Posts Tagged purity

No Substitution for Truth

A recent announcement by a high profile leader within the Independent Christian Church/Church of Christ has rocked our brotherhood. Since the late 1970’s this man has been at the forefront of planting new congregations as well as providing spiritual insight & instruction through articles and speaking engagements for many ministers who serve ‘in the trenches’, even as serving as editor for one of the major publications within the Restoration Movement (RM). His announcement of a lifelong struggle with gender dysphoria was made public via social media outlets and his personal blog. Sadly, this admission included the revelation he is choosing to ‘integrate’ male into female, and has already begun to identify himself as a woman, which is truly heartbreaking as it identifies a desire to intentionally rebel against God’s Word.

Scripture condemns a man denying his masculine traits by participating in feminine behavior, mannerisms, or even dressing as a woman.

A woman shall not wear man’s clothing, nor shall a man put on a woman’s clothing; for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord your God. Deuteronomy 22:5, NASB’95

Such condemnation is not simply focussed on a woman putting on a pair of slacks, or even a man wearing a Scottish kilt. Condemnation comes when someone desires to present themselves as a gender other than the gender with which they have been created. Modern culture has enabled the concept of an individual identifying a gender based upon how they feel, or think heir gender ought to be. Such is the case with ‘Gender Dysphoria’.

The coming Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V) includes a revision from the forth edition 1. with the new identification of ‘Gender Dysphoria’ (formerly ‘Gender Identity Disorder’ 2.) as follows:

… people whose gender at birth is contrary to the one they identify with will be diagnosed with gender dysphoria. This diagnosis is a revision of DSM-IV’s criteria for gender identity disorder and is intended to better characterize the experiences of affected children, adolescents, and adults. 3.

To be clear, ‘Gender Dysphoria’ encompasses more than simple gender non-conformity as it involves a level of  distress for the person which is clinically recognized as significant. The DSM-IV identified the disorder by a different name (Gender Identity Disorder) and justification for the change in DSM-V is offered as follows:

DSM-5 aims to avoid stigma and ensure clinical care for individuals who see and feel themselves to be a different gender than their assigned gender. It replaces the diagnostic name “gender identity disorder”with “gender dysphoria,” as well as makes other important clarifications in the criteria. 4.

Mental illness often carries a social stigma, and public admission of a mental illness or disorder is not often the path chosen due to the potential social impact upon the person. For some, the impact of public admission is so stressful it compounds the distress already being experienced. Living in a fallen world, racked with illnesses of all manner, we must remind ourselves illness is the enemy the patient, is not. Compassion is called for in such circumstances. Unfortunately, many in today’s culture have confused love and compassion with acceptance of a behavior, and grace has been replaced with ‘tolerance’, a buzz word for complete agreement.

How should Christians respond to those who have embraced ‘lifestyle’ choices which are outside the acceptable boundaries of Scripture?

Truth

First, we must recognize the Scripture as the only rule for acceptable practices. Nothing has changed in God’s expectations for mankind, nor have moral values ‘evolved’ to become more sophisticated or relevant.

Second, it is important to note these ‘choices’ are nothing new, but have been in the world since the beginning. The Old Testament gives account of cultures given to all manner of immorality and the Apostle Paul, as recorded in the New Testament, also lived in a culture saturated with sexual immorality. His disciples ministered in this same cultural context and Paul wrote letters (now contained in the New Testament) to Christians and congregations from within this culture. Yet, led by the Holy Spirit, he never endorsed or tolerated immorality. In fact, the Apostle was very bold in his writing as he called people from a life of sexual immorality to a life of purity in Christ. He called offenders out by name. He referenced specific and public circumstances of immorality. He even called for Christians to pull away from those calling themselves ‘Christian’ and living in unrepentant immorality. None of this made him popular among men.

Modern American culture seems to be very similar to the 1st century culture of Paul’s day. Open promiscuity is the expectation of even the youngest of students. Couples choose to co-habit rather than commit to marriage. Marriage as ‘traditionally’ known is being assaulted by those who desire not simply to ‘redefine’ but to eradicate. Immodesty is so common it has become a powerful tool for advertising. Pornography and all manner of deviant sexual behavior is not only accepted but actually able to leverage penalty upon those who dare to disagree.

Impact of such cultural changes are also bearing upon the Church, and it is not along strictly generational lines. More and more people, identifying themselves as ‘Christian’, find moral boundaries within Scripture as no longer applicable for modern people. In fact, Scripture has endured many assaults from both within and without the walls of the modern Church.

