Tuesday, March 25, 2014

What The Church Needs In A Pastor

The church in general is in dire need. Our church particular is in dire need. There are many things that the modern American church has, that it doesn’t need. There are things that she has that are superfluous. The church does not need a pastor to be a celebrity. The church does not need a pastor who is a brilliant CEO and business leader. The church doesn’t need a pastor who is a brilliant scholar. The church doesn’t need a pastor who is an eloquent speaker able to capture the attention of large crowds. The church doesn’t need a pastor who is wrapped in the perception of perfection.
So, what does the church need in a pastor? The church needs a pastor who is godly. The church needs a pastor who lives out the faith, not in absolute perfection, but in sincerity and integrity. The church needs a pastor who is devoted to the scriptures. It needs a pastor who feeds himself on the Word of God and is content to feed the sheep of his flock a steady diet of the Word of God. No parlor tricks or rhetorical masterpieces necessary. The church needs a pastor who is consistent in pursuing intimacy with God in prayer. The church needs a pastor who is passionate about the gospel. He understands, explains, and lives out the gospel. The church needs a pastor who, because of the gospel, is mission minded and evangelistic.
If the pastor is the not the John Mazwellian leader, or a world renowned orator, or a mastermind executive, she can manage. But, if the church doesn’t have a godly, devoted, passionate, committed pastor, she will be in trouble.
I am praying that my church will have such a pastor. The man they have now is not quite there, but God isn’t finished working on him yet. I am praying that God will make me into the pastor that my church needs on a daily basis.

Monday, March 3, 2014

The Gospel Response to the Issue of Homosexuality (a sermon)

This is a sermon transcript that I preached on March 2, 2014 to the congregation I pastor at First Baptist Church of Southlake Texas.

The Gospel Response to the Issue of Homosexuality

Paul writes in Galatians 6:14, “May I never boast in anything except the cross of our Lord.” The cross is not the physical instrument or shape, it is in reference to the gospel—the good news of Christ. Paul had many credentials in his life, but his number one priority was the gospel of His Savior. The same should be true of us. We need to make sure that above all else, we are gospel promoters, gospel lovers, gospel thinkers, gospel people.
This means that we cannot allow anything else to become more important to us than the gospel. This includes politics. Like all of you, I have political leanings, thoughts and ideas. Some I am very passionate about. Others, not so much. But, I cannot allow politics to take the place of what should be my number one priority—the gospel. This doesn’t mean that I can’t have an opinion, voice my opinion, or vote. I can and should. But, we need to make sure that we have the order right. The gospel is our main priority.
I say this because today I am discussing an issue that has become very political. But I am a preacher of the gospel not a politician. I am not concerned today about your political affiliation, I am concerned about your gospel affiliation. I am not going to give a stump speech on a political issue, I am going to preach a gospel message from the Holy Scriptures. The issue is a gospel issue. Yes, people take this issue into political areas—that is what free people can do in a democratic society. But I want us to frame our discussion in the context of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.
This requires precision and humility. The gospel in a nutshell is that we are all sinners. As sinners every single one of us deserve the hell of a just God. Our best effort and greatest deeds will never make up for our sins against this Holy God. In His love He sent His son, Jesus, who died in our place for our sins. He rose from the dead. Any who repent and believe in Jesus receive the grace and forgiveness of God Almighty.
That gospel message gives us great clarity when it comes to the issue we are looking at today. The first point of clarity is a call for humility. Every single one of us are sinners against a loving, holy God. Your sins might be different from mine. Their sin might be different from ours… but that doesn’t matter. We are all sinners in need of a Savior.
Understanding and receiving the gospel should remove the arrogance of thinking we are better than anyone else. Just because my sins are different than yours does NOT make me better than you. Just because you and I are not committing the sin of homosexuality does NOT mean that we are any better than them. There is not an “us” and a “them”. We are all in the same boat--the boat of sin. We are all sinners in need of a Savior. The gospel has to be our starting point when we come to this issue.

