com/news/hillary-clinton-religious-beliefs-have-to-be-changed-about-abortion-138179/

5https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chai_Feldblum

6http://cnsnews.com/news/article/obama-s-eeoc-nominee-society-should-not-tolerate-private-beliefs-adversely-affect

7http://www.frc.org/issuebrief/obama-administration-curbs-religious-freedom

8http://www.christianpost.com/news/dear-churches-in-america-prepare-to-be-treated-like-1st-century-christians-in-rome-138025/

9Alvin J. Schmidt, Under the Influence: How Christianity Transformed Civilization, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2001), 25.

10Quoted in Schmidt, 27.

11Schmidt.

12http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/446579/patria-potestas

13Schmidt, 33

14,15,16http://www.breitbart.com/big-government/2015/04/27/will-the-supreme-court-open-the-door-to-the-criminalization-of-christianity/

17Note that the phrase “no choice in the matter” directly contradicts Frank Bruni’s contention (cited above) that opposition to homosexuality is an arbitrary “choice” made by Christians. Let us not miss the fact that these differing conclusions result from different assumptions made about God and whether or not He has revealed truth in His Word, the Bible.

18,19http://www.christianpost.com/news/dear-churches-in-america-prepare-to-be-treated-like-1st-century-christians-in-rome-138025/

20http://www.breitbart.com/big-government/2015/03/30/whats-next-for-the-same-sex-marriage-advocates/

21http://www.redstate.com/2015/04/29/the-end-game-becomes-more-clear/

22http://www.breitbart.com/big-government/2015/03/30/whats-next-for-the-same-sex-marriage-advocates/

23http://www.wnd.com/2015/04/courts-conclude-faith-loses-to-gay-demands/

24http://defendmarriage.org/pledge-in-solidarity-to-defend-marriage

25 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dred_Scott_v._Sandford

26http://defendmarriage.org/pledge-in-solidarity-to-defend-marriage

27,28http://www.christianpost.com/news/dear-churches-in-america-prepare-to-be-treated-like-1st-century-christians-in-rome-138025/

29Schmidt, 265

 

For Further Reading:

‘We will not obey’: Christian leaders threaten civil disobedience if Supreme Court legalizes gay marriage
http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2015/04/28/will-not-obey-christian-leaders-threaten-civil-disobedience-if-supreme-court/

Man on Admission: Verrilli Reveals Taxing Truth
http://www.frc.org/updatearticle/20150429/man-admission

Alito Asks the Right Questions Which The Left Doesn’t Want Asked
http://www.redstate.com/diary/lifeofgrace/2015/04/29/alito-asks-right-questions-left-doesnt-want-asked/

Don’t Silence the 50 Million Who Voted for One Man-One Woman Marriage
http://goo.gl/JJN1vy

 

Copyright © 2015 by B. Nathaniel Sullivan. All Rights Reserved.

Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture has been taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

 

Outlawed!

It is when a people forget God that tyrants forge their chains.
—Patrick Henry1

We are living in a day far beyond those when we heard the initial pleas for “tolerance” and “openness” with regard to sexual freedom. These voices have morphed. They now issue shrill and oppressive demands that, unfortunately, seem to be carrying the day. One such voice belongs to New York Times op-ed columnist Frank Bruni, who recently wrote of “Bigotry, the Bible and Lessons of Indiana.” The conflict between homosexuality and Christianity is still alive in many churches today, says Bruni, but these elements “don’t have to be in conflict in any church anywhere.” The tradition of deeming homosexuality as a sin, he says, has solidified in the thinking of many Christians, hardening their perspectives and attitudes on the issue. According to Bruni, their outdated viewpoint is a “choice” that elevates Scripture—“scattered passages of ancient texts”—over the enlightened understanding society has acquired on the subject of homosexuality. The Christian perspective also fails to see gays and lesbians as people who, though flawed like everyone else, have dignity like everyone else.2 Bruni then moves to make his primary point: Our conversations about religious liberty need to highlight the need to liberate “religions and religious people from prejudices that they needn’t cling to and can indeed jettison, much as they’ve jettisoned other aspects of their faith’s history, rightly bowing to the enlightenments of modernity.”3 The word “bowing” says it all! Mr. Bruni is speaking of using the government to force compliance among those he sees as unenlightened.

Hillary Clinton has expressed similar sentiments with regard to the issue of abortion. Speaking in New York City at the sixth annual Women in The World Summit, Clinton said “deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs and structural biases have to be changed” so women can have increased access to “reproductive health care.” One cannot dismiss the possibility she feels the same way about convictions that homosexuality is a sin, because she also said, “We move forward when gay and transgendered women are embraced as our colleagues and friends, not fired from their jobs because of who they love.”4

While the talk against religious liberty has been around for a number of years (despite its initial façade of tolerance), the rhetoric recently has increased in both volume and intensity. It’s intensified because of the HHS Mandate in Obamacare as well as the debate over same-sex marriage—and these voices may soon gain additional legal weight. Writing for the Christian Post, Wallace Henley states that if the United States Supreme Court finds a constitutional right to same-sex marriage this June, Christians may be treated in the United States as the early Christians were treated in the Roman Empire during the 1st century.5

Rome was a society where worship of pagan gods was commonplace. In the empire, it was a widespread practice to offer libations to pay homage to various deities. For example, an individual might pour oil or wine on an object or an altar in honor of a designated god or goddess. Christians, who had affirmed Jesus as Lord, steadfastly refused to do this. They wouldn’t call Caesar Lord, either, so they were widely accused of being atheists. They were given many opportunities prove they were innocent of the charge—if they would disown Christ, that would bring honor to the gods of Rome and appease their accusers. Many believers resisted and were thrown in prison, tortured, and/or executed.6

Several other things about the Christians irritated the Romans as well. Although not perfect, followers of Christ lived morally pure lives. Their lives therefore stood in stark contrast to the accepted ways of life among the Romans. This included resisting institutionalized practices that had moral components unacceptable to Christians, and the Romans hated the believers for refusing to be involved. Here is how Minucius Felix, a Christian apologist at the time, summarized the Romans’ objections: “You do not attend our shows; you take no part in the processions; you are not present at our public banquets; you abhor the sacred [gladiatorial] games.”7 Moreover, Christians opposed these practices that were common in 1st century Rome: suicide; abortion; the killing of infants; abandonment of infants; homosexuality; the degrading of women; and patria potestas, which, simply put, made the father a dictator in the family.8,9

