Thursday, 28 May 2009

Monthly Quotes - Using Disadvantages For the Glory of God

Only Christ can enable you to take a disadvantage, turn it into an advantage, and use it for the glory of God.

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

The Literal Interpretation of Scripture

Unorthodox Viewpoints

The primary reason so many cults deny one or more of the essentials of the Christian Faith and end up embracing strange doctrines is that they do not use the historical-grammatical system of interpretation. Among the errors cults resort to are allegorizing the text of Scripture, taking anthropomorphisms literally, ignoring grammatical considerations, ignoring historical considerations, and taking Bible verses out of context.
By creating their own special allegorical or mystical interpretation of Scripture, many heretical and cultic groups make the Bible say anything they want it to say.

Course of Action

On the historical-grammatical means of interpreting the Bible, there must be conviction without compromise.

The word literal as used in hermeneutics (the science of interpretation), comes from the Latin sensus literalis, meaning the literal sense of the text, as opposed to a nonliteral or allegorical sense of it. It refers to the understanding of a text that any person of normal intelligence would understand without the help of any special keys or codes.
The literal method of interpretation does not mean that everything in the Bible is true literally; rather, it means that everything is literally true (I'll clarify this distinction below).

Another way to describe the literal meaning of Scripture is that it embraces the normal, everyday, common understanding of the terms in the Bible. Words are given the meaning they normally have in common communication. This speaks of the basic, normal, or plain way of interpreting a Bible passage.

The word historical means that the sentences of Scripture should be understood in their historical setting. They should not be taken out of the space-time, cultural context in which they were uttered. It is the means by which the interpreter mentally transfers himself into the context in which the author uttered the words. This guards against the interpretive error of making the reader's historical or cultural context the norm for understanding the text.

This term indicates that the proper meaning of a sentence is rooted in its grammar. The sense of the passage emerges from the grammatical structure wherein all parts of speech—including nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, articles, prepositions, and the like—are placed in a proper form from which only a certain meaning can be derived. This method involves giving each word the same exact basic meaning it would have in normal, ordinary, customary usage of its day.

Finally, the historical-grammatical meaning is the author's expressed meaning. It is the author who gives the meaning to the text, not the reader. It is the reader's obligation to discover the meaning that the author determined. To put it another way, only a meaner can give meaning to a text. Hence, what is meant in the text is what the meaner meant by it, not what the reader desires for it to mean.

The Literal Method Does Not Eliminate Figures of Speech
When the Bible speaks of the eye, arms, or wings of God (Psalm 34:15; 91:4; Isaiah 51:9), such impressions should not be taken literally. God does not have these physical features because "God is Spirit" (John 4:24). Likewise, He cannot literally be a rock (Pslam 42:9), which is material. When Jesus said, "I am the true vine" (John 15:1), the literal method of interpretation does not take this to mean He is a physical vine. What He said is literally true (namely, that believers derive their spiritual life from Him, the vine), but it is not true literally that Jesus is a physical vine.
Of course, sometimes it is difficult to determine when a passage should not be taken literally. Certain guidelines are helpful in making this determination. Briefly put, a text should be taken figuratively 1) when it is obviously figurative, as when Jesus said He was a gate (John 10:9); 2) when the text itself authorizes the figurative sense, as when Paul said he was using "allegory" (Galatians 4:24 NKJV); or 3) when a literal interpretation would contradict other truths inside or outside the Bible, as when the Bible speaks of the "four corners of the earth" (Revelation 7:1). In short, as the dictum puts it, "When the literal sense makes good sense, seek no other sense, lest it result in nonsense." Likewise, "When the literal sense does not make good sense [such as the claim that God is Spirit and yet has eyes, ears, and arms], then we should seek some other sense lest it result in nonsense."

The Literal Method Does Not Eliminate the Use of Types
A type may be defined as "an Old Testament institution, event, person, object, or ceremony which has reality and purpose in biblical history, but which also by divine design foreshadows something yet to be revealed." The New Testament clearly affirms that Christ is the fulfilment of many Old Testament types that prefigured Him. These types passed away when they were fulfilled by Christ—such as the Passover lamb (1 Corinthians 5:7) and the Levitical sacrificial system (Hebrews 10:12-14). These Old Testament types found their literal fulfilment in Christ the antitype, being only the shadow of the substance that was ultimately found in Him (Colossians 2:17). This fulfilment is in no way a spiritualization or allegorization of any literal thing or event.