The Issue
And it is a huge issue. Every day last week there was another article about the issue of homosexuality, gay rights, or gay marriage. Every day. The issue of homosexuality has gone nuclear. The bomb has gone off and the blast radious has engulfed the entire globe several times over. It is inescapable and unavoidable.
The acceptance of homosexuality has crossed over from a reasonable discussion to an emotional outburst. It has infiltrated every area of life. It has infiltrated into schools, churches, government, and oreos. There are gay oreos. It has recently had big headlines in sports. I love sports. I love to watch NFL football. To be honest, I don’t care if a player is gay or not, as long as he is good. But, that is not enough. Michael Sam is entering the NFL draft and declared that he is gay. He is the first openly gay player to be drafted. This was the headline discussion on ESPN and even non-sports related news sites. Commentators have had a field day. Opinions have been poured out like water. The only opinion not tolerated is any opinion opposed to homosexuality. Everything is tolerated except and one who opposes homosexuality and has any opinion contrary to acceptance of homosexuality.
Things have changed. Things have changed radically and fast. Homosexuality has almost always existed in one form or another. But, up until about 40 years ago there was something that all of humanity and all cultures had in common with this issue. Homosexuality was never an accepted part of society. Regardless of location, nation, religion, or people groups; homosexuality was not accepted until about 40 years ago. Since that time there has been a fast rate of change.
Six years ago President Obama was against gay marriage. Two years ago he changed his mind and was for it. Ten years ago there were no states that allowed homosexual marriage. Today there are 17 states that do allow it, with more and more on the verge.
It has even found it’s way into the church world. In an effort to be more culturally engaged some churches are tossing aside the scriptures and church history to accept homosexuality.
Some times people reference the “culture wars”. In my opinion, for our culture, this issue has won the day. It is over. Those of us who actually believe the Bible have lost on this issue. We need to get used to the fact that we are on the outside when it comes to this issue. We have lost.
The question we have to consider is, how do we respond? I want to break that question down into two questions. What does the Bible teach about homosexuality? How are Bible believing, gospel loving followers of Christ to respond?(what are we to do?)

Step 1: What Does the Bible Actually Say about Homosexuality/Homosexuals
The Bible does specifically address this issue. It is clear that homosexuality is a detestable sin. That is not my opinion, that is God’s. We are going to do a brief survey of both the Old Testament and the New Testament in regards to the issue of homosexuality.

Old Testament and Homosexuality
1. Genesis 19:1-11 – Sodom and Gomorrah
God reigned down judgment on these two groups of people. The just judgment of God was because of their heinous sins. In this story these people had a multitude of sins. The headline sin was the sin of homosexuality. God condemned them for this sin.

2. Leviticus 18:22
You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination. (Leviticus 18:22, ESV)

3. Leviticus 20:13
If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them. (Leviticus 20:13, ESV)

4. Judges 19:16-24 – Gibeah
Similar incident to Sodom and Gomorrah at a different period in Biblical history.

Some object to these Old Testament passages. The reason might sound like this, “That’s the OT. We can’t take all that stuff from Leviticus as legitimate. If so, then eating shrimp is a sin. All that OT stuff is done away with. We don’t have to follow all of that.”
But, that is faulty for several reasons. That position belies a basic misunderstanding of the book of Leviticus and the Old Testament. Leviticus does contain some ceremonial type laws that became obsolete when the theocracy and Temple ceased to exist. But, some parts of moral law and are binding in nature. How do we know that homosexuality is in the group of laws that are binding? One reason is the continued witness of scriputre that homosexuality is a sin. It is treated the same way in all the Bible.

New Testament and Homosexuality.
1. Romans 1:18-35
“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.
Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God's righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.” (Romans 1:18-35, ESV)

2. 1 Corinthians 6:9-11
“Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.” (1 Corinthians 6:9-10, ESV)

3. 1 Timothy 1:8-11
“Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully, understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine, in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted.” (1 Timothy 1:8-11, ESV)

4. Jude 7
“just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.” (Jude 1:7, ESV)

Other Bible Passages: Sexual Immorality
The previous verses of scripture were ones which directly referenced homosexuality. There are many other verses of scripture that cover the issue of homosexuality indirectly. This is seen specifically when the Bible condemns sexual immorality. 1 Thessalonians 4:3 says, “this is the will of God…that you abstain from sexual immorality.” There are many stories and examples of God’s judgment on sexual immorality in the Old Testament as well.
The command of Thessalonians to avoid sexual immorality is broad in scope. Sexual immorality covers any sexual experience outside of God’s standard. God’s standard is one man and one woman in a marriage. Anything outside of that is classified as sexual immorality. That would include: homosexuality, fornication, sex before marriage, sex outside of marriage, lust, and pornography. Homosexuality is included when the Bible prohibits sexual immorality.

God’s Creation and Jesus’ Confirmation
God’s standard regarding human sexuality is important. God clearly verbalized it in the creation account. In Genesis 2:24 the standard of God is one man and one woman for life.
But, what about Jesus? Did he say anything about this issue? Yes, he did. In Matthew 19:1-6 we have Jesus discussing the wrongs of divorce. In the statement of Jesus he quotes and confirms Genesis 2:24. Jesus confirms that God’s standard is one man and one woman. That statement by Christ, eliminates acceptance of homosexuality and gay marriage(which is not really marriage anyway).

