Tag Archives: Jesus Christ

The Differing and Complementary Purposes of Men and Women

Notes from a lesson on 1st Timothy 2:11-15…

Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. (1 Timothy 2:11–12, ESV)

Complementarian Position

“The term complementarian is the self-designation of the evangelical constituency that would see God’s created design for men and women as comprising male headship in the created order, reflecting itself in the requirement of a qualified male eldership in the church and the husband’s overarching responsibility in the leadership of the home.” (Wayne Grudem, Biblical Foundations of Manhood and Womanhood footnote 18, chapter 8)

“But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God” (1 Corinthians 11:3)

“Just as the Father and Son are equal in deity and are equal in all their attributes, but different in role, so husband and wife are equal in personhood and value, but are different in the roles that God has given them. Just as God the Son is eternally subject to the authority of God the Father, so God has planned that wives would be subject to the authority of their own husbands.”

“No, the idea of headship and submission existed before creation. It began in the relationship between the Father and Son in the Trinity. The Father has eternally had a leadership role, an authority to initiate and direct, that the Son does not have. Similarly, the Holy Spirit is subject to both the Father and Son and plays yet a different role in creation and in the work of salvation.”

“When did the idea of headship and submission begin then? The idea of headship and submission never began! It has always existed in the eternal nature of God Himself. And in this most basic of all authority relationships, authority is not based on gifts or ability (for the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are equal in attributes and perfections). It is just there. Authority belongs to the Father not because he is wiser or because He is a more skillful leader, but just because he is the Father.” (Grudem, ibid.)

Egalitarian Position

“Christ did not take upon himself the task of world redemption because he was number two in the Trinity and his boss told him to do so or because he was demoted to a subordinate rank so that he could accomplish a job that no one else wanted to touch.” Furthermore, when the mission of redemption was completed, the Son resumed His former stature and full equality within the Trinity, leaving forever behind the role in which He had to submit Himself in obedience to the Father. As Bilezikian again comments, “Because there was no subordination within the Trinity prior to the Second Person’s incarnation, there will remain no such thing after its completion. If we must talk of subordination it is only a functional or economic subordination that pertains exclusively to Christ’s role in relation to human history.” (Grudem, ibid.)

In this view, there is no inherent masculine authority, and no need for a wife to submit to her husband, except as the husband also submits to his wife and all Christians submit to one another. However, I think validating this position requires the renunciation of an inerrant and throughly inspired Bible, or some novel hermeneutics when interpreting passages like the one we are considering now.

So, are women allowed to lead or teach in a church context? Are women supposed to remain quiet always?

For God is not a God of confusion but of peace. As in all the churches of the saints, the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says. If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church.” (1 Corinthians 14:33–35, ESV)

Is the above teaching culturally bound? That is, was it only for the 1st Century Greco-Roman patriarchal world? Should application be limited to a time and/or place where men might be offended or intimated by feminine leadership (ie. Middle East). Is there something about the created order that should keep women from taking dominant leadership roles in church or in society? Is there theological teaching, perhaps even in a core area such as the Godhead that should guide our opinion? A thorough discussion of this issue is beyond the scope of our study, but I will try to answer the questions I’ve posed briefly.

Context is central to accurate Bible interpretation. One of the contexts we must evaluate is the historical situation of the original text. An important rule of hermeneutics (Bible interpretation) is: in order to understand what a particular Bible text means for us today, we must first understand what it meant to the original recipients. What is the historical situation that precipitated Paul’s command for women to remain silent in church? In Corinth it would seem that women were interrupting church gatherings with questions. It is also probable that some were dominating the teaching and worship time, which would certainly be an annoyance regardless of the gender of the disruptive personality.

When it concerns the 1st Timothy 2 passage, men were disrupting the order of the Ephesian church with their anger and debating. Women were causing a distraction by the way they dressed, and inviting cultural disrespect because of the way they conducted themselves in gatherings. Typically in Jewish synagogues, women were separated from the men. This was not the case in Christian house churches It is likely that some women were seen at times to be dominating discussion, or interrupting the flow of worship. They may have been seen as disgraceful because of the perception in a patriarchal culture that women should always be silent and submissive to men. Paul sought to maintain social order to permit the Gospel an unhindered hearing.

So, should women always remain silent in church today? Can and should women teach or preach? Is it acceptable for a woman to be an elder or a senior pastor in a church?

Our culture is not the same as 1st Century Greco-Roman or Jewish culture. Therefore, any practice that is culturally bound is not a practice we are bound to follow. Is it disgraceful in our culture for a woman to speak, teach, lead? The answer is, of course, no. Therefore, we must evaluate whether women remaining quiet in the 1st century house church was intended to be a universal rule.  I don’t believe it to be binding today. Women are free to involve themselves in discussion, or to teach in an appropriate context. However, the passage we are considering goes further. It prohibits women from teaching or exercising authority over men. This would keep a woman from being and elder or a senior pastor in a church.

Men and women are ontologically equal. This reality is found in the original creation of both in God’s image, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:27, ESV) Jesus supported this: “He answered, ‘Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female,’” (Matthew 19:4, ESV)

When people come to Christ they are reborn and made new creations (2 Corinthians 5:17). In Galatians the Apostle Paul writes the following about men and women who are new creations in Christ: “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:27–28, ESV)

We are all equal. The ground is level at the foot of the cross. However, equality does not mean uniformity. Men and woman are created differently each with a unique gift, calling and purpose. It is inordinate to believe and live as though this were not reality. We are seeing the bitter fruit of such dysfunctional thinking in our culture today. People are taught to reject the obvious differences between men and women, to consider masculinity and femininity as fluid, to regard gender as a cultural construct rather than a reality grounded in anatomy and DNA. This is what happens when we reject the truth that God is our Creator.

It is ironic when those who state such a belief will choose to act in a way that corresponds to the purported artificiality of gender. A biological woman begins wearing men’s clothes, taking testosterone, has a mastectomy, all because she feels like a man trapped in a woman’s body. Yet the actions she is taking demonstrate the reality that men and women are indeed different. She simply identifies with being a man. This is a break from reality. Whatever one’s belief or feeling, being a man or a woman is far deeper than clothing, or even anatomy. It is part of the created order: “he who created them from the beginning made them male and female.” Putting on makeup, wearing women’s clothes, taking estrogen, even having body altering surgery, will not turn a man into a woman. You are what you are in the deepest part of you. Choose to be who God created you to be, not what you feel, or what culture teaches. Find your identity in Christ.

