August 30, 2017

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Dear Friends,

 You might want to grab a cup of coffee or something.  This is going to be a long one…

 I was asked last week if I would add my name as an endorser of the Nashville Statement – a new statement drafted and circulated to address issues related to gender and sexuality in our culture. 

 I have spoken on the subject of gender and sexuality many times in a variety of settings.  It’s an issue that I think is foundational to our human existence.  It’s an issue where I believe the Bible has spoken clearly.  

 And it’s an issue that is dividing many who name the name of Christ.  Many today have chosen to move away from a fundamental understanding of human sexuality and gender that the church has affirmed for centuries.

 Actually, more than three years ago, John Majors and I saw the need for a statement like this.  We spent several months drafting a similar statement, hoping to create a document that would be instructive and helpful for Christians.  For a variety of reasons, our project stalled.  So I was glad to see that others had been able to complete we had been able to accomplish.

 Since the Nashville Statement was released, there has been a flurry of response on Twitter and elsewhere on social media.  Trolls have gone on the attack (if you’re not on social media, you might have to Google “trolls” to understand what I’m talking about here).  One Pastor has released a counter statement of her own, where she refutes the Nashville Statement point by point.  And the Mayor of Nashville has made it clear to everyone that the statement does not reflect what the city or the people of Nashville believe about gender and sexuality. 

 I had a few reservations about signing the Nashville Statement.  There were areas where I wished the language had been nuanced differently.  There were omissions from the statement that I would have liked to have seen included. 

 But in the end, I affirm the central themes that the statement addresses.  I think it accurately captures what the Bible teaches about these matters, what the church has understood and taught throughout history, and what we need to embrace as biblical truth in our day.

 And I think this is a defining issue for our culture and for the church.  It is not in incidental issue.  It’s core.  It’s a gospel issue. 

 I know some have had questions about the document.  You may have questions too.  So in the same way the Apostle Paul anticipates questions and then answers them in Romans 6 and 7, let me respond to three questions that might have occurred to you as you read the Nashville Statement.

 1.  Why are Christians so fixated on this issue?  Why do they single out these particular sexual sins singled out ahead of a whole plethora of cultural sins?

 I would ask in return “why is our culture so fixated on this issue?” 

 Malcolm Muggeridge said years ago that “sex is the ersatz or substitute religion of the 20th century.”  Sexual sins of all sorts have become so normalized in our society that we now celebrate what we used to understand as shameful. 

 Let’s be clear.  Fornication is rebellion against God.  So is adultery.  So is unbridled lust.  Or incest.  The list could go on and on.

 But in our day, the average couple getting married has already lived together.  In fact, most secular people see living together as a wise step between dating and marriage.

 And in our day, nearly half of all babies born are born outside of marriage. 

 In our day, we have websites that promote hook ups and “discrete” extra marital affairs.  

 And I would hope that if voices in our culture ever began to promote or celebrate these behaviors, Christians would speak up.  Honestly, I’ve been disgusted by the so called “evangelical leaders” who have waffled as our current President brazenly bragged about his own sexual sins.  For me, these same people forfeited any moral authority to speak on the subject of sexual sin when they failed to speak out on the sins the President celebrated.

 Let’s be clear.  The only God honoring sexual activity for human beings is what takes place between husbands and wives who are committed to one another in the covenant bonds of marriage.  Everything else is rebellion. 

 The church can and must stand where the scriptures stand in condemning all sexual sin. 

 That’s not only true of sexual sin.  It’s true of racism (which I addressed two weeks ago).  It’s true of the genocide of abortion.  It’s true of injustice.  The community of faith must rise as ambassadors for Christ, and in the face of a culture that rejects God and His ways, we must stand up and speak out.

 One author has stirringly stated it this way. “If I profess, with the loudest voice and the clearest exposition, every portion of the truth of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christianity. Where the battle rages the loyalty of the soldier is proved; and to be steady on all the battle-field besides is mere flight and disgrace to him if he flinches at that one point.”

 Today, homosexuality and transgenderism have been singled out for comment because so many voices in our culture are demanding that these behaviors be normalized and celebrated.  This is a key place where the world and the devil are at this moment attacking. 

 And make no mistake.  It is a battle.  Those who express concerns about these critical cultural issues are shouted down as bigots and haters. 

 But we’re not the ones advocating something new.  We’re not the ones suggesting that the fence posts need to be moved.  The biblical perspective on these issues has not shifted in two millennia. 

 And these issues have been elevated for discussion in part because these sins at their core are a rejection of and a rebellion against something much deeper than the commandments of God. 

 Homosexuality and transgenderism are a rejection of God’s design.  They are a declaration of personal sexual sovereignty.  A person who acts on homosexual desire or who attempts to alter the gender given at birth is ultimately saying the same thing Lucifer said in Isaiah 14 when he said “I will be who I decide to be, not who I was created by God to be.”

 2.  This doesn’t seem very “Jesus like” to me.   How is this loving?  How does a statement like this do anything except bring hurt and shame on people created in God’s image?

 Let’s start off by acknowledging that our words and our actions toward homosexuals have often been harsh, unkind, unloving, judgmental, self-righteous… you get the point.  In years past, I harbored harsh, uncharitable and judgmental attitudes toward homosexuals.  To my own shame.  It’s no wonder that many who experience same sex attraction are not drawn to the Christ they have seen in many of us. 

