Human Sexuality from a Biblical World View
October 1, 2009
0. Why These Notes?
Recently a small home group of local Christians invited me to speak to them about gay marriage and sexual standards for Christians. Rather than citing a long list of proof texts I hastily assembled the following notes which give a very brief picture of how I see the Christian life after becoming familiar with the entire Bible. Biblical illiteracy is at an all-time high in our society nowadays, and I believe many of the problems Christians struggle with daily could be resolved much more easily if we first read, and read again, through the Bible thoroughly, so that we see the big picture. If one looks at the entire Bible as an integrated message from our Creator, it is soon evident that a Biblical world-view differs radically from a secular or pagan world-view. As God has been increasingly marginalized in our society, we are constantly brain washed to adopt the secular model. In the long run the two views are incompatible. Which view will survive? Should we not line ourselves up with the winning team?
1. Our Authority: Jesus Christ, delegated apostles, prophets.
We have available to us a large body of information on the man Jesus. We know who he was, what he said, the claims he made. Christians claim Jesus is presently alive and is the heir of all things. (We all learn from teachers and other human beings). The followers of Jesus consider Jesus to be by far the best qualified human being who has ever lived. He asks each of us permission to be the Lord of our lives. He promises that his rule in our lives will unlock the secret of life and that He will guide each of His followers through life and on into the next. Jesus is the ruling Lord of creation. I have asked him to be my Lord. This is where the Christian path begins for every Christian.
2. Authority: The Bible. The gold standard Jesus Himself used was the Bible.
When Jesus walked among men on earth two millennia ago his authority, his reference to truth, was always the Bible (the Old Testament). The Jewish Bible was for Jesus the very Word of God. Jesus taught that the authority his prophets and apostles were to rely upon after he left them was the Bible. Therefore a person who claims to be under the authority of the Bible is also bound and obligated to treat the Bible as Jesus did. See: "What the Bible says about Itself," http://ldolphin.org/App.html, and "The Authority of the Word," by Ray Stedman, http://www.raystedman.org/misc/authword.html. The world hates God and is hostile to God and God's ways. Christians must not rely on secular views and values in our analysis of the situations we face. Sadly, at the present time the church in America is heavily compromised because of adopting the standards of the world and abandoning the authority of Jesus and of the Bible. Our priorities have become turned around backwards, marginalizing Jesus.
3. The Christian World View is Holistic
Jesus is called in the Bible the "Word of God." The same term "the Word of God" is also used to describe the Bible. The New Testament is consistent with the Old Testament--its authority also comes from God. The Bible is a supernatural book, unlike any other written document. It takes root in the human heart and changes all those who will allow God access to their inner lives. The important matters the Bible deals with have been given to us by God by revelation. This means much of what the Bible teaches is not available in any other book, or from any other source. Trust what the Bible wishes to teach us, approach it with an open mind and Jesus makes clear to us the layers of knowledge and information in the Bible.
Jesus said that he was "The Truth." The Bible does not teach information on a given subject in any one given book or section. The great themes of Biblical truth are woven through the entire Bible, "...here a little, there a little, line upon line, verse upon verse." In order to understand one part of the Bible, we really need to know the whole. In order to see the whole picture clearly we must be willing to look at the whole Bible. In our day, moral standards have become relative for many, and many doubt that absolute truth exists at all.
4. Truth Not Acted Upon is Lost
The deep truth of the Word of God opens to our understanding as we act upon the truth we already have. But, truth ignored is lost. If we obey the truth we already have, more truth will be given us. God always makes it possible for us to obey the truth He gives us. At the end of this life we will be judged by the truth we actually had and on our obedience to that truth. This means if we fail to take the truth we receive seriously, we can lose everything. Millions endanger their eternal destinies by sitting through sermons where truth is proclaimed. Failing to act, hearts and minds become dull.
5. The Creation of Everything (Genesis 1-3)
The Bible presents the whole of creation as the work of a Master Craftsman, as an integrated whole. Adam was appointed as Manager, Governor, Steward over the entire original creation. The universe was created as a home for man and for God. (Hence the "Cosmic Anthropic Principle"). Adam/Eve were to be fruitful and multiply (bringing children into the world and populating the planet; and they were to manage the creation. Man and God were to live together in unity. It is best to take the book of Genesis as accurate prose which records our true history as one race descended from one man Adam and one woman Eve.
