Sunday, December 25, 2011

The Perfect "Living Sacrifice"

We know that Jesus came to die for us.  That's what makes His birth so worth celebrating.

But have we forgotten that He also came to live for us, that even now He "always lives to make intercession for us" (Heb 7:25)?

Many a husband boasts that he would die for his wife, but would not dream of putting her before himself in day-to-day life, of living sacrificially for her.

Jesus is not that kind of husband.  And His church is the most blessed bride imaginable.

You know that righteousness which He imputes to us (i.e. credits to our account)?  It's not just the righteousness that He had from eternity past.  It's the righteousness He lived out for us as the God-Man, representing us, as one of us, so that He in His righteousness could stand in our place before the throne of God.

The perfect man.  Living perfectly when it hurt, simply because it pleased the Father He loved, and because He wanted to qualify us to enjoy the Father, too.  He could have continued living flawlessly in Heaven, you know.  But He chose to do it here, in human after difficult day; in poverty, in disgrace under a cloud of presumed illegitimacy, in ordinary obscurity, by the sweat of his brow, for the sake of people who appreciated none of it.  At least, not nearly as much as they should have, if at all.

He lived perfectly, not just in the big dramatic moments that we read about in Scripture, but in the countless inconsequential moments that never made it on record.  Thirty-some years of ordinary experiences...and not one moment lived selfishly.  He received every second from His Father's hand, and deliberately laid each one on the altar of His Father's will (John 8:28) for our sake (John 17:19).

Before He was our dying sacrifice, He was our living sacrifice.  Truly, what He asks of us (Rom 12:1-2) is nothing that He hasn't done for us first.

When God commanded sacrifices, He never asked anybody what they thought they should give.  He laid all His requirements out in excruciating detail. And once a sacrifice was given, it was completely out of the giver's hands.  It belonged to God, and God decided what to do with it.

He accepted some and rejected others (Gen 4:5, Prov 15:8, Hos 8:13, Heb 11:4).  Some He commanded to be used to feed the priests and their families.  Some He commanded would supply food for a joyous celebration for the sacrifice-bringer and his loved ones.

Some He commanded would be burned to ashes, leaving nothing at all for the bringer to enjoy.

Most sacrifices passed without any visible indication of God's involvement in the process.  But some rocked the giver's world with supernatural approval or wrath (1 Kings 18: 37-39, Lev 10:1-2).

And so it is with living sacrifices...with moments given into His hands.  We have no say in what is done with them once given.  Some moments will serve to feed others.  Some will supply celebrations for us to enjoy.

Others will seem to leave nothing but ashes.

Few will rock our world with signs of supernatural response.

Jesus knew all those kinds of sacrifices.  Moments, received with thanks and offered back, which fed thousands on hillsides.  Moments that supplied wine for wedding feasts. 

Moments, or rather hours, of agony ending in the dust of death. 

And in the moment of His sacrificial death, He made no demands, but put it all in the Father's hands to do with as He pleased (Luke 23:46).

But no, His sacrifices did not end there.  His righteousness accomplished all that He came to do, so that His perfect life and perfect death could both be imputed to us (Isa 61:10, 2 Co 5:21).  And God rocked our world with His supernatural seal of approval.  We call it the resurrection, and in it we who believe are also raised to new life (Rom 6:4).

On this day when we celebrate His birth, may we remember to celebrate His life as well.  If we are His, then His life flows in our veins.  He is our life.

Blessed be His name!

Photo by clshearin 

Friday, December 9, 2011

Praying for "...But Not..."

It's been a long time since I've posted anything.  But it certainly hasn't been for lack of "interesting" events in my life!  In the past couple of months I've spent a great deal of time on bedrest, relying on the incredible generosity of my church and help from my family.  I've undergone tons of medical tests, taken lots of medications, received several new diagnoses, struggled with hopes delayed, engaged in wrestlings with God, and seen answers to prayers that I had never even been wise enough to pray.  (Must have been other believers and Jesus who made those requests on my behalf, I'm sure.)

Finally, just over a week ago (on Nov 29, 2011), I had the major surgery I needed.  Thanks be to God, I am already feeling better than I have felt for months, and am on the road to what will probably be better overall health than I've had in more than a decade!  I'm still relying on the generosity of others for help, but I'm now cleared to lift up to 8-10 lbs, so I can do many more things.