 But we cannot be held hostage today by those who say “unless you agree that my desires are legitimate and acceptable, then you’re a judgmental hater.”  That’s a ploy being used at every turn as a way to silence Christians who would dare call any culturally acceptable behavior wrong.  All someone has to do today is to say that your viewpoint is “mean,” and many who might otherwise seek to defend biblical orthodoxy suddenly fall silent.    

 The Bible says it is truth, not the acceptance of sin, that sets a person free.  Love, Paul says, rejoices in truth.  Jesus was the embodiment of truth and grace.   If we fail to be full of grace, we are falling short of our calling as servants of Christ, and we should repent.  The same is true if we fail to be full of truth.

 We must be guided on our journey by both grace and truth, not by emotions and a desire to make the gospel more attractive to pagans.  As one writer has said “emotion alone is a poor guide to faithfulness and obedience. If we only follow our hearts, we will lose the Way.”

 3.  Isn’t this just one of those issues where Christians can agree to disagree?  Like tongues or baptism or the end times?

 No.  It’s not.

 Here’s why.  1 Corinthians 6 describes this as an issue that, if one persists in his unrepentant practice, will condemn that person to judgment.

 “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God” (I Corinthians 6:10-11).

 Now some will read that passage and say “there are a lot of sins listed there.  Why are you picking on one or two?  Why are you not speaking out against swindling and thievery?” 

 As I’ve already said, if our culture wants to celebrate and promote swindling and thievery as acceptable alternative lifestyles and tell me that I must embrace these practices as a person’s personal choice, I will stand and speak out.

 If someone would today advocate that we have misunderstood what the Bible teaches about drunkenness and that it’s not really a sin and that it’s just the way some people are and they’re not hurting anyone and we should welcome them into the church, I would have to take my stand against that person. 

 Will there be people in heaven who were once sexually immoral?  Or who are guilty of theft?  Swindlers?  Yes!  That’s the promise of the next verse in 1 Corinthians 6:

 “And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:11).

 The implication is that these people have turned away from a life of swindling or idolatry or greed.  They have repented and believed the gospel and have been transformed as a result. 

 Will there be people in heaven who once practiced homosexuality and adultery and other kinds of sexual sin?  Yes!  God’s grace is amazing!  His love and forgiveness in the face of our rebellion is astounding. 

 He saved a wretch like me!

 

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A final reminder that if you’re interested in having one or more of your children dedicated to the Lord as part of our upcoming dedication ceremony on September 10, now is the time to contact Cathy Crowell and let her know.  Her email is cvcrowell.rcc@gmail.com

 

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After a great kick off dinner for the women this week, here’s a reminder of what’s ahead at RCC this fall.

 On Monday, September 11, the Women’s Bible Study is back.  This fall, the study will be a Precept study of the book of Exodus.  The study happens at church on Monday nights, from 7:00 – 8:30 and will go 11 weeks, ending on the Monday before Thanksgiving.

 Contact Terry Morledge (mhmfamily@att.net) to get your workbook ordered. Or text her at 501-517-1566. Cost is $12.  And click here if you’d like to get a sneak peek inside the first chapter of the Exodus workbook.

 And don’t forget the upcoming first ever RCC women’s retreat.  It’s all set for the weekend of October 6-8.

  Find out more at https://www.tannenbaumlodge.com/

 You can reserve your spot today by emailing Laura White (laurawhite811@gmail.com) or Jen Gurney (jengiles1@yahoo.com) and letting them know you’re in.  Cost is $100.  Don’t let the cost keep you from coming!  We have some scholarship funds available.

 Do Laura and Jen a favor.  If you’re planning to come, send an email this week so they can get an idea of how many women there will be.  Your spot is reserved once you’ve turned in your money.

 

 

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And guys…

 Starting on Thursday morning, Sept. 7, Matt Gurney and John Dietrich are inviting any men interested to join them for 12 weeks of ID – Intentional Discipleship. 

 From 6:00 – 7:15 am each Thursday, guys will be meeting at the Dietrich home at 6 Stable Run Ct. for a time that will include the following:

 -T-truth-we will always study the Word to see what is says about our issue or topic

E-equipping

A-accountability

M-mission

S-supplication or prayer

 Together as men, we’ll be exploring how Jesus made disciples, and what we can learn from His example.  We’ll explore the key elements of spiritual growth and transformation, and talk about how to live life on mission in a way that is reproducible. 

 Contact Matt (mattgurney77@gmail.com) or John (jdandmd2@mac.com) if you have any questions.  Or look for a sign up sheet at church and let us know if you’d like to be part of the group!

 

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Have you and your spouse had a conversation yet about helping out with the toddlers class at church?

 We need you. 

 The kids need you. 

 If you are a member of RCC and you enjoy working with young children (3-5 year-olds), and if you’re looking for an opportunity to serve, this is it!

 The commitment is only eight Sundays a year – once every 6 weeks. Curriculum and teaching materials are provided, and there is almost no advanced preparation necessary (maybe a tiny bit.  But almost none  J  ).

If you are interested, or would like more information, please contact Merrilee Dietrich (690-2275, or merrileebdietrich@gmail.com).

 

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Are there things you don’t want to do that you end up doing? 

 Wanna know why?

 Then be in church this Sunday!

 

 See you in church!

 Soli Deo Gloria!

Bob Lepine

 

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