Ministry

Pornography Attacked

Pornography Attacked

It has always been around, and will always be around. As long as there are people, there will be pornography. You might as well hold back the tide as to try and stop it. The production, sales, and dissemination of pornography have increased in recent years due to technical advancement and internet/social media. However, it is all the same. So, don’t be alarmed.

In this essay, I would like to:

  1. Define pornography.
  2. Explain pornography’s weaknesses.
  3. Give an explanation as to its resistance.

This phenomenon that draws men and women, like very few other lusts do, seemingly has taken over the world. The explanation defies the best psychologists. Their articles, which I don’t encourage anyone to read, are valueless, hopeless, and insubstantial. They will elevate such beastial behavior to a level of soft acceptance and will tell you that there is real satisfaction, need, for some level of sexual deviance, depending upon your line of right and wrong. Like I said: hopeless. 

Rather, if you take every psychological journal article written from the beginning of its existence as a discipline and compile them into one volume, the weight of that volume will not even compare to one word in the Bible. The Bible’s diagnoses and remedy for any sin, let alone pornography, is substantial, true, and always right.

What is pornography?

Pornography must be defined. Because, like all sins, the enemy of God knows that if you misdiagnose sin you will also misapply the cure. So, let’s begin by defining “pornography.” Here it is: “Pornography is any, ANY, sexual behavior outside of the recognized marriage between a man and a woman.” You read right. Here is a list:

  • Premarital sex-intimacy with another before marriage.
  • Lust-desiring intimacy with another who is not your spouse.
  • Adultery-the act of intimacy with another who is not your spouse.
  • Self-stimulation-obvious.
  • Images (artwork, music, or advertisement)-depiction of what entices another.
  • Nudity-any level of revealing a person’s body in public.
  • Beastiality
  • Molestation
  • Rape
  • Homosexuality
  • Lesbianism
  • Incest
  • Lastly, the mere thought of any of these things in our hearts with a desire to fulfill them.

Most people don’t realize that pornography is not pornography simply because a man says it is. What I might consider pornography my neighbor might consider normal and acceptable. Pornography is not subject to the “non-moral” category. Its classification is not relative. What defines pornography is objective, fixed, and unwavering.

Let’s look at this a little more closely. The nation of Israel, in the Old Testament, was familiar with pornography. How do I know?

Leviticus 18:3

3‘You shall not do what is done in the land of Egypt where you lived, nor are you to do what is done in the land of Canaan where I am bringing you; you shall not walk in their statutes.

Apparently, the items listed in Leviticus 18 were done in Egypt. Further, they were also done in Canaan, the land that Israel would inherit forever. That means that although there were no computers, printed pictures, or other means of disseminating it, pornography was alive and well in most of the known world. Obviously, the other nations not specified of here were not exempt.

Let’s look at this list:

  • Vv. 6-17 teaches Israel to reject any, and every, form of incest.
  • V. 18 teaches them to reject incestual polygamy as an aberration of marriage.
  • V. 19 teaches men in the congregation to refrain from sexual intercourse during his wife’s menstrual cycle.
  • V. 20 teaches Israel to reject adultery (which includes divorce-Deuteronomy 24).
  • V. 21 teaches against idolatry (and given the context one wonders if there is an underlying tone of sexual aberration in this ritual of giving to Molech-Leviticus 20:5).
  • V. 22 teaches against male homosexuality.
  • V. 23 teaches against Beastiality.

As you can see, the levels of pornography in the nations matches our own in our nation. In other words, had America been in the land God promised Israel, we would have been slated for destruction by God along with the Canaanites. What has been practiced there is normal for us in ways we don’t even realize. Repeatedly, God tells Moses in this chapter that these are perversions to the original order of creation and are abominable, defiling, and worthy of judgment. As I said, “Pornography is any, ANY, sexual behavior outside of the recognized marriage between a man and a woman.”

The history of Israel is one of perversion. From pre-Israel days with Lamach having two wives (Genesis 4:19), to Tamar acting like a prostitute and Judah committing immorality and perversion by hiring her (Genesis 38), to David and his son Solomon with untold amounts of wives and concubines (2 Samuel 13:5; 1 Kings 11-it should also be stated that having multiple concubines was also practiced by Abraham and other men of God in the Bible as well), Israel ended up behaving just like those nations! The alteration of the good, very good (Genesis 1:31), original design of one man with one woman for a lifetime, has been the norm for everyone.

All of this is to say, it is normal to engage in pornography. And, that is the problem. According to the long line of examples in the Old Testament, sexual deviation is normal, sexual devotion is not. The normalcy of perversion, however, does not normalize it in the sight of God who created the sexual relationship.

Let it be stated once more:  “Pornography is any, ANY, sexual behavior outside of the recognized marriage between a man and a woman.”

The Weakness of Pornography

The weakness of pornography is that it is incapable of holding itself against the truth of God. That is to say, if Jesus is right, then the truth of God does, in fact, strengthen the believer and weaken sin. Let me show you what I mean:

John 8:31–32

So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine;

and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”

Do you remember that I said that pornography is not “non-moral”? What I mean is that it is every bit as much unrighteous as murder, pride, drunkenness, or false religion. It is always included in the lists of unrighteousness in the New Testament. In fact, it often heads those lists (see Romans 1:24-27; 1 Corinthians 6:9; Galatians 5:19). Perversions from the norm are what make up those lists and sexual deviation usually leads them all. That means that whenever you lust for a woman, in church or otherwise, when you look at the printed page of pornography, or click onto that favorite pornographic website, or even lust after the women in advertisements, then you are committing condemning sin.