Main objection: rejection of the authority of scripture
There are some within the Christian sphere who are accepting of homosexuality. They have attempted to refute the common understanding of what scripture teaches on the subject. I have read their arguments and listened to their reasoning. They are very unconvincing. If we boil the reasoning down, it really comes to a question of the authority of scripture. These advocates think that scripture is not to be taken word for word. They want to reduce the message of the Bible from the actual words to a theme. To them the theme is “be loving because God is loving”. So, what they do is plant themselves on the position that one isn’t required to believe what the scriptures clearly teach about homosexuality. You just ignore that part of scripture. In essence, they deny the authority of scripture.
We differ on that crucial point. We actually believe what Jesus and Paul did. We actually believe that every word of the Bible is the inspired Word of God. We do not have the option to cancel out things that we may not like.

The Bible is not unclear about the issue of homosexuality. God declares that homosexuality is a sin. Period. Isaiah 5:20 “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil.”

Step 2: How Do We Respond
So far we have discussing homosexuality. Now, we are going to talk about homosexuals. That is different. The former is a subject. The latter is a person. We cannot miss that. Like all sins, they are committed by people—sinners. That means the following discussion can be applied to any sin, not just homosexuality. How we respond to liars, thieves, haters and other sinners should be exactly the same. We are not to treat homosexuals different than any other sinners. We live in difficult times, and this is a difficult issue. How do we respond? The answer is simple to find in scripture—be Christ-like. Let truth and compassion be our hallmark.

Speak Truth and Love
Ephesians 4:15 Speak the truth in love
That is our plan of response. It is clear. The gospel mandates us to do two things: speak the truth, and to be loving while we do it. That is not just what Ephesians proclaims it is what Jesus modeled. We must do both.
When Jesus encountered the woman at the well, she was a sinner. Jesus showed incredible compassion. He also did not ignore her sin. He actually confronted her in her sin. Time and again Jesus does the same thing. He proclaims truth, loudly at times. And he does so while being completely loving and compassionate.
These are our marching orders as followers of Christ.

A. Speak and Stand for the Truth
Some might say, “O.k you believe homosexuality is a sin, just be quiet about that. You don’t have to say anything about that.” Well, yes we do. Another verse out of Ephesians 5:11 says that we are to expose sin. We are to speak out against sin. We are to tell people that they are sinners. But, do not forget that this is in the framework of the gospel, not politics. Our motivation for calling out sinners is the gospel. It is the loving thing to do. People are not going to come to Christ to be saved from their sins if they are not confronted with the reality that they are sinners.
Secular society is engaged in a full court press to silence Christians when it comes to the issue of homosexuality. And, they are winning. We must, by the very command of the scriptures we believe in, stand firm on the truth. This is a truth issue. Our silence would be a sin against God.

B. Love
We must speak. But there is a wrong and a right way to speak. The wrong way to approach is anything devoid of Christ-like love. This is where the Christian world’s biggest failures have come. We like to point out sins, but we don’t want to do the messy work of actually loving people at the same time. (show pictures on screen)
If you cannot love a sinner, even a homosexual, you are not being Christ-like. What does that mean to be loving? It means to be kind, nice, hospitable. It means to actively serve, the way Jesus served all of us sinners. This requires engagement. You cannot be loving from a distance. Therefore, you need to know gay people. You need to befriend gay people. You need to help them when their car breaks down. You need to help them when they find themselves in some crisis. When their gay partner is in the hospital, you need to send flowers and tell them you are praying for their well being.

Some Examples:
Nowadays, it seems that everyone knows someone who is gay. What should you do? Love them and speak the truth. But, remember the goal is not to save them from homosexuality. The goal is to see them saved from their sin by the gospel of Christ. Then when they come to faith in Christ, the process of discipleship and sanctification brings them out of their specific sins. Your relationship to them should always have the gospel as the ultimate goal and prayer of your interaction.
Now, you don’t need to start the relationship like this, “Hi. I’m Scott. I hear that you are gay. That is a sinful abomination against God, you want to go get some coffee?” No. no. no. Bad strategy.
By speaking the truth, I do not mean that you need to go around announcing your beliefs to everyone you meet. You don’t have to wear a shirt that says, “Being gay is a sin.” No. But, you do need to be prepared to speak to that issue when it comes up and not take the easy road out and deny the faith.
The way you start out is the same way you do with anyone who needs Jesus. You befriend them, invite them to church, share the gospel with them, or whatever else you do when you start a relationship with someone who needs Jesus.
In my trips to Estonia the missionary there has doing a great job at reaching out to the gay population in Christ’s name. He is intentionally trying to put into action truth and love. We were talking with him about this one time as it was approaching the lunch hour. He began telling us about this gay club. During the night time it is a typical club, but during the afternoon it is a restaurant that serves lunch. He had gotten to know some of the employees and was building bridges to share Christ with them. We had a great idea, why don’t we go there for lunch today? And we did.
When we walked into that gay establishment I didn’t jump on the table and say, “Hey, gay people, Jesus loves you, you better trust Him or you are going to hell.” No. We sat down, we ordered food, we left a really good tip. We were introduced to a few people and we were nice. That was it. But, hopefully, that was another step for them to come to Christ. Maybe when we left they thought to themselves, “Those Americans were nice.” And through that a door might be opened to share the gospel. Because that is the goal.