The Literal Method Does Not Eliminate the Use of Symbols
The Bible is filled with symbols. But each symbol is emblematic of something literal. For example, the book of Revelation contains many symbols that represent literal things. For instance, John said the "seven stars" in Christ's right hand were "the angels [messengers] of the seven churches" (Revelation 1:20), "the seven golden lampstands" were "the seven churches" (1:20), "the bowls full of incense" were "the prayers of saints" (5:8), and "the waters" were "peoples, multitudes, nations and languages" (17:15). Clearly, then, each symbol represents something literal. There are often textual clues that point us to the literal truth found in a symbol—either in the immediate context, or in the broader context of the whole of Scripture.

The Literal Method Does Not Eliminate the Use of Parables and Allegories
Jesus often used parables that were not to be taken literally. Yet each parable always conveys a literal point. That Jesus wanted His parables to be clear to those who were receptive to them is evident by the fact He carefully interpreted two of them for the disciples—the parables of the sower (Matthew 13:3-9) and the tares (13:24-30). He did this not only so there would be no uncertainty as to their meaning, but to guide believers as to the proper method to use when interpreting the other parables. The fact that Christ did not interpret His subsequent parables indicates that He fully expected believers to understand the literal truths intended by His parables by following the methodology He illustrated for them.
Allegorical language also sometimes appears in Scripture. Paul, for example, used an allegory and labelled it as such (Galatians 4:24). Comparing different Bible translations on this verse shows Paul's meaning: "This may be interpreted allegorically" (ESV); or: "The things may be taken figuratively" (NIV); or: These "things are symbolic" (NKJV). But even allegorical statements such as this communicate a literal truth that can be understood.

Biblical Confirmation of a Literal Interpretation

There are numerous confirmations of the literal method if interpretation found in the Bible. Following are some representative examples:

1. Later biblical texts take earlier ones as literal.
For example, the action events in Genesis 1-2 are taken literally in later books (for example, Exodus 20:10-11). This is likewise the case regarding the creation of Adam and Eve (Matthew 19:4-6; 1 Timothy 2:13), the fall of Adam and his resulting death (Romans 5:12,14), the Flood (Matthew 24:38), and the accounts of Jonah (Matthew 12:40-41), Moses (1 Corinthians 10:2-4,11), and many other historical figures.

2. Prophecies about the Messiah were literally fulfilled.
Over 100 Old Testament predictions about the Messiah were fulfilled literally in Jesus' first coming, including the facts He would be 1) the seed of a woman (Genesis 3:15); 2) from the line of Seth (Genesis 4:25; see also Luke 3:38 and compare with Genesis 3:15); 3) a descendant of Shem (Genesis 9:26); 4) the offspring of Abraham (Genesis 12:3); 5) from the tribe of Judah (Genesis 49:10); 6) the son of David (Jeremiah 23:5-6); 7) conceived of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14); 8) be born of a virgin (Isaiah 40:3); 10) the coming king (Zechariah 9:9); 11) the One suffering for our sins (Isaiah 53); 12) the One pierced in His side (Zechariah 12:10); 13) the One dying about A.D. 33 (Daniel 9:24-25); and 14) the One rising from the dead Psalm 2,16).

3. By specifically indicating within the text the presence of parables (see Matthew 13:3) or an "allegory" (Galatians 4:24), the Bible thereby indicates that the ordinary meaning is a literal one.

4. By giving the interpretation of a parable
Jesus revealed that there is a literal meaning behind them (Matthew 13:18-23).

5. By rebuking those who did not interpret the resurrection literally
Jesus indicated the literal interpretation of the Old Testament was the correct one (Matthew 22:29-32; see also Psalm 2,16).

6. By interpreting prophecy literally
(Luke 4:16-21), Jesus indicated His acceptance of the literal interpretation of the Old Testament.

Resource: Conviction Without Compromise by Norman Geisler and Ron Rhodes

Friday, 15 May 2009

Do You Think You're A Good Person?

