The Problem of Ever Increasing Permissiveness! Personally, I blame Christians…

Here in England it is the 50th anniversary of the repeal of the law that criminalised homosexual acts, a law that I personally abhor was ever on the statute books. It is not for governments to be legislating regarding sexual immorality, whether homosexual or heterosexual. There is a vast difference between behaviours that are sinful in the Lord’s sight, and those which should also be criminalised. What consenting adults do behind closed doors, so long as no-one is being hurt, or no other laws are being broken, is not the business of governments.

But of course the mere fact that it is such an anniversary means that we are being bombarded with even more gay propaganda than usual, and anyone would think that nothing could be more virtuous, or of greater praise, than behaviour that my parent’s generation took for granted as being morally dubious. I deeply regret that there are those who want to treat gay folk badly, whose bigoted thinking is that they should be discriminated against, or thought of as being second class citizens. Such treatment should no more apply to gay people that to straight people who do things one might disapprove of morally. Tolerance is not the same thing as approval, but rather the acknowledgement of the right to behave in ways one disagrees with. As a Christian it seems to me that tolerance should undergird all our relationships, and especially our relationships with those who make no claim to be following the Lord Jesus. We should therefore no more despise the gay community than we would people who drink too much, use bad language, gamble or take drugs, or who do anything else we might disapprove of. The essence of our discipleship is that we are saved sinners, so to take an especially high and mighty attitude against those who are gay just because they are gay, as if this is more sinful than other sinful things, is not only ridiculous, but hypocritical and obnoxiously self-righteous. Indeed, I am always quick to say that some of the nicest and most engaging folk I have ever met are gay, and the idea that anyone should be treated badly, or honoured and respected as a human being any the less less merely on the basis of their sexual preferences is a truly horrible one.

But what I want to comment on in this post is that all the polls are showing that each new emerging generation of genuine Bible-believing evangelical Christians are more and more open to the idea that sexual immorality, whether homosexual or heterosexual in nature, is acceptable to the Lord, and ought not to be regarded as being sinful in the way the Christian Church has traditionally taught. In other words, even evangelical Bible-believing Christians are increasingly discounting biblical teaching concerning sexual morality and family life. Why is this? Well, I think the answer is pretty clear…and pretty damningly clear as well!

If you jump out of tree you will inevitably proceed downwards and not up. The force of gravity inexorably drags everything towards the lowest point; and so it is with sin. Left to ourselves, even as Christians, we instinctively veer towards sin as opposed to righteousness. So basically, any excuse we can grant ourselves to justify moral laxness becomes actual working permission to get away with sinful behaviour we would not otherwise allow ourselves to indulge in. So if the previous generation of Christians have long since stopped calling certain sinful things sin in order to excuse and indulge themselves, then why shouldn’t the following generation of Christians widen the parameters of what is allowable as far as they are concerned?

What I am getting to is simply this: The last couple of generations of genuine evangelical Bible-believing Christians have, by and large, ignored what scripture teaches concerning two vitally important aspects of marriage and family life. Firstly, they have largely thrown out what God’s Word teaches regarding the sanctity of marriage by legitimising divorce and remarriage in situations where scripture does not. “Till death do us part…”, though still regarded in theory a solemn vow, has actually been considered optional for even genuine Christians for a very long time. Ask yourself: How many churches do you know of that would impose church discipline on any in their midst planning to illegitimately divorce with a view to remarriage. Secondly, Christians have virtually monolithically rejected what scripture teaches regarding gender differences and function. The clear biblical teaching of the headship of the husband coupled with the duty of wives to be submissive to them, plus that leadership in the church is for the menfolk, has not only been either explained away or just completely ignored, but those believers who do adhere to biblical practise regarding it all are often castigated by their fellow Christians for so doing.