6. The Ruination of Everything
The universe as we see it now has been horrifically damaged by active evil agents. It is best not to blame the present state of things as God's fault. Evil in the universe did not begin with man but with a fallen angel, Satan. Enticing Eve, and then Adam, Satan persuaded our original parents to eat the fruit of the one tree forbidden to them by God. The fruit of this tree represented Adam taking upon himself his own standards of good and evil and becoming his own god--a rival to the one true God. Essentially this amounted to cosmic anarchy against the Creator. Man was tricked into believing he could be his own god. In fact we were designed to live in constant harmonious partnership with God. At the Fall, the first man and woman actually lost their high place as governors over the creation. Satan promised them power and position they could not have. Our first parents became immediately subject to sin and death. They suffered immediate spiritual death, eventual physical death -- and permanent exile from the very presence of God if eternal life as a gift from God is rejected. Nature as well as man was ruined by the Fall, and the universe began to decay (Second Law of Thermodynamics). Satan took over the management of the entre creation, corrupting the entire "world system" of politics, economics, industry, commerce, trade, philosophy, science, etc., Fortunately Satan is subject to limits and boundaries set by God. This angel, once held an office similar to Prime Minister of the universe. He was demoted to be "the god of this world" (system) temporarily. He is a destroyer whom Jesus called "a liar and a murderer from the beginning." Jesus is now engaged in restoring man to his original rule over creation, "in Christ." Jesus is now undoing all the evil done in the world by Satan and by us, (see Hebrews 2).
7. The Biblical Way of Viewing History
The fall of our first parents, Adam and Eve, severed their relationship with God and they began to make their own laws and rules of "society," which is actually a pagan "world System," opposed to God and exalting man. In our natural state, apart from Christ we humans all live as enemies of God and we are incapable of doing any lasting good.
The Bible is largely chronological but does not focus on the history of every nation. Instead Scripture tells us about "the line of redemption," -- the account of that fraction of mankind who grant God permission to restore them to a holy relationship to God. God is not now "fixing" the world but building a whole new creation centered around Jesus and those who follow Him. The vast majority of human beings have rejected God's rule over them even though the gift of healing and wholeness God offers to us is free and restorative.
8. Salvation and The Remnant. In every generation since the beginning, a few individuals have been willing to be restored to a relationship with God, by means of spiritual birth, through faith in Jesus Christ as Lord. Broken, lost sinners are made into entirely new persons -- God's solution to human sin is radical. God Himself had to enter the human race as the man Jesus in order that all human sin could be paid for by a qualified substitutionary sacrifice. This is no trivial solution. The sins of every human being who ever lived were transferred to Jesus (outside of time). Jesus was then punished fully for each one of us--whether or not we accept him. Does Jesus know us well? Does He understand all temptation? (See http://ldolphin.org/sixhours.html and http://ldolphin.org/howsaved.html).
Three days after His death and burial, Jesus Christ rose from the dead. He taught in and around Jerusalem for 40 days and then ascended into heaven, promising to return at an unspecified time to judge all evil--evil among men and angels. Jesus will then establish a Kingdom on earth, ruling over the nations from Jerusalem.
Israel was chosen by God to be a model nation setting an example for the rest of the nations. Israel has thus far failed badly in this. For instance, God intended that Israel should be the "wife of Yahweh" but the prophets constantly speak of Israel as the unfaithful, adulterous wife of Yahweh. In general only a remnant pleased God.
The church was chosen to be the virgin bride of Jesus instead of "the wife of Yahweh." But after 2000 years, only a relatively few people have responded to the call of Jesus. We are now very near the time when Jesus will return. Much information is given us in the Bible so we can know ahead of time how the end of the age will unfold.
Local churches were established by the Apostles in the First Century so that Christians could receive shepherdly care by teaching pastor-shepherds. God desires His people to know "the whole counsel of God." Every Christian reports directly to Christ, the Head of the Church. It is God's intention that there should be no hierarchy within or among the churches. The churches have struggled with many problems which Jesus taught about in seven letters found in Revelation 2-3. We are now in the final stage of the church where Jesus has largely been excluded from the day to day affairs of the church. As the Lord of the Church, Jesus has always wanted to be involved in every aspect of local church life. If Jesus is absent from involvement in all the affairs of the local church, an evil spirit takes over by default.
