Why Beto is Good for the Gospel

Earlier this week, democratic presidential hopeful, Beto O’Rourke, affirmed his stance on the church and homosexuality. During a CNN LGBTQ+ townhall meeting, O’Rourke stated that he would strip away the tax-exempt status of any religious institution (churches, colleges, or charities etc.) that stands in opposition to same-sex marriage.

After the audience applauded, O’Rourke expounded upon his position, stating: “There can be no reward, no benefit, no tax break for anyone, any institution, or any organization in America that denies the full human rights and the full civil rights of every single one of us. So, as President, we’re going to make that a priority. We’re going to stop those that are infringing upon the human rights of our fellow Americans.

How should the church respond to this blatant attempt to censor the pulpit? I say we not only welcome it, but praise God for it. I’ll explain a bit later.

What are Human Rights?

First, let’s focus on the reason behind Beto’s claim—human rights. As Christians, we should rejoice in the fact that human rights are being fought for. After all, we alone have a justification for the intrinsic value of every human being. Genesis 1:27 plainly tells us that men and women were created in the likeness of the Triune God. “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them”.  No other creature was created in that manner. That’s precisely the reason why we don’t hold presidential rallies for horse-rights. Even though Mr. O’Rourke seems to deny the authority of the Word of God revealed through Scripture, he still cannot help but appeal to it.

The very reason human beings instinctively know that justice ought to be upheld is because we are made in the image of God, and there is no injustice in God. If the candidate is being honest about his motivation, then I applaud his eagerness to uphold justice by defending the rights of humans. However, I would argue that what O’Rourke is fighting for isn’t an intrinsic human right—it’s defending rebellion against the One who gives life. O’Rourke robs the justification for human value from God’s Word, yet disregards God’s call for all mankind to repent—even from homosexuality.

Granted, this is simply one candidate’s radical stance early in the presidential race. But I think overall, we’re seeing a shift in the culture—and that shift is good for the Gospel. Throughout history, the Gospel has always flourished and advanced whenever the church was pressured and persecuted. I think the opposite is true. When the church is pampered, laziness and contentment in the world inevitably creeps into the hearts of God’s people. I don’t think we should ignore the possibility that God may be using Beto to wake the Church up from the American Dream.

If we believe God’s Word, then we should believe the world is going to think the cross of Christ is utter foolishness (1 Corinthians 1:18). So, the Christian’s natural response to any government’s attempt to silence the commandments of God should be one of joy—as counterproductive as that may seem. Consider the words of James. “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-4) James begins this letter with encouraging words to the congregation who were seemingly undergoing persecution for their faith in Christ. Albeit, it’s difficult to compare simply having to pay property and income taxes with the severity of the persecution of the 1st century church. Nevertheless, this eager desire from the world to shut the mouths of pastors boldly urging the world to repent of homosexuality will likely not be satisfied with tax dollars.

The Church’s Response

If we do not praise God for having to pay money to the IRS for preaching His word, how will we be spiritually prepared if the government upped the ante by penalizing pastors and church members with prison? I don’t want this to be perceived as fearmongering, but it certainly isn’t too farfetched of an idea. After all, when same-sex marriage was legalized on a federal level in 2015, it was done so under the banner of we just want to be married. In just four years, that banner has changed from we just want marriage to accept us or pay taxes. Who’s to say in ten years the stance from the political stage won’t be accept us or die.

Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.
1 Corinthian 16:13-14

Even in the face of wicked laws passed to silence the church, we are commanded to respond in love. Given the culture, love can become a subjective term. According to the world, love mostly means acceptance at any cost—hence O’Rourke’s position. In the Biblical worldview, love is truth (1 John 3:18). And the only way to truly love in this culture is to boldly proclaim the truth of the Gospel with gentleness and respect—the latter likely being the most difficult. It’s easy to slip into a posture of pride when it comes to this sort of thing for American Christians, myself included. But we must remember that we are sojourners in a land that hates us for the sake of Christ.

As we see the grey areas of Christianity and worldliness become solidified into rigid black and white lines, we must remember that if it were not for the grace and mercy of God, we would be just as blind, and just as dead in our sins and trespasses as the world. (Ephesians 2:1-10) It’s an important perspective to keep during persecution. I believe it keeps us humble and keeps us holding fast to the power of the Gospel for salvation, rather than our own intellect.

No matter how this election turns out, God is still on His sovereign throne. The king’s heart is still very much like a river in the hand of the Lord to turn wherever He wills (Proverbs 21:1). So, lets pray for Mr. O’Rourke’s salvation, gladly pay taxes if necessary, stand firm in the love of Christ, and watch the Gospel spread like a wildfire.

 

This content first appeared on Patheos.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Death by Loving Worldly Things: An Excerpt by John Owen

