Guard Your Heart: Purity in a Sex-Crazed World

 

Late night internet addiction or working late

As we continue our journey through the Sermon on the Mount as a faith family, Jesus’ teaching about sexual purity ought to echo in our minds.We have a tendency to think of purity in terms of external actions, but Jesus will have none of that. Purity is not merely about our behavior but about what is going on within our own heart. Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:28 make this clear, “But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

In a culture like our own that celebrates sexuality as ultimate, we must be incredibly careful to guard our hearts. In reflecting on Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:27-30, three areas deserve attention.

First, we must be careful about our looking. When we see something that would draw our hearts away from purity, we must look away fast! Whether in person or online, second looks compromise the purity of our hearts. In the face of temptation, we must run! Think Joseph, not David (Gen 39:7-12, 2 Samuel 11:1-4).

Second, we must be careful about our thinking. Jesus’ words remind us that lustful thinking itself is adulterous. In other words, even if the external action of adultery does not occur, if the heart is filled with lust, we are guilty of adulterous intent. We must be careful in what we think about (Phil 4:8).

Third, we must be careful about our responding to sexual sin and temptation. Jesus says that gouging out a right eye or a cutting off a right hand is preferred to sexual impurity. What He means is that we must respond to sin and temptation radically. We can’t play games with our sinful hearts. We must take whatever action is necessary to flee temptation and pursue purity.

We must recognize that knowing Jesus and being close to Him is better than any sinful counterfeit. We must remind ourselves that in God’s presence, “there is fulness of joy” (Psalm 16:11).

What are some practical ways to guard our hearts?

  1. Develop a plan for purity (Job 31:1; When are you most tempted by sin? How can you make changes to lessen or eliminate temptation in those times? Are there places that you need to avoid to maintain a pure heart?, etc).
  2. Confess sexual sin to a mature believer of the same sex (James 5:16).
  3. Do whatever it takes to flee sexual temptation (1 Thess 4:3-4; Change to a flip phone, get rid of the internet, quit going to the gym or the pool, etc).
  4. If you are a believer, recognize that your body is God’s temple (1 Cor 6:19-20).
  5. Help other believers maintain purity (1 Thess 4:8; avoid edgy or questionable joking, immodesty, etc).
  6. If you’re married, maintain intimacy with your spouse (Prov 5:18-19, 1 Cor 7:3-5, Hebr 13:4).
  7. If you are a parent, be diligent in protecting your child’s heart by setting a good example in this area and by using internet filters, parental controls, etc (Prov 5, Eph 6:4).

Click here for information about tools to protect yourself and your family online.

A Closer Look at the Transgender Movement

Transgender Sign

Introduction
Christians who are committed to a biblical worldview must think carefully about transgender issues as well as how to compassionately minister to those who are transgender. We must remain faithful to a biblical anthropology or a biblical understanding of the nature of humanity.

From a biblical perspective, every person is made in the image of God and is worthy of respect and love. God created people with gender, male and female. In this way, gender is a part of God’s good creation and is meant for human flourishing. Further, every person is broken by sin and in need of the Gospel. The following resources will help you explore these issues and help you better minister to and care for others with Christ’s love.

The Inconsistency of Transgender Logic
The following video illustrates how dramatically our culture’s view of reality has shifted and reveals inconsistency in the logic that drives transgender thinking.

Understanding Transgenderism
This article by Joe Carter gives some basic facts to help you as you think through transgenderism. Of note in this article Carter differentiates between transgender and intersex, “Transgenderism differs from intersex, a variation in sex characteristics including chromosomes, gonads, or genitals that do not allow an individual to be distinctly identified as male or female. Intersex is a physical condition while transgender is a psychological condition.” Read more.

Glossary of Terms
In this article, Carter defines various terms related to the transgender movement. Carter says, “I’ve provided definitions for 31 terms commonly used by the gender identity movement. This list is not exhaustive (Facebook allows you to choose from more than 70 gender options) but it should help you better understand the linguistic radicalness of the gender identity revolution.” Read more.

The Faulty Logic of the Transgender Movement
In this article, Kevin DeYoung exposes how the logic of the transgender movement is harmful and is unloving. He considers how a school counselor might respond to an underweight teenage girl who sees herself as overweight. From the article, “As Rebecca walks out the door, your first reaction is to feel a deep sense of satisfaction. She left your office feeling better than when she came. That’s what you like to see. It’s always gratifying to have helped a hurting student. And yet, there’s another thought you can’t quite shake. When you think about her rail thin body, and how desperately she needs food, and how everything must change to conform to her reality, you can’t help but wonder: was this really love?” Read more.