Special problems occur when a church is large and everyone does not know the others. When we humans fail to do things as God has instructed us, for example in regard to running a larger church, the Lord simply ignores us and works "outside" what we have made into an "institutionalized" church. (See http://ldolphin.org/church.html). Larger churches are a mixture of believers and non-believers--the pastor and staff may not all know the Lord. Revelation 17 indicates that a false church will rise to power at the close of the present age. 2 Thessalonians 2 predicts widespread apostasy in the church as the age comes to a close. There are numerous warnings about false teachers found in the New Testament. So we have to learn to discern between good and evil as we grow in Christ, and we will find ourselves engaged in daily "spiritual warfare." Spiritual warfare occurs out in the world, but also within the church.
The universe, the planet, all of the inhabitants were created by Jesus and for Him. Today most of the inhabitants of earth live pagan lifestyles -- they are people worthy of destruction. We are all houseguests in a universe built by and owned by the God of the Bible. In the end God must act justly. When He returns to earth to gather His faithful remnant the vast majority of earth's inhabitants will be destroyed--that is, excluded from His presence forever. All this is to say that a nominal Christian commitment will probably not be enough. "Knowing God," according to the Hebrew and Greek of the Bible, means we are each to have a relationship with our Creator very much like the intimate kind of knowing between man and wife in marriage. It is not an accident that the First of the Ten Commandments is a prohibition against every form of idolatry. Yet Americans today are a very idolatrous people!
"Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. "Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it. "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. "You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thorn bushes or figs from thistles? "Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. "A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. "Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. "Therefore by their fruits you will know them. "Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. "Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ "And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ "Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: "and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. "But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: "and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall." And so it was, when Jesus had ended these sayings, that the people were astonished at His teaching, for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes...." (Matthew 7:13-29)
When Jesus died on the Cross, two thousand years ago, He paid for the sins of all men for all time. What is important for us to see is that all our sins have all already been dealt with in full. After any of us allows Jesus Christ into his or her life, none of our sins can be brought up against us again in God's courtroom. Justice has been served by Christ dying in our place. This first stage of Christian experience is called "justification." We are also being made into whole new persons, and to that end, the integrity or "righteousness" of Jesus is credited to our accounts. We can claim thousands of promises in the Bible by faith. We are greatly-loved members of God's family and no longer His enemies! After justification, the next stage of Christian growth is called "sanctification." It is all about God showing us the life of faith which involves trusting Jesus Christ in all we do. Old habits are broken, old problems are resolved one by one and gradually we become more and more like Christ in the way we live. At death we will be "glorified"--and at that time we will receive sinless, new resurrection bodies, like the body Jesus had after His resurrection. The paradox of living as a Christian is that everything has changed and been made new, though at times it seems that nothing has changed. (Usually the order n the Bible following salvation is justification, sanctification, and glorification. Some verses show these “steps” as positionally already accomplished. In 1 Cor. 6 the order is switched: “...And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God....”)
9. Patriarchs, Families, Tribes, then Nations
Reading the Bible, starting with Genesis, it is soon evident that ancient groups of people were named after their patriarch or "founding father." In most cases, the characteristics of these groups resemble the personality, faults and strengths of their first patriarch. God deliberately built great variety into the human race, all programmed into Adam and Eve. Our main concern is how God's people live, we are not to draw our life-style values from those peoples who do not know God. The main theme of the Bible is our redemption, our restoration from the horrific damage done by the Fall. Clearly God is not saving everyone, though He urges everyone to come and join His program and to line up with His values.
Genesis 10-11, "The Table of Nations" lists for us the 70 original nations according to their origins. Evil very nearly destroyed the whole human race about 6000 years ago. The Flood of Noah reduced the world population from many billions down to only eight survivors: Noah, his sons Shem, Ham, and Japheth, and their wives. The building of the Ark required about 100 years and during this time all of mankind was offered free room and board to safety. But only eight humans accepted. Human evil can become so powerful that eventually virtually no one is interested in knowing God at all on His terms.
From beginning to end, the Bible is about God's love, mercy and grace. Each of us can have as much grace as we need in order to be made fully whole and fully qualified to be citizens of heaven. There is much violence and death recorded in the Scriptures. This violence and bloodshed and cruelty is because of the animosity most people have for God. As we come to know God personally each Christian can't help but appreciate God more and more as we see where we started from as lost sinners with no hope.