We can look to the early Christians for guidance and wisdom on how to live out our faith in an inhospitable world. Not only did they remain faithful to Christ as they lived among individuals who disagreed with them, opposed them, and hated them, but they also remained faithful as they endured the wrath of a hostile government. Still, the church grew!10

These lessons from history are important for us today as we await the upcoming ruling on marriage from the U.S. Supreme Court. Mario Diaz is a legal counsel for Concerned Women for America. Mr. Diaz warns that if the Justices decide to impose same-sex marriage nationwide by judicial decree,

they should…consider the ramifications of such a reckless decision. They will be effectively opening the door to the criminalization of Christianity. At the very least, they will be kicking the door wide open to the persecution of Christians (and other religious groups) who believe marriage to be an institution created by God, which they cannot re-define of their own accord. Christians simply have no choice in the matter.11,12

We already cited Wallace Henley’s observation that Christians are on the verge of being treated as were the Christians in 1st century Rome. Henley sees this as yet another step in a process that began with “marginalization” and continued with “caricaturization” and “vilification.” American society is vilifying Christians and Christianity right now. The next steps are “criminalization,” and finally, “elimination.”13 A Supreme Court ruling adverse to natural marriage will bring America across the threshold of criminalizing the Faith that made America both strong and free.14 In other words, it will not be long before people and institutions with principled objections to same-sex marriage will clash head-on with the law. For example, churches that do not recognize the marital rights of same-sex couples should be prepared to lose their tax-exempt status. With justification, conservative journalist Ben Shapiro predicts,

Once non-profit status is revoked for churches on the basis of supposed discrimination against homosexuals, those churches become private institutions engaged in commerce. Which means that they are regulated as common businesses under anti-discrimination law. Which means they can be shut down or fined for failure to perform same-sex weddings. The left says this will never happen. Which means we are a few years away from it happening.15

It might happen sooner than that! Who would have dreamed even thirty years ago that we would face a day when Christianity would be outlawed? Yet this is a very real probability in the days ahead. The oral arguments established this. When asked by Justice Samuel Alito if Christian institutions that refused to recognize same-sex marriage would have their tax-exempt status revoked, Solicitor General Donald Verrilli responded, “It’s certainly going to be an issue.”16

This includes religious universities and schools, which also will be targeted17—and with the legal leverage given progressives by federal recognition of same-sex marriage, the liberal elites will have almost unlimited power to demand compliance from every entity that resists. We are seeing parallels to this already with state governments in cases like those of Elaine Huguenin and Robert and Cynthia Gifford, to name just two of many.18 Given this, we cannot expect even that homeschooling families will be exempt from a federal mandate to teach that gay and lesbian sex are normal expressions of human sexuality.

These and other repercussions of a Supreme Court decision adverse to traditional marriage underscore the importance of a united stand to defend it. Accordingly, a team of Christian leaders has forged and is promoting a statement of resolve that you can sign and share with others. The team includes Dr. James Dobson, founder and president of Dr. James Dobson’s Family Talk; Mathew Staver of Liberty Counsel Action; and Rick Scarborough of Vision America. The Pledge in Solidarity to Defend Marriage declares,

marriage and family have been inscribed by the Divine Architect into the order of Creation. Marriage is ontologically between one man and one woman, ordered toward the union of the spouses, open to children and formative of family. Family is the first vital cell of society, the first government, and the first mediating institution of our social order. The future of a free and healthy society passes through marriage and the family.19

The pledge goes on to affirm that government has an obligation to support and promote natural marriage and has no authority to redefine it. If the Supreme Court rules that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to “marry,” it will have overstepped its authority because it will have violated a higher law. Marriage was designed and initiated by God (see Gen. 2:21-25). No human entity has the right to redefine it.

In conclusion, the pledge states:

Our highest respect for the rule of law requires that we do not respect an unjust law that directly conflicts with a higher law. A decision purporting to redefine marriage flies in the face of the Constitution and is contrary to the natural created order. As people of faith we pledge obedience to our Creator when the State directly conflicts with higher law. We respectfully warn the Supreme Court not to cross this line.

We stand united together in defense of marriage. Make no mistake about our resolve. While there are many things we can endure, redefining marriage is so fundamental to the natural order and the common good that this is the line we must draw and one we cannot and will not cross.20

Advocates of same-sex marriage have many segments of society on their side—allies such as the media, business, and many government institutions.21 Moreover, many who personally oppose same-sex marriage are afraid to defend man-woman marriage because homosexual activists have bullied them into silence. Ultimately, it isn’t primarily institutions but individual hearts and minds that will need to be convinced of the truth about marriage. Wallace Henley writes that Christians and churches must begin to prepare now for what lies ahead: “Leaders should begin thinking about what will happen if non-profit status is lost. Christian institutions must embrace a Book of Acts strategy for corporate operation. Schools must train future church leaders in New Testament strategies.”22

How did the early church survive and even thrive in a hostile culture? Part of the answer is that they loved God above all else, and God blessed, sustained, and strengthened them. Alvin Schmidt observes, “The early Christians, during their first three hundred years of bloody persecutions, neither sought nor expected the government to support them in their religious activities. They only yearned for freedom to worship their Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. They differed remarkably from the pagan Romans for whom religion meant being linked to a particular city or state.”23 As the pressure to bow in compliance to government edicts regarding marriage and sexuality intensifies, may we as 21st century believers also stand out in our culture as different from those who acquiesce. As we remain faithful to the Lord, perhaps He will use us to transform America, just as he used the early Christians to transform the then-known world. Relying on Him for strength, resolve, and charity toward all, let us pray and work wholeheartedly toward this end.

This is a condensed version of a longer article. The expanded article can be viewed here.

An even shorter version of this article is available here.

Notes

1http://www.davidstuff.com/usa/henry2.htm

2Actually, it is precisely because we as Christians believe homosexuals have inherent dignity as people made in God’s image that we are compelled to speak out against harmful behavior. See http://www.wordfoundations.com/2015/04/23/compassions-mandate/.

