The Joy of Repentance

I can truly say that I want to please the Lord. For all the things I am not sure of, and everything I still don’t understand and can’t work out or properly comprehend, I am nevertheless absolutely clear that I do want to live a life that is pleasing to the Lord. My problem is, however, the sin that stands so distressingly in the way. I want to please Him, yet know my heart to be full of pride, selfishness, covetousness, self-righteousness and all kinds of evil. In what possible way, then, can I please a holy God? Well, there is a way; and it not only pleases Him, it utterly delights His heart:

So he told them this parable: “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it? And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin which I had lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”(Luke 15:3-10)

And there you have it! Those verses don’t say that it is the angels who rejoice, though I’m sure they do, but that there is rejoicing going on before them. And so I ask: Who is it in Heaven before Whom the angels stand? Answer! The Lord Himself! Imagine! The Almighty God rejoices when a sinner repents. It would obviously be so much the better if I could please Him by not actually being sinful any more, and that day will certainly come when I am with Him having been freed from this body, and it should certainly be the case for all of us that we are seeing a progressive victory in overcoming sin in our lives, but it is nevertheless wonderful to know that, in the meantime, being honest about sin, and coming clean through confession when we have sinned, brings Him joy. In other words, I can’t please Him with sinlessness (if only I could), but I can bring Him pleasure and joy through ongoing confession and repentance.

Now there are those who would argue that the rejoicing alluded to in the above verses is limited to a sinner’s initial conversion; that is, when they first come to the Lord in repentance and faith, and of course it most most certainly does include that. But in the same way that a father is joyful at the birth of his child, and then joyful from that moment onwards, so too is the Lord thrilled not just when we are born again, but continuously as we grow in Him throughout the ensuing years. There is no way I can properly express the joy I knew when Bethany was born, yet that joy has increased as every year has gone by, and not in any way decreased. Whatever thrilled me about her when she was born, and she thrilled me beyond words, still thrills me all the more as each month goes by as I have watched her grow and develop. What a sad father who knows joy for their child’s birth, yet not throughout the years that follow. In fact, in becoming a father I have experienced an ongoing paradox which I’ve never been able to properly describe, though I do intend to have a jolly good go!

At whatever point in time I look back to as Bethany’s father I know that I was as thrilled to bits with her as I could have been. When she was a baby my overwhelming feeling was, “Man, this is amazing! She’s incredible! It just can’t get any better than this! Please Lord, don’t ever let this change!” Then, when she was a toddler I was thinking, “Man, this is amazing! She’s incredible! It just can’t get any better than this! Please Lord, don’t ever let her change!” Then, when she was small child I thought, “Man, this is amazing! She’s incredible! It just can’t get any better than this! Please Lord, don’t ever let her change!” Then when she got to her teens I thought…and so on and so forth, right up to this very new morning as I write!

From the moment she was born I thought she was absolutely amazing and, just as did Belinda, I fell utterly and completely in love with her. At any given moment it was completely beyond me how she could be any better, and I could only see any change as a negative and a step down. I therefore longed that she never would. Yet as each and every ensuing minute, hour, day, week, month and year passed, it was equally utterly beyond me at any one of those given moments also how this fatherhood thing could get any better, and my ongoing desire was always, at any given time, that she would never change. And yet, by definition, she was changing all the time, if only in that she was slowly, but surely, in the process of growing up. So I could never imagine how it could have gotten any better because I knew it was already as good as it could possibly be, and so I therefore didn’t want anything to change; but of course she did change, and yet I was still always, in any given moment, thinking, “Man, this just doesn’t get any better! Please Lord, don’t let her ever change” And so it goes on…

For me, therefore, fatherhood has been to live in a completely paradoxical state of being utterly unable, at any given moment, to imagine how being my daughters father could get any better, thereby never wanting anything to change in such regard, yet finding the exact same thing to also be the case at every point during the ensuing years, meaning that it was actually getting better all the time, and that she was changing and growing, even though it seemed to me at any one moment that it never could get any better or that her changing could ever be an improvement. At any given present moment I could look back on any given past moment at which I genuinely perceived that neither parenthood, nor Bethany, could have gotten any better, therefore yearning for it to never change, yet whilst still perceiving exactly the same thing in any given present moment, which, by definition, meant it had obviously gotten better, and precisely because she had changed…yet it still couldn’t have gotten any better because it was already as good as it could get…and…and…Man, life sure is strange…!!!

However confusing all this might seem it’s really just a description of what it means to love someone…and I love my daughter very, very much. She is, quite simply, wonderful, and always has been, but of course it is as much my love for her that I am describing as it is a description of her, and that is the real point here when it comes to us understanding in what ways we can be pleasing to the Lord! Because however deep and real my love for Bethany is – and it is extremely deep and intensely real – it is as nothing compared to how deep and real God’s love is for me…and therefore for you! And He loves us in exactly this same paradoxical way that I have just described in regards to my own fatherhood. His joy at our repentance, indeed, His joy at us, is not just for when we are born again and when we first come to Him in repentance and surrender, but precisely, just like our human parenting, from that point onwards. We have been born again into His family and have therefore become His children, and that in itself makes Him extremely happy; but it is wonderful in the extreme to know too that, whereas I make Him happy simply because I am His child; indeed, I can’t but make Him happy in such regard – after all, I can’t ever stop being His son – I can actually bring Him joy and pleasure on top of that by being on-goingly honest, and repentant, concerning my sin.