When Paul spoke in Athens (Acts 17) he acknowledged that the nations of the world have distinctive characteristics inherited from their background.
Then Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, "Men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are very religious; "for as I was passing through and considering the objects of your worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Therefore, the One whom you worship without knowing, Him I proclaim to you: God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands. Nor is He worshiped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things. And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring.’ Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man’s devising. Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead." (Acts 17:22-31)
10. The Importance of Covenants
The Law of Moses is part of a great covenant agreement between God (Yahweh) and Israel at Mt. Sinai. The man Jacob, renamed Israel, represents one branch of the family of Abraham. About 4000 years ago God called Abraham from the line of Noah's son Shem to be a spiritual father to many nations. (God's covenant with Israel at Sinai resembles a Jewish wedding ceremony).
The New Testament (or New Covenant), which applies to Christians, does not include the dietary restrictions or holy days and feasts, but does carry over all the moral requirements of the Old Covenant. Feast days, festivals, special foods, and so on are left to the Christian's individual discretion. The moral standards of the Old Covenant are carried over into the New Covenant but generally with lesser penalties.
A covenant is a set of solemn promises and commitment between two or more persons. Breaking a covenant is a very serious matter as far as God is concerned. (Where would we be if God decided to arbitrarily divorce us?) All that God does is done through covenants! One's personal relationship with God is a covenantal relationship. Marriage as it is described in the New Testament is a covenant, this time between one man, one woman, and hopefully including God.
The state often gets involved in affirming and endorsing marriage by requiring a license and by providing strong financial consequences for divorce. The church takes part in marriage by reminding man and wife that their relationship is like the covenant Christ has with His virgin Bride, the true church. Two families are joined together when a man and a woman unite in marriage. Communities are built around clusters of families observing the terms God has given us for our relationships with our neighbors.
There are examples in the Old Testament of men who took more than one wife. It is impossible for a man to give himself totally to more than one woman, but if a man with several wives converts to faith in Christ he should not put away his extra wives since they depend upon the man for their livelihood. The Bible is quite frank in showing the flaws of men like King David. He is "the man after God's own heart" in the Old Testament but his family life and marriages leave much to be desired.
The Law of Moses shows us what God is like as a Person. If we are going to spend eternity with God, we have to change so that we become like Christ. This is a huge requirement for us because we are very selfish and self-seeking whereas God is completely self-giving.
God is Holy and Just and can only act according to His nature. God is also Love. But God's love is entirely self-giving and not self-getting. The Law was not needed before the Fall because our first parents always acted in harmony with God. The Fall has violently disrupted the created order and caused mankind to live in opposition to God--as His enemies. (See Romans 1-3). "The wages of sin is death." Death is separation from God, and God is the Source of all life.
The Law can be studied with great benefit (as in Psalm 119) because the Law shows us what God is like. Believers are free from the Law--the Law has nothing to say to the man who is trusting Jesus and walking with Him.
3:19 "What purpose then does the
It was added because of transgressions, till the Seed should come to whom the
promise was made; and it was
appointed through angels by the hand of a mediator."
Romans 7:7 "What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! On the contrary, I would not have known sin except through the law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, 'You shall not covet.'"
Genesis indicates that God created two separate and distinctive sexes -- male and female -- Both sexes are needed to convey the image of God. Though God is not a sexual Being, He has both masculine and feminine attributes. (see "Made in the Image of God," http://ldolphin.org/Image.html).
Then God said, "Let Us make man (mankind) in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth." So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. (Genesis 1:26-27)
Men and women are alike in spirit but not in body and soul. One goal of marriage, as far as God is concerned, is evidently our wholeness (holiness) achieved by man and wife learning to obey God and to love one another in harmony with the self-giving love of God. It is comparatively easy for two men or two women to love each other wholeheartedly -- assuming the parties agree regarding the Biblical meaning of love. It is more challenging for a man and a woman to love each other as God intends, because men and women they are quite different in how they give and respond to love. In addition, the Fall has damaged all of us very deeply. When both parties in a heterosexual marriage invite Jesus to rule in their lives, marriage becomes a joyful and redemptive celebration as God intended it. But marriage is not easy and requires hard work.
