The Descent into Immorality

September 8, 2019 in Apologetics, Bible - NT - Romans, Church History, Confession, Depravity, Evangelism, Hell, Homosexuality, Human Condition, Image of God, Judgment, Justice, Meditations, Providence, Sexuality, Sin, Temptation

Romans 1:24–25 (NKJV)

24 Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, 25 who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.

This morning we continue our survey of Romans 1. When peoples reject the Living God, they descend from unbelief into idolatry into immorality into unnatural homosexual lusts and thence into utter debasement and societal instability. As we have noted, Paul insists that civilization is the fruit of faith whereas barbarism is the fruit of unbelief.

Today we examine the descent into immorality. Individuals are notoriously and, at times, gloriously inconsistent. We act in ways at odds with what we profess to believe. Consequently, you can have an unbelieving neighbor who is a remarkably kind, gracious, and pleasant fellow and a believing acquaintance who is a narrow, caustic, and unpleasant one. Individuals are frequently inconsistent.

But groups of people, cultures, are always consistent with their most basic presuppositions; they always begin to act in a way consistent with their most fundamental and cherished beliefs. And one of the consistent outworkings of unbelief and idolatry is sexual immorality, sexual rebellion. A survey of the idolatrous cultures of the world illustrates this: among the Canaanites, for example, two of the most prominent deities were Baal and Asherah, fertility gods whose rites included mass orgies. In Rome, one of the most popular cults was that of the phallus, the male reproductive organ. And you are no doubt aware of the many cult prostitutes who served patrons at the various pagan shrines. Idolatry degenerates into immorality: pornography, fornication, adultery, polygamy, concubinage, prostitution, voyerism, sexual abuse, sexual trafficking, ad nauseam.

Why? Well consider America’s descent into public immorality that sprouted in the 1960s and has continued to grow to the present. The form of idolatry in Western Civilization is secularism and its dominant story line is Darwinism or macro-evolution. According to Darwinism, men are but sophisticated animals, in no way unique and in no way accountable to our Creator. Indeed, we are self-created and determine our own purpose. Since the Scopes Monkey Trial in 1925, American society has increasingly absorbed this presupposition, this basic belief.

In Paul’s words, “we exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator.” You see, if we acknowledge that there is a glorious and incorruptible God who has created us in His image to use our bodies with honor and to respect the sexuality of our neighbors, then we will strive to display the glory of God in our sexual conduct. This was once our most cherished belief as a people. But we rejected this truth; we embraced the lie that we are just animals. And what has happened? God has given us over to our lie: we have begun to act like animals and to follow our baser instincts. We have declared that restrictions on sexual behavior are no more than prudery, hold-overs of an uptight generation. Dishonoring our bodies? That’s silly! Sex is just a natural and necessary function like breathing. Honor is irrelevant.

Paul’s words remind us that ideas have consequences. Groups of people always act consistently with their most cherished beliefs; God is not mocked. What a man sows, what a culture sows, that will he also reap. And when we begin to reap the terrible harvest – the immorality itself, the battered women, the abused children, the aborted babies, the STDs, the mental illnesses – that harvest is God’s wake up call, God’s summons to repent and return to Him.

But we have not done so, have we? We have doubled down on the lie. So this morning, as we enter into the presence of the Lord of glory, let us lead our culture in the way of confession. Let us acknowledge our sin and pray that God would have mercy upon us, enabling us to treat one another with honor and integrity again. And as we confess our sin to the Lord, let us kneel as we are able. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

The Folly of Idolatry

September 1, 2019 in Apologetics, Atheism, Bible - NT - Romans, Church History, Greek Gods, Human Condition, Judgment, Meditations, Politics, Sovereignty of God, Truth

Romans 1:18–23 (NKJV)

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, 21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.

Several weeks ago we began a study of Romans 1. Paul declares that when peoples reject the Living God, they descend from unbelief into idolatry into immorality into unnatural homosexual lusts and thence into utter debasement and societal instability. In other words, the fruit of unbelief is barbarism whereas the fruit of faith is civilization.