What possible grounds, then, can Christians who reject what scripture teaches regarding the sanctity of marriage and gender differences, have for being surprised by a new generation of Christians who have decided to ignore what God’s Word teaches regarding sexuality. If it is legitimate for my generation of Christians to have rejected aspects of scripture’s teaching regarding family life (i.e. longevity of marriage and male headship), then why should it be considered it wrong for a newer generation of believers to reject others? What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander, and it is hypocritical to say otherwise.

A significant proportion of genuine evangelical Bible-believing Christians in the West who were born from the eighties onwards simply have no problem with either gay sex or gay marriage, whilst older believers are horrified by such an outlook and completely baffled how it could have come to this. But I simply ask, what did we expect! If an older generation of Christians consider themselves free to reject certain biblical teachings, then what shouldn’t a newer generation consider themselves free to ditch a few more?

So yes, I do indeed blame Christians! As Western society has become more and more lax regarding the sanctity of marriage and family life, so also did Christians in that society. We bowed down to culture and not the authority of scripture. But I don’t primarily blame the current Christian generation for rejecting the bits of the Bible they don’t like. I rather blame those believers born in the 40’s and 50’s onwards who started the process off as far as Christians were concerned, who wanted easy divorce and remarriage so they could have their sexual cake and eat it too if a marriage didn’t suit them, and who then caved into the emerging surrounding cultural feminism so as to secure an easier life.

My conclusion is simply this: any Christian who thinks sexual sin, of whatever kind, is acceptable, should repent and get right with the God, and start living in obedience to His Word. But I think too that those believers who are horrified by what is now happening, but who are feminists, and who condone easy divorce and remarriage, should repent also. It was, after all, those two compromises with the world that kicked this whole thing off! It is nothing short of the most blatant hypocrisy to want to draw a line at sin C, because you think it’s going too far, having previously declared sins A and B to be alright because they happened to suit you!

“Every word of God is flawless. He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him. Do not add to His words, or He will rebuke you and prove you a liar.” (Proverbs 30:5-6)

Talk about being in the minority…..!!!

Something that is abundantly clear from scripture is that Christians are a minority group. Jesus said, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” (Matthew 7:13-14) So whichever way you cut it, the majority of people throughout human history have been, and are, unbelievers, with only a few – that is, a small proportion – who are Christians and therefore saved. This means that I am, by very definition, in a minority, as is every other Christian who has ever lived.

But of course it doesn’t stop there. I suppose everyone would rather be in the majority, because that would mean, at the very least, acceptance by most, and, possibly, even actual popularity. I don’t know about you but if the choice were mine then give me acceptance and popularity over rejection any time. But for some of us it doesn’t stop at being in the minority merely because we are Christians. The fact that the Lord’s people are so divided over what scripture teaches, and that so much accepted Christian practise is based on completely unbiblical teaching and tradition, means that there are those of us who find ourselves in another smaller minority, even amongst Christians, because of our biblical conviction.

What we have here is a series of ever-decreasing circles pertaining to acceptance and acceptability amongst Christians, and it works like this: All believers, as we have already noted, are in a minority group simply because they are following the Lord. (I am obviously talking here about genuine Christians, and not those who merely erroneously identify themselves as such because of the nation or culture of their birth.) However, because I am one of those genuine believers who adheres to the teaching of scripture, as opposed to unbiblical tradition, concerning church life, and who is therefore, by very definition, outside of Christian ‘mainstream’ and the virtually monolithic ‘system’ that comprises it, I am therefore in yet another minority even amongst Christians, who are themselves a minority in the first place.

