Choosing the cross over comfort is a requirement for following Christ [Lk. 9:23].
Toleration of people requires that we treat one another with equal value, honoring each other’s fundamental human freedom to express private faith in public forums. On the other hand, toleration of beliefs does not require that we accept every idea as equally valid, as if a belief is true, right, or good simply because someone expresses it. In this way, tolerance of a person’s value does not mean I must accept that person’s views.
Tolerance implies disagreement. I have to disagree with you in order to tolerate you.
Faith must be free in order to be genuine. Authentic belief requires authentic choice. Human dignity necessitates personal discovery – the opportunity to search for truth apart from threats, to settle on faith apart from force, and to come to conclusions apart from coercion.
For in the beginning, sin separated man and woman from God and also from one another. This sin stood (and stands) at the root of ethnic pride and prejudice. When Christ went to the cross, He conquered sin, making the way for people to be free from its hold and restored to God. In so doing, He paved the way for all people to be reconciled to one another. Followers of Christ thus have one “Father” as one “family” in one “household,” with no “dividing wall of hostility” based upon ethnic diversity.
God has not left you in the dark regarding what you should do. “Flee!” He says. “Stop reasoning with sexual immorality, stop rationalizing it, and run from it. Flee every form of sexual immorality as fast as you can!”
The gospel is a call for every one of us to die – to die to sin and to die to self – and to live with unshakable trust in Christ, choosing to follow His Word even when it brings us into clear confrontation with our culture.
[Jesus] has offered us a new identity – His identity. No longer separated from God, but now united with God. No longer stained by sin, but now clean from sin. No longer slaves, but now free. No longer guilty before God as Judge, but now loved by God as Father. No longer deserving eternal death, never to grasp all that God created us to be, but now having eternal life, experiencing more and more exactly who God has created us to be.
[Jesus] was the most fully human, fully complete person who ever lived, and He was never married. He never indulged in any sort of sexual immorality (see Hebrews 4:15) – any sort of sexual thought, word, or deed outside of marriage between a man and a woman. Being true to who God has created you to be does not mean turning to sinful sexual desires.
We are all personally, biologically, culturally, and spiritually predisposed toward sexual sin – some of us are simply predisposed in ways that are more culturally acceptable. In the end, every single one of us is a sexual sinner. And that means every single one of us is desperate for a Savior.
In our thinking, we actually begin to believe that our ways are better than God’s. We take this created gift called sex and use it to question the Creator God, who gave us the gift in the first place. We replace God’s pattern with our preferences, exchanging what God’s Word says about sexuality for what our observation and experience say about it. Yet we’re blind to our own foolishness. It’s as if we’re living out Proverbs 14:12 – “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.” The real danger here is our claim to know better than God what is best for our bodies and to justify sexual sin as a result.
Jesus has not given us a commission to consider; He has given us a command to obey.
This is the stunning message of Christianity; Jesus died for you so that He might live in you. Jesus doesn’t merely improve your old nature; He imparts to you and entirely new nature – one that is completely united with His.
Surely none of us can decide to make Him Lord. Jesus is Lord regardless of what you or I decide. The Bible is clear that one day “every knee [will] bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue [will] confess that Jesus Christ is Lord” (Philippians 2:10). The question is not whether we will make Jesus Lord. The real question is whether you or I will submit to His lordship, and this is the essence of conversion.
The Good News of Christ is not primarily that Jesus will heal you of all your sicknesses right now, but ultimately that Jesus will forgive you of all your sins forever. The Good News of Christ is not that if you muster enough faith in Jesus, you can have physical and material reward on this earth. The Good News of Christ is that when you have childlike faith in Jesus, you will be reconciled to God for eternity.
The passionate pursuit of true, deep and lasting satisfaction always leads to Jesus.
When we delight in something, we declare our delight. When we adore someone, we announce our adoration. Isn’t this, then, the essence of worship – lifting up with our lips and our lives the One we love above everything else?
The purpose of prayer is not for the disciple to bring information to God; the purpose of prayer is for the disciple to experience intimacy with God.
