Three Reasons Why The Church Needs Singles

water
First Corinthians 7 is a difficult passage for many reasons, but one of those reasons has to do with how poorly the evangelical marriage machine (i.e., Christian romance novels, endless marriage conferences, Christian Mingle, etc.) has loved singles and thought about the subject of singleness. While the EMM projects marriage as the blissful goal of every Christian adult, singleness is often perceived as something to avoid. Yes, Paul calls it good, but . . .

Genesis 2:18 is the tell-tale verse: “It is not good for a man to be alone.” Period. End of story. From this verse, and the cultural statistics about men and women waiting for decades before married, the goodness of singleness is missed.

Then we read 1 Corinthians 7, where Paul makes odd statements about how the married should live as though they are not married (v. 29) and that those who marry do well, but those who do not marry do better (v. 38). To understand Paul’s point, we have to fight back images of monks punishing themselves for impure thoughts and stories of celibate priests abusing young boys. “Surely,” we say to our selves, “the inspired apostle is correct in what he says, but things have changed.” “Yes, there is a gift of singleness that God gives to some people, but that’s not me and should be avoided at all cost.”

Long story short, I think we still have a negative view towards singleness. To the married, there maybe suspicion of those who are not married. And to the single, there may be sorrow, anger, or frustration that Mr. Right has not yet arrived. In fact, this sadly is the promise most True Love Waits-type ministries offer—“If you save your virginity, you will be rewarded with a godly (gorgeous) spouse”. But is that so? Continue reading

Words of Wisdom to Those (Still) Waiting to Be Wed (1 Corinthians 7:25–40)

sermon photo

“Words of wisdom” may be the best way to describe Paul’s counsel concerning singleness in 1 Corinthians 7:25–40. Instead of comprehensive or absolute rules about marriage and singleness, he offers five portraits of marriage for singles and married couples to consider. In these portraits the Spirit-filled man or woman (see 1 Corinthian 2:14–16) can discern how to apply God’s Word to his or her life.

While others (see below) have been more comprehensive in treating the subject of singleness, my sermon sought to follow Paul’s train of thought and apply his words to singles, especially those contemplating marriage.  In all, there are lots of technical question in 1 Corinthians 7, but the singular message is clear: Whether married or single, do all things to the glory of God, leveraging your position in life to know Christ and make him known. This is what it means to walk in wisdom, whatever your vocation.

You can listen to the audio from Sunday’s message or read the sermon notes here. For those who want to go deeper, there are discussion questions below and links to a few other resources (articles, sermons, books) on 1 Corinthians 7 and the topic of singleness. Continue reading

Are You Equipped? Announcing OBC’s EQUIP Conference (Sept 9/23–25)

equip . . . to equip the saints for the work of ministry,
for building up the body of Christ . . .”– Ephesians 4:12 –

In the 1980s edutainment games were coming of age and infiltrating American schools. Leading the way was a game called Oregon Trail. Perhaps you remember playing the game, shooting Buffalo, fording rivers, and fighting off dysentery. In truth, for most 20th and 21st century children such rugged adventures are things of the past, experienced only in pixels and museums.

In our modern world, it can seem that such explorations ended generations ago. Like our entertainment-oriented education strategies, our world tells children and adults that free time is best spent playing, gaming, or escaping the hard edges of life by conjuring up some fantasy world.

The Bible, however, confronts us with a different reality, one far more adventurous and exciting than anything created by Pixar, Pokemon, or a Carnival pleasure cruise. It calls us to scour the earth, making disciples from every nation teaching them to obey all that God has commanded us.

This is God’s great calling—to follow Christ as eager disciples and lead others to know him through our various stations of life. This is why God made us (to glorify him); this is humanity’s greatest task (to increase his glory by multiplying children who reflect his image). This was Jesus’ final word, to follow him in the world’s greatest commission (Matthew 28:18–20).

But how? Continue reading

Opening Our Eyes to Obergefell and Its Effects: A Pastoral, Cultural, and Legal Round-Up

SCOTUSOn June 26, 2015, in a 5–4 decision, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) ruled that same-sex marriage was legal in all 50 states. In the hours that have passed, Christians have been praying and wondering aloud what comes next and how we should respond. To aid our collective understanding of the Supreme Court’s decision, I’ve listed dozens of resources under the following headings:

  • The Decision: What Did the Court Decide?
  • On the Pastoral Front: What do we say to our church?
  • On the Cultural Front: What do we say to our neighbor?
  • On the Legal Front: What about religious liberty?

