Election 2016: I Woke Up Afraid

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Like many of you, I woke up this morning, after the presidential election, afraid. Like so many in this great country, I am not merely disappointed, I fear.

I fear for the testimony of the Church as believers continue to spew out slanderous gossip against our President-elect. Words that make both campaigns and every debate sound like a seeker-sensitive sermon by comparison.

I fear for the Christians who, over 2 months before inauguration, are already digging in their heels with a (perhaps subconscious) commitment to violate God’s call to submit to the authority of the one  God Himself has chosen (1 Peter 2:13-14).

I fear for the hypocrisy of those who, for months, boldly proclaimed their trust in God no matter the election result when they really meant to say they trust in God so long as it isn’t Trump.

I fear for those who take God’s holy Word and twist it to justify their own predilections in a twisted form of emotional eisegesis.

Do I fear for our nation? Yes. But not because of our government, but because of the promise of God that people will proceed from bad to worse (2 Timothy 3). In light of this inevitability, may we not forget to “continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of.”

 

You are Trump

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This is not a political post. Trump is merely my foil.

America and the world are scratching their heads at how we have come to choose certain individuals as representatives of our nation. We accuse of arrogance, racism, and self-centeredness. How in the world did it come to this? Well, this is who we are so is it not fitting that a presidential nominee reflects the values of our culture? No, you have not made the same claims and promises that he has, but you have honked your horn not because you were in danger but because you were impatient. You have gotten upset because someone did not thank  you for holding the door open. You have assumed that your experience is the norm and that all others should be judged by it. And you have interrupted someone by saying “I know” simply because you can’t stand the idea of them thinking they’ve actually taught you something.

In other words, we are a proud, self-centered, arrogant people. We have been so consumed with self-entitlement and have so abused the privilege of the choices we are given at every turn (“hold the onions, extra cheese”) that we don’t realize we are the very person we love to criticize. We are Trump.

The answer, then, is to be like the ultimate Leader, Jesus Christ, who did not come to be served, but to serve and to give His life a ransom for many (Mark 10:45). The One who put aside rights and privileges, emptying Himself to become a slave in the greatest act of humility to the point of dying innocent for the guilty (Philippians 2:5-8). The same individual who told us to deal with the log in our own eye before dealing with the speck in another’s (Matthew 7:5).

Yes, I know, it’s different. But is it, really? We may not have the same depth and breadth of influence, but sin is sin and God has placed us all on this temporary plane to be an influence. It’s our choice whether we make that influence good, salty, and bright or tasteless and hidden.

As dangerous as it is, this season gives us the opportunity to take our eyes off the person in the mirror and direct our vitriols at another. But, at the end of the day, you matter and your influence is greater than you think.

Celebrity Gossip and the Presidential Election

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Malicious gossip and anger toward presidential candidates is still malicious gossip and anger.

There is an understandable frustration with the current state of affairs as far as the upcoming election is concerned and the practical ramifications (at least in this fleeting, temporal life) are real. But, this does not approve sin regardless of the object.

To put things in perspective, it would not be acceptable to get on social media and write about a fellow church member the kinds of things I’m seeing believers write about our candidates. The tendency to think it is justifiable or even right to publicly criticize Trump or Hillary because it is what is normal in our world today is the very essence of conforming to the world in direct violation of Romans 12:2.

“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”

Yes, these are frustrating times. Yes, the feelings run deep and the potential consequences deeper. But, whether in politics or personal circumstances, the sins of gossip and anger are never justified.

Before Breaking Bad

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For the longest time I thought I was teaching my son to obey so he would avoid the “bad guys” (obeying us means obeying teachers, laws, and police in the future). But the reality is I am teaching him to obey so he doesn’t become the bad guy. So he doesn’t become the person that causes parents to hold their children close when he walks by, the person that causes others to fear, the reason you lock your doors at night. Because, in the end, the fundamental difference between a good guy and a bad guy is obedience.

Hebrews 12:7-11
7 It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 9 Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness. 11 All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.

Proverbs 13:24
He who withholds his rod hates his son, But he who loves him disciplines him diligently.

Some Considerations in Your Battle for Purity

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I’m not trying to reinvent the wheel here, but in light of some recent conversations (and conversations I’ve had throughout my ministry), I want to share some considerations in the form of questions you may not have thought through before that may help you in your battle against impurity.

1. Are you upset that you “messed up” because you dishonored your God or because you broke  your streak?

People often fall into the pit of guilt and despair because they gave into temptation when they were “doing so well.” It is not uncommon for the man sitting across from me to tell me how long he had not looked at pornography or masturbated. To me, this kind of thinking is all wrong. Like all other sins, impurity should bother you because of the holiness of God and  your adoration of Him. When you are more upset that you broke your streak of being pure for x number of weeks, then you are focused more on  yourself than you are on God. In other words, when looking at the question above, former worships God but the latter worships self, the former leads to heart repentance while the latter leads to legalism, the former turns to grace but the latter relies on human effort. It is the difference between godly sorry that leads to repentance without regret and worldly sorry that leads to death (2 Cor. 7:10). Remember:  just because you haven’t committed the act in a while doesn’t mean you’ve repented; it may simply mean you’ve been busy or your internet is on the fritz. God looks at the heart.

