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What Jesus really said about smoking weed and gay marriage

For as long as I can remember there has always been a WWJD perspective that people threw out there to sound spiritual. Before I was a Christian I always thought that it was a silly question. Now that I am a Christian, I find the question even sillier. In one sense, none of us should be focused on what Jesus did, unless it is directly connected to what Jesus said. Which is ironic because Jesus is the Word, yet, I never remember seeing a WDJS (What Did Jesus Say). 

Well, now, people are trying to evoke what Jesus said. And most of them to prove a point, that his literal absence on a subject means it was relative, and had little importance to Jesus himself. I am sure you have heard stuff like, "Jesus never said anything about homosexuality." Yet, he never said anything about beastiality (having sex with animals) either but you won't find me at a march being supportive of the Men Loving Sheep Foundation. 

What is interesting to me is how many people are becoming "red letter Christians" because they're not actual Christians. They're people who try to justify certain attitudes and actions, by giving temporary authority to Scripture, highlighting what Jesus didn't say as the ultimate standard of absolute truth. However, conveniently forgetting to give authority to the many things he did say. 

Having said all of that, is it true that Jesus is silent on gay marriage, legalized weed (and other drugs soon to follow) and other cultural and soon to be cultural norms? Did he leave us any discernment on how to 'discern the will of The Lord' as we face daunting pressures of culture to re-define just about everything that we thought was clearly defined? Should pastors be scanning their bibles looking for passages that will say why their church members shouldn't use legalized drugs that used to be illegal? Did Jesus give us any direction as to what to do with these things? I think so. And he said it in just two verses in the gospel of Matthew. Chapter seven to be exact.  

 13 "Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few." 

Huh? That's me impersonating you trying to see what those verses have to do with the issues I raised above. As a direct one to one command, nothing. As a significant paradigm in which to evaluate the growing acceptance of cultural wisdom over the scriptures? Everything. 

Quick Context: 

Jesus was wrapping up his Sermon on the Mount to a large group of people. Some of the strongest language that he ever spoke is in this chapter. In explaining God's will to those who were listening, Jesus was (is actually) training people how to be culturally wise. And this is extremely important because just after he said the above words, he made some of the scariest statements that, to this day, have people wondering if they are really saved (not going to quote them here but hey open your bible and check). 

The reason he says what he says in verses 15-21 of Matthew 7 is because of what he says in verses 13-14. The context is eternal life. And whenever eternal life is concerned, morality/obedience/righteousness is sure to follow. So Jesus wants those who truly hear him to know how to glorify God in their lives in a world dead set on doing the opposite.

Okay, then, so what does Matthew 7:13-14 have to do with gay marriage, and legalized drugs, among other things? Let me show the verses again and then give a translation.  

 13 "Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few." 

Translation: 

When the majority of people are saying that something is good, best believe that is the wide gate  that leads to destruction. So take the opposite perspective, though it will be hard, because it leads you to life everlasting. 

This is cultural discernment at its best. Jesus knows what is in the heart of man and instead of getting into the details of every possible cultural issue that might come along, he gives us a way to evaluate society's fickle pursuits. Now remember, the issue here is how to discern righteousness and eternal life. Not stuff like oxygen or water. I can already hear somebody say, "Well, everybody believes oxygen is good so does Jesus expect us to disagree? We'd die." You know who you are. And the answer is no, he doesn't. 

But, when it comes to issues pertaining to destruction or life, which are just metaphors for Heaven and Hell, Jesus says the majority does not rule. And we must resist the overwhelming pressure to follow the masses. It is much easier to do so. Even in issues that we have always thought the bible was clear on like homosexuality or non-medicinal drug usage. 

Today more than ever we need cultural discernment. Society has shifted. The Christian worldview is no longer the prefered way to see the world. In fact, it is a hindrance. We need discernment because things are happening so fast. And everyone is just accepting anything that seems right. And that leaves us on guard more than ever before to make sure we choose the narrow, harder, unpopular, but ever so amazing way of life. 

Jesus tells us don't follow the masses as it relates to eternal life. So, don't.  

Why the church should care about Donald Sterling

Well, the verdict is in. Donald Sterling, Los Angeles Clippers owner (NBA Team), was found guilty in the court of public opinion for racism. And not only the court of public opinion but the NBA organization found and fined him guilty. In fact, $2.5 million dollars guilty and at least as this post is written, a lifetime ban from the league. Which would logically mean that he will have to relinquish his ownership of the team. So what did he do? 

A brief re-cap is in order. 