In the passage under consideration Paul theologically validates the prohibition of women teaching or exercising authority over men, grounding it God’s created order, and by appealing to the consequences evident in the fall of Adam and Eve.

For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.” (1 Timothy 2:13–15, ESV)

Two reasons are presented for the prohibition of women taking authority over or teaching men.

  1. Adam was created first.
  2. Eve was deceived, not Adam.

We have to go back to the creation account referenced by Paul in order to understand his theological reasoning. In creating man first, God is not making him more important. In fact, one could easily make the case that God saved the best for last! Woman is the crown of creation. In creating Adam first, God indicated his purpose for men: to lead.  In creating Eve from the side (the rib) of Adam God demonstrates his purpose for woman: to help and to sustain relationships. Men focus on tasks; women focus on relationships. While there are individual differences, this describes the most fundamental difference in God’s purpose for creating two unique genders.

In Genesis one, we are taught that human beings are created male and female, both in God’s image.

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:27, ESV)

Next, it is revealed what human beings were originally created to do on earth.

And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”” (Genesis 1:28, ESV)

The difference in the way Adam and Eve were created is deeply significant, It signals that men and women will focus on different parts of the divine mandate found in Genesis 1:28. The woman will be more focused on children and sustaining the family, which fulfills God’s command to “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.” The man will be more focused on “subdue it (the earth) and have dominion over…every living thing.”

Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.”” (Genesis 2:18, ESV)

Eve is created to fulfill God’s stated purpose to give Adam a “helper.” This should not lead us to think woman is inferior to man. In fact the context teaches the opposite. All of the animals were brought to Adam and he named them, but none was found which fit or “corresponded to” him. The animals were inferior and unlike Adam because only he was made in the image of God.

Grammatically the Hebrew word ezer (helper) means someone who helps from a position of strength. In the Old Testament the word is used 17 times to refer to God as our helper, and three times to refer to a military ally. So, the helper is strong not weak. If this were not the case how would they offer any real assistance? 

The helper is equal not inferior. A person who needs help has probably initiated an action (even if inspired to do so by another), which he is unable or unwilling to complete alone. For example, when God is my helper, I may have started to do something and prayed for his assistance. That certainly does not make God inferior to to me in any way. Still, God’s function in a helping act is different than the person whom He is assists. It is supportive. The one needing help is focused on the task, but the helper’s interest and focus is on the person they’re helping. So, this defines the basic difference between men and women and God’s purpose for each gender.

Next, the Apostle Paul indicates that a woman should not teach or command a man due to the fact that Eve was deceived, not Adam. 

So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.” (Genesis 3:6, ESV)

In chapter three of Genesis tragedy unfolds as the Serpent tempts Eve who succumbs then gives some of the fruit to Adam, who has been watching silently all along. After Adam sins, both their eyes are opened, and they seek to hide from God. The first pair failed in their collective responsibility (to be obedient to God), and perverted their purposes. 

Eve was supposed to help nurture their relationship so that they would be whole and strong to do God’s will. Instead she disobeyed God’s will, then helped Adam to sin. It is Adam who should have focused on doing God’s will, ensuring that they kept His command and pursued His purpose. Instead, he failed to disagree with or correct his wife’s sinful decision — which he clearly knew to be wrong (Genesis 2:17), and was likely responsible for sharing with his wife (Genesis 3:2-3).  

Both the man and the woman were tempted in their area of weakness and succumbed. Further, the consequences pronounced upon their sin are in line with their differing functions in the creation order. According to Robert. D. Culver in his article for Women in Ministry, the traditional curses of Genesis chapter 3:14-19 are not so much curses, as natural results of the fall that must be endured by humankind (Clouse and Clouse, p. 40).  

To the woman he said, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be contrary to your husband, but he shall rule over you.” And to Adam he said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”” (Genesis 3:16–19, ESV)

When God pronounced His judgment and the consequences of their sin, it followed a familiar pattern. The result of Eve’s sin is the fall of woman in the area of relationships. The result of  Adam’s sin is the fall of man in the area of achieving the divine mandate itself. 

 The woman is told that two major consequences will abide as a result of her sin: 1) the pain of childbirth will be increased, and 2) although her desire will be for her husband he will rule over her. I do not believe the multiplication of pain in bearing children refers to physical birth alone, but to the whole responsibility of the mother in raising children from bearing them in her body to worrying about them the rest of her life. From this we should not to infer that the husband’s responsibility to raise their children is lessened. Rather, the mother will be naturally primary, and her responsibility will be painful at times. The second part of the curse (or result of the fall) is that the woman’s relationship to her husband will become one of subordination. Whereas the intent of God was for the man and woman to rule together, with the woman providing the emotional and relational strength and the man providing the specific direction to achieve God’s purpose, now the man will extend his natural dominance over his wife.

Adam’s consequence for following his wife into sin is complication in achieving the divine mandate to subdue the earth. Now the ground will be cursed and his work will be frustrating and unfulfilling at times. Work itself is not the curse, since in 2:15 God gave Adam responsibility to tend the garden. Instead, the curse makes man’s work in following God’s will and achieving any intended purpose more difficult. This is true because man has chosen independence from God by virtue of putting self will above God’s will. This was Satan’s sin, so man is now deformed into the likeness of God’s supreme enemy. Now there is an ongoing civil war between what the man knows to be right and what he desires to achieve for himself. 

Therefore, in both creation and fall we find support for the complementation view, which agrees with the Apostle Paul’s teaching in our passage that a woman should not be in authority over or teach a man. Eve became dominant in the garden (v, 15b), so a woman taking the position of priority or authority over men in the church could have negative effects. We may avoid repeating original sin by following God’s design for men and women. As Eve was deceived, so women may be inclined to trust their feelings and be led astray as Satan manipulates emotions, or perverts compassion, or offers to give godlike power to overcome insecurity. The man who knows what he should do, yet fails to do it, sins as Adam did. The man who idolizes his wife by putting her feelings, desires and will above God’s becomes an idolator of the first order.

