Sunday, September 15, 2013

... Along the way for the week of September 15, 2013

This week I was studying the story of the Tower of Babel and was reflecting on the efforts of the people to build a tower that reaches up to heaven.

One of the thoughts that came to my mind is this ... Why do we hate the cross so much?  As human beings we would rather find any other way to God than to take the way He Himself has provided, which involves a Roman cross.  So why do we hate the cross?

I can think of three reasons why I have a tendency to hate the cross.

First, I have a tendency to hate the cross because it shows me how helpless I really am.  At the cross I see the awfulness of my sin, and learn that all my efforts at "self" righteousness fall hopelessly short of the righteousness God requires.  I have a tendency to hate being helpless, and thus I have a tendency to hate the cross.

Second, I have a tendency to hate the cross because it seems to offer an inconsistent view of God.  When God's justice and mercy are revealed, to me (and my human mind) they look like hate and love.  My human intellect cannot find a good reason to crucify anyone, let alone my own child.  This tendency has led some commentators to call our view of substitutionary atonement nothing short of divine child abuse.  If God is love, then the God who sends His Son to the cross to pay the penalty for sin seems inconsistent.   Therefore, I have a tendency to hate the cross.

Finally, I have a tendency to hate the cross because it shows me that obedience to God may involve suffering.  I do not like to suffer.  In fact, I hate it.  Yet when I survey the cross I see that Jesus was obedient to death, even death on a cross.  If the cross leads to suffering, then it is one more reason for me to have a tendency to hate the cross.

Nevertheless, with all these reasons to hate the cross, I know that ultimately the cross was for me.  It was my sin that Christ healed at the cross, and because of that I love Him.  I do not love the cross, but I love the Lord Jesus who was willing to endure the cross and scorn its shame all for the joy set before Him.  His cross leads to my crown as a child of the King.  His death leads to my life, so when I survey the awful cross I realize that what was done there demands my soul, my life, my all!

So what about you?  Do you have a tendency to hate the cross?  If so, how do you deal with the scandal of grace that involves a Roman cross?

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Along the way ... for the week of September 1, 2013

I have been thinking, praying, and studying lately concerning a fully Biblical response to those who live with same-sex attraction.  My heart goes out to those who live with same-sex attraction and are looking for a proper way of honoring God with their body.  (see I Corinthians 6:18-20)

As I was thinking, praying, and studying this week, God led me to consider Jesus; Who He is and What He is like.

I know that Jesus is God because the Bible tells me so. (See John 1:3, 14; 8:58, Romans 9:5, etc.)
and God reveals Himself in Exodus 34:6-7 as "the LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, and abounding in love and faithfulness ..."  So since Jesus is God, Jesus is compassionate, gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in love and faithfulness ...

But Jesus was also "obedient to death - even to death on a cross" (Philippians 2:8)  Jesus was obedient. He did what God said to do even when it caused him pain; even when he had to suffer.  Yet Jesus remained obedient no matter what.

Therefore, as those who are called to be like Jesus, we must also be filled with compassion and grace and be slow to anger and abound in love and faithfulness, and we must be obedient; even if we have to suffer to do so.

So what does this have to do with people who struggle with same-sex attraction?

First, we who do not live with this attraction ought to be compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in love toward those who do.  Second, all who are called God's children through true faith in Jesus are called to obedience, even if it means we have to suffer.

Consider two other verses.

In Hebrews 4:15 we read of Jesus, "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are - yet he did not sin."  So if Jesus was "tempted in every way" could we possibly imagine that Jesus felt the temptation of same-sex attraction?  If He did, the Bible says He was tempted, yet He did not sin.  Jesus understands.  I don't understand, but He does.

Also in Romans 8:18, Paul writes, "I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us."  What "sufferings" was Paul referring to?  It is quite possible that besides physical suffering for the sake of the gospel, Paul also understood the "suffering" of dealing with temptation and learning to be obedient.  And it was those "present sufferings" that Paul said were not worth comparing to the "glory" to be revealed.  So although we may be asked to suffer by saying "no" to temptation and being obedient, we are promised that the "glory" is not worth comparing to the "present sufferings".

I know this does not solve the issue, especially for those who live with same-sex desire, but these are some of my thoughts on the issue.  And this is by no means "the last word" on the subject.  I am however interested to know what you think.  But please, as you comment, remember that we are called to be "compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in love" just as we are called to obedience.  Thank you.