However,

John 8:34–36

Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin.

“The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son does remain forever.

“So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.

Therefore, the unrighteousness of pornography is attacked, assaulted, and arrested by the truth which Jesus preached. Either that, or Jesus is an incessant, cruel liar.

Jesus’ Word is the exclusive, exclusive, cure for pornography just as it is the exclusive cure for drunkenness, love of drugs, or any other form of aberration from God. His Word, alone, contains the power to regenerate a person to believe in Him, follow Him, and be freed from these things. And, I might add, Jesus’ words do not need the help of modern, or pre-modern psychologists, psychotherapists, self-help groups, accountability partners, or any other form of embellishment. His Word is “spirit and life” (John 6:63). His Word produces faith (Romans 10:17). His Word regenerates the soul:

1 Peter 1:22–25

Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart,

for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God.

For,

“All flesh is like grass,

And all its glory like the flower of grass.

The grass withers,

And the flower falls off,

But the word of the Lord endures forever.”

And this is the word which was preached to you.

The weakness of pornography is this: it is utterly incapable of standing up against the Word of Christ.

Someone will ask, however, “I believe in the Word of Christ but I still commit lewd acts, or desire to. Does God’s Word not work like you say?” Remember, lewd acts are not simply aberrations on perversions. They are ANY perversion from the norm. Here are some things to understand:

  1. You possibly believed a false gospel.
    • It is possible that whatever you believed and considered yourself saved by was false, and thus powerless.
  2. You possibly did not truly believe.
    • This is not a question of sincerity, but of the origin of your faith. If your faith was not given from God (Ephesians 2:8-10), then it is from yourself and that does not regenerate (John 3:1ff.).
  3. You possibly, in your heart, don’t want to quit.
    • Be honest.
  4. You might be in a church that simply is not shepherding you well.
    • If you are not in a church that is ministering properly, teaching properly, being led properly, then you are not being taught HOW TO repent from these things and follow Christ (Matthew 28:18-20). You are very frustrated!

But, above all else, please don’t blame God for the way you are. God did not create the aberrations in you-they are who you are before you came to Christ. In fact, if Romans 6-7 is any indication, those desires are still in the flesh, your physical body, and they constantly work to enslave you all over again.

How To Resist Pornography

How can a person resist the temptation, inside and outside of themselves, for pornography?

First of all, repent of that sin and follow Jesus Christ. It is worthy of the wrath of the Lamb of God, the Lamb of God Who died in order to remove sins from His people so they will stand in righteousness forever. Imagine feeling the impulse to devalue a woman and simultaneously realizing that sin is not as strong as it used to be! Imagine the day when you don’t look on a woman to lust after her, to have her (Matthew 5:27-28), but rather to lead her, make her holy, and genuinely love her for her benefit and not your own. Imagine praising that godly woman and being glad for her beauty without being allured by the same. Imagine looking on with pity at the prostitute you used to know when she advances and instead you confront her concerning her perversion.

How can you get to such a place? Do you even want to? Let’s assume you want to. Let’s assume you want to mature and grow up to spiritual adulthood, that is to look and act like Christ.

Think about this: Jesus had an extensive ministry to women. He spoke alone to an immoral woman at a public well (John 4). He received the touch of a prostitute (Luke 7:36-50). He was admired by women wherever He went (Luke 11:27). He was financially supported by many women (Luke 8:1). And, many women looked upon Him near His cross (Luke 23:49). Never, never, was there ever a hint at perversion, in either direction. Why? “Because Jesus is God.” True, but wasn’t He tempted?

Hebrews 4:14–16

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.

For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.

Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

He experienced temptation somehow. He, apparently, knows what it is like to be tempted to sin (see Matthew 4:1-11). Being tempted is not the same as sinning. Him being tempted to sin does not mean that He wanted to sin. Rather, it demonstrates His impeccable nature in that He was committed to righteousness no matter the result.

And that is the only key to resisting the sin of pornography: pursue righteousness by faith. When you pursue Jesus Christ, His Word (John 8:30-31), you are pursuing righteousness. I will say it again, this is not simply sincere belief. This is not simply a sincere recollection of data. This is not simply thinking better thoughts. You know your thoughts are defiled. It is submitting yourself, to the death of yourself, to the teaching of Jesus Christ in order to obey it.

Romans 6:16–18

Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness?

But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed,

and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.

This is not simply-“Don’t look at pornography!” Rather, this is practicing obedience to all His commands beginning with the source of all His teaching:

John 13:34

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.

Submit to God, writes James, Jesus’ brother, and He will draw near to you:

James 4:7–10

Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.

Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.

Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom.

Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.

You will never conquer unrighteousness by giving it a glance wondering how you are going to defeat it. You will only conquer sin by submitting to righteousness. Do what Jesus said to do. Pursue the obedience of faith. Be in a church that is actually a church with qualified leadership