In addition, the body of each true Christian believer is a temple of God. Idolatry is therefore a very serious defilement of God's temple. Spiritual adultery is allowing rival gods in one's heart. Jesus indicated that sin is deeper than just outward actions. "He who hates his brother is a murderer and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him." "Whoever looks upon a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart."
Divorce is a very serious violation of the covenant of marriage. Therefore marriage should be taken very seriously -- God intends for marriage to be a life-long commitment. God hates divorce, especially because of the harm done to our offspring (see Malachi 2:15-16). Sexual relations (which meet with God's approval) are limited to marriage only! Children are a precious gift from God, and therefore abortion is almost always murder as far as God is concerned. God did intend sex not only for procreation but also for pleasure. The Bible treats casual sex outside of a marriage as pagan in origin and also inconsistent with our becoming whole persons. I Thessalonians 4:1-8 tells us that sexual immorality hinders our emotional and spiritual wholeness. (See "Sexuality and Wholeness" http://ldolphin.org/sexrcs.html, by Ray Stedman). Of course sexual immorality, and all sorts of other sins, can occur in marriage. A marriage license does not give us special protection against sin.
God finds homosexual actions abhorrent or repulsive, (Hebrew: toebah) Leviticus 20:13. Paul in Romans Chapter 1 says that homosexual actions are "contrary to nature." The New Testament is even-handed in treating all forms of sexual immorality in much the same way.
A life-style involving sexual activity outside of marriage ultimately disqualifies a person from heaven! This is the standard for everyone in God's covenant community. The writer to Hebrews says, "Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge. (13:4).
The Greek word "porneia" from which we get our English word "pornography," is a strong word covering any and all forms of sexual misbehavior. Early Christians understood this word to encompass activities such as: prostitution, adultery, homosexuality, incest, and bestiality. Masturbation is not specifically spelled out in the Bible, but it falls short of fulfilling the purposes for which sex was designed.
God uses pain and chastening and suffering when necessary to help each of us attain to the holiness "without which no one shall see the Lord," see Hebrews 12:1-17. God loves each of us intently, thus He "hates" those things that hold us back from become whole and fulfilled men and women. We can each have as much grace and mercy as we need in overcoming the selfish and self-centered desires of the human heart.
Christians are to help one another overcome sin. The guidelines of Matthew 18 are very important when discipline and correction is needed, (http://www.raystedman.org/leadership/discipline.html).
To help us each develop a Christian world-view, as we read through and study the entre Bible, we should pay attention to the main thread of the Bible: God created us very much like Himself. The Fall has radically changed everything. God Himself in the Person of Jesus the Son of God came into our world and died for each of us, paying the full penalty for our sins so that we might be made into new men and women, living forever in community. The covenant community is called to live by radically different standards than we see all around us in the world. The ultimate separation between those who choose to follow Jesus in order to be made new, and those who ignore the calling of Jesus is absolute. God means what He says in the Bible. Taking Jesus seriously is a matter of life and death.
While marriage is the usual route for unmarried Christian men and women to move toward, a single person dedicating his life to the service of God is promised an inheritance greater than that given to sons or daughters, (see http://ldolphin.org/singleinchrist.html).
The Family Unit. Marriage is Universal in Every Nation: Human beings are designed to be nurtured by a father and a mother living together in a committed marriage, influenced by the role models of siblings, grandparents, and by other Christians.
Communities, villages, towns, cities and nations are built around the family unit as the basic order of the social order. Since many of us did not grow up in healthy, functioning families, the local church to a large degree can make up what we failed to get from our natural families. How does God build His covenant community? How did God originally set up the family of tribes, peoples and nations? One sees all this clearly through numerous examples in the Bible. In Scripture God shows us the full range of relationships from very good to totally broken. Societies can and do collapse when marriages become severely damaged by divorce and immorality. The failure of parents to nurture their offspring and to provide role models for married life and family living eventually means the next generation will be inadequately prepared for the responsibility of their own marriages and raising their own children. We are not to emulate the pagan nations of secular society but pay attention to the ways of our Creator.
