The church is under attack today in every way imaginable – literally as well as figuratively!
We still are reeling from the horrific attacks against the AME Church in Charleston. While our brothers and sisters gathered for a mid-week Bible study and prayer time, they were shot dead. We have seen an amazing display of forgiveness on their part for this cold-blooded killer. Facing the killer in court, several relatives who also attended AME Church extended their forgiveness to this young man, despite his indescribably evil act.
The church has since gone back to their mid-week Bible study, saying, "This is God's space. We are not giving it up!" God bless them.
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Then there are the attacks on Christians in the Middle East by ISIS and other Islamic terrorists, with followers of Jesus being beheaded, tortured and crucified. This is full-tilt persecution.
The church in America is also under attack.
Christians are routinely mocked, marginalized, denigrated and attacked. The Bible clearly tells us that persecution against the church is a sign of the end times. In Matthew 24:9 (NLT) Jesus says: "Then you will be arrested, persecuted, and killed. You will be hated all over the world because you are my followers."
How have you faced such persecution – on any level? The New Testament also makes clear that this shouldn't surprise you. In 2 Timothy 3:12 (NKJV), the Apostle Paul writes, "All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution."
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And now the Supreme Court has decided in favor of same-sex marriage.
Needless to say, I am very disappointed by this decision. It is clearly the wrong decision. By making this ruling the court has invalidated the marriage laws of more than half the states, summarily ordering the transformation of a social institution that has formed the basis for human society for literally thousands of years!
The justices couldn't even agree among themselves, resulting in a five-to-four decision. As Chief Justice John Roberts noted in his dissent: "Just who do we think we are? To blind yourself to history is both prideful and unwise. People of faith can take no comfort in the treatment they receive from the majority today." That is true.
But ultimately, this isn't just about family values and Western civilization. This is about a direct challenge to biblical truth. As Christians, we believe what the Bible says about marriage and every other topic.
Some who are not Christians may wonder why this matters so much to us. There's a simple answer. It's because God created marriage. The first marriage was between Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. The first miracle Jesus ever performed was at a wedding.
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God is very clear about who a marriage is between. Jesus said, "But 'God made them male and female' from the beginning of creation. 'This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.' Since they are no longer two but one, let no one split apart what God has joined together" (Mark 10:6-9 NLT).
This union that God designed can only exist between a man and woman. Ultimately, a child can come from this union, which is God's purpose.
Malachi 2:15 says, "Didn't the LORD make you one with your wife? In body and spirit you are his. And what does he want? Godly children from your union. So guard your heart; remain loyal to the wife of your youth." This "oneness" can only happen between a man and woman. Not between a man and a man or a woman and a woman.
Now, this may seem like a "no-brainer" to many, but in today's culture people are confused about these things. Marriage between one man and one woman is simply what Jesus Christ taught. We cannot and will not compromise on this or any other biblical issue.
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I do believe this fateful Supreme Court decision is a sign of the times. You might say that as things seem to be falling apart, they are actually coming together. Jesus said, "So when all these things begin to happen, stand and look up, for your salvation is near!" (Luke 21:28)
So, what else should we do in light of this Supreme Court ruling?
1. First, don't panic! God is still on the throne.
As my friend, Russell Moore said, "The Supreme Court can do many things; but the Supreme Court cannot get Jesus back in that tomb. Jesus of Nazareth is still alive. He is still calling the universe toward His kingdom."
The fact is, the church often thrives when it is in sharp contrast to the cultures around it. This is what the first-century believers faced in the cultures of Ephesus, Corinth and Athens. They were pagan cultures, with immorality of all kinds running rampant through society. Yet in relatively short order, the church turned their world upside-down. The church did not accomplish this through protests, boycotts or marches. They out-lived, out-loved, out-prayed and out-gave the nonbelievers.
2. We need to remember that Romans 8:28 is still in the Bible.
Romans 8:28 (NKJV) says, "And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose." As Joseph said to his brothers who had betrayed him, "You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good" (Genesis 50:20 NIV). God in His sovereignty can take the very events meant to harm us or defeat us and use them for His ultimate good.
Psalm 119:91 (NLT) says, "Your regulations remain true to this day, for everything serves your plans." And Psalm 76:10 reads, "Human defiance only enhances your glory, for you use it as a weapon."
3. We need show this culture what a biblical marriage looks like.
Jesus used the institution of marriage as a picture of His love for the church and our love for Him. This gives us an opportunity to let our light shine and show the watching world a beautiful example of a good and loving marriage. Have we done that? Even as Christians, have we done as good of a job as we can with marriage?