In some ways it's been tough, but I wouldn't trade this time for anything.  God has been SO present, and SO sweet!  I have learned so much about rest, about trust, about submission, about gratitude...but mostly about the precious sovereign love of God for me in Christ.  Thank Him along with me, will you?

 A little while ago I read "A Praying Life" by Paul Miller, and it changed the way I pray for myself, my family, my neighborhood, my church, missionaries, and the world.  The book helped me see how to get to the root and pray about the heart of the issues in my life and sphere.  And boy, do I always need to deal with heart issues!

You see, I've always had a powerful avoidance ethic.  "If you can't control it, avoid it" was my unspoken motto for life, unseen and unquestioned as it guided me into disaster after disaster.  My prayer life largely focused on the desire to see pain relieved or prevented, even as I busily pursued the kind of selfishness that ate me up and made me useless.

But several months ago, when I was making up my new prayer card for myself, the Spirit brought one of my Scripture memory passages to mind.  (That's a powerful argument for memorizing Scripture!)  I made that passage part of my daily prayer for myself, and because it aligns with God's wise will, He is honoring it.

May I invite you along as I pray this passage?

"Lord, please free me from the urge to try to control everything, the belief that the avoidance of pain is the greatest good.  At the heart of them, my prayers used to always be, 'Don't let me be afflicted.  Don't let me be perplexed.  Don't let me be persecuted.  Don't let me be struck down.'  But that's not my prayer any more.  Now I ask that You would free me to be what Paul described: 'afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.' 

I say, 'Free me' to be these things, because that would be truly liberating.  I have been a slave to fear, held captive by avoidance, paralyzed by risk.  Please free me to love others in the way that You do...a way which is only possible if I'm willing to be hurt.  I can't triumph on my own, but through You I am 'more than a conqueror' (Rom. 8:37).  And what would this victory look like?  It would look like loving the Lord my God with all my heart and soul and mind and strength, and loving my neighbor as myself.  It would look like the end of self-centered self-protection, and the beginning of sacrificial love.  It would look like the end of regret over opportunities lost, and the birth of praise and joy over circumstances submitted to Your glory and the good of those I touch.

And then, Oh Lord, I pray that you would help me to understand, by experience, what Paul said next. Teach me what it means to be 'always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.'  How can it be that this, 'carrying of Jesus' death,' and this, 'manifesting of His life' is something that 'we who live' are 'always doing?'  I don't know, but I pray that you would make it true in my life so that I would be able to glorify You and serve my neighbor in that way."

I felt an immense burden lifted off of me the first time I prayed that, and since then the Lord has been faithfully helping me to pry my hands off the controls, to trust Him, to risk loving and being hurt.  I've got a long way to go, of course, but I love the path I'm on now!

How would your prayer life...your whole changed if you regularly prayed for the "...but not..." of 2 Cor. 4:8-11?

Photo by abcdz2000 from Stock Xchng

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Why Should I Pray For You?

I recently became involved in a conversation that troubled me deeply.  A fellow believer was attempting to talk people out of ever offering "unspoken" prayer requests.  (For those who may not know, an "unspoken" request is a request in which a person, for whatever reason, chooses not to reveal any details.  They simply say, "I have an unspoken request," and they ask others to pray for them.)

His arguments, as I understand them, went like this:

  • You have to give me at least some bare specifics, or I won't know what to pray about.  I will not pray for your unspoken requests, because they might be sinful.  (But don't give me too much information...I do NOT want to hear it!)
  • There must be something wrong with either your ability to form healthy relationships, or something wrong with your church's ability to provide such relationships, if you do not have someone you can trust with the details.  You need to work out those problems with yourself or your church, instead of bringing your unspoken requests to us.
  • If you're in a tragic situation where you don't have anyone that you can trust with the specifics, then why bother bringing your unspoken request to us?  You obviously don't trust us, or you'd tell us more (but remember, not TOO much.  We really don't want to hear it).
  • You lack faith if you believe that your own prayers for yourself are inadequate.  Trust God to listen to you as you pray for yourself.  You don't need our prayers.
  • I suspect that your request has something to do with your sinfulness, and your unwillingness to talk about it comes from your prideful unwillingness to confess your sin.
Someone else agreed with him, and complained about people going on and on with their requests and boring him with the details.  He actually described it as "torturous."  And then he complained about the fact that people who pray for the detailed requests will actually mention the details in their prayers, "as if God hadn't heard them the first time."

