On Speedos and Bikinis: Males and Modesty and the Lack Thereof

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I hope to challenge the popular paradigm on modesty. I invite interaction, as I’m sure my thesis can be tightened up. This is generally how I hear it stated. Bad boys lust, and bad girls want to be lusted after. Some women get angry when they hear that they should dress with modesty. After all, shouldn’t men learn how to control themselves? Ungodly men put all the responsibility on them, and blame them for rape culture. Godly men put the responsibility on themselves, and still gently challenge women to dress with modesty. I agree that men should learn how to control themselves, and I also agree that women should dress with modesty. I recently found an excellent article on modesty from Ben Zornes, here.

But I also want to challenge what seems to be a misconception. What I see as a common misconception is that men lust and women want to be lusted after. It is true, but it leaves out the fact that often women lust and men want to be lusted after. This does not deny differences between men and women. This does not deny male headship in marriage. It is primarily an argument that asserts that while lust is a male problem, it is also a human problem. Thus, I also want to assert that modesty is not only a female problem, but also a human problem.

My argument begins in Genesis 39. This is the story of Potiphar’s wife and Joseph. In the ESV, in chapter 39:7, Potiphar’s wife lusts after Joseph: “And after a time his master’s wife cast her eyes on Joseph and said, ‘Lie with me.’” This immediately follows the line where the text describes Joseph as “handsome in form and appearance.” My argument is not that Joseph was being immodest. My argument is that in the Bible we see an example of how men have bodies, and women sometimes lust after those bodies. Thankfully, we see an example of how a man did not give into his own lust, and fled her lust. The next step in my argument is that those men who do not flee this lust, often seek after the lust of women through variations of immodesty.

Many men know that they have strength and form, and sometimes they flaunt this in the same way as women seek to flaunt their beauty. Think about the man on the beach who is flaunting his rippling pectoral muscles as he swaggers around shirtless, or the dude on the basketball court who has cut back the sleeves on his shirt as much as possible so that all the chicks in the bleachers can see his shoulder muscles bulging out. Or even all the dudes on the movies who are showing off their abs and biceps. There are men out there who are looking for attention. Sometimes it expresses itself in their desire for women to see their muscly chests or butts.

Of course, this is just an expression of the central sin that cuts through the heart of every man and woman: pride. But for males, this sin has a very particular expression: bragging. Men can brag through their words, but also through the clothes they wear, or lack of clothing they wear. Clothing, or lack thereof, can draw attention to the strength that they want to show off for the world too see, particularly for all the girls who will ‘oooo’ and ‘awww’ over their six-pack and bulging biceps.

This argument does not justify feminine immodesty, or vanity, or pride. This is only intended to say that there is a male problem out there, and it is largely not talked about. This does not mean that the church should stop challenging feminine immodesty in our culture.

Of course, my aim is not to make every athletic and/or muscular male out there feel ashamed of himself. Joseph was a man who sought to serve the Lord and he was ‘handsome in form and appearance’. In 2 Samuel 23, David’s mighty men are described as powerful and strong. This passage in Samuel is one of the most B.A. descriptions of the fighting men of the Lord in the Bible. David himself was ruddy and good looking.

But David also confesses to the Lord in Psalm 18:35, among a record of his feats of strength, that “You have given me the shield of your salvation, and your right hand supported me, and your gentleness made me great.” In fact, the entire Psalm is a confession of reliance on God. Of course, a man can be immodest in his confession of reliance on God: “Look how great God has made me!!!!!!” But a man can also be modest and humble in his confession of reliance on God. In vs. 31, King David says in humility: “For who is God, but the LORD? And who is a rock, except our God?” God gets the glory.