My joy over Bethany is therefore actually two-fold: firstly, simply because she is my daughter; but secondly, because she truly is as delightful, kind, godly and gracious a young lady as you could wish to meet. (Just ask anyone who knows her!)  And although it is wonderful enough to know that we please the Lord simply because we are His children, I for one nevertheless want to please Him also by the way I actually am; that is, by living in honesty, confession and repentance of my sins. Many Christians, I am greatly saddened to say, aren’t particularly honest about their sins or repentant of them, but at least I can be if I so choose. And that choice brings me joy in knowing not just that the Lord both forgives and restores me, but that it actually brings Him joy and happiness that I am so living.

Like my joy over Bethany, the joy of repentance is also twofold: It is joyful for the one who is penitent because of the peace and forgiveness it brings, but it is also a joy to such a one’s Father in Heaven Who finds infinite pleasure in His children being honest about their wrongdoing, and then saying sorry not just to Him, but to each other as well.

As a young Christian, before I properly understood what the Lord’s grace actually was, and what it actually meant, I was uncomfortable in the extreme with the subject matter we are here discussing, and I remember coming across a book, the title of which utterly baffled me. It was called, “Repentance: the Joy-Filled Life!” Just the title frightened the life out me, and I wouldn’t have dared read it back then in a million years. But now? Well, now I get it! And man, how wonderfully I get it too!

The writer to the Hebrews exhorts us to boldly approach the throne of grace in a time of need to receive mercy and help. Firstly, thrones are usually representative of power and strength, not grace and mercy. But then Jesus sits on this throne, and so I feel safe. Secondly, I come boldly and not in snivelling fear! Why?Because I’m qualified! I meet the criteria for approaching! And thirdly, I get what I come for! That is, grace, mercy and forgiveness! And why? Because my need, every day, even as a believer – no, precisely because I’m a believer – is to have my sins cleansed and removed by the Lamb of God Who takest away the sins of the world; mine included!

A Rather Dangerous Thing To Do…

DangerAfter I had known the Lord for about five years I did something which, looking back, was a bit of a spiritually dangerous thing to do. It was most certainly an absolutely right and biblical thing to do, and I have no doubt whatsoever that the Lord Himself led me to do it, but it was nonetheless decidedly risky. I asked the Lord to show me the true extent of my sinfulness and what it meant to carry the cross. I asked Him to show me what it meant to die daily to self and be one with Him in His death and resurrection. I am not exaggerating in any way at all when I say that, over the years that followed, I truly didn’t know what hit me.

There is no doubt in my mind that I really did know before then that I was a sinner. Indeed, the night I came to the Lord, totally out of the blue, I knew for the first time in my life that I was sinful and in need of His forgiveness and mercy. It was not a concept I had in any way previously comprehended, but that night I really was a penitent sinner cut down by a deep and abiding conviction of my depravity before God and the need for both forgiveness and cleansing. In other words, I was no fair-weather convert having responded to some perverted evangelistic message to the mere effect that God loved me and had a wonderful plan for my life. No! I knew beyond doubt that night that I was quite deservedly headed for a terrible and godless eternity, and that the Lord was commanding me to repent and to surrender to Him in the obedience of saving faith.

But however real that was, and it was extremely real, it doesn’t change the fact that the conviction of sin that I experienced upon my initial conversion, and over the handful of years that followed was, so to speak, just a taster. It was a sample, if you will, and a very small one at that, and it was only after several years of God dealing with me following that prayer that He began to show me something of the full extent of my sinfulness. Only then did I actually begin to appreciate and understand the sheer extent of the deceptiveness and evil of my heart. He demonstrated to me, quite terribly, that the simple truth was that, even though I had been a Christian for some years, I was still largely blind to the sin in me He yet wanted to reveal to me and deliver me from.

There are all manner of ways to describe the great need of the hour for those who claim to be followers of Jesus. Becoming comprehensively biblical! Growing in godliness! Coming into maturity! Living in obedience to Him! Yes, of course! But what it really boils down to is this: far too many believers who have been believers for years appear to be still largely ignorant of what their sins actually are. They live more in accordance with a kind of accepted, but rather wooly, Christian cultural ‘mindset’ then in deliberate comprehensive obedience to what the Bible actually teaches. They have, it would appear, called a ‘truce’ with the world, embracing a morally respectable, yet completely worldly, godlessness, where things like pride, covetousness, selfishness, the love of money and pursuit of material affluence go largely un-judged.

Part of what I do involves me, at times, in having to engage with brothers in the Lord, and sometimes their wives too, who are in process of shipwrecking their faith. Whether it be through immorality, bitterness and resentment, the love of money, or whatever, my desire and aim is to bring them to repentance and restoration, and freedom from the folly that has overtaken them. It is a joy when success becomes apparent, but heartbreak beyond words should they refuse to put lives in order.

But such situations, and here’s my point, make me realise yet again, as it should do us all, the sheer depth and danger of my own sinfulness, and how easily, but for the grace of the Lord, I could go the same way. As believers we must indeed judge each another and hold one another to account, just as scripture commands us to do (1 Corinthians 5), yet none of us dare forget, but for an instant, that we all stand in equal danger of any who are falling by the wayside, and thus forsaking the Lord and shipwrecking their faith. Scripture warns us of the deceptiveness of sin, and it behoves each one of to periodically quite intentionally ask the Lord to show us afresh just how sinful and prone to deception and self-righteousness we actually are.

“Search me O God and try my heart, and see if there be any wicked way in me.” So cried out the Psalmist in an exhortation we dare not ignore. Paul quite undeniably categorised some Christians as being carnal as opposed to being spiritual, and herein lies the difference between the two. Carnal Christians are little aware of their sinfulness and, broadly speaking, consider their lives to be theirs to do with petty much as they please. The probably won’t be sexually immoral or tell too many lies or anything like that, but outside of the ‘blatant’ stuff still perceive life to be lived in whatever way they fancy. Spiritual Christians however, in complete contrast, are not only fully aware of their sin, they also greatly fear it! They therefore surrender all, every day, lest in failing to do so they surrender instead to the sin they so greatly dread.

