The Redefinition of Marriage: God’s Angry, But He’s Merciful. Christians, Let’s Follow His Lead.

I didn’t write about the SCOTUS ruling immediately upon its electrifying arrival into America’s conscience because I wanted to give myself a few days to process it. As I’m sure is true of every American Christian reading this article, a wide variety of emotions have wandered about in my soul since Friday.

When I first heard about the Supreme Court’s decision, my initial reaction was, “not surprised.” The rapid crumbling of America’s morality has been set forth on a wide screen TV for all to see over the last few decades. While I appreciate the optimism of those who think that this country will continue to hold to a biblical standard on moral issues, I think it’s undeniably evident that we dwell in a day when the Bible has been spit on and tossed out of the window (with the exception of 1 John 4:8, of course). The majority of our country is now very forthcoming about their rejection of the traditional, orthodox understanding of Christianity. And it’s time that we – the church – come to grips with that. This SCOTUS decision, in my opinion, should’ve come as no shock to anyone who has halfway paid attention to the moral deterioration of our culture in recent years.

Christian, There Is A Real Purpose For Your Suffering

I am incredibly blessed. I don’t mean that in a mere spiritual sense, either. My bills are paid, I have a roof over my head, I have fantastic friends, relationships in my family have begun to be restored, I have a great job, my health is in tact, my belly is full (too full most of the time), and so on. I am walking in innumerable physical, emotional, relational, and financial blessings in this particular season of my life.

Yet even in my temporary prosperity I still loathe the Prosperity Gospel with all of my heart. So, I think it’s time I finally write about it.

The Worst News In The World This Week

“Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.” – 1 John 3:15

Before anyone rolls their eyes and assumes this is just another cliché, “let he who is without sin cast the first stone” kind of post, let me assure you that it is not. What this 21 year old man did just a few days ago is inarguably evil and fully deserving of the highest penalty in the court of law. I don’t want to nor am I going to minimize the enormity of his guilt. My aim is to use this horrific situation to refresh our memory as to who and what we are apart from the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.

Young Boy Celebrated for Dancing Provocatively at Gay Pride Parade: How Did We Get Here & Where Do We Go From Here?

Disclaimer: The video I discuss in this article is published on the internet, as well as pictures of the young boy, but in order to avoid further exploiting him, I am choosing not to share either the video or pictures in this article.

Over the last few days a disturbing video has surfaced onto the Internet. It shows a young boy, no older than twelve, dancing in a disturbing, provocative manner at a gay pride parade in Brazil. When I first saw this pop up on my news feed, I thought it had to be some sort of tabloidish scam. I mean, who would allow their child to do that? And while some gay pride parades are certainly far from discrete, what kind of adults – whether gay, straight, Christian, or non-Christian – would allow an adolescent boy to sexually exploit himself at one of these events? Surely, if some kid jumped out there twerking and what not, the participants in the parade would have brought that insanity to a screeching halt. Surely, their consciences wouldn’t be so rigid and hard that they would think such a thing to be morally acceptable at any level. Surely, these folks would care enough about their own image and reputation to restrict the participation of pre-pubescent perversity at their parade. Surely, I thought.

But as more and more articles started to be published on what I know to be reputable sources, I realized this was no scam drummed up by some blogger desperate for website traffic. This was a legitimate story. This actually happened. And the comments I’m seeing by those in America about this story are a tragically horrifying witness to the direction in which our culture is headed – or where our culture has already landed.

The Kindness of God

Similar to the love of God, the kindness of God is an idea treated pretty cheaply and taken for granted in our society. And I think that’s because the picture of reality that most of us have been painted (or that we’ve painted ourselves) when it comes to our relationship to God is quite disproportionate. Man is portrayed to be far less evil than he actually is while God is portrayed to be far more apathetic about our sin than he actually is. Man is set forth as the central character of the universe and God is hidden off in the corner like some sort of celestial butler, anxiously awaiting every ring of man’s beckoning bell.

But our picture is wrong. Oh, so wrong.

Let me be clear, God is love and God is kind. The Lord cares for us deeply and yearns to bless us. But alongside his love for us, he also experiences an array of other emotions – emotions provoked by our sin – besides the fluffy feel-goodness we assume his heart it is restricted to. God is not some robotic entity that functions solely on a must-always-be-nice-to-humans operating system. He feels disappointment. He feels anger. He feels wrath. And without the gospel as a protective shield over us, he righteously feels these things when he looks at you and me.

The One Thing Every Christian Needs

The Christian life is not designed to be an individualistic life. If any theme is recurrent through the Old and New Testaments of the Bible, it’s that God desires not to merely save individuals, but to save and make a people for himself. And that desire is ultimately what Jesus satisfied for God on the Cross. In absorbing the uttermost drops of divine wrath against the sins of all who would trust in him, Jesus gloriously and effectively purchased a people – a family – for God.