I am so thankful for the men and women who have been reporting and commenting on these issues. May their wise words aid you—as they have me—to think and pray and act with grace and courage for truth in these days. Still before reading any of these posts, let me encourage you to watch this two minute exhortation from Russell Moore, president of the ERLC.

Continue reading

What Makes a Divorce ‘Biblical’?

sufficiencyEarlier this week laid out a gospel-centered approach to understanding what Scripture says about divorce. Yesterday, I also listed eight points that the Bible makes about divorce. But today, I want to ask a practical question: What makes a divorce biblical?

That is to ask, if Jesus and Paul permit divorce in the cases of ongoing sexual immorality and/or abandonment, what should take place in the life of a believer and a church, if they come to the heart-breaking point of considering a divorce?

As a point of clarification, biblical does not mean the same thing as good or ideal. As with all relational strife, divorce is not good in itself. However, Scripture does give us commands, principles, and guidance on how to faithfully handle a divorce, so it is right to speak of divorce as “biblical” if it is in keeping with God’s Word. Likewise, a divorce pursued contrary to God’s Word makes it “unbiblical.”

Believing that Scripture has given us everything we need for understanding and pursuing a godly life, we should know what comprises a biblical divorce. Here is my attempt to begin to outline the steps of a “biblical” divorce. Continue reading

What Does the Bible Say About Divorce?

divorce2In Sunday’s sermon (“What about divorce?“) I listed seven ways that Scripture speaks about divorce. They are outlined below, plus one more, making eight. From these eight truths, we can get a full, but not yet exhaustive, picture of divorce. Let me know what you think and what you might add.

First, divorce goes against God’s ideal.

Before the Fall, God establishes his pattern for all humanity in Genesis 2:24: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”

This pre-fall ideal is reiterated when Jesus is asked about marriage and divorce. In Matthew 19, he goes back to the Garden to establish God’s ideal for marriage. In verses 4–6, he answers, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” From these two verses, it is plain that God desires for a man to hold fast to his wife and not divorce her (cf. Mal 2:14–15). Continue reading

It’s About Scriptural Authority, not Sexual Liberty

bibleA few weeks ago, I responded to an article in our local newspaper that suggested that the loving thing to do is to embrace others who choose to pursue same-sex marriage. I thought it was going to be kept behind a pay-wall, but apparently, it is available online now. It’s entitled “Current debate not about sex, but following Scripture.” Here’s how it begins:

I don’t consider myself a person of faith. Maybe you can relate.

I grew up in the 1980s in a fairly typical home. When I was a kid, my parents didn’t read much of the Bible to me. And when they occasionally went to church, I slept in.

As I grew older, I thought my parents’ views on sex rather prudish: “Waiting to have sex until marriage. Ha! That was good for them, but not for me.”

As a teenager, I thought that a “committed relationship” was enough to rent a room on prom night. By high school, pornography had inflamed my lust.

As for homosexuality, I was too intoxicated with my own lusts to really care about that topic. In the mid-’90s, the mantra was “don’t ask, don’t tell.” I was happy to ignore the whole thing because I was living for me.

I didn’t care about politics—or preachers. I just wanted what I wanted, and cared little what people of faith had to say about sex.

Strangely enough, that all changed when Jesus Christ saved me from my empty hedonism.

You can read the rest of it at the Columbus Republic. And yes, I do explain my first line by the end.

Soli Deo Gloria, dss

Keeping In Step with the Spirit by Following in the Footsteps of J.R.R. Tolkien

ImageLast week, Albert Mohler republished one of his essays, “From Father to Son—J.R.R. Tolkien on Sex.” It deserves to be read by fathers and sons and everyone else. It is taken from Mohler’s book Desire and Deceit: The Real Cost of the New Sexual Toleranceand the essay is about J.R.R. Tolkien’s views on sex, captured in a host of letters to his three sons (see The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien).

Mohler’s article is well worth the read as it sets out the ways in which Christian Scripture informed Tolkien’s sexual ethic and the way that the architect of Middle Earth stood against the prevailing notions of sex half-a-century-ago. Here are some of the best lines from Tolkien’s letters, which Mohler included in his essay.