Friends, I just wanted to share an excerpt from John Owen’s Spiritual Mindedness. I pray God uses Owen’s words to bless you as much as they have blessed me. May we all reflect on our hearts daily in the hopes of, by the Spirit’s power, exposing darkness within our deepest desires.
-Topher
The great battle raging in heaven and earth concerns the hearts and minds of men. That the world should fight for man’s heart is no wonder. Everything in the world has no greater aim than to possess the hearts and minds of men. But here lies the danger, for the world and everything in it lies under the curse of God. So there is no greater evil we can do to our souls than to give our hearts and mind to this world and the things of this world. But that the holy God should also plead for the hearts and minds of men is a wonder indeed.
God says to man, ‘My son, give me your heart’ (Prov. 23:26). God will not accept anything from us unless it is given from the depths of our hearts. The most costly sacrifice will not be accepted unless it is given from the heart. All the purposes of God’s grace, all the counsels of his will, are centred on one purpose and that is to bring back the hearts and minds of men to himself. He wants nothing else but that man should love him with all his heart and soul and mind and strength (Deut. 10:12). God has also revealed what he intends to do in order to bring back man’s heart and mind to himself. He will circumcise man’s heart so that man may once again love the Lord his God with all his heart and with all his soul, in order that he may live and not die (Deut. 30:6).
On the other hand, the world with painted face, seductive promises and glorious robes, and assisted by Satan, also seeks to draw and hold the hearts and minds of men. And if man prefers the world before God, he shall justly perish along with the world, and be rejected by the one whom he has rejected (Prov. 1:24-31).
Our hearts and minds are the only real things we have to give, the only power which our souls have by which we may give ourselves as a gift, in order that we may belong to another. Every other power which our souls possess, even the most noble of them, are only equipped to receive. But by our hearts and minds we can give away what we are and all that we have. So it is only by our hearts and minds that we can give ourselves to God as he requires.
The heart is like the helm of a ship. If it is controlled by a skilful hand, the ship will soon find itself in port. So if God has his almighty hand of grace on our hearts, he will turn our souls into his ways and bring us safely in the end to his eternal kingdom. He will hold our souls firm and steady against all winds and storms of temptations and bring us safely through the deadliest of dangers. A soul surrendered to God’s will is easily managed and moulded into the image of its Maker. But the heart with self and the world at its helm is stubborn, proud, and far from righteousness.
Our hearts are either ruled by the Spirit of God and therefore spiritual, or else they are ruled by the world and therefore worldly. Either God has our hearts or the world has them. It is God’s purpose to draw our hearts from the world and to himself, and this he does in the following ways.
First, God has in many different ways, shown his contempt for the things of this world by exalting everything that is spiritual and heavenly.
In the beginning, God declared his whole creation to be very good. Then the world and all that was in it was a blessing to man, for there was no danger of man being tempted away from God by it. Then the world and all that was in it was God’s ordinance to lead man to know and love God. But when sin entered, the world and all that was in it fell under God’s curse and into Satan’s power. The world was now used by Satan as bait to tempt men’s hearts and minds away from God. Therefore, those who love the world do not have the love of the Father in them (1 John 2:15-16).
The world, now being under the curse of God and being the tool of Satan to draw men’s foolish and sinful hearts from him, has, in various ways, been shown to be foolish, of no real worth, and utterly unsatisfying to men’s hearts, and so to be despised and rejected and not to be compared to spiritual and heavenly things.
God showed his contempt for the world and the things of the world, chiefly by the life, death and cross of Christ.
What is there in this world that can be loved or desired after the Son of God has lived in it? He had nowhere to lay his head and ended his life cruelly on the cross. If there had been anything of real value and worth to man’s soul, Jesus would most certainly have enjoyed it. But he never had more than his daily bread for which he taught us to pray (Matt. 6:11).
When Christ was crucified, the world revealed itself in its true colours for believers to see for all time. Nor is the world any more beautiful now than it was when it crucified Christ. The inference and conclusion which Paul drew from this he made clear: ‘God forbid’, he said, ‘that I should glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world’ (Gal. 6:14). As if he said, ‘Since I have believed, since I have fully realised the power and moral excellence of the cross of Christ, I have finished with the world and all that is in it. The world is like a dead corpse to me and I have no love for it at all.’
This is the great difference between the promises of the old covenant and the new. Under the Old Testament, many promises only concerned the things of this world, the things of time and not of eternity, the good things of this world and this life. But under the New Testament, the promises mostly concerned spiritual and eternal things. God would not wean the church away from earthly promises until he had sufficiently shown their emptiness, worthlessness, and insufficiency to fully satisfy men’s souls. And this God did by the cross of Christ (2 Cor. 4:16-18).
Why, then, is there so much effort and hard work given to get more of the things of this world? What is it all for? Is it to provide for one’s family? Is it to get a name and reputation in the world? I would never discourage any from working hard in their lawful callings. But with many, providing for one’s family is only an excuse to hide a shameful love for the things of the world.
How to draw our hearts away from the world.
To draw our hearts away from the world we must fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith (Heb. 12:2). We must see him as he is presented to us in the Gospels; poor, despised, reproached, persecuted, nailed to the cross, and all by this present evil world. If you truly believe in Christ, then you hope to be with him for ever. To him you must give account of what you have done in this world. Will he be pleased if you tell him that you spent your time gaining as much of the world’s things as you could? Did Christ spend his time on earth gaining as much of this world’s things as he could? Did he teach us by his example to love the world and the things of the world? How can any man set his heart on the things of this world who has taken Christ as his example and pattern of life? How can anyone who claims to live by the power of the cross of Christ set his heart on this world and the things of this world? If we truly love Christ and fully realise the truth that it was this world who crucified him, how can we love this world? So, if you find your heart growing in love for this world and the things of this world, turn aside for awhile and by faith meditate on Christ’s life and death. How can any of us love or think highly of the things of this world—its power, riches, honours and reputation—who have seen them in the light of the cross of Christ?