Every which way of ‘doing’ church appears to be acceptable amongst the vast majority of Christians, from High Church Anglicanism/Episcopalianism through Methodism and Baptistic Churches down to such expressions as independent Evangelical Churches and Charismatic/Pentecostal ones. Every which way, in fact, except those of us who simply replicate what churches were like in the New Testament during the time of the Apostles. Understanding a church to simply be a numerically small extended family of the Lord’s people, therefore meeting in houses, having open participatory gatherings and sharing the Lord’s Supper as a full meal, as was the case in Apostolic times is, it would appear, the one big “No-No!’ Pretty much everything by way of church life is accepted, affirmed, respected and embraced by Christians at large…except that! Those of us who simply copy New Testament church practise are, apparently, only doing so because we are weird, sectarian, rebellious, deceived, crazy or just too extreme and unbalanced to be considered acceptable. Already in the minority simply by virtue of being a Christian, I further find myself in an even smaller one amongst believers merely for being stringently biblical regarding church life. But hey, there’s more! Amazingly it doesn’t even stop there!

Although, at least in the West, house church Christians are very definitely in the minority when compared to those who attend institutional/traditional churches, there are nevertheless still enough of them to have their own minorities; and guess what…I find myself in probably the smallest one! What I saying is that endeavouring to be stringently and comprehensively biblical means that being part of a house church, and therefore outside of the ‘system’, is only one part, one aspect of the broader matter of being faithful to God’s Word in general. Most believers who are outside of the ‘system’ are not, sadly, outside of it due to biblical conviction, but rather because they just don’t happen to like what it has to offer. Meeting in homes, whilst biblical in itself, is nevertheless only a part of the biblical pattern, and any kind of unscriptural nonsense and behaviour can be practised in peoples homes, just as it can equally be in the public buildings of mainstream traditional churches. So merely being ‘house church’, and therefore outside of the unbiblical ‘system’, is not, of itself, the point. The point should be that we are being comprehensively and stringently biblical. Therefore, those I gather with in the context of biblical church life embrace scriptural teaching regarding other issues which are generally left well alone and avoided by most other believers, whether part of the ‘system’ or not. Because we adhere to scripture regarding such issues as gender differences, and therefore scriptures teaching concerning husbands being the heads of their families, as well as the resultant necessity of Christian leadership being therefore exclusively for the men-folk, we find ourselves an somewhat unacceptable minority amongst even ‘house church’ believers. Hence the ever-decreasing circles of being in a minority amongst the minority of already a minority. (And of course here in England you would have to add home-schooling to the list as well!)

It boils down to this: If you want to be accepted, loved and praised by the world, then don’t become a Christian. Or, if you do become a Christian, be a luke-warm, carnal and disobedient one. And if you want to be accepted, loved and lauded by other Christians, then remain in the ‘system’ and serve both it, and it’s Masters (pastors/ministers etc), dutifully, carefully and, of course, financially. And if you want to be accepted, loved and honoured by the majority of those who have, for whatever reason, rejected that ‘system’, then you will need to ensure that you are feministic, soft on sin overall, weak on what the Bible teaches regarding divorce and remarriage, and generally wobbly on biblical teaching concerning family life in general. If, however, you put the Lord, and therefore the comprehensive teaching of His Word first, then you will have to learn to find your peace, joy and security in the Lord whilst being rejected not only by the world (which was always to be expected), or even just Christians within the unbiblical church ‘system’, but by the vast majority of ‘house church’ believers too.

The writer to the Hebrews wrote, “And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood. Let us, then, go to him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace he bore. For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come.” (Hebrews 13:12-14)

Unbiblical Christianity has it’s ‘camp’ just as surely as did Israel whilst busily rejecting what the Lord was saying to her; and Jesus, because of His adherence to the truth of Gods Word (He was the very Word Incarnate), was cast outside that ‘camp’ bearing disgrace. And as surely as we will have to bear disgrace in the eyes of unbelievers, so will the truly faithful ones of God’s people have to also bear disgrace in the eyes of those believers who live in compromise to the teaching of scripture regarding those things such as I have mentioned, as opposed to comprehensive obedience concerning them.