3http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/05/opinion/sunday/frank-bruni-same-sex-sinners.html?_r=0

4http://www.christianpost.com/news/hillary-clinton-religious-beliefs-have-to-be-changed-about-abortion-138179/

5http://www.christianpost.com/news/dear-churches-in-america-prepare-to-be-treated-like-1st-century-christians-in-rome-138025/

6Alvin J. Schmidt, Under the Influence: How Christianity Transformed Civilization, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2001), 25.

7Quoted in Schmidt, 27.

8Schmidt.

9http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/446579/patria-potestas

10Schmidt, 33

11http://www.breitbart.com/big-government/2015/04/27/will-the-supreme-court-open-the-door-to-the-criminalization-of-christianity/

12Note that the phrase “no choice in the matter” directly contradicts Frank Bruni’s contention (cited above) that opposition to homosexuality is an arbitrary “choice” made by Christians. Let us not miss the fact that these differing conclusions result from different assumptions made about God andn whether or not He has revealed truth in His Word, the Bible.

13,14http://www.christianpost.com/news/dear-churches-in-america-prepare-to-be-treated-like-1st-century-christians-in-rome-138025/

15http://www.breitbart.com/big-government/2015/03/30/whats-next-for-the-same-sex-marriage-advocates/

16http://www.redstate.com/2015/04/29/the-end-game-becomes-more-clear/

17http://www.breitbart.com/big-government/2015/03/30/whats-next-for-the-same-sex-marriage-advocates/

18http://www.wnd.com/2015/04/courts-conclude-faith-loses-to-gay-demands/

19,20http://defendmarriage.org/pledge-in-solidarity-to-defend-marriage

21,22http://www.christianpost.com/news/dear-churches-in-america-prepare-to-be-treated-like-1st-century-christians-in-rome-138025/

23Schmidt, 265.

 

For Further Reading:

‘We will not obey’: Christian leaders threaten civil disobedience if Supreme Court legalizes gay marriage
http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2015/04/28/will-not-obey-christian-leaders-threaten-civil-disobedience-if-supreme-court/

Man on Admission: Verrilli Reveals Taxing Truth
http://www.frc.org/updatearticle/20150429/man-admission

Alito Asks the Right Questions Which The Left Doesn’t Want Asked
http://www.redstate.com/diary/lifeofgrace/2015/04/29/alito-asks-right-questions-left-doesnt-want-asked/

Don’t Silence the 50 Million Who Voted for One Man-One Woman Marriage
http://goo.gl/JJN1vy

 

Copyright © 2015 by B. Nathaniel Sullivan. All Rights Reserved.

 

Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture has been taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

 

Compassion’s Mandate

In the public debate over same-sex marriage, advocates of natural marriage have defended God’s design for marriage in numerous ways. For example, we have talked about every child’s critical need for a mom and a dad. Sadly, divorce is real, and it leaves many kids without a mom or without a dad. Even so, in these kids’ situations the traditional definition of marriage has left them with at least the concept of a mom and dad. Same-sex marriage creates motherless and fatherless families by design. It is discriminatory in the worst sort of way to advocate a model of marriage that says that neither a woman nor a man has anything unique to bring to the task of parenting!

Another strong argument we have made is that if marriage is redefined to mean either two people of the opposite sex or two people of the same sex, then there can be no solid rationale for saying marriage must be between just two people. The door to polygamy—and to many other types of unions—will be thrust wide open. We cannot take this argument lightly, either.

Today I’d like to highlight one of the points that, for the most part, has been missing from the public case for traditional marriage. That point is this: Homosexuality itself is harmful. From one perspective, we can understand why this element has not been strongly emphasized. First, we respect people’s right to live as they choose to live. We are not vying to become the moral police. Also, we realize that the debate over the definition of marriage has not been about the legality of homosexual sex. Lawrence vs. Texas was a landmark Supreme Court decision that was handed down on June 26, 2003. In it the Supreme Court effectively struck down laws against sodomy nationwide.1 Pro-family advocates understood then and understand now that no one can force adults to refrain from engaging in homosexual activity if they have decided to do so.

Yet at the same time we also have recognized that laws against sodomy were the linchpin of a solid legal platform for maintaining the definition of marriage as being between a man and a woman. (No, these laws were not unjustifiably put in place.) Furthermore, we have understood the harmful and even devastating implications of redefining marriage. While redefining marriage has repercussions well beyond the issue of homosexuality (polygamy, for example, may not involve homosexual sex), the fact that homosexuality is being used as a crowbar to redefine marriage compels us to examine its dangers.

Let’s review some essential truths about homosexuality from a biblical perspective and from a health perspective. Though far from exhaustive, our discussion will highlight some critical issues. After even a discussion as brief as this one, we may want to consider ways to make the issue of homosexuality more central in the debate over marriage.

A Biblical Perspective

In a secular society, the strongest public arguments do not begin with “The Bible says….” Nevertheless, we as Christians—people who believe God’s perspective always is paramount—need to understand the Bible’s warnings against homosexuality. Unfortunately, discussions about these warnings have been woefully lacking in our churches. That needs to change! Among other things, Christian leaders need to equip believers, especially young people, to refute pro-gay theology, which “explains” why and how the Bible doesn’t really condemn homosexuality, even though Bible passages are clear on the subject and even though the pro-gay interpretation stands contrary to the historic position of the Christian church.

What has been the church’s position? It has affirmed clear biblical teaching. In Romans 1, the apostle Paul wrote that those who continue to rebel against God are without excuse because they deny what they know intuitively about God and worship His creation rather than Him. So “God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves” (Rom. 1:24). Paul went on to describe homosexual activity among women and among men but named other sins as well (see vv. 18-32).

James M. Boice observes that people tend to think of God’s giving people up to their desires (see vv. 24,26) as being akin to releasing a porcelain pitcher in outer space and letting it float harmlessly away. Not so. It really is like letting go of the pitcher on earth, where gravity causes it to drop to the ground and possibly shatter completely.2 Although Paul mentioned numerous sins in connection with his discussion about God’s releasing people to their evil passions, there is no question that homosexuality is associated with this divine action.