This is why the Bible teaches that faith alone in Christ alone is the only way to salvation from sin. Faith is the anti-work. It’s the realization that there is nothing you can do but trust in what has been done for you in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Faith is the realization that God’s pleasure in you will never be based upon your performance for Him. Instead, God’s pleasure in you will always be based upon Christ’s performance for you.
If our lives do not reflect the fruit of following Jesus, then we are foolish to think that we are actually followers of Jesus in the first place.
The very first word out of Jesus’ mouth in His ministry is clear: repent. It’s the same word that John the Baptist proclaims in preparation for Jesus’ coming. This word is also the foundation for the first Christian sermon in the book of Acts. After Peter proclaims the good news of Christ’s death for sin, the crowds ask him, “What shall we do?” Peter looks them right in their eyes and says, “Repent.”
For every Christian in every culture, repentance is necessary. This doesn’t mean that when people become Christians, they suddenly become perfect and never have any struggles with sin again. But this does mean that when we become followers of Jesus, we make a decided break with an old way of living and take a decisive turn to a new life. We literally die to our sin and to ourselves – our self-centeredness, self-consumption, self-righteousness, self-indulgence, self-effort, and self-exaltation. In the words of Paul, we “have been crucified with Christ and [we] no longer live, but Christ lives in [us].”
The penalty for sin is determined by the magnitude of the one who is sinned against. If you sin against a log, you are not very guilty. On the other hand, if you sin against a man or a woman, then you are absolutely guilty. And ultimately, if you sin against a holy and eternal God, you are definitely guilty and worthy of eternal punishment.
The Bible clearly reminds us that left to ourselves, we would be lost forever. The only reason we can seek Christ in our sinfulness is because Christ has sought us as our Savior. The glory of the gospel is that the God of the universe reaches beyond the hardness of our hearts, overcoming our selfish resistance and sinful rebellion, and He saves us from ourselves. Such mercy magnifies God’s pursuit of us and crucifies our pride before Him.
To be a Christian is to be loved by God, pursued by God, and found by God. To be a Christian is to realize that in your sin, you were separated from God’s presence, and you deserved nothing but God’s wrath. Yet despite your darkness and in your deadness, His light shone on you and His voice spoke to you, inviting you to follow Him. His majesty captivated your soul and His mercy covered your sin, and by His death He brought you life.
Jesus did not come so that we might live a life of superficial religion. He came so that we might receive new life through supernatural regeneration.
True belief in both heaven and hell radically changes the way we live on earth. We are encouraged by the hope of heaven, and we are compelled by the horror of hell. We know that this world is not all that exists. We know that every person on the planet is only here for a brief moment, and an eternity lies ahead of us all – an eternity that is either filled with ever-increasing delight or never-ending damnation.
As people listened to Jonathan Edwards preach in the eighteenth century, they were “urged to consider the torment of burning like a livid coal, not for an instant or a day, but for “millions and millions of ages,” at the end of which they would know that their torment was no nearer to an end than ever before, and that they would “never, ever be delivered.”
We realize that He is not merely a personal Lord and Savior who is worthy of individual approval. Ultimately, Jesus is the cosmic Lord and Savior who is worthy of everyone’s eternal praise.
It is impossible to separate faith in Christ from feelings for Christ…Faith fuels feeling. True intellectual knowledge of God naturally and necessarily involves deep emotional desire for God.
When we truly come to Christ, our thirst is quenched by the fountain of life and our hunger is filled with the bread of heaven. We discover that Jesus is the supreme source of satisfaction, and we want nothing apart from Him. We realize that He is better than all the pleasures, pursuits, plaudits, and possessions of this world combined. As we trust in Christ, He transforms our tastes in such a way that we begin to love the things of God that we once hated, and we begin to hate the things of this world that we once loved.
The way to conquer sin is not by working hard to change our deeds, but by trusting Jesus to change our desires.
Ethnic identity is a morally neutral attribute. Black or white is not an issue of right or wrong, and any attempt to say otherwise should be opposed. However, sexual activity is a morally chosen behavior. To be sure, similar to how we have different skin colors, we may possess different dispositions toward certain sexual behaviors. But where our ethnic makeup is not determined by a moral choice or contrary to a moral command, our sexual behavior is a moral decision, and just because we are inclined to certain behaviors does not make such behaviors right.
