Just “Christian”: No Adjective Needed

Hello again friends, brothers and sisters! Good to “see” you again. There are many things the Lord has revealed to me that I wanted to dig into for myself and to share with you, but as I heard a two-word phrase repeatedly referred to on a radio program, I couldn’t ignore addressing those two words which should never be juxtaposed. Just as you would never utter phrases like “burning ice” (it makes no sense), “soft brick” (contrary in nature) or “horizontal tree” (they don’t grow that way), the phrase “Gay Christian” is a spiritual and physical impossibility. No, I am not homophobic; nor am I a bigot or speaking hate. It is a just spiritual and kingdom reality. It is truth. Why?

Let’s start by focusing on what a Christian is and is not. Many people in America today, if you asked them what religion or belief system they most closely identified with, would answer Christian. But just because it’s what they “identify with,” it does not make them one. Many people would most certainly answer “yes” to the question “Do you believe in God?” Likewise, this does not hold up –for two reasons. One, because America and the world are becoming pluralistic (having many and false belief systems and, therefore, call things “God” which are not; there is only One). Two, even demons believe in God (James 2:19), but no one would call them Christians. Then there are many, many people all over the globe who claim to be Christian, Jewish or Muslim simply because they are born into a country where that religion is predominant; we would call them “cultural Jews” or “cultural Christians” or “cultural Muslims.” Yet that isn’t adequate. If you go to church and believe in God, does that meet the requirements? No. On the outside, it would seem to be the closest to hitting the mark, but it still comes up short. I know because that is my story. The Lord opened my eyes to that, and that’s when I became truly born-again (see John chapter three).

Believing that 2 + 2 = 4 or that E = mc2 doesn’t make one a mathematician. Believing or even observing the Law of Gravity at work in nature doesn’t make one a physicist. Likewise, knowing about God or simply believing in His omniscience, omnipotence and omnipresence doesn’t qualify one to bear the name of Christ, “CHRISTian.” So what does? Grace and Faith! For one thing, Jesus is the sinless Son of God and He IS God. He is the Judge, and God the Father has given Him all authority in Heaven and on earth. To bear His name, to be His ambassadors and disciples means we must submit to His authority as LORD, we must speak and act in accordance with the Truth, and we must deny ourselves and follow after Him. Since we know that God loves His creation, but is vehemently opposed to sin—especially willful sin (which most of homosexuality is)—how can one who commits such sin, even more so lives that lifestyle, claim to be a follower of Christ? How can he or she claim to call Him Lord when they live, act and believe in such a way that is diametrically opposed to what He has taught us and how He lived?

For another thing, in Luke’s Gospel account, chapter six and verse 46, the Lord Jesus asks “Why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord’ and not do what I tell you?’” 1 Corinthians 6: 9-10 says, “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God [will not go to Heaven]? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.” And still even more to the point and unambiguously in 1 John chapter 1, verses 8 and 10, “if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us… if we say we have not sinned, we make Him [God] a liar, and His Word is not in us.” There are many others, but I think you see the clarity in these scriptures.”

But, you may ask, these truths are predicated on the fact that being LGBTQ… is wrong. Where does the Bible say that? Fair question. I already listed one above (homosexuals will not enter Heaven), but look at Leviticus 18: 22 which says, “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.” That last word means it is a detestable act. Romans 1: 26-27 informs us “…for their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.” Genesis 19: 5-7 recounts, “And they called to Lot, ‘Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out so we may know them.’ Lot went out to the men at the entrance, shut the door after him, and said, ‘I beg you, brothers, do not act so wickedly.’” Additionally, when God created man and woman He gave them the command to “be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1: 27-28) in order to procreate, going from marriage to family to community to nation and beyond.

I would suggest reading not the gospel account of John, but the first of his three letters. This letter has only five chapters (about three pages) and speaks mainly about the love in the church, and how sin is not at all a trait of the Christian. As a matter of fact, it graciously but clearly admonishes that regularly occurring practice in a person is a mark of the unbeliever, no matter what they believe or profess. And this holds true for heterosexuals and all other kinds of iniquity and transgression as well.