But the individualistic, self-centered mindset of our humanistic culture has so adversely affected the modern view of the Christian life that being part of a blood-bought family isn’t the primary perspective many believers have when they think about their life in Christ. Sure, these Christians are likely to acknowledge the importance in attending worship gatherings in theory, but practically, they treat their pursuit of Jesus as a solitary chase rather than a corporate journey. They’ll attend services here and there, but never move toward committed and active membership. They’ll come and listen to a sermon but jet out after the closing prayer before they get sucked into any awkward conversations. These Christians flee from commitment, fellowship, and – though they may not know it – strength, blessing and life.

I was this type of Christian four years ago.

The Way to Peace

Peace has been a foreign concept to me for the majority of my life. Most of my readers know that prior to my conversion to Christ I gladly surfed the turbulent waves of my own sinful chaos. It’s no surprise that peace was far from me at this point in my life. No one but Matt Moore was to blame for the lack of peace in my pre-Jesus, adult years. But, what many of you don’t know – and surely what many of you have in common with me – is that my childhood and adolescence was incredibly peace-less. In the youngest and most formative years of my life I was tossed to and fro by the storms of other peoples’ bad decisions. I felt no wholeness, no calmness, no tranquility, no peace. I only felt constant confusion and anxiety as I stood alone on the shifting sands of other people’s poor life choices. Chaos was the name of the game and this, unfortunately, was all I knew.

God was gracious and got me through the first 17 years of my life with relatively minor damage (in comparison to other people I know who had similar familial issues). But as a young adult, I found myself with a gaping canyon in my heart where Divine Peace was designed to reside. In my sinful, God-fleeing state I sought to fill this void with an array of evil vices. But this constant chase after sinful pleasure only plunged me further into a black whole of emotional and spiritual turmoil. Sure, all the sin was a fun distraction, but it’s numbing effects never lingered long.

Though I pretended to be content, I was empty. Though I pretended to be happy, I was joyless. Though I pretended to be at peace, I was distressed and dissatisfied.

Sanctification: Being Patient in the Process

This is the third installment in the “Fruit of the Spirit” series, but if you’re familiar with the passage in Galatians 5, you’ll notice that today’s “fruit” isn’t the third in the list. It’s the fourth. But for some reason or another, patience has fixed itself pretty permanently at the forefront of my mind over the last few days. So I want to write about it while the thoughts are fresh, and I’ll bounce back to peace next week.

I am not a very patient person, to be totally honest. And that’s not a humble-brag, it’s just a . . .well, it’s just the truth. As I track backward into the recesses of my memory, I see that in every season of my life I have experienced an ongoing sense of frustration – frustration about situations not lining up how I want them to, frustration with the people around me not being what I feel they should be, frustration about not feeling like I have much purpose in life, frustration over my relationship status. I tend to always feel like things should be further along than what they are, and in response my heart rebels against contentment and peace (well, maybe I will hit on peace a little in this post).

The Gospel: A Self Denying Call to Joy

Hands down, the most common objection I hear to the call of the gospel is that it’s a call to self-hating misery. Jesus’ inarguable expectation of his followers’ self-denial is just too much, in the opinion of many. “A loving God wouldn’t ask the people he created to turn away from themselves and to suppress aspects of their natural desires,” they say.

So many people find it totally inconceivable that a life of self-denial could be a life worth living, a life of happiness, a life of joy. The whole concept of repentance is utterly unattractive to those who’ve never tasted the sweetness of God’s Spirit. But I want to assure you, unbelieving reader, that the call of the gospel is a call to fiery, abundant joy.

joy-for-web

It is true that the universal command of God to his very scarred yet highly treasured human creation is that we turn away from our self-governing, sinful tendencies. In repentance and faith we are to deny our natural-to-us love for the world (the satanic, God-opposing order of things), lusts of the flesh (as defined by the Bible), and pride of life (human independence from God). And it is true that this radical shift in living is not an altogether pleasurable process. There is suffering involved, both the inward suffering of self-denial and the external suffering of the world’s rejection of us. But the light and momentary suffering of the Christian life is married to a solid and eternal joy.