What I have sought to prove here, is that in love for our Christian sisters, Christian men should also seek to cultivate a Christian modesty. This applies to both words and clothing. This does not mean that they should give up on helping out their wives and daughters to cultivate modesty. Christian women must repent of their lust, but we can’t do that for them. Instead, we can repent of our own lust and our own pride. We can humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God, and begin to cultivate a life of modesty and humility that really seeps down into the very fiber of our being. That doesn’t give us an excuse for being pansies. It just gives us a reason to glorify God as we do battle for His glory. And to seek humility and grace as we do it. As C.S. Lewis once said: “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.”

Cheers, and have a good day!

Some Creationist Resources

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A couple Young Earth Creation resources for your consideration:

“Is Genesis History?” directed by Thomas Purifoy. You can watch the movie here.

“Creation in Six Days: a Defense of the Traditional Reading of Genesis 1” by James Jordan. You can buy the book here.

“In Six Days God Created” by Paulin Bedard. You can buy the book here.

“A Shot of Faith to the Head: be a Confident Believer in an Age of Cranky Atheists” by Dr. Mitch Stokes. You can buy the book here.

The Answers in Genesis website can be found here, and the Creation Ministries International write here.

Dr. Gordon Wilson, my former biology professor at New Saint Andrews College has written a textbook, and has a documentary here.

In addition, Kuyperian Commentary has blogged about and interviewed Thomas Purifoy on the movie “Is Genesis History?” There is some good material over at Kuyperian.

Dr. Ted Van Raalte, Pastor Wes Bredenhof, Pastor Jim Witteveen, and Jon Dykstra, have done some blogging over at Creation Without Compromise.

Dr. John Byl blogs over on his blog entitled bylogos, and has written a number of books including God and Cosmos: A Christian View of Time, Space, and the Universe (2001) and The Divine Challenge: On Matter, Mind, Math & Meaning (2004).

This is just a start!

Be Watchful. Stand Firm in the Faith. Act Like Men. Be Strong.

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I should explain my D-Day metaphor for women in office in the church a little further. The Reformed Churches in the Netherlands just accepted women in office. This is not only in the office of elder and deacon, but also in the office of minister. These Reformed Churches in the Netherlands are sister churches to the FRCA and the Canadian Reformed Churches. It is a major and a dissapointing move, because their church network is one of the most theologically rigorous in the world.

The act of putting women into office on a practical level is like putting a women out on the front lines of a military operation. Only cowardly men do that because they don’t want to be shot at themselves, and so they send out their women in front of them. We see one example of this in Judges 4:8 where Barak tells Deborah “if you will go with me, I will go, but if you will not go with me, I will not go.” They are talking about going up and defeating the armies of Sisera.

The book of Judges is a book of failed men and powerful and fearless women. Deborah responds: “I will surely go with you; nevertheless there will be no glory for you in the journey you are taking, for the Lord will sell Sisera into the hand of a woman.” There is no glory in Barak’s decision. The fact that the book of Judges is full of failed men and powerful and fearless women, is not a reprimand to the women, rather, it is a reprimand to the men. There was no king in the land.

The commission of an office-bearer, is to exhort and to give rebukes in the New Testament times. And Paul sends out Timothy and Titus too the front lines, not Lydia and the other honorable ladies in the church. It would be cowardice to send out a women to rebuke a man who is making trouble or deep in some other form of sin. It is not that a woman is unable to do that, its that she should not do that. That doesn’t mean that women don’t hold a very high role in teaching and encouraging younger women, it simply means that the often embattled offices of minister and elder and deacon should be given to the men. Where are the men? If the men aren’t stepping into these roles, we shouldn’t be blaming the women for this. Yes, their responsibilities are theirs, but we are responsible for us.

The overarching view of the hermeneutic that took over the CRC was a cultural commentary. Paul was culturally bound, and so we are loosing those social constraints on our churches. But this is a poor hermeneutic because Paul was challenging the culture of his day by giving women such an honorable role as He did in the church. Paul was not a malechauvinist or a feminist. Our response to the culture around us is not only insulting to the men, but also the women. Remember that when Paul writes, this is the Word of God.