A recording of Donald Sterling talking to his then girlfriend V. Stiviano, was released with him saying emphatically, "Don't bring blacks to my games!" He also demanded that she take down photos with black celebs from her Instagram account, namely the beloved Magic Johnson. Mind you, the majority of his team is black and has been the main reason why the franchise he bought in 1982 for $12 million dollars is now worth $545 million. 

When news of the recording hit, people speculated for days what Donald Sterling's punishment would and should be. The Clippers players, currently in a first round bitter fight for their NBA playoff lives, protested by wearing their warm up jerseys inside out, as to not show the name Clippers on the front. It has been a spectacle. But not more than what appears to be the overwhelming approval of his punishment. 

Whether you think the punishment fits the crime or not is another story altogether, but you cannot ignore that this whole scene is fascinating. The twitterverse has been on fire with approval of the lifetime ban decision. Everyone is weighing in on racism and justice. Shouts of glee are clamoring tweets and other social media outlets so that we're all on one accord as we silently shout, "Down with racism! Down with inequality! Down with Down!" As a black man who is aware of the history of this nation, and it's previous approval of racism, as well as seeing it to varying degrees in the evangelical reformed church world, I am both astonished and concerned at the same time. 

I am astonished at, what appears to be, a concerted effort to root out "racism" towards blacks in particular. If for no other reason, it's just not politically correct to voice those opinions publicly. And at this point it doesn't matter who you are. Once they locked up Martha Stewart a few years back, I was like nobody's above the law now. By law I don't mean the American legal system. I mean the law of the public opinion. Believe it or not, it is slowly becoming the highest court in the land, to which even the Supreme Court is slowly bowing down to. Public outrage is astonishing and in many ways can be a force for a lot of good. 

I am concerned though. 

And I say this not so much as a black man, even though some of the concern is cultural, I say this as a concerned Christian. A lot of what is happening these days feels like reparations to me. Or as author Shelby Steele called it "White Guilt." People are overreacting just a lil' bit too much for my taste. While it is cool to see some real backlash for 'talking out the side of your neck' it almost seems like the consequences for doing so are so overkill I have to ask what is really going on here? And what effect does this have on me as a believer? And these questions lead me to my greatest concern. 

The severity of Donald Sterling's punishment for his comments, coupled with the public approval of his punishment, has a much deeper meaning than mere racist comments about black people. This is a statement! This is a "We are cracking down against any and all racism, bigotry, and inequality! We will not stand for it!" The NBA heard loud and clear from people all around the world, and it is hard to imagine that, policy or not, they wouldn't respond in the likeness of George W. Bush when he yelled to the Ground Zero crowd after 9/11, "We hear you! The whole world hears you!" To use the vernacular of the hood, "The NBA went in!" 

On the surface it looks good, until we remember that people equate gay rights to the black civil rights issue. As the country rises in indignation against Sterling's racist comments, it is essentially cleaning and loading its guns, getting them ready to be aimed and then fired at those of us who disagree with gay marriage. Do not be fooled by this grandiose acceptance of severe punishment for expressing personal beliefs. And let's be honest, that's what this is about, Donald Sterling's personal beliefs about black people. Yes they were illegally recorded and distributed. And yes they are racist, but at the end of the day what Sterling said are his personal beliefs. But once they were made public, they became all of ours to evaluate and in many cases self-righteously judge. There was almost a bloodthirsty outcry for vengeance. It is becoming the same for the church. At least at those of us who stand up righty and define marriage as between one man and one woman. As long as we do that, we are Donald Sterling. 

So, as you observe this fiasco, remember like with George Zimmerman and whomever else you can think of, this too shall pass. But the raging war against racism and inequality will not. And with Homosexuality being so intertwined in people's minds with the racism against the civil rights black America, eventually, actually, very soon, that same rage will be turned on us.

Pay attention to the public outcry's of inequality and racism and remember that people will not back down until you and I do, agreeing with them that homosexuality is not sinful, and that gay marriage can, and in fact, does glorify God. 

The war is here.

"Ready! Aim! Fi..."

Is the Spirit really helping me or what?

 

Is it me or does the Holy Ghost, at times, feel more like a holy joke? Not in the sense that the Spirit doesn’t exist but in that it’s just not tangible? I know we have all seen or possibly participated in church events where people have had tangible experiences with the Holy Spirit. This post isn’t about that. I’m not in the mood to resolve the issues between continuationists versus cessationists today. Maybe next Tuesday. I’m not even talking about gifts right now. I’m just talking about good old-fashioned Spirit inspired living. What does that mean?