Where does your conscience come from? Do you believe we know right from wrong? I do!
God created a conscience for us. The Bible says He wrote the law on your heart and in your mind. (Job 38:36)

The Bad News:
God requires us to be perfect, without sin, to enter His Kingdom. However, no one is without sin, not one. All of us face eternal judgment and separation from God.

Have you ever told a lie?

Have you ever stolen anything (even as small as candy, money from your mom's purse, a toy from your sibling)?

Have you ever looked at someone with sexual desires? Jesus said: 'Whoever looks at a women to lust after her has committed adultery with her in his heart.' (Matt 5:28)

Ever called someone a 'jerk', or flipped someone off while you were driving?
Jesus said: 'Whoever hates his brother is a murderer.' (Matt 5:22)

Ever used God's name to curse?
You wouldn't use your own mother's name as a filthy word. Why then your Creator's?
That is blasphemy.

Was jealous of someone else, or wanted something that isn't yours? (ex: materials things like a car, house, or clothing; subjective things like a personality; objective things like wealth, popularity, or a co-worker's vacation)
That is coveting.

Always honoured your mother and father?

"Okay, so I'm not perfect."
Sin isn't just doing things we shouldn't. It's also NOT doing the things we should.

"Well I'm not as bad as some people"
True, but the standard is God's law. NOT other people.

"But won't God forgive me?"
Try that in court.
'I know I've broken the law, but look at all the good I've done!'
A good judge would demand you to pay for your crimes.
God hates sin! Jesus warned us that God in His wrath, will cast out all who sin against him into eternal fire 'where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.' (Matt 13:42)

You see, He doesn't just go after the thieves and murderers, but He'll judge the liar, the drunkard, the fornicator, the adulterer, and the coveter. He goes deeper into your thought life as well.
'God knows the secrets of the heart.' (Psalm 44:21)

Ready for the Good News?
You see, this is why we must receive Jesus Christ into our life as Lord. He is the only one who lived a perfect and sinless life and thus became the substitute for our sins. He rose from the dead proving he was God and he wants to save us from the penalty of sin, to deal with evil, and to give us eternal life. This is what it means to believe in Jesus.
God wants us to be reconciled to himself so much that he gave His only begotten Son to die for us.(John 3:16)
I pray that you may some day consider this.

"But what about all other religions?"
Other religions believe in gods crafted by hand, made of silver, gold, or wood. All other religions believe in good deeds to save them from eternal judgment. But there is only ONE God. And we do not have the power to save ourselves. We've broken the law and there has to be a price to pay. Only Jesus Christ can save us!

"Why does God allow suffering?"
We live in a fallen world and man has brought it upon himself. But that is not God's Will. God offers to believers in Jesus of a new heaven and earth where there will be no more suffering.

Thursday, 14 May 2009

False Prophets

Edited on Saturday, August 27th 2011

Matthew 7:15
Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves.

This is why we don't believe in any false prophets that come in God's name; the Mormons (Joseph Smith), the Jehovah's Witnesses (Charles Russell), Seven Day Adventists (William Miller & Ellen G. White), and the Muslims (Mohammed), or any other person leading us astray from Christ.

Deuteronomy 13:3
You shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams, for the Lord your God is testing you to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.

And they will promise peace and no judgment or harm will be done to you.

Micah 3:5
Thus says the Lord concerning the prophets
Who make my people stray;
Who chant “Peace” (All is well) For those who feed them
While they chew with their teeth, But who prepare war against him
Who puts nothing into their mouths:

False prophets will convince us by saying things like "This is what God told me," or "This is the true way," or "I am the Christ!" For remember what is said,

Ezekiel 22:28
Her prophets plastered them with untempered mortar, seeing false visions, and divining lies for them, saying, ‘Thus says the Lord God,’ when the Lord had not spoken.

Mark 13:21-23
“Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or, ‘Look, He is there!’ do not believe it. 22 For false christs and false prophets will rise and show signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. 23 But take heed; see, I have told you all things beforehand.

Mark 13:22
Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offences, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them. 18 For those who are such do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple.

Ephesians 5:6
For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.

Colossians 2:8
Beware lest anyone plunder you or take you captive, cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ.