You cannot simply claim to be a Christian. Surprisingly, most Bible translations use the word “believe” in places such as Mark 1: 15, Matthew 18: 6, Luke 8: 12, John 1: 7 and more when the much more exact word and idea (which the Greeks understood as inherent in the original language) carries the specificity that is lacking in just one English word. A better rendering is the verb “trust.” They are not necessarily the same thing. Better yet would be the definitive implication found in the phrase “trust in the Lord Jesus Christ for the salvation of your soul.” I repeat myself here to make the important and necessary point that just believing in Jesus—whether that is in His divinity, manhood, historical existence, that He was a carpenter, teacher (Rabbi), prophet or whatever else you may believe Him to be—is insufficient. He is all these things but more. He is “the Christ, the Son of the Living God,” as the Father revealed to Peter. This means He is the Messiah, the Anointed One, the fulfillment of many, many, many prophecies. He is one with the Father and the Holy Spirit. And yet, the most important of all is that He is the PROPITIATION for our sins.

What does that mean? Propitiation is the wonderfully exclusive word applied to Jesus Christ and Him alone. He is the atonement for our sins, yes. Atonement is the act of reconciling humankind to Almighty God; from our being adversarial in nature to being conciliatory in regards to our Creator, something WE cannot do. It bridges the gap between sinful man and holy God. That this is available to us in and of itself is huge! Without it we would die in our sins, be judged, found guilty and be forever separated from our Maker. And since there are only two eternal options for our souls, we would be deserving of Hell with all of its torment. And it is there that we will realize the earthly, taken-for-granted extent of God’s mercy and grace shown to even the unrepentant. He is our expiation also, which signifies that HE obeyed Almighty God by sacrificially dying in our place; something we would not do and could not do. He gave Himself in our place, giving of Himself to ransom us! We should have died—each and every one of us—because we are terribly stained with sin. We imperfect beings cannot dwell in and with the perfection of God. It is like oil and water. Even more astonishing than the atonement and the expiation is His propitiation. It is the placating or appeasing of God’s WRATH (fury, outrage, anger, indignation) due us! Almighty God is full of perfect, enduring and merciful love and that is why He offered a substitute in Christ in the first place. However patient and longsuffering our Creator and Redeemer is, and however many chances He may offer us to rethink and reorient our lives to be truly contrite is not an open-ended proposal or overture.

Again, you may ask “Since God is love, why is He wrathful?” Again, fair question. The Bible declares and we Christians can bear much witness to the fact that God is love, yes, but at the core of His essence or being is His HOLINESS. This is a difficult term for any one of us to wrap our limited and unholy minds around because we have no frame of reference. At our core, we are sinful and this is contrary to His nature. The word “holy” is challenging, in human terms, to come up with a good, solid, apt, able-to-be-rightly-grasped definition. In order for me to try to depict this for you, I will go to where the Lord has directed my heart in what I believe is the best context in all of the Bible by which we can come away with some degree of proper understanding. Even though there are many passages which use the word “holy” in and throughout scripture, Isaiah 6: 3-5 does so uniquely and vividly. For one thing, this group of verses conveys the prophet’s vision of the Lord God in Heaven itself! Given to Him by God. He tells us that all of the seraphim (worshiping angels who dwell continually in God’s presence) exclaim, “HOLY, HOLY, HOLY IS THE LORD OF HOSTS [all created things]; THE EARTH IS FULL OF HIS GLORY!” The angels of Heaven use the word three times to magnify and exalt the Almighty. Obviously, it is the most appropriate and highest form of praise. Secondly, this is a difficult three verses to understand because of the imagery Isaiah uses to attempt to describe – without a tangible or intangible, human frame of reference—what he sees in the glorious, holy, dwelling place and presence of Almighty God! Thirdly, in verse five, he says fearfully, “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips [and he is a prophet called and appointed by the Lord], and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips [on earth]; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” These five things are what the Spirit revealed to me as I sought Him for answers, and to be able to explain this to myself and to you.

1) WRATH is the normal, just, divine consequence of continual rebellion and disobedience in the face of God’s supreme and Almighty authority.
2) WRATH is the punishment deserved by continual scorn, mocking and rejection of the love, mercy and forgiveness freely- and unduly- offered by the very One whose pardon is spurned and devalued.
3) WRATH is the natural outcome of, and response to, unrelenting disobedience toward the sovereignty and supreme benevolence of God Almighty, while simultaneously following after the prince of the power of the air (Satan).
4) WRATH is the result of virtually unlimited forbearance, longsuffering, endurance and steadfast kindness shown to the undeserving and impenitent heart of man after all means of reconciliation and warnings have gone ignored and unheeded. It is the ultimate end when justice and injustice/ lawlessness collide.
5) WRATH is the venting of the full measure of due divine, proper, righteous anger towards sin which has been stored up, while the full measure and message of undue love, mercy, compassion, forgiveness and salvation has been proclaimed and freely poured out to all humankind through the Word of God and His messengers (prophets and saints) throughout the ages, up to the present moment until the end.