I was left stunned.  If the people who brought these arguments and complaints are representative of many believers (and I pray they are NOT), then the church has a lot of repenting to do when it comes to the subject of intercession...regardless of the amount of detail given or withheld in our requests!

Are we really going to pridefully critique one another's prayer requests and refuse to pray for those that we consider imperfect?  Where is our love?  Where is our humility?  

"Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness.
For we do not know what to pray for as we ought,
but the Spirit himself intercedes for us
with groanings too deep for words."
(Rom. 8:26)

That was the Apostle Paul, including himself when he said "WE do not know what to pray for as we ought."  Do we dare believe that we do better?  

God forgive us our arrogance!  Where would we be if Your Holy Spirit would only intercede for us when our prayers were perfect?  Where would we BE?

If we feel ourselves qualified to sit back and judge the prayer requests we hear, and spurn those who "do not know how to pray as they ought," we place ourselves above the Spirit.  He may condescend to intercede for us when we pray imperfectly, but we have higher standards than He does, evidently.  "Don't bother me with the details, and don't bother me without the details.  Tailor your requests to suit me, or you can forget my prayers."

Oh, how I thank God that He never spurns my imperfect prayer requests, because those are the only kind I've ever made!  And not only does He not reject our requests, but He actually goes a step farther and polishes them up for us, making them like sweet incense as He brings them before the Father.

Are we above interceding...above taking an imperfect request and agreeing with it by offering an imperfect prayer of our own?  Do we not realize that the Holy Spirit will have to clean up our intercessory prayers, just as He has to clean up the prayers of the person we're interceding for?  

Do we not realize it is a privilege to be allowed to pray for others, to be allowed the opportunity to be used by God in someone else's life, when we are so imperfect ourselves?

What is the purpose of asking for prayer?  Is it, as my acquaintance suggested, because we lack faith to believe that God hears us if we pray alone?  Is it so that people can judge our requests and determine if we deserve their intercession?  Why didn't God just tell us to keep our requests to ourselves, and why did He tell us to pray for one another?

Could it be that, wonder of wonders, God wants us to learn to love one another, humbly and non-judgmentally?  And could it be that love is actually more than enjoyment of others, but extends into bearing with them, and bearing their burdens?

What would these acquaintances of mine do, I wonder, if someone they deeply loved offered a "sub-par" request, with either too much or too little detail?  Would they roll their eyes and say, "Forget it, I'm not praying for you?"  I think not...and the reason would be simple.  They love that person.  So when they roll their eyes and refuse to pray for someone else with a "sub-par" request, with too much or too little detail, the reason is equally simple.  They do not love that person.

Jesus said that "Love your neighbor" is the second-greatest commandment.

So what do we do with unspoken requests...or any kind of prayer request?  It would seem to me that humble love for our neighbor could not be satisfied with less than this:

"Lord, my brother/sister has a need. I don't know what it is, but You do. Help me to love my brother/sister as I lift them before you now. Please work in their situation for Your glory, and may your Glory in their situation ultimately bring them joy in You.  If there is anything I can do to lighten their load, please help me to do so.  And please bring their name to my mind frequently so that I can continue to hold them up before the Throne of Grace.  Thank You for giving me the privilege of praying for someone who trusted me enough to ask."

Let me say it is a privilege to be allowed to pray for someone in this way!  

Oh Lord, forgive me for the times when pride has sullied my prayer life, as I'm sure it often has.  Please humble me so that I can pray for others as I should.  And please raise up a whole army of prayer warriors who love deeply and humbly, so that no one need fear to bring their requests, however worded, before Your people.  In Jesus Name, and through His Spirit who intercedes for me, Amen!

Friday, August 12, 2011

How I Mock Jesus (And You Do, Too)

Imagine, if you will, a classic tragic tale.  (And if you think from the beginning that you know where it's going, hang in there.  It might surprise you.)

Ours is the story of a prince (the best, most noble sort of prince) who dearly loves a peasant woman, though she seems incapable of returning his devotion.  One day he hears that his beloved is sick, near death in fact, and that nothing can save her but a transfusion of his rare blood type.  And her condition, he's told, is so desperate that it will take every drop of blood he has to save her.  He will have to die.