I thank the Lord though that, a minority of a minority amongst a minority though they be, there are still many, across the world, who have not, as it were, bowed the knee to Baal, however lonely, as Elijah discovered, it might feel at the time. One of the great themes in scripture regarding the Lord’s people is that of ‘the faithful remnant’, in contrast to the majority who, though nevertheless truly His, are compromisers living in, as the Apostle phrased it, carnality and wordy wisdom!

If what you are after is a quiet life, acceptance, popularity and the smile and praises of mere men and other believers, then you will have to be very careful not to conduct your Christian life overly biblically!

Like Ripples in a Pond

Welcome back and a very good day to you. Having kicked off the Blog yesterday with my very first post I am now just hoping that there isn’t any deep underlying and unconscious cosmic significance concerning the fact that it was, as I have only now realised, April Fool’s Day. (Critics, please fail to take note!) But be that as it may, I will proceed on the assumption that all is well and that the unfortunate proclivity I have in the direction of being a bit silly sometimes (I do so enjoy it!) doesn’t get too much in the way. So hey, our subject for today is…

Whether we like it or not life rotates around things like hierarchies, prioritisation and ascending and descending orders or importance; and following the Lord is no different. Whilst some people are consciously aware of their priorities and of why they order life in the way they do, others give it little or no thought. Yet even those who don’t think things through still have some kind of order and prioritisation in their lives, even if just that of lazing around on the sofa all day watching TV and eating Pizza. But what matters to us as believers is understanding just what our priorities ought to be, hence the idea of ripples on a pond.

When you throw a pebble into a pond circular ripples spread out in a wave motion from the central point of where the pebble entered the water, and this is exactly like the the way we order our lives, whatever that ordering looks like; but our concern here is what it should look like if we really are living consistently with the clear teaching of scripture.

So what is the central point from which all the ripples flow? What does the point of entry of the pebble into the pond represent? (Dramatic pause for frantic scribbling of answers on papers!) Yes, well done! Go to the top of the class! It’s the Lord! For us as believers He is the central point, or at least, He jolly well should be, of absolutely everything, and every aspect of our lives should flow from Him, and from our relationship with Him, and so consequently from His teaching and precepts. That much is clear. But what we need to understand is that the ripples then fan out in an order or importance and primary priority the closer they are to the origination point, and that whereas more and more ripples are appearing all the time, there is nevertheless always one that is the closest to the origination point, and one that is the second closest, and one that is the third closest, and so it goes on. And what I want to establish here are what the first 5 ripples ought to be, and in what order, because if we get these wrong then everything else will be wrong as a result.

The origination point is the Lord Jesus Himself, so what is ripple number one? Obviously, our individual relationship with Him. If I am not right with Him, whether because of not actually being a believer in the first place, or because I am a believer but one who is out of fellowship with Him relationally because of ongoing un-dealt with, unconfessed and unrepentant and sin, then whatever fans out from that is doing so through the filter of not being right with the Lord and will therefore, by definition, be contaminated and spoiled. priority number one is, therefore, maintaining a daily relationship and walk with the Lord in which we are being truly obedient to what we know of His Word, are seeking to ever grow in that knowledge, and then being painfully honest with ourselves when we have sinned, putting that right with Him quickly, specifically and definitely.

The next ripple is that of our biological family life. If Jesus comes first then, in my case, my wife and daughter come next. And if it is the case, and it is, that I can never be to them what I should be if my relationship with the Lord is not as it should be, then likewise I cannot be to others outside of my family life if I am not in right standing with those in my own biological family. It’s priorities! It’s an hierarchy of righteousness and godliness, and one thing can only come out of another, so if the more foundational thing is wrong, then anything else built on it, and resulting from it, will be skewed and corrupted as well.

It is little surprise then that the usual pattern for the letters in the New Testament is that their burden boils down to husbands properly loving their wives and Christ loves the church and laying their life down them, and to wives submitting to their husbands and honouring them as their head, and parents being wonderful parents and children being wonderfully obedient and respectful children. (Beautiful, isn’t it?)