[One’s] disposition toward a behavior does not mean justification for that behavior. “That’s the way he is” doesn’t mean “that’s how he should act.”
Every single one of us has a heart that tends toward sexual sin. These tendencies produce different temptations in each of our lives. Some of us experience sexual desire for the same sex, and others of us are prone to fulfill [unbiblical] sexual desire with the opposite sex. Even the ways we want to fulfill those sexual desires vary among us. Without question, part of the mystery of this fallen world includes why certain people have certain desires while other people have other desires. We do not always choose our temptations. But we do choose our reactions to those temptations.
We’ve already seen how sin began when God’s command was reduced to a question [Gen. 3:1]. At that moment the most deadly spiritual force was covertly smuggled into the world: the assumption that God’s Word is subject to human judgment.
The Bible is clear and consistent, affirming with one voice from cover to cover that homosexual activity is sexual immorality before God… If someone wants to advocate for homosexual activity, he or she must maintain that the Bible is irrelevant to modern humanity, inconsistent with our experiences, and thus insufficient as a source of truth and guidance for our lives – that the Bible is not only deficient; it is downright dangerous.
Repentance is a costly call to fundamentally say no to who you are (in your sin) in order to find an entirely new identity in who He is.
Whenever God gives us a negative command, He always gives two positives to us; He is providing us with something better while also protecting us from something worse.
There is not one instance in all of God’s Word where God advocates or celebrates sex outside of a marriage relationship between a husband and wife. Not one.
Even Christians who refuse to indulge personally in sinful sexual activity often watch movies and shows, read books and articles, and visit Internet sites that highlight, display, promote, or make light of sexual immorality. It’s as if we’ve said to the world, “We’re not going to do what you do, but we will gladly entertain ourselves by watching you.” It’s sick, isn’t it, this tendency that brings delight to us when we observe others in sexual sin?
Sex is good, but sex is not God. It will not ultimately fulfill. Like anything else that becomes an idol, it will always take more than it gives while diverting the human heart away from the only One who is able to give supreme joy.
We do not always choose our temptations. But we do choose our reactions to those temptations.
God made clear from the start that men and women are equal in dignity, value, and worth. Submission is not about denigrating the value of another’s life. Instead, this biblical word means to yield to another in love.
As husbands sacrifice their lives for the sake of their wives – loving, leading, serving, protecting, and providing for them – the world gets a glimpse of God’s grace. Sinners see that Christ has gone to a cross where He suffered, bled, and died for them so that they could experience eternal salvation through submission to Him. They also see in a wife’s relationship with her husband that such submission isn’t a burden to bear. Marriage onlookers observe a wife joyfully and continually experiencing her husband’s sacrificial love for her and then gladly and spontaneously submitting in selfless love to him. In this visible representation of the gospel, the world realizes that following Christ isn’t a matter of forced duty. Instead, it’s a means to full, eternal, and absolute delight.
Headship is not an opportunity for us to control our wives; it is a responsibility to die for them.
Husbands, love your wives not because of who they are, but because of who Christ is. He loves them deeply, and our responsibility is to reflect His love.
Ultimately, all of this is glorifying to God. He has sent His Son to die for sinners, and He has set up marriage to reflect that reality. When we understand this, we realize that marriage exists even more for God than it does for us. God has ultimately designed marriage not to satisfy our needs but to display His glory in the gospel. When we realize this, we recognize that if we want to declare the gospel, we must defend marriage.
God is our greatest treasure, and our lives will count on earth only when we invest them in His kingdom for eternity.
The worst thing we can do for the needy is neglect them The second worst thing we can do is subsidize them, helping people get through a day while ignoring how we can help people get through their lives. Scripture does not call us to rescue lazy people from poverty. Instead, Scripture calls us to serve and supplement the responsible.