The timing for this is perfect, too, because I heard a comment, briefly, on another Christian radio program yesterday where one of the two guys talking on the show made a comment about how some words in the English language should be set apart solely for using when describing or talking about God. I thought that was a great idea! Here in our conversation today, we find one: Holy. We can attempt to explain it the best we are able, but nothing will ever quite suffice. HOLY means to be sacred, without blemish, sinless, undefiled, just, morally upright, perfect and complete in every conceivable way (these are to all be taken together; not simply individual synonyms), PURE, nothing needing or able to be taken away from or added to in order to make it better; pure in thought and speech, in deed and form and essence. Think of it this way: We have been conceived and born in sin (Psalm 51: 5); from even before the moment we came into the world we were unclean, spotted and impure. So it is not like we were once sinless or pure and have fallen, looking or gazing upward to what we once were. No. We have never been pure, blameless or holy so we cannot even imagine or fathom it in a personal or experiential way. It is something we can only hope to comprehend or grasp from afar through God’s revelatory Word, or directly from the Holy Spirit. That is one reason elsewhere in the book of Isaiah it reads, “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.”

So in a very real and true sense, we cannot put two people together in a marriage covenant, dating relationship or business partnership (to name just a few practical arrangements) who are not both born-again, committed disciples/ followers of the Lord Jesus Christ as He is self-revealed in the Word of God (2 Corinthians 6: 14-18), and be true to Him at the same time. Jesus told us in Matthew 6: 24 that we would love one and hate the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. We cannot be consumed with the ways of the world and the kingdom simultaneously. Why? There are competing interests and forces at work; two repelled magnets. In the same way, you cannot still be a sinner in the eyes of the Lord and a Christian at the same time. These are opposing natures and longings. This is idolatry. You cannot embrace or hold onto what Christ calls wrong and be called by His precious name at the same time. You cannot be a vulgar or lewd Christian. You cannot be a murderous Christian. You cannot be a thief and a Christian. You cannot be a drunkard and a Christian. You cannot be a scandalous Christian. And you cannot be a gay (LGBTQ……) Christian. You cannot.

Even though some denominations who once clearly understood this godly and logical principle from the clear pages of the Word of God have somehow now been deceived—perhaps by their desire to gain souls for the kingdom, and fear that God’s holy ways would be rejected by the very ones they hoped to save—into thinking, espousing, teaching and enacting wrong doctrine so as to accept sinful and rebellious (unwilling to change, repent, ask for forgiveness) people, unite them and even “anoint” them as “ministers” of God. This is unabashed defilement of the Church which the Lord Jesus Christ established. This must not be so. Scripture tells us in Acts 17: 10-11 that there were Jews who lived in Berea who were “more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the Word with all eagerness, examining the scriptures daily to see if these things were so.” Ephesians 5:11 exhorts us to “take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them” (and this is smack dab in the middle of the passage with the commandment to walk in love; they are compatible with each other). Romans 16: 17-18 explains that we are to “watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naïve.”

Is this all mean-spirited, hateful and bigoted as many, many would unhesitantly call it today? No. Rather, it is perfect instruction and exhortational wisdom from the mouth of God so that His true Church would BE and REMAIN HOLY even as He is holy (Leviticus 11: 44, 1 Peter 1: 15-16). Once you receive Christ’s blood-bought free gift, be committed, lose your life and gain life in Him. This is not something to play with or dabble in. These are eternal matters. God bless you!

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The Lordship of Sin

We like to think we are free beings, but we are not. We are free by design and free to choose, but most of our choices imprison us. What do I mean by this? I mean that most of our decisions and subsequent actions end up limiting us and giving us consequences (and this is because they are self-serving rather than for the benefit of others). Think about this for a minute, as an example. When the road sign reads “Speed Limit 70,” we usually interpret this for ourselves to mean “Go At Least 70.” And this is only if we don’t see a member of law enforcement nearby. Even if we do see one and slow down, it isn’t because we respect his authority; it’s because we fear getting a steep fine. Am I right?

Using another traffic analogy, why is it we disobey our parents’, teachers’ and employers’ authority on a regular basis (at least in our minds and attitudes), yet will virtually always obey inanimate objects such as speed bumps, stop signs and red lights? Is it because we don’t view our obedience to them as submitting to them? Is it because we don’t recognize or acknowledge them as having any authority? However, the truth is that if they communicate something to us in terms of a law or regulation- and they were placed there by a human institution of authority (government, Department of Transportation, or police)- then they are authoritative, by nature and in purpose. It is the same with the Word of God.