Jeremiah 23:16
Thus says the Lord of hosts:
“Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you.
They make you worthless;
They speak a vision of their own heart,
Not from the mouth of the Lord.

2 Peter 2:1
But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction.

1 John 4:1
Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.

Luke 16:16
"The Law and the Prophets were until John; since then the good news of the kingdom of God is preached, and everyone forces his way into it."

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

The Gift of the Holy Spirit

InTouch Magazine, May 2009 Issue, Page 38
Read | Acts 2:37-39

Because of a persistent thread of bad theology, there's some confusion about the Holy Spirit in the modern church. Yesterday I described the change from His Old Testament role of short-term empowerment to His reading permanently within every believer—starting at salvation.
Unfortunately, many Christians assume that the indwelling is an event that occurs some time after one is saved. The question is, "Have you gotten the Holy Spirit?" still gets asked, as if receiving Jesus and being indwelled by His Spirit are unrelated events.
Here is the plain truth: The Holy Spirit takes up permanent residence within a new believer at salvation. We need not pray for His arrival or attend a special service. The moment we place faith in Jesus, His Spirit comes to abide with us forever. The Bible cleaerly tells what happens: 1) we listen to the gospel; 2) we believe the gospel; 3) we're sealed in Christ with His Spirit (Eph. 1:13).
In John 14:16, Jesus says of the Holy Spirit, "The Father . . . will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever." That means He is there to stay. All of this talk about "getting the Spirit" over and over again is poor theology. It is based upon the Old Testament but does not take into account the new covenant that believers have with God through Jesus Christ.

Early Light | The Holy Spirit lives permanently within the Christian. That is important, since without Him, it's impossible to serve God successfully or joyfully. Once you understand this fundamental truth, your faith is going to grow. You'll know that rather than trying to "get the Spirit," you need to live like the Spirit-filled Christian you are.

Monday, 11 May 2009

The Will of God: Persistence

"How do I affectively pray to God?"

First, you have to understand that God is in charge and He is first no matter what. Everything is under His control and He has the power to change your life for the better. You have to surrender your whole life into His hands, obey His commandments and humble yourself—make a self sacrifice to your old life and pursue a life of persistence and faithfulness to God. When you pray, you can pray for what you want, but make sure it's God's Will.

"How do I know it's God's Will?"

Pray for God's Will. Ask the Holy Spirit to show you what God's Will is in your life and it will be delivered. Sometimes it won't be right the next day, but be persistent and patient. If you really want something in life, be persistent and God will make it happen as long as you're faithful and living according to His Will. If you have never asked for His Will in your life, do it today! And keep asking for it!

Saturday, 9 May 2009

The Signature

Sex and the Single Person

February 8, 1981
By John Piper

If the Bible addresses an issue with unrelenting frequency and urgency, and if that issue is one of the strongest natural forces in the world today, then ministers of the Word of God are obligated sooner or later to declare God's will on that issue. The sexual life of the unmarried person (we will talk about married people next week) is of great concern to God. Even those of you who have not entrusted yourselves to Christ for salvation and do not love God, even you are obligated to obey what God has to say about your sexual desires. Though you rebel against his ownership, you are God's. He made you and has an absolute right to tell you what is good for you. He sent Jesus Christ into the world to overcome your rebellion and to make peace by the blood of his cross. And my prayer at the very outset is that you might turn from your rebellion and unbelief and disobedience, and that you might trust Christ for forgiveness and live for the glory of God.

Your Body Is Not Your Own

Then I would be able to say to everyone in this room, do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, within you, which you have from God? You are not your own; you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body (1 Corinthians 6:19, 20).

O, what an offensive word to our rebel human nature. The body in which you dwell is not yours to do with simply as you please. God bought your body from the curse of sin by the payment of his own Son, and now your body should serve one all-encompassing purpose: "Glorify, God in your body." As Paul said in Romans 6:12-14,

Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal bodies to make you obey their passions. Do not yield yourselves to sin as instruments of wickedness, but yield yourselves to God as people who have been brought from death to life, and your bodily parts to God as instruments of righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.