When we trust in Jesus to be the full and final agent of our reconciliation to God–not in ourselves or in our good works–the Spirit of God enters into us and applies the redeeming work of Christ to our souls. Our affections begin to be drastically reordered. In our prior and solely sinful state, we found a measly joy in the fleeting pleasures of sin and we lived for that joy. But now, in our born-again, regenerate state, we find an infinitely greater joy . . .and we find that joy in God. We will now do any and every thing we can to be in proximity to this new Source of joy. We will cast the acts he hates behind our backs, avert our eyes from the sights he finds displeasing, and seek to destroy the divine-defying pride in our hearts as we chase after the God in whose right hand are joys and thrills and pleasures forevermore (Psalm 16:11). Our repentance isn’t easy, but it’s also not the miserable, self-hating way of life that so many on the outside make it out to be. We turn from the pleasures of our sin because we are motivated by our experience of the greater pleasure of knowing God. We have tasted of him and know that he is far greater than all else, and we want more. So we obey him . . . denying ourselves, picking up our crosses, and following his Son and our Savior, Jesus.

Now, let me say this, fear-based or works-based religion is a wholly painful and joyless process. Denying oneself merely for the sake of denying oneself is a miserable way to live your life. But that’s not what I’m talking about, here. A life of following Jesus is not a life of refraining from all the wicked things you love and begrudgingly doing all the righteous things you hate. A life of following Jesus is a life that flows out of the Holy Spirit’s transformative work of the human heart.

Humanity isn’t designed to find ultimate joy in itself or in anything else this world has to offer (even in the good things). We are wired by our Maker to find joy in our Maker. But in our rebellion, we have all rejected his good rule over our lives and therefore rejected the greatest joy available to us. We’ve gone about our lives ignoring True Joy and tinkering with temporary, trivial things that can’t ultimately and lastingly satisfy us. The good news of the Bible, though, is that Jesus came to cleanse us of our guilt and restore us to God . . . to restore us to Joy.

The Christian life is a life of joy, and this joy is produced, sustained, and increased by the Holy Spirit. As with every other aspect of following Jesus, continuously experiencing this joy can be and often is a struggle. Being in the “already, but not yet” stage of the redemptive process is tough. Satan, this world, and our flesh ceaselessly seek to entice us away from the Greatest Joy. But, brother or sister in Christ, let’s fight these evil influences in and around us. Let’s strive to faithfully resist the devil (1 Peter 5:9) and put away our old self (Ephesians 4:22-24) as we seek to stir up the joy of Jesus in us (John 15:11).

 

What is Love?

I’m setting out today to begin a nine-part blog series on the famous (among church folks, anyway) “fruit of the Spirit” passage in Galatians chapter 5. This won’t be an every day series like the last one, and will likely be intermingled with other posts on different topics. But after a friend of mine made this suggestion yesterday for a blog series, I knew that I had to do it. Not so much because I think my readers aren’t “spiritual” enough or need a Holy-Spirit-Smackdown, but because I want to see the work of the Spirit more evidenced in my own life. And what better to do move toward that than to think, pray, and write on this beautiful passage in Galatians?

It’s worth noting that the list of Spirit wrought characteristics in the following passage is not a comprehensive list. The work of God’s Spirit in the heart of the believer is a vast work that produces many other things such as steadfastness, courage, wisdom, etc. Nevertheless, the nine out-workings of the Spirit’s labor in us listed here are more than worth thinking and praying on.

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. 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. 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. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.” –Galatians 5:16-25

After his long list of fleshly, soul-toxic works, the first work of the Spirit Paul lists is love. This comes as no surprise to me, personally. If there is any theme than runs beautifully rampant throughout the entirety of the New Testament, it is love. As Paul states just sixteen verses earlier, the only thing that counts for anything when it comes to a person’s relationship with God is not mere good morals, good works or good religion, but faith working itself out through love. His comrade-apostle John also agrees when he repeatedly emphasizes in his first epistle that knowing and loving God necessitates loving people, especially our brothers and sisters in Christ. Jesus himself assures us in John 13 that it is by our love for another the world will know we are his disciples.

This whole love thing is obviously pretty important. I want to be clear from the get-go that I’m not attempting to write a fully comprehensive post on love, here. 1) I don’t have time for that 2) I don’t have the ability to do that and 3) there’s already a 66-“chapter” book out that pretty much covers the subject. I’ve heard it’s a hit. All that I’m going to do here – and what I will do in the next eight posts – is share a few thoughts the Lord impresses upon me. If you have additional thoughts, please feel free to share them in the comments section!

what-is-love

Thought #1: We live in a culture that is obsessed with the concept of love but inaccurately defines it.  

As certain movements have progressed over the years – namely, Gay Rights and Reproductive Rights – the church has been accused of being unloving with increasing frequency. We’re told that we’re hateful for not affirming the goodness of same-sex unions or for arguing that it is not a woman’s right to murder her unborn child. We’re told that if we actually loved people, we would support them in whatever it is that they desire to do with their body or romantic life. We’re told that if we were really of God, we wouldn’t condemn the “love” shared between two men or two women. Year after year, the traditional, orthodox understanding of Scripture regarding certain moral issues is being painted a darker shade of hateful by our culture.

