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August 2011

Acknowledging the Truth

Sexual behaviors such as homosexuality are a big topic so I decided to do a post on what the Bible teaches on this. I will try to keep it from getting too complex though it will probably include a lot of scripture. With a few exceptions, most of the scriptures I'll reference are from the book of Romans.

The Bible doesn't address sexuality the way it is usually addressed in this day and age. It doesn't address homosexuality, or heterosexuality, or bisexuality, or whatever. The Bible talks about behaviors, about actions. In the world view our identity is often defined by something we consider a fundamental aspect of ourselves, such as sexuality, belief system, culture, a way of thinking, nationality/patriotism, career, or a personal passion for something. God's Word describes us as having a simpler identify. We are the sheep of his pasture. We are his temple, his dwelling place. We belong to Jesus. It is his thoughts towards us that define us; not our own thoughts, ideas, or passions.

Romans 1:5-6 (NIV)
Through him and for his name's sake, we received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith. [6] And you also are among those who are called to belong to Jesus Christ.

We are called to come out of the world in our way of thinking and our lifestyle. We are called to the obedience that comes from faith. If we have faith in God's thoughts and words towards us we will strive to walk or live in that. We are called to belong to Jesus.

1 Corinthians 6:18-20 (NIV)
Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body. [19] Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; [20] you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.

Sexual sins are sins against our own body and defile our body as a temple of the Holy Spirit. This is something that is very easy to overlook or ignore. Again, we are called to belong to Jesus. We are not our own. Honoring God with our body is important and sexual sins dishonor our body and dishonor God.

Romans 1:18 (NIV)
The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness,

Major point here. God's wrath is revealed against those who suppress the truth by their wickedness, or suppress the truth by their actions. This is the foundational truth in this post. It is important to acknowledge truth by our actions and not suppress truth by our actions. Self-honesty can sometimes be extremely difficult to live out.

Romans 1:26-27 (NIV)
Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. [27] In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.

Because of suppressing the truth through actions, God gave these people over to shameful lusts. These are actions; behaviors that defile the body and dishonor God and his temple.

Romans 1:29-31 (NIV)
They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, [30] slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; [31] they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless.

Most of us read Romans 29-31 and see all kinds of "wickedness" in a stereotypical fashion. What we seldom see is ourselves. Yet Paul is setting the stage here for much of the book of Romans. We may feel that we would never murder someone yet we may gossip. We may think we would never be arrogant but sometimes we are. We may think children should obey their parents yet we often disobey our Father in Heaven. And all of this is lumped together with the wickedness of sexual sins. Gossip and homosexual behaviors are lumped together with being arrogant, slandering people (big at political election time) and disobeying parents.

Paul didn't write his letters in chapters and verses. The first verse in chapter 2 includes the word "therefore." Basically Paul was saying, "having said all of this about wickedness, here is my point."

Romans 2:1-3 (NIV)
You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. [2] Now we know that God's judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. [3] So when you, a mere man, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God's judgment?

Paul is speaking to the church here. If we break one of God's laws then we have broken all of his law. There is none righteous, not one. Paul's foundation in chapter 1 of the severity of suppressing the truth and the severity of wrath against sexual sins and wickedness wasn't to mark a particular group of actions as horrible, but to impart the severity of the sin we are all guilty of. And this is a truth we have to acknowledge in our actions, deeds, and words.

Jesus acknowledged this in how he handled the woman caught in the act of adultery.

John 8:2-11
2 At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. 3 The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group 4 and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5 In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” 6 They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.

But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. 7 When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.

9 At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. 10 Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”

11 “No one, sir,” she said.

“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

Whether sexual sins, addiction to porn, gossip, arrogance, whatever; Jesus doesn't condemn. He does say go and leave your life of sin.

He says that to all of us.

Being in, but not of, the world.

The scripture refers to our bodies as earthen vessels or jars of clay.

2 Corinthians 4:6-7
6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ. 7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.

We have an incredible treasure inside these jars of clay, and this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. This treasure was designed to make a difference, to separate light from darkness, day from night. It set's boundaries.

Shortly before his crucifiction, Jesus, praying for his disciples, prayed the following:

John 17:14-21
I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world.
15 My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. 17 Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. 19 For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified. 20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.

The greek word for "sanctify" used above means to be set apart, or to be holy. Even though we are in the earth, we are to be set apart. If you are familiar with the concept of national embassies then you will understand when I say that my earthen vessel, my jar of clay, is not American soil. It is not Canadian soil. It is not French soil. It is not Russian soil. It is not Indian soil. It is not Korean soil. I have been set apart in response to both the work of Jesus on the cross and in response to his prayers.

Hebrews 11:13-16
13 All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. 14 People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. 15 If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.

In Jesus' time Israel was under Roman occupation and authority. The Jews were praying for Messiah to come and deliver them from this oppression. The Romans had slaughtered many Jews. When King Herod ordered all boys two years old and under to be slaughtered in Bethlehem it was backed up by Roman authority. This was a very bloody time. Yet when a Roman Centurion asked Jesus to heal one of his servants Jesus did not hesitate to agree, even though this Roman's faith was based on his own submission to the Roman authority that had killed so many Jews. Jesus still responded because he was not offended by the Roman. Jesus' earthen vessel was not Israel soil. He was not a Jewish patriot. He was set apart.

Paul was the same way. Paul had a fierce love for the Jewish people. He would have given himself up for destruction if it would have saved Israel. Yet he was able to say the following about a heathen government that was responsible for the slaughter of many in Israel.

Romans 13:1-7 
1 Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2 Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 3 For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. 4 For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience. 6 This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. 7 Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.

There is nothing about the Roman government at this time that was holy. Yet Paul did not go around criticizing the government or Caesar. Jesus paid taxes to support this government, yet he didn't criticize it. Both of them were able to fulfill their ministries because their hearts and thoughts were set on a county and city not of this world. Their citizenship was in Heaven. They were calling people to come out, to be holy, to be set apart.

Let me be really clear in saying that none of this means you can't love your county. It doesn't mean you can't fight for your country or defend your country. You can. But there are a couple of things that are important to keep in mind.

  1. It is not about whether or not a country is "right" or "wrong." Jesus responded to the faith of the Roman Centurion. This centurion was fighting for and defending a completely heathen nation. That didn't matter to Jesus. God honors faith. God doesn't honor our faith because we are fighting for the "right" county. He honors faith.
  2. In Matthew 11 and Luke 7 Jesus says that, of all men born of women none were as great as John the Baptist. That included every mighty man of valor, every warrior, everyone who had died defending their country and their people. We are talking all men, including heroes. Yet the least in the kingdom is greater than John. Not because the least in the kingdom are bigger heroes; they're not. It's because there is a different way of thinking in the kingdom of God. It's not about heros. It's about a treasure in jars of clay.

And it is an amazing treasure. Be in, but not of, the world. Be holy. Be set apart.