Having discussed unbelief itself, we proceed to idolatry. Paul writes that our unbelief degenerates into idolatry – unbelieving men “became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.” In other words, Paul insists that idolatry is an affliction of our minds and of our hearts. First, he says that men became futile in their thoughts. Idolatry is a problem of the mind. The idolater exchanges “the glory of the incorruptible God” for “an image made like corruptible man”; he exchanges the solid foundation of rationality for no foundation at all. You see, if there is an incorruptible God, a God who exists over and above all things, who has created all and who is Himself the source of all truth, goodness, and beauty, then the world as we know it and experience it makes sense. It makes sense that there are mathematical formulas, moral laws, and intricate designs. The world and all things in it reflect the grandeur of God.

But if there is no such God, if the idolaters are right and the gods are just part of the world or if the gods don’t really exist at all and we’re just alone in the world, then there is no foundation for reason and rationality. For example, materialists declare that only physical properties are real, that there are no spiritual entities, no universal truths; but then they set out to justify their contentions using mathematical formulas and principles. Really, where is the material of which mathematics is made? Darwinists claim that humans are just sophisticated animals and yet insist that we have a moral obligation to care for the planet. Really, where did morals come from? Relativists claim that beauty is in the eye of the beholder and yet turn away in revulsion from rotting flesh. Really, why isn’t rotting flesh lovely? Idolatry is a problem is the mind; it cannot provide a foundation for truth, goodness, and beauty.

But idolatry is also a problem of the heart. Paul writes that “their foolish hearts were darkened.” Our loves and desires are corrupted such that we call truth, error, we call good, evil, and we call beauty, ugliness. So John Calvin was right to remark that the human heart is an idol factory. We erect false gods so that we can cling to our unbelief, because to acknowledge the true God would be to confront the truth about ourselves and our need for a Savior, a Savior who can renew our hearts and teach us to love what is true, good, and beautiful again.

Idolatry, therefore, is a problem of the mind and a problem of the heart. But hear the Word of God: there is a source of truth, goodness, and beauty. That Source is the Eternal Word of God who took on human flesh and dwelt among us. Why is the world rational, why does it reflect eternal mathematical principles, why do we find the Fibonacci Sequence again and again and again? Because all things were made by the Eternal Logos and reflect His genius. Why do men long for justice, complain about unfairness, and condemn the dictator who butchers his people? Because in Him was life, and the life was the light of men. Why do we delight to catch a glimpse of the Western Tanager, to sit and watch a sunset, and to stair into the starry heavens? Because He is glorious and full of grace and truth.

So what of you? Are you still clinging to your irrational and dark idolatry? Then hear the voice of Christ. Turn from your sin and turn in faith to the Living God. Reminded that as humans, we are so prone to turn from God to idols, let us kneel and confess our sin to the Lord. And as you are able, let us kneel before the Lord as we confess our sins to Him. We will have a time of silent confession, followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

The Heart of Unbelief

August 11, 2019 in Apologetics, Atheism, Bible - NT - Romans, Church History, Confession, Eschatology, Human Condition, Meditations, Politics

Romans 1:18–23 (NKJV)

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, 21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.

When nations apostatize and reject the Living God, they imagine that they can do so with impunity. They say, “The Lord does not see, nor does the God of Jacob understand” (Ps 94:7). But this is a delusion. God sees and understands – and, as the Righteous Judge, He deals with these peoples in a predictable manner, a manner that Paul outlines in Romans 1. Peoples who reject the Living God descend from unbelief into idolatry into immorality into unnatural homosexual lusts and thence into utter debasement and societal instability. In other words, civilization is the fruit of faith whereas barbarism is the fruit of unbelief.

Paul begins his discussion of God’s dealings with unbelieving man at the fountainhead: unbelief itself. God’s wrath is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men because all men know God and yet they suppress that knowledge in unrighteousness. This is why, Scripturally speaking, the dilemma of the ignorant native who has never heard the Gospel and who is condemned for refusing to believe in Jesus is fictitious. The native isn’t guilty for refusing to believe in Jesus – he is guilty because he refuses to listen to his own conscience and to worship the God he knows created him. Our basic problem as human beings is not that we have failed to trust in Jesus for salvation. Jesus is the solution to our problem. Our problem is our sin. We have rebelled against God and we know it.