But there’s more to this because ripple number three is to do with the fact that, whereas nowhere does the New Testament actually explicitly command believers be part of a particular and specific church, every verse is written on the clear assumption that they are. And thus we have our next ripple of priority; church life! To be sure, if family life isn’t in order then neither can church life be, but we must be clear that neither are we complete simply knowing Jesus personally and being part of our biological nuclear family. We need more than that, and what we need is, as biological families (mum, deadened the kids), to be part of an extended family of the Lord’s people with whom we have significant and open ongoing relationships, that being, biblically speaking, what being part of a church is meant to actually.

In exactly the same way that biological family life provides both mutual nurture and accountability, church life provides us with another layer of nurture and accountability outside of the nuclear family. Not that church life ever trumps family life, of course not, but in exactly the same way that it’s not good for man to be alone, neither is it good for individual families to be isolated and unrelated to others outside of them. Insularity is alway dangerous for a Christian (unless imposed for reasons beyond one’s control) and we need to be tied in with others at every level; and especially when husbands are the head of their families and can never have the ultimate accountability to their own family that can be provided by the husbands of other families. With authority comes great responsibility and no man should be the head of a family without ensuring he has real and significant personal accountability to other godly brothers who are in the same position.

But there’s more still because we next come to the circle of the wider body of Christ, or to all the other believers around who are part of other specific and particular churches other than the one we are. Remember, only as we are in a righteous stance toward each ripple can those ripples spreading out more widely be engaged properly by us, but in exactly the same way that although I know Jesus individually yet need others in my life, and in exactly the same way that my nuclear family need other families to be in fellowship with (church life), each particular and specific church needs fellowship outside of itself with other believers comprising the wider body of Christ. Again, insularity is the danger of the Christian life, and any manifestation of closed off attitudes or spiritual exclusivism is always a sign of something being very wrong.

Thus far we have the following:

  • Jesus – the epicentre of everything
  • My individual relationship with Him
  • My relationship with my nuclear family
  • The particular and specific church my family are part of
  • The wider body of Christ (believers in other churches)

But of course theres another ripple that ought to come out of these radiating five others, and it’s my relationship with unbelievers as I engage with the fallen world in which I live. Whether at work at the factory or office, or visits to the shops, or hanging out with our neighbours in our street, or even unbelievers in our wider nuclear family, a big part of our lives is that which we experience outside of family, church and the wider body of Christ. But again, what we have to understand is that only as the previous five ripples are in good order, only as I am living in right relationship in the Lord to each can it be safe for me to engage with a fallen world of which I was once a slave and in which I was once a child of the devil.

The only way to be, as scripture teaches, in the world but not of it, is to guard the ripples of these relationships as closely as I know how, and to embrace the priorities they present and to surrender to the challenges they bring. How can I love my wife and child as I should if my own personal walk with the Lord is a complete disordered mess? How can I be an active participant in the church we are part of if my relationship with my family is wrong and if there are things I haven;t put right with them? And how can I have any fellowship worthy of the name with believers in the wider body of Christ if the truth of the matter is than in so doing I am actually trying to ignore, or avoid, or get round, or escape from, the accountability with which I am presented through being part of a particular and specific church? When running away from the accountability that results from fellowship with brothers and sisters who know one really well , nothing is more relieving than fellowship with other brother and sisters who don’t know me as well and who are therefore not presenting me with the quite same challenges.

And of course if all the things are not in place then it’s quite simply the fact that my relationship with unbelievers, with whom it is absolutely God’s will I engage, will result in me becoming like them rather than them seeing my good works, and seeing my godliness, and giving glory to our Father in Heaven. We will, in fact, just be a sort of vaguely ‘Christian’ version of them, and they will see right through as they label us the hypocrites we are.

So hey, it’s like ripples on a pond…and it’s wonderful beyond words! Thank you Jesus for washing us with the water of your Word and for the ripples of your ever out-spreading holiness in the beautiful lake of our lives!