Pornography and Our Insufficiency In Discussions

In this post, I am mainly referencing this post by RELEVANT Magazine.

I tweeted a few days ago (a few weeks ago now) that the natural conclusion from a post from RELEVANT Magazine on pornography was to never have sex again because it could cause us to become addicted to dopamines. The post is centered around the idea of the brain producing dopamines when we are stimulated by various activities. In this particular post, Internet pornography was targeted as producing dopamines, and through repetition, we slowly are wired into a routine in our mind.

To break out of this routine is increasingly difficult, as the brain “learns” to act a certain way, causing compulsion and addiction.

Read more of this post

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Fighting Against Sin The Wrong Way

“Our first problem is that our attitude toward sin is more self-centred than God-centred.

We are more concerned about our own “victory” over sin than we are about the fact that our sins grieve the heart of God. We cannot tolerate failure in our struggle with sin chiefly because we are success-oriented, not because we know it is offensive to God.

W.S. Plumer said, “We never see sin aright until we see it as against God…all sin is against God in this sense: that it is His law that is broken, His authority that is despised, His government that is set at naught…Pharaoh and Balaam, Saul and Judas each said, “I have sinner”; but the returning prodigal said, “I have sinned against heave and before thee”; and David said, “Against Thee, Thee only have I sinned”.

God wants us to walk in obedience—not victory. Obedience is oriented toward God; victory is oriented toward self. This may seem to be merely splitting hairs over semantics, but there is a subtle self-centred attitude at the foot of many of our difficulties with sin. Until we face this attitude and deal with it we will not consistently walk in holiness.” (1)

I am learning more and more how the simple act of being a Christian has been transformed into a complexity of emotions and self-help. I am convinced that the webs of self-help and Biblical counselling have become so ambigious, that we cannot see between the two. Where the Spirit’s work has been replaced with self-help trash and the self-help trash masquerades itself as the work of the Spirit–I don’t know why we are not finding ourselves content in God. Is it not because we have not God within us? Yet, the two are distinct because we look for our righteousness in Christ, and not within our sinful hearts. And this is only through opened eyes from a genuine experience of the true God, not empty spirituality of this world.

Maybe our attitudes towards sin are more tempered by our minds instead of the exact nature of God. In Isaiah, God says that we should be holy because He is holy. I find that especially within myself, my attitude toward sins are more a set of rules to follow than to follow and conform more and more to the image of God. Because only then do we realise how much larger this fight against sin is than just me (Hebrews 12v.4). Keeping our fight against sin to ourselves rejects the gifts of God through the Church, it pushes away the wonderfulness of fellowship with other believers in Christ and the communion of the Holy Spirit. Because surely an army is the collective of soldiers, not just one man against the world.

Why does the Church of Jesus Christ so often seem to be more conformed to the world around it than to God? Is it because we are not fighting sin the right way?

(1) p20-21.  Bridges, Jerry. The Pursuit of Holiness. NavPress: 1978.

The Cross Is The Perfect Statement

“The cross is the perfect statement both of God’s wrath against sin and of the depth of his love and mercy in the recovery of the damaged creation and its damagers.  God’s mercy, patience, and love must be fully preached in the church.  But they are not credible unless they are presented in tension with God’s infinite power, complete and sovereign control of the universe, holiness, and righteousness.  

And where God’s righteousness is clearly presented, compassionate warnings of his holy anger against sin must be given, and warnings also of the certainty of divine judgment in endless alienation from God which will be unimaginably worse than the literal descriptions of hell.  It is no wonder that the world and the church are not awakened when our leadership is either singing a lullaby concerning these matters or presenting them in a caricature which is so grotesque that it is unbelievable.

The tension between God’s holy righteousness and his compassionate mercy cannot be legitimately resolved by remolding his character into an image of pure benevolence as the church did in the nineteenth century.  There is only one way that this contradiction can be removed: through the cross of Christ which reveals the severity of God’s anger against sin and the depth of his compassion in paying its penalty through the vicarious sacrifice of his Son. 

In systems which resolve this tension by softening the character of God, Christ and his work become an addendum, and spiritual darkness becomes complete because the true God has been abandoned for the worship of a magnified image of human tolerance.” (1)

I think at every moment there is a tendency to rush towards one or the other. The cross is love poured out; the cross is wrath poured out. Binaries fight out in our mind, and we become ingrained on one side of the expanse. We have tried to create a dialogue between the two extremes, but it is impossible. And it is impossible except through what we have known. Then, we remember that Jesus’ sacrifice is sufficient for the sins of the whole world–great enough to cover the great expanse, and wash our doubts away.