Paul writes that “although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful…” Even in our unbelief, we all know God and we do two things: first, we refuse to glorify God as God and, second, we refuse to give thanks to Him. So let’s consider these two things.

First, we refuse to glorify God as God. Unbelief fails to worship the God who is worthy of all praise. We will offer praise to sticks and stones; we will bow down before idols of our own devising; we will pray to our ancestors; we will deify the state and look to government to save us; we will act as a law unto ourselves; anything to avoid praising the Living God who has created heaven and earth and who speaks to us in our conscience. In our unbelief, we refuse to glorify God as God.

Second, we refuse to give thanks to God. At its heart, unbelief is ungrateful. We will pretend that all we have and all we are is the gift of some other god, or the fruit of our own labor, or the gift of the fatherland, or an inheritance from family, or a random happen-chance; anything to avoid giving thanks to the Living God who has given us life, breath, and all things. In our unbelief, we refuse to give thanks to God.

So if the heart of unbelief is a refusal to worship God as God and a refusal to give Him thanks, then what ought to characterize those who claim to believe? The heart of belief is a willingness to glorify God as God – to worship Him faithfully – and to give thanks to Him for all His many gifts. And this is why we have gathered here this day. We have gathered to glorify God as God and to give Him thanks.

So as we gather in His presence, if you have lived thus far in unbelief, refusing to glorify God as God and refusing to give Him thanks, then let me urge you to repent, to confess your sin in Jesus’ Name, and to seek God’s forgiveness – Jesus is the solution to your problem. If, on the other hand, you have already believed, then let us too bow before our God in humility, acknowledging that we often fail to glorify Him as is His due and to give Him thanks as we ought. And as you are able, let us kneel before the Lord as we confess our sins to Him. We will have a time of silent confession, followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

A Godly Woman

October 28, 2018 in Bible - OT - Genesis, Covenantal Living, Creation, Homosexuality, Human Condition, Image of God, Marriage, Meditations, Sexuality

Genesis 2:18 (NKJV)
18
And the Lord God said, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.”

The Scriptures insist that male and female together bear the image of God. God made males to be male and females to be female. This was his design, his intention, his plan. He saw that the man was alone and declared it wasn’t good. So He decided to make a helper comparable to the man. This morning let us consider what it means, therefore, for a woman to honor and glorify her Creator, the very Creator who also sent His Son Jesus as woman’s Redeemer.

First, because God is your Creator, His Word is to govern and rule your life. The first woman, Eve, sinned by questioning God’s Word and deciding for herself whether God’s Word or the serpent’s word was to be believed. She set herself up as the judge. But none of us were designed to live that way – and it is the choice to live that way that has wrought calamity and destruction in the world – and that continues to do so. The so-called “battle of the sexes” has arisen precisely because men and women have refused to live according to God’s Word and have instead lived according to their own.

Second, God’s Word declares that men and women were created to complement one another. God’s judgment that it is not good that man be alone reveals not only the relationship that God designed for marriage but also for broader society. Whether the number of men and women would have been perfectly balanced in an unfallen world we are not told – but we are told that God designed man as male and female to glorify His Name and be for the benefit of all. Men as male and women as female were designed by God to complement one another, not compete with one another.

Third, God’s design for women, revealed here in the creation story, is that women were created to help men fulfill their creational tasks. God declares, “I will make him a helper suitable to him.” If you are a woman, God created you to help the men in your life become better men. While this will look different in different situations, a woman’s basic calling is to serve as a pillar of strength and support that enables the men in her life to be all that they can be. As John Piper has written, “At the heart of mature femininity is a freeing disposition to affirm, receive and nurture strength and leadership from worthy men in ways appropriate to a woman’s differing relationships.” So, ladies, how are you doing? Are you affirming, receiving and nurturing the strength and leadership of your husbands? Your fathers? Your elders? Are you encouraging the men about you to be men and to be masculine? This is your calling.

