Thursday Column: Captain’s Blog
It was my privilege to be in attendance at the “Religious Freedom Rally for Jack Phillips,” held on the campus of Colorado Christian University in Lakewood, Colorado. If you do not know, Jack Phillips is the owner of Masterpiece Cake Shop, a business he opened and has operated since 1993. Because he refused to decorate a cake for a same sex couple, Phillips was sued. His case has gone through the various court systems and will be heard before the United States Supreme Court on December 5, 2017.
While the Event Center where it was held was not packed and overflowing, there were hundreds present. I met and walked in with a young man and woman from Sweden, who came to the United States primarily to cover this event for a Christian Magazine in their country. The rally’s speakers included the head of Catholic Charities, the managing director of Jewish values, a state senator, a congressman, part of Phillips’ legal team, university officials, Barronelle Stutzman (the owner of Arlene’s Flowers in Richland, Washington, who was sued by Robert Ingersoll because she refused, out of conscience, to make a floral arrangement for the same-sex wedding of Ingersoll and Curt Freed), and others. There were many poignant moments and memorable quotes. A team member from the Alliance Defending Freedom, representing Phillips, said, “America did not give us freedom of religion. Freedom of religion gave us America.” Mrs. Stutzman still does not know if her case will be heard by the SCOTUS, and she stands to lose everything financially. Yet, she was gentle, meek, and soft-spoken, though obviously full of conviction. The tone was cordial and respectful, from every speaker to everyone in attendance. The rabbi, Yaakov Menken, said, after talking about ancient, longstanding forms of “political correctness,” that “what is new and profoundly disturbing is the use of civil rights to trample civil rights.” Last of all, Jack himself spoke. It was understated, almost matter-of-fact. He spoke eloquently and simply about the importance of our being able to act in accordance with consciences shaped by Scripture. Everyone spoke of the importance of believing and behaving in accordance with convictions that are dear because they are true.
Today was a stark reminder of the reality of forces who are actively assaulting faith in God and His Word. These are willing to do whatever they can to prevent us from doing what God has commanded us to do—share the pure, unaltered will of the One who gave us life and saved us from our sins. They are not bound by biblical ethics, so they will deceive, distort, manipulate, bully, attack, suppress, and fight divine truth. We are bound by a higher law, but truth, kindness, mercy, and love, as taught by God, will prevail. If not now, if not under our government and institutions, then undeniably at the very end of all things. Don’t lose heart. Whatever else you may lose at the hands of those described by Jesus in Matthew 5:44ff, some things cannot be taken away from us! Hold onto to those things.
—And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery (Mat. 19:9).
—Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38).
—For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error (Rom. 1:26-27).
—And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all…There is one body (Eph.1:22-23; 4:4).
—And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord (Eph. 5:18-19).
—A woman is not allowed to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet (1 Tim. 2:11-14).
Passages like these are hotly debated, denied, and derided by those who either cast them against other Scripture or subjugate them to current cultural expectations. Those who desire to accept verses like those above as simple truth are often thought to be ignorant or, worse, dangerous.
The same book reveals the person and sacrifice of Jesus. It reveals the nature and attributes of God. It tells us where we came from and where we are going. It speaks of grace and faith. We accept these truths at face value. But when we come to passages that go against the grain of popular opinion (in or out of religion), cultural mores, or religious orthodoxy, we somehow attempt to say they do not say what they say they say. Jehoiakim’s scribe’s knife and his brazier fire did not eliminate truth (Jer. 36:23). It actually intensified the message against him (36:29ff). The number of academic degrees, religious followers, or oratorical skill will not change the truth of Scripture. It is what it is. Our role is to humbly submit to it or forever beat ourselves against it. May we love and revere God enough to always do the former.
The percentage of Americans who identify as atheists doubled from 2007 to 2014 (Michael Lipka, Pew Research Center). But that hardly tells the whole story. Our culture is drowning in a political correctness that stigmatizes Christian Values and that makes nearly any public stand or statement regarding what Scripture says about such things as homosexuality, objective truth, the sanctity of life, and creation a point of fierce contention and object of greatest scorn. A moral erosion and slippery slope has been in motion for several generations that has brought us to our current position. The Bible foresaw such decline as comes when a people turn their backs on God (cf. Prov. 14:34). In discussing the universal problem of sin, Paul points out five facts about a faithless people (Rom. 1:18-32):
Why does Paul mention these faithless ones? It is proof of divine inspiration, because although this was written 2000 years ago it perfectly describes the current culture. But, there is a more important reason for Paul to write this. This horrible condition has a remedy. The theme of Romans is contained in the four verses prior to this section. The gospel has the power to save us from this. The solution is faith. Faith saves (1:16) and it gives life (1:17). The world is being swallowed by spiritual darkness, but God’s light is brighter. We who have faith have the light. We must share it. When we do, we help people have the most important possible commodity: faith!
Matthew 19:1-12 records an incident where, because the Pharisees are trying to test Jesus (vs. 3), He has occasion to reveal His will about marriage. As we analyze this text, we find several notable facts about marriage. These verses show us the mind and will of God on an institution that is increasingly under assault. Consider four facts about this great passage of Scripture.