What is a woman in Christ? The New Covenant assures that she is equal to a man in standing and worth. All Christians are viewed as one in Christ. However, although we are one in Christ the Spirit gives a diversity of gifts (I Corinthians 12; Romans 12:3-5). At the creation, before the fall, both the man and the woman are given the same mandate to accomplish (Genesis 1:28). However, they have different ways of achieving it. In both the natural creation and in Christ’s spiritual re-creation of humankind, there is unity and there is diversity. In answering our question of the role of women in ministry both of these concepts must be taken into account. 

I believe it is obvious that individuals not only possess different natural and spiritual gifts, but there are gifts established through God’s design and creation of man and woman which are typical for each gender. The man is typically gifted to fulfill the role of authoritative leader. The woman is typically gifted to fill the role of supportive or relational leader. Therefore, to be a man or a woman is more than biological: it is spiritual. Only in Christ can fallen men and women fully realize the potential of their gifts, and then only when each seeks to live as God’s new creation in Christ.

There are exceptions. God may sovereignly choose to use any person He wants to accomplish his will and purpose, whether male or female. It is obvious in both Bible and church history that the Lord has raised up strong women leaders such as: Miriam, Deborah, Huldah, Priscilla, Lydia, and Phoebe, usually in keeping with a woman’s gifting and purpose, but sometimes they as more dominant.

In the Old Testament Deborah was one of the Judges. It is obvious God raised her up as an authoritative leader. However, she sought to encourage the military commander Barak to lead, demonstrating again the gift of being a helper. In the New Testament Priscilla and Aquila were a husband and wife team who assisted Paul in leadership. Priscilla is sometimes named first, which signals she was the more visible (perhaps more dominant and outspoken).

So, should a woman be allowed to lead in any position a man does? The question we should rather ask is, has God called and gifted that particular woman to accomplish the ministry in which she seeks to be involved? If so then let us find the right context and the most supportive environment and position for her to be what God has called her to be: His minister.

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God’s Will Is for His People to be Holy

“For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.”
(1 Thessalonians 4:3–8, ESV)

This is an admonition for us. Christians must be holy, and that is a process. In the sexually immoral culture of 1st century Rome it was necessary to emphasize that holiness includes sexual purity. So important was this issue that it was one of the few prohibitions contained in the circular letter from the Jerusalem Counsel, a formal meeting that was called to determine the relationship between Gentiles and the Mosaic Law.
“But some believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees rose up and said, “It is necessary to circumcise them and to order them to keep the law of Moses. The apostles and the elders were gathered together to consider this matter. (Acts 15:5-6, ESV)
James, the half-brother of Jesus and Pastor of the Jerusalem church, came up with the language in the brief circular letter of response.
“Therefore my judgment is that we should not trouble those of the Gentiles who turn to God, but should write to them to abstain from the things polluted by idols, and from sexual immorality, and from what has been strangled, and from blood.” (Acts 15:19–20, ESV)
Here we find one prohibition to avoid offending primarily the Gentiles: “abstain from things polluted by idols.” Then there are two prohibitions against practices that would offend the Jews: “abstain from what has been strangled and from blood.” Finally, there is the prohibition against sexual sin, which was more prevalent among Gentiles, but equally relevant to Jews, and to us.

Learn to control your *vessel, which is to say your body, especially what we today would call your sexuality. We must control the body and the sexual urges of an old, fallen nature. If you belong to Jesus, then it is not your body any longer, even if you continue in management over it.
“The body must be treated as the Lord’s property and not used as a means of wanton self-indulgence.” (Bruce)

“not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God”

Those who pursue sexual immorality do so to the exclusion of knowing or experiencing God. Pursuing sexual passion is often the surrogate for the indwelling intimacy of knowing God, which is why it is common among those who don’t have a relationship with Christ. It is the highest form of pleasure that they know. Hedonism is the pursuit of pleasure, and many in the world are hedonists. Sexual desire consumes many people, so much so that they are willing to risk reputation, career, family and even their lives to pursue and fulfill it. Yet it is insatiable. It is never fulfilled. Only those with the Holy Spirit’s wisdom will be capable of accepting this truth and denying themselves in order to become what God wills them to be: pure and holy vessels, filled to overflow with God’s love and life.

So, how could someone who has experienced the power and presence of the Holy Spirit turn back to worthless desires when infinite joy is offered to them in Christ? As a pastor and a former youth pastor I’ve watched many young people trade their supposed commitment to Christ for sexual immorality. The result is a once spiritually sensitive and alive young person hardens their heart and becomes dead inside. They have little or no interest in Jesus. It’s all in what you choose to believe, or who you choose to believe in. Do you believe God’s word or your feelings? Do you believe in Jesus Christ or yourself?

“that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter”

We must not take advantage of another. In context this refers first to adultery, which is taking advantage of one or both partners in a marriage covenant. Let us say a man is having an affair with a willing woman. In so doing, he wrongs her husband. However, he also enables his illicit sexual partner to commit sin. A follower of Jesus encourages and empowers others to overcome sin; he is not a stumbling block into it.

Sexual morality distinguished the church from the Roman world.
“Christianity from the outset has sanctified sexual union within marriage (as in Judaism); outside marriage it was forbidden. This was a strange notion in the pagan society to which the gospel was first brought; there various forms of extramarital sexual union were tolerated and some were even encouraged.” (FF Bruce, Word Biblical Commentary)
Over time, Christians changed the sexual ethos in the Roman Empire, as they did in other important areas such as respect for life and protection of the weak. It was a common practice in Rome to simply leave a baby exposed to die if the parents didn’t want it.

In America and around the world today, it is acceptable to kill a baby in the womb. This is an extension of our value of personal freedom, pleasure and profit. I don’t want my freedom limited. I don’t want to take responsibility for the life I’ve pro-created. So, I terminate it. If Christians obey the commandment of God regarding sex, they will not find themselves in a situation where a sexual partner determines that the life of a baby must be taken in order to preserve their freedom or reputation.

