Love Requires Holy Hatred

Sin, although it’s now inherently embedded in human nature, grieves the Lord so deeply that He came to earth as a Man (while not ceasing to be God) and died as a substitute for us, thus atoning for our sin. He rose again, breaking the power sin has over us. If you tBlood of Christhink seriously about His action, you’ll realize that He doesn’t gloss over our disobedience.

God created us in His image. I’m not skilled enough in theology to fully understand all that being created in His image means, but much of it centers on reflecting His character. He created us to be holy, as He is Holy. When we sin, of course, our thoughts, attitudes and actions are anything but holy, and therefore we pervert His image. In other words, we become soiled…we obscure any resemblance to His character. And because His holiness can’t accommodate our unholiness, we separate ourselves from Him. Even when we accept Jesus, thus receiving His mercy and wonderful forgiveness, sin still distorts His image in us.

The good news is that the Holy Spirit gives us power to refrain from sin. We have the responsibility to appropriate that power, certainly, and I pray that my blog posts will encourage my readers to do so. I pray that they will encourage me to do so. We can obey Him, showing the world that He really does transform lives! We can live in holiness, reflecting Him to a world that desperately needs hope.

What we, in our self-absorption, call “responsibility” (heaving a weary sigh of martyrdom) is actually a glorious privilege, and we should rejoice that God allows us the honor of representing Him to a world that desperately needs Him. As 2 Corinthians 5:20 says, we are Christ’s ambassadors, showing others that, through Jesus, human beings can be reconciled to God.

When I give into anger, or when you give into whatever sin that seems to be part of “who you are,” God’s reputation is maligned by those who reject Him. Thus, we grossly distort His image. Frankly, I hate sin when I see it locking people away from the blessings of God. Often, I’m accused of being judgmental, bigoted, legalistic and (most recently, to my amusement) toxic. But I love people enough to hate the sin that imprisons them.

I hope you’ll love me enough to hate my sin.

Distinctively Loving

Rainbow HeartWhen, pray tell, did liberal culture determine that standing for Biblical values, particularly (but not exclusively) in relation to homosexuality, constitutes hate? The very people that demand love and tolerance from Christians show the least tolerance toward those who view their lifestyle as sinful.

And yes, I realize that people claim homosexuality as an identity rather than a behavior. I even sympathize with their conviction that homosexuality is “who” they are. In most cases, such people have genuinely felt different from their same sex peers early in childhood, and sometime during puberty they sexualize this feeling. Therefore, they understandably conclude that they were “born gay.”

Admittedly, I present an over-simplification of the situation, but not as much of an over-simplification as many might have us believe. I only mean to say that I reject the notion that anyone consciously decides to experience same sex attraction.

Yet I also make a distinction between a person and their behavior. For example, I struggle with the sins of anger, greed and, selfishness, all of which I’ve exhibited  since early childhood. Scripture condemns these behaviors, even though I have reason to say, “That’s just who I am.” In obedience to the Lord, I repent of those thoughts, attitudes and behaviors, separating them from my identity. Similarly, I believe homosexual thoughts, attitudes and behavior don’t obligate a person to declare homosexuality as intrinsic to his identity.

Postmodern  culture demands that I make no such distinction. When I say that the Bible uniformly condemns homosexuality just as it condemns my ingrained sins of anger, greed and selfishness, people accuse me of bigotry and hatred. I resign myself to the reality that they characterize Biblical Christians in such terms, but I believe they make a mistake in so doing. Furthermore, I believe they err by judging Christians as haters.

The prevailing sentiment of postmodern society insists that we love people only by agreeing with their behavior. Love, according to 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, never requires a capitulation to sin.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. ~~1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (ESV)

Love requires Christians to extend kindness with an attitude of humility, but it also does not allow us to celebrate sin. My husband responds to my outbursts of anger with patience, for example, but he never condones them and he expects me to repent of anger. He wants me to repent precisely because he loves me enough to encourage me to obey Christ.

