The Tulip Driven Life Podcast

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Gay Marriage and the Great Commission

By: Thomas Fletcher Booher

Quick, what's the first thing that comes to mind when you think of the great commission? Starving children, poverty, tents, preaching the gospel in the wilderness to these stricken people so that they may receive an inheritance in the kingdom of God? I googled the great commission and the most common image that comes up is of a globe, either with the cross or Jesus' hands over it. The general idea in people's minds seems to be that the great commission is meant to stir us to take the gospel far and wide, on a global scale, so that those who do not have it can hear it and be saved. But is this really what Jesus meant?  

Yes and no. Let's look at what Jesus actually said. Matthew 28:

18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.

The command is to make disciples of all nations because Jesus now has all authority following His resurrection and ascension. Christ has defeated sin and death, and we are now to proclaim that victory everywhere. Two things should be noted from this: 

1.) All nations includes not just the distant nations, but the nation you and I are living in. 
2.) The great commission isn't to simply preach the gospel to all peoples and nations, but to disciple them, to teach them to observe all that Christ has taught to the disciples, which has been preserved for us in Scripture. 

Looking at these two things together, it becomes clear that the great commission isn't only fulfilled when someone leaves town and goes somewhere far away to preach the gospel. There isn't anything more spiritual about proclaiming the gospel on a short term mission's trip, wasting lots of money that could have been spent on actual missionaries who have actually been ordained and commissioned to take the gospel to distant lands. Do you think you are commissioned and ordained to do so? Good, then go do it. But don't do this two week pseudo vacation trip thing and come back. God calls missionaries to be missionaries for life, not just on the weekends or whenever they feel like it. If you aren't called to that, you have not been ordained and commissioned by God to be a missionary. Save all that money on your short term missions trip and spend it more wisely- perhaps by funding a real missionary. 

The problem is that many think if we don't take the gospel far and wide we aren't fulfilling the great commission. Apparently preaching in your own back yard just isn't good enough. The convert has to be far away for it to really be special. I understand there are unreached people groups who need the gospel. I am so very thankful for missionaries that go to them. What I am not so thankful for is those who want to be part time missionaries who really aren't trained or called to do that and thus undermine the actually missionary endeavor and gospel ministering they claim to advance. I am also upset because we have so emphasized the far and wideness of the great commission that we have forgotten the near and narrowness of it. We have emphasized the great commission on such shallow grounds that we have forgotten the deep depth that it demands- namely, to disciple those who have received the preached word. 

Which means that some plant, others water, but God gives the increase (1 Cor. 3:6). Planters are like missionaries, they plant the seed by proclaiming the gospel, and the seed that falls on fertile ground can begin to grow. But the seed will abort and not come to full bloom unless someone waters it. Now hear what I am saying. I am saying that you can plant a seed that is in prime position to take root, but it can die and the person never be saved if someone doesn't water the planted seed. The roots can be shallow, the plant can be starved from lack of water. Aren't these the types of things Jesus was teaching in the parable of the four soils (Luke 8)? Christ even says in that parable that the seed that fell on the rock grew but eventually died because it had no moisture. So then, one can do hit and run evangelism far and wide and accomplish little or nothing at all if someone doesn't stay to disciple these people, to teach them all the things of Christ, which is commanded in the great commission. So in one sense, the great commission is only being partially fulfilled in short term mission work that doesn't continue to disciple the people. 

This is happening right here in America, and I would like to connect it to the issue of gay marriage. Hit and run evangelism, as I call it, is where someone preaches the gospel, gets people to make professions of faith right then and there, and then moves on with little to know follow up. Billy Graham did this. Charles Finney before him did this. In the last 200 or so years in America, this has been the way we have "fulfilled" the great commission. Which is to say we've hardly fulfilled it at all. It is no wonder then that many today have a distorted, Rob Bellian view of Christ. We have sentimentalized Him, romanticized Him, emasculated and declawed Him. Maybe that wasn't the intention initially, but this is the ugly, deformed fruit of a planted seed that never got watered. Now we have professing Christians who not only support gay marriage, but are gay themselves. Now we have not just gay laity, but gay clergy. The whole culture is "progressing" to accept equal rights for gays. By equal I think they mean more than simply the legal right to gay marriage, but equal morality. Being gay has gone from something abnormal, gross, unnatural, to something normal, beautiful, and as natural as traditional marriage itself. It's legalization is being compared to the civil rights movement and women's suffrage. Those who do not support it and those who say homosexuality is unnatural and worse still a sin are seen as hateful as a racist. 