“This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church.” This is not jumping topics. The call of marriage in Scripture is to push men to be more Christ-like. This is part of the reason why marriage is between one man and one woman. The call of the Church is to be push men to be more Christlike. It was a man who brought the human race crashing into sin, and it was a second Man who redeemed the human race. For men to give up their responsibilities in leading the church, they deny who Christ is: the second Adam who came to redeem His bride from the curse of sin. Could Christ have been a woman? The very thought is blasphemy, but this question has been asked me. More than once. I always wonder what weird hermeneutical twist brought up that question.

The question for men who might be identified as conservative or fundamentalist Christians is this: will we stand up, grow a back bone, and serve in our churches with grace and love? Gentleness in leadership is a sign of strength because there is a security in your role. Maybe we lack leadership because we lack men, and this criticism hits home with me too. I often see my failings. But the answer isn’t to back down from the task. That’s not courage. If the men at D-day had sailed back to Britain and then sent there women across, the Nazi Reich would be part of our daily life. The key to courage is to be men and to jump out of those ships even when bombs are flying all around, and the artillery from the beaches are wiping out entire platoons of soldiers. It’s not that the woman would be unable to storm Normandy, it’s more that we should not put them in that position. It’s because we know that if we fight today there will be peace tomorrow. It doesn’t mean that we are any less scared. The thought of heading back to Britain is almost weird. But this is exactly what denominations are doing by the score. And then I can say kudos to the Deborahs who stick a goad under the seat of the pants of the Baraks, and the Jaels who pull out tent-stakes, and the women who drop millstones on the heads of wicked kings. But then we have to realize that we are the men in these passages. And that’s embarrassing. For both the men and the women.

I can thank mothers who drive on their sons and husbands to be leaders, and then wives who do that for the next generation of men and take on the task in training the next generation. There is no dishonour to being a woman in the church. That is why the Hebrew meaning of the word for women is fire, and the word for men only means dirt. The woman is the glory of the man. She is the bride, the crowning jewel of the man. Her opinion is of the highest importance. She should be well educated, listened to, loved and cherished. But to put the sword in her hand as we run for the hills is cowardice, and fails to imitate Christ and His church.

Be Watchful. Stand Firm in the Faith. Act Like Men. Be Strong. Let all that you do be done in love. I Cor. 16: 13-14

 

Does Your Interpretation of Genesis 1 have Gospel Implications?

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I find it interesting how with recent “gospel coalitions” across the country, the interpretation of Genesis 1 has been set on the sidelines as an unimportant issue. But here, I will posit a number of reasons on why it is an important issue, even an issue that touches on the heart of the gospel.

First, this debate highlights the meaning of words. Do words actually mean something? Is it right or even intellectually honest to equivocate on words and change meanings as we run down a line of reasoning? Or is God’s Word clear in its most basic sense? What does the word ‘incarnation’ mean to you? Remember, we live in an age of re-definitions.

Second, there is a lot of philosophy that comes to bear on the intellectual level of this discussion. Higher criticism of the 1800s and 1900s has done a lot of speculative deconstruction of the Old Testament. Many interpretations of Genesis 1 are based on 200 year old theories. I’m always wary of the words ‘it is not possible’, when much of the science done has been done in our century, not when the words were written. Scientists who pretend that philosophy has no impact on their science, need to study the philosophy of science.

Third, the science behind much of this debate pretends to do what only history can do. Science looks at the data, but once you start writing stories, you have left the data and entered into the world of philosophy and literature. Evolution is only a story posited as an eikos mythos (likely story) for the data.

Fourth, the terms ‘faith & science’ can be a real red herring. I’ve realized that the more I study this, there is a false dichotomy between the two that has been wielded on me by people much smarter than I am. Science studies the appearances, faith sees what is unseen, or it sees the reality behind the appearances. And of course, it makes sense of everything.