A main premise of this essay is that it is not enough to know a few snippets of Biblical truth; we must take God seriously by looking at everything as God does, and then choose to line up and follow Him every day. The above generalizations about marriage and family and society are not spelled out word for word in Scripture. Most of what we learn about God and ourselves takes place as we set out and start following Christ. Head knowledge is of no value if it is not applied. Each of us is unique and our God is very much a Personal God. He desires to teach each of us as His very own sons and daughters, one by one
11. When the Bible is Silent:
It is generally stated that when the Bible is silent on a subject, there is probably no prohibition at work, or the answer is obvious by study using Biblical examples. Important subjects are mentioned in the Bible repeatedly, not merely in one or two obscure verses. We are supposed to be able to build our own Christian world view by knowing the whole Bible and understanding the main themes: where did man come from? What is wrong with the human race? What is God doing in the world today to fix things? Where is history headed? What is God like?
12. What God is Doing Right Now to Restore Things
The church was founded by Jesus Christ for the purpose of calling out of the world a group of people from every tribe and nation who would be made completely new by regeneration from God. (The true church today is a small sub-group, or remnant, of the much larger visible, "professing" church. Only the remnant will be saved). Sadly, the vast majority of people on earth today, as well as in every previous generation since Adam, will not be persuaded to come to know Jesus Christ. They remain lost forever. While Israel was given mainly earthly promises, God's promises to the Bride of Christ, the true church are mostly heavenly. This means that the followers of Jesus will eventually enjoy the exploration of all of the vast universe. Eternal life comes to stay in the life of every true Christian when spiritual rebirth occurs.
Through His Spirit, God restrains evil in the world to a very high degree down through history, otherwise anarchy and violence would prevail all the time. God is not making our world a better place to live by improving the human race--that happens only when people are regenerated by God and live their lives in dependence on his Spirit. Through the true church God is presently restraining evil in the world (acting as "salt" and "light"). This restraint is soon to be lifted. This age will end in a horrific war with most of the human race being destroyed.
13. God much prefers Mercy to Judgment!
"All through the Bible we see God's love is manifest to men and women everywhere in urging them to escape this judgment. God in love pleads with people, 'Do not go on to this end!' But ultimately he must judge those who refuse his offer of grace. He says, in effect, 'I love you and I can provide all you need. Therefore love me, and you will find the fulfillment your heart is looking for. ' But many men and women say, 'No, I do not want that. I will take your gifts, I will take all the good things you provide, but I do not want you! Let me run my own life. Let me serve my own ends. Let me have my own kingdom. ' To such, God ultimately says, 'All right, have it your way!' "God has three choices: first, he can let rebellion go on forever and never judge it. In that case the terrible things that are happening on earth, all these distressing injustices, the cruelty, the anger, the hate, the malice, the sorrow, the hurt, the pain, the death that now prevails, must go on forever. God does not want that, and neither does man. Second, God can force men to obey him and control them as robots. But he will never do that because that means they cannot truly love him. Love cannot be forced. Therefore, third, the only choice God really has is that he must withdraw ultimately from those who refuse his love. He must let them have their own way forever. That results in the terrible torment of godlessness. If God is necessary to us, then to take him out of our lives is to plunge us into the most terrible sense of loneliness and abandonment that mankind can know. We have all experienced it to some small degree when we get what we want and then discover we do not want what we got! For that sense of bored emptiness to go on forever, is unspeakable torment." (Ray C. Stedman, The Time of Harvest, Discovery Paper No. 4206)
The messengers of the Good News of Jesus Christ urge people everywhere to avail themselves of God's grace and mercy, which are freely available at the present time:
"For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. So from now on we regard no-one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." (2 Corinthians 5:14-21)
14. Understanding Biblical terms such as "Love."
The popular forms of love as depicted in movies, on television, in popular social discourse today are almost always far from the meaning of the principal Biblical word for love, which is agape. Agape is self-giving, sacrificial love. Jesus said, "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another." (John 13:34)
The love that originates in God seeks the welfare and long-term good of the Beloved, regardless of the cost to the Lover. Agape love does not ask for something in return. It is neither "romantic love" nor "need-based love." (See 1 Corinthians 13).
Since our inherited nature from Adam is self-centered, we have to retrain ourselves one day at a time. In dealing with others, are we allowing Jesus to love the other person through us? We are asked to love our enemies, and people we may not like by nature. Loving others as Christ loves us is often very inconvenient, interfering with all sorts of other things in life we would prefer doing by far.