Further, carnal Christians will probably consider what I have written as being far too dour and negative for them. Spiritual Christians, however (and I use this phrase as does Paul in 1 Corinthians), will read these words not only with a sense of gratitude for the reminder, but also with a sense of the sheer joy that comes from knowing not only that their sins are forgiven, but that because they are also living in daily repentance, they don’t have to keep trying to deny, hide or excuse them any more.

We shall return to this in the next post…

 

 

The Myth of ‘Christian Culture’

RainbowContinuing on from my last post there is more to be said regarding what I there alluded to concerning the notion that Western culture has at its root the illegitimate merging of supposed Christian theology with varying political philosophies. Western culture is, therefore, to the extent to which such a synthesis has shaped and defined it, actually a distortion, indeed, a veritable perversion of the biblical concept of the kingdom of God. It is the result of the unfortunate and misguided attempt to make society and the Church of Jesus Christ culturally synonymous, society at large becoming, as it were, its national and political aspect. In complete contrast, however, is scripture’s teaching that the Christian life is a purely personal and completely exclusive matter between individuals and the Lord, issuing in a changed heart and godly lifestyle. It is a personal relationship with Almighty God, entered into because of repentance from sin and faith in Him. According to the Bible such believers corporately comprise the kingdom of God on earth/the Church of Jesus Christ/the Body of Christ, whichever term one chooses to use, but only such as are repentant, and who actually know the Lord, comprise it. The crucial point is that true godliness is a heart matter, brought about by the Holy Spirit, which can never be imposed from without, whether through political power or the use of force. It is the historical attempt to do this that has left us with the sad legacy of a Western society that now sees Christianity as the primary cause of so much perceived injustice.

This is not to say, of course, that a consideration of Christian principles should not in any way be brought to bear on national government, and it remains the case that the freedoms found in the West, as opposed to the more oppressive regimes historically encountered elsewhere, are the result of this precisely having been done; but it nevertheless remains the case that the completely unbiblical notion that it is in some way the function of the Church of Jesus Christ to ‘christianize’ the world through the use of political means has done damage beyond measure to the cause of Christ. The result is simply this:

The Tragic Legacy of Pseudo-Christian Societies and Culture

The long history of the merging of the supposed Christian Faith with political power, whether that of the Catholic Church, or those churches which resulted from the Reformation and thereafter, is the long history of the misguided mixing of the solidly biblical with the solidly anti-biblical. Hence what we are up against in Western culture today. And of course the problem is that when the Christian Church, be it the genuine thing or a merely a worldly demonic counterfeit, exercises political power and influence, whatever false doctrines and wrong teaching it is embracing at any particular point in history get passed into both law and national life. This results in two evils:

Firstly, various immoral behaviours are made illegal which, although certainly condemned in scripture as being sinful, should never come under the remit of legal ruling by national governmental legal rulings. Biblically speaking, the smaller the State is the better, and it is ironic that twisted so-called ‘christian’ thinking down the years has played such a big part in bringing about such in the West. Examples would include the making illegal of drinking of alcohol and gambling and, going back, for instance, to Calvin’s Geneva, such things as adultery! Such rulings have obviously always also included anything pertaining to a homosexual lifestyle. (Rape is obviously in an entirely different category because it does not involve the consent of both parties. Indeed, it is, by very definition, the violent imposition of something on someone who has precisely not given consent to what is being done to them. Violence, as opposed to legitimate force by way of maintaining the rule of law, is always criminal, but when of a sexual nature against women becomes especially terrible and vile. Though sexual in nature, rape is thus firmly in the category of those practises which should be quite properly ruled on legally by national government and made a punishable crime.)

Secondly, however, laws get passed concerning practises which are deemed to be wrong according to the Christian Church at any given time, but which are actually perfectly legitimate in God’s sight, and not actually sinful at all, the Christian Church of the day being itself completely in the wrong regarding them. And of course the big example of this is the shameful history of the Christian Church regarding its past (utterly spurious) theological justification for the abiding evil of racism and prejudice against non-whites. Indeed, this is one of my main reasons for contending that the backlash against Christianity by modern secular liberalism is, in part, actually deserved. Hence too my contention that Western society’s increasing antipathy towards Christian thinking is, at least partly, God’s ‘built-in judgement’ against the hypocrisy of so many who, whilst claiming to love God, bore (some still do) animosity toward those against whom they were racially prejudiced. The fact that even as recently as the 1960’s mixed race marriages were illegal in certain Western so-called ‘Christian’ nations is all the evidence needed for the argument to be conceded. One could also, of course, cite attitudes of segregation, whether legally enforced or not, that have been prevalent, even in my lifetime, in Great Britain (strangely, as much against the Irish as regarding black and Asian folk) as well as in the US and South Africa.

Christian Racism

We therefore have the following scenario: Christianity has, to say the very least, an extremely unfortunate history regarding the propagation and defence of the evils of bigotry and racism. Not, of course, that all Christians were, or are, guilty of such, even when such bigotry was the societal norm. Far from it, in fact! But the history of significant segments of the Christian Church is nonetheless inseparably bound up with the oppression of black, Asian and Oriental people, as a direct result of the completely unbiblical, and utterly sinful, false teaching that white folk are in some way superior in God’s eyes to others, and should therefore rule over them. As an Englishman I am, of course, only too painfully aware of the part this insidious attitude played in the historical spread of British Imperialism, eventually, and inevitably, spreading its infection into the New World also. So where have we come? What, exactly, am I saying?