Because of his love for her, he donates all of that blood.  But as the last light of life is fading from his eyes, his beloved walks into the room.  She takes in the scene, is told why the prince is dying, and responds condescendingly.  

"Well, that was so very noble of you," she says with a pat on his arm.  "I will do my best to remember your sacrifice, and I'll sing songs of praise to your memory every Sunday.  But it was really a waste, you see.  Noble, but unnecessary.  You completely disease really wasn't that serious."

To her dying day, though she cherished sentimental thoughts of him, she remained mostly puzzled by the foolishness that had driven him to such extremes over nothing at all.  She couldn't quite bring herself to honor his memory as she should, because she found his foolishness pitiable, and just a tad embarrassing.

I've been that peasant.  Far more often than I care to admit.  And I'm willing to bet that you have, too.  Think not?  Hear me out.

This morning I was in the mood to coddle one of my pet sins.  And so I coddled away, not caring that I was doing so.  It really wasn't a big deal.

My condition wasn't that serious.

Then I found myself in a conversation with one of my sons... a son who was once again revealing his love of  "sin for sin's sake."  He really loves badness because it's bad, and bad is fun.

As He so often does, my Prince of Peace convicted me by what came out of my own mouth.  Here's the gist of what I heard myself saying:

"Son, Jesus wasn't a fool for coming and suffering the way He did, and dying the way He did, to save us from our sin.  He didn't overreact to sin, as if sin really weren't the "big deal" that He thought it was.  Look at Calvary and understand.  Calvary paints a picture of how much God loves us, but don't miss what else it tells us.  Calvary paints the very truest picture of just how horrible our sin really is.  The God of the universe looked at our condition, lost in sin, and decided that we were in such a desperate state that it was worth Him coming and being tortured and dying to save us from that sin.  Do you want to look at Him and tell Him He was a fool for doing that?  If the God of all the universe says that our sin is that big a deal, then it really is.  And one of the worst things our sin does to us is blind us to how bad it really is.  And it blinds us to the glorious wisdom and love of the God who chose to save us from sin, at great cost to Himself."

I had to slow down as I heard the irony of what I was saying. 

Whenever I coddle my favorite sin, calling it "no big deal," I am mocking the One who thought (or rather, who KNEW) it was worth His very life's blood to save me from it.  I set myself up to think of Him only sentimentally, as the noble but pitiable fool who overreacted.  I prime my heart to sing songs of praise condescendingly, instead of in awe and wonder of the love that saved me from my worst own sin.

That's how I have unknowingly mocked Jesus sometimes, and I bet you've done it, too, without realizing it.  I hope you'll join me in repenting and re-discovering the awe of what really transpired on Calvary, the horribly glorious truth of what we were really saved from.  May it infuse our prayers, our praises, our lives with joyful love for Him, and an ever-growing hatred for the sin in our own hearts.  May the Gospel, and the God of the Gospel, free us to walk in greater holiness today.

And may we love our wise, gloriously loving Prince as He deserves to be loved.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Just for Worship

I usually use the written word as my main form of communication here on my blog. But as some of you know, there's another form of communication that I love to use even more...American Sign Language (ASL).

Yesterday (Good Friday, 2011), I was privileged to use ASL in a dramatic presentation of "Watch the Lamb." Vocalist/pianist (and music minister) Bruce Webb, and violinist Bill Johnson accompanied my signing.

I hope you'll take a few minutes just to click on this link to a video of the presentation, and join me in worship. We will go back 2000 years and join Simon of Cyrene (Matt 27:32) as he encounters Christ on the road to Golgotha and ends up carrying His cross...and trying to help his children sort through what they've just witnessed.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Should We Really Want to Return to Mayberry?

I read a hopeful-sounding article today. It was called, "RIP: Girls Gone Wild?" I appreciated the news it shared; namely, that there are signs that Hollywood may be toning back on the level of filth it chooses to spew.

I celebrate the idea of a "cleaner Hollywood"...but with caution.

It is 100% good that Hollywood might clean up its act. The raunch and filth are a disgrace to our nation, and lend tragedy to the fact that we are still thought of (in some circles) as a "Christian" nation.