God does not desire for you or anyone else to live with the pain of regret. It is altogether right to hate sin in your history. The pain of past sin is often a powerful deterrent to future sin, but don’t let it rob you of the peace God has designed for you in the present. Remember what Jesus said to a woman who had lived an immoral lifestyle: “Your sins are forgiven… Your faith has saved you; go in peace” (Luke 7:48–50). God desires that peace to be yours today… To all who trust in Christ, remember this… You do not walk around with a scarlet A on your chest, for God does not look at you and see the guilt of abortion. Instead, he looks at you and sees the righteousness of Christ. God restores, and he redeems. Even as we saw earlier, God has a track record of working all things, including evil things, ultimately for good.
Ultimately, the Lord of the harvest has showered us with His grace. Jesus is our kinsman-redeemer with the right to redeem us – made like us in every way, yet without sin (see Hebrews 4: 15). He has the resources to redeem us – possessing all authority over nature and nations, disease and demons, sin and Satan, suffering and death. Finally, He has the resolve to redeem us. His resolve drove Him to take responsibility for our sin, enduring the wrath of God that we deserve, so that through faith in Him, we might no longer be outcasts separated from God, but instead we might be called sons and daughters of God.
For we are not rescuers giving our lives and families to save orphans and widows in need; instead, we are the rescued whose lives have been transformed at our deepest point of need. So now it just makes sense that men and women who have been captivated by the mystery of God’s mercy might be compelled to give themselves to the ministry of God’s mercy.
Clearly, pastors and church members in the pre-Civil War United States who used God’s Word to justify the practice of slavery were living in sin. For whether then or today, Scripture clearly considers any slavery that undercuts the value or dignity of any person as rebellion against God’s lordship, a violation of God’s law, and a denial of God’s love for every single person made in His image.
Any and every time we indulge in pornography, we deny the precious gospel truth that every man and woman possesses inherent dignity, not to be solicited and sold for sex, but to be valued and treasured as excellent in the eyes of God. People are not inferior objects to be used and abused for selfish, sexual, sensual pleasure; they are equal image bearers of the God who loves and cares for them. We may scoff at how pre-Civil War churchgoers justified slaves in their backyards, but aren’t we dangerously like them when we participate in pornography (and promote the sex slavery to which it is inextricably tied) in our own homes?
Behold the beauty of God’s design for man, woman, and marriage. Two dignified people, both molded in the image of their Maker. Two diverse people uniquely designed to complement each other. A male and a female fashioned by God to form one flesh, a physical bond between two bodies where the deepest point of union is found at the greatest point of difference. A matrimony marked by unity and diversity, equality with variety, and personal sanctification through shared consummation.
From the moment marriage was instituted, God aimed to give the world an illustration of the gospel. Just as a photograph represents a person or an event at a particular point in history, marriage was designed by God to reflect a person and an event at the most pivotal point in history. Marriage, according to Ephesians 5, pictures Christ and the church. It is a living portrait drawn by a divine Painter who wants the world to know that He loves His people so much that He has sent His Son to die for their sins. In the picture of marriage, God intends to portray Christ’s love for the church and the church’s love for Christ on the canvas of human culture.
What a breathtaking picture. For Christ to be the head of the church is for Christ to give everything He has for the good of the church. Christ takes responsibility for the beauty of His bride, ready to lay aside His rights and willing to lay down His life for the sake of her splendor. So this is who God has designed a husband to be: a man who gives everything he has for the good of his wife. A man who takes responsibility for the beauty of his bride, ready to lay aside his rights and willing to lay down his life for the sake of her splendor. God has designed a husband to be the head of his wife like this so that in a husband’s love for his wife, the world might see a picture of Christ’s love for His people.
It is impossible to be a follower of Christ while denying, disregarding, discrediting and disbelieving the words of Christ.
Abortion is an affront to God’s sole and sovereign authority as the Giver and Taker of life. Abortion, like murder or suicide, asserts human beings as the ones who control life and death. But God the Creator alone has the right to determine when someone lives and dies, and abortion flies directly in the face of His authority.
No woman or man has a right to a private conversation with a doctor to conspire how to end someone else’s life. If the unborn are people, then we must protect them.