The completely unbiblical false teaching that the Christian Church should in some way be merged with the state; that is, the notion that the spread of the kingdom of God should include a political dimension, resulted in a Western culture that was a mixture of genuinely biblical principles and ideas with a bigoted attitude towards certain minorities that was all the more insidious in that it was dressed up as being supposedly ‘godly.’ Therefore, when modern secular liberals contend that Christianity is a ‘religion of oppression’, best consigned to the garbage heap of history, they are actually, at least in part, correct. Genuine Christianity; that is, a personal relationship with Jesus leading to a change of heart and life in the individual that results in them loving their neighbour as themselves, has never oppressed anyone: but the distortion of biblical doctrine that inevitably results from the merging of the so-called Christian Church with worldly political power, with all its accompanying errors, prejudices and injustices, will always result in a society which is, as I am contending, a perversion of the very ‘christianity’ that gave it birth. Such a society will inevitably and unhesitatingly oppress anyone it sufficiently disapproves of, and who it fears is a that to its values, whilst actually claiming a (completely warped) supposed biblical justification for so doing.

The Liberal Agenda

We really should take our hats off to the secular liberals, you know! I mean, credit where credit is due! They have done a truly brilliant job of propagating their agenda, albeit it an utterly godless and humanistic one. They obviously, and quite unbeknownst to them, get considerable help from the god of this world; but nevertheless, credit where credit is due! And of course what they have done so well is to exploit these sad elements of our ‘christian’ history in their primary quest of discrediting biblical truth. Having quite rightly fought against racism and prejudice (many Christians stood in that vanguard with them), they then, quite erroneously, conflated issues of sexual orientation and gender identity with it. By endlessly emphasising the way in which sexual minorities had been, historically, as badly treated by elements of the Christian Church as had blacks, which was true, they then started to make the completely spurious case that to even disapprove of certain sexual behaviours, or gender confusion, was the same bigotry as was racial prejudice against people merely because they are, for instance, black. What they basically did was to hi-jack the civil rights movement, cleverly broadening it out in order to confuse the difference between disapproval of what a person does and the bigoted oppression of someone merely because of their ethic origin or colour of their skin. Hence the power of perhaps the greatest of liberal buzz-words: homophobia! (As an aside, this is exactly what happened regarding the genuine concerns of many over certain environmental issues a towards the end of last century. As the Berlin Wall and iron curtain fell a generation of champagne Trotskyites and Marxists realised they had seriously backed the wrong horse, and quickly looked around for another cause on which to exert their anarchic energies and decided their best bet was to hi-jack Greenpeace and the whole environmental movement. Thus was born the phenomenon of the modern eco-warrior and ‘green’ politics, resulting, of course, in the myth of global warming and the emergence of the ‘carbon’ economy!)

To compare the mere moral disapproval of the gay lifestyle to racism is no more legitimate than, for instance, comparing a Muslim’s disapproval of drinking alcohol to Islamic terrorism. A Muslim who disapproves of non-Muslims drinking alcohol may or may not be a murderous terrorist, just as someone who disapproves of the gay or trans-gender lifestyle may or may not be a violent murderer of such; but to say that the one automatically equates to the other is not only nonsensical, it is actually the kind of thinking that leads to bigotry and prejudice in the fist place, and then proceeds to procreate and feed it. The vast majority of Muslims are peace-loving law abiding citizens just as the vast majority of those who disapprove of the gay lifestyle, whether Christian or not, would utterly abhor any idea of anyone in any way oppressing those who embrace it. To be a racist is disapprove of, and to want to oppress someone simply because they are black, or white, or yellow (or whatever), and is an entirely different thing to merely disapproving of what someone does. It is like thinking a person to be in some way undesirable because they have green eyes or ginger hair. Racists, by definition, make no separation between the disapproval of actions and those performing those actions. Indeed, it is the very thing they precisely can’t do. It is the person themselves of whom they disapprove, and not merely how the person in question may or may not behave. Bigotry, therefore, disapproves of someone because of what they intrinsically are, as opposed to moral disapproval which has as its object and concern merely what someone does. Racists disapprove of the person because they are black, or whatever, in just the same way that those who are actually prejudiced against gay people disapprove of them simply because they are gay. The Christian position, however, is one of disapproval of gay sexual acts, just as with sinful heterosexual acts, yet whilst regarding the person so behaving as being a dignified and valuable human being needing forgiveness and salvation as does everybody else.

This, then, is the difference between people who are prejudiced against the gay and trans-gender community, which is indeed sinful bigotry, and those who merely disapprove of their lifestyle. It is not the person who is in view, but merely how they behave! I can disapprove of what I believe to be sinful sexual behaviour, just as I can disapprove of any number of other things – getting drunk, swearing, gambling, voting Democrat (just kidding) – yet whilst treating those who do such things with the same respect, honour and kindness as I would wish for others to afford me. It is therefore no more bigoted for me to disapprove of the gay lifestyle than it is for someone who is gay to disapprove of me because I believe that sex belongs within marriage, and because I define marriage as one man and one woman for life and think anything else to be sinful. I would not dream, in a million years, of doing anything to coerce, hurt, insult, humiliate, damage, or to be in any way unkind, to anyone who embraced the gay or trans-gender lifestyle, any more than I would a heterosexual fornicator or adulterer. I both honour and respect them as human beings made in the image of God, and would do whatever I could to protect their freedom of speech, and even their actions, in such regard. I ask only that they return the favour – which, of course, the vast majority willingly do!