But oh, how deceptive sin is! And one of its favorite deceptions is called, "Playing dead" (link leads off-site). It doesn't mind lying low for a while, as long as its apparent absence lulls people into a false sense of security.

I cannot help noting how the debauchery of the '70's and its "Sexual Revolution" came out of the womb of the 50's and 60's, when TV was so good and clean, and not even Rob and Laura Petrie (The Dick Van Dyke Show) slept in the same bed. The adults watching the younger generation throwing virtue to the wind often asked themselves and others, "Where did we go wrong?"

I love the Dick Van Dyke Show, and other good clean oldies. They are a symptom, not a cause. Humanism began its takeover long before most homes even had televisions. I don't blame these shows for what happened. I enjoy watching them with my kids sometimes. But I see how Satan took a fairly benign thing and twisted it for evil, as he so loves to do.

You see, there was a loud, unspoken message in the good, moral oldies, a message that not only reflected its era, but reinforced that era's values.

We are fine without God...or at least with only the occasional tip of the hat to him.

The Petries didn't center their lives around Him, and they were good people. Same for the Ozzie and Harriet Nelsons, the Ward and June Cleavers, Andy Taylor and little Opie, and all the rest. They were all so very likeable, so very clean, certainly not sinners in desperate need of a Savior. Few viewers minded the relative absence of a holy God in their favorite characters' good lives.

Being "good people" was enough. Our TV favorites may have ignored God for the most part, but they certainly wouldn't have cursed Him. They were safely neutral, and we could safely amuse ourselves as we immersed ourselves in their neutrality. Except, of course, that we forgot the words of the Holy One:

Whoever is not with me is against me,

and whoever does not gather with me scatters. (Matt. 12:30)

The church fell asleep on the job, smugly satisfied with the moral superiority of our modern American people. God was declared to be a figure of total benignity, without wrath for sin. The basic goodness of mankind, as preached from the grave by Ann Frank, on the screen by the best of TV, from the vaunted halls of the UN, and from countless other sources helped push God to the back burner even in the mainline denominations.

Again, the good old shows are merely symptoms, not root causes, though they did have strong power to reinforce the "spirit of the times." (If you doubt that power, just go to any show or article which tries to define the spirit of any decade in the era of film or television. Images from the entertainment media will figure prominently in that definition.) But perhaps nothing is more deadly to the spread of the Gospel than the spread of moralism. If we're fine without God, and we're basically good, then Calvary can be nothing but disgustingly offensive. "Sin" ceases to exist, or is re-defined as "a weakness to work on," or even just low self-esteem. Worse, churches jump on the "morality" bandwagon and work to create either a liberal man-centered theology (on the left), or a self-righteous pseudo-piety (on the right). In moralism, depravity finds a most fertile breeding ground.

"We're fine without God" is NOT a morally neutral position. It is total antagonism to God, and no matter how well-intentioned it might be, it leads inevitably to decadence. And so, while the Petries slept in separate beds, their viewers geared up for the time when they could take godlessness to its logical conclusion in the beds of total strangers any time they wanted to (while destroying any resulting offspring with impunity). And somehow, American Christendom largely failed to see the connection between the two.

How could an era of such harmlessly amusing godlessness have gone so wrong?

And what happened back in the '80's when "religious political conservatives" really got upset about the rampant moral decay happening all around them? They decided to try to use politics to force the culture to act like Christians even when the people were lost. They tried to use political clout to "redeem the culture," as if the culture were a force and not a collection of lost people who need Jesus. The Moral Majority might not have admitted it, but what the movement as a whole boiled down to was a desire to whitewash the lost more than to save them. Hollywood stars can go to Hell, as long as they don't flaunt the pleasures of their downward path before our innocent eyes. (That may not have been the attitude of everyone who sympathized with the Moral Majority, but as one who was coming of age in the late 70's and early 80's, I know how the wind was blowing, even in my own heart.)

And yet, what are whitewashed lost people, except precious souls who cannot see their eternal peril? And what are whitewash-painters, except Pharisees? If we could have "redeemed the culture" and forced them to act "just fine without God," would our children really have grown up in a safer world?

How safe were the Pharisees under Jesus' gaze?