People tend to think of God’s giving people up to their desires (see Rom. 1:24,26) as being akin to releasing a porcelain pitcher in outer space and letting it float harmlessly away. Not so. It really is like letting go of the pitcher on earth, where gravity causes it to drop to the ground and possibly shatter completely.

Furthermore, homosexual sins are unique. In Romans 1:26-27, Paul wrote they were “against nature” or unnatural. By contrast, heterosexual intercourse outside of marriage, though sinful, is natural. Dr. Boice says that while we need God’s Word to know that heterosexual sex outside of marriage is wrong, we don’t even need it to know homosexuality is wrong: “A look at one’s sexual apparatus should convince anyone that practices of this kind are not…meant to be.”3 The fact that so many seem to be oblivious to this is strong evidence of Satan’s work to blind people to truths that otherwise would be crystal clear (see 2 Cor. 4:3-4).

Unfortunately, some have erroneously concluded from Romans 1:18-32 that homosexuals have strayed beyond God’s saving reach. We cannot conclude this at all! First Corinthians 6:9-10 sounds out an ominous warning: “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 homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God.” Then, thankfully, verse 11 says, “And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.” While verse 11 reassures us, it in no way should diminish the warnings against homosexuality we see in other places in Scripture. Even so, the Bible is unmistakably clear: Homosexual activity is like other sins in that it is disobedience and an affront to God. (By the way, in Scripture, homosexuality isn’t an identity, but an activity.4) God forgives homosexual deeds when the sinner repents and relies on Jesus’ death as full payment for them. Thank God for His grace!

A Health Perspective

A great deal could be written here on the health consequences of homosexual sex, because homosexuality is linked to numerous significant health risks. Actually, were they widely known and understood, the health risks associated with gay sex would be the Achilles heel of the gay rights movement. Here we’ll specifically note just two potential adverse consequences. Syphilis is now considered by the Centers for Disease Control as “predominantly an MSM [men who have sex with men] epidemic.”5 Also, the life-expectancies of homosexuals are significantly diminished—even by as much as 20 years for men!6 Read this article7 to learn about other serious health risks for both men and women. Be forewarned: This information is difficult to read. When we think about how these diseases are devastating people made in God’s image, our hearts break!

Conclusion

Joe Dallas, a former homosexual, a Christian, and an expert on pro-gay theology, writes that the contemporary divide between truth and practice has been large enough to set the stage for a number of falsehoods to make their way into the church and take hold. Mr. Dallas quotes J. Stephen Lang, who describes the situation this way: “Love is understandable—warm and fuzzy. Doctrine, on the other hand, sounds cold, difficult, and demanding.”8 We also could add that facts often can come across as offensive and harsh. Yet when we don’t counterbalance our desire for “warm and fuzzy” with a loyalty to the truth, says Dallas, pro-gay theology, even with its inherent dangers and falsehoods, is quite alluring!

You see, love seeks that which is best for the one loved—even when working toward attaining the best is difficult. “Clear thinking,” writes A. J. Hoover, requires you to learn “to control your emotions.”9 The church must not be so afraid of offending people that it fails to tell them the truth. Speaking the truth in love (see Eph. 4:15) actually is compassion’s mandate. In the end, failing to convey the truth actually is unloving in the worst sort of way.

We cannot, therefore, continue to remain silent in our churches on this issue. Love and compassion compel us to speak out. How will you respond?

Notes

1https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lawrence_v._Texas

2James Montgomery Boice, Romans: An Expositional Commentary—Volume 1, Justification by Faith, Romans 1–4, (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1991), 178-179.

3Boice, 181.

4Joe Dallas and Nancy Heche, eds., The Complete Christian Guide to Understanding Homosexuality: A Biblical and Compassionate Response to Same-Sex Attraction, (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 2010), 99.

5http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6318a4.htm

6http://factsaboutyouth.com/posts/life-span/

7http://factsaboutyouth.com/posts/physical-health/

8http://www.truenews.org/Homosexuality/pro-gay_theology.html

9A. J. Hoover, Don’t You Believe It! Poking Holes in Faulty Logic, (Chicago: Moody Press, 1982), 67.

Copyright © 2015 by B. Nathaniel Sullivan. All Rights Reserved.

Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture has been taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Who Meets the People’s Needs?

While many believe government exists to meet people’s needs, Scripture teaches individual responsibility. So does history. Settlers in both Jamestown and Plymouth initially sought to produce food and wealth according to a communal system. Workers contributed the fruits of their labors to a “common store” on which all relied. This approach pushed both settlements to the brink of starvation. Yet when land was assigned and people could reap the benefits of their own work, the communities prospered.

The Bible commends reward for hard work among able-bodied people. Proverbs 14:23 says, “In all labor there is profit.” Paul told the Thessalonians that whoever wouldn’t work shouldn’t be allowed to eat (see 2 Thess. 3:10), and he told Timothy that “if anyone does not provide for his own,…he…is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Tim. 5:8). It isn’t government’s job to meet the people’s needs. That job belongs to the people themselves.

  • Genesis 2:15
  • Exodus 20:8-9
  • Proverbs 6:6-11
  • Proverbs 12:14
  • Proverbs 14:23
  • Ecclesiastes 3:13
  • Ecclesiastes 5:12
  • Romans 12:11
  • Ephesians 4:28
  • 2 Thessalonians 3:6-12
  • 1 Timothy 5:3-8

Alvin J. Schmidt, Under the Influence: How Christianity Transformed Civilization, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2001), 211-212. This work has been rereleased under the title How Christianity Changed the World.

Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture has been taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Copyright © 2015 by B. Nathaniel Sullivan. All Rights Reserved.

A Critical Time for the American Church

Listen a special 3-part series of Dr. James Dobson’s Family Talk broadcast. Dr. Dobson and his guests discuss a Supreme Court ruling this summer that could impose same-sex marriage nationwide. What should be the church’s response? These broadcasts aired April 15 through 17, 2015.

