Transgenderism: But One Fruit on Individualism’s Pernicious Vine

bookIn recent days, the subject of gender and transgenderism have been the talk of our county and our church. Coming, therefore, at the perfect time is Vaughn Roberts little book TransgenderIn preparation for my sermon on the subject I read his book with great profit.

In less than 80 pages, Roberts, a British pastor who has himself grappled with same sex attraction, introduces the subject (ch. 1), sets out a biblical response through the framework of creation (ch. 3), fall (ch. 4), and rescue/redemption (ch. 5). He concludes with a chapter on wisdom (ch. 6), where he speaks to individuals and churches on how to lovingly and truthfully respond to our trans neighbors and family members. Still, the chapter that is most important in his book is chapter 2, titled “The iWorld.”

In this section, Roberts frames transgenderism against the backdrop of the Enlightenment and the (post)modernism turn towards the subject. In just a few pages he explains how a recent flurry of advocacy for an age-old condition, i.e., transgenderism (see Deuteronomy 22:5), stems from a Western world head-over-heels in love with the self.

Combined with a contemporary demand for authenticity, radical individualism asserts the right for any individual to define themselves however they choose, even if it contradicts their race (think: Rachel Dolezal), species (men posing as dogs, women as cats, and others as dragons), age (a 55 year old man who identifies as a 6 year old girl) or gender. At present, our country is debating the merits of transgenderism, but Roberts rightly takes us upstream to see the larger, philosophical problem—a cocktail of radical individualism and absolute authenticity brings personal injury and civil disintegration. But what is true of the sexual revolution in public is equally pernicious in the church itself.

Here’s a portion of Roberts survey,

The roots of the profound individualism that marks our culture go back to the period of the Enlightenment 300 years ago, when intellectuals began to assert the primacy of human reason over divine revelation. Most people have never read the works of philosophers like Voltaire and Rousseau, but their influence has gradually trickled down into our whole society so that it affects us all.

The Enlightenment began with great confidence that reason could lead us to the truth, but that optimism gradually disappeared. Even the greatest human thinkers can’t agree on fundamental issues. And so, having rejected revelation and lacking confi- dence in reason, our culture has now largely rejected the concept of objective truth, at least when it comes to big issues, such as meaning and morality.

So where does this leave us? With ourselves as individuals. If we think that truth is subjective, then we certainly won’t let any external authority tell us what to think or how to behave—whether it’s the government, a religion or our family. It’s up to us to draw our own conclusions and live our own lives. As the boys from Boyzone put it in one of their songs:

No matter what they tell you; no matter what they say;
no matter what they teach you; what you believe is true.

All this explains why autonomy is so highly valued today. The iWorld teaches me to resent any challenge to my individualism. As the English philosopher John Stuart Mill, the founding father of modern Western liberalism, wrote:

Over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign.

I’m free! Free to think what I want and live as I like. Free to be me. (pp. 25–27)

Is such freedom really free? Roberts following the terrain of Scripture says no. And so do I. Jesus said in John 8:32, “If you abide in my word, you will know the truth. And the truth will set you free.” Three observations about Jesus’ words.

  1. First, they come from Christ himself. While many (on the right and the left) co-opt Jesus for their own social agendas, Jesus is only committed to doing his Father’s will, fulfilling the Law, and teaching his followers truth so that they can know and abide in his love. In short, the call for truth comes from Jesus himself.
  2. Second, only those who remain, abide, and hold onto the truth will know true freedom. Many are those who grew up in church and left, and many more have come to have a mental understanding of the truth. But only those who cling to the unchanging truth in an ever-changing culture will know freedom.
  3. Third, freedom is not at odds with truth; freedom is the fruit of truth. While radical individualism invites people to follow their heart, wherever it may lead. Jesus calls people to deny themselves and find freedom, fullness, and life everlasting in him—the one who is the way, the truth, and life.

While our modern individualism and authenticity culture calls people to be free in themselves, however they feel, such freedom comes at a high cost. Instead of building families and communities, it tears them down. The all-important self can congregate with others, but it cannot deny itself in the interest of another. The sexual ethics of the progressive left sounds liberating when it calls for people to be whoever they want to be, but in the end what seems right to a man, woman, or dragon leads to death. Why? Because it turns away from the good purposes of an all-wise God.