Marriage is a big deal to God. He thought of it, created it, blesses it and uses it as a picture to a lost world. The Bible tells husbands to love their wives as Christ loves the church. It's as though Jesus is saying, "See how that husband loves his wife? That's how I love the church!" In the final chapter of Revelation, the church is pictured as the bride. Your marriage should be a testimony and example to nonbelievers watching. Nonbelievers should see it as an example of God's love for them.
When as Christians we break up our marriages for no biblical reason, divorce, marry another, and commit adultery, do we not undermine marriage? Resolve your conflicts, forgive one another, and move forward! Don't tell me about your "irreconcilable differences." I have had those with my wife for 41 years!
She is sometimes late, I am often early.
She is very neat, I am quite messy.
She is cute, and I am fat!
But it's a funny thing; we seem to love each other more with each passing year.
Permanent, stable marriages with both a mother and father may make us look freakish. Russell Moore said, "We should not fear that. We believe stranger things than that. We believe a previously dead man is alive, and will show up in the eastern skies on a horse. We believe that the gospel can forgive sinners like us and make us sons and daughters. Let's embrace the sort of freakishness that saves."
4. We need to show the love of Christ to everyone!
We need to go to people where they are and engage them with the gospel. God loves all people, including those who identify as homosexual. The fact is, God can change anyone. I do not believe anyone is "born gay," but I do believe we are all born sinners. Just because a person has a "same-sex attraction" does not mean he or she should act on it. We are all tempted to do many things, but God will give us the strength to resist.
The gospel does not define us by our temptations, but by the righteousness of Christ. Listen, we are not against any particular group or individuals. We are not being "unloving" or judgmental. Some would say, "We need to just love and accept people." Didn't Jesus say, "Judge not lest you be judged"?
Here is what Jesus said in Matthew 7:1-2 (NKJV), "Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you." Before we consider what this means, let's first see what it doesn't mean.
Does it mean that we are never to be critical, or make an evaluation? Some think that being a Christian means we just "love and accept everyone" and never speak critically of anyone under any circumstances. That may be sweet sentiment, but it is not New Testament Christianity. We are to "love everyone" – but if that is true, we must care for their souls as well.
Here is what we need to know. When you love someone, you will speak truthfully to them. The Bible tells us to "Speak the truth in love" (Ephesians 4:15 NLT). Some will speak "the truth," but not in love, using it like a sledgehammer. Others will "love" but not speak the truth, which really isn't love at all. If your close friend is wearing a horrible outfit, do you tell them? Do you say, "Hey, did you get dressed in the dark?" Do you tell them if there is food in their teeth? Or, more significantly, if there's sin in their life?
Proverbs 27:5 says, "An open rebuke is better than hidden love! Wounds from a sincere friend are better than many kisses from an enemy."
So, Jesus is saying we need to make certain judgments, and He uses an interesting illustration to make His point – He goes on to tell us not to give what is holy to dogs. How can I accomplish this if I don't practice some sort of judgment? Just who are the dogs? Are they people with flea collars?
When the woman was caught in the act of adultery, what did Jesus do? He turned away her accusers, but then said, "Go and sin no more!" He was loving to her, but He challenged her to change.
A better translation of "judge not" would be condemn not. To condemn, is to turn a person away. We should not do that. We should lovingly welcome all who want to come to Christ.
5. We need to engage all people with the gospel.
Everyone is searching. Some, disillusioned with life, may think they may find fulfillment with a member of the opposite sex, others with someone of the same sex. Deep down, what everyone is searching for is a relationship with God. They may oppose us, but that does not mean God cannot change them. No one hated Christians more than Saul of Tarsus. God not only saved him, He raised him up to be a leader in the church.
6. We need to pray.
When the disciples were told by the authorities not to preach anymore they prayed. They prayed for more boldness to tell more people. Then they went out and preached some more. When the authorities passed a law that people could no longer pray, Daniel prayed.
We need to pray for a spiritual awakening in America. We need to pray for our home church and the church as a whole. We are in this together. We stand together or we fall alone. Paul reminds us, "Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything" (Philippians 4:6).
We are launching a new initiative calling on Christians to pray every day for the month of July. We want to pray for our churches and for America. We are calling this initiative "3:20," based on Ephesians 3:20-21, "Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen."
Let's not give up or lose hope.