Enough for my haughty heart, enough for my lifeless soul.

Great enough to cover my lack of love, and my lack of righteousness.

Is the cross meaningful if you remove the wrath of God away from it? Is the cross meaningful if you remove the love of God away from it?

(1) (Lovelace, Richard. Dynamics for Spiritual Life, 84-85) the irony is that both those buildings could readily be defined as modernist.

The Impossiblity of Salvation

In the latter parts of the first chapter of Paul’s letter to the church of Corinth, he writes perhaps one of the profoundest statements I have come across: “But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong;” (1v.27)

There is something very comforting from that verse which resonates with me so much. I have never professed to be strong, my want for strength is perhaps embodied in the amount of Abercrombie and Fitch t-shirts I own, but I digress. There was a post running on revelife the other day that was titled, “Christianity: A Crutch For The Weak”, I cannot say I had a read of it, but I might when I finish this post. The image of a crutch is one of support for an injury, a leg-up above our present condition as you would have it.

Yet I find it somewhat lacking, my reply when people say that is, Christianity is nothing like a crutch for the weak, it is a revival of the dead. There is a fantastic passage in Ezekiel 37 which talks of the life being born into dead bones. God asks Ezekiel the question, ““Son of man, can these bones live?” And I answered, “O Lord GOD, you know.”” (Ezekiel 37:3). There is something strikingly similar when Jesus begins His ministry and He calls Philip who finds Nathaniel “Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.”” John 1:46 (English Standard Version)

In both, there is an element of impossibility in the intonation of the words. Where the dead bones were emptied of life, Nazareth as well was emptied of all intelligence as it would seem. When applied to the impossibility of salvation, it becomes something of a miraculous event, not only that a totally new creation is born. But moreover, the weak and not the strong would be rescued from their sins which have caused them to be dead, life out of bones with no intelligence of their own.

Why God would use the weak is explained in the subsequent verses in 1 Corinthians 1, “so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.” (1:29) The Greek, καυχάομαι/kauchaomai translated boast, means literally to speak loudly. The fact of the matter is that God does speak loudly, whether through words or His creation. He chooses the weakest, so as His power and glory is amplified greater in all the earth, because a man might die for his fellow brother if he was good, but only a truly altruistic man would die for someone bad.

God chooses the weakest, much along the reasoning that the weak themselves understand how dead in their transgressions they are, and how much in need of God they are. So much so, that only the dead would know how far God has brought them, and how much change has occurred within their heart. Jesus came as a Great Doctor to those who are sick and need healing, not those who are well in their own eyes. To be weak is to acknowledge we need God, and God will surely answer those who ask for him truly.

 

Joel Osteen on Homosexuality

I must say, I am almost disrespectfully amused by Joel Osteen. Interviewed on CNN (watch it here) by the new anchor Piers Morgan, he was asked the thorny question with a simple answer:

“Is homosexuality a sin?”

“Yes, I’ve always believed it. The Scripture shows that it’s a sin.”

“I say it’s wrong because that’s what the Scripture says,” Osteen stated, the pastor of America’s largest church, Lakewood Church located in Houston Texas. Thereafter he went on explaining that he can’t pick and choose parts of the Bible which you like, and discard the parts which do not suit him. He also added that he’s not “one of those to bash homosexuals and tell them they’re terrible people….I’m not the judge. You know, God didn’t tell me to go around judging everybody.” Of which, I’m not so hot about, but yeah, I don’t see how you can avoid judging them. Obviously, a statement of that magnitude and startling clarity attracted a multitude of chatter among Christians.

The most surprising of reactions was probably Rev. Dr. Miguel de la Torre, a Baptist minister and member of the HRC Religion Council. He said, quoting:

“As a Southern Baptist and an ethicist I believe that we can’t follow Jesus’ commandment to love God and our neighbor as our self if we start with the premise that homosexuality is sinful,” Torre argued. “Starting with the belief that people are sinful doesn’t allow us to get to know them, let alone love them.”

I’m not sure if he’s aware of the passage in Romans 5 which says:

“Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (v.7-8)

The passage clearly precludes knowledge of sin, and makes it paramount to salvation. While a good person might be worth dying for, giving a reason. A disability to reason was God’s reason to save us from our sins. Being altogether unable to help ourselves out of that condition. Lost in our ways and no visible way open for our recovery. Completely depraved and deplorable and desperately in need of a Saviour. Therefore, we are the ones, of which, salvation is due to most. If God so much didn’t acknowledge out sinful state, how could he have begun to thought that we needed love, in the form of Jesus, our Lord and Saviour?

