Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Sin-Driven Interpretation

One of my first introductions to contemporary Christian music occurred in the mid-80’s when my parents gave me a tape of Ray Boltz. The lyrics of his music were so strong and resonated with me so deeply that I felt like Ray and I were kindred spirits. His influence prompted me to begin expressing my faith in the form of song lyrics. My current career in the therapeutic shoe industry is ample evidence that my zeal for songwriting was not met with a corresponding measure of talent! Still, Ray and I were on the same wavelength.

So, I was very burdened to hear that Ray has announced that he is a homosexual. Many of you heard about this several weeks ago, but I just found out last Sunday. I went from burdened to disturbed when I read that he has divorced his wife and is actively dating men.

In a story in The Washington Blade, a gay magazine, Boltz is quoted, “This is what it really comes down to: If this is the way God made me, then this is the way I’m going to live. It’s not like God made me this way and he’ll send me to hell if I am who he created me to be … I really feel closer to God because I no longer hate myself.”

In the same article, Joe Hogue, a CCM producer in Nashville, said, he “hopes for a day when Christians will see homosexuality as no more a perceived sin than it used to be for women to be ministers or for divorced Christians to hold leadership positions in churches.”

There is one phrase in that statement that bowled me over. It’s a phrase that points to the root issue here: perceived sin. What is perceived sin? I gather from the context that it refers to actions that are erroneously regarded as sin.

What a clear example of the deceptive nature of evil within the human heart. It seeks to convince us that it is, in fact, not sin. It’s mortal enemy is the Word of God and it’s objective is to rationalize itself in the mind of a man so that the starting point for the interpretation of applicable passages of Scripture is, “This activity can't be sin. So what else can this passage be referring to?” The sin dictates the interpretation to the extent that those same passages are twisted into defending and validating the sin, rather than forbidding it.

Some may think, “That kind of sin-driven interpretation could never happen to me.” You may be surprised. The Washington Blade article cited two other examples of “perceived sin” that are far more widely embraced than is homosexuality. There are many churches in which homosexual relations would be soundly denounced, but where you will find divorced elders and deacons, and women teaching men and exercising authority over men. Apples and oranges? I don’t think so. The passages forbidding the ordination of divorced men and passages forbidding women to teach and exercise authority over men are every bit as clear and unmistakable as are the passages forbidding homosexuality (1Tim 2:8-15; 1Tim 3:1-13). Do these people hate God’s Word? Not likely. They have simply allowed sin to be the starting point for interpretation rather than the actual words on the pages of Scripture.

Homosexual relations can be nothing other than sin. Why? Because the words of Scripture say so. Romans 1:18-32 is quite clear on this, as are other relevant passages (1Cor 6:9-11; 1Tim 1:8-11). But some would have us believe that Paul was mistaken, and was railing against something that was a cultural taboo in the 1st century. But the words themselves and the context will not allow this. And if we give in to that false interpretation, we either wittingly or unwittingly demote Scripture from inspired, authoritative, and sufficient to inspiring, accommodating, and supplementary.

The fact is that sin will go to any length to explain away the clear revelation of God. It has no principle of interpretation other than “to thine own self be true.” Sin must dispatch the true meaning of Scripture because if it does not, it will itself be dispatched. It is a kill or be killed scenario. For the only way that sin can be finally dealt with in the life of a human being is through the gospel contained in God’s Word.

In all matters of life and godliness, anytime we start anywhere other than the text of Scripture, we are not only playing with fire, we are relegating God to an ancillary role, rather than hailing Him as Lord and God. And anytime we find ourselves looking at Scripture and saying, “This has to mean something other than what it plainly says,” we are simultaneously saying to God, “Try again.”

In that place, sin is the savior. It saves me from God’s righteous demands, not by keeping them on my behalf as Christ did, but by convincing me that they don’t exist…by convincing me that God’s Word doesn’t mean what it says.

In that place, Christ is superfluous. He is shown to be unnecessary as we exchange the truth of God for a lie, and worship and serve the creature rather than the Creator.

Undoubtedly, more of us are guilty of this than we think. While our pet sin may not be homosexual relations, it may be gluttony, gossip, or poor stewardship. Whatever the case, the claim that “this is what God made me to be” is more than a copout – it is open rebellion against our holy God. God has made no one a sinner. We are sinners by virtue of the fact that we are descended from Adam. Whether I have a weakness for overeating or for gay sex, that predisposition, no matter how strong, does not legitimize the sin.

So friends, let us fasten our eyes, hearts, and minds to the pages of Scripture, praying that God will use it to expose the sin that festers and threatens to deceive us, so that by the power of the Spirit it might be cut out of us like the cancer that it is. Let us allow God’s Word to tell us what sin is, rather than allowing sin to tell us what God’s Word is.

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