Responding to the President’s Edict Regarding Transgender in the Public Schools
In this article, Andrew Walker considers how to respond to the president’s edict requiring public schools and universities to allow biological boys who identify as girls to use girls’ restrooms and locker room facilities and vice versa. Of note, “Above all, let us remember that this debate isn’t about transgender men or women using the restroom of their choice. Instead, the restroom wars are merely a proxy debate for a larger conflict about what it means to be male and female. As Christians, we’re told God created us in His image. God made men and women as equal, but distinct. These distinctions are beautiful, good and a testament to God’s wisdom in creation. Rewriting laws to conform to the spirit of the age cannot rewrite the laws of nature and nature’s God (Psalm 24:1).” Read more.

Harmful Effects of Transgender Ideology on Children
The American College of Pediatrics, a socially conservative pediatric association, argues that transgender ideology is harmful to children. From the article, “When an otherwise healthy biological boy believes he is a girl, or an otherwise healthy biological girl believes she is a boy, an objective psychological problem exists that lies in the mind not the body, and it should be treated as such.” Read more.

Our Culture’s Hypocrisy Regarding Transgenderism
In the article Kell and Henderson, argue that our culture’s insistence on choosing gender identity does not match what our culture says about a host of other issues. Of particular note in this article, “Is it that we just don’t want someone, anyone, telling us how to live if it goes against what we desire? Do we just want to do what is right in our own eyes? I’m not sure how familiar you are with history, but cultures where everyone did what was right in their own eyes always ended in a pile of rubble. Can we just admit that our desire to do what we want might be driving this brave new world agenda? And is it possible that it is driving it off a cliff?” Read more.

Troubling Questions Regarding Transgenderism
In this article, Trevin Wax considers seven questions that are troubling as one thinks through the transgender movement. Of note, “If the disjunction a transgender person feels between their gender and their body is psychological, why should we recommend invasive surgical procedures to make the body more closely match the mind instead of seeking treatment that might help move the mind closer to the sex they were assigned at birth?” Read more.

Ministering to Your Transgender Neighbor
Denny Burk suggests ten ways to minister to our transgender neighbors. Burk says, “Understand that your transgender neighbor often feels distress over the conflict between their biological sex and their perceived gender identity. There can be a real sense of alienation that they feel from their own body. For some, the experience is quite agonizing. How would you feel if you had to walk a mile in their shoes? We all experience some measure of brokenness due to the fallenness of creation. So we too know what it means to groan (Rom. 8:23). Of all people, that ought to summon forth a compassionate response to our transgender neighbors.” Read more.

How the Gospel Speaks to a Person with Gender Confusion 
In this three part article, Bob Thune explains how he uses the gospel to minister to a person struggling with gender confusion. Thune says, “… you have to get him to delight in Jesus more than money or love or ambition or control or self-interest. The only way to do that is to constantly remind him of his deep brokenness and sinfulness – the “bad news” of the gospel – so that he despairs of his own efforts, and then to constantly rejoice in the powerful grace of God through the cross – the “good news” of the gospel – so that he deeply feels and believes God’s radical love for him.” Read more.

Ministering to a Transgender Person Who Wants to Follow Christ 
In this article, Russell Moore considers how a church might minister to a man who had identified as a woman and who had undergone surgery and hormone treatment to transition to a woman.  Of note, “The first issue is the gospel. Christ Jesus came to save sinners. He offered up his life as a sacrifice, and his bloody cross and empty tomb are enough to reconcile any broken person, including this one, to God. We should abandon any sense of revulsion because Joan’s situation is “weird” or “perverted.” All sin is weird and perverted. The fact any of it (especially our own) seems “normal” to us is part of why we need the gospel.” Read more.

Considering the Implications of the Transgender Decree

President

The sexual revolution that began in the 1960s continues with almost breathtaking velocity. On Friday, the president issued a decree that requires all public schools to permit students to utilize the restroom or locker room according to their gender identity [1]. If public schools are indeed required to conform to the president’s order, biological boys will be able to use girls’ restrooms and change in girls’ locker rooms and vice versa. One wonders where the sexual revolution will lead next.

The implications of such a policy are troubling at many levels. Of course, privacy and safety are obvious concerns. If this policy moves forward, and it most likely will at least eventually, we have to recognize the powerful influence these kinds of policies will have on shaping our children’s understanding and thinking about identity and sexuality.