In an age where emotions have become the social barometer for all authority in life, how does one give authority to something they can’t see and in most cases don’t feel? How do I even know that the Spirit is helping me? People may talk a good game about these things, but if you ask them to explain all those one-size-fits-all evangelical phrases like, “Look to the Cross,” you’ll soon see that they haven’t given much thought to how the Spirit practically helps us either. So, now what? If I can’t feel the Spirit working how do I know that he is? If we’re being honest, when we fight sin doesn't it feel like we are on our own trying to force ourselves not to do it? I don’t feel like anything or anyone is helping me not give into lust.

When I was kid there was this dumb martial arts movie called, “The Last Dragon.” It was basically about this gangster bully named Sho Nuff who was an undefeated martial arts champion. Leroy was this kind-hearted martial arts kid whom Sho Nuff was terrorizing. At the end of the movie, in typical cheesy ‘80’s fashion, Leroy remembers something that his Kung Fu instructor told him and then it happens. Sho Nuff had been dunking Leroy into the water trying to make him submit by saying that Sho Nuff was the master. Just as Sho Nuff was about to punch Leroy in the face, this orange glow comes over Leroy’s body, indicating that he is, in fact, the true Kung Fu master. And he whoops Sho Nuff. Badly.

As God as my witness, I used to think the Spirit was like that orange glow that just lights around your whole body and makes you obey. 

After a while I came to my senses and thought it was more like a holy zap, than a holy glow. I thought, you pray, the Spirit zaps you, and you walk around in a trance just loving everybody and wanting nothing more than to change the world. I later found out that this does indeed happen but it isn’t the Spirit. It’s drugs.

What I have come to realize is that in order to understand this better I have to understand what scripture says about those without the Spirit. And again, I had to realize that a lot of my problem understanding the Spirit’s work is my tendency to read the scripture from my experience rather than from God’s perspective.

Without the Spirit

I am only going to use two passages here to make the point. There are many to choose from but two is sufficient for now. We will see these passages from our experience in comparison to seeing them from God’s perspective. I know that sounds like a weird dichotomy but you would be surprised how often we gets confused because we think that God is speaking from our perspective instead of his.

Ephesians 2:1-10

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2  in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved—6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9  not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Ephesians 2 is one of the greatest passages in scripture and has one of the most overlooked statements in it. The emphasis of the chapter falls more on verses 8-9, where the grace of God, not our efforts, is what saved us. Who doesn’t love these verses? Satan? Definitely. We could probably name plenty of others but for the believer these words are a taste of sweet humility. We did nothing and received everything. Bangin’! Now that you’re all warm and fuzzy, the part that is most misunderstood in this passage is verse one. “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins,” if seen wrongly can confuse even the godliest of Christians.

Let’s start with the bible is written from God’s perspective not our experience. This is key. This is the reason why many of us don’t understand what it means that we were dead in the trespasses and sins. From our experience, we have been doing good stuff for as long as we can remember. And we have had people do really nice things for us. How can a person be dead in trespasses and sins and save someone’s life? Or help out someone who is homeless. There are people who are good parents, great at their jobs, do not give into lust, do not steal, or lie, have wonderful marriages and yet they are dead in trespasses and sins? How can someone who is functionally alive be dead anyway? I have been alive since my birth date. And what about someone who grows up in a Christian home? Are they dead too when they haven’t done a lot of the stuff that most people do?

These are the kinds of questions we ask when we interpret the scripture from our experience rather than God’s perspective. God isn’t necessarily speaking of actions when he talks about trespasses and sins. He is, definitely, but it is more than that. God is speaking comprehensively, about the identity that the actions come from. Everyone is born with the identity of the serpent as their primary identity, minus maybe John the Baptist. And Jesus obviously. Good works are only good to God when they are done perfectly. That means, in action and motive. Good works can only be done perfectly if they are done with knowledge of the will of God specifically and are done with the perfect motive to honor him thus highlighting his glory. No person can do that. Except Jesus. All good works that are not done in the identity of the Spirit are evil and sinful to God. I remember something about our greatest works being filthy rags to God. From God’s perspective, not our experience, everything is sinful unless Christ perfects it. Christ only perfects the works of those whom were chosen by God’s grace and given salvation.  

Romans 8:5-8

5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6 For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot.

This passage is just another example. These verses contrast the difference between a person who has the Spirit and a person who does not. What is important to note here is that the person who sets their mind on the flesh is hostile to God. This statement is from God’s perspective and it is getting at the motives, thoughts and actions of a person. People cannot do anything that pleases God, but they can do things that are pleasing to us. However, setting your minds on the things of the Spirit is not just about doing activities. It takes the Spirit to be placed in a person for them to have their minds set on the spirit in the first place. This is about identity. Who are you? Not who are you to you, but who are you to God? Sons of God are only possible because they believe in the Son of God. And when a person believes in Jesus, God immediately changes their identity. They move from the Adamic representative to The Christ as their representative. Then, any and all activities that they do, with the Spirit, become in honor of the Lord. Your motives change. Your desires change. Your attitudes change. Your actions change. Much of this is over time but it is happening. Then, setting your mind on the things of the Spirit is done because of who God is, not just because of what people need etc.