The word LORD in a worldly dictionary has as its primary definition “someone or something having power, authority, or influence; a master or ruler.” This is not far from the scriptural meaning, but the idea clearly conveyed is that everyone else is, therefore, subject to, under, or in submission to, that person or institution. So, what does the term LORDSHIP mean? A good definition according to Merriam-Webster is “the territory under the jurisdiction of a lord.” To state it more precisely is to say that lordship is the cover of establishment or authority over an area or domain or people which it presides.

In short, you are subject to obeying something or someone (a Lord) voluntarily or against your will depending upon rewards, consequences, personality, temperament, environment/ culture, example, upbringing, need, want, degree of foreseen choice and other influences. To use again the traffic correlation, if you obey a red light as you approach a 4-way intersection, and the car in the lane next to you does not (in essence telling himself it is green as he proceeds to run it), then the car legally coming through the light that has now turned truly green for him from the perpendicular road will hit the disobedient one near you. Now, because of the disobedience of that vehicle next to you, his car, the obedient car and possibly even your car are in a mess! Insurance companies get involved, the police show up (maybe even an ambulance), traffic is all in a jam, people around or behind you are delayed or even late for their jobs, appointments, picking their kids up from school and more.

Okay, now that the word picture I’ve painted is clear and lingering in your mind, consider this: disobedience is a light word for sin. We have already explained and established how lordship is the act of having authority over someone. Whether we think we are free is really more than just the idea of what we perceive as independence or autonomy. Most of us view freedom as simply a lack of hindrance, restraint or accountability. No limits and no boundaries.

The Word of God, the BIBLE, says something very true and very interesting. You might never have thought about it this way before. In the book of Romans, the 6th chapter and the 16th verse it says, “Do you not know that if you present 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?” What this is saying is that you are always going to obey something or someone. If you obey (put yourself under lordship to) that which is good and right and lawful- ultimately God- you are headed in the right direction. But if you put yourself under the lordship of sin (disobedience), there will always be a price and a consequence. The only true and eternal and universally sovereign Lord is JESUS CHRIST. So, you have a choice. Will you submit to the lordship of Christ and His righteousness (to be morally right and justified before Almighty God) or to the lordship of sin and death? Make it a good one; both the here and now, and eternity depend on it. God bless you.

Personalizing the Gospel

If a person has grown up with low self-esteem, low self-worth, thinks or has been told they will never measure up, etc. how is telling them they are sinners in need of a Savior going to communicate a DIFFERENT message to them? In fact, if that’s all we tell them, it might even serve to REINFORCE how they feel about themselves instead. This is the word the Lord revealed to me recently and it has opened my eyes.

Don’t misunderstand me at all, please! We don’t want to avoid any part of the Lord’s redeeming news but we also do not want to change it, water it down, make it more palatable, or offer it as a euphemism (more on that in the near future; that’s another revelation). We need to deal with them, their situation and background personally, individually and uniquely. Take a look at how our Savior dealt with the woman at the well (John 4:4-26). Or re-read how G-d incarnate used His combination of power and compassion (in Mark 5:6-13) to forever change the man imprisoned by many demons. How did the Son of Man handle the humiliating and public spectacle between the Pharisees and the adulterous woman (John 8:1-11)? And notice Jesus Christ’s heart and methodology concerning two men, each with debilitating, outward conditions and circumstances but with consistent internal issues (see John 5:14ff and John 9:2-3).

In John 4:4-26 Jesus started His conversation with the Samaritan woman by asking her for a drink of water from the well where she had been drawing it. He knew, first of all, that His very exchange with her was a little unexpected and culturally controversial, to say the least; we see this in her response in verse nine, especially the parenthetical words. He then turned the need He had into a need He knew that she had. His was physical and temporary while hers was spiritual and eternal. This seemingly impromptu meeting falls perfectly in line with His stated earthly mission found in Luke 19:10, “For the Son of Man came to seek and save the lost.”