Supreme Court Ruling On Gay Marriage – I

Supreme Court Ruling On Gay Marriage – II

Supreme Court Ruling On Gay Marriage – III

Esse quam videri

He was a military leader like none other. His exploits “were considered classics of military strategy.”1 He’s been described as “more courageous” than all other soldiers, “more imaginative” than all his fellow generals, and “more daring” than all other field officers.2 Serving “with distinction in one battle after another,”3 this American military leader at one point even used his own savings to help the American cause.4 He had his horse shot out from under him during one battle, but he acted so courageously that Congress gave him a promotion in rank. Also, “as a token of their admiration of his gallant conduct,” lawmakers awarded him a new horse.5

Yet, even before the war had reached an end, he seriously considered leaving the military. The commander of the armed forces urged him to stay, however, because he valued his contributions to the war effort and his savvy as a military leader.6 The commander later appointed him to serve as commandant at Philadelphia.7 Eventually, based on this same commander’s trust, this military leader was given command of West Point, a strategic stronghold during the war.8

This general was none other than Benedict Arnold. Arnold had grown resentful when other, less experienced men had been promoted, even as he was not. Also, having grown convinced that the Colonists would lose the war, he decided to turn against them.9 Following through, he gave detailed plans of West Point to British Major John André. Had André been able to deliver the plans to other British soldiers, the Americans probably would have lost the war.10 Fortunately, however, the British officer was captured before he was able to complete his mission.

While a great many words can be used to describe Arnold’s treason, one stands out. At Arnold’s hands (and, we also might say, at the hands evil spiritual forces, for America was founded on Judeo-Christian principles) a lie threatened what would become American independence, freedom, and liberty. Put another way, it was only when the truth about Arnold was discovered and necessary actions were taken that Arnold’s deception was rendered powerless.

This is not a discussion of military tactics, including lies and spying during warfare. Rather, the lesson of Benedict Arnold is presented to illustrate profound spiritual truths, including the potentially devastating power of a lie and the liberating power of the truth to overcome it.

The writings of the apostle Paul echo these principles. In what we now know as chapter 10 of his second letter to the Corinthian Christians, Paul declared,

3 For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. 4 For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, 5 casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.

The word translated strongholds in verse 4 is especially significant. Used nowhere else in the New Testament, this Greek word can mean “a castle or a fortress.” It doesn’t mean a literal building in 2 Corinthians 10:4, however—it refers to the ideas on which an individual relies, the rationale a person uses to bolster and defend his opinion against God’s reality or truth.11 Verse 5 affirms this very thing when it elaborates on what “pulling down strongholds” (v. 4) means. Again, verse 5 says, “Casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.” Couldn’t we say, then, that a stronghold is either a lie or a system of lies standing contrary to the truth of God? How else can a lie be overcome but by its corresponding truth? The Latin phrase Esse quam videri, which means “To be, rather than to seem,”12 says it succinctly. This is the motto for the state of North Carolina.

Seal_of_North_Carolina.svg

All the biblical truths we’ve highlighted thus far are entirely consistent with everything Paul wrote about spiritual warfare in Ephesians 6:10-17. Of all the equipment in the armor of God—

  • the belt of truth,
  • the breastplate of righteousness,
  • the shoes of the preparation of the gospel of peace,
  • the shield of faith,
  • the helmet of salvation, and
  • the sword of the Spirit, which is God’s Word—

only the sword is an offensive weapon. Strongholds cannot be torn down when we hold an exclusively defensive posture. And what is God’s Word? Jesus revealed the answer to this question in John 17:17. It is truth. We note that since truth is represented by both a belt and a sword, it has both defensive and offensive capabilities. Only truth, however, is an offensive weapon.

Eve learned that God’s Word is truth the hard way (just as we also often have). The serpent questioned God in her presence in Genesis 3:1; then in verse 4 he flatly contradicted what God had said. In other words, he lied. While Eve thought eating the forbidden fruit would liberate her, she found that it actually put her, and all of humanity as well, in bondage.13

Just as was true at the dawn of time and centuries ago in American history, lies continue to pose ominous threats to liberty. We must never underestimate the destructive potential of such lies—including the lie that the God-ordained institutions of marriage and family can be redefined to mean whatever government wants them to mean, to affirm whatever behavior patterns people find enjoyable and acceptable, to normalize behavior that goes against nature and nature’s God. As a nation, we will follow this lie to our own peril.

Fully armed for spiritual warfare, Christians must engage this falsehood head-on to tear it down and to reestablish God’s truth on marriage and the family as the cultural standard and as national policy, just as has been the case in our history until only recently. We do this not to enslave, but to liberate! Indeed, as Jesus said, “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32).

Let us keep in mind that as Americans, we have been fortunate to live in a land where the founding documents, including most obviously the Declaration of Independence in this case, affirm that liberties come from God. Contending for the biblical view of marriage and the family is therefore American in the most authentic sense of the word.

Recalling Benedict Arnold once again, let’s make just a few more observations.

  • The truth about Benedict Arnold was offensive—and
  • the lie about him was pleasurable to hear. Even so,
  • the lie about Arnold was far more destructive than it was soothing; and,
  • because the Colonists were willing to respond, the truth was far more liberating than it was tough to accept.

General_George_Washington_at_Trenton_by_John_Trumbull

George Washington, the commander of the armed forces who previously had praised Arnold, communicated to his men the news of the discovery Arnold’s treachery. He described the treason as being “of the blackest dye” but joyfully affirmed that it had “been timely discovered, to prevent…fatal misfortune.” He added, “The Providential train of circumstances which led to it affords the most convincing proof that the liberties of America are the object of Divine Protection.”14 He conveyed the same basic idea when he used these words to summarize the situation: “In no instance since the commencement of the War has the interposition of Providence appeared more conspicuous.”15

Thankfully, God intervened in America’s early days to give people an opportunity to allow the truth about Benedict Arnold to liberate.16 Let’s pray that He will intervene again and that the truth about marriage and the family will be upheld. Whether or not He intervenes through the Supreme Court, we as His people must cooperate with Him to lovingly yet forthrightly and boldly contend for the truth about marriage and the family in all our spheres of influence—not to impose anything on anyone, but for the benefit of all, that all may enjoy true freedom and liberty.

Read and sign the Pledge in Solidarity to Defend Marriage.

 

Copyright © 2015 by B. Nathaniel Sullivan. All Rights Reserved.