The Bible is God’s Word, and it shapes our thinking, rather than our thinking shaping Scripture. We should be alert to the various ways that we impose our own thinking on Scripture, and be slow to jump the boat just because someone who holds our view isn’t so bright. However, in our interpretation, we must consider how Scripture interprets itself. When we start to do our own thing, this will have implications on the gospel.

Rebellion and Jesus

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I’m from the generation of highschoolers that had some of the Christian “rebel stuff” come out. Take for example Lecrae’s song ‘fanatic’ or ‘rebel’ or ‘don’t waste your life’ were popular among many young people interested in faith. Christian rap has been famous for this. Although I never read it, Alex and Brett Harris put out a book called the ‘rebelution’. It seems that much of this literature finds some of its historical roots in the Jesus Freak movement of the 60s and 70s.

In highschool I tended to dismiss it all as silly reactionary stuff. Admittedly, it isn’t the height of literature. But now I realize a bit more that there was something to it.

There has always been a struggle between the way of Christ and the way of Satan since the beginning of the world. But North America was particularly shocked by the sexual revolution in the 60s and 70s. On the one hand, sexual mores and standards were chucked out the window, with a public carelessness that had not been heard of for a long time. On the other hand, the culture was only bringing a carelessness about God’s standards to the surface that had been brewing underneath the surface of morality and a veneer of public piousity.

This is a bit of an over-simplification, but our culture for the last 60 years has been a series of rebellions against the status quo. Obviously, for a rebellion to happen against the status quo, the status quo must exist. But every time a new status quo is established, a new rebellion must happen. It is the way of young people to desire something better, a better world, and then by the time they are 30, they start to become disillusioned and settle for a new status quo. That being said, often the desire for a better world, is undefined and wickedness becomes more prominent.

In our world, you see an eternal struggle between the young and the old. Of course, different personalities reveal this differently. Some love conflict and others love peace. One place you see this is at its height is between fathers & sons. Sons will shut down or fight back. Fathers will clamp down or give up. Often there is a whole spectrum in between. Fathers & sons are at the heart of the struggle between the old and the new, but it is not limited to this relationship.

Now, I find it striking that the Old Testament ends off with these words: “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.” Ultimately, it recognizes a very real human struggle that lies at the heart of society. Titus 3:3 recognizes the problem on a more general level: “For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another.

Jesus seems to give contradictory words about what He came to do about the problem of in-fighting and rebellion. When Jesus departed, He said “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27) At another point, Matthew 10:34-39, He states:

 “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to ‘set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law’; and ‘a man’s enemies will be those of his own household.’ He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it.”

It strikes me that rebellion is a problem, because Jesus came to bring peace. But it also strikes me that Jesus encouraged rebellion. I find it striking that division in families is a problem, but that Jesus also came to bring division. It is also striking that the last command of the Old Testament is to bring families back together. It may be that a Biblically defined rebellion is on route to this peace.

The way I have solved the problem up until this point is to look at the composition of the word ‘peacemaker’. To be a peacemaker is to be actively ‘making’ peace. Jesus was not passive when He went to a cross, but He was waging war on the prince of this world. He was enacting violence on Satan, because there He crushed the head of Satan. Because we live in a broken world, the peaceful Christian will not get away from fighting, and the fighters will not get away from the call to make peace. The rebellious kid will be called away from his/her rebellion, but the good kid will be called to a rebellious attitude.

But the key to this is what is the underlying definition of this word rebellion. Rebellion must be defined by Scripture. Conflict and its resolution must be defined by the Word of God. So rebels can both be commended and rebuked, and nice guys can be both commended and rebuked. But it must be on the basis of the Word. The person they are called to look to is Jesus Christ.

So yes, it is important to be a rebel and it is important to be a nice guy, but the key is our rational, or the ‘why’ behind it. This is why the most productive debates happen when people press each other for reasons, and have a common authority. Answers often come after battles.

