Abstinence Almost Killed Me!

original photo credit: Jo Naylor via photopin cc
original photo credit: Jo Naylor via photopin cc

Just about every area of U.S. culture these days seems to be inundated with sexuality. Advertising? Saturated with sexual images. Movies? Full of steamy and explicit passion. Sports? Does the term, “wardrobe malfunction”, bring anything to mind?

I personally believe that greed is the primary factor contributing to our sexual saturation. Astute marketers in pursuit of big profits have successfully managed to manipulate our culture to the point that we cannot seem to escape this overemphasis on sex. Our entire society is paying the price.

It’s not that sex has ever been unimportant. Let’s not forget that God was the original designer of the human body. Long before the days of internet porn, the King of the Universe created us as sexual beings. Sex feels good because God made it that way. That, in itself, should tell us something.

The problem is not that God frowns upon sexual activity in principle, but that our cultural norms have transgressed the healthy boundaries designed by our Creator. A river running within its banks can provide immense pleasure and benefit, but let it overflow those boundaries and destruction of all sorts is certain.

photo credit: seanmcgrath via photopin cc
photo credit: seanmcgrath via photopin cc

The fact that Christians now live in the age of grace does not provide a license for us to live according to our world’s standards. The Bible teaches that we will reap what we sow (Galatians 6:7-9) and nowhere is this truer than in the world of eros. Can such statements be biblically supported without returning to the legalistic requirements of the Mosaic Law? Absolutely!

Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.” . . . So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then He took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh at that place. The Lord God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man. The man said,

“This is now bone of my bones,
And flesh of my flesh;
She shall be called Woman,
Because she was taken out of Man.”

For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed. Genesis 2:18-25 (NASB)

Thus the marriage covenant was established by God for the benefit of humanity. Unless God clearly communicates a change in His standards, His silence cannot be interpreted as an approval of our cultural standards. Only God has the authority to change a covenant He instituted (Galatians 3:15), and any such changes are clearly established in the Scriptures (e.g. from the Old Covenant to the New). Jesus Himself upheld the standard of marriage (Matthew 19:3-12), as did the Apostle Paul (Titus 1:5-6).

I argue, therefore, that sexual immorality, by New Testament definition, involves sexual activity that occurs outside of the boundaries of a marriage covenant between one man and one woman. The entire Bible has a lot to say about this issue, much of which is unpleasant at best (see http://www.openbible.info/topics/sexual_immorality).

The fact that my wife and I have been married for almost 30 years has nothing to do with my opinion on this matter. Due to our scriptural convictions, I never touched Debi inappropriately during the two years in which we dated prior to our wedding day, although, as a typical red-blooded young male, I felt at times that the abstinence was going to kill me! We understood then, and continue to agree now, that it falls upon humanity to conform itself to God’s design, not vice versa.

photo credit: Joe Hastings via photopin cc
photo credit: Joe Hastings via photopin cc

Sex dominates our culture, I’ll give you that. But sex is also sacred, established by God to celebrate the unity of covenant love in marriage. Those who use an argument of grace in an attempt to nullify God’s design open the floodgates for unclean waters to pollute and destroy the very fabric of society. Or, to use another appropriate metaphor, play with fire and you will get burned. Maybe not today. Maybe not tomorrow. But the smoldering fires of sin will eventually consume everything they touch. It’s not abstinence that gives sway to death but obedience to sexual passions that lie outside of God’s design.

Have you transgressed the boundaries of God’s design for sexuality? Most of us have at one point or another, and, thankfully, forgiveness is readily available for those who are willing to humble themselves and repent. May our Lord grant us the wisdom and grace to reign over our unhealthy desires–not to indulge them!

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Implications – Part II

Potluck Photo by scottfieldstein - CC By 2.0

Much has been made over the years of the Greek word koinōnía – a word most often translated as fellowship in the New Testament.

“What we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship (koinōnía) with us; and indeed our fellowship (koinōnía) is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ.” 1 John 1:7 (NASB)

Koinōnía has multiple dimensions that all converge for us into a common theme – the shared lifestyle of fellowship, giving and devotion of those voluntarily bound together through the New Covenant in Christ. A sense of the depth of this word is found through the celebration of communion—our ongoing covenant meal.

“Is not the cup of blessing which we bless a sharing (koinōnía) in the blood of Christ? Is not the bread which we break a sharing (koinōnía) in the body of Christ?” 1 Corinthians 10:16 (NASB)

We’re talking about something here that far exceeds your typical potluck fellowship dinner. There is such a sense of unity between God and His people that we sometimes find ourselves wondering where one begins and the other ends. His presence fills us and binds us in a profoundly powerful way. There is so much more to fellowship and unity than meets the eye!

Unity releases life! We see it in the natural sense through the God-designed sexual union between male and female. In the paradigm of a God-ordered family that life goes far beyond the physical reproduction of children—a healthy emotional life is imparted as well.

Those who enter into fellowship with God through the shed blood of Jesus Christ are brought to life spiritually. As they continue a shared lifestyle  with God, excess life is released, taking form as the fruit of the Holy Spirit. (Galatians 5:22-23) Celebrating the bread and wine both requires and produces fruit.