Update, added July 7, 2016

Here’s the point of application for us today. At the most rudimentary of levels, homosexuality is a lie! Same-sex marriage is a lie! So are other sins. They are lies because they deny the realities that God has set up in human relationships and in the natural world. When we understand this, we can comprehend the urgency of warning those who have been deceived and encouraging them to take a path consistent with the truth.

Notes:

1Brad Cummings and Lance Wubbels, General Editors, The Founders’ Bible: The Origin of the Dream of Freedom, (Newbury Park, CA: Shiloh Road Publishers, 2012), 1637.

2,3http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1069532/posts

4Toby Mac and Michael Tait, Under God, (Minneapolis: Bethany House, 2004), 162.

5http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1069532/posts

6Toby Mac and Michael Tait, 163.

7http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1069532/posts

8Brad Cummings and Lance Wubbels, General Editors, The Founders’ Bible: The Origin of the Dream of Freedom, (Newbury Park, CA: Shiloh Road Publishers, 2012), 1638.

9Toby Mac and Michael Tait, 163.

10Toby Mac and Michael Tait, 162.

11http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G3794&t=KJV

12https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Esse_quam_videri

13Star Parker’s story is but one modern example of this same principle. Read it and listen to it at http://www.lifenews.com/2015/01/30/she-had-four-abortions-was-there-any-way-god-could-forgive-her/

14,15Toby Mac and Michael Tait, 164.

16While it’s true that the lie Arnold perpetrated was, in one sense, a different kind of lie than the lies promoted about marriage today, in another sense a lie is a lie. We note again that we are using Arnold’s deception to illustrate a point. Focus on the parallels between these scenarios and the lessons that arise from history.

Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture has been taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

 

The Purpose of Government

On tax day, 2015, we do well to consider the purpose of government. Most people today, including most Christians, believe government exists to meet the needs of its citizens. Scripture says otherwise. In Romans 13, when Paul directed the Roman Christians to be good citizens by obeying civil authorities, he explained that civil leaders affirm those who do right and punish evildoers. “Do you want to be unafraid of the authority?” Paul asked. “Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same” (v. 3). Peter echoed this principle in 1 Peter 2:13-14.

God established governments to promote and maintain order in society by punishing those who do wrong and honoring those who do right. This is not their only duty, but this task is primary.

This truth gives rise to some important questions. How are the people’s needs to be met? What happens when civil authorities don’t know right from wrong? Stay tuned. We’ll explore some of these issues in the very near future.

Romans 13:1-7

1 Peter 2:13-17

Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture has been taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Copyright © 2015 by B. Nathaniel Sullivan. All Rights Reserved.

Clarity Needed

When a church renovated its worship center, the decision was made to hang a beautiful portrait of Christ on the wall directly behind the pulpit. When the pastor got up to deliver his message on the Sunday morning after the renovation was complete, a little boy in the congregation who was still new to the church’s worship services asked his mother, “Mom, who is that man who stands so we can’t see Jesus?”1

Portraits of Christ are important. They’re particularly important to God—especially those He Himself presents in Scripture. We need to make sure that we never obstruct them—that we never “stand so people can’t see Jesus.” Instead, we must faithfully uphold these images so they can convey all God wants them to convey.

Just ask Moses. In a fit of uncontrolled emotion, he distorted a picture of Christ that God intended to present to Israel, and, through the pages of Scripture, to future generations. Making their way across the wilderness after being freed from slavery in Egypt, the Israelites lacked water, and they grumbled and complained. Moses and Aaron met with the Lord, who instructed Moses, “Take the rod; you and your brother Aaron gather the assembly together. Speak to the rock before their eyes, and it will yield its water; thus you shall bring water for them out of the rock, and give drink to the congregation and the animals” (Num. 20:8).

Moses, however, didn’t speak to the rock. Overcome with frustration and anger, he took his rod and hit it twice. While life-sustaining water did pour out, God punished Moses for not obeying Him: “Because you did not believe Me, to hallow Me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them” (v. 12). The place was called Meribah, which comes from the Hebrew verb meaning “to contend” or “to argue.”

Why was God so upset? Disobedience always displeases the Lord, but here something else was involved as well. Exodus 17 indicates that earlier, at a place called Rephidim, a similar situation unfolded. Water was nowhere to be found. The people complained there too, but God told Moses what He needed to do to set the stage for a miracle. “Behold,” the Lord said, “I will stand before you there on the rock in Horeb; and you shall strike the rock, and water will come out of it, that the people may drink” (Ex. 17:6). Moses obeyed God, and even though the people had grumbled, they had water to drink. This place also was called Massah, meaning test, and Meribah, the same name given to the location mentioned in Numbers 20. The differences in what occurred in Exodus 17 and Numbers 20, however, indicate these were two different places.

Pieter de Grebber, Moses Striking the Rock

We need to understand that at the Meribah in Numbers 20, Moses ruined a divinely orchestrated picture of Christ. Jesus is the Rock (see 1 Cor. 10:1-4; Eph. 2:19-21; 1 Pet. 2:4-8). He also is “living water” (John 4:10-14). He had to die, or be struck, only once. Based on His death, salvation comes to all who repent of their sins and trust Him for forgiveness and eternal life. In other words, sinners need only speak to Him—for, having already died, He stands ready, willing, able, and even anxious to forgive (see Heb. 7:25-28).

We see just how important this portrait of Jesus was to God when we realize that because of Moses’ disobedience, God would not let His servant enter the promised land! Later, when the Israelites were about to take possession of the land, Moses recounted that he had asked God to reconsider, but the Lord said, “Enough of that! Speak no more to Me of this matter” (Deut. 3:26). Does this sound harsh? If it does, we need to remember that God is God. His judgments don’t reflect His opinions but reality.

In the New Testament, we see that a similar situation unfolded in the Corinthian Church with regard to the Lord’s Supper. Paul wrote these words in 1 Corinthians 11:

27 Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. 28 But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. 30 For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep.

In other words, some had died because they failed to approach the Lord’s Supper with necessary reverence and respect. Remember—the Lord’s Supper is a divinely created picture of the sacrifice of Jesus’ body and blood on the cross.