The tide has turned because the gospel has been eclipsed in America. The gospel has been presented poorly, and the gospel has not been watered with the full teaching of Christ. We have neglected to take the great commission to our backyards, to our neighbors across the street. As a result, they have become gay and we didn't even know it. They have killed babies and we didn't even know it. They have lived licentiously and we pretended they were still moralistic people even if they weren't Christians. 

We are still neglecting the great commission. Our preachers aren't preaching, even in conservative evangelical circles. They aren't watering. They aren't leading and exhorting and applying and pleading with Christians to cling to Christ, to think deeply and love strongly. Instead, they are politicizing gay marriage, trying to argue the issue on the pagan's own platform. The battle cannot be won there, because the arena of sin for gay marriage isn't so much its permissibility in the law but rather its permissibility in the church. We ourselves are infected. We ourselves are perpetuating the problem. Making it illegal won't fix homosexuality because our desires aren't dictated by the law. We as Christians should know that above all people. We can't keep the law, not the law of the land, much less the law of God. We need new hearts, we need to be born again, we need to be baptized into Jesus Christ, we need His Holy Spirit to be holy people. We need the gospel to break out in this land once again, and we need the gospel to be applied and exhorted with daily from preachers who are sticking around to water fledgling Christians so that delicious fruit can be produced. 

Gay marriage will not be checked until Christians check their own hearts and lives and see that we are living complacent lives, probably because of our affluence. We have comfortable Christianity, which never lasts long. And even now it is fading. Christ calls us not to complacency but to take up our crosses and follow Him. He taught daily in synagogues; we can teach daily to our co-workers what the gospel really is. He prayed for His people; we can pray for family, friends, co-workers, classmates, anyone without Christ. But we must do it. We must be salt and light to the people God has called us to. And those people are whoever we come into contact with on a day to day basis. Whoever wants to get out and be a missionary should go and do it, but whoever wants to but looks back over his shoulder and hesitates isn't called. Instead, they should turn back to the United States and be salt and light, in the spheres that God has put them in, giving a defense of the faith, giving the gospel, praying for the pagans, and living before them in a godly, winsome manner. This is how you defeat homosexuality and gay marriage- not through legislation, but through the hope of regeneration that comes with the proclamation of the gospel. This is what the great commission is all about. Go and do likewise.   

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Born This Way... But Is That a Good Thing?

By: Sean Rice

Lady Gaga's message in Born This Way is 'you were born like this - so there is nothing wrong; celebrate it!' But what if things aren't that sweet and simple? Right up front, this isn't a post about lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender lifestyles (which is mainly what Gaga is singing about in her song); we're talking about the entire human condition. When it comes to sin, wickedness, and depravity, we were born this way. This is who we are. (1) But that's a problem; despite what Gaga says, that's nothing to celebrate. (2) The solution isn't to feel better about our sin and say 'I'm on the right track'; it's to be born again - Christian parlance for putting your faith in Jesus and letting God change you, letting Him fix what is broken in you.

It was the second-last day of an event called Youth Quake when the prayer request came out. Someone had given birth to a child -a beautiful baby girl- but she was born a dangerous heart defect: some kind of hole in the heart which would require multiple surgeries. What were we asked to pray for? For the little girl's recovery. She was 'born this way', but no one wanted her to stay that way. Lady Gaga is no philosopher (and it shows) but I wonder whether her philosophy would have held up in this little girl's case: was her heart defect not a problem, because this is just how the little girl was born? Of course not. So if being born with a heart defect doesn't make the heart defect awesome, why should the deep stuff inside of us that makes us who we are, our sexual orientation, our natural tendencies, the evil in our hearts, be any different than that heart defect? We should be open to the possibility that we were born wrong.

From author and blogger Donald Miller:
"I have on my desktop a picture of a boy named Sasha. Sasha is one of the children of Chernobyl, a young boy born after the disaster that happened when the core at a nuclear facility in Russia melted and leaked... he is gripping with a tiny arm the side of a crib. His other hand is flailing upward toward his ear, his head and shoulders the only portion of his body not mutated. As terrible as it is to compare Sasha to ourselves, I have to go there. I have to say that you and I were not supposed to be this way. Our souls are born distorted, I'm convinced."
Back to Lady Gaga, her whole song is self-esteem, 'you are awesome,' motivational speech. Can I just point out that inside, all of us know this sort of talk isn't true? On some level I think we know that we were born broken. That's why we feel like we need to listen to this sort of thing so often: not because we need constant reminding, but because it isn't true and we know it, and as soon as we stop hearing it we become painfully aware of the reality: we are not superstars. There is a lot of ugly in us. And it's a real problem. We legitimately know something is wrong with us. So we want constant reassurance. Besides, the motivational speeches that tell us to have more self esteem aren't really giving us much of a solution: holding your head high and being proud and flaunting your problem doesn't change that you have a problem.