God is concerned about what you do with your body. He created them, he bought them, he owns them, he indwells them, and what we do with them demonstrates to the world who our Lord is. If I were to stop here with this general admonition, our consciences would give us some guidance in specific cases, say, of whether we should smoke, or drink, or use drugs, or overeat, or never exercise, or get too little sleep, or engage in sexual relations outside marriage, or masturbate, or wear enticing clothing, or other things that misuse or abuse the body. But what our consciences approve and disapprove of is not always an accurate guide to what God approves of. Therefore, the Bible goes beyond the general admonition, "Glorify God in your body," to the more specific guidance, especially in the matter of sexual desires. So I aim to be more specific, too.

Why Did God Invent Sexual Desire?

The question I want to start with is this: Why did God invent sexual desire? Before I try to answer that question from Scripture, let me define sexual desire. First of all, I am not including homosexual desires. Until I have a chance to preach on homosexuality I'll just say three things about it:

  1. If you are here and homosexual, I pray that you will not feel driven away, but will stay and seek help.
  2. The practice of homosexuality is sin; it is contrary to God's revealed will.
  3. Homosexual desires, like many other kinds of desires, are abnormal, and those who have them should seek through prayer, fellowship, and Christian counseling to be changed. It is not easy, but it is possible.

When I ask the question, why God created sexual desire, I have in mind that normal craving for sexual stimulation and intimacy that begins with early adolescence and continues, for some it seems, indefinitely, but for many mellows out into a less visceral craving but nevertheless real desire for personal and bodily intimacy. I acknowledge that in these years of sexual desire there are many people with very vigorous, and people with very mild, sexual desires. I don't mean to treat anyone along this continuum as better or worse than another. When I speak of those with sexual desires I refer to the vast majority of people who from their early adolescence have to deal one way or another with God-given sexual appetite.

Now, why did he create it? Let me give one brief answer and one expanded answer. The brief answer comes from Genesis 1:27, 28, "God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them, and God said to them, 'Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it."' Since sexual desire aims finally at consummation in sexual intercourse, and sexual intercourse is the means that man and woman have of multiplying and filling the earth, therefore, I infer that one of the reasons God created us with sexual desire is to see to it that mankind would indeed fill the earth with people. And for some people procreation of children is the only justification for seeking gratification of sexual desires. But we will see in more detail next week, when we talk about sexual relations in marriage, that the apostle Paul has quite a different view.

A second answer to the question, why God created sexual desire, is found, I believe, in 1 Timothy 4:1-5,

Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by giving heed to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons through the pretensions of liars whose consciences are seared, who forbid marriage and enjoin abstinence from foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for then it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.

In this text Paul is trying to help Timothy know what to say when false teachers arise (and there were some already at Ephesus) who teach that gratification of sexual appetite in marriage and the gratification of appetite for food should be cut back as far as possible. That means, abstain from marriage altogether and avoid unnecessary foods. It is no accident that Paul mentions marriage and eating together here and then treats them as one problem. Because the issue is really bodily pleasure, unnecessary bodily pleasure, whether through sexual stimulation or through eating food. The false teachers said, "Cut bodily pleasure to the minimum that will allow you to live."

Paul's response to this ascetic teaching is very plain in verses 4 and 5:

Everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving; for then it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.

Why did God create sexual desire and sexual intercourse to satisfy it? Why did God create hunger and food to satisfy it? Verse 3 gives a very straightforward answer: "God created (these things) to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth." All the unnecessary, innocent pleasures of life (and there are thousands of them) were created by God to be occasions for thanksgiving to God by those who believe and know the truth. The reason God created sexual desire and the event of sexual intercourse to satisfy it is not merely to fill the earth with people, but also to give another unique and exquisite occasion for the ascent of thanks from two hearts full of gratitude for God's gift of sexuality.

And let us not be deceived by the world. This gift was designed for believers and no one else. Look at verse 3, "God created these things to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe." By its very design it can only be for believers, because it is designed as an occasion for thanksgiving. But those who do not "know the truth"—the truth, namely, that God is the giver of all good gifts and worthy to be glorified and thanked—those who hold down this truth (Romans 1:18, 25) and do not trust in God cannot satisfy their sexual desires according to the design of God. All their sexual behavior is sin because it does not spring from faith in God (Romans 14:23) and does not result in thanks to God. Sexual pleasure belongs rightfully only to believers. All others are thieves and robbers. Don't ever let the world deceive you into thinking that we Christians are trying to borrow and purify a limited amount of the world's pleasure. God created sexual pleasure for his subjects alone, and the world has rebelled against him and stolen his gifts and corrupted them and debased them and turned them into weapons of destruction and laughed at those who remain faithful to the King and use his gifts according to his Word. But we will not be deceived. The gift is ours, and we will consecrate it, that is, we will keep it pure, as Paul says in verse 5, "by the word of God and prayer."