We must not take on the sexual ethos of our dying culture. It has gone back, like a dog to it’s vomit, and like a pig to the mud-hole, to immoral practices, which Christian influence had brought into disfavor for nearly two millennia. Today, some churches are  embracing sexual immorality and gender confusion as a norm to be accepted, even blessed. Re-read the biblical text from 1st Thessalonians above. We are to be holy, separate, different than our culture. We follow the design of our Creator, which Jesus himself affirmed.
“He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”” (Matthew 19:4–6, ESV)

Therefore, sexual immorality is not God’s creation, and this includes homosexuality and manifold transgender identifications. That said, biblical Christians must be merciful, gentle and understanding when communicating, “speaking the truth in love” to those who identify or are struggling with issues of sexual confusion. Understanding and grace don’t  constitute a change in sexual ethics however. We have no right to reorder God’s design of male and female, marriage and sexual expression in order to make those who struggle feel better. When it concerns sexual practice, the follower of Jesus must stand out as an example of moral integrity and sexual purity.
“…that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world.” (Phil. 2:25, ESV)

“The Lord is the avenger”

Notice, there is a coming consequence for sexual immorality. Even those in the ancient world were wise enough to fear the consequences of adultery. Consider the cases of Abraham and his son Isaac. First, there was Abraham, who told the Egyptians that his wife was his sister to keep them from killing him and taking her. Pharaoh indeed took Sarah into his harem. In consequence, the people of Pharaoh’s house were subject to a plague. When the Egyptian ruler discovered that Sara was actually married to Abraham, he admonished the patriarch: “So Pharaoh called Abram and said, ‘What is this you have done to me? Why did you not tell me that she was your wife? Why did you say, ‘She is my sister,’ so that I took her for my wife? Now then, here is your wife; take her, and go.’” (Genesis 12:18–19, ESV)
Like father, like son. Years later Isaac pulled the same trick with another local king. This ruler feared God and admonished Isaac about the lie, then warned everyone to stay away from Rebecca under penalty of death (see Genesis 26:6-11).

The question is, why have we become so foolish? Why is adultery becoming increasingly acceptable with the advent of websites that promote it, so called open marriages and the like? The answer is simple, many in our world no longer fear God.

There are consequences for sexual immorality: sickness, disease, depression, spiritual insensitivity and a hardened heart towards God. These all come upon the sexual sinner. Then she must stand before God to give an answer, and that is what should truly inspire fear. Judgment Day is coming, and we must all give an answer for what we’ve done in the body, good or evil (2 Corinthians 5:10, Rom. 14:10, Heb. 9:27). This fact alone should cause even the most sexually profligate, calloused person to fear God and apply self-control, regardless of feelings or identifications.

This applies all the more to those who would molest or take advantage of someone weaker, even if the weaker partner goes along with sexual activity. It is always wrong for an adult to be involved with a minor sexually. The teacher has power over the student, even if they are not that far apart in age. A 20-something has power over a teenager, even if she is 16 or 17. Willingness may quickly turn to disgust, shame and anger. Sex leaves a permanent mark, and this is especially true when the person exposed to it is young and inexperienced.

It is also wrong to take advantage of someone who is financially needy by offering money for sex. The person may go along, but the one paying or bribing them has the greater guilt, since he is also a stumbling block.
Jesus said, “but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to stumble! Such things must come, but woe to the person through whom they come!” (Matthew 18:6, ESV)

We each have pet sins. We have weaknesses. Sexual immorality is often that sin or weakness. However, as Christians we are called to represent Jesus. As the Apostle Paul states elsewhere, “Let not sexual immorality be named among you as is proper for God’s saints… or “don’t let a hint of immorality be seen among you” (see Eph. 5:3). Instead, “put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the flesh” (Rom. 13:14).

“God has not called us to impurity but in sanctification”

A former member of this church made a confession on Facebook some time ago. He stated that he now wanted to pursue a sexually immoral lifestyle, even though continuing to identify himself as a follower of Christ. I responded that the two pursuits are mutually exclusive (to negative reactions from some of his friends). Here we have evidence of what I said: God has not called us to impurity. You may feel an urge to follow some desire, some lifestyle, but that urge is not God calling you. It is the flesh, the world and the enemy of our souls pulling you away from God and His purpose for you.

At its root, impurity is not just sexual in nature: it is a divided loyalty, a divided mind. God has not called anyone to be what he clearly prohibits in Scripture. We live in a fallen world. I have no doubt that someone may be deeply enthralled and inured by sexual immorality. Calling it a “sexual orientation” is a redefinition that makes it seem natural. Sex is a powerful motivator that reinforces behavior associated with it. Those who practice sexual immorality are shaped by the practice, even if that is private in nature. They bend their minds and emotions toward a delusion, then believe that it is real, normal and even created by God. God did not create, nor does he ordain what is perverse and inordinate according to his revealed will, and many times obvious in nature. God has not called you to commit adultery. God has not called you to follow homosexual desire, or to pursue a homosexual relationship. God has not called you to move in with your boyfriend or girlfriend and live as though you were married. He has called you to holiness, and that means you must be different than our dying, disordered, anti-Christ culture. You must be different than your friends and colleagues. You must be like Jesus, and the Holy Spirit will give you the conviction and the confidence to do so, unless you push him away…

“Whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.”

The Spirit of God is holy, and those who belong to Christ are inhabited by God’s Holy Spirit. There is a fundamental incompatibility between pursuing sexual sin—of any kind: homosexual expression, adultery, fornication—and being led by the Holy Spirit. When you go on in sin–although our culture accepts and celebrates it–you grieve the Holy Spirit. You are hardening your heart against God and his leadership. This is a very dangerous game. The Holy Spirit gently convicts you of sin, but you harden yourself to this and excuse your behavior as being part of your nature, justify the sin as acceptable; in fact, you may even justify the desire or tendency as coming from God. God created me this way. No, friend. Now you’ve moved into the most dangerous territory, blasphemy of the Holy Spirit, where you call right what the Bible teaches and the Spirit convicts is wrong.

I believe God is merciful. I don’t believe making mistakes, sexual or otherwise, disqualifies you from heaven. However, I read soberly passages like 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 wherein the Apostle Paul clearly states that those who practice sin will not inherit heaven.
“Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God.”
(1 Corinthians 6:9–10, NKJV)

There Is a Time and Purpose for Everything 

The Teacher in Ecclesiastes states that there is a time and a season for everything. 