The biggest hurdle I believe for homosexuals todays is either the demonization, or the deregulation of homosexuality (two different extremes) to the point where it is a entire identity. This is the disunity, where people become less than human, they are homosexual or heterosexual, and segregated accordingly. I kind of understand where Torre is coming from, there is a place for relationships and it is paramount for preaching the gospel. But the diminution of homosexuality as a sin is dishonest and the Gospel is essential changing our identity of how we see the world. While we were still homosexuals, thieves, murderers, haters of our brothers, we were brought to the feast of which we paid nothing, and actually owed an unpayable debt to the King of the table. How can one be justified then reconciled to God, if he has nothing to have justified from?

The reality is, it’s got nothing to do with homosexuals. If true love is demonstrated through Jesus dying on the cross, how can anyone know love without knowing how much they do not deserve it? If anything, Rev Torre is attempting to dumb down the love of God, a cheap grace as you would have it. For one, I find myself agreeing with Joel Osteen more and more in his statement. I challenge him now to justify his health-wealth Gospel according to the Bible…

“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.” (Romans 5v.6)

Love the sinner, hate your own sin.

“That’s just the opposite of what Jesus said. Jesus never said love the sinner and hate the sin. Here’s what Jesus said, love the sinner, and hate your own sin, and after you have taken care of that sin, you can talk about the sin in your brother.”

-Tony Campolo

I was listening to Campolo’s keynote speech at the Christian Gay Conference 2009 the other day. While I didn’t agree with much that he had to say, he often seems like a sensationalist too much of the time. I was interested in how he would give the message seeing as he holds a traditionalist position in that he thought that homosexuality was a sin, and homosexual should be eunuchs the rest of their lives. I’m not going to comment on what he had to say, but he did say the above quote during the talk. I quite like it to be honest. It is still a slogan, but what he points out is of greater impact and accuracy than the more popular: “love the sinner and hate the sin”.

I find so often I am at a loss as to how to react to homosexuals. I find it frustrating trying to discuss the biblical principles behind marriage and the explicit references towards what marriage is supposed to be. It seems that while I am trying to be open-minded and considering what they have to say, there also seems to be a certain amount of closemindedness among homosexuals as well. I don’t on the one hand want to be hateful which is how I’ve reacted in the past, with much malice out of frustration. But I find not only in myself, but a lot of Christians don’t want to bring homosexuals gently out of sin, but seek more to objectify them with hate to elevate themselves as not that bad at all. What I think about the quote from Campolo is effective in is the movement of the condemnation from others unto ourselves. The object of hate should be our own sin, and our own malice should be our depravity.

I read a very telling comment from Travis the other day, on lonelywanderer‘s blog. I’ve been thinking how much truth is in the comment:

“Build relationships, show love, and invite them into the kingdom of God (which requires repentance). Relationships are much harder than boycotts and protests. It’s easy as hell to hold up a sign. It’s hard as heaven to get humble and love people you have difficulty understanding or appreciating.” 8/27/2010 9:36 PM

The context of the comment is different from the topic at hand and was in reference to strippers protesting outside churches in revenge for loss of business for their protesting. I think the same principle applies here, Travis was saying is that we must be engaged with others if we hope to change them instead of distancing ourselves from them. When Jesus sums up the Law and the Prophets in Matthew 6, he outlines the two subjects, firstly God, and then others, both of which are movement of a focus from yourself, to others. These two actions are love. And love shouldn’t be extended to homosexual exclusively, but also to the heterosexual because we are all of the same flesh. The same flesh that is tarnished by the sin of Adam, and cleansed and renewed by the blood of Jesus Christ, the Second Adam.

Therefore, we should constantly be in remembrance of our own sins, and our own shortcomings. This removes any arrogance in our hearts, and any pride that may make us irrelevant to these people. Whenever the gospel is preached it is founded on the illumination of the Word of God, not the works of the preacher. The transfer in focus from us to God, would help us begin to relate to homosexuals on the same horizontal plane.

“”Now concerning food offered to idols: we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up. If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know.But if anyone loves God, he is known by God.” 1 Corinthians 8:1-3 (English Standard Version)

I have this “knowledge”, the reality is that I know so little, I try to cover up this with being overly critical with others. While I think they are totally wrong, I don’t do it with love, I don’t do it because I want them to be stronger in Christ. I want to pull them down to my level, by invoking a response and creating anger, I show it with a tirade of cuss words against people I dislike because of their tendencies towards eisegesis.