Lecrae concludes his song ‘fanatic’ with these words:

So we show them the love of Christ and live in the light
So they can glorify our God when they look at our life
And we win for sharing the truth and hearts get changed
We win if we’re rejected because of his name
We win if seeds get planted and watered and grow
But even if we lost, we still be Fanatical though

Or as Paul continues his song of praise for the greatness of God before the young pastor Titus:

For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another. But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

When this happens, and only then, will the hearts of the sons be turned towards their fathers, and the hearts of the fathers to their sons. Christ takes center stage. If He is not, the battle must continue.

Was the Reformation Schismatic?

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One of the things I have been looking at more recently is the charge of schism aimed at Reformed Churches by the Roman Catholic Church. In a recent post over on the blog ‘Called to Communion’ Jeremy de Haan makes a comment about schism and the Reformation Churches. He calls on Protestants to break with the Reformation: “It would mean recognizing that the five-hundred-year separation from the Church to whom we once belonged is a schism, a sin condemned in no uncertain terms by Scripture, and a sin born of following the divisive light of men, not the unifying illumination of the Spirit.” You can read his post here.

Now, this specific post is part of an extensive debate over interpretation. But this charge in particular is a hefty charge, and one that I have been thinking over as I study the Reformation and the issue of schism in the Church of Jesus Christ. After all, in his book ‘Inferno’, Dante places schismatic church leaders in their own section of Hell. So for a Roman Catholic to launch that schism grenade over into our churches, is quite the move to make. Depending on which Roman Catholic is making the statement, it could be quite a damning statement.

This has brought me to ask the question: how did the Reformers respond to the question of schism? They actually responded to it quite extensively, and one of the most excellent responses I have found is in Guido de Bres’ appendix to the Belgic Confession. You can read it in its entirety part way down this page.

What was Guido de Bres doing in this confession? My understanding of the key debate between the Roman Catholic Church and our churches is the source of our authority. The RCC does not deny that Scripture is an authority, but places the authority of the church on par with Scripture. As such, it is the RCC who claims to have the proper interpretation of the holy Scriptures. In response to the view of Trent, Danny Hyde quotes from the Ten Theses of Berne: “The holy catholic church, whose sole head is Christ, has been begotten from the Word of God, in which also it continues, nor does it listen to the voice of any stranger” (Welcome To a Reformed Church, 36). In other words, the Reformation never rejected the authority of the holy catholic church (to be distinguished from the sect established in Rome), but rather, the Reformation argued that the holy catholic church was to be submitted to the Word of God. De Bres’ central aim was to go back to the Word.

Guido de Bres explicitly responds to the accusation of schism in his preface to the King. These are bold words and they speak of his passionate love for the Church of Jesus Christ:

“Through this confession, as we hope, you will acknowledge that we are unjustly vilified as schismatics or as disturbers of the unity of society, as disobedient and as heretics, since we are committed to and confess not only the most fundamental points of the Christian faith that are contained in the symbols of the common faith but also the whole doctrine revealed by Jesus Christ for a life of righteousness and salvation. This doctrine was preached by the evangelists and apostles, sealed in the blood of so many martyrs, preserved purely and wholly in the early church; until it was corrupted through the ignorance, greed, and the lust for praise of the preachers, through human discoveries and human institutions contrary to the purity of the gospel.”

Guido de Bres, is simply echoing the words of Wyclif, Hus, Luther, and Calvin in this confession. This whole introduction is a cry for protection from persecution. As Hus himself said in one of his last letters: “I write this in prison in fetters, which I am wearing, I trust, for the gospel of God, expecting every moment the sentence of death. For God’s sake, I pray you suffer not good priests to be oppressed.” (The Letters of Jan Hus, 274).