But wasn’t it necessary, because of the special nature of his work as Saviour and Redeemer of the church, for Christ to be poor, destitute, reproached, persecuted, and nailed to a cross? Does it therefore follow that we should be the same? No, it doesn’t. Therefore, I have all along made allowance for honest work in our various callings. But, nevertheless, the things which Christ did without and scorned for our sakes should not be loved by us. Nor can such love for the world take the supreme place in our hearts if Christ dwells there.
God showed his contempt for the world and the things of this world by the way he dealt with his apostles.
The laying of the foundation of the glorious kingdom of Christ was committed to the apostles. One would think, then, that God would have given them, if not principalities and popedoms, yet at least archbishoprics and bishoprics along with other chief positions in the church. By this they might have been made equal to worldly rulers and princes and been freed from the contempt they suffered. But infinite wisdom decreed otherwise. God was pleased to let them suffer the contempt of the people as well as persecutions, so that they did not enjoy their lives, living and dying in a state of poverty, distress, persecution, and reproach. God set them up as examples of light, grace, zeal, and holiness. In this way, God showed how little he cared for our happiness in this world; his love for us is not to be judged by how much he gives us of the things of this world (1 Cor. 4:9,11,13). If this does not convince us, yet it ought to be taken seriously by those who are called to preach the gospel as successors of the apostles. There can be nothing more absurd and shameful, nothing more detrimental to God’s wisdom, than for ministers to suggest that God treated his apostles abominably by seeking ambitiously for themselves, high positions, power, riches, and honour.
God continues to show his contempt for the world and the things of the world by giving the greatest part of it to the worst men and to those who are his greatest enemies.
Who will set any value on things thrown at pigs? And what value should we put on those things God has seen fit to throw to such monsters as Nero? And what value should we put on this world when great tracts are given to pagans, atheists, and Muslims who are being prepared for eternal destruction? See what a small portion of this world God gave to his people Israel in comparison to what he gave Egypt, Assyria, and Babylon.
Is it not clear that God does not value or think highly of this world? If this world were really worth having, would a holy and righteous God have distributed its lands in this way? How little of this world’s riches and honours do his faithful people have! Who would set his heart on things which God throws to the swine of this world? ‘What will it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul?’ This is the question Jesus puts to each and everyone of us.
God continues to pour contempt on the world and the things in the world by giving perpetual examples of how uncertain and unsatisfying is the world and all the things of the world.
How many who are rich and have everything are often the unhappiest of people. Solomon testified to this (cf. Eccles. 2).
Why should we, then, make ourselves unhappy by giving up our hearts and minds to the riches of this world? God has shown us that the world and the things of the world cannot bring us rest and happiness. So why, then, seek for rest and happiness from the world and the things of the world?
Secondly, God has added to the foolishness of loving the world and the things in the world by shortening the lives of men, so they do not have enough time to get any real benefit or joy from the things of the earth.
The Psalmist said, ‘Indeed, you have made my days as hand’s breadths, and my age is nothing before you.’ From this he draws two conclusions. The first is that ‘every man at his best state is vapour’, and that ‘every man walks about like a shadow, they busy themselves in vain; he heaps up riches and does not know who will gather them’ (Psa. 39:5-6). The uncertainty and shortness of life make all efforts to make oneself happy by earthly things both useless and foolish. When men lived for eight or nine hundred years, they had plenty of time and opportunity to suck out all the sweetness creature comforts could provide, to accumulate more worldly possessions, and to plan well ahead for future happiness. But what happened? The world was filled with violence, oppression, and wickedness, which provoked God to send the flood as a judgment on them. So by this we learn that the more worldly possessions men have and the longer they have to enjoy them, the more they will abound in wickedness and, unless the grace of God intervenes, bring upon themselves God’s severe judgments.
But after the flood, God shortened the lives of men to about seventy years. Those who were allowed to live longer only found increasing trouble and sorrow (Psa. 90:10). And if we think how long it is before men have a real taste for the things of this life, and how often they are frustrated in their efforts to find happiness and peace from the things of the world, and how quickly they are bored with newly acquired things, we shall see why the holy, wise God has left us such little time to enjoy the world as to value it in our hearts. And when we consider that we, who have such a short time to live, were made for eternity, for eternal happiness or misery, then we must forfeit all reason as well as defy the grace of God if we give ourselves to the things of this world.
Thirdly, God has clearly and fully declared the danger of worldliness.
How many multitudes of souls perish because they have loved the world and the things of the world more than they have loved God and the things of God. The world, with its seductive temptations, leads millions into eternal ruin. This is the fire which sets ablaze the lusts of men until their souls are consumed in hell.
Men under the power of spiritual convictions do not fall into sin and perish eternally, except when they succumb to the temptations of the world.
The only reason why men under the power of spiritual convictions fall into sin and perish eternally is because they give in to temptation. There are those who live and die under the power of a depraved nature, experiencing no spiritual convictions, not needing to be tempted but only given opportunities to satisfy their lusts. But if those who have some idea of sin, righteousness, and judgment fall into sin, it is because they have yielded to temptation, for whatever lures a man into sin is temptation.
Now, though there are many temptations and many ways by which temptation can gain the victory, yet all temptations that are eternally ruinous to the souls of men are from the world and the things in the world. Evil men use the world to corrupt others. All that sets ablaze the fires of sin and lust comes from the world and the things in the world. The things that are in the world tempt men in three ways. They promise to satisfy the lusts of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life (1 John 2:16). These three are the chief lusts in the hearts and minds of men and they are served by the things in the world. So everything in the world can be used to set ablaze the corrupt lusts in men. Everything that is desirable and considered of value in the world only serves in the end to satisfy one of these three chief lusts and so are temptations to sin.
But some claim that they use the world wisely and with moderation and so the world does not tempt them nor arouse sinful desires in them. They are not immoral, drunkards, oppressors, proud, or ambitious. But if their hearts are set on the things of this world, then the world becomes a temptation. So beware of foolishly setting your heart on the world and the things of the world.
Fourthly, God has so ordered all things in his wisdom that it is difficult for man to tell the difference between the right and wrong use of worldly things.
It is because men have not discerned between the right and the wrong use of worldly things that many will be cast out in the last day (Matt. 25:34-46).