So here is a different solution. We were born sinful, corrupt, and broken. But we were created with righteousness, holiness, and value. In the beginning, God said 'Let us create mankind in Our image,' (Genesis 1.26) and just like that, people came into existence for the first time. All of our culture and sexuality and ethics were part of what made us this perfect, visible, walking picture of what our invisible God must be like. We were supposed to stand in His place as kings over the entire world (Genesis 1.28). Those who spend a lot of time thinking about this sort of thing claim that we are supposed to be kind of like a mirror that reflects the sun: God made us to reflect His character to a world that couldn't see Him (God is a spirit and has no physical form; see John 4.24).

So the goal is to get from here, born corrupt and broken, back to the original state of mankind. The only solution is to be born again, to believe in Joshua the Messiah (Jesus) and to come to Him, letting God change you from the inside out, letting Him fix the brokenness and corruptness inside of you. As St. Paul once wrote:
"Put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness." -Ephesians 4.24
We can't do this alone, but God can change us (John 15.5 HCSB). That's something a little more meaningful than letting Lady Gaga tell us to be proud because we were born this way; it's admitting that something isn't right and that we need help to change. And it's admitting that, if we're willing to ask, there is a God who loves us and has the power to make us new again.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Doctrines of Grace- Total Depravity

By: Thomas Clayton Booher

Total Depravity is the biblical teaching that all men are born into this world with a nature that has no desire to please or glorify God, but only a desire to fulfill its own lusts. There is much in scripture that verifies this doctrine (formal teaching).
When David was confronted by Nathan the prophet (2 Samuel 12), he was stricken with grief and sorrow over his heinous acts of adultery and murder. Psalm 51 is David’s prayer in which he confessed his sin to God and sought forgiveness. In his confession, he reveals that his sin goes deeper than the acts he committed; it goes to the core of his nature, Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me, Psalm 51:5. David, like all of us, was conceived and born a sinner.
Paul cites the Old Testament to confirm that There is none righteous, no, not one...there is none who seeks after God...there is none who does good, no, not one, Romans 3:10-12. The apostle explains to the Ephesians that we are dead in trespasses and sins and walk in our sinful desires, Eph 2:1-3.
Our condition from birth is a completely corrupt and degenerate state. We are hostile toward God. We are unable to keep his law or please him, Romans 8:8, 9. Spiritual and holy things are foolishness to us, 1 Cor 2:14.
The biblical teaching is that we are sinners not only by acts of sin, but we are sinners by nature, it is the way were conceived and born. It is our pleasure to sin because that is what we are in our hearts. In Matt 5:19, Jesus relates, For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. This list is merely a sample. Jesus’s point is that the sin which defiles us comes from within, from our hearts.
This places man in a very helpless state. He can do nothing to change his heart. He has no desire to change. He may want to change the undersirable circumstances he falls into because of his sin, but he does not want to change what he is. He may make changes that are commendable and appear to be a change of heart, but they are only changes that are preferable to an otherwise undesirable situation. He may take classes on anger-management, not because he wants to stop sinning through anger, but because it will help him to get along with others – a necessity he sees if he wants to keep his job, keep his wife, or simply obtain a greater chance of getting his way.
Though the sinner is incapable of doing anything but sin, he may appear to do things that are good. The doctrine of total depravity does not ignore that man has a sense of right and wrong. We know that God has placed that sense within him, Rom 2:15. But the unbeliever has neither the power nor the desire to do what is right as an act of reverence for God and his commands. There is nothing he can do to turn God’s favor toward him, for all his so-called righteous acts are as filthy rags in God’s eyes (Is 64:6).
If there is any help, it must come from without, for his heart generates only sin and enmity toward God. Not only must it come from without, but it must come in a way that he cannot resist it. It must be God who does something, for he can do nothing for himself. He must be born again.