Scripture is clear: that womb contains a person being formed in the image of God. Any distinction between the unborn and a person (or a human and a person, for that matter) is both artificial and unbiblical. God recognizes the unborn as a person and designs the unborn for life from the moment of conception. While our culture is continually pushing against this idea, it is not possible to believe the Bible and deny that the unborn are persons. And once followers of Christ accept this, we can no longer sit idly by while people are mercilessly murdered in their mothers’ wombs.
Remember God’s character. He is the holy and righteous Judge of all, and He hates injustice. He detests the taking of innocent life, and He is the Judge of all who participate in it. God is the Judge of mothers who have aborted babies, fathers who have encouraged abortion, grandparents who have supported abortion, and friends who have advised abortion. God is the Judge of doctors who have performed abortions, leaders who have permitted abortions, pastors who have counseled people to have abortions, and legislators who have worked to make abortion possible.
[We must not let] the foundation for our morality…shift from the objective truth God has given to us in His Word to the subjective notions we create in our minds. Even when we don’t realize the implications of our ideas, we inescapably come to one conclusion: whatever seems right to me or feels right to me is right for me… We turn from worshipping God to worshipping self.
Concentrated prayer at a specific time is the best fuel for continual prayer all the time.
According to Jesus, our money does not just reflect our hearts; our hearts follow our money. One of the most effective ways to fuel affection for God is to give your resources in obedience to God.
Being a Christian involves leaving behind superficial religion for supernatural regeneration.
As we turn to Jesus, He transforms us. As we die to ourselves, we live in Him. He gives us a new heart – cleansed of sin and filled with His Spirit. He gives us a new mind – an entirely new way of thinking. He gives us new desires – entirely new senses of longing. And He gives us a new will – an entirely new way of living.
So we go to Him. We spend time with Him. We sincerely listen to His Word as we walk in obedience to it. As we do these things, God leads and guides us according to His will, and suddenly we realize that the will of God is not a road map just waiting to be unearthed somewhere. Instead, it’s a relationship that God wants us to experience every day.
So is this true in your life? Is your heart wholly and unhesitatingly surrendered to the will of God, no matter what it is? Are you underestimating God’s care for you, as if He doesn’t know what is best for you? Or are you overestimating your wisdom before God, as if you know better than He does what is best for your life?
Why do we fast as disciples of Jesus? Because our souls feast on the glory of God. Fasting is an external expression of an internal reality. When we fast for a meal or a day or a week, we remind ourselves that more than our stomachs long for the pleasure of food, our souls long for the presence of God. We are satisfied in Him and by Him in a way that nothing in this world can compare to – not even the basic daily necessity of food. Fasting makes sense as a discipline in the Christian life only if it is connected with desire for Christ. When we fast, we say, “More than we want our hunger to cease, we want your Kingdom to come!”
Following Jesus doesn’t just entail sacrificial abandonment of our lives; it requires supreme affection from our hearts.
The completion of the great commission will include great suffering, but eternity will prove it was worth the price.
We are settling for a Christianity that revolves around catering to ourselves when the central message of Christianity is actually about abandoning ourselves.
God designed sex to be relational, but self-stimulated sex is lustful. God designed sex to be covenantal, but self-stimulated sex is non-committal. God designed sex to be intimate, but self-stimulated sex is superficial. God designed sex to be fruitful, but self-stimulated sex is fruitless. God designed sex to be selfless, but self-stimulated sex is self-centered. God designed sex as a complex union, but self-stimulated sex involves personal isolation. God designed sex as a complementary heterosexual act, but self-stimulated sex is a personal homosexual act.
We do not always choose our temptations, but we always choose our reactions.
The Gospel is the good news that the just and gracious Creator of the universe has looked upon hopelessly sinful men and women and sent His Son, Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, to bear His wrath against sin on the cross and to show His power over sin in the resurrection so that everyone who turns from their sin and themselves and trusts in Jesus as Savior and Lord will be reconciled to God forever.
Theological Triage: Christians divide from non-Christians over primary doctrines, and Christians are willing to die for these doctrines. Churches distinguish themselves from one another over secondary doctrines, yet they partner together around primary doctrines. Christians in the same church disagree with one another over tertiary doctrines, but it does not in any way decrease the intimacy of their fellowship with one another.