There is a right use of worldly things, and there is an over-anxious care of them as well as an excessive love for them. But it is here that men deceive themselves into thinking that they are using the things of the world rightly, because they do not know how to test whether they are using the things of the world rightly or not. Some make their own desires the test of what is right and allowable; some follow the example of others; some follow the standards of the world; some their own real or pretended needs. But what influences them all is self-love.
So we have men seeing themselves as good stewards of their worldly possessions, while others see them as hard, covetous, earthly-minded, in no way sharing that which has been entrusted to them for the glory of God. Others do not see any wrong in living extravagantly, satisfying their pride or their sensual pleasures. They dress extravagantly and live extravagantly. So, in their dinner parties and banquets, they treat Christ’s rule with contempt, only inviting those who will invite them back again (Luke 14:12-14). Yet they still see nothing wrong in themselves and their behaviour.
But what about ourselves? Are we using the things of the world rightly? Men sailing at sea may have a fair wind, yet, instead of being brought to their destination, may be smashed to pieces on a hidden reef.
And what if that which we consider allowable, which we love and on which we spend much time and effort, proves to be nothing more than the fruit of earthly desires? What if that which we consider to be right and allowable in ourselves be considered by God as the sin of worldliness? What if his judgment is that we are of the world and therefore must perish with the world?
But if it is so difficult to tell the difference between the right and wrong use of worldly things, on which our eternal destiny depends, we must all our lives live in fear that we are not using earthly things rightly.
This is true. Therefore, learn how dangerous it is to set the desires of the heart on worldly pleasures, even in the slightest way. No wise man will walk on the very edge of a precipice.
When the soul is upright and sincere, there is no need for the mind to be filled with worry and concern over worldly things so that one is distracted from spiritual duties. But when the heart is ruled by self-love and by strong desires for the things of this world, then it is impossible for the mind to be filled with peace or be free from a guilty conscience when aroused from sleep to consider seriously its spiritual state.
But to those who sincerely want to know how to use worldly things rightly, without setting their hearts upon them, I give the following rules:
Always remember that you are only stewards of your possessions. They are not yours but God’s. As far as men are concerned, they are your possessions, but with God you are stewards.
Always remember that as stewards you will one day have to give account of your stewardship (Luke 16:1-2).
Always remember that if you lack wisdom to use aright the things of the world, you may ask of God who gives liberally and without reproach, and it will be given you (James 1:5). Spiritual wisdom will know the bounds of duty and whether getting, enjoying, or using worldly things are within those bounds or not. Men are not easily deceived unless they are under the grip of corrupt desires or will not listen to their own consciences. If we examine ourselves in the light of God’s word, it will greatly check our worldly desires and expose the foolishness of the excuses we make to justify our love for worldly things. It will also expose that self-love which is the root of all this evil.
Always remember to set your heart on things above and not on things of the earth. You may be diligent in the right use of worldly things. You may be generous in sharing them with others. You may be watchful against all selfish abuses of them. But if your heart is not set on things above, then the world still possesses your heart. If God and the things of God are not the chief love of your heart, then the world is. This is what Christ taught clearly (Luke 16:9-13).
Always remember to make every effort to mortify worldly desires. Corrupt nature sets its heart on the world and the things of the world, and nothing will ever tear corrupt nature away from worldliness unless those desires are mortified by the cross of Christ. Mortification alone will tear our hearts from earthly things. So Paul tells us to set our minds on things above and not on things of the earth (Col. 3:2). And how does Paul tell us to do it? ‘Therefore put to death your members which are on earth’ (verse 5). Worldly desires will not fall away of their own accord. Old age may abate their strength. Disappointments and sufferings may hold them in check. Desire for a good name may lead to generosity in giving to the poor. Convictions may drive the worldling to do many things gladly. But unless these earthly desires are mortified, they will always be there, lurking in the shadows of our lives (Gal. 6:14). So, unless you know something of this work of mortification, you can have no assurance that you are spiritually minded.
Always remember in everything you do in this world to be ruled and guided by the word of God and not by self, or by the latest fashion, or by the example of others.
Always remember that unless these things are found in you, you can have no assurance that you are not under the power of worldliness. Let it not be said of you that you are honest, reliable, hardworking, faithful in all religious duties, a good preacher, a man of sound principles and of blameless character, but that you love the world! If we prefer self above God, if we aim to satisfy self in everything we do, if we never live to glorify God in our use of earthly things, then we are worldly.
Always remember that it is even more dangerous if, through the pride of life, we dress and live to please the world, fearing to do anything that would make us unpopular. It will be useless to plead spiritual graces and experiences if by our behaviour we show we love the world. ‘If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.’ Beware of refusing to follow the example of wiser and more experienced Christians.
Always remember that God has sufficiently warned us what worldliness can lead to by giving up the majority of men to filthy, abominable, ridiculous behaviour, that any man in his right senses cannot but treat with contempt. So the wise man prayed against riches in case he could not handle the temptations that went with them (Prov. 30:8-9).
Finally, always remember that God has shown quite clearly that if we would be worldly, he will have nothing to do with us (1 John 2:15; James 4:4). God says to the worldling, ‘Go, love the world and the things of the world; but know this, you do it to the eternal loss of your souls.
Author
John Owen (1616-1683). No outline of Owen’s life can give an adequate impression of the stature and importance to which he attained in his own day. He was summoned to preach before Parliament on several occasions, most notably on the day after the execution of Charles I. During the Civil War, Owen’s merit was recognized by General Fairfax, then by Cromwell who took him as Chaplain to Ireland and Scotland. He was adviser to Cromwell, especially though not exclusively on ecclesiastical affairs, but fell from the Protector’s favour after opposing the move to make him King. In 1658 he was one of the most influential members of the Savoy Conference of ministers of Independent persuasion. After the Ejection he enjoyed som influence with Charles II who occasionally gave him money to distribute to impoverished ejected ministers. All in all, he was, with Richard Baxter, the most eminent Dissenter of his time.
This article is taken from Spiritual Mindedness (abridged and made easy to read by R.J.K. Law), published by The Banner of Truth, pp. 133-148.