Vaughn Roberts exposes this deadly pattern as he writes about our iWorld, and his words ring true for more than those struggling with gender dysphoria. They expose a condition that fills (and is often encouraged) in churches across our country. Accordingly, what we need is not a targeted campaign against the trans community. We need to target to corrosive lies of radical individualism, and to preach a gospel that calls everyone of us to deny himself, pick up his cross, and follow Jesus. For those willing to listen, Vaughn Roberts chapter is a great place to begin.

Lord Jesus, free us from our addiction to self and empower us to do what you command. As Augustine once petitioned, ‘Command what you will, but grant what you command.’

Soli Deo Gloria, ds

 

The Good News About Gender: From Genesis 1:27 to Revelation 19:6–9

malefemaleNot a week goes by but what a new story emerges about sexual orientation, gender identity, or the implementation of some new SOGI policy. In our county, the Prince William County School Board will be voting on a proposed change to the school non-discrimination policy.

With so much discussion about sex and gender going on, our church considered on Sunday what Scripture says about gender and how the gospel speaks to those facing gender dysphoria (defined by Mark Yarhouse as “the experience of distress associated with the incongruence where in one’s psychological and emotional gender does not match one’s biological sex”). This biblical inquiry requires us to consider how creation, fall, the law, the gospel, and the new creation inform our understanding and stir our affections. What results is a sevenfold approach to answering the question: What does the Bible say about gender?

You can find the audio here and Scripture references, discussion questions, and resources below. Continue reading

Discipling Every Nation (Matthew 28:18–20): Sermon Notes by Ben Purves

sowingThis morning Ben Purves, our pastor for student ministers, preached a thorough message on the Great Commission. He began by showing the biblical-theological links from Psalm 2 and 2 Chronicles 36 to Matthew 28, then moved to explain how the grammar of the passaged emphasizes the command to ‘disciple’ the nations, and finished with a practical exhortation for how we can enlarge our hearts for the work of making disciples near and far.

Below you can find discussion questions to his sermon and further resources on the subject of discipleship. You can also sign up for our upcoming EQUIP Conference (September 23–25), where we will consider how marriage and evangelism work together to bolster discipleship in the church. Continue reading

Tell the Coming Generation (Psalm 78:1–8): Sermon Notes by Ben Purves

equipToday, Ben Purves our pastor for student ministries delivered a faithful word from Psalm 78:1-8. His message reminded us of the joyous responsibility we have to share the gospel of Jesus Christ and the whole counsel of God with the coming generation. His call to make disciples of the next generation also lays the groundwork for the upcoming EQUIP Conference that Occoquan Bible Church is hosting on September 23–25. If you are in the Northern Virginia area, we’d love for you to join us.

In what follows, Ben has given us a number of resources and discussion questions to dive deeper into Psalm 78 and into the lives of the next generation.

*****

by Ben Purves

In the Great Commission, Jesus commanded his disciples to take the gospel to all nations (Matt 28:18-20; Acts 1:8). But not only must the gospel travel to the ends of the earth, it must also travel down through time from one generation to another. In Psalm 78, Asaph calls for God’s people to teach the wonders of God to each successive generation so that they would put their faith in God. Each generation’s faithfulness with this task is critical, so that each generation should “set their hope in God and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments” (v. 4).

As we think about this responsibility, how might we be faithful?

Psalm 78:1-8

1 Give ear, O my people, to my teaching; incline your ears to the words of my mouth!
2 I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings from of old,
3 things that we have heard and known, that our fathers have told us.
4 We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might, and the wonders that he has done.
5 He established a testimony in Jacob and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers to teach to their children,
6 that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children,
7 so that they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments;
8 and that they should not be like their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation, a generation whose heart was not steadfast, whose spirit was not faithful to God.

Discussion Questions

  1. What are “the glorious deeds of the LORD, and his might, and the wonders he has done” which we must tell to the coming generation?
  2. How might Paul’s faithfulness as a teacher be a template for us? (Acts 20:17-27)
  3. Read the following passages: Genesis 18:17-19; Deuteronomy 6:4-7; Ephesians 6:4. What bearing do they have on telling the good news to the next generation?
  4. Where does this work of teaching the next generation begin, and how does it move outward? (see again Deuteronomy 6:4-7)
  5. What is the danger of neglecting the next generation? (Judges 2:6-11)
  6. What is the danger of a man-centered reading and moralistic application of the Bible?
  7. How might a God-centered reading of the text encourage faith?
  8. Where do you see the glorious deeds, might, and wonders of God in the gospel?