This is from the Christ. One of the more common arguments made even by supposed biblical scholars is that Jesus never condemns homosexuality. But what does He do? He defines marriage (4-5). The law of exclusion says that what God doesn’t authorize in His Word is forbidden in doctrine and practice. The Lord has authorized marriage as an institution between man and woman. He did not have to say, “…but not between a man and two or more women” and “not between a man and an animal” and “not between two people of the same gender.” He makes clear what He sees marriage as being.
This is from the creation. Other passages tell us Christ is actually the Creator (John 1:1-3; Col. 1:16-17; Heb. 1:2). So not only does He, as Deity, designate what marriage is—He designed it in the first place. Jesus reaches behind changes made to God’s marriage law under the Law of Moses and cites how God designed it “from the beginning” (4). Anything that does not conform to His pattern in this text runs counter to God’s original intent. You may not that this excludes more than same-sex marriage. It excludes adulterous marriage (vs. 9) as well as sex outside of marriage (this is implied here: “joined to his wife,” not “girlfriend”; of course, “fornication” or “sexual immorality” is dealt with explicitly in many other New Testament passages). Jesus goes back to the creation to state the pattern for marriage as being one man and one woman for life.
This is a command. It is not a command that you have to be married, but if you do get married you must conform to Christ’s will concerning it. We see this in the force of Jesus’ “but I say unto you.” He is exerting His right of authority, even showing His law trumps the Law of Moses. A person who is looking to be married must make sure their relationship conforms to His command.
This is controversial. It is not just the homosexual community who balk at Jesus’ words here. I have close family members (and so do you, probably) whose marriages are at odds with what Jesus commands in this context. Jesus Himself forewarns that this is a difficult and narrow teaching (10), a rejected teaching (11), and a teaching that calls for extreme sacrifice (12). I dare say there is as much blowback from the heterosexual community as the homosexual community where this passage is clearly taught. In either case, it comes down to whether we will follow the command of the Christ, the Creator. Our submission or rebellion cannot change the immutable (i.e., unchangeable) nature of Divine truth.
Marriage is a beautiful gift given by a loving God. Though society may corrupt it and seek to redefine it, but the will of God stands forever. May we have the courage, humility, and strength to take Him at His word and conform our lives to it—on this and every subject.
Thanks to the hospitality of my good friend, Jason Jackson, I had the opportunity to visit beautiful AT&T Park in San Francisco, witnessing a rarity (a Rockies win) against his beloved Giants. It was LGBT Night at the old ballpark, an annual sponsorship of “SF Pride.” It was also the day of the historic Supreme Court decision mandating the recognition of same-sex marriage in all 50 states. The crowd was enthusiastic about that event in Washington, D.C., cheering when it was proclaimed over the P.A. The videoboard featured gay and lesbian couples for its “kiss cam.” While San Francisco is renowned for its “sexual progressiveness,” the city of Denver has earned a reputation for similar liberality of thought regarding homosexuality. In a growing number of places in our nation and especially among those under a certain age, there is welcoming, sanctioning language for homosexuality and vehement intolerance for the least word of condemnation of the behavior as sinfulness. Even among those professing to be Christians, there is a changing posture in how or if it is dealt with. Understanding that no sin is worse than any other, that it is not right to display an ungodly attitude in addressing any sin, and that there should not be an inordinate amount of time, attention, and energy given to any sin to the exclusion of the other, I wonder if even some of our Christian brothers and sisters have become unwitting pawns of the prince of this world regarding this matter. The devil is at war against the Word and will of God, and he is at war against anyone loyal to such (Rom. 13:12; 2 Cor. 10:3-6; Eph. 6:10ff; etc.). He wants his cause, the ultimate end of which is the spiritual destruction of all men, to succeed, and he wants the cause of Christ to be overthrown. We know that his mission will ultimately fail, with there being those who are welcomed by our Lord to heaven (1 Cor. 15:24; Mat. 25:34-39). Yet, most will follow him to everlasting punishment and destruction (Mat. 25:41-46). He has the bulk of the resources and influence of this world, as he almost always has had in every generation. He has powerfully allies and mouthpieces from Washington to Hollywood and most media and education outlets in between.
What happened in our nation’s highest court last Friday may have been necessary to shake the church out of its general lethargy and indifference regarding evangelism. What happened there will ultimately be overruled in the highest court there is (Mat. 25:31ff). What happened there should not become our obsession, but neither are we wrong to take note of how this is a significant societal erosion. Jesus implies how intolerable it would be for Sodom and Gomorrah at the Judgment (Mat. 10:15). The Lord overthrew them in “in His anger and in His wrath” (Deut. 29:23). Homosexuality is not the only sin there is nor is it the chief sin, but may we not be intimidated away from calling it what it is—“sin.”