What happens when the Church of Jesus Christ drives away men who are seeking to faithfully preach the gospel, excommunicating them and burning them at the stake? Well, they are rebelling against their Head, and bringing division into the Church of Christ. The Belgic Confession is not the Word of God, but it definitely reflects the Word of God when it makes this statement about false churches: “As for the false Church, it ascribes more power and authority to itself and its ordinances than to the Word of God… and persecutes those who live holily according to the Word of God and rebuke it for its errors, covetousness, and idolatry.” (BC 29)

If you look at the anatomy of a conflict, the Reformation is about as messy as it gets. But the charred bodies, the excommunications, and the banned books of godly men testify to what happened during this time. If you open up the Word of God and then read the hundreds of confessions and catechisms that these men wrote, you will see that much of this Reformation was not of men, but of God. The Word of God really did give birth to the Reformation. The Word of God really did give birth to the many confessions and catechisms of the Reformation.

The Roman Catholic Church and Reformed, Presbyterian, Lutheran, and Anglican Churches have suffered from a 500 year impasse. The call to be reformed according to Scripture still goes out, and it is not coming from the Roman Catholic Church. They prefer instead the precarious safety net of popes and councils who so often err and contradict themselves. While it is dangerous to embark on a journey to study God’s Word in its fullness, it is still the safest place to be.

Matthew 7:24-27 “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”

Ephesians 2:19-22 “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.”

Smoke & Mirrors: Scholarship and Genesis 1

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There is nothing more beautiful than a reflection off the waters or a mist rising from a lake. There is still no way to catch that vapour. To coral it, and hold it off from finding its way away from the earth.

This vapour is used as a metaphor by Solomon as he talks about the different pursuits of life. Its application to academics is something I have always found particularly interesting. I was taking the philosophy of math and broader western philosophy in my third year of college, and I was walking out of class everyday with a headache on the issues I was trying to wrap my mind around. Solomon’s Book of Ecclesiastes had astounded me since I was 16 and wrestling with the vanity of life. It astounded me so much that  I wrote an entire term paper on it for theology in 3rd year of college (probably to cope with the philosophy of math/science and western philosophy). This line in particular aligns with the topic at hand:

“I said in my heart, ‘I have acquired great wisdom, surpassing all who were over Jerusalem before me, and my heart has had great experience of wisdom and knowledge.’ And I applied my heart to know wisdom and to know madness and folly. I perceived that this also is but a striving after wind. For in much wisdom is much vexation, and he who increases knowledge increases sorrow.” Ecclesiastes 1:16-18

Now this is not an excuse for being unacademic. Hence, I realized that I needed to finish my fourth year of college and enter into a four year M.Div. program. Knowledge increases sorrow, yes, but the key is to fear God and keep His commandments. But I digress.

There are many Christian scholars who have done a lot for the advance of the gospel. But academic work gone unchecked becomes vapour. This little clip by Peter Enns and N.T. Wright have impressed the danger of scholarship upon me: clip. N.T. Wright defines literal in this way: “The word literal refers to the way in which things refer to things”. He then applies this to Genesis. In applying this to Genesis, he says that it is not so important that God made the world in 6 days as the fact that the literal meaning of Genesis is that it is a Temple Story!

Try to stick your head into the argument and it actually makes a lot of sense. Simply read the text of Genesis 1, and then watch the clip, and you’ll be left scratching your head. Wait, doesn’t ‘day’ mean ‘day’, just like the ‘incarnation’ means ‘incarnation’? I believe that Wright leaves words devoid of meaning. N.T. Wright claims that he doesn’t leave them devoid of meaning by bringing Greek philosophy and ancient cosmologies to bear on Genesis 1. But that is no longer reading from the text, but into the text. If you dig deeper into those areas of philosophy and ancient cosmologies, you will be left scratching your head, and either believing it, or realizing that it is all absolutely speculative theology.