For Further Study

Articles

Books

Soli Deo Gloria, ds

The Lord’s Supper and a Biblical Theology of Feasting

mealJust as the food we eat expresses and establishes the relationships we have, so too meals in the Bible establish and express kinship relationships. Even more, a meal is often a central part of entering into a covenant. And once that covenant is established, a shared meal is one of the greatest ways our identity is formed and reinforced. Let’s follow these two strands through Scripture to see how they shine light on the Lord’s Supper.

Covenant-Making Meals

In Genesis 26:26–33, Isaac and Abimelech “cut a covenant” (v. 28); this covenant is followed by a meal: “So he made a feast, and they ate and drank” (v. 30). Likewise, when Jacob and Laban “cut a covenant” to repair the breach of trust between them (Genesis 31:43–54), a sacrifice and a meal ratified the agreement: “Jacob offered a sacrifice in the hill country and called his kinsmen to eat bread” (v. 54). This pattern of sacrifice and feasting accompanied most covenants in the Old Testament. And we certainly see the Lord feeding his people and feasting with them throughout the Old Testament. Continue reading

Gospel-Centered Leadership: The Reward of the Gospel (1 Corinthians 9:12–18)

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In 1 Corinthians 9:12–18 Paul turns his full attention to the gospel of Jesus Christ. In the first twelve verses of the chapter, Paul recalls the “rights” he has to receive support, rights he will gladly forsake in verses 12, 15, 18 in order to preach the gospel free of charge. As Paul continues to give a personal example of how to give up rights for the sake of serving others, he speaks of (preaching) the gospel seven times in seven verses.

Accordingly, this week’s sermon asks two questions:

  1. What is the gospel?
  2. What do we do with the gospel?

Nothing is more important that knowing and rightly responding to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Therefore, take time to listen to the sermon or read the notes. The discussion questions and related resources listed below can also help you better understand and trust, treasure, and talk about the gospel. Continue reading

A Meditation on the Cross (Matthew 27): How Penal Substitution, Christus Victor, and Christ’s Moral Example Lead Us to Preach the Cross, Resist the Devil, and Imitate the Lord

crossWhen the Spirit led Jesus into the Wilderness, Satan tempted him three times. He questioned the authenticity of Jesus’ Sonship, tempting him to prove his power and his place as God’s Son. In perfect obedience to God and his Word, Jesus did not assert himself, but trusted that his earthly mission was one of absolute humiliation leading to honor, not a powerplay to gain honor for himself.

On the cross, the fury of Satan’s accusations returned, only it came not in the voice of the Serpent but in a salvo of accusations launched at Jesus while nailed to a tree. Physically speaking, no form of punishment has ever been more de-humanizing. Still, for all the physical a pain delivered in crucifixion, it was the Spiritual abandonment that was the greatest punishment. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” was the cry of a man who had never known sin or the judgment of God’s abandonment. Moreover, in identifying himself with his sinful people, Jesus assumed in his flesh the fullness of their sin, which in turn invited the fullness of God’s wrath. He drank the cup, until the fury of God was extinguished.

And this is not all, the crucifixion, as Matthew describes it, is neither a testimony to the pain of crucifixion, as Mel Gibson sought to frame it in his movie The Passion of the Christ. Nor does Matthew ponder the horrible realities of God’s spiritual judgment. Rather, he records a bevy of Satanic accusations offered by Roman soldiers, Jewish leaders, nameless spectators, and the convicted criminals bleeding next to Jesus. After describing the mockery of Herod’s soliders (27:27–31), Matthew recounts the acts (vv. 32–37) and speeches (vv. 37–44) which Satan hurled at Jesus as died on the tree.