From a biblical perspective, gender is a good gift from God and is a part of God’s plan for creating stable families and nurturing the next generation (Genesis 1:27, 28; 2:24). When a biblical understanding of gender and the family breaks down, the result is brokenness and pain at an individual level and ultimately instability at a societal level.

How did we get to this place? The answer can be found in Genesis 3. When Adam and Eve rebelled against God, all of creation and every human heart were broken by sin. Thus, struggles with identity and gender are reality in a fallen world. The answer is not to abandon the Bible’s teaching on the nature of humanity and sexuality. Instead, we must compassionately point people to the Gospel, to the hope and healing that are found in Christ and in Christian community.

As the culture continues down the path of the sexual revolution, Christian parents must recognize that a secular understanding of human nature and sexuality are almost certainly going to be persuasive to our children. Consequently, we must be intentional in teaching and training our children in a biblical understanding of human nature and sexuality. Are you intentionally discipling your children?

Also, for those who are married, we must model a God-honoring relationship with our spouse. A godly family will be compelling to our children. Finally, each one of us must love Jesus in a way that our children see the reality of the Gospel and Christ’s work in our lives. This kind of genuine faith that is lived out before our children is critical in passing a love for Christ and commitment to God’s Word to the next generation.

[1] Julie Hirschfeld Davis And Matt Apuzzo, “U.S. Directs Public Schools to Allow Transgender Access to Restrooms,” New York Times, May 12, 2016. 

Considering What “Marriage Equality” Will Really Mean

Happyness of three couples

Today, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments regarding the definition of marriage. The Court is expected to render a decision on June 26. Based on the Court’s recent actions and inaction, it is likely that the Court will declare a constitutional right to same-sex marriage. However, we want to continue praying for God’s mercy in this matter.

Some will ask, “Why do you care? Why not allow two adults who love each other to be married?” That argument sounds reasonable, right? However, consider the logical conclusions of this argument, and you’ll quickly discover that there is no stopping place. In other words, if marriage is no longer defined as a relationship between one man and one woman with the obvious biological realties connected to procreation, then marriage can and eventually will mean anything.

To put it another way, if a loving, same-sex couple can be married, why not a “throuple” or three-some in their meaningful, loving relationship? Or why not four? Could a father marry his adult son? Could widows and widowers group together in various arrangements, marrying to share social security and savings?[1] And the list goes on. If marriage is severed from the biological realities associated with procreation, there will be no end to innovation. What does marriage equality mean in these contexts?

If marriage is redefined, then marriage ultimately loses all meaning. Rampant divorce and the culture of cohabitation have already done irreparable harm to children and families. The redefinition of marriage will be another momentous step away from the stability of family structure. Why do we care? Love of neighbor compels us to care. Marriage was instituted by God to provide a healthy context for the nurture and instruction of children (Genesis 1.27-28, Ephesians 6.4). When we abandon God’s good provision, children will suffer. Ultimately, society as a whole suffers as the structure and stability of family gives way.

Anderson, George, and Girgis are exactly right, “Marriage plays a fundamental role in civil society because it is characterized by sexual complementarity, monogamy, exclusivity, and permanence. These marriage norms encourage men and women to commit permanently and exclusively to each other and take responsibility for their children.”[2]

Am I a bigot and mean-hearted for praying and hoping that the Court will not take this next step in furthering the erosion of the family? That’s certainly what I’d be called by many people. As believers we must remain faithful to God’s Word even when it feels awkward as it certainly does in today’s cultural climate. God’s Word and love of neighbor compel us to remain steadfast even in the face of opposition. Will you join me in praying for God’s mercy in this matter? God can change the hearts of kings (Proverbs 21.1). Perhaps, He will.

[1]Hadley Arkes, “The Jujitsu of Same-Sex Marriage: One Last Surge of Reflection for the Court,” First Things, April 14, 2015.

[2]Sherif Girgis, Ryan T. Anderson, and Robert P. George, What Is Marriage? Man and Woman: A Defense (New York: Encounter Press, 2012).

The Shrinking Space for Religious Liberty in the Public Square

Human rights

As society continues its rapid march toward progressive ideas with relentless emphasis on personal autonomy and sexual liberty, the space for religious liberty in the public square is shrinking. A recent ruling by a judge in Washington State underscores this point.

In 2013, Baronelle Stutzman, the 70-year-old owner of Arlene’s Flower Shop in Richland, Washington, told a long-time customer and friend that she could not provide flowers for his same-sex wedding. Stutzman had been serving this particular same-sex couple for nearly a decade. While Stutzman gladly serves homosexual customers and employs those who identify as homosexual, she could not in good conscience provide flowers for a same-sex wedding. Using her creative abilities to celebrate a same-sex wedding violated her conscience.