 “a time to be born, and a time to die; 

  a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; 

  a time to kill, and a time to heal; 

  a time to break down, and a time to build up; 

  a time to weep, and a time to laugh; 

  a time to mourn, and a time to dance; 

  a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; 

  a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; 

  a time to seek, and a time to lose; 

  a time to keep, and a time to cast away; 

  a time to tear, and a time to sew; 

  a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; 

 a time to love, and a time to hate; 

  a time for war, and a time for peace.” 

(Ecclesiastes 3:2-8)

“Just because you can’t see or imagine a good reason why God would allow something bad to happen doesn’t mean there can’t be one.” -Tim Keller
That there is an appointed time or season implies God has a purpose and a foreordained plan, even if he is not the direct cause of something. God may intervene in nature or in history and order something to occur, or he may allow an event due to the free will of people, or the blind operation of nature’s laws. Since God has the power to intervene, we rightly see him as ultimately responsible. 

God has a purpose, which is being worked out in the world. You and I have free will and the responsibility to seek God and discover his will, and the way he intends things to be.

God “works all things after the counsel of his will” (Ephesians 1:11). God’s will is bound to his character, and God is love. Therefore, nothing God wills is outside his love. God always has a reason and a purpose for causing or permitting things to happen. We call this Providence.

God is not the direct (efficient) cause of severe weather events like Hurricane Harvey, but he is the final cause. That is, God has a reason for creating the world, and the laws by which it operates, and for giving humans a will and permitting them the freedom to exercise it. He has a reason for permitting humans to sin, and for placing the entire earth under a curse of separation from his immediate life-giving care. God has a reason for subjecting the creation to futility and bondage to corruption (see Romans 8:20-21). 

God’s plan has always been for the present creation to be temporary. Even before the fall, Eden was not intended to be the final state. God realized that human beings would sin, and that has always been part of his plan. God is not the efficient cause of sin, but he has a purpose for permitting it.

The final cause, the purpose for every event that takes place under heaven, is the hope of eternal life with God. This hope involves God’s plan to adopt believers as his children and make them like his only begotten Son. This hope extends to the recreation of heaven and earth. God’s purpose for creating everything is so you and I may have a relationship with him as Abba-Father for all eternity.  What an amazing plan!  So, hang on: This ain’t heaven… yet. But heaven is coming!

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” (Revelation. 21:1-5).
For now, there are events that take place in our world and in our lives for which God does not reveal the an immediate purpose. 
However, we can be assured that a good and just God has good reason for what he does, and the ultimate purpose is to make the saints holy like Jesus, and to bring many sons and daughters to His glory (Heb. 2:10, Rom 8:29-30)

We can be assured, then, that whatever happens will result in our good and God’s glory (Romsns 8:28).

A Reasoned Response to Recent Shootings

Regarding the high profile officer involved fatal shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, realize this: every one of us is prejudiced in some way. To a degree this is a result of how our brains categorize and connect things. It is also the result of our past experiences and perceptions of the world. The truth is out there, but that doesn’t mean anyone has a perfect or strictly objective view of it. Facts must be evaluated by dispassionate and trained persons if we are ever to find the truth of any incident. That is why there are courts of law and trials. That is why the arresting officers in a particular case don’t have the final say. Ideally, a jury of the accused’s peers will determine guilt or innocence.

I have past experiences that bring me to realize that not all police officers are trustworthy. I choose to believe that most are, but I’ve been on the wrong side of criminal cops. So, when I hear, or read of a shooting like that of Sterling or Castile, I am immediately suspicious of the officers involved. I may be inclined to rush to judgment because of my personal experience with bad cops. You may have a glowing view of law enforcement because nothing bad has happened to you, your family or friends. Instead, your prejudice may be toward anyone whom the police accuse, arrest or shoot. Your automatic reaction may be to believe that the person must have done something wrong, rather than assuming their innocence as the U.S. justice system demands.

What I believe all of us must do is admit to our prejudices, withhold judgment, and let facts come forth. Somebody may well say, “Yes, but you don’t know how I feel. You don’t know what I’ve been through.” However, that is exactly what reason circumvents. My feelings and experiences do not form the basis for a reasoned evaluation of a unique incident. Reason looks at evidence and evaluates accordingly. You and I need to stop emotionally reacting and start thinking, evaluating available evidence, and praying before we speak, post, or protest.

So, I will admit that I am angry at what appears to be, at best, inept police officers overreacting and killing people. Were they racist? I don’t know. Did race play into their actions? I don’t know. It may have, but one would need to interview people in the lives of each officer to make that determination. Would Alton Sterling or Philando Castile be dead if they were white. Very probably, assuming all of the circumstances were identical, except for their ethnicities. I admit my bias. I am white, and I have been in an incident involving white police officers where I was accused of something I did not do, something those officers knew I didn’t do. In my situation the two officers involved should have been fired at the very least, and then jailed if justice was to be served. So, I know it is possible for police officers to act badly regardless of race. That said, I could be wrong. Maybe the officer would never have pulled Castile over. Maybe the two Louisiana cops would have treated Sterling differently. This might be racially motivated on some level. However, that cannot be determined without evaluating the officers involved, as well as the culture of the police departments where they serve.

Racism was clearly Micah Johnson’s movtive when he murdered five Dallas police officers and injured nine others. He stated that his intention was to murder white people, especially white police officers. It appears this was his twisted version of vengeance for the deaths of black persons by white officers. You and I need to back off of our hate filled, angry reactions to these events, or we may well find ourselves in the same kind of unreasonable, emotional state that motivated Johnson.

Jesus Christ taught that it is what comes from the heart that makes a person bad. What we think always comes before what we do. More importantly, how we think will put us in a position to do good or evil. “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, sexual immorality, thefts, lies, slanders” (Matthew 15:19). A cop, a criminal, or a citizen may have an evil heart, a bad attitude, distorted thinking, and that is what results in evil actions. “When selfish desire is conceived, it results in sin, and sin results in death” (James 1:15). The way we think about what is happening right now really matters. Hatred and anger are not only a bad response, but an evil one. These attitudes will spawn further violence. Please, my friends, let none of us be part of it!

Slanderer

The Devil is a slanderer; that is what the name means and that is what he does well. Have you ever been at the receiving end of a slanderous accusation, or a malicious rumor? Many of us have at one time or another. It is not possible to control what others may say about you. It is possible to control what you do about it.