We find in Mark 5:6-13 that although the demon-possessed man appears to have approached Him, our Messiah had chosen this place to moor the boat He and His disciples were in. The Lord entered into a dialogue with this tormented soul with a question, knowing that the answer would provide insight into his present condition- on the surface physical and emotional, but the root cause behind these awful symptoms was, again, spiritual. And He addressed them as such.
A very well-known passage documented in John 8:1-11 begins by the hard-hearted religious leaders bringing very public attention to a woman’s private, but probably ongoing, sin. (This story illustrates two very different motives and, therefore, very different actions and paths taken towards each one’s goal). Jesus’ words to them in response is designed not to minimize or trivialize her obvious transgression, but rather to acknowledge it by putting everyone gathered on the same iniquitous playing field. It was not sarcastic nor was it adding fuel to the fire the Pharisees and onlookers had hoped to ignite (to detract from their own convictions, no doubt). It was designed to point out the universality of sin. The message was not lost on the leaders and other hearers as they dropped their “weapons” and walked away. The Son of God then turns His attention and His brief interchange with the woman to the core issue in her life and says only what is necessary for conviction and repentance in these words, “…Go, and from now on SIN NO MORE.”

As we take a look at the men mentioned earlier, let’s first focus on John 5:1-14 which is the setting for much compassion, much heavenly tenderness. As scripture says, there was a “multitude of invalids- blind, lame and paralyzed.” One particular gentleman had been suffering for almost 40 years! The Lord knew the heart of the severely afflicted man was the same as all who were there (as far as wanting relief was concerned), but He focused his attention to this specific soul and, again, asked a question, “Do you want to be healed?” After giving him a miraculous and transformationally-healing command to take up his mat and walk, He gets to the heart of the cause-and-effect relationship in this man’s life in the form of a stern admonition, “See you are well! SIN NO MORE, that nothing worse may happen to you.” Jesus’ encounter with this man was pointed. The Lord’s compassion for his physical well-being was surpassed only by His original mission statement- His life focus- “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” With such a global and far-reaching ministry, His great love and mercy for the INDIVIDUAL never wavered or diminished; it was the same directive He gave to His original, hand-picked, dozen disciples as He said to them, “Follow Me and I will make you fishers of men.”

A little further in the same Gospel account (chapter 9, verses 1-7), our Master focuses on a blind man. In this situation the disciples ask the Lord if it was this man or his parents who had sinned, assuming that his condition was a cause-and-effect issue like the man we just spoke of. After all, total blindness is certainly a hard and extremely-limiting state of life. Even today, and as judgmental as the human race is, we assume a similar posture or curiosity. Jesus explains to His followers that, in this case, it is not due to sin but to show the watching world the power of G-d. Our Redeemer then proceeded to act on this man’s behalf in His mercy, while simultaneously showing Himself to be G-d by restoring his sight (this had never before been done in all of human history). Further, and more importantly, the only words Christ Jesus actually spoke directly to this sightless individual were these, “Go, wash in the Pool of Siloam.” As wonderful as the command was to wash so as to see for the first time, how much more excellent was the spiritual lesson and benefit to be cleansed and regenerated in the heart and soul! Additionally, nothing with G-d is coincidental; no words or actions are in vain or wasted by Him. We are told that the name Siloam means “sent.” As we believers are sent into the world to share the Gospel (it is the “POWER of God unto salvation”- Romans 1:16), this man was sent to his friends and neighbors to testify personally to the power and divinity of Jesus Christ (verses 11-12).

Going back to those who may think and act in a manner consistent with a lack of foundational love, maybe that’s all he or she has ears for (hears). Right now, his or her concept of salvation may be merit-based or performance-based. He or she can’t even see the connection between sin (choices) and eternal death or earthly discipline (consequences). His or her bad choices and decisions bear themselves out in many ways, and the more obvious ones reap MORE negative responses from parents to teachers to employers to law enforcement.

Do we need to know and realize our predisposition to sin, and become fully aware of our sinful state before a righteous, just and holy heavenly Father? Yes! Scripture reaffirms this by saying that a main ministry of the Holy Spirit is to “convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment” (John 16:8). But what is this without the HOPE (full assurance) of salvation? Remember Jesus Christ came to seek out and SAVE the lost. Salvation is the aim. That is the “Good News.” The knowledge that we are sinful is the purpose of the Law (Ten Commandments), to make us aware of our need for G-d’s grace. And it is this grace which was made incarnate in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. And it is this grace, the free and undeserved gift of G-d, that was lived out on the Cross. And it is this grace in the form of His shed blood that can be applied to our lives for the forgiveness of sins, which is the highest expression of compassion and tenderness one can know and appropriate (take for oneself, take possession of). The Lord Jesus Christ speaks the words, and His example and actions and life back them up. He is faithful and true. God bless you.