The True Cost of Following Christ

Believing in Jesus isn’t something that’s unheard of among most people in America. In a 2015 Gallup poll, an astounding 75% of Americans claimed to be Christians. With the growing stark opposition of Christian values regarding abortion, homosexual marriage, feminism, and transgenderism in this country, I’m hesitant to put stock in the piety of those claiming Christ and His Word as their foundational truth. Something isn’t adding up. It seems as though many have been deceived into a false sense of assurance—perhaps a false deity based on morals rather than grace through faith in Jesus and His redemptive work on the cross.

Consider the words of Jesus in John 12:25-26: “Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.” The true cost of following Jesus is the call to essentially give what He gave—His life. As morbid as this verse may sound, Jesus’ purpose in saying this was to give the hope of freedom from this world. The world may offer ungodly momentary and fleeting pleasures, but Christ offers the freedom of eternal life through the pursuit of holiness in Him.

This world and its sinful desires will pass away. (1 John 2:17), but there is freedom in Christ. There is freedom from the bondage of sin that we are all naturally born into. A popular, but damning, modern evangelical proclamation is that because of forgiveness of sins in Jesus, we are free to sin—to be carnal Christians. “Grace abounds!” Amen, but In verse 25 above, you can see that Jesus’ words firmly dispute that claim that His followers and servants are able to live carnally. Whoever loves sin and remains in it as a way of life will perish, but if we cherish Christ and His commandments above all, there is life. Jesus bids us to follow him unto death so that we may live.

What does this death that Jesus is referring to look like? It isn’t necessarily outside the realm of a very real and physical death. After all, all but one of the Apostles suffered horrific deaths for the sake of the Gospel. Why should our lives be any differently? While death by persecution is very possible for the Christian, there are other meanings we can draw from this text.

“They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. But that is not the way you learned Christ!— assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” Ephesians 4:19-24

The death that all past, present, and future Christians everywhere are called to is the death of our old self. In Christ, our spirit is regenerated and are transformed to no longer desire sin, but desire the things of God. However, in our flesh, we still are tempted to give in to sensual behaviors, and there is a very real battle between flesh and spirit in this life. Contrary to the popular evangelical position mentioned above, this is a battle that every Christian is called to fight. And if we take Jesus seriously in John 12:26a, failure to fight this battle will result in losing one’s life eternally.

This doesn’t mean the Christian never sins. This doesn’t mean that we all don’t fall into snares and traps the enemy has laid out for us. No, what sets the Christian apart is the war that is waged on sin. What sets us apart is the fleeing from sin and pursuit of holiness. The litmus test is to first determine whether sin essentially bothers you. If you ultimately feel no conviction other than a moralistic, shallow guilt over your sin, you do not know Christ. If there is no true, change-producing desire for Christ and His character, you do not belong to Him. Romans 6:15 and following outlines the freedom from sin that we have in Christ Jesus. How can we be free from sin and remain captive to it?

The core of the Gospel is that Christ, being perfect and blameless, condescended to incarnation and though tempted in every way, lived the sinless life that we could not. Giving Himself up as a sacrifice for His people, Jesus took on our sin, and bore the wrath of God that we all deserve. In return, He clothes us in His righteousness so that we would stand blameless in Him before the Father, shattering the bondage that death and sin had over us. Who can go on living a life practicing sin if this is true for them?

The true cost of following Christ is the death of self and pursuit of Him. Put off the old, and put on the new—every single day. If you are in Christ and still struggle with sin (that’s all of us), rest in the Father’s promises. “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6). What this means for our sanctification is that the Father planned it, the Son secured it, and the Spirit brings about the fruit of it. If you are in Christ, the victory has already been won. If you are a true follower of Christ, He is faithful to carry you through it all.

 

 

 

 

 

Fathers, Don’t Let Netflix Raise Your Kids

I’m ready to admit what needs to be admitted by a majority of fathers out there. I’m guilty—guilty of letting the world raise my kids. I’m guilty of lazily passing the buck on discipling my two daughters while they develop worldviews from Netflix & YouTube. I’ve allowed the tablets and phones to become full-time babysitters. Hoax or not, the recent Momo Challenge  embedded in YouTube videos should be enough for parents to say, “enough is enough” — especially for fathers.