The Doctrines of Grace – Total Depravity, Part 2

Total Depravity is the biblical teaching that man is born a sinner, so corrupt that there is nothing within him capable of seeking or pleasing God. We are by nature dead in trespasses and sins, and none of us is born to seek after God. We are at enmity against him. (Rom 3:10-12; 8:8,9; Eph 2:1-3; 1 Cor 2:14).
The totally depraved man is called the natural man in 1 Cor 2:14. The natural man does not receive anything from the Spirit of God, it is all foolishness to him. Nor has he the power to investigate the things of God because they can only be discerned through the Spirit. Unless there is a change within, the natural man will not seek after God nor understand the things of God. He will continue in his sin.
In Nicodemus’s interview with Jesus (John 3), Jesus tells him that unless a man is born again, that is, born of the Spirit, he cannot see or enter into the kingdom of God, John 3:3, 5. To be in the kingdom of God is to be no longer a part of the wicked world system, but to be freed from it and come under God’s rule and blessing (cf 1 John 2:15-17; 5:4,18,19; John 17:9,15,16). It is a kingdom of righteousness and the sons of the kingdom pursue that righteousness, Matt 6:33. In the end, it will be purged of those who work iniquity, Matt 13:41.
A man enters the kingdom by repenting and believing the gospel. He must come to the place where he understands his sinfulness before God and realize there is no salvation from it except in Christ who, as the Lamb of God, offered himself a sacrifice that satisfies God’s wrath against him. He must turn to Christ for salvation from his sins. But how can he do that if he is totally depraved and incapable of understanding his sinfulness and God’s condemnation?
He cannot. Being totally depraved, man is spiritually dead and must be spiritually quickened before he will ever see and believe. That is what the Spirit of God does. He regenerates the sinner by raising him out of spiritual death into spiritual life. The Spirit of God gives the sinner eyes to see and ears to hear (cf Matt 13:15,16). The Spirit of God enlivens the dead sinner, giving him an understanding mind and a willingness to come to Christ. Without regeneration, the sinner will remain dead in his sins and perish.
When we understand that men are totally depraved and incapable of coming to Christ, our method of evangelism is affected. If we believe that there is some inherent capacity in men to repent and believe the gospel, we might resort to gimmicks and sensationalism to get men to respond. A simple nudge is all they need. Much evangelism is like this. It is because of faulty theology.
Since we believe that none but the Spirit of God can open the eyes of the blind or raise the spiritually dead to life, our evangelism focuses strictly on the gospel itself. We confront the sinner with his sin and warn him of God’s judgment. We offer Christ, and no other, as the sacrifice for his sins. We rely not on ourselves but on the Spirit of God alone to open the sinner’s eyes to see the truth of what we say and to move him to repent and believe.

The Doctrines of Grace – Total Depravity, Part 3

As we have seen, the doctrine of total depravity is the biblical teaching that man is conceived and born a sinner, dead in trespasses and sins, and at enmity against God rather than revering Him and seeking his glory. (Ps 14:1-4; 51:5; Rom 3:10-12; 8:8,9; Eph 2:1-3; 1 Cor 2:14).
As sinners who do not have the desire or the ability to do anything good, and because repentance and faith would surely be counted as one of those good things we cannot do, there must be a change within us. Such a change would create a new disposition toward God and a true understanding of our need of Christ. Hence, we must be renewed before we can savingly believe.
Paul himself was confident that such a change was possible. His confidence shows in his reminder to the Ephesian elders of his work among them, I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house, testifying .... of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, Acts 20:20,21. Paul was sure there would be repentance and faith in his preaching because he had confidence in God’s Spirit to regenerate by changing listener’s hearts inwardly from death to life and thereby enabling them to hear and understand.
The Spirit of God does not bring about this change apart from the hearing of the word of God. Paul’s preaching of the word was used by the Spirit to do a regenerating work in the hearers. Paul shows the connection between hearing and believing in Romans 10:12-14, For whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved. How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? Paul knew that the preached word is the sword of the Spirit, cutting through to the innermost part of man at his heart, cf Heb 4:12.
What are the implications for us who are lights in a dark world? What bearing does the doctrine of total depravity have on our witness?
First, we must know what the gospel message is. Does that not sound obvious? But there are many professing Christians who are unable to give an accurate message or a coherent one. They may press for a decision without confronting the sinner with his sin and the satisfaction of Christ’s death for those who repent and believe. Or, they may muddle their way through and confuse the hearer rather than give a clear explanation of the truth, which the Spirit must have in order to do his regenerating work.
Second, after ensuring our message is clear and accurate, we must rely wholly on the Spirit of God to bring his people to repentance and faith. We must not see it as our job to do the convincing. Our job is to witness with conviction, not produce the conviction. That is the Spirit’s work.
Third, we must take stock and examine ourselves (2 Cor 12:5). The sin nature has not been eradicated from us, and it is always striving to regain the mastery (Rom 6:11,12; Gal 5:17). A witness who does not take heed to himself (1 Tim 4:16) and exercise an ongoing repentance will besmirch the gospel and the name of Christ. His testimony will be worthless.