You may be innocent, but unstable, angry people may attack you or your character anyway. The internet has made this very easy. Social media, in particular, provides a pipeline for slander. In the privacy of their own home, and with the ease of a few keystrokes, anybody can say anything about anybody anytime. Facts are unnecessary and truth is rarely sought. People enjoy seeing conflict; it doesn’t matter if there is a basis in truth. As Pilate said to Jesus, “What is truth?” In our day truth is the casualty of our culture of self-interest. Too many think of truth as whatever the majority says it is, or what the loudest and most convincing voices say it is. By this definition truth is the story people believe.

However, that is not truth. Something is true when it corresponds to reality, and absolute truth is what corresponds to ultimate unchanging reality. Jesus Christ called himself the embodiment of truth. “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father, except through me” (John 14:6). We may come to know the Truth when we follow Jesus Christ and live by his teaching and commandments. “If you continue in my word, then you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31-32). When you understand that truth is not just an opinion, but, rather, what is taught and embodied in Jesus, then you are on the way to living a healthy, reasonable, stable life.

Truth comes from God, who made the world and holds it together. God is behind existence, or reality. What is true is based upon objective reality, not subjective perception of it. In order to understand—or even properly perceive—reality, you have to believe that there is a right way and a wrong way of looking at things. When I choose only to see what pleases me, benefits me, or agrees with my preconceived understanding of things, I will inevitably be blinded by my overwhelming self-interest. If someone hurts me, for example, whether they intended to or not, I may not be able to look at them reasonably or objectively any longer. Anger, fear, resentment, hostility and the like, are all emotions that produce a fight or flight response. The one who hurt me has become the enemy, and I cannot see or say anything good about them.

An example of this may be observed when a couple divorces. Former lovers, partners and parents become mortal enemies. Children hear (or overhear) each parent accuse the other of various crimes and character flaws. Kids are caught in the middle and forced to choose sides. They become casualties of war, victims of friendly fire. Wisdom would lead parents to respect one another as a model for their children, even when they feel compelled to divorce.

The Devil is a slanderer. He uses slander to divide and conquer. He seeks to steal, kill and destroy all that God loves (John 10:10), and that means you and me and our relationships. You may be angry because of some offense or past hurt, but the Bible says clearly, “Human anger does not achieve the righteousness of God” (James 1:20). You may want to get back at someone for something that they’ve done to you (or what you think they’ve done). However, the Bible teaches that we must leave payback to God. He is the one in charge of judgment; not you, not me. Jesus could have called down legions of angels to destroy those who were crucifying him, but instead he prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). The Apostle Paul quoted from the Proverbs and from the Law when he said, “Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord” (Romans 12:19-20). Jesus clearly commanded, “Do not judge or you will be judged. With the measure you use, it will be measured back to you” (Matthew 7:1-2). It is the devil who urges you to seek payback. This is a distorted form of justice.

Above all, Jesus ties our forgiveness from God to our willingness to forgive others. If you refuse to forgive, you will not be forgiven for your sins either. At first, this seems difficult to reconcile with grace, but it is what Jesus clearly taught. “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matthew 6:14–15, NIV) If I am not willing to forgive, then I am also unwilling to repent of my sins and be forgiven as the result of faith in Jesus.

You may not be the one who has been wronged, and you may have no consciousness of having wronged another, but that will not save you from being accused eventually. What will your response be? Even if you’ve never been unjustly accused of something, you may be fascinated by reading or watching people argue and fight. What should your response be? The answer to both of these scenarios is the same when you are a follower of Jesus.

Our fist reaction must be love, and our first action must be prayer. “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). Pray for wisdom in dealing with the person(s) or situation(s) you face (James 1:5). “Be as wise as serpents and innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16) when dealing with people who are obviously allowing the devil to use them as tools of hostility and destruction. Fight them in prayer, allowing the Holy Spirit to work in their lives and upon their consciences. “Our battle is not against flesh and blood, but…against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12). If your reputation is being harmed, read the Psalms and pray for vindication from the Lord. If you must act to protect yourself or your family, do so with restraint and in love, which means seeking only to stop the slanderer’s actions, and lead them to realize their wrong attitudes. Again, be wise. Forgive, but be wise about restoring trust.

I’ve waited to the end of this essay to give a real world example because I wanted to lay out the problem and the principles first. I’m also not interested in inciting the very thing I’ve warned against here. So read the example with that in mind.

Recently one of my social media connections left highly slanderous posts about a person in our church. The accusations they made were emotional, untrue, and libelous. I don’t know if I was able to delete these posts quickly enough to keep them from doing harm to the reputation of our church and the person they accused. I have banned them from all social media over which I have control. However, the slanderer went to a site I don’t control and left a horrible, libelous review of our church, filled with accusations and lies. This person has never attended our church. If the review was read only those who know this person and their history, the damage would be minimal, but anyone may read a review and few people doubt what they read.

I wrote this person a reasonable and honest email, asking them to remove the review. After some consideration they did. I cannot guarantee that their feelings have changed. In fact, a recent email indicates that they are still hostile. So, I continue to pray. I will be seeking wise counsel, and, if necessary, we will take appropriate action to protect the reputation of our church and its members.

What should you do? If we all stopped reading and sharing gossip, rumor, accusation and slander, it would serve to change our communities and our culture. When you encounter something like I’ve described, immediately begin to pray. Ask the Lord to give you wisdom, and open your heart to the Holy Spirit’s conviction, then you will know if you are to confront someone about slandering or gossiping. Show love and compassion toward all, and refuse to be the judge in any situation. May truth, justice and love prevail among Christ’s followers at all times. Amen.

Male or Female Is Reality

You may not realize it, but the current controversy concerning gender, which has expressed itself as a debate over what bathroom a person should be permitted to use, is actually a philosophical and theological issue. In fact, scientific fact is proving to have impact only if interpreted with a subjective bias. It is a fact that someone born with XY chromosomes is male, and a person with XX chromosomes is female. The subjective bias enters when we attempt to look at exceptional cases and apply them as a general rule for everyone. As many as one in one-thousand persons are born with a degree of genetic abnormality, which rarely affects physical characteristics but may arguably impact some behavioral traits. The case is made by LGBT advocates that this is evidence of gender fluidity, and is applied to everyone. The result is, the puzzling separation of gender identity and physical sexual characteristics. In other words, a male who believes he is a female as we’ve seen showcased by the media in Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner. The LGBT lobby is promoting this concept successfully.