I don’t mind if liberal culture calls me to address people with kindness and patience. But I do have a hard time when they decide that I’m unloving simply because I believe that God’s Word prohibits homosexuality. Such an assessment shows an incomplete understanding of love.

Rock Solid Faith

So many spiritual theories, some even claiming to represent Christianity, swirl around us, all vying for our attention. And all, either openly or subtly, elevating humanity over Christ. Those who stand firmly on Scripture, convinced that it alone is God’s medium of communication with man, risk everything from occasional ridicule to outright persecution…sometimes even from those who profess to be believers.

As American culture grows increasingly intolerant of Biblical Christianity, we must cling to the Lord with even greater tenacity. He must be our only focus. All man-centered philosophies will shift beneath our feet, compromising our balance so that we fall. Therefore, like the writer of today’s hymn, I recognize that my only security comes from Christ.

Really And Truly

Some of the online circles I frequent spend a lot of time talking about false conversions, and many of the people claim to have once been false converts. At times, I catch myself wondering if some of their confessions represent the latest Christian fad, although I understand the sinful folly of making that sort of judgment. If they feel convicted that they Ladies Study 03initially made insincere or misdirected professions of faith, I must accept their testimony with thanksgiving that Christ has at last granted them true repentance and faith.

Interestingly, I’m presently reading Matthew’s gospel, and I notice how many of the Lord’s parables deal with this very topic. The fact that Jesus spoke so often about this matter indicates that many people believe themselves to be Christians when in reality they’ve never experienced genuine salvation. Therefore, false conversions not only really happen, but the typical church has many members who lack authentic saving faith.

The understanding that false converts fill even the best of local churches led me to question my own standing with God. The Bible recommends such self-examination (1 Corinthians 11:28, 2 Corinthians 13:5, 2 Peter 1:10).  Yet, I can tend, in examining myself, to scrutinize my failures to such a degree that I eclipse all the ways the Holy Spirit indeed has demonstrated His activity in my life.

Yes, for all too many years I found ways to take some credit for “accepting the Lord.” And I felt some  self-righteousness about my outward obedience. When I actually did face up to various ongoing sins, I’d worry that I’d lose my salvation. But even with my faulty theology, the Lord always brought me back to the assurance that He had paid the totality of my debt on the cross.

Certainly, I spent 31 years in Charismatic circles, 18 of which I identified as a Charismatic. For 12 years after that, I belonged to a market-driven church. The teaching in these churches wasn’t necessarily false, but neither was it as faithful to Scripture as it should have been. Yet even at my most Charismatic point, I wanted to be faithful to God’s Word, and I sensed discrepancies between what the Bible said and many teachings I received.

Looking back, I see many serious problems that hindered my maturity in Christ. I even fell into several deceptions. But I also see that, in spite of myself, the Holy Spirit had His hand on me, and He graciously kept me from totally embracing error. On the basis of His faithfulness to constantly steer me back to trust in His shed blood and in His Word, I  stand by my belief that He brought me to genuine salvation in 1971. Definitely, many false converts do mingle with true believers, giving me good reason to question my salvation. Thankfully, however, the Lord has confirmed that, without a doubt, He has claimed me as His own.

I Can, But That Doesn’t Mean I Should

Read BibleAs Christians who care about sound doctrine, we should be willing to have people challenge us to back up our positions with Scripture. Such  challenges may cause a degree of discomfort, certainly, but that discomfort shows us whether we care about God’s truth, or simply about showing off our cleverness at wielding Bible verses. Once we study a matter with humility and arrive at conclusions that follow good hermeneutics and the agreement of well-established Bible scholars, we can (and should) defend Scripture.

Women bloggers, however, have to exercise particular caution as we contend for the faith, lest we cross the line from answering honest and valid criticisms from our male readers to actually instructing those male readers. My fellow women bloggers, Pamela CourvetteErin Benzinger and Elizabeth Prata (among others too numerous to mention) undoubtedly feel this tension. We all know men read our blogs, yet each of us firmly believes God’s Word prohibits us from teaching men (1 Timothy 2:11-12). This limitation makes it tricky to blog about God’s Word without violating it.