What we are increasingly seeing today though is the attempt by a certain liberal mindset and agenda to actually stifle freedom of expression and action by using a completely incorrect definition of bigotry in order to accomplish their aims. It is ironic that in so doing they are being so completely illiberal, seeking to precisely remove people’s freedom of expression and thought through the pretext of the supposed championing of the freedom of minorities! It is the emergence of what is a rather sinister intellectual and cultural fascism dressed up to look like the cause of emancipation and the human rights of the individual. It is, in effect, the purest intolerance! Imagine, a so-called liberal agenda designed to actually prevent people disagreeing with it! It is actually the very same kind of perversion of a legitimate liberal outlook as was the historical perversion of biblical theology that got us here in the first place. The wheel has turned full circle! The only difference is that it is now the turn of a perverted ‘liberalism’ rather than a perverted ‘christianity.’

In Conclusion

Yet even with the above being said, even with the proper understanding of what is really going on, and just how sinister it actually is, I still think it’s important, and a good thing for us Christians to realise that, when it comes to things like racism, or the bad treatment of minority groups in general (such as those who are gay or trans-gender), the record of the visible Christian Church has not been a good one. How sadly it has failed to take on board the implications of the way in which Jesus so readily and deliberately hung out with prostitutes, tax collectors and Samaritans; that is, the rejected and disapproved of minorities of the day, whilst His disciples, just like the Pharisees so severely castigated by Him, looked on in prejudiced horror. Did Jesus approve of prostitution? No, He most certainly did not! Did He make clear to both prostitutes and their ‘clients’ that He utterly disapproved of what they were doing? Yes, mightily! Did He blatantly teach that sex outside of marriage was wrong? Absolutely! But did He also love and honour women who were prostitutes, and reach out to those who abused them availing themselves of their services? Yes, He absolutely did! He made clear to them that what they were doing was sinful, and told them, quite bluntly, that they should go and sin no more. But it nevertheless seems to me to be quite clearly the case that He was often happier amongst ‘those type of people’ than He was amongst the ‘oh-so clean living’ Pharisee-types!

It raises a question doesn’t it? If we’ve never really had ‘those type of people’ amongst our friends and acquaintances, would we be as happy as the Lord Jesus was if He were to suddenly start to bring them into our lives?

 

 

 

Christians and the Gay/Trans-Gender Community

RainbowThe recent killings in Orlando, which deliberately targeted gay and trans-gender folk, rightly sent shockwaves around the world. It was an evil act carried out by a murderous individual motivated by pure hatred, and many innocent and precious lives were lost as a result. The fact that the victims were primarily from the gay and trans-gender community doesn’t make what happened any the more evil (how could it?), but it does highlight the terrible nature of prejudice and bigotry, irrespective of who or what such prejudice is targeted against. And I think it the case that this horrific tragedy demands that we give pause, as the Lord’s people, and be honest that a great many Christians have yet to think the issue of homosexuality and trans-gender issues through as clearly and as biblically as they should. This is, perhaps, a wake up call from the Lord and the place to begin.

Christians who Compromise

There are, amongst those who claim to be Christians, many who believe that sexuality is a matter of mere personal preference and not biblical command, who are consequently lax and liberal concerning sexuality and family life. They see no contradiction between their claim to be thinking ‘christianly’ and what the Bible actually teaches; that is, that sex outside of marriage is a sin, and that marriage is, by definition, between one man and one woman. I am not, of course, to be numbered amongst their ranks, affirming rather what God’s Word clearly does teach, as just defined, such position constituting the authoritative statement of what the Lord God, as very creator and originator of sexuality, has both ordained and commanded for His creation.

Christians who are Prejudiced

But it is also the case that all too many Christians, both today and throughout history, with whom I would be in agreement regarding the proposition that homosexual practise is, by very definition, sinful, have been themselves sinfully discriminatory and prejudiced against those who embrace such a lifestyle. Indeed, until relatively recently it was actually illegal in Western nations (remaining so in many countries around the world) for consenting adults to indulge in such behaviour, being thus rendered prone to becoming victims of great cruelty and oppression. It is clear to me as well that this was made all the worse because occurring in a culture, whether in Great Britain, Europe as a whole or America, that is, at least in part, the result of a totally mis-guided political and social application of Christian principles which were never intended to govern the kingdoms of this world, but a kingdom that precisely isn’t. The completely unbiblical notion that the purpose of the Christian Church is to seek to bring in and establish the kingdom of God on earth though the use and application of political power is probably the most serious enduring false teaching Christians have ever come up with, and nowhere has it impacted our societies more than in the historical oppression of those who did not conform to the biblical sexual ethic. What consenting adults do privately behind closed doors regarding sexuality is not the business, or in the purview of national government. As long as no-one is being hurt, or having anything imposed on them against their will, such should be down purely to the freedom and conscience of the individual.

In the 45 years that I have followed the Lord, being placed squarely in the conservative evangelical Bible believing wing of things, I have neither believed, nor desired, that anyone should be teated badly, or in any way improperly discriminated against, on the basis of their sexuality. Every human being should be treated with respect and dignity irrespective of what their specific sins might be, and we Christians do well to remind ourselves daily that our salvation is precisely from our sinfulness against which we continue to battle daily. The Lord loves, and died for, people who are gay or trans-gender equally as He did for those who are not, and none should be loved, accepted or valued any the less for so being.

A New Thing

There is something new happening in our modern liberal Western society, and I am wondering more and more if it might actually be, in some divinely ironic way, a manifestation and outcome of what I think of as being the Lord’s ‘built-in-cause-and-effect’ judgement on the Christian Church for of its record of prejudice and bigotry. A sort of rebounding back on us of what it has traditionally done to the gay community, as well as to others. And this new thing is the increasing emergence of a completely new and re-defined understanding of what tolerance is understood to be, being no longer seen as the allowing of that of which one disapproves, but rather the absence of disapproval itself.