And what of you men? Remember Piper’s words: “At the heart of mature femininity is a freeing disposition to affirm, receive and nurture strength and leadership from worthy men in ways appropriate to a woman’s differing relationships.” There are plenty of unworthy men in the world, men who abuse women or men who abdicate their responsibilities. So what of you? Are you weak and irresponsible, overbearing and tyrannical? Or are you stepping up to the plate and providing godly strength, leadership, and protection to the women in your life? This is your calling.

Reminded that rather than submit to God’s design for us as men and women, we frequently develop our own visions for what is good and right, let us confess our sins to the Lord. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the public confession found in your bulletin. As you are able, let us kneel as we confess our sins to the Lord.

Man as Male and Female – Repost

January 2, 2018 in Bible - OT - Genesis, Greek Gods, Homosexuality, Human Condition, Image of God, Truth

Genesis 1:27 (NKJV)
27 So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.

Some of you may recall studying Plato’s doctrine of the forms when you were a student. For Plato the world we see about us, the world that we can see, touch, taste, hear, and smell is only a dim reflection of the truly significant world, the world of the forms. For example, corresponding to the imperfect circles that we draw in this world is an ideal circle in the world of the forms. The closer our circles get to that form, the nearer perfection they also get.

The ways in which Plato’s idea of the forms impacted Greek civilization are myriad, some good and some bad. In the bad category is the way in which it impacted the Greek perception of humanity. For you see, there is only one perfect form for the myriad objects in the world. There is one perfect circle to which all our circles approximate. There is one perfect chair, one perfect triangle, one perfect human. And it is this latter observation that got things going the wrong way. For the Greeks almost uniformly insisted that the human form was male – and the closer one gets to the form, the closer one gets to perfection.

The implications of this for Greek practice were many. First, the Greek acceptance of the perversion of sodomy and homosexuality was born out of this mistaken notion. After all, if the perfect form is male then why shouldn’t one male be attracted to the perfect form of another?

Second, women were degraded and viewed as a lesser form of human since they were further from the form. And the more like men women became the more human they became. So the legends of the Amazonians were spread by men who wanted women to be more like men.

Notice the contrast between this ancient Greek fable, with its exaltation of perversion and denigration of women, and the revelation of God in Genesis. Here in Genesis we are told that God made man in His image, according to His likeness. But lest we start traveling down the Platonic sewer pipe, Moses informs us that by man he means male and female together. God created man, male and female, in His image after His likeness. It is not the male who is the image of God; nor is it the female who is the image of God; rather it is male and female together – unity and diversity in harmony – who bear the image of God.

So what does this mean? First, men, it means that the women whom God has placed in our lives – wives, mothers, daughters, sisters, friends, etc. – have been put there to teach us about Him. They, in company with us, bear the image of God and so are to be not simply tolerated, not simply endured, but treasured, respected, honored, and listened to as women. God created them to be women and He intends to teach us about Himself through the women in our lives. So are you listening to the lessons God is intending to teach?

Second, women, it means that the men whom God has placed in your lives – husbands, fathers, sons, brothers, friends, etc. – have been put there to teach you about Him. They, in company with you, bear the image of God and so are to be not simply tolerated, not simply endured, but treasured, respected, honored, and listened to as men. God created us to be men and He intends to teach you about Himself through the men in your lives. So are you listening to the lessons God is intending to teach?

Reminded that we often fail to learn the lessons that we are supposed to learn from the opposite sex, let us kneel and confess our sin to the Lord. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

We are far too easily pleased

November 2, 2016 in Glorification, Human Condition, Quotations, Sanctification, Sin

“If there lurks in most modern minds the notion that to desire our own good and earnestly to hope for the enjoyment of it is a bad thing, I submit that this notion has crept in from Kant and the Stoics and is no part of the Christian faith. Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”


          C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory

There are no ‘ordinary’ people

November 2, 2016 in Human Condition, Quotations, Sanctification

“It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ‘ordinary’ people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilisations — these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit — immortal horrors or everlasting splendours.”