  • The dislocation of sex-instinct is one of the chief symptoms of the Fall.
  • The devil is endlessly ingenious, and sex is his favorite subject,
  • Monogamy (although it has long been fundamental to our inherited ideas) is for us men a piece of ‘revealed’ ethic, according to faith and not to the flesh.
  • Faithfulness in Christian marriage entails that: great mortification. For a Christian man there is no escape. Marriage may help to sanctify and direct to its proper object his sexual desires; its grace may help him in the struggle; but the struggle remains.
  • No man, however truly he loved his betrothed and bride as a young man, has lived faithful to her as a wife in mind and body without deliberate conscious exercise of the will, without self-denial.
  • Christian marriage is not a prohibition of sexual intercourse, but the correct way of sexual temperance–in fact probably the best way of getting the most satisfying sexual pleasure . . . .

As is evident, Tolkien conceived of sex in a way that is lost on inhabitants of the twenty-first century, and that is foreign to many Christians too. His perspective needs to be heard, and fatherly model of speaking candidly to his children about sex needs to be imitated too. Let me close with Mohler’s reflections:

From the vantage point of the 21st century, Tolkien will appear to many to be both out of step and out of tune with the sexual mores of our times. Tolkien would no doubt take this as a sincere, if unintended, compliment. He knew he was out of step, and he steadfastly refused to update his morality in order to pass the muster of the moderns.

When it comes to sex, may we keep in step with the Spirit, by following in the footsteps of someone who did not succumb to the spirit of the age.

Soli Deo Gloria, dss

Sermon Audio: The Great Exchange: How Jesus’ Life Trades Places with Our Death (John 11)


A-graveyard-at-dawn-002
Yesterday I finished my six-part series on God’s design for marriage and sex. Instead of finishing with an explicit word about sexuality, its dangers and delights, I spent our time considering God’s power to raise the dead and the devastated.

From John 11, we considered how Christ’s resurrection of Lazarus is a sign of his authority over the grave and a promise to all of us who trust in him, that he can raise us out of any miry pit, forgive us of any sin, and restore us from any deviation from God’s design. In short, Christ is the resurrection and the life, and all who look to him for the forgiveness of sins will find eternal life that does not begin at some unknown point in the future. Eternal begins with a true knowledge of Christ (John 17:3), that in turn empowers us to live a new kind of life today.

Here’s the audio for “The Great Exchange: How Jesus’ Life Trades Places with Our Death,” an exposition of John 11:1-53.

For the rest of the sermons in this series (‘God’s Design for Marriage and Sex’), go to Sermon Audio.

Soli Deo Gloria, dss

Sermon Audio: Deviation from God’s Design (Romans 1:16-32)

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.

— Romans 1:25-27 —

After four weeks of considering God’s design for marriage, sex, and gender, I turned to the subject of homosexuality today—a subject that has and is dividing our nation, and one that Scripture addresses with candor and the message of grace.

In today’s message, I argue from Romans 1 that the great problem is not homosexuality but humanity. All who are born ‘in Adam’ are sexual sinners. Idolatry is the chief sin and as a result of this inward deviation, all men and women experience various kinds and degrees of illicit sexual desires.

I fear some Christians have been to quick to dismiss people who experience same sex attraction. Too much of the message has been, “Just change.” To support our cause, many Christians have cherry picked verses to contest homosexuals instead of sharing the full doctrine of humanity and sin, which tells us that all of us have us have sinned, and none of us have natural (read: true and righteous) sexual desires according to the flesh.

As Paul argues in Romans 1, humanity has exchanged the glory of God for the glory created things, therefore God has given the human race over to the lusts of their flesh. As Romans 3:23 concludes, “all have sinned and fall short of God’s glory.” This is the great problem. Man has suppressed the truth in unrighteousness, because their natural state is not good or righteous. Sexual deviation is the ‘natural’ result of a fallen human condition. Homosexuality—like pornography, fornication, adultery, and divorce—is but one outward expression of this deeper deviation.

I am still grappling with how to state these things, but I pray this message will help you avoid some traps and give you light to better understand what God has said about humanity’s fallen condition. As I state at the front, the message is directed at Christians, but it is also applicable to those non-Christians who are willing to hear how all of us have sinned and how God has provided salvation in Jesus Christ.

Deviation from God’s Design (Romans 1:16-32)

For the rest of the sermons in this series (‘God’s Design for Marriage and Sex’), go to Sermon Audio.

Soli Deo Gloria, dss