Since we believe that God designed sexual desire and that he gave it to us for our good (otherwise we wouldn't give thanks), we infer something that is completely reasonable, namely, that God knows how each of his creatures can make the most of this desire and that, therefore, his Word is an infallible guide to maximum sexual fulfillment. I said this is a reasonable inference. Only so if you really trust God. The world will laugh its head off at the thought that biblical restraints make for maximum sex. But if we believe that God is good and that in Christ he has forgiven all our sins, then we must believe that his words of guidance on sexual matters will bring us the greatest possible fulfillment, even if it means total abstinence.

Why Is Sexual Fulfillment Intended Only for Marriage?

Now, what are his words of guidance to those who are not married? The Greek word from which we get "pornography" is porneia. In the New Testament porneia is translated as "fornication," "unchastity," or "immorality." Generally (though not always) it refers to sexual promiscuity of unmarried people. In Matthew 15:19 Jesus says, "Out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, fornication." Here it stands side by side with adultery, adultery being the specific sin of sexual unfaithfulness in marriage, and fornication being the more general word covering illicit sexual relations for persons who are not married.

The New Testament as well as the Old condemns fornication, or sexual intercourse outside marriage, as sin. In Galatians 5:19 Paul lists it with the works of the flesh. In 2 Corinthians 12:21 he is ready to weep over those who have not repented of this sin. In Ephesians 5:3 he says fornication should never have to be named among Christians. In Colossians 3:5 fornication is first on Paul's list of things we should put to death in ourselves. And in Revelation 9:21 it is listed with murder, sorcery, and theft as things a hardened people would not repent of.

In 1 Corinthians 7:2 Paul says,

Because of temptation to immorality (i.e., fornication) each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband.

Then he goes on in verses 8 and 9:

To the unmarried (men and women) and to the widows I say it is well for them to remain single as I do. But if they cannot exercise self-control, let them marry. For it is better to marry than to be aflame with passion.

The point I want to take from these verses is that, according to Scripture, all sexual intercourse before marriage is immoral. There are many man-centered moralists today who admit that indiscriminate sexual relations are wrong but who argue that, when a couple is engaged or has a deep friendship, then things are different and sexual relations are a legitimate expression of love. But the biblical view cannot be stretched to cover that concession. Paul considers the possibility that a couple may be aflame with passion for each other, and his one and only release from continence is marriage: "If they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry!" God not only created sexual desire, but he also created the perfect sphere for its gratification, marriage. And any attempt to alter his design is not only immoral before God, but destructive of personal relations and individual fulfillment.

This raises the next question: Why did God command that we find gratification for our sexual desires only in marriage? To the best of my knowledge, God does not give us a direct answer to this question in his Word, nor is he obligated to. Sometimes God leaves the wisdom of his commands for us to discover by experience. Those who disobey him discover it through tragedy. Those who obey discover it through patience and joy.

The way I have tried to understand God's wisdom and love in limiting sexual intercourse to marriage is by asking, "What is it that distinguishes marriage from all other heterosexual relations?" The biblical answer to that question is that marriage is distinguished from other chosen relationships by its permanence. Marriage is a commitment made for a lifetime, till death do us part. 1 Corinthians 7:39,

A wife is bound to her husband as long as he lives. If the husband dies, she is free to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord.

There is no other relationship between a man and a woman requiring that kind of permanent commitment. Therefore, in marriage God has designed a unique and stable and lasting relation for our most intimate expression of love. I believe experience confirms that something good and beautiful is lost from our sexual intimacy in marriage if we gave ourselves away outside that union. God can forgive that sin, but the scar he does not remove. The act will never be the same again. There is an inexpressible deepening of the union of marriage, which God intended, when a husband and wife can lie beside each other in perfect peace and freedom and say, "What I have just given you I have never given to another." I speak to those for whom it is not too late: Do not throw that away.