Okay so…

Back to what this all means about knowing that the Spirit is helping me. Jesus perfects any obedience that a Christian does. But the desire that a Christian has to be obedient is to honor the lord. Christians don’t want to just be good co-workers. We want to be a good witness for Jesus. We don’t want to just be good parents. We want to raise our kids so that they’ll believe in Jesus. We don’t read a book (the bible) that confronts us consistently, warning us that our actions are evil, and yet keep reading it and in fact treasure it, unless the Spirit is in us. Any acts of obedience to God are from the Spirit who gives us the desire and the ability to obey. By faith we act on that desire and ability and this is what obedience is. The Spirit is not a tangible thing in most cases. But it does produces tangible results. And, is the only reason why you do anything that you do for God’s glory

Hell, election, the Cross, your unsaved friend, and what Paul said

The primary reason people struggle with the doctrine of Election is because of another doctrine call Reprobation. This doctrine states that God in choosing to save some from judgment for sin (election), by default chooses others to not be saved. Obviously, then, receiving the penalty of their sin instead of the forgiveness of it. For anyone who has ever cared about anyone, this is a tough doctrine. So tough, that it usually leads people to ask, how could a good God send people to hell? In one sense that is a good in question. God himself professes to be good, loving, and merciful. On the other hand the question is lacking. It is not really a question either, but a statement of arrogance. "How could a good God" already assumes the questioner has the drop on what good actually is? The “question” also assumes that God’s wrath is somehow not “good.”

The doctrine of reprobation made a debut in the Seventeenth century document called The Synod of Dort. This document was established to state its position against the doctrines that are commonly known as Arminian. As it relates to God choosing some to go to hell, the document states, “Moreover, Holy Scripture most especially highlights this eternal and undeserved grace of our election and brings it out more clearly for us, in that it further bears witness that not all people have been chosen but that some have not been chosen or have been passed by in God’s eternal election— those, that is, concerning whom God, on the basis of his entirely free, most just, irreproachable, and unchangeable good pleasure, made the following decision: to leave them in the common misery into which, by their own fault, they have plunged themselves; not to grant them saving faith and the grace of conversion; but finally to condemn and eternally punish them (having been left in their own ways and under his just judgment), not only for their unbelief but also for all their other sins, in order to display his justice. And this is the decision of reprobation, which does not at all make God the author of sin, but rather its fearful, irreproachable, just judge and avenger.”

That’s some tough talk right there. It is clear first and foremost from scripture and the Synod of Dort, there are people who are going to hell.  So then how can God be good and do that? The only way, I believe, to really answer that question is to ask another question. Why would God, who needs nothing and is at the same time master and creator of everything, decide to become a human being, to then die like a slave? My assumption is that you know that the cross, as used by the Romans, was a slave death. It was a statement killing. The Romans often used the cross to show criminals and slaves the consequences for jumping out there against Rome. Regardless of your innocence, once you hung on a cross to die, any respect that you had prior died with you. Your final memory was one people wouldn’t even want to discuss. With that being said, why would God allow himself to die in the place of people who sinned against him? Until a good answer is given for that, no one should expect a good answer for why he is allowing some people to go to hell for things they have done wrong. I’m not saying that there is no good answer to the issue of hell but the answer is rarely to the satisfaction of the questioner.

The best answer to the problem of hell is the cross. We have to wrestle with why the Son of God would allow himself to leave his incessant kingdom for infested people. If the logic of a good God sending people to hell for the sin they have committed is incomprehensible then what superlative describes that same good God punishing himself for the sin of those he does not intend to judge. Blank Stare…

Paul rhetorically dealt with this same issue in Romans 9. For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills. You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles? (Romans 9:15-24 ESV).

So what does that mean for your unsaved friend? It means that as long as they are alive there is a chance that they may respond to the gospel. Don’t let the doctrine of election dissuade you from praying for and talking to your friend. Truth be told, only God knows who are his and you and I are not God. The only certainty we can have about someone's election is what they believed when they died. Until then, we are free to have hope and boldness to make disciples of the people we love and care about the most. 

"In Christ I got wealth though but never in dollars, so tell Creflo enjoy Bahamas hell is much hotter..."