When Stutzman explained her position, the couple publicized it through social media. The attorney general for Washington State, Bob Ferguson, heard about the situation and sued Stutzman for violating anti-discrimination laws. In addition, the same-sex couple sued with representation by the American Civil Liberties Union.

Benton County Superior Court Judge Alexander Ekstrom ruled against Stutzman. In essence, Stutzman is entitled to her beliefs but cannot act on those beliefs in her business. The court held Stutzman personally liable with both the state and the couple being entitled to collect damages and attorney’s fees. This means that this 70-year-old grandmother may lose her business, her home, and ultimately her livelihood because of her sincerely held beliefs.

Responding to the ruling, Kristin Waggoner, an attorney with Alliance Defending Freedom, stated, “The message of these rulings is unmistakable: the government will bring about your personal and professional ruin if you don’t help celebrate same-sex marriage.” Of course, the Alliance Defending Freedom who represented Stutzman is appealing the case.

Christians who provide various wedding services have been on the front lines of this cultural battle with Christian photographers and bakers coming under fire as well. Further, the recent firing of Atlanta’s fire chief, Kelvin Cochran, for authoring a book that briefly refers to homosexuality as sin is yet another example of the intolerance against biblical Christianity in our culture. While the First Amendment guarantees religious liberty, this guarantee seems to mean less and less as passion for sexual liberty increasingly defines acceptable behavior in the public square.

Will believers remain faithful to God and His Word amidst the ever-increasing cultural tides that would push us to reject Scripture in an effort to gain cultural capital and dodge persecution? Jesus warned His disciples of the high cost of following Him, “If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me will find it. What will it benefit a man if he gains the whole world yet loses his life? Or what will a man give in exchange for his life?” (Matthew 16:24–26, HCSB) We must be ready to pay the price of following Christ, even if that means the price is getting higher.

Sources Used:

Alliance Defense Fund, “Ingersoll v. Arlene’s Flowers, State of Washington v. Arlene’s Flowers, and Arlene’s Flowers v. Ferguson.”

Denny Burk, “A Florist Loses Religious Freedom, and Much More,” on CNN.com.

Valerie Richardson, “Wash. Florist Who Refused Gay Wedding over Christian Beliefs Violated Law, Judge Rules,” The Washington Times.

The Frightening Implications of Fifty Shades’ Popularity

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This post contains mature themes and is intended for adults. Last weekend, the movie, Fifty Shades of Grey, was released. This movie is based on the novel by E. L. James. Apparently, it was the largest release for an R-rated movie ever, playing in 3,646 theaters across the country. It was a smashing success, leading the Box Office with revenue of over $90 million.

Of course, I haven’t read the book or seen the movie, nor do I plan to do so. In fact, I hope that Christians will avoid this kind of depravity. I hope we’ll find our life and fulfillment in Jesus, and forsake the counterfeits that the world pursues.

The movie is the story of an average young woman, Anastasia, who is pursued by a powerful billionaire named Christian. He introduces her to sadomasochism. This deviant behavior mixes sexuality and physical or emotional pain.

It is unimaginable that a book and movie that elevates the abuse of women in the context of sexuality could be so popular. In fact, both the book and movie have been notoriously popular among women with 68% of the movie’s audience being female. Not only is this movie the mainstreaming of a more hardcore pornography, even more frightening, I fear that it points to a new reality in our culture. The modern sexual ethic, desperately seeking to abandon all of the so-called repressive rules of Christian sexual ethics, will not ultimately protect women.

While much of the culture despises biblical Christianity with its gender roles, its refusal to acknowledge countless genders, and its insistence on sexuality within a marriage of one man and one woman, women (and children of course) may be the biggest losers as society continues the sexual revolution that began in the 1960s.

In biblical Christianity, a husband is called to protect his wife and children, never to harm her or the kids. He is called to provide for his family. He is called to lead his family spiritually with sacrificial love. Indeed, he is called to love his wife as Christ loved the church.

As a culture, we’re breaking free from all of these supposedly repressive and patriarchal ideas. Where has this “freedom” taken us? You tell me when a movie that exalts sexual violence against women is thrilling to so many, particularly women. Ultimately, the more startling question is this: where will the wholesale rejection of the Christian sexual ethic ultimately lead? What will be the effects on women and on children? Though unpopular, let’s hold fast to the Word of God. When the Word is truly followed, women and children will most surely have the greatest opportunity to flourish.