We can be assured that God is keenly aware of divine signs and images that are being misrepresented today. Thousands of years ago, God placed the first rainbow in the sky as a reminder of His faithfulness after the flood of Noah (see Gen. 9:8-17), but in 2015 many people see rainbow colors and celebrate evil in the name of the politically correct principles of “diversity” and “inclusiveness.” Then there’s marriage—a sacred institution ordained and instituted by God (see Gen. 2:18-25) as well as a picture of Christ’s relationship with His church (see Eph. 5:22-32). Needless to say, that picture is being muddied and distorted everywhere people look. If marriage is redefined in America, how can it possibly continue to represent in society anything close to the relationship God ordained it to represent? If we lose marriage, we lose an image that helps people understand why Christ died. While we cannot expect non-Christians to act as Christians, neither can we ignore the fact that America was founded on Judeo-Christian principles and for many years upheld those ideals.2 Yet in recent decades in this country, we have, as a nation, kicked God out of public life. Given all the opportunities we as Americans have had to hear and respond to God’s truth, we must understand that God will hold us accountable.

What, then, does it mean in our day to stand so people can see Jesus clearly? We can cite at a growing number of examples of believers who are so standing, including Barronelle Stutzman of Richland, Washington, who is putting her livelihood and all her possessions on the line to uphold genuine marriage.3 Oregonians Aaron and Melissa Klein also are taking a public stand to present Jesus with clarity, even at great risk to themselves and their livelihood.4

“But how,” someone might ask, “do such actions reflect Christ’s love?” We need to understand that it never can be loving to participate in a lie, which is exactly what Stutzman, the Kleins, and many others are now being told they must do. Pray for an increasing number of pastors to have courage to publicly stand with these believers and to explain to their people the importance of biblical marriage.

Greg Quinlan is a former homosexual. Today, he serves as a lobbyist for the New Jersey Family Policy Council. His perspective on ministry to homosexuals is rooted in part in a clear understanding of the way the early Christians lived out their faith in the first century. Here are his insights.

The reason we see so much of a proliferation of homosexuality in our society now is because we live in a sex-saturated culture.…The first century church thrived in a hyper-sexualized homosexual culture in an age of sexual anarchy. So can the 21st century church. We do not need to compromise our message in order to bring homosexuals into the church or accommodate them.…The truth is the truth, and if we love someone, we will tell them the truth that homosexuality is destructive to someone. I know because I watched 100 of my friends die of AIDS.5

Certainly there are many inappropriate and unloving ways to uphold the truth, but there never can be a loving way to distort it.

Copyright © 2015 by B. Nathaniel Sullivan. All Rights Reserved.

Notes:

1Adapted from Vance Havner; see http://jesusalive.cc/quotes.htm

2Copy and paste this web address in your browser: http://firstprinciplespress.org/newsite/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/America-is-a-Christian-Nation.pdf

3http://www.christianpost.com/news/grandmother-who-refused-to-make-gay-wedding-floral-arrangements-could-lose-house-life-savings-after-guilty-verdict-134480/

4http://dailysignal.com/2014/09/29/lost-bakery-now-face-bankruptcy-governments-discrimination-fine-brings-oregon-baker-tears/

5http://www.wnd.com/2014/12/nobody-is-born-gay/

 

For further reading:

Two Ways We Should NOT Respond to the “Redefinition” of Marriage

Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture has been taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

April 10, 2015

Eyewitness Testimony and the Resurrection of Jesus

In his first letter to the Corinthian Christians, the apostle Paul began his powerful discussion of the resurrection of Christ in what we now know as 1 Corinthians 15 by reaffirming

the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, 2 by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. 3 For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. 6 After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. 7 After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. 8 Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time.

How could Paul promote something so preposterous as the idea that beginning on the Thursday evening of the Passover through Friday evening, Jesus of Nazareth was arrested, tried, beaten, flogged, crucified, and buried—and then arose from the dead on Sunday morning? (See Matt. 26:57,67; 27:1-2,26,59-60; 28:1-10.) We should note carefully that despite the unusual nature of Paul’s claim, his words ring with authenticity, for he cited eyewitness after eyewitness who saw the risen Christ. Of those closest to Jesus, Peter and the apostles saw Him, James did, and Paul himself also saw Him, although later than the others. These words, however, are especially significant: “He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep.” Would Paul have dared write this it weren’t true? Of course not. Paul was essentially saying that most of these people still were living and could verify the truth of his words, so anyone who doubted Christ’s resurrection could simply ask them. Here were eyewitnesses numbering in the hundreds!

With regard to those who had been closest to Jesus, the four Gospels—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John—give details of numerous eyewitness accounts. In reading the Gospels, however, some questions may arise. Why do these reports contain so many differences? Are they contradictions? Did the Gospel writers disagree on what happened?

For example, in John’s account of the initial discovery of the empty tomb, Mary Magdalene is the only woman mentioned (see John 20:1); Matthew, Mark, and Luke all indicated more women were involved (see Matt. 28:1; Mark 16:1; Luke 23:55–24:1).

Also, John stated that when Mary looked into the tomb, she “saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain” (John 20:12). Luke mentioned two angels in his Gospel as well (see Luke 24:3-8). Matthew and Mark, however, wrote about just one angel (see Matthew 28:2-7; Mark 16:5-7).

Did the Gospel writers contradict one another? Actually, they did not. The various details of the resurrection accounts can be reconciled.

While John wrote only of Mary Magdalene, he did not say she was alone. In fact, in his record of Mary’s words in John 20:2, John actually indicated Mary had company; he wrote that Mary told Peter and John, “They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him” (emphasis added).

Regarding the number of angels, “Matthew and Mark specify that one angel spoke, but they do not say there was only one angel present or that only one angel spoke. Quite possibly one of the angels served as the spokesman for the two, thus he was emphasized” by the writers of the first two Gospels.1

We notice other differences as well, but these also can be explained. Let’s consider one more example. Matthew was the only Gospel writer who reported that an earthquake occurred and the only one to mention the guards on Easter morning (see Matt. 28:2,4). Apparently he was relating some of the first things that happened that morning, events that took place even before the women arrived (even though he wrote of the women’s making their way to the tomb in verse 1). The fact that the other Gospel writers didn’t mention an earthquake or the guards does not contradict what Matthew said about them.