Fear God and keep his commandments. To obey this command means that ‘fear’ needs to mean something, as does ‘God’, ‘keep’, and ‘commandments’. I could dissect these words, to bring out deeper levels of meaning. I can and should. What did it mean in its context? What did it mean for the Jewish people? But I can’t define ‘fear’ as ‘do whatever you want’. But now I must desist. The Bible is clear. “For when dreams increase and words grow many, there is vanity; but God is the one you must fear.” Ecc. 5:7

The Cross, the Resurrection, and a New Affection Among Old Afflictions

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One of the deep-rooted issues in our churches and nations is pornography. You could call it the great leveler. It has leveled many. Of course, it is deeply interwoven with other issues at stake: dating, marriage, issues of abuse, and of course lust. But there are many authors and blogs where you can read more about the details of this issue: Heath Lambert, Tim Challies, Douglas Wilson, the TGC blog, the Desiring God blog etc.

The focus on this blog post is on Jesus Christ, recognizing that this is the theme that runs through all the best writings. Jesus is our only hope: for both forgiveness and change. The Church is helpless without her bridegroom. He is jealous, and will fight for His blood-bought bride.

One image that this issue has brought to mind over the years is the story in Numbers 21: 4-9, where Israel is wandering through the wilderness. They have no food or water and they complain bitterly: “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness?” Then the Lord sends fiery serpents which start biting the people and killing them. Israel repents and comes to Moses and asks that he would pray for them that the plague would be taken away. The passage concludes in this way: “And the LORD said to Moses, ‘Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole, and everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live.’ So Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a pole. And if a serpent bit anyone, he would look at the bronze serpent and live.” That was the Lord’s response to the epidemic of snakes biting His beloved people.

In the 21st century, the application of this story happens in the church. As members of the church we confess that we have been brought out of slavery to sin, into the light of freedom. And yet, we still fall into sin. It’s everywhere. All have sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God. But sometimes it is so bad, that it becomes an epidemic. When it becomes an epidemic we might ask if there is any hope. We are awash in guilt and shame. People might question their salvation. And we all know that even those who have not been hit by a specific epidemic have the same sin in their hearts. We all fight a deep-rooted sin nature. We may as well fess up and admit it. As Jesus says in the Sermon on the Mount: lust is at the core of this epidemic. And who is free from lust?

Even deeper than lust is unbelief. Because of that unbelief we are all left without hope. Unless we encounter Jesus Christ on the cross. It is the cross that will burst apart that unbelief. Rosaria Butterfield struggled with a very distinct issue, but the principle is the same: “My new affection was not heterosexuality, but Jesus. . . . I was converted not out of homosexuality, but out of unbelief.” To put it even more bluntly and beautifully, Jesus tells us in John 3:14-15: “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.”

Our new affection is not pornography, but Jesus. Our new affection is not our old lusts, but Jesus. We must encounter Jesus and His power. Jesus is that bronze serpent. He has been lifted up so that we might believe and have eternal life. Look up and live. In His name, we flee that sin. He washes away shame and guilt. He heals the epidemic. Go to war. Put on the armour of God. But remember, the only way to live is by gazing on the cross of Jesus Christ. Without that cross, it is all moralism and insanity that is rotten to the core. Without the cross it is like desperately scrubbing a dead man’s bones. That cross is the most beautiful thing you will ever behold. When you behold it, it will begin to take over the very moral DNA of your being. When you gaze on the cross, you will begin to know the power of His resurrection. And that life of the resurrection will begin its work in you. And Jesus is reigning in heaven. And He is on the war path. The call is to put on the armour of God and to follow Him to the death. There is no other response for what He has done. There is no better world. There is no better life than fighting boldly for the mercy and the love of God to take over this world.

That Word Above all Earthly Powers

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“I simply taught, preached, and wrote God’s Word; otherwise I did nothing.  And then, while I slept, or drank Wittenberg beer with my Philip [Melanchthon] and my Amsdorf [Nicholaus von], the Word so greatly weakened the papacy that never a prince or emperor did such damage to it.  I did nothing.  The Word did it all.” Martin Luther

In the great hymn of the Reformation, Luther wrote about the Devil: “One little Word shall fell him.” The doom of the Prince of Darkness was sure because the gospel was powerful. The Word of God and the preaching and teaching of the Word was stronger than all the forces in Europe which the Devil hurled at it.