          C.S. Lewis

Why Manners Don’t Matter

March 15, 2015 in Bible - NT - 1 Corinthians, Bible - OT - Proverbs, Human Condition, Justification, King Jesus, Meditations
1 Corinthians 6:9–11 (NKJV)
9 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, 10 nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.
Once upon a time there were two pirates, Gordy and Plunk. Gordy was an uncouth, rude, and despicable character. He had stringy hair that he hadn’t washed in years; his teeth were yellow; his breath smelled like garlic and onions; and he had tatoos of skulls, ravens, and cutlasses on most of his body. He slobbered on himself when he ate and had food matted in his beard that he occasionally picked out and ate. He swore at friend and foe alike, was drunk most every evening, and regularly stole things from his fellow pirates. He leered at the women in the cove and couldn’t fathom why even the prostitutes shunned him and his money.
Then there was Plunk. Plunk was as cultured and debonair as Gordy was rude and uncouth. He prided himself on his cleanliness: his hair was well kempt, his teeth were brushed, and his breath smelled like mint. He ate with fork and knife, used a napkin to dab the occasional crumb from his face, was moderate in his consumption of alcohol, and never stole from his fellow pirates; he even had a reputation for sparing the lives of soldiers he took captive. He seldom lost his temper, was a smooth talker with the ladies, and rarely had to use his money to conquer them. It is said that he even bathed regularly and kept rose petals in his pockets to perfume his path.
But as different as Gordy and Plunk were they shared one thing in common: they had no interest in serving the king. They were happy to be pirates. They had even refused the king’s offers of amnesty for all who would give up their piracy. They preferred their life of rebellion – serving with Redbeard was the life for them, as different as their lives were.
It came to pass that the king, though he had been patient, grew tired of the pirates’ raids on his ships and settlements. He sent his most experienced captain to bring them to justice. Redbeard’s ship was captured and Gordy and Plunk found themselves facing the captain of the King’s ship. He examined the men carefully, being sure to pinch his nose as Gordy came closer, and gave orders to hang them both from the yardarm. The seargant at arms collected a length of rope, placed the nooses around their necks, and hung them without further ado. Beneath Gordy’s body were crumbs from the breakfast he’d eaten that day; beneath Plunk some of the rose petals that had been in his pockets.
Our story reminds us that whether our manners be uncouth or cultured, if we are found on the day of judgment refusing obedience to King Jesus, the Creator and Redeemer of all, then we shall be judged. Solomon exhorts his son in Proverbs 4:23, “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life.” Our chief problem as human beings is not so much in what we dobut in who we are, in what we desire, in whom we serve. All men, Paul tells us, are born pirates in the world: we are rebels against the lawful King – God Himself. Some of us are uncouth; some are cultured; but by nature we all share this in common: we have no interest in serving the King. This King invites us to turn from our life of piracy, to seek His forgiveness, and to begin serving under His banner. But many refuse His offer – they prefer their life of rebellion to submission to Him. So what of you? One day the king will grow tired of your rebellion and call you before Him; will you end up with Gordy and Plunk hanging from the yardarm? Or will you turn now and seek the King’s amnesty before it’s too late?

This morning as we enter into His presence, let us acknowledge our piracy, seeking forgiveness through His Son Jesus. And let us kneel as we seek His mercy.

Justice and the Image of God

May 20, 2014 in Bible - OT - Genesis, Book Reviews, Coeur d'Alene Issues, Human Condition, Law and Gospel, Mosaic Law, Politics

On Sunday, I preached on the Image of God. One of the observations I made, building on Genesis 9:6, is that because human beings are made in the Image of God, we respect them by taking their choices seriously. The man who murders his neighbor, who rapes a woman, who kidnaps a child is still himself made in the image of God and worthy of respect – the respect that says, “You are a human being who chose to commit a criminal act. We will treat you in accordance with your decision. We will not excuse your action by claiming that you were the victim of your childhood or your mistreatment or your biological composition. We will show you respect and execute you.”

C.S. Lewis with his typical genius develops this observation in his essay “The Humanitarian Theory of Human Punishment.” This essay is available in the book God in the Dock or online here. Lewis demonstrates the inhumanity of the supposed “humanitarian” theory of punishment which objects to capital punishment in particular and the concept of a person’s “just due” in general; he effectively obliterates the foundation of the entire penitentiary system.