Finally, Christians must be cautious not to isolate themselves from those involved in embracing immorality. Although Scripture cautions not to embrace evil, living as aliens & strangers in the world, we are also expected to live as ‘salt and light’ in a world which desperately needs Christ. Christians must never condone, nor enable immoral behavior, and Scripture is clear in response to a professing Christian who continues, willingly, in such immoral behavior… such a person is to be shut out from fellowship. (See 1 Corinthians 5:1-13)

Our challenge as Christians in modern culture does not lie in the ambiguity of Scriptural instruction on the matter for such ambiguity does not exist. Modern Christians face the same challenge Paul faced in the 1st century… holding to truth, and expressing the love of Christ to those outside truth. While maintaining the delicate balance of love without acceptance of sin, we must condemn immoral behavior, urging repentance by the individual toward restoration.

 

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Sons & Daughters #3: “Sexual Connection”

There seems to be much confusion in the world about sex… on one hand, from a secular point of view, sex seems to be only animalistic or mechanical, while from the perspective of the Church there is almost complete silence on the topic. The approach of nearly every secular sex therapist or secular marriage counselor is to use lust based advice. Day time talk shows which have addressed the topic of sex encourage all sorts of lust based advice. The notorious “Dr. Ruth” encourages all sorts of people to “explore their sexuality”, which means “go out & do whatever to whomever so longs as it feels good.”

The modern Church still deals with the impact created by many misguided individuals from early Church history. In a moral knee jerk response to the prevalence of immorality in early cultures, false teachings about sex developed. Seneca, a philosopher from 4BC to AD 65 made the following observation about the culture: “I see silk clothes, if these qualify as ‘clothes,’ which do nothing to hide the body, not even the genitals … Our women have nothing left to show their lovers in the bedroom that they haven’t already revealed on the street.” Upon the introduction of Christian faith the necessity for purity & sexual integrity caused Christians to allow the pendulum to swing a little too far, shown by the teaching of Peter Lombard (AD 1100-1164) when he stated “The Holy Spirit leaves the room when a married couple has sex, even if they do it without passion to make new virgins for the kingdom of heaven.” His opinion was widely embraced by the Church which specified intercourse as a means of procreation only, not intended for pleasure. This is one of the influences upon Catholic restriction of the use of birth control. Others chimed in, ringing similar tones on this issue.

By 1894 a publication entitled “Instruction and Advice for the Young Bride” by Ruth Smythers contained this advice: “At this point, dear reader, let me concede one shocking truth. Some young women actually anticipate the wedding night ordeal with curiosity and pleasure! Beware such an attitude! One cardinal rule of marriage should never be forgotten: give little, give seldom, and above all give grudgingly.”

So, for centuries the Church allowed the false presentation of prudish behavior equating to holiness, while the secular world ran rampant with its involvment in the fun of sexual expression coupled with the danger of no moral boundaries or guidance from the Church. No wonder the world has developed such a false impression of the Church, and believes that the Church is out of touch. Unfortunately, the Church has still remained relatively silent on the issue and has allowed powerhouses of immorality, like Planned Parenthood, to infect the minds of generations of young people. The Church needs to take a stand against such destructive, false teachings, and begin to pull our people out of the Hollywood, HBO & VH1 mentality of human sexual behavior. We can no longer sit idle by while those who advocate & participate in deviant sexual behavior influence the minds of people.

It has been said that the working definition of insanity is to continue to do the same thing while expecting different results.

The Church holds the truth about sexuality and it is time that we break the silence. Our world uses people and reduces them to objects until they are no longer appealing or useful, then discards them with no regard. There are two responses from the Church which are vital to reaching people:

  • Compassionately reach out to those who are hurting & isolated because of their sexual decisions. The only hope for complete healing is the Gospel and the redemption offered by Jesus.
  • Intervene between people and sources of false teaching, like Planned Parenthood. The Church must no longer allow only one side (the destructive side) of sexuality to be taught.

It has been said that the working definition of insanity is to continue to do the same thing while expecting different results. Church, we must be bold enough to abandon the passive, silent posture of the Church over the centuries and begin to reach out to the hurting, speak out to those who are listening, and live out the message of Jesus in living color.

The Church holds the truth about sexuality and it is time that we break the silence.

Since we have already covered the intimacy factor of the ‘one flesh’ relationship, as well as the need for creating & maintaining sexual integrity in the relationship, this week i will address how to strengthen the sexual connection of the relationship. We will be addressing the bold Scriptural teachings of sexual fulfillment in the one flesh relationship, and equipping singles to maintain their integrity.

Reading in preparation for the message includes:

  • Genesis 2
  • Song of Solomon 4
  • 1 Corinthians 7

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Sexual Integrity answers & resources

“What does the word verdant mean?”