I just got back from The Gospel Coalition Conference for the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. In January, I went to the Canadian Reformed Theological Seminary’s Pastor’s conference in celebration of the Reformation. There is a real fervour and passion for the truth of God’s Word that lies burning at the heart of evangelical Christians in the 21st century. There are thousands of Christians who maintain a firm commitment to the doctrines of faith alone, Christ alone, Scripture alone, grace alone, to God alone be the glory.

When the Spirit sent the Deacon Phillip to the Ethiopian Eunuch, Phillip began with the Scriptures. In Luke 24, Jesus taught all things in the Scriptures, in the Psalms, the Prophets, and the Law concerning Himself. Through the teaching of the Scriptures, the Word exploded like wild fire. This is clear throughout the Book of Acts.

There are many little churches and big churches flung across North America that are preaching this gospel, labouring so that men might know Jesus Christ and the power of His resurrection. We can pray for a further Reformation in the 21st century, that our Churches would have an exclusive eye on Jesus and His Word, and that this Word above all earthly powers would continue to do damage to the work of the Devil.

Positive Morality & the Goodness of God on Display in America

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The latest brouhaha over morality in the United States of America, can teach us more about the impact of morality in America than the state of morality. Here we have an example of godliness in the highest halls of power. And power is often closely inter-woven with the most despicable immorality.

Mike Pence has kept his name free from scandal by loving his wife. (You can read more about it here). But then loving his wife became the scandal. You can hear the various responses. Who is this nut-job who won’t go to parties with booze without his wife? Who is this nut-job who won’t hit on the office staff? Who is this crazy who would follow the rule of a Bible-thumping evangelical like Billy Graham? Hopefully something strikes you as at least a little off here.

Of course, many Christians lament the response in America. What is our society coming too? We live in a wicked age. Prepare for persecution. Prepare for God’s wrath to be poured out upon us.

The problem is that most Christians don’t recognize that God is pouring out His wrath on us. We can see the wrath of God being poured out on our nations. For example, take a look at the abortion statistics or look at the rape statistics. Similarly, the problem is that Christians don’t realize that we are being persecuted. I’m not saying that we are being persecuted worse than in Nigeria. But we are being bombarded by the Devil to give up on holiness, and to ultimately give up on our faith in the saving and transforming power of Jesus Christ.

What is happening in the States with Mike Pence is something to lament. But even more, it is something to rejoice in. After all, this is the VP of the United States of America. After all, this is all the dirt the media could find on him. We may as well get used to it. We will be mocked. But even more, it is important for everyone to note that all those Christians who told you that everything is a grey area, and that it is OK to mess around with morals, were lying to you. There are real moral standards and God calls us to flee sin and pursue Christ. Whether we are in the halls of political power or plowing snow in a back alley of the City of Toronto.

Yes, we need to warn about all the filth and debauchery in North America. Solomon brings his son to the window in Proverbs, and points out the fool to him. There is real filth out there that we need not be sheltered from. But we should see that filth in our own hearts and run to Christ. It should drive us down the path of wisdom. That should lead us to embrace wisdom, because she is screaming at us in the town square while we are negotiating with villains in the back alley.

Ecclesiastes says that there is nothing better than to fear God and keep His commandments. This involves a lifetime of training in godliness. Ecclesiastes also says not to be overly righteous or overly wicked. It simply reminds us to fear God. As we learn in Christ, this only means something when we come to know Him and the power of His resurrection. As Christians, we can pray for men like Pence, repent of our wickedness, and run to the cross of Christ where we die in Him to our old life. There is new life at the cross because Jesus rose from the dead.