For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again. Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." (2 Cor. 15:14-21)
Our one English word "love" can really mean our covetousness, our manipulation of others to get them to love us--and to disguise a dozen forms of lust or selfish desire. Real love originating in God is self-giving. Worldly love is selfish and self-seeking. It is central to the Christian life that we gain real life from God by losing our old lives. "For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich." (2 Cor. 6:9)
A topic of great confusion today is the insistence by many that we all were born with various sets of "human rights." Most of these alleged human rights are not based on the Bible at all. A corollary to this is the insistence by some that what two people do in private does not affect anyone else. This is patently false. Through the spiritual dimension, we are all connected to everyone else on the planet even if we will not acknowledge God. Christians are actually very tightly connected to other Christians. We are said to be "members one of another," and "members of the Body of Christ."
"Judge Not." Jesus said we were not to judge others. "With the same judgment you judge others, you yourself will be judged." This is about putting other people down in order to exalt oneself. Elsewhere the New Testament says the church is to judge her own internal affairs. Christians are to evaluate one another so we can grow. Later we will judge angels, and the world! It is not true that what we do in private affects no one but ourselves. As members of one race, we are all "bound together in the bundle of the living."
The Goal is Wholeness: "You must be Holy for I am Holy," says the Lord. Righteousness has to do with a person's basic integrity before God--his or her standing. The Bible teaches that we are not able to stand before a holy God on the basis of our own deeds or merits (i.e. "self-righteousness"). When any individual commits his or her life to Jesus Christ, that person's sins are transferred to Jesus and Jesus then pays the full penalty for all of the individual's sins. Secondly, the righteousness of Jesus is credited to the believer's account, available by faith. Only those actions we accomplish by means of the resources of Jesus, have lasting value. Trusting Jesus for everything, and denying self characterizes the "New Covenant" which Jesus put to effect at the Last Supper. Also called "the Exchanged Life," The Bible asks that every Christian live by the example Jesus gave us. Everything He accomplished was done by trusting in the Father. For us, everything we do is to be done in dependence on Christ Jesus.
"For I through the law died to the law that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain." (Galatians 2:19-21)
The Bible clearly tells us that human beings have been designed to live in a harmonious, personal relationship with God. We are not autonomous "gods." We function either as servants of Jesus or as servants of sin (see Romans 6). The life Jesus lived while he was among us on earth can be considered an example of what a whole man looks like. Jesus did everything in dependence upon God the Father. He taught that we who follow Jesus are similarly to live our lives in partnership with Jesus.
When God asks for a certain kind of acceptable behavior from his own people, he always provides us with the necessary resources to attain to that level of behavior. The standards of the world and the prevailing moral values of the secular world around us are to be shunned by followers of Christ. We are asked to live "in the world but not of the world."
"For this is the will of God, your sanctification (wholeness): that you should abstain from sexual immorality (porneia); that each of you should know how to exercise self control over his own body in sanctification and honor, not in passion of lust, like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one should take advantage of and defraud his brother in this matter, because the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also forewarned you and testified. For God did not call us to uncleanness, but in holiness. Therefore he who rejects this does not reject man, but God, who has also given us His Holy Spirit." (1 Thess. 4:1-8)
The Apostle Paul tells all of the followers of Jesus Christ, that we are "complete in Christ who is the head of all rule and authority." (Colossians 2:10). God is not very much interested in our present happiness! His greatest work in us is about eternity and the life His followers will enjoy with Him forever in the ages to come. The unbelievers of this world will not go on from this present life to enjoy eternal life with their Creator. They have rejected the free gift of salvation.
Love between two persons can't take place unless both parties consent and find common ground for their relationship. John 3:16 is often said to be a one-verse summary of the major theme of the Bible, "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, so that whoever believes in him might not perish but have everlasting life." God offers Himself to us unconditionally. The Christian life begins when we agree to allow Jesus Christ to be our Leader and Lover and Friend. He will do the rest, but a relationship with Jesus requires our assent.
Jesus is the appointed heir of all things. If we ignore Him, we will lose everything in the end. Right now we are house guests in His House. He will be back soon and then a great separation will occur dividing those who know and follow Jesus from those who do not. This is why a sound world view is so important. We can't have it both ways. Jesus said, "He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters." (Luke 11:23)
(Changes, 10/13/2009. Thanks to Elaine Stedman and Marshall Diakon)
(Edits: 10/25/09. Thanks for Elaine Stedman)