So, if we can begin to make sense of that, we should be loving people. I don’t mean love in the sense of tolerance that anything goes, but also so intolerable that we will not reason. I mean love in humility as a bold tool for spreading the Gospel, meek and gracious, bending but not breaking. I believe that homosexuality is a sin, reasonably clear in Scriptures like 1Corinthians6 and Romans1, even in the larger context people argue that it is a rhetoric technique used by Paul. Yet, though I know this knowledge, there is no love in my message. I don’t want the homosexuals to change, they just want to show they are better than them. But I what I should do is focus on myself, and my own struggle with other sins and translate that to a relatable and more cohesive message.

So, of utmost importance in relationships with homosexuals is humility because we are hardly any better. Understanding their struggle is imperative to begin to influence their lives to become more like Christ, who resisted all the temptations we experienced and did not fall.

At some thoughts a man stands perplexed, above all at the sight of human sin, and he wonders whether to combat it by force or by humble love. Always decide: ‘I will combat it by humble love.’ If you resolve on that once for all, you can conquer the whole world. Loving humility is a terrible force: it is the strongest of all things, and there is nothing else like it.”-Zosima (from Starets, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky)

What sins do you see in others that you don’t see in yourself?

John Wayne Gacy, I am just like him.

One of my favourite artists ever is Sufjan Stevens because he is simply brilliant and amazing. I am pretty sure he is a Christian as well. Mr Steven’s voice may not be the strongest out there, but his lilting voice makes the words so fluent and personal. Moreover, one of my favourite songs by him is “John Wayne Gacy Jr” from the album, Illinoise. There is this one line that always breaks my heart when I hear it, the line goes:

“And in my best behavior

I am really just like him
Look beneath the floorboards
For the secrets I have hid”

“John Wayne Gacy Jr” by Sufjan Stevens.

The context to the song is Stevens is singing about the life of John Wayne Gacy. Gacy was a convicted serial killer. In the normal rounds of life, he was a popular clown called “Pogo the Clown”. He would often dress up for parties for young children around his apartment block that he lived around. The children loved him as he would prance around, filling them with joy. Yet, when he was arrested the police found 26 children in a small crawl space underneath his home, and a few more around his property and not to mention all the bodies found in the river near his house.

John Wayne Gacy not only killed all these young men and boys, he also raped them as well, disposing their bodies after the deed was done. Perhaps he learnt from a young age when he was molested at age nine by a family friend. Maybe it was his alcoholic father, he would come every night and try to discipline his children, while trying to maintain his balance. His unathletic frame was derided by his father, he was called “stupid” and a “sissy”. Though he tried so hard to please his father, it always seemed fruitless, all he got was a swing of the leather belt. That was all he remembered of his father.

What is underneath our floorboards?

Stevens touches a raw nerve in this song. As Christians, we are keenly aware of our own sinfulness. While we may not kill or rape anyone in our lifetimes, how much worse is it if our ignorance or our pride turns one away from God? While we may not be John Wayne Gacy, we can so easily be Gacy Senior. What we do with our lives and how we live it has such a profound impact on other people’s lives. For example, we may ignore someone because we were busy that night, and that same night, the person committed suicide. We know that blood was on our hands because we had thought that my school work was more important than doing God’s work.

By the same token, we could be that family friend. What we watch on tv, what we view on the internet, what magazines we read and what clothes we wear. We could be introducing people to what is not appropriate to people of a certain age, or even in a lifetime. What I don’t realise is what a huge influence I have, people look up to me believe it or not. Someone mentioned to me, that they heard that it’s good that they should have someone mature in their faith to guide them. I liked how I had made this illusion to other people that i am somewhat mature in my faith, when I don’t consider myself to be anything more than a toddler in Christ.

Even in our blogging influence, we have people coming to read us every day. Surely, you could stop complaining about someone who hurt you and talk about something positive for a change. Why do we have to make other people wrong all the time?

If we were to open up what is hidden underneath our lives, would we do it? If we forgot to put on our spiritual makeup one day would people recognize us? if we decided to show our scars and hurts would people still treat us the same? I am the first to admit I am no better than John Wayne Gacy. I have spoken too many hurtful words. Or perhaps, did not any words at all. If I aim to do nothing to help society, all I’m doing is help create another generation of John Wayne Gacys in the world. I may not be John Wayne Gacy but I would be there helping him dig the holes to try to hide all the wrong he had done.

Just look beneath the floorboards of my life.

PS. Read more about John Wayne Gacy on wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Wayne_Gacy It’s a truly sad story.