If a nation or people will move back toward the Bible, it must overcome three philosophical barriers. I mentioned these in an earlier blog (https://preacherpollard.wordpress.com/2013/08/21/why-ridgedale-church-of-christ-is-getting-slammed/). Here are the three barriers:
Certainly, those professing to follow the Bible and its guidelines have hurt their own cause through ungodly attitudes, hypocrisy, isolation, and prejudices of their own. Christians must be willing to make the first (and even second and third) steps (cf. Mat. 5:41). We must model biblical teaching with righteous lives (Mat. 5:14-16; 1 Pet. 2:9). We cannot expect the world to act Christlike, but we must expect that Christians will not be worldly. We can effect the change we want to see, and, in time, align the culture’s moral compass with the Creator’s.
On this trip to Cambodia, there have been insights into some things I did not know and reminders of things I did know. Polygamy is routinely practiced in the villages, trafficking of minors to wicked and perverse men is a problem, and promiscuity is getting more common. Some of these issues are matters of exploitation, while others are matters of choice in the culture. However, these kinds of departures are to be found all over the world. In our own country, a great many live together and engage in a sexual relationship without the thought of marriage. Divorce without biblical reason and remarriage is commonplace. Homosexuality in the last few years has been a cause celebre, something you are confronted with just about everywhere you turn.
To say something is sexually deviant does not mean that it is not popular in a culture. If deviance means “different from what is considered to be normal or morally correct” (Webster), a lot of things condemned in scripture are considered normal by people today. The world may not see these departures are deviant, but what the world thinks cannot overthrow the will of God. God made us and knows how we best function in every area of life. He also created sex as a blessing for people to enjoy within the boundaries He has set. We deviate from that standard to our own individual hurt and to our own society’s peril and demise (cf. Prov. 14:34). Jesus warned that what came out of man’s heart defiles him, defilement that includes evil thoughts, fornication, adultery, coveting, wickedness, and sensuality, among other things (Mark 7:20-23).
No country or even time has a monopoly on sexual deviance. The Bible warns about it in both testaments, with even graphic illustrations of the problem and how God feels about it, but He does so because He knows what’s best for us. The couple (or individuals in the marriage) who turn to pornography to “spice up” their marriage will suffer for it. Those who tinker with God’s marriage plan in whatever way will see the bitter fruit of it. What God wants is for us to see what He has laid down for us to follow, strive to follow it, and enjoy the great reward that comes in doing things His way! We must not deviate into deviance, but will do so to our own hurt! Let’s keep confidence that His way is the only way and it is the best way.
Before being forced out as CEO, Eich had stated in an interview with technology news service Cnet, “I don’t think it’s good for my integrity or Mozilla’s integrity to be pressured into changing a position. If Mozilla became more exclusive and required more litmus tests, I think that would be a mistake that would lead to a much smaller Mozilla, a much more fragmented Mozilla” (Foxnews.com). He also told them, “If Mozilla cannot continue to operate according to its principles of inclusiveness, where you can work on the mission no matter what your background or other beliefs, I think we’ll probably fail” (ibid.). He was referring to his widely known opposition to same sex marriage and more specifically a $1000 donation to the campaign to support Proposition 8 in California back in 2008. This proposition, which over 7 million fellow-Californians voted for and which passed, was a state constitutional amendment to eliminate the rights of same-sex couples to marry. It was overturned by the Supreme Court last year.
It raises the question of what homosexual activists really want. Is it merely acceptance and validation or forced approval? If one can lose his job for stating a conviction against that lifestyle, does this suggest a move against the rights of anyone who wishes to articulate belief in the biblical view that homosexuality is a sin? Could this foreshadow a time when those in churches preaching against the practice of homosexuality could lose their property, freedom, or worse?
On November 9-10, 1938, German stormtroopers and non-Jewish civilians, under pretense of an assassination in Paris of a German diplomat by a Jew, led an organized effort against the Jews in an event that came to be known as Kritallnacht or “The Night Of Broken Glass.” The official United States Holocaust Memorial Museum writes,
The rioters destroyed hundreds of synagogues, many of them burned in full view of firefighters and the German public and looted more than 7,000 Jewish-owned businesses and other commercial establishments. Jewish cemeteries became a particular object of desecration in many regions. Almost 100 Jewish residents in Germany lost their lives in the violence. In the weeks that followed, the German government promulgated dozens of laws and decrees designed to deprive Jews of their property and of their means of livelihood even as the intensification of government persecution sought to force Jews from public life and force their emigration from the country (http://www.ushmm.org/learn/timeline-of-events/1933-1938/kristallnacht).
It has been said that in our supposed age of tolerance people have the right to say and do just about anything. Just about any fringe group can hold the most outlandish views and do so publicly. It is unacceptable to discriminate against one for almost any reason. However, the right to stand upon Christian principles, originating in Scripture, is eroding. To discriminate against Christian beliefs is growing in acceptance. That’s not meant as alarmism or as an expression of a martyr complex. But, reading the New Testament, we know that Christians faced persecution simply for believing and sharing God’s Word. May God ever give us the courage and willingness to stand upon the rock solid foundation of Scripture. No matter what.