I began realizing the problem several months ago. My wife and I started feeling conviction about the media that we were allowing into our home. The content, available through the video-streaming apps we subscribed to, was becoming increasingly sin-glorifying. We couldn’t trust ratings alone and had to research nearly every title before watching. Even some of the most kid-friendly TV shows exhibit an indifference towards sin. If can get into trouble due to the sheer availability in my living room of shows that glorify immorality, how much more vulnerable are my kids within the privacy of their iPads?

In chapter 6 of Paul’s epistle to the Ephesians, he begins by giving a direct command to children and fathers of that church. He writes: “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. ‘Honor your father and mother’ (this is the first commandment with a promise), that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land” (v. 1-3)Many Christian parents know that verse by heart; it’s cited quite often in our house. However, I believe what’s given in verses 1-3 is the fruit of the command specifically given to fathers in verse 4.  Paul Continues, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” Paul is telling us that the fruit of biblical instruction within the home is obedient children.

Therefore, we made the very difficult and unpopular decision, to honor the Lord through the removal of Netflix and other streaming services from our home. Suffice it to say, the decision was questioned by our kids. We could see the idol of entertainment in their eyes come crashing down. But in the end, they understood that mom and dad were simply trying to trust and obey God — which is ultimately what we want to display to our children the most.

Being passionate fans of The Office, my wife and I weren’t necessarily thrilled with giving up mind-numbing entertainment either. There were some (shallow) concerns. I really didn’t want to be that weird Christian guy at work that doesn’t watch TV or know anything about the latest shows. That’s a Christian’s main concern, right? Our flesh was desperately clinging to anything to keep us from quality time with our kids, as well as the Lord.

Fast-forward a couple of months, and I’m harvesting the fruit of our instruction. Instead of constant bickering between my kids, I’m noticing more quality time spent together playing games and really getting to know each other. I’m noticing a lot less attitude and insubordination from them (imagine that!). As a family, there is more daily engagement, more fervent prayer, more Scriptural immersion, and more love. This is such an answered prayer in my home!

Contrary to what the world tells us, there is no neutrality in our thoughts. Consider Paul’s exhortation elsewhere in Ephesians:

They [worldly gentiles] have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. But that is not the way you learned Christ!— assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. (Ephesians 4:19-24)

We will all renew our minds with something. The question then becomes are we renewing minds through worldly media or the Word of God? For husbands and fathers, that call to steadfastness is heavier than we often realize. Not only are we responsible for pouring into the Scriptures for the renewal of our minds, but we’re also to lead our families in the renewing of theirs. After all, there is no neutrality in our children’s minds, either. The eternal truth gained from a twenty-minute family Bible study can quickly fizzle out after a few hours of Netflix on a tablet.

When I look back at all of the hours that my kids have witnessed me aimlessly scroll through the emptiness of social media and entertainment instead of paying attention to them, I’m ashamed. If we desire our children to cherish God’s word more than the world, we must lead by example. We cannot claim the supremacy of Scripture with our mouths. while giving our eyes, ears, and essentially our hearts over to the pleasures of the world (Matthew 6:21). Fathers should be leading by sacrifice. Meaning, that instead of spending our time chasing entertainment, we should be setting the example of love by pouring into their souls with God’s Word — even after a long day.

What chance does a child, ungrounded in the promises of God, have against the schemes and lies of Momo? Before we get too bent out of shape and point the finger at YouTube, let’s be proactive in equipping our kids for their own spiritual battles. Teach them about the Spiritual armor listed in Ephesians 6. Teach them that there is a very real, and a very powerful enemy who hates everything that a Christ-exalting family displays. Teach them how to guard against the fiery arrows soaring towards your family. For many, those arrows come through backlit screens.

Fathers, the dilemma we find ourselves in is whether or not we are risking family’s safety at the expense of entertainment. It’s to be expected that cutting the streaming media cord may seem foolish, legalistic, and over-the-top to some; that’s certainly understandable, as everyone has their own convictions. Yet, one thing is for sure — God takes fatherhood seriously. Therefore, a father should take his command to disciple and shepherd his family in the fear and admonition seriously as well.

 

 

This article first appeared on Patheos.com

Please be sure to check out my good friends at The Chorus in the Chaos

Lay Aside the Weight of Lust

Lust is a killerand a serial killer at that. Men and women have fallen into the sinful grip of lust since the beginning of time. We first see lust come on the scene in Genesis 3:6. When Eve sets her gaze upon the tree that God had forbade her and Adam to touch, she lusted after it. The Hebrew verb originally used to describe what Eve thought about the tree is ḥâmaḏ, which means to desire lustfully. Eve desired and lusted after wisdom. At least thats what she thought. In reality, she desired what we all desire when giving in to the temptation of lust. She desired to be like God. 

 

When we fuel the fires of fleshly passions by giving into lust, we are telling God that we know better than He does. We are telling our creator that His plan for us to remain pure wont quite cut it. Isnt that the angle the serpent took when tempting Eve? But the serpent said to the woman, You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’” (Genesis 3:4)

 

Its time for believers to lay aside the weightiness of lust, and fix our gaze upon Christ. (Hebrews 12:1) Here are 10 methods and reasons to help you overcome your battle with lust:

 

 

1) Pluck out your eye

 

 

Jesus probably isnt commanding that you literally perform a self-enucleation. In Matthew 5:29, I think He is going to such an extreme to emphasize the danger of this particular sin. In other words, lust is so incredibly deadly, that we need to do whatever is necessary to flee from the temptation. Even if it means removing your eye. 