Philosophically this is an ontological issue. Ontology is the study of reality. What is real, and what is the fundamental nature of the real? It is also an issue that concerns epistemology, which is the study of how we know what we (think) we know. More recent philosophy has shown no interest in ontology, preferring to make the case that everything is limited by our epistemology in any case. In fact, since Wittgenstein many have simply given philosophy up as little more than word games. That is to say, if we cannot really know anything for certain, how can we talk about what is real? Everything is what I or we say it is? We tell stories to make sense of reality. These stories are called metanarratives. There is no truth, at least in the traditional sense of absolute truth. There are just stories. When a community agrees to a particular metanarrative, then that story becomes their truth. Do you see why I’m making the case that the current controversy over gender is philosophical?

The progressive/liberal/left believes in and supports the type of thinking I’ve outlined above, which has been labelled “postmodernism”. When I was a young person in church, this was called “relativism,” but we applied it to morality. Now it is being applied to all of reality. In the case of the gender issue, many of those who support transgenderism fail to recognize that a person is fundamentally male or female. Rather, the person is what they say they are. In so doing, they ignore biological reality in favor of personal choice and subjective perception. Now, when I say “they” I am not referring to a person who presents a genuine exception to the biological norm. As mentioned earlier, there are persons who are born with genetic, and even more rarely with physical, abnormalities. Those born with both male and female physical traits are now called “intersex.” These persons must discover for themselves whether male or female best describes them, and how they wish to proceed with their public lives. However, the LGBT community, and those who support their political ideology, promote the idea that this is the case for everyone.

The exception is not the rule. There is actually a fallacy of logic on full display here. My introductory logic text from college, written by Dr. William Kilgore, calls it “Converse Accident.” It is illogical to make the exceptional case into the rule. The left commits this fallacy regularly.

It is a titanic expression of egotism to presume that there is no reality other than the one I, or my community defines and describes. It is arrogance on the highest level to make reality as your community has defined it the rule for everyone else. This is precisely what is occurring in the United States today under the influence and political control of the left. It was reported today that President Obama will mandate all public schools permit a child to use the restroom or locker room of their choice, depending upon their self-identified gender. Nobody else gets a say in this. That is not democracy.

There is an essential reality, though. When a person or community lives in accord with reality, they are healthy and sane. The alternative is what we see increasingly on display in the United States today, unhealthy thinking and moral insanity. There is irony in the rationale used by leaders like President Obama, or the U.S. Supreme Court, when issuing undemocratic directives. They appear to truly believe that they are upholding the civil rights of minority groups. Many people have been persuaded that this is the case, and that is why the normalization of lifestyles and behaviors once considered abnormal, even immoral, continues unabated. However, framing this as a civil rights issue doesn’t change reality. From birth a person is either male or female, regardless of personal feelings, identity or lifestyle choices. This is a scientific, biological reality for the overwhelming majority of persons.

There is also a spiritual reality, which underlies the material one. This is where theology becomes important to this debate. God created persons male or female. That is true even for those who have been born with some degree of biological abnormality. In this life, you are created and born male or female, and you are destined to be either a woman or a man.

Jesus Christ responded to a question about divorce with the following reinforcement of the creation account found in Genesis of the Bible’s Old Testament.
But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”” (Mark 10:6–9, ESV)
From the beginning of creation God made them male and female. That is to say from the beginning of the creation of humankind, but it also applies to your creation as a person in the image of God. You are either male or female. This doesn’t depend upon how you feel about yourself. It doesn’t depend upon whether you enjoy activities that our society or culture has typically associated with men or women. It doesn’t depend upon physical characteristics such as body hair or muscular size. You are a man, or you are a woman. God created you to take on that special role and responsibility. I’ve written and spoken about this extensively elsewhere. Here’s a link to a recent Mother’s Day message about what it means to be a woman. How Women Are Like God

There is a great deal of concern expressed over the high suicide rate among the transgendered (and rightly so). Suicide and bullying of transgendered persons are often cited as important reasons for changing our policies and attitudes toward this population of persons. Public acceptance of the transgendered person, it is presumed, would limit suicidal behavior. That is possible. It woudl certainly seem to limit bullying. However, I would like to make the case that the transgendered person is struggling with something deep within themselves: their own identity. For a person born with normal chromosomal and sexual characteristics who feels strongly that they are actually supposed to be the opposite gender, there will always be an internal conflict. This is cognitive dissonance, an ongoing war between what this person is in reality, and what this person is striving to be by choice. That war will not end with surgery, hormonal therapy, or public acceptance. It will not end until the person embraces who they really are biologically and spiritually: a man, or a woman.

There is a way things are supposed to be. However, we are living in a broken world in rebellion against God and his created order. The only way to find health and sanity is to agree with God as he has revealed himself in his inspired book, the Bible. The only way to find life and fulfillment, the only way to discover whom you have been created to be, is to believe in and follow the One who called himself Son of Man, Jesus Christ. He is the perfect human; all that God intends for us to be is found in Jesus.
But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12, ESV).
Receive (believe in, fully embrace) Jesus the Son of God and Son of Man, and be what you were created to be.

Fight the Good Fight

I have studied, trained and taught karate’ and martial arts for nearly 30 years. It’s been a few since I’ve actively taught, but I have some insight I’d like to apply to Christian faith.

I taught my students to defend themselves. We never attack anyone else. We are not seeking to maim the opponent, but to protect life, friends and family from an aggressive attacker. Sadly, if you present weakness, there will inevitably be a perpetrator who seeks to take advantage of you.

Therefore, it’s important to train, to be aware of your surroundings, and to always be ready to defend yourself and your family. Now, this is true whether you apply it to faith, as I am about to, or not. The assumption that you’ll never be a victim of violence is foolish and unfounded. However, avoiding situations where violence may occur, maintaining 360 degree awareness at all times, and having a plan for self-defense and escape will minimize damage and potentially avoid conflict altogether.

If you are a genuine follower of Jesus, then you need to be prepared to defend your faith. Historic, biblical Christian faith is under sustained attack today, from Muslims, atheists and even nominal (not biblical) “Christians”. Sadly, too many supposed Christians are simply compromising or capitulating. They refuse to fight, or they give ground and hope they’ll be able to continue to live a comfortable life.