This question stemmed from our Scripture reading on Sunday morning… Song of Solomon (Song of Songs) 1:15-16 (NIV)

15 How beautiful you are, my darling!
Oh, how beautiful!
Your eyes are doves.
Beloved
16 How handsome you are, my lover!
Oh, how charming!
And our bed is verdant.

The English translation of the word used here describes a “green” bed, which, when taken literally seems less than romantic in it’s selection. However, the idea is that of a “lush” or “luxuriant” bed… a bed of comfort. The common understanding of this text is that each of the lovers finds comfort, are familiar, and at ease with one another. Although most of us do not use such poetic language when speaking with our beloved, the message is very impressive and challenges us to hold one another in such esteem. A passage from the sermon Sunday cooperates with this thought in a more contemporary language:

“Marriage is to be held in honor among all, and the marriage bed is to be undefiled; for fornicators and adulterers God will judge.” Hebrews 13:4, NASB’95

The issue of sexual integrity hits close to home with most who live in today’s culture. The lure of ‘anonymous’ accessibility to inappropriate material, and the prevalence of such material, causes many to fall into a pattern of very destructive life behaviors. As mentioned in this sermon, such behavior leads to a destructive change of thinking, which, in turn, bear terrible results in relationships. Research has proven that the exposure to explicit sexual material leads to an involvement & participation in inappropriate sexual behavior. In fact, it has even been shown to affect the physical response & the brain patterns of those who indulge in such material. The affect of such explicit material on the brain is compared to the affect of crack cocaine… and it is equally addictive, actually changing the surface of the brain by literally embedding it’s images & sounds into the memory.

Developing a relationship which enjoys sexual integrity demands that each partner obey the boundaries that God has established. Anything less is sinful.

God has established a standard of respect & monogamy for human sexual activity. The term ‘fornication’ literally means ‘sexual immorality’ and encompasses any sexual behavior outside of marriage. Sexual expression within marriage has it’s boundaries as well, in order to maintain a healthy, mutually satisfying relationship. For married folks, sexual activity which goes beyond the marriage is referred to as adultery, and is equally condemned by God. The truth of the matter is that God establishes such boundaries in order to equip us with healthy, fulfilling relationships, not to remove us from sexual fulfillment.

Developing a relationship which enjoys sexual integrity demands that each partner obey the boundaries that God has established. Anything less is sinful.

Responsible adults must learn to develop the rapport & skills necessary to address such topics with openness & honesty.

Our modern culture creates a difficulty for parents, grandparents & guardians of young people. Studies have shown that young people are exposed to sexual activities at a far younger age than previous generations, a fact which is no secret since our culture is so sex saturated. The dangers are numerous, and anyone in a position of influence or oversight with children should understand the cultural enticement of children. Songs, videos, games, explicit materials like pornography, Hollywood movies & so many other areas flaunt irresponsible, godless sexuality in a way that appeals to many people.

Responsible adults must learn to develop the rapport & skills necessary to address such topics with openness & honesty.

To assist in providing the accountability & oversight necessary, I’ve compiled the following resources. Since this is an area which also affects teens & preteens, these resources reflect their specific needs. It should be noted that the best protection is education & accountability. Filters & monitoring software will only enhance such accountability and are not intended to replace it. Here are a few helpful tips, followed by resources to assist you.

  • Computers with internet accessibility should never be in enclosed, private areas, apart from adult supervision. Place computers in an open, public area where constant supervision can be given.
  • Devices like phones, computer games and some hand held games with internet accessibility should be monitored in an ongoing fashion.
  • There is no such thing as privacy for minors in this area. You are the adult, your child is going to demand priviledges that should be reserved for an adult only. You would not allow your child to wander the streets unsupervised in an area of town with a ‘erdlight’ reputation… the internet is such a place. Be the adult, make the hard decisions & stick to them.
  • There is no such thing as privacy in the world of text messages, IM, Facebook, MySpace or other social networks. Again… you are the adult. Text services should not include allowing the receipt or dispatching of images. Any child with such networking subscriptions must be supervised, so demand accessibility or shut them down.
  • Develop & train young people to respond appropriately when inappropriate material or advances are made. They should not engage, they should shut down the browser or application & immediately tell an adult.
  • Now, let’s cover some of the filters available for monitoring, protecting & filtering from inappropriate material.

    Safe eyes internet filtering software
    This is a filtering & monitoring software used to protect from inappropriate material.

    X3Watch internet accountability & filtering software
    X3watch is an integrity accountability software. This is offered in a free version, and a more elaborate & powerful paid subscription. This software allows you to have your internet browsing history sent to an accountability partner who can monitor & hold you accountable for inappropriate browsing.

    Bsecure
    Bsecure is an internet monitoring & filtering software recommended by Focus on the Family.

    YOUdiligence
    YOUdiligence offers software monitoring tools for social network sites like MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, etc.