This is about having a high view of God. Ultimately, the more you love and adore your Savior, the more  you will want to obey Him not merely out of an adherence to the law but out of a hatred of dishonoring the object of your greatest affection. It is the difference between the young men and the fathers in 1 John 2. One of the keys in battling impurity is not merely memorizing and meditating on rich and helpful passages on lust and purity but also meditating on the character of God. Learn to worship God not only for what He has done for you but also for who He is.

2. What are the other sins that are enabling this vice?

The sin of impurity is wretched in and of itself. However, you may be losing the battle because you are only focusing on the impurity and, subsequently, only seeking the Scriptures where this particular issue is addressed while neglecting other contributing sins. One glaring sin that leads to impurity is selfishness/pride. Especially for the married man, but also true for the single man, immorality takes quite a bit of self-centeredness to go through with. The sin of lustful passion in 1 Thessalonians 4 is prohibited, in part, because it defrauds your brother. As John MacArthur writes, there are “destructive social and spiritual implications of illegitimate sexual activity.” In my experience, those who struggle greatly with impurity exhibit selfishness and a general lack of consideration in other areas.

Single men:  pornography and/or masturbation are training you to be selfish in bed which will affect your future marriage and violate the selflessness that you are commanded to have in all relationships including, if not especially, your marriage (even while having sex). Married men:  it takes an especially wicked degree of selfishness to perform such acts with anyone (including yourself) that is not the wife you have committed to.

There may be other sins that are involved such as laziness, a lack of gratitude to God, or unbelief in His promises, to name just a few. Be sure you are not so fixated on the main problem that you fail to prayerfully and realistically evaluate your life for other issues that may be peripheral or may turn out to be the actual main issue.

3. Why are you not physically satisfied by your wife?

Impurity will naturally affect your relationship and attraction to your wife, but I want you to also consider other issues in your marriage that may be hindering  your pursuit of purity and holiness. Are there marriage issues that need to be dealt with? Is your wife denying you her body in violation of 1 Corinthians 7:3? Are you depriving her? If so, why? Is your marriage upside down because you are not fulfilling your roles? These are just some questions to think through and may lead to a long overdue hard talk with your spouse. Perhaps a counselor should be sought.

4. Is a belief in a false generalization hindering your battle?

I understand that it is a roundabout way of sharing about an embarrassing struggle by referring to the sin that “all men struggle with.” This may be a generalization that you merely vocalize but do not believe. In case you do believe it, let me assure you that I know for a fact that not all men struggle with this issue. When it comes down to it, however, it really doesn’t matter how many people struggle with impurity. One of the dangers of believing this misconception is that you use it as a justification to give in to temptation (“after all, I am a man, and all men struggle with this, so…”). Additionally, there is danger in finding fellowship in that which Christ died for rather than Christ Himself.

5. Are you measuring success in days or holiness?

This ties into our first question, but I want to elaborate. Aids such as internet filters and accountability partners remove distractions so you can deal with the holiness of your heart. Do not fool yourself into thinking that you have conquered this sin because your internet block has kept you from looking at porn. After all, you have enough in your head to make you sin for the rest of your life without ever looking at another woman (or  man). Additionally, the fear of having to tell your accountability partner that you messed up is merely a help so you can start addressing the sin out of a fear of God. I often send my kids out to play in the backyard so I can focus on my work but it does no good if I send them out to play and just twiddle around on Facebook all day. Use the removal of temptations to get to work without distractions.

The sin of lust and its various outworkings (masturbation, pornography, unbiblical sex, spousal abuse, etc.) is downright nasty but also one of the sins that men and women often give up on or simply get used to. It must be battled in such a way that you can proverbially say you have torn out your eye (Matt. 5:29). In this post, I have written in a way so as to address a man’s lust for a woman though these questions should help in other scenarios whether heterosexual or homosexual. I pray this is a help to you in your pursuit of holiness and a high view of God.

You Can’t Hurt a Non-Existent Testimony

Won’t I be hurting my testimony if I refuse to go to my gay friend’s wedding?

This is a question that comes up in various forms (another would be:  …if I don’t go drinking with my friends after work?). The assumption is that declining one’s invitation will make you look judgmental causing unbelievers to deem you unloving which, in turn, ruins any chance of evangelism.

However, if your gay friend is surprised that you refuse to attend his wedding, then you haven’t established much of a testimony in the first place.

A Christian testimony is living out what you believe in a way that honors the Lord (i.e., is consistent with Scripture). Being a good testimony is not about making unbelievers comfortable or happy. It’s about lovingly and graciously living out the truth while keeping in mind that “loving and gracious” does not mean watering down or shutting up. Yes, this will make many uncomfortable and angry, but as long as God’s Word evokes these feelings, rather than your abrasive personality, it’s okay. God’s a big boy, He can take the hits; just make sure you get out of His way.