I find it helpful to use the analogy of Jesus' words in Matthew 7:6, "Don't cast your pearls before swine." It is possible to debase the truth by dispensing it willy-nilly. There are some truths that are too precious to be discussed in hostile, worldly settings. That's the way it is with our bodies, too. Nobody dispenses his bodily affections indiscriminately. You don't shake hands with all the people you nod to. You don't hug all the people you shake hands with. You don't kiss all the people you hug. And I would argue that there is a pearl of great value, a pearl of emotional, spiritual, physical intimacy, which can only be placed in one container without being debased and ruined, and that is the strong, permanent velvet-lined case of marriage. The unique, personal sexual fulfillment in the permanence of marriage for those who have kept themselves pure is one of the best explanations for why God limited the gratification of sexual desires to marriage.

The implication of all this for the single person with average sexual desires is not easy. Even if a person gets married in his early twenties, he is confronted with a preceding decade of sexual stress. And for those who remain single, whether by choice or not, the problem of handling sexual desires continues much longer. What help can we give to these people, among whom I include everybody from thirteen years on up who is unmarried and yet feels desires for sexual stimulation and gratification? My main burden for you in this category is that you glorify God in your bodies by keeping yourself free from any enslavement, except to God. In Romans 6:16 Paul said,

Do you not know that if you yield yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?

And in 1 Corinthians 6:12 the proud Corinthian libertines said, "All things are lawful for me," but Paul responded, "Yet I will not be enslaved by anything." The meaning of that little interchange is that it is possible to be enslaved in the name of freedom. That is the situation in the world today. In the name of sexual freedom, we are a nation enslaved to our sexual cravings. If you want to know what a nation is hooked on, just observe what the media masters use to get and hold our attention. Sex sells everything. It sells movies, cars, furniture, clothes, booze, news, cigarettes, and sporting gear. Sex sells because we are a nation enslaved to the second, third, and fourth look at the body in the picture. But it shall not be so among you, because you have been set free from sin and are now enslaved to God. Therefore, glorify God by keeping yourself free from the enslaving forces of the world.

Ten Words of Counsel for Single People

I have ten words of counsel for persons who are not married but who have to deal with sexual desires. Some of these have a masculine orientation because I know the male temptation firsthand but not the female. Some are dos and some are don'ts, but all aim to be positive in that they are intended to help you preserve your freedom from any enslavement but God's.

First, do not seek regular sexual gratification through masturbation, that is, the stimulation of your own self to sexual orgasm or climax. Masturbation does not solve sexual pressure for very long, it tends to become habitual, it produces guilt, and it contradicts the God-given design of sexuality. Our bodies and desires were designed for the sexual union of persons, and masturbation contradicts that design. But perhaps worst of all, masturbation is inevitably accompanied and enabled by sexual fantasies in the mind which we would not allow ourselves in reality and so we become like the Pharisees: well scrubbed on the outside, but inside full of perversions.

Second, do not seek sexual satisfaction through touching or being touched by another person, even if you stop short of sexual intercourse. Everyone knows that intimate touching is the prelude and preparation for sexual intercourse, and therefore it belongs where that event belongs, namely, in marriage. Where the permanent commitment that characterizes marriage is missing, caressing becomes depersonalized manipulation; it turns the other's body into a masturbation device to get a private physical thrill. God made us in such a way that if we try to turn that moment of touching into a personal, spiritual expression of love, we are not able to do it without making promises of faithfulness. Implicit in our hearts at that moment is the statement: You may touch me because you have promised never to leave me nor forsake me. You may have me because you are me. We are so made that we cry out for permanence when giving away our most intimate gifts. They belong in marriage.

Third, avoid unnecessary sexual stimulation. It doesn't take any brains to know that there are enough X-rated movie houses and adult bookstores in this city to keep a person livid 24 hours a day. To visit these crummy places is temptation enough. But the real test is what you do with the more legitimate sources of sexual stimulation. PG movies, Time magazine, the newspaper, television, drugstore magazine racks, rock music lyrics. In our society you cannot escape sexual stimulation, but you can refuse to seek it. And you can avoid it often when you see it coming. This is the great test of whether we are enslaved or free—can we say no to the slave driver in our bodies who wants us to keep on looking and keep on lusting.

