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.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Selected Psalms: Psalm 100

(Read Psalm 100 here.)

From the moment we are born, we move toward a state of independence. It is in our human nature to long to throw off the shackles of what we perceive to be holding us back. The crawling baby wants to walk. The adolescent wants to leave home. The employee wants to be his own boss. At every stage of life, our flesh desires to be free of that which holds us down.

We don’t want to be told what to do. We want to be subject to no one. We want to be our own person. We want independence, breathing room, freedom. And we believe that if we could only get to that place, we would enjoy life fully.

How interesting, then, that the Psalmist would find reason for joyful thanksgiving in a state of complete dependence and servitude, subjection and need.

Psalm 100 is a psalm of thanksgiving, a call to worship. Vv1-2 are just what you would expect: Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth! Serve the LORD with gladness! Come into his presence with singing!

But v3 is striking. It falls right in the middle of the psalm and serves as the central idea of the poem. In the center of this call to worship there is the imperative to know God’s rightful place of authority over us: Know that the LORD, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

In one verse, there are five allusions to the authority of God: God, Creator, Master, King, and Shepherd. Conversely then, these imply five pictures of our dependence and obligation to Him: worshiper, creation, servant, subject, and sheep.

Know that the LORD, he is God! He is our God – He has sovereignty over us.

It is he who made us... He is our Creator – He has a purpose for us.

...and we are His. He is our Master – He has all rights over us.

We are His people… He is our King – He has dominion over us.

…and the sheep of His pasture. He is our Shepherd – He has love, patience, and care for us.

The Psalmist cites this reality as a cause for celebration. He revels in his low position and in the LORD’s exaltation above him. How far removed that is from the world’s perspective. How far removed that is from the perspective of many of us.

Many confessing Christians spend their days straining against the authority of God in their lives. They want the benefits, but none of the obligation. They want the reward, but none of the sacrifice. They want a Savior, but not a Lord.

But the mark of a true believer is the ever-present awareness that he is not his own. He has a Master, an Owner. He understands that every decision he makes and every deed he does should be undertaken for the service of his King, for the glory of his Creator. He knows that every step he takes and every provision that he enjoys have been provided by his Shepherd. His is a life of obligation, servitude, subjection, and joy.

Why joy? Look at v5: For the LORD is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.

Our God is good. Our Master is loving. Our Shepherd is faithful. Our Creator is eternal. True freedom can only be found in total dependence upon and slavery to Him.

True Woman Conference - Part 2

I've taken a look at the conference website and I have learned that they are streaming the sessions live here. Tim Challies is keeping great notes of all of the happenings too. You can check his blog out here.

Please continue to be in prayer for our women. That God would speak to them and their lives would be transformed for His glory, they would have a great time of fellowship, and they would be safe in their travel.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

True Woman Conference

As many of you know, several of the women from our church are currently en route to Chicago to attend the True Woman Conference. Nancy Leigh DeMoss, John Piper, and other godly speakers will address over 6,000 women who have gathered for this event.

The conference will be blogged Nancy Leigh DeMoss, Tim Challies, and Carolyn McCulley. If you would like to keep up with what is happening at the conference via the blog you can check it out here.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Sufficiency of Scripture - Part 2

As we contemplate whether or not scripture is sufficient for our lives it is important to examine what scripture says about itself. Psalm 19 makes a host of statements that reflect the superiority and sufficiency of scripture. In it we find what is so often missing in evangelical thought. That God’s Word needs nothing, including the fallen thoughts, ideas, and concepts of man.

Psalm 19:7-11
7 The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure,making wise the simple; 8 the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart;the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; 9 the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether.10 More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. 11 Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.

Verse 7. The law of the Lord is perfect. It is whole, complete, and lacks nothing. Therefore it can revive and restore the soul. Nothing else is needed.
It is sure. It is trustworthy and therefore can make wise the simple. It gives clarity about life and about God.
Verse 8. The guidelines and principle of God are correct and cause man’s inner-self to celebrate.
God’s Word has authority and it always correct. It is untainted with error. It is complete Truth. Therefore, it brings to light that which was not seen before. It provides clear insight into our situation and who God is.
Verse 9. God’s Word will form a deep reverence for Almighty God that is undefiled. It is permanent and never in need of improvement.
His decrees reflect reality and there is no lie in them. They describe what is just, fair, holy, and good. It leads man to understand and practice the Truth.
Verse 10. Our desire for God’s Word should be desired above the riches of this world. As believers, our desire is born out of our faith. Our craving should be for God’s word and should not be a burden.
Verse 11. God’s word warns us about sin, depravity, and temptation. In keeping His word we experience the fullness of life and experience relationship with Him.

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