Many professing Christians – some of whom I know personally – desiring to escape the conflict and find some middle ground (FYI, it doesn’t exist) have shifted away from biblical orthodoxy and toward theological liberalism. Ind defense of the radical change in their positions on things like, say, same-sex relationships, they tell me the church is supposed to be a place of love. And I passionately agree. Boiling hot love should be bubbling up and running over in the life of every Christian and local church. But the question is, what is love? Is it the culture’s definition of love that Christians are to practice and display, or the Bible’s? I think the answer is obvious.

This past weekend I was asked to lead our Sunday school discussion through 1 Corinthians chapter 13. If you have any familiarity with church culture at all, you know of this chapter. It’s the one everybody likes to post on Facebook on Valentine’s Day and the one we often hear recited by the minister at a wedding. It is the love chapter. Here’s an excerpt from the passage that I want to zero in on:

“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.– 1 Corinthians 13.

If any biblical text explicitly defines love, this is it. Even a quick skimming of these thirteen verses forces the reader to deal with the conflicts between the world’s idea of love and God’s idea of love. Notice: [love] does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.

The vast differences in the biblical worldview and the cultural worldview make it utterly impossible to resolve this tension over true love. As long as the world calls good what the Bible calls evil, we can never be on the same page as to what “wrongdoing” actually is. And as long as the church views the Bible as the authority on truth and the world views itself as the authority on truth, we will never be able to be on the same page as to what “truth” actually is. But my point is this: if you’re someone who professes Christ and believes the Bible to be authoritative in all it addresses, you cannot affirm what it defines as evil and simultaneously practice what it defines as love. It is utterly impossible for a Christian to practice biblical, unadulterated love by condoning same-sex unions or infant murder.

There is no middle ground.

Thought #2: I must repent.

My second thought on the spiritual fruit of love is more personal and – well, painful. Painfully convicting, anyway. When any semi-honest Christian reads 1 Corinthians 13, I would find it hard to believe they could walk away patting themselves on the back. I’m not able to, at least. Sure, I may have my “not rejoicing in wrongdoing” down pat – which is vital; I’m not minimizing it – but when it comes to being patient and kind, or to not being irritable or resentful, I fall miserably short. I’ve seen growth over the years in these areas, most definitely. But I’ve yet to live a day where I haven’t been impatient toward someone that I think should be “further along” in their walk than they are, or resentful toward a brother or a sister who has sinned against me, or irritable toward a Christian who I think is being self-righteous.

Can anyone relate? Please don’t leave me by my lonesome self out here!

When I fall to my knees and view my life through the lens of 1 Corinthians 13, I see it is actually Matt Moore who is being spiritually immature when impatient with someone whose sanctification-speed isn’t up to his standard (because I’m just so far along, you know). It is Matt Moore who is hypocritically sinning against a brother or sister when resentful toward them for sinning against me (because I’ve never sinned against them before, you know). And it is Matt Moore who is being arrogant and self-righteous when irritated with those who I view to be self-righteous (because I’m just so humble, you know).

While the culture is definitely wrong when it accuses us of being unloving for not condoning certain immoral behaviors, they may not be so wrong when and if they criticize our character. Too often we neglect Paul’s instruction to set our minds on the Spirit and instead settle lazily into our flesh, living lives that don’t fully reflect the love that has been poured into our hearts.

I have a sneaking suspicion that as I continue to work through the fruits of the Spirit in this series, I am going to be doing a lot of repenting. And I anticipate my readers who are honest with themselves may be joining me in that repentance. But please, guys, as we confront our brokenness and imperfection, let’s not wallow in guilt or self-pity. As long as we dwell in this fallen flesh, we will always be “in process” – not being what we once were, but not yet being what we should be. Continual repentance will mark our sojourning in this world. We will not outgrow it. Yes, we will grow and gain increased victory over our sin, but while our souls are attached to this flesh, the inclinations will remain. The temptations will remain. The daily battles will still need to be fought.

And sometimes, a lot of times, we will fail. Which brings me to my final and greatest thought on love.

Thought #3: God’s love. 

While our love toward others is necessary evidence of the love that’s been shown to us, the love of God for us isn’t predicated on the perfection of our love toward others. Thankfully, unlike our love toward others and even God himself, his love for us in Christ is unconditional and unshakeable. We can’t earn God’s love and – apart from rejecting Jesus – we can’t escape it, either. And it is by our ongoing experience of this purest and brightest form of love that our love for others intensifies.

Christian, don’t give up. Keep repenting and be encouraged! As we trip and stumble towards glory and struggle to love others well, we are upheld by a divine, ferocious love. He won’t give up on us.

 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.” – 1 John 4:7-12.

P.S. If the first thing that popped into your head when you read this blog’s title was the Haddaway song, I like you! #childofthe90s