Fourth, when the stimulation comes and the desire starts to rise, perform a very conscious act of transfer onto Christ. I wish I had learned this much earlier in my life. While riding down the road, if some billboard or marquee puts a desire into my mind for some illegitimate sexual pleasure, I take that desire and say, "Jesus, you are my Lord and my God, and my greatest desire is to know and love and obey you, so this desire is really for you. I take it from your competitor, I purge it, and I direct it to you. Thank you for freeing me from the bondage of sin." It is remarkable what control we can gain over the direction our desires take, if we really long to please Christ.

Fifth, pray that God would give you, in ever-increasing strength, a longing to know and love and obey him above all else. I read a sermon once entitled, "The Expulsive Power of a New Affection." The point was, there is no better way to overcome a bad desire than to push it out with a new one. It is in prayer that we summon the divine help to produce in us that new desire for God.

Sixth, bathe your mind in God's Word. Jesus prayed, "Sanctify them in the truth. Your word is truth" (John 17:17). There is nothing that renews the mind and enables it to assess things God's way like regular meditation on the Word of God. The person who does not arm himself with the sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:17) is going to lose in the battle for his or her body.

Seventh, keep yourself busy, and when it is time for leisure, choose things that are pure, lovely, gracious, excellent, worthy of praise (Philippians 4:8). Idleness in a world like ours is asking for trouble. It is much harder for sexual temptation to gain a foothold when we are busy at some productive task. And if you need some fresh air, walk in a park, not down Hennepin Avenue.

Eighth, don't spend too much time alone. Be with Christian people often. Don't forsake the assembling of yourselves together, but encourage one another, stir each other up to love and good works. Talk of your struggles with trusted friends. Pray for each other and hold each other accountable.

Ninth, strive to think of all people, especially people of the opposite sex, in relation to eternity. It is not easy to fantasize about a person if you think about the eternal torment they may shortly be suffering in hell because of their unbelief. Nor is it easy to disrobe in your imagination a person you know to be an eternal sister or brother in Christ. Paul said in 2 Corinthians 5:16, "From now on we know no one according to the flesh." We view everybody from God's eternal perspective.

Finally, resolve to seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and he will add to you everything you need sexually. It may be a spouse. It may be the grace and freedom to be single and pure and content. That is up to God. Ours is to seek the kingdom. Or to put it another way, our all-consuming passion must be to glorify God in our bodies by keeping ourselves free from every enslavement but one: the joyful, fulfilling slavery to God.


Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Monthly Quotes - Understanding Humbleness

There aren't many books written, "You can toil away your whole life and be unbelievably faithful to God and see little on the side about Heaven." - Matt Chandler

It is not about self-help and self-esteem. It is about self-sacrifice, dying to self, so that He[God] can be glorified. - Todd Friel

Saturday, 2 May 2009

A Humble Heart

Exodus 10:3

“Thus says the Lord God of the Hebrews: ‘How long will you refuse to humble yourself before Me?

Humbling yourself for Christ does not mean you have to surrender your intellect, but to be not prideful and selfish. Humbleness is to confess our past failures and dissatisfaction spiritually, and to accept that we are incompetent to God.

2 Chronicles 7:14

If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.

We cannot pursue righteousness in our own strength!

Psalm 147:6

The Lord lifts up the humble;
He casts the wicked down to the ground.

James 4:9-10
Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.

To be humble is to have a heart for God. It is to have a fear of God, and not of the world. Ask Him for His Will in your life, Godly sorrow—understanding each sin you've committed, and attaining wisdom from your past transgressions.

Job 22:29

When they cast you down, and you say, ‘Exaltation will come!’
Then He will save the humble person.

Push hard to know more about Him by keeping in His Word, filled by the Spirit, and understanding the His mercy and grace exemplified in His Son Jesus Christ who undergone a punishment in atonement (in token of shame) for your sins because you couldn't.

Ephesians 2:8-10

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.

1 Peter 5:6-7

Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.

Psalm 10:12

Arise, O Lord!
O God, lift up Your hand!
Do not forget the humble.