 

So what are some ways that we can tear out our eye, so to speak? I think you should ask yourself which door the temptation enters from. Once you have that door in your cross hairs, blow it away. For instance, youre scrolling instagram one evening, an attractive woman scrolls across your screen, and satan begins to whisper lustful temptations in your ear. What does Jesus say about this situation? Its better for you to delete the friend, or delete your instagram account, or even smash your phone than to risk spending an eternity in hell. 

 

2) Your eternity is worth it

 

Fighting lust is essential to your salvation. Hebrews 10:26 says that a truly regenerated person will not go on living in sin. That means if youre just training your sin to hide better instead of killing it, there no longer remains a sacrifice for your sin, and fiery judgment awaits you. 

Its definitely an eye-opening verse. But if youre not fighting your sin, I would much rather advise you to work out your salvation than to make you feel better about your sin by downplaying the dangers of it. If youre alive in Christ, you have the victory through Him. You will stumble, but get up, dig in the word, and keep fighting. God is for you. 

 

3) Suit up

 

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. Ephesians 6:10-11

 

I think Paul systematically lays out the armor of God as though hes getting ready for the days battle. You cant expect to fight sin in the flesh if you dont have your armor on. Lay a foundation for each day by reading the Word, meditating on that Word, and praying to the father. I encourage you to read through Pauls description of the whole armor of God in his letter to the Ephesians, and apply it. 

 

4) Watch what you watch 

 

We live in a pornified culture. My wife and I struggle to find a show or movie to watch that isnt filled with nudity or sexual references. We have a strict no-nudity policy when it comes to our entertainment. This policy isnt just for our kids purity and protection, its for ours as well. It doesnt honor God (or my wife) to be entertained be the things that dishonor Him. 

 

Satan will try to plant seeds of destruction wherever he can. Hell try and justify your freedom to watch these shows and blame it on legalism. Dont buy it. Be proactive against this scheme by researching what youre about to watch. Dont let the enemy get a stronghold in your mind by allowing nudity on your tv. 

 

 

5) Gods design for you is better

 

Whether youre a spouse, parent, or single, God has designed you for a purpose. Lust isnt part of that design. He has designed you to be a minister to your wife or husband, to be a spiritual leader to your family, or to be a minister to your peers. Lust enters the mind and tears that design apart. 

 

When we give into lust, we shift the focus of our lives from this design onto ourselves. This is the enemys plan. He doesnt give a rip about your self-gratification. Satan only wants you to focus on anything but God. The enemy doesnt place the idol in front of you to make you happy. Its only purpose is an attempt to pull you away from glorifying King Jesus, push you face-first into sin, and keep you there. Try and see the bigger picture here. Know the tactics of the enemy. Start doing what God designed you to do. 

 

6) Realize who you are in Christ

 

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? (Romans 6:1) Jesus came to seek and to save the lost. His atoning death on the cross paid the debt for your sin. His resurrection means He has the victory over your sin. If your faith is in Christ, you too have that victory. 

 

A great lie from the enemy that I believed most of my Christian life was that there was no escape from the grip of porn. If you get anything from this article, let it be this: You are not a slave to lust. Jesus victory over sin made it possible for you to say no to sin. Your lust was nailed to the cross and you are alive in Christ. Walk in that victory today, not defeat. 

 

7) Fear God

 

By steadfast love and faithfulness iniquity is atoned for, and by the fear of the Lord one turns away from evil. (Proverbs 16:6) The fear of the Lord mentioned in this proverb isnt the same fear a child has of an abusive father. Rather, its the type of fear that stands in awe of your Heavenly Father. This type of fear is motivated by the reverence of God. 

 

To fear God means to honor Him with obedience. Its cultivating a deep relationship with the Lord by marveling at His power. He commands us to fight our sin. He commands us to take up our cross and follow him. Who are we to disobey? He is our redeemer and sustainer. His breath fills our lungs. Meditate on who He is. Pray for a deeper fear of God and to know him better. I assure you, lust will never survive it. 

 

8) Be accountable

 

Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. (James 5:16) Lust is a nearly impossible battle to fight on your own. Confession of sin is absolutely key to fighting it. The enemy will tempt you to keep it hidden. Hell try to convince you that youre the only one that struggles with lust. The reason that he wants this is because he knows sin thrives in darkness. 

 

Find your pastor, a brother/sister in Christ, or your spouse, and come clean. Pray for healing and restoration in your life. When we drag sin into the light, we can see it for what it is. Lust cannot survive in the light. 

 

9) Value women more

Lust and pornography change the way your brain is wired when interacting with people. Over time, youll start to view women differently. Youll start to view them as a product instead of a person. Youll only consider what they have to offer you rather than who they area person created in the image of God. 

 

This is actually the anti-gospel. 

 

Instead of viewing women through the lens of self-gratification, view them as Christ would view themeither a sister to be loved and protected, or a soul in need of a savior.   Repent, and pray for God to turn your affections towards Him. When we truly treasure Christ alone, we automatically value life. 

 

10) Jesus is better

 

Lust operates like any other sin. It promises instant pleasure, but delivers destruction. The promise of the enemy is death veiled in beauty. Just like satan tempting Eve, promising vast wisdom, that promise came with a deadly price. Concealed within the promise was the end of perfect communion with the Father, and the fall of humanity.

 

Jesus promises, on the other hand, are not the veiling of death. His words are the promise and deliverance of eternal life. They are a solid rock ground to stand on. He is the way, the truth, and the life. Lay the weight of lust upon Him and find rest that only Christ can give. 