Fellowship with God necessitates fellowship of some type with other believers. God then imparts a unique measure of life as we draw together in the unity of covenant through the presence of the Holy Spirit.

“Behold, how good and how pleasant it is
For brothers to dwell together in unity!
It is like the precious oil upon the head,
Coming down upon the beard,
Even Aaron’s beard,
Coming down upon the edge of his robes.
It is like the dew of Hermon
Coming down upon the mountains of Zion;
For there the LORD commanded the blessing–life forever.”

Psalm 133 (NASB)

Make no mistake about it! There is a supernatural element to Biblical unity as God anoints the intended culmination of His plans and purposes. The life of God released cannot be contained!

Can church structures affect koinonia? Most certainly! However, the greater question is whether the life of God is being continually released in our midst as we prefer one another in love and honor. Do we want to see the life of God transform the world around us? Then let us learn to honor and love all other Christians within and without the walls of our local fellowships!

God’s Mysterious Math II

Through the last couple of posts we’ve seen that 1 + 1 + 1 = 1 (the Trinity) and that 1 + 1 = 1 (marriage). There remains one other of God’s mysterious math equations that stops me in my tracks with amazement. 1 + x = 1: where x represents not zero, but the vast number of all other Christians in our world! For those untrained in Algebra, I’m essentially saying that the Body of Christ is made up of many entities that constitute a single unit. Sound familiar?

For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.” 1 Corinthians 12:12-13 (NASB)

“Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all. Ephesians 4:1-6 (NASB)

Several things stand out about these passages:

Photo by Sam Mugraby - Photos8.com

1.  There is unity to our plurality. But unity defines who we are—it’s not something that we try to create. When you or I enter into a covenant relationship with Christ, we enter into a sacred and binding covenant with all other believers. Our identities become shared as we are called Christians. We truly are blood brothers and sisters united by His blood!

2.  Our interaction with other Christians is to be exemplified by humility, gentleness, patience and tolerance—all various dimensions of love. Christ’s command for us to love one another as He has loved us (John 13:34) is neither shallow nor optional.

3.  The unity of the Church is defined not just by a legal and binding covenant, but by the presence of the Holy Spirit—God Himself. At salvation every Christian is indwelt by the Holy Spirit as they are born again to a new type of existence. Think of it! The very same Holy Spirit who dwells in you dwells, in me. Taking things a step further, the very same Spirit who dwells in believing Catholics dwells in believing Baptists and believing Methodists and believing Presbyterians and believing Pentecostals, etc.

4.  We are called to diligence in preserving “the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” This means effort! Humility, gentleness, patience and tolerance are commanded because all are absolutely necessary if we are to honor God in our relationships with one another. Let’s face it, Christians don’t always act in a manner worthy of their calling. But this is not an acceptable excuse for us to not love them!

The implications of God’s covenant math are HUGE–both for good and for bad! More will be said in the coming weeks, but for now I’ll leave you with Ephesians 4:4-6 as it reads in the Message Bible:

“You were all called to travel on the same road and in the same direction, so stay together, both outwardly and inwardly. You have one Master, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who rules over all, works through all, and is present in all. Everything you are and think and do is permeated with Oneness.”

Learning God’s Mysterious Math

When I was a kid I learned that 1 + 1 = 2. I don’t know if it made a lot of sense then, but since that time this simple little equation has served me quite well. It helped me through grade school, served as a foundation in high school and eventually enabled me to navigate calculus in college. It’s helped me know how many tickets to buy for an event and how much money to pay. It’s been especially handy when people ask how many kids I have.

Since becoming a Christian (1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 . . . years ago), I’ve come to learn that God doesn’t exactly think like we do. In fact, at times His math is remarkably different than mine. I’ve known all this for a long time, but only recently has the understanding of God’s mysterious manner of ciphering really begun to sink into my soul.

In my last post I wrote about the Trinity: 1 + 1 +1 = 1. Confusing? Well, yes. But then again, we’re talking about the Creator of the universe. We can accept a degree of mind stretching. But God’s mysterious math isn’t limited to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

The key in all of this is to understand the concept of covenant. A covenant is a sacred, binding and enduring relationship, similar to the ancient idea of blood brotherhood. It speaks of  a relational oneness of the highest order. When two individuals or groups entered into a covenant; friends, enemies, possessions and even identities became shared.

To enter a covenant often brought excellent benefits. To break a covenant resulted in many painful and terrible curses. A covenant is to be regarded with the seriousness of the weightiest relationship and celebrated as the most blessed. The failure to understand the nature of a covenant unleashes a torrent of confusion and inevitably the inability to understand how God interacts with humanity.

Our first example of a human to human covenant dates way back to Genesis 2:18-24. God took one, made him two, and then made them one again.

“Then the LORD God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.’ Out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the sky, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called a living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all the cattle, and to the birds of the sky, and to every beast of the field, but for Adam there was not found a helper suitable for him.

Photo by basykes - CC by 2.0

So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then He took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh at that place. The LORD God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man. The man said, ‘This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.’

For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.” (NASB)

They shall become one flesh. In other words: 1 + 1 = 1. Go figure. If you can!