What if Hollywood cleans up its act and the culture at large decides to "act better" for a while? Will we breathe a sigh of relief and get back to the business of happily entertaining ourselves in its neutrality? Will we teach our children to care more about behavior than about the eternal destinies of souls who reject Christ? Will we deceive them (and ourselves) that being "good people" is good enough? Will we forget the Gospel yet again in favor of moralism and/or legalism?

I hope that the entertainment industry cleans up its act. But I also hope the church does as well. I pray that the church will embrace the long-lost, long distorted Gospel in its full glory. The fact is, whether we're as squeaky-clean as the Petries or as decadent as Desperate Housewives, all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. And the wages of sin is still death. And the deadening power of sin doesn't wait for the grave. It kills all that is decent and good in people (regardless of external appearances). And there is NO answer for the problem of sin except the grace and mercy of God, extended through Christ's atoning death on the cross on our behalf, and received by faith in Jesus the Lord.

If we forget the Gospel, and fail to share it faithfully, the best we can hope for is a return to Mayberry. And Mayberry was just the calm before the storm.

(P.S. If you, like me, have a strong nostalgic bent, don't be discouraged by the fact that there never really has been an era of idyllic innocence since sin entered the world. God gave us nostalgia for a reason... a very beautiful reason. Like everything else, it's meant to point us to Him. Read about it here.)
The photo used in this article was taken by familylife.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Book Review: "What's He Really Thinking?"

What's he really thinking cover

Like every woman, I often wish I better understood the men in my life.  Heaven knows, even without setting foot outside my house I have plenty of opportunities to rub elbows with people of the male persuasion. One husband plus three sons (not to mention a male cat) make for an abundance of testosterone all around me.  So, after reading some positive reviews of "What's He Really Thinking?" by Paula Rinehart, I decided to give it a look.  As the subtitle says, the book is designed to help you to be "a relational genius with the man in your life."

Does this book deliver?

I felt a bit of cynicism when I picked up my copy.  Partly, it was because I feared I might, at best, be holding a book of pop-psychology with a "Christian" label slapped onto it.  After all, that's what most "Christian" books amount to, these days.  Or, at worst, it could even be an angry feminist rant with plenty of male-bashing.  This world offers plenty of that as well, and I want nothing to do with it.

But, I had heard good things about this book, so I decided to wade ahead.  And I asked my husband to read it as well, because I figured he was more qualified than I am to decide if the book represented his gender well.

I'm so glad I did. 

The book is so much better than I had dared to hope for.  It fosters a genuine appreciation for the way God designed males, and a desire to get better acquainted with the ones I thought I knew.  I felt moved, inspired, and refreshed as I read it. 

Perhaps more significantly, my husband loved this book.  He underlined, took notes, and at some points was truly quite moved.  He expressed thankfulness to me for sharing the book with him, and for having a desire to get to know him better. 

Have I become a relational genius yet?  No, but I have great hopes that the conversations which will ensue as a result of our reading (and re-reading) this book will go a long way towards increasing our understanding and appreciation of one another.

I would unhesitatingly recommend this book.


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com <http://BookSneeze®.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Thursday, January 27, 2011

Offending People, Jesus-Style

Christ Driving the Moneychangers from the Temp...

Image via Wikipedia

This morning I read a blog post by Al Mohler called, "The Osteen Moment – Your Own Moment Will Come Soon Enough." It discusses a recent televised interview in which Joel Osteen squirmed under Piers Morgan's relentless gaze. Piers had asked him the worst question you can ask a "Prosperity gospel" kind of preacher who craves public approval but still feels any allegiance whatsoever to the Bible. Piers asked, "Is homosexuality a sin?"

Dr. Mohler's blog entry pointed out that every one of us who claims biblical Christianity will get hit by that question soon enough. And it left me wondering how I should answer.

There's no question that homosexual activity is sinful and prohibited. The Bible makes that absolutely clear. The question is, how do we present that reality when challenged by the Piers Morgans of our world (or our homosexual next door neighbors, family members, or co-workers)?

Most of the time, we see only a few possibilities. We can evade the question altogether, we can couch it in the most squirmingly cowardly language, or we can barrel on ahead without caring about the feelings of those around us.

Given a choice in our culture, most of us would prefer not to offend. And yet, if we're true to our Bibles, we know that Jesus often chose to be offensive (Mat 15:12-14 , John 6:48-64 , just to name a few). And we know that Jesus did all things well, so it must be okay to offend, right?