 

 

(Find this piece along with many other articles written by Topher Haddox featured on Crosswalk.com)

Why Our Resolutions Fail

It’s difficult to believe that 2018 has come to an end. For many, the new year is a chance to start over. It’s a chance to start the new year fresh with a new version of yourself that is, in some way, better than last year’s version. Your plan might be resolving to shed off those holiday pounds (raises hand), read more books, pray more, give more to charity, or perhaps something as simple as a resolution to let no unwholesome talk come out of your mouth (Ephesians 4:29).

I think most of us can remember making a similar resolution last year and the year before that. A few nights ago, my wife and I were joking about our inabilities to stick to diets. We laughed about a “juice fast” that we attempted last January in order to lose a few pounds and have healthier bodies. I believe that 30 day fast lasted about 30 minutes.

Whether it be personality-wise or physical appearance, most people have something that they want to change about themselves. However, the desire is always to change for the better, not worse. You never hear about someone making a new year’s resolution to generally be more hateful towards other people; or resolving to just let themselves go physically. No, our resolutions are usually an attempt to live a less-sinful life in the new year.

Although they may not admit it, even non-Christians borrow from the Biblical worldview to set moral goals to meet. (Hashtag that’s for another article.)

“And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.” (Ezekiel 36:26-27)

I think the failing point is that more often than not, we attempt to modify our behavior without addressing the real problem: our hearts. We can’t expect outward change without inner renewal. Because our thoughts and desires naturally drift towards lust and idolatry, this poses a problem. How do we achieve change if we’re unable to produce it on our own? Our only hope for true inward change is through the Father.

Paul wrote about this struggle in his letter to the Galatian church. “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.” (Galatians 5:16-17) So the problem that we want to resolve this year is to not gratify the desires of the flesh. How do we do that? We walk by the Spirit by fervent prayer and meditating on God’s Word.

“But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” (vv 18-21)

 You might be thinking that this is a little heavy-handed to be talking about a New Year’s Resolution. That’s because what we’re calling a resolution, the Bible calls repentance. It’s the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit. If we are led by the Spirit, we will produce the fruit of the Spirit. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” (vv 22-24)

To me, the fruits of the Spirit sound an awful lot like the things we’re resolving to produce this year. Instead of trying to produce this fruit on our own, lets resolve to be led by the Spirit and witness Him produce these things within us as we begin to desire what He desires. Witness your patience overcome your anger. Witness your kindness grow towards other people. Witness your body become healthier because of self-control. And most importantly, witness the overwhelming love and joy you find in Christ Jesus.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christian, Stop Loving Like a Coward

If you’re a professing Christian who has spent any time on the internet this month, I’m sure by now you’ve heard about the issue regarding CCM artist, Lauren Daigle. While I don’t want to beat the dead horse that is the controversy surrounding her, I feel slightly alarmed at the response from professing Christians supporting her decision to evade a hard question regarding the sin of homosexuality. Don’t get me wrong, the question was an absolutely difficult one to answer— but not because the Biblical truth is blurry.

It’s difficult to answer because of the division that claiming that truth would cause. That division is exactly what Jesus warned His followers about in Mark 13:13, You will be hated by all for My name sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. I don’t believe Jesus meant that the world will hate us because we evade hard truths, only when we stand firm in them.

Jesus does not call Christians to evade truth. If we back-track a few verses in Mark, we find the preface to v13 supporting that claim. “But be on your guard. For they will deliver you over to councils, and you will be beaten in synagogues, and you will stand before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them. And the gospel must first be proclaimed to all nations. And when they bring you to trial and deliver you over, do not be anxious beforehand what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit. And brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death. And you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.

 Some found Lauren’s response to the question of homosexuality being sinful in the eyes of God to be loving. “Who am I to judge?” Daigle responded. The fact is, we as Christians are commanded to judge. “Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light. (Ephesians 5:11) I realize that Lauren is certainly capable of getting it wrong like the rest of us. There is surely grace to be found for my sister in Christ. However, my hope in the outcome of this situation is that instead of defending her actions, we learn from it. It’s ok to get it wrong, as long as we can admit that we got it wrong.

 The reason that neutral approach to sin isn’t loving is that there’s no call to repentance. There’s no exposing of sin. How can we, as believers of the Gospel, bring something into the light if we are unwilling admit that it’s in darkness?  The analogy couldn’t be truer—It’s like watching someone walk towards the edge of a cliff while you cheer them on by only tell them God loves them.

True love is sacrificial. In John 13:34, Jesus gives a new commandment to love one another just as He has loved us. Christ loved us by laying down His life for us. His ultimate sacrificial love for us was displayed on the Cross. Following the commandment in v34, how can we claim to love others sacrificially when we are unwilling to lay down careers, relationships, and possessions (much less our very lives) for sinners? I pray that we are given the boldness to speak truth in the face of difficult and divisive questions. I pray that we don’t retreat and hide behind a false notion of love disguised as cowardice. When we’re asked to give an account for what is true to the Father, I pray that it deeply offends, and that the Holy Spirit convicts through the Biblical truth we speak.

Repentance is what sets Christians apart from the world (Matthew 3:8). If we do not call sinners to repentance, who will? We cannot buy into the lies from satan that it’s unloving to do so. Jesus did not anoint His church to fall into an attitude of indifference towards the sins He died for. The truth of Christ divides. “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. (Matthew 10:34-39)

 Perhaps if we actually believed the Gospel, we would be eager to proclaim the truth of it rather than searching for a loophole to remain on neutral terms with the world.

How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” (Romans 10:14-15)