Had the early followers of Jesus offered accounts with identical details, we would suspect they had gotten together secretly and fabricated the story of Jesus’ resurrection. This obviously did not happen; they could not have made up the testimonies we have in the New Testament—claims that are vividly different, yet that convey the same essential information.

It’s helpful to understand that no writer recorded everything that happened. Upon reflection we also see that no detail in any account conflicts with a detail in another, and the specific elements in all the accounts can be reconciled. Some minor questions may remain, but no troubling ones. As any good lawyer will affirm, this is exactly the kind of testimony we would expect from four eyewitnesses in court—testimonies highlighting a variety of specifics and representing the different perspectives of the witnesses, yet statements with no direct or major contradictions. Speaking in more general terms about the four Gospels, David Limbaugh, himself a lawyer, writes, even though “there are some differences in emphases in the various gospel accounts, what intellectually honest person can read all four books and deny that they put forward a consistent image of Jesus as fully divine and fully human?” 2

Remember, too, that the thrust of each resurrection account offers the same “bottom line”: Jesus’ tomb was empty because He had risen from the dead!

Returning to 1 Corinthians 15, we note that Paul went on to say,

if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is vain and…your faith is futile; you are still in your sins!…But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.…The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law, but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ (vv. 14,17,20,56-57).

Paul could have ended his discussion of Christ’s resurrection there, but he did not. He concluded with this encouragement for his readers in every age: “Therefore, my beloved brethren, [because Christ is raised,] be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord” (v. 58). With these words, the apostle highlighted additional evidence for Christ’s resurrection that should consistently be on display in believers’ lives, visible to modern eyewitnesses everywhere. As Jesus said in John 15:5, “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me, you can do nothing.”

Notes

1Josh McDowell and Don Stewart, Answers to Tough Questions Skeptics Ask About the Christian Faith, (San Bernardino, CA: Here’s Life Publishers, 1980), 53.

2David Limbaugh, Jesus on Trial: A Lawyer Affirms the Truth of the Gospel, (Washington, DC: Regnery Publishing, 2014), 220.

Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture has been taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Copyright © 2015 by B. Nathaniel Sullivan. All Rights Reserved.

photo credit: www.lumoproject.com

Easter weekend, April 3, 2015

Pray for the Preservation of Natural Marriage in America

www.pray4marriage.org

 The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD, Like the rivers of water; He turns it wherever He wishes. —Proverbs 21:1 (NKJV)

The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. —James 5:16 (NKJV)

 Dr. Richard G. Lee is the president and voice of There’s Hope America broadcasting media in Atlanta, Georgia, and the founding pastor of First Redeemer Church in the Atlanta area. Dr. Lee is the author of twenty books and the general editor of The American Patriot’s Bible (Thomas Nelson Publishers).1 2

 One of Dr. Lee’s books is titled In God We Still Trust: A 365-Day Devotional (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2010). In this publication, the entry for October 15 is titled “The Biblical Basis of Marriage.” Dr. Lee begins this important reading by upholding the clarity of the Bible concerning marriage in both the Old and New Testaments. He quotes Genesis 2:24, which in the New King James Version reads, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” At the dawn of civilization, says Lee, God ordained marriage—which consists of one man and one woman—to be the foundation of civilization. Then he affirms that Jesus “also taught that marriage is an institution established by God and designed as a lifelong covenant relationship between a man and a woman (Matthew 19:1-6).”

Lee continues. Because of the way God had designed the man and the woman, the command He gave Adam and Eve to “be fruitful and multiply” (Gen. 1:28) actually required them to come together. It’s true the ideal does not occur in every situation, but it still should be upheld. God’s ideal is that every child would be born to a mother and a father who are committed to each other in a marriage, and that married parents would bring up their children “in the training and admonition of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4).

Concluding, Lee writes, “Preserving the traditional family is vital to America’s future. We must join together to maintain the God-ordained truth that marriage is one man and one woman committed to each other for life. Beyond being a basic unit of society, the family is a sacred institution.”3

Today, the institution of marriage as designed by God is hanging by a thread. Soon the Supreme Court will consider a case that could result in the redefinition of marriage nationwide. Unfortunately, even many who hope marriage will be preserved do not realize just how ominous the implications will be if the court imposes same-sex marriage in all 50 states. Several Christian leaders are laying the groundwork for some very bold action—including non-violent confrontation and peaceful civil disobedience if necessary—in the aftermath of a ruling striking down all the states’ marriage protection laws.4 5 Can God’s judgment against such a wayward nation be far behind?6

Right now, however, there is perhaps no more important or effective way for ordinary citizens to contend for natural marriage than to pray that the God-ordained definition of marriage will be preserved. Accordingly, a group of concerned citizens is calling the nation to 40 Days of Prayer for Marriage: March 19–April 27, 2015. The website for this effort, www.pray4marriage.org, informs readers that the 40-day period leads up to “April 28, the day the U.S. Supreme Court hears oral arguments on the constitutionality of marriage laws in Tennessee, Kentucky, Michigan, and Ohio.” Because the ruling in this case has the potential to redefine marriage for the entire nation, “it is critical for the Body of Christ to stand in the gap and pray for God’s design for marriage to be upheld in our courts. Also, you can join us on Facebook for daily prayer updates and suggestions.”

I encourage you to participate in this prayer effort and to encourage others to pray as well. Browse the website. Download the marriage prayer guide, share it with others, and pray fervently! The question of the king of Nineveh in Jonah’s day echoes down through history to apply to us: “Who can tell if God will turn and relent, and turn away from His fierce anger, so that we may not perish?” (Jonah 3:9, NKJV).

 

Notes

1http://thereshope.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=73&Itemid=54

2http://moodyaudio.com/person/61919/dr-richard-lee

3Richard G. Lee, In God We Still Trust: A 365-Day Devotional, (Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2010), 298.

4http://www.wnd.com/2015/03/top-christians-prep-civil-disobedience-over-marriage/

5http://skyangelsradio.com/religious-broadcaster-warns-christians-to-prepare-for-martyrdom-if-supreme/

6http://www.cnsnews.com/news/article/michael-w-chapman/franklin-graham-gay-marriage-god-will-judge-nation

March 26, 2015

Copyright © 2015 by B. Nathaniel Sullivan. All Rights Reserved.