Yet we've all met plenty of Christians who not only aren't afraid of offending, but who actually love it. They're arrogant, in-your-face, obnoxious people who give Christ a black eye even as they name His name. In our guts we know that they offend with a different spirit than the one with which our Savior offended people.

How will I answer that question when it comes to me? Most of us go round and round in our minds and end up coming to one conclusion.

I hope nobody asks me that.

Not exactly helpful.

Folks, we're sometimes going to have to offend people. There's no getting around it. The question is, how did Jesus offend people? If we're going to do it, we want to do it His way, right?

When it comes right down to it, Jesus offended people with the Gospel. Sometimes they were offended with the part of the Gospel that revolved around His Lordship. Sometimes they couldn't stomach the way He refused to be chained to their legalistic rules.

But if you boil it all down, the part about the Gospel that offended them most was this:

You are a sinner who needs a Savior, and I am that Savior.

When someone asks us, "Is such-and-such a sin?" and they're waiting with sharpened claws to rip us up as soon as we answer, we become very un-Christlike. We follow the rabbit trail, when Jesus would have gone straight to the heart. The offense of the Gospel does not revolve around whether or not such-and-such is a sin. It revolves around whether or not you and I are sinners.

Right now, homosexuality is the untouchable sin, the rallying point for those who can't bear the doctrine of sin at all. The world says, "Don't you DARE call it sin." To do so is political suicide.

Our Lord never got into politics. He got into hearts and souls. And this is where we lose our edge. We want to let people move the battleground to the arena of action only. The Gospel insists that the arena exists in a much deeper place.

The message of the Gospel is much more offensive than the fact that homosexual acts are sinful. The Gospel tells me that my BEST acts are sinful. That's why, of all the people in Israel in Jesus' day, no one hated Him more than the Pharisees, the religious leaders who were so sure of their own righteousness.

No matter what the question, don't get defensive. Go on the offense with the best offense the Gospel can offer. Because the best offense of the Gospel is one that you can't present arrogantly.

Here's what I hope I would say to Piers Morgan and all those who ask if homosexuality is a sin.

"Piers, you know what? I have something more offensive to say than that. What true Biblical Christianity teaches me is that sin is not just what a person does, it's who he is. Sin is part of my DNA. It infects everything I do, and not just the things that look bad. If I reach out my hand to give $5 to a homeless person, it was a sinful hand that gave the money, and a sinful heart that decided to do even that good act. The news of the Gospel is offensive not because it labels certain things as sins, but because it labels all of us as hopeless sinners in need of a Savior. Did you know that the Bible says that all of our righteousnesses are like filthy rags? That's all of the best things that you can do, Piers, and the best things that I can do. Filthy rags. That's why, though the word 'Gospel' means 'Good News,' it's only good news to people who are humble enough to look at themselves and say, "I am sinful and I need a Savior." The Gospel is the worst possible news, the most offensive news, to the proud person who wants to worship himself. God resists the proud. He gives His grace, His mercy, His forgiveness to the humble. So behind every heart that angrily asks, with fists clenched, 'Is such-and-such a sin?' lies a heart that is yelling at God, 'Don't you dare call ME a sinner.' But for those whose fists are unclenched, for those who see their own sinfulness and hate it, the Gospel is the best news of all, because it says, 'There is a Savior, and He came to earth and lived a perfect life and died a horrible death and rose from the dead to pay the price for all of my sin…ALL of it, no matter what that might look like when it's acted out. He came to die because of the sin that's in our DNA, that infects our very best acts and leaves us desperately lost. That's the Gospel. So don't waste my time with asking me, 'Is ______ (such-and-such) a sin?' No matter what you fill in the blank, the answer is the same. It's either an outright sin, or it's a good act that is still tainted with sin. We need the Savior because we are sinful to the core. All of us. I need the Savior…heterosexual, non-drinking, non-smoking, non-cussing, non-you-name-it me…I need the Savior. And Jesus Christ is that Savior. Those who believe that they are sinners, who know that they cannot impress a holy God, and who put their trust in Jesus to save them and forgive them and cleanse them and make them new, they are saved and forgiven and cleansed and made new because of His mercy. That's the message of true Christianity. And it's much more offensive than what you hoped I would say. Do you believe that you need the Savior, Piers?"

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