The traditional understanding has always been that a tolerant society allows things not universally approved of because of a recognition of the wider principle that things like freedom of speech and matters of conscience trump secondary matters such as nuances of preference regarding personal morality. Indeed, this is where the Christian Church has played a positive part historically, albeit in a somewhat inconsistent way. Many people disapprove, for example, of gambling, but would not want to see it made illegal, or for anyone to be teated badly for indulging in it. Likewise, the ever-present largely heterosexual sins of fornication and adultery. Like most Christians,, I believe them to be wrong and disapprove of them intensely, but would not for one moment wish to see anyone living in sin or committing adultery either criminalised, treated badly (except, perhaps, for the spouse they are cheating on) or discriminated against.

But of course the point we must tackle head on here is that the Christian Church has traditionally not afforded homosexually oriented sins the same ‘latitude’, either socially or ethnically, as it has heterosexual ones, hence the prejudice and wrongful discrimination against the gay and trans-gender community that I am here highlighting. And the result, as the teaching of the Bible becomes increasingly rejected by Western society, is that the accusation of being a prejudiced bigot is not, as it should be, directed at those who would want to see gay and trans-gender folk treated badly and discriminated against, and not accorded the same dignity as heterosexuals, but at those who merely disapprove of the gay lifestyle on moral grounds, even though they afford gay and trans-gender folk the same freedom, respect and dignity as they do anyone else. The Christian Church’s traditional prejudice against the homosexual lifestyle, which in the past led to even criminalisation and imprisonment, has resulted in Christians now being punished for such a shameful legacy by a back-lash whereby the same prejudice and discrimination traditionally levelled against the gay community by the Christian Church is now being levelled at Christians for merely believing the gay lifestyle to be sinful, and for upholding the concept of the traditional, biblical nuclear family. The maxim that those who live by the sword shall indeed die by the sword is well known; but now, it would appear, those who have been themselves prejudiced are increasingly becoming the discriminated against. Poetic justice indeed!

The Heart of the Matter

By way of both contrast and restitution I say without apology that I have find gay people to be amongst the friendliest and most interesting and engaging folk I have ever met, and although I would be thrilled should any come to the Lord and repent of all their sin (and not just gay sex), I do not in any way consider them to be lesser human beings than sinners who are, like myself, heterosexual. Indeed, I would, without the slightest hesitation, stand side by side in defense and protection of anyone being mocked, derided, disrespected, treated badly or oppressed in any way because they were gay or trans-gender. And should it be that any such oppressors were also professing Christians, I would not shrink from taking them to task for both their ungraciousness and hypocrisy. Had only such been the traditional Christian outlook, if only in recent times; but alas, it has not!

Everyone should realise that whenever a population is characterised by prejudice and bigotry, and oppress people because they are gay, or trans-gender, or black, or Marxist, or Muslim, or Jewish, or anything else, and we stand passively by and permit it, then how can we possibly know they won’t eventually come after us? Today it’s the gays and the Jews and the blacks and the Muslims…but tomorrow it may be equally Baptists, Republicans, Socialists, or maybe simply even those who are white!

I was raised in the milieu of a once well known, yet now rarely recalled dictum, and it was simply this: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” Though obviously not a quote from the Bible, it is nonetheless absolutely biblical in what it communicates and is, in theory, an ideal that many people throughout history, Christians included, have died to both uphold and protect. Whether it be prejudice against the gay and trans-gender community from those claiming to hold to the Christian tradition, or the intolerance of modern liberals with their ever-increasing discrimination against Christians because of our moral absolutism, the issue is never the particular form that prejudice takes in any one instance, but rather prejudice and intolerance itself. There are today gay thinkers sounding exactly the same warning, who maintain that the very cause of gay rights, indeed, of civil liberty in general, has been systematically hi-jacked by those with a far broader and sinister agenda of trying to do away with freedom of speech, and the right to voice disagreement, completely. Hence the way in which mere disagreement with aspects of the the liberal agenda is being increasingly labelled, by both middle-ground politicians and respected media voices, as being in some way socially dangerous and undesirable.

The Middle Way

There are two ends of a log you can fall off, and Christians continue to launch themselves from both. On the one hand are those who completely sell out on the word of God and buy into the idea that the Lord doesn’t mind whether folk are heterosexual, homosexual, male, female or whatever, and that such things make no difference to Him. It is, of course, a ridiculous position to hold, and those who take it should be both honest and consistent enough to just throw their Bibles away and be done with it. If scripture is wrong about something as crucial as sexuality and gender, then on what possible basis can they decide what else it might or might not be right or wrong about? But on the other hand are Christians who are, and let’s just be frank about this, utterly prejudiced against the gay and trans-gender community, holding them in contempt in a way they don’t heterosexuals who transgress scripture’s teachings regarding sexual ethics. They have no desire whatever to reach out to such with God’s love and to serve them, but rather want to just condemn them out of hand and relegate them to being unworthy second-class citizens who don’t deserve to be treated with the same respect and dignity as other human beings created in the image of God. Both these positions are completely wrong. As believers we should be taking a different approach entirely; that is, simply considering those who comprise the gay and trans-gender community to be sinners who need the salvation of the Lord just like everybody else does. In his first letter to the Corinthians Paul makes it clear that, as Christians, we are not to be judging those outside the church, but each other as those believers within it. To those outside the church we bring God’s love through good works and kindness and by sharing with them the gospel of grace and repentance and of what Jesus has done for them on the Cross. Being neither the way of compromise nor prejudice it is the middle way. It is how Christianity should have always been in this regard.