I don’t want to boil this all down to politics, because it’s deeper than that. However, in the last eight years, since the left gained control over the Presidency, this nation has moved farther from its Christian roots. Atheism is on the rise. Inordinate lifestyles and sexual choices have been normalized. Islamic extremism and it’s militant hatred for Christians has grown worldwide. What are Jesus’ followers to do? Certainly, those in free lands need to vote for candidates with biblical values. However, it appears so many in the USA are deceived that that may not be an option this election cycle. In fact, it appears we are in for four to eight more years of godless policies.

Fellow believers, our hope is not in this world. We must do more than provide ourselves and our families with comfortable lives. We must begin to live out our convictions, even and especially when that is not convenient, comfortable, or even safe. The reality is, our world is more dangerous than ever, and ignoring this fact does not change it. Confronting danger may seem scary, but it may actually be wiser than avoiding it until it becomes worse. We must learn to fight the good fight of faith.

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7). I hope, fellow believers, that we too may say what the Apostle Paul did here at the end of his life. For your own sake, that of your family and friends, and for the sake of our great nation, Jesus’ followers must learn to defend their faith against the attacks of the Enemy.

This begins by affirming that your faith is genuine, biblical and Jesus focused. The Apostle Paul challenged the Corinthians with this statement at the end of his second letter to them in the Bible. “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!” (2 Corinthians 13:5, ESV) The essence of being a Christian is not in the externals, but whether or not the Spirit of God is living within you. The mystery of the Gospel is “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27). Is Jesus Christ alive in you? This isn’t a metaphor, friend. Do you have the Holy Spirit of God dwelling within your innermost being. Is Jesus really and truly in your heart?

If you doubt, then you need to stop where you are, at this moment, right now, and call on Jesus Christ in prayer. The Bible says, “whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:13). Talk to God and ask Jesus Christ to enter your heart and take control of your life. Do that sincerely and with all of the faith you can muster. “that if you confess with your mouth, Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9). “To has many as received him, to them he gave the right to be children of God, even to those who called on his name” (John 1:12). Call out to Jesus right now. Affirm that he is Lord, and give up your rights and give yourself to him.

So, is your faith real? Is Jesus really living within you? The next step is to learn and train to defend that faith in the face of opposition. We don’t attack people, we enter into spiritual warfare. That begins in your own mind. Combat doubt and ignorance by exposing yourself to the truth of the Bible, and by listening to believing teachers. Popular Bible teachers, even those with sound doctrine are not enough. As AW Tozer wrote, “I take my help where I find it and set my heart to graze where the pastures are greenest. Only one stipulation do I make: my teacher must know God, as Carlyle said, “otherwise than by hearsay,” and Christ must be all in all to him. If a man have only correct doctrine to offer me I am sure to slip out at the first intermission to seek the company of someone who has seen for himself how lovely is the face of Him who is the Rose of Sharon and the Lily of the Valley. Such a man can help me, and no one else can.”
(The Pursuit of Man, xiv).

We are instructed to be ready to defend our faith, and to do so with gentleness and respect for the person to whom we are making that defense. That begins with setting apart Jesus Christ as the one in control in your heart, “but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do ti with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience” (1 Peter 3:15-16a). We are also told to “speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15). Our purpose is not to prove ourselves right and the other person wrong, nor is it to defeat or humiliate our opponent. Our purpose is to defend the truth of the Gospel before all people, and, if possible, to win our opponent over to faith in Jesus Christ, in order that they may be saved.

The real battle is against God’s great Enemy and our adversary in this life, Satan. You and I are not so significant that we’ll be fighting the Devil himself. We will encounter his lies and those influenced by him through those lies and through interaction with other fallen angels, whom we call demons. Once again, this battle begins in your own mind. Faulty assumptions, half-truths and outright lies comprise the basis of bad thinking. “For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:3-5). Change your thinking; change your ways.

You must renew your mind with the truth found in the Bible, and that must be illuminated, or properly interpreted and applied to your mind by the Holy Spirit. Read the Bible, or listen to it read, daily. You must take captive any thoughts that are contrary to the truth of the Bible. You must change any opinion that is contrary to the Word of God. You must not elevate any value or ideal above Jesus Christ and the clear teaching of the Bible. Consider what the Bible teaches about homosexuality, marriage, gender, the sanctity of human life. Don’t permit those who have been programmed with lies propagated through the media, the school system and government to sway you. Have compassion on those who are caught up in sin, but don’t compromise, accept that sin as God’s will and plan. Start with the sins of your own heart, though. Stop justifying, excusing or lying to yourself about them. Satan’s original lie to Eve in Eden was, “Did God really say…?” Yes, he did. It’s wrong. Cry out for strength, mercy and forgiveness. Repent.

Pray for understanding. Pray about what you read. Pray for yourself and others. Pray against the Enemy. Pray in preparation to speak with anyone about your faith. The battle is spiritual and we wrestle and win in prayer. “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day” (Ephesians 6:12-13).

Finally, engage others in the marketplace of ideas. Give personal testimony of your faith and what God has done and is doing in your life. No one can contradict authentic personal experience. Read and prepare to provide solid, reasonable answers for your faith and the truth of the Bible. Do not fear to talk to those who disagree. Remember, God will give you the words when you are speaking for him, “for I will give you words and wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict” (Jesus speaking to the disciples in Luke 21:15).

Take action to protect your family and your friends against sin and evil. Limit what you expose your children (and yourself!) to through the media and online. The news media is biased against Christians. The entertainment industry promotes godless lifestyles and violence, colleges and public schools actively oppose the Bible and orthodox Christian faith, advertisers use sex and violence to sell their products, much of corporate America stands behind perverse values. It is time to stop supporting what is destroying faith in America!

Forewarned is forearmed. Learn to defend yourself, Christian. It’s only going to get worse. The good thing is, you’re not alone. God is your defender. “For you are my refuge, a strong tower against the enemy” (Psalm 61:3). We will win because Christ has overcome sin, death and hell. “If God is for us, who can stand against us? …No in all these things we are more than conquers through him who loved us” (Romans 8:31 & 37).