Practical Suggestions Regarding This Issue
TS – We are never to shy away from Biblical truth and we are to always be selfless, loving and compassionate. We could spend a lot of time going through specific situations and issues that arise when we discuss homosexuality. Time doesn’t permit us to be exhaustive. I do want to give you a short, but not complete, list of suggestions.

1] Friendship
It is o.k. to befriend someone who is gay. You should. You should be friendly and nice. If you can’t speak about this issue and still be friendly and nice, you are the one with the problem. Look for ways to be someone’s friend.
Do proceed in that friendship with a gospel centered caution. Everyone has different levels of friendship. Some people we are very close and intimate to while others might be just a friendly acquaintance. It is unwise for a Christ follower to have an unguarded heart in a relationship with someone who is not living for the Lord. The reason is because you will be the one influenced and not the other way around.

2] Don’t normalize homosexuality.
This is what our society is pushing. Society wants everyone, including Bible believing Christians, to accept homosexuality. We cannot allow our minds to be won over. We must not normalize something that God explicitly says is not normal and is unnatural.
You need to make sure that you reinforce this with your kids. Do it privately at home, you don’t have to wear the t-shirt. But, make sure that you teach your kids that someone having two mommies, or the gay guy on t.v. is not normal.

3] Be prepared to be hated.
We are going to be called names. There are two reasons why we might be hated and called names. The first reason is because we deserve. We are doing something hateful and bigoted. Like the people holding up these awful signs. Society views and calls them bigots and homophobes—because they are.
But, be prepared. If you stand for the truth and you are perfectly loving, just like Jesus, they are still going to call us bigots and homophobes. They don’t see a difference. We do and we must be prepared. How do we react? We respond with love and kindness. We do not respond with anger and reprisal.

4] Don’t be surprised
The Bible is clear that this downgrade of society was going to happen. It is a sign of the times, the end times. I do not think that things are going to get better. I think that they are going to get worse. Don’t be surprised but be prepared.

5] Rejoice
What? That’s right, rejoice! We should rejoice for the gospel. It is a privilege to suffer for the sake of the gospel. And know this; the gospel thrives in such conditions. That is good news.

6] Be about that gospel. Keep the gospel front and center. The gospel is the road map for how to navigate through life in this fallen, twisted, perverted world.

I heard Dr. Patterson speak on this issue. He told a story about when Dr. Criswell was going to preach a message on this same topic when it was first making headlines in the late 1970’s. He was at First Baptist Dallas which is a very large church. In Dallas there was a large pro-gay activist group whose leaders got word about what Dr. Criswell was preaching on. So, they organized a protest ralley. Dr. Patterson got permission to be in charge of how the church would respond to the protest ralley.
Sure, enough that Sunday rolled around and the protesters gathered outside the church. Have you ever seen someone picket a church? That is exactly what happened. Dr. Patterson had some things arranged. When the protestors showed up his team went into action. They went out to meet the protestors. They didn’t go out with bullhorns and pepper spray. They went out with breakfast. They took out donuts and coffee and set up tables so that the protestors could get some refreshments while they were standing there on that cold day. Dr. Patterson had assigned church members to go stand beside each protestor to see if they needed anything and as a message to the rest of the congregation not to retaliate.
It wasn’t long before the organizer came over and told Dr. Patterson that the group was leaving. The gay leader was impressed with the hospitality they received. A few months later, at a regular Sunday church service Dr. Criswell gave a gospel invitation. Several people responded. That morning up at the front praying and giving his life to Jesus as Lord was the gay activitist leader. He has been a faithful servant of the Lord in that church ever since.
We need to be gospel people and approach this issue in a Biblical, Christ-like, gospel focused manner.