Recently, a man commented on one of my posts, wanting a rather detailed defense of my position, backing my argument with Scripture. I may address some of his presuppositions in future posts because they influence Charismatic thought at its core. I think some of his points need to be addressed, and I know I have the ability to provide Scriptural answers.

What I question is the appropriateness of me going in-depth. It’s one thing to voice my concerns about various movements among evangelicals in a way that asks readers to go to Scripture for themselves. And I have no objection to writing about my past theological errors, briefly contrasting them with Biblical teaching. I even consider it legitimate for me to warn against popular teachers and trends that undermine either the authority or the sufficiency of God’s Word. Also, and most importantly, I want to exalt the Lord Jesus Christ, the very Person that sound doctrine honors.

In honor of Christ, I want to avoid teaching men through this blog without avoiding my responsibility to substantiate my assertions (or, when necessary, recant them) with Scripture. Sometimes, I may cross the line, in which case I’ll eagerly repent.

If I had a way to guarantee an all-female readership, believe me, I’d be teaching a lot more boldly! Alas, I can’t control who reads this blog. I will, to the best of my ability, state my beliefs with appeals to Scripture, and will provide links to in-depth teaching  by respected men. This approach may not satisfy those who take issue with me. I anticipate accusations of copping out and of being unable to defend my position. But as much as my flesh would relish the opportunity to demonstrate my theological abilities, I choose to restrain  myself out of obedience to Christ.

Simple Rest

To have faith in Christ means to cease trying to win God’s favor by one’s own character; the man who believes in Christ simply accepts the sacrifice which Christ offered on Calvary. The result of such faith is a new life and all good works; but the salvation itself is an absolutely free gift of God. ~~J. Gresham Machen

The Wrong Person To Trust

Faint CrossIn 1995, I  moved from San Rafael, CA to Memphis, TN in order to continue working as a correspondence counselor for Love In Action (an ex-gay ministry that now uses the name Restoration Path). In order to join in the ministry’s relocation, I willingly became a resident in a Memphis nursing home.

When I first encountered the frustrations and indignities of living in an institution,  I philosophically reasoned that the suffering would prepare me for end time persecution. To my shame, I failed to maintain such an attitude. Very quickly, my self-centerdness reared its head, and my behavior greatly, and regularly, dishonored the very Lord I supposedly came to Memphis to serve. In 1997, I could no longer tolerate nursing home life, so I resigned my 12-year job (which I’d loved) and moved back to my mom’s home in San Rafael.

My moral failures in Memphis haunted me for years. They caused me to worry that I might deny Christ when real persecution came to the United States. I’d seen my cowardice and selfishness all too vividly in the nursing home, and I knew how easily I could collapse into self-preservation when circumstances threatened my comfort. I secretly hoped persecution would hold off until I could die peacefully in my own bed, so that I wouldn’t run the risk of being unfaithful to the Lord.

In recent months, however, the Lord has changed my perspective by helping me see that I’d been focusing on my unfaithfulness rather than on His faithfulness. Left to my own devices, of course I’ll fail Him. Guess what–so will you! In and of ourselves, the whole lot of us will   succumb to pressure, just as surely as Peter did in the courtyard of the Sanhedrin (see Mark 14:66-72).

The Holy Spirit has used Paul’s closing remarks in his first letter to the Thessalonians to help me shift my gaze from myself to the Lord.

23 Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it. ~~1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 (ESV)

The whole point of the Gospel is that the Lord does in us what we can never hope to do for ourselves. Once He saves us, He doesn’t want us to assume responsibility for maintaining our salvation. The entire letter to the Galatians, in fact, refutes the heresy that we must look to our own efforts in order to complete our salvation.

I failed in Memphis because I trusted in the wrong person: myself. But, as American Christians now face persecution, and consequently suffering far more intense than anything I went through in the nursing home, I now cling to Christ. He will not let me ultimately deny Him because, unlike me, He is faithful!