For us who find life in Jesus’ death, seeing Jesus’ humiliation teaches us what our sin deserves and what great lengths Jesus went to save us. At the same time, because Christ’s cross is exemplary for those who trust in his penal substitution, there is profit in seeing Satan’s accusations, that we might recognize the tempters accusations and continue to carry with faith the cross God gives to us. With this in mind, let’s consider Christ’s example of humiliation, that we might follow in his steps, by trusting in his substitutionary death, and his victory over Satan. Continue reading

Resting in a Received Ministry

batonYears before receiving a call to serve as pastor, I received one of the most helpful lessons on ministry from Eddie Rasnake and the pastoral staff of Woodland Park Baptist Church.

In 2002 I moved to Chattanooga, Tennessee to go through the SALT Institute. SALT stands for Servant Approach Leadership Training. And this two-year cohort program—which continues to serve the people of WPBC—equipped (aspiring) church leaders with sound principles for Bible study, disciple-making, and ministry. Nearly fifteen years later, the things I learned in SALT continue to shape my approach to ministry. That said, one of them, stands above the rest—ministry is received, not achieved.

What is an Achieved Ministry?

Have you ever met someone whose singular aim is to convince you they are called to ministry? Maybe they give away scores of Vista Print business cards inviting you to invite them to your church; maybe they email you regularly to convince you why they should speak or sing or play at your next youth event; or maybe they give as much attention to networking as to prayer and the study of God’s Word. All of these are symptoms of an achieved ministry.

To be sure, Christians ought to be zealous in using their gifts (Romans 12:8, 11). We ought, as William Carey once said, “Expect great things from God,” and “attempt great things for God.” But while God honors such passion, we must admit there are plenty of zealous people not named Carey. In other words, not every zealous minister is equally pleasing to God. Too many are driven by impure motives. And here, I’m not just talking about others. I know my own heart and the conniving ways I seek to assert myself.

So what is the solution? My answer, the answer I received from the SALT Institute, is to crucify self-achieved ministries and pursue, with a patient heart, a received ministry. Continue reading

Gospel-Motivated Giving

givingThe Lord said to Moses,  “Speak to the people of Israel, that they take for me a contribution. From every man whose heart moves him you shall receive the contribution for me.
— Exodus 25:1–2 —

But who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able thus to offer willingly? For all things come from you, and of your own have we given you.
— 1 Chronicles 29:14 —

Old Covenant Giving: A Legal Requirement in the Land

From the opening pages of Scripture God has called his saints to give. Providing the first sacrifice when he made skins to clothe Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:21), God modeled for his children the kind of animal sacrifice that would please him. Abel followed in faith (Genesis 4:4; Hebrews 11:4), as did Noah (Genesis 8:20–22), Abraham (22:16–18), Moses (24:4–5; 40:29), and the priests of Levi (when they kept the Law). Throughout the Old Testament, God’s people were called to give.

Echoed in every other world religion, giving is a necessary part of worship. In Israel, tithes, offerings, and sacrifices—atoning and festive—were a normal part of worship. Likewise, the Old Testament testifies that every demon-inspired deity demanded gifts and every culture offered sacrifices—sometimes even giving up their children to the flames of Molech (Leviticus 18:21; Jeremiah 32:35). In short, from a cursory reading of Scripture or a survey of the world, mankind is people who worship, and giving is a necessary part of that worship. Still, in that worship there are right and wrong ways to worship, which means there are right ways and wrong ways to give.

Continue reading

Spiritual Leadership: Gospel Rights and Responsibilities (1 Corinthians 9:1–12)

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Spiritual Leadership: Gospel Rights and Responsibilities 
(1 Corinthians 9:1–12)

In May I preached three messages on church leadership

Now this month, we come back to the theme of leadership in the church, as 1 Corinthians 9 picks up some of these crucial themes. However, Paul is not merely digressing to complete what he left unsaid in 1 Corinthians 4. Rather, he is using his ministry as an example of self-denial for the good of others. At the same time, he is defending his apostleship against the examiners in Corinth.

In this way, 1 Corinthians 9 reveals how gospel-centered ministers and gospel-centered churches work together to announce the good news of Jesus Christ. This week’s sermon focuses on the rights of gospel minister; next week we will (Lord willing) consider the second half of Paul’s argument, the rights he refused for the sake of the gospel.

You can listen to the sermon here, read the sermon notes here, or discuss the questions and resources below. Continue reading