If you truly live the way God desires in your witness to others, your gay friends will respect you for what you believe because it fleshes out in your love for and service to them. They may invite you to their wedding out of respect, but they know you won’t attend because they are aware of your convictions (which include a non-judgmental love for them).

Although not everyone will respond in the same way, the point is that we cannot cower in fear in regards to our faith but, at the same time, must fuse our boldness and clarity with humility and grace. This is what a true Christian testimony is about.

Cultivating a High View of God

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Picture a simple light socket and bulb with 2 wires protruding from the base. Without a power supply attached to each wire, the light will not illuminate. If I were to pop out a couple batteries from my watch and attach one to each wire, the light bulb would produce light but ever so dimly. If I were to switch out those watch batteries for AAA’s, then D’s, then car batteries, and finally an electrical outlet in my home, the bulb would glow brighter and brighter.

The light bulb, here, is the gospel. Specifically, how much you value the gospel. One battery is a high view of God and the other is a high view of your sin. Each feeds the other, and the greater you understand who God is and the greater you understand how wicked you are, the more you will appreciate what He has done for you. This is the gospel.

If you have a low view of God and a low view of your sin, you will appreciate the gospel, but ever so dimly. The goal for the believer is to develop a high view of God and, subsequently, a high view of the wickedness of his sin, which will, in turn, help him appreciate the gospel that much more.

Christianity is not about a religion but a relationship. Like a child who grows to adulthood, the more he matures intellectually and emotionally, the more he appreciates the sacrifices his parents have made and, thus, obey more fully. As toddlers, we obey simply because that’s the way it is. Mommy says jump, I jump. There is a basic understanding of authority, and obedience is simply the only option. As we grow into teenagers, we know that disobedience has consequences. We know the rules and will get by with the minimum often obeying externally while our hearts are not into it. If given the chance to spend time with our parents or our friends, we will choose our friends every time. In the end, we obey to avoid punishment and to appease our parents if even at a bare minimum. When we are adults, we grow to appreciate all that our parents have done. We obey them not because we feel we have to, but because we absolutely adore them and want to do what pleases them. For example, when I visit my mom, and she whips up my favorite meal then asks me to do the dishes, I don’t do them expecting my $1 reward for chores nor do I fear being grounded for disobedience. No. I wash those dishes because I love my mom. I want to please her as I finally understand how much she has sacrificed for me over the years.

Nothing has changed with what my parents sacrificed for me. The only thing that has changed is my understanding of those sacrifices. The same idea comes with our relationship with God. However, one big difference between natural human growth and spiritual growth is that spiritual growth is not automatic. We must “work out our salvation with fear and trembling” and that begins with a high view of God and a high view of our sin.

So how do we cultivate such views? Isaiah’s vision in Isaiah 6 is a good starting point. Here’s a man who was already called by God to be a prophet. He had the right perspective, but this vision instantly blows up his view of God and himself. Let’s take a look.

1 In the year of King Uzziah’s death I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple.  2 Seraphim stood above Him, each having six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew.  3 And one called out to another and said, “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the LORD of hosts, The whole earth is full of His glory.”  4 And the foundations of the thresholds trembled at the voice of him who called out, while the temple was filling with smoke.  5 Then I said, “Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I live among a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.” 

The train of God’s robe represents His power and majesty. So great is God, that the train of His robe did not only cover His throne, but completely filled the temple. Were this vision to appear before me where I type, His train would smash through the door of my office filling my entire home, breaking through the threshold of my house then filling my street, blocking traffic and canvasing my neighbors windows casting a shadow over my entire  neighborhood. That is how great God is.

Then Isaiah sees the majestic seraphim, a type of angel. With their wings showing their reverence by covering their eyes, their humility by covering their feet, and their constant worship and praise in uninterrupted flight and calling out “Holy, holy, holy.”

Here, we see 2 ways that Isaiah instantly grew in his high view of God:  he saw God for who He is and he saw others see God for who He is. In other words, Isaiah didn’t just see a vision from God, he saw a vision of God. For us today, we are to read and meditate on the Word (see God for who He is) and spend time in true fellowship with God’s people (see others see God for who He is).

Now look at Isaiah’s response to this vision:  his instant high view of God led to an instant high view of his sin. So much so that he not only was afraid for his own life but also for that of the nation of Israel. The reason he had this reaction is because in that moment, he had a full realization that God’s holiness and man’s sin are totally incompatible. So how is it that we can worship God without fear of decimation? The gospel.

The higher view you have of God and the higher view you have of your sin, the greater appreciation you have for the gospel.

The beauty of all of this is as  you grow in these areas, you can unscrew the light bulb of the gospel and screw in the light bulb of prayer, a godly marriage, overcoming pornography, anxiety, and any other spiritual endeavor with which you struggle.

It all begins with a high view of God and a high view of sin.