Our desire, should there be any way in which we can bring influence to bear in order to bring it about, should be for a society in which people are free to both disagree with other and to disapprove of each other, but whilst maintaining the utmost of mutual respect and honour. A society in which secular liberals have complete freedom, plus my personal permission, to tell me that I am wrong in my beliefs as a Christian; indeed, to positively lampoon me if they so want, just as I should have the same freedom to take issue with them over things, yet whilst actively, and quite deliberately, treasuring and safeguarding each others dignity and right so to do.

Gay Marriage?!?!?!

A quick word regarding so-called gay marriage, given the subject in hand. I have always, as I think every Christian should, fully supported the idea of Civil Partnerships whereby a same sex couple can enter into a formal committed relationship with the same legal rights, protections and responsibilities as does, broadly speaking, traditional marriage. (As an aside, I don’t believe marriage should have ever been a governmental matter enshrined in law in the first place. It certainly wasn’t in Jewish society and the belief that it should become so came from that same old ubiquitous Church/State error! However, because it is a matter of law as Christians we must honour the procedure. Ironically, if marriage wasn’t a matter of actual law in our societies then legal definitions of it would not be needed and the whole gay marriage issue would be a complete irrelevance!)  With such an arrangement available in law it is therefore nonsensical to then proceed to legally redefine what marriage is merely so that same sex couples can be said to be married to each other as well as having the option of Civil Partnerships. By the same logic, are we to proceed to allow biological siblings to marry, or fathers and daughters or (indeed) mothers and daughters? If the only pre-requisite is mutual love plus the desire to be married then why not, by the same token, have marriages between threesomes or foursomes? Such would only be a variation on bigamy or polygamy. Are the Mormons right after all? Would it not be the case that to deny such freedoms to those who want them would be the same claimed discrimination that those who wanted gay marriage said was victimising them? What about people who want to marry their pets? (I kid you not!) Indeed, many gay people were themselves against the legal redefinition of marriage, citing exactly the same arguments as I have just outlined. They agree that, with Civil Partnerships available in law it is simply not needed, and are also acutely aware of the danger this presents to the concept of the traditional nuclear family, with which they have no quarrel, and the detrimental effect that further decline of it will have for civilised society in general.

Phobophobia!

One last point. You will have undoubtedly noticed that I have avoided using the word homophobia throughout, and I have done so simply because it is the completely wrong word to be using for the purposes for which it is employed. If arachnophobia is the fear of spiders, and agoraphobia is the fear of open spaces, then in what possible way can the word homophobia be said to describe the bigoted oppression of those who wish to see gay people oppressed and treated badly merely because of their sexual preferences? Such bigots may or may not fear gay people, but they undeniably hate them! There is a world of difference!  If a gay person was trying to hurt or kill me, then I might well fear them; but I am not afraid of them, in contrast to, for example, my fear of spiders, because they are gay, but because they are trying to hurt or kill me. I fear spiders, however, just because they are spiders; but why on earth would I fear someone who means me no harm just because they are gay? (Islamophobia is another such word flying around all over the place now, and what I am arguing applies to it in exactly the same way.) I therefore find homophobia, along with its increasing number of semantic counterparts, to be the most curious of words, and as such it is utterly unhelpful to our discussion. I am, however, becoming increasingly, and quite unashamedly, phobophobic!

But what the word homophobia should definitely never be used for is to describe those who disapprove of the gay or trans-gender lifestyle, but who nevertheless totally respect and honour, as human beings made in the image of God, those who embrace it. I disapprove of adultery, but that hardly, of itself, makes me also a prejudiced and bigoted oppressor of adulterers. I am not, to invent a word of my own, adulterophobic! It is quite possible to treat with dignity and respect those with whom one takes issue regarding their personal morality. It is called tolerance, and is one of the highest aspirations for which human beings should be reaching; and no-one should be leading the vanguard in such regard, whether it be regarding those who are gay or turns-gender or anyone else, than those of us who claim to know and love the Lord.

I will be returning to these issues again in my next post!

For my American friends on their special day…

US FlagWhat could be more important on Independence Day than the musings of an Englishman? So here goes…The true story of the War of Independence has, I think, yet to be fully told. I feel, therefore, that I owe it to you all to clue you in properly.

It is not possible to fully grasp what happened in those fateful years of the eighteenth century without understanding something of the traditional British psyche and our almost obsessive desire, out of nothing less than sheer English politeness, to maintain and protect the honour of even our opponents; and the best way for me to describe what I mean by this is with an illustration. Things have, I fear, changed somewhat in the last couple of generations, but there was a time when, should an English gentleman be courting a young lady, his overwhelming motive would, of course, have been only her very best interests. Should, therefore, such a gentleman have concluded that the relationship was not what he actually wanted, and desired to bring it to a close, he would have sought to end it in the only way that could have preserved both the honour and gentile dignity of the young lady he was, so to speak, dumping!.

It was therefore the custom amongst such gentlemen and suitors, who properly understood their standing in the scheme of things as being English, that he would proceed to behave badly toward her. This would not, of course, be because English gentlemen are even actually capable of unfeeling caddish behaviour – heaven forbid, of course not – but rather because pretext was being given the young lady to herself terminate the relationship on the basis of her suitor’s un-gentlemanly and un-English behaviour. Thus would end a relationship which the gentleman himself wished to terminate, but with the appearance that it was the young lady who had spurned him, and on the basis of his dishonourable and bad behaviour no less. Thus have English gentlemen, for time immemorial, protected both the honour and virtue of young ladies around the world.