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Sons & Daughters #2: “Sexual Integrity”

In my first message, I shared the three essential components to the “One Flesh” relationship from Genesis 2. Both partners in the relationship must openly & honestly assess where they are in light of these three components, which are the Intimacy component, the Sexual component and the Spiritual component. It must be noted that each of these components are necessary for a healthy, God honoring marriage, and when any component is weak or missing the marriage will suffer.

21 So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then He took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh at that place.
22 The Lord God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man.
23 The man said,
“This is now bone of my bones,
And flesh of my flesh;
She shall be called Woman,
Because she was taken out of Man.”
24 For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.
25 And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.
Genesis 2:21-25, NASB’95

Paul addresses the issue of sexual immorality, which was prevalent throughout the Roman Empire, in a number of places in Scripture. The Pagan, polytheistic religions of the Romans was quite removed from the Christian monotheistic faith. One of the areas which was difficult for new converts to Christianity was the issue of morality as defined by Christ. Adding to this change in lifestyle was the ongoing influence of a sexually saturated culture which considered sex to be simply a recreational activity. The only element of religious influence on sexuality was the temple Aphrodite and the religious ‘services’ offered by the temple prostitutes (male & female) who solicited ‘offerings’ in exchange for their sexual services. One may compare the cultural environment to a live walk-through of the Internet, without the sense of anonymity created on the net. Suffice it to say, there was nothing left to the imagination in this culture.

As one can imagine, it was difficult for any Christian man to maintain sexual integrity in such an ‘in your face’ environment. Further, it would be very difficult for families to counter the influences of such a culture upon their children and young men. Demosthenes, a prominent Greek statesman and Orator, stated of this era: “Men have three women. 1 for bearing children, 1 for sexual pleasure and 1 for pursuit.” The idea of monogamy was almost completely foreign in the Roman culture, yet, Paul remained consistent in the expectation that a man was to be exclusive to one woman in terms of a marriage relationship. One cannot read the New Testament Scripture without coming to this conclusion.

Marriage is to be held in honor among all, and the marriage bed is to be undefiled; for fornicators and adulterers God will judge.
Hebrews 13:4, NASB’95

Our culture is similar to that of the early Christians living in the Roman Empire. There are numerous avenues of temptation, some of which provide a false sense of anonymity in their participation, (like pornographic materials or online Pornography) while others are public (like prostitution or adultery). Single men are encourage to be the “stud” by engaging in numerous sexual encounters under the false understanding that their virility & masculinity is only enhanced by numerous sexual encounters. What is not often discussed is the huge emotional, and often physical, impact impressed upon the lives of those who engage in such activity. (Not to mention the terrible scars which often impede spiritual growth.) Men & women who engage in such sexual activity are opening themselves to terrible influences which can forever impact their relationship and prevent them from experiencing true sexual fulfillment.

27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery’;
28 but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
Matthew 5:27-28, NASB’95

Sexual Integrity must be achieved & maintained in every Christian marriage. How is this possible in today’s society?

  • First, by guarding the heart. Proverbs 4:23 says to guard or watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life. Jesus has identified that the things we say are an expression from our heart. Reserve your emotion & attention for your spouse. Emotional infidelity and infatuation can lead to destruction of your relationship.
  • Second, by guarding the eyes. Everything that a person takes in, whether it be images or sounds, influences our thoughts and actions. Jesus placed high priority on the actions of our mind, and even stated openly that a man can commit adultery in his mind. Jesus did not say that this was like adultery, He said a man commits adultery. Participation in anything which visually or mentally stimulates lustful actions or thoughts is not acceptable for Christians.
  • Third, understand that God is not a prude. So many people are under the false impression that the world is the one who understands & creates sexual fulfillment, and that the Church (God) is a prude. Nothing can be further from the truth. every ‘restriction’ created by God is for our benefit, to prevent us from enduring sufferings and lack of fulfillment. Sexual integrity is the only means of protecting & strengthening your marriage relationship. It is not possible, even by accident, to prevent your eyes from seeing such tempting images, however, we must learn not to allow our eyes to linger upon such imagery, under risk of producing lustful thoughts, which lead to lustful actions and behaviors.
  • Finally, marriage partners must learn to be open & accountable to one another. Open, honest communication is absolutely necessary to achieve harmony, security and sexual fulfillment in a marriage. Do not operate under the false assumption that your partner knows (or should know) what you need without you expressing your needs to them. Also, do not be defensive when your spouse poses questions to you regarding your sexual integrity. This is not an assault upon you, rather, it is an opportunity for you to strengthen your integrity with them. Allow questions to be asked so that you can establish a higher degree of accountability, thus building confidence in your spouse.
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