We can now turn to understanding of the issue at hand. The British, even as far back as the 1700’s, had the duty of safely steering everyone in the world in whatever way in which it was best for them to proceed. It was never easy always knowing what was best for absolutely everyone, but as Englishmen fully committed to the duty bestowed upon us, we rose to the challenge as best we could. And one of the biggest problems we were then facing was the matter of our colonies on the other side of the Atlantic. Like children they were unruly, indeed, opinionated even, and maintaining the necessary rule over them became burdensome in the light of the number of other nations we had to manage and watch over. Though it is little known outside of those of us who have special access to the knowledge of what really happened, the British government of the day decided to find a way to cut the colonies loose and grant independence to them, thus relieving ourselves of the burden of having to so continuously keep them in order. And of course this is where properly understanding the British psyche becomes the key to also understanding the (entirely mis-named) American War of Independence.

As soon as the decision to get shot of the American colonies was taken by the politicians, the generals and army chiefs were assembled in order to work out a plan. How could the goal of granting the colonies independence best be achieved whilst maintaining the appearance that it was they who were throwing off the British yoke, as opposed to it actually being us just wanting to get rid of them because they were always so troublesome? Further, due to English thinkers being the greatest the world has ever seen, our political forecasters were well able to predict future scenarios in which we might one day need America, it having become a rich and powerful nation at its own expense rather than at ours, for all kinds of things, such as protection from other people who didn’t like us very much either. This, coupled with the oh-so English desire to protect the dignity and honour of these nest-bound colonies  whom we so wanted to see become an actual fledgeling nation, made it all the more crucial to get them out of our hair in such a way that it looked like it really was them getting rid of us. The plan the British Government came up with was simple: by imposing punitive taxes, and behaving rather un-Englishly badly toward them in various other ways, we would provoke, and then co-ordinate, a revolutionary movement amongst the colonies against our own rule. It was, of course, brilliant! But of course it was! It was an English idea!

Our agents were, of course, already in place, in the deepest cover, in every strata of American life, socially, politically and judicially, and thus, at just the right time, our man in Massachusetts, Samuel Adams, was activated. He immediately began to ferment the necessary fervour against us, and once he had sufficiently stoked the required feelings of rebellion and revolution, the British Prime Minister back in England gave the word, and the next stage of the plan, the Boston Tea Party, was put into motion by the same network of agents of whom Adams was himself a part. There was then only one thing left to do, and it is the clearest of all the evidence for what I am here maintaining, and it was to let the American forces defeat us in battle. It was to make the utterly impossible and inconceivable appear as if it was the case, that a military force, in this case an American one, could defeat the British in battle!

We have always been so glad here in England that we have never had to really seriously kick American butt. We have always liked you far too much to ever want to do such a thing. Indeed, it has been both our honour and privilege to have let you guys think for so long that you could have ever kicked ours. But the truth, as they say, will always eventually out, and I just hope that knowing what really happened doesn’t spoil your 4th July too much.

One last thing: if you believe all that….

…You’ll believe anything!!!

Happy Independence Day!!! Yea!!!

 

Our very own Independence Day!

I am, of course, delighted to have woken up to the news that Great Britain has voted to leave the European Union. Indeed, it is difficult to see how any Christian, or at least any Christian who has a biblical understanding of things, could be regretful. Our politicians were clear in their stated desire to remain in the Union, and it is a good thing in any democracy for the ruling powers to get a periodic trouncing. I further hope that later in the year America will vote for Donald Trump and not Hilary Clinton, and that a double whammy will occur in the two nations in which my family and I spend our time; that is, of blows being struck against the liberal political elite. Their agenda, fuelled by a hatred of the teaching of the Bible, is ultimately to undermine and destroy godliness in every form, and anything that frustrates their efforts, be it political or otherwise, can only be a good thing. In the West, ordinary people, disenfranchised by a political class dominated by a secular liberalism of almost fascistic proportions in its desire to control what people think, are making their dissatisfaction clear – and I, for one, am delighted to be a part of them so doing.

But none of this is what particularly matters for us as the Lord’s people. It’s a gratifyingly tasty bit of icing on the cake, to be sure, but it is not the cake itself. The cake is rather this: the world, of which the UK, Europe and the USA are but a part, is under the ultimate control of its invisible god, the devil. The Lord is sovereign, of course, but in His sovereignty has nevertheless consigned the unbelieving world to satanic rule, given that the hearts of sinful men and women are in unison with him and not the Lord. As believers though, we are rather citizens of Heaven, forming a Union more powerful than any earthly political entity. Indeed, a Union far greater than all the kingdoms of this world throughout history put together. And although this Union’s Constitution, the Bible, tasks us with the responsibility of being good, loyal, law abiding citizens of our respective earthly nations, our ultimate loyalty is always to the ruler of both Heaven and Earth, the Lord Jesus.

So let us remind ourselves, as Christians, that it is not politics that matter, nor, actually, anything to do with this world at all, but rather our trust in, and obedience to, the Lord. Whatever duties and responsibilities He has given us by way of living out our lives in this world, our citizenship and destiny lie entirely elsewhere. Whether the events to which I have alluded constitute a pause in Satan’s progress, or some kind of temporary move towards a resurgence in Western godliness, it still doesn’t change the fact that things will continue to get ultimately worse and worse.  The result will be a demonically inspired one world government which will lead directly to the Lord returning in judgement in order to rule the world in Person for a while, until He then destroys it completely and starts over  with a new one.

Today is a good day – and I find it amusingly appropriate that we in Great Britain now have our very own Independence Day – but it is a good day not because the UK has voted to leave the EU, but because Jesus is Lord, and because He is progressing steadily, and without either error or setback, towards His eventual predestined consummation of human history. It is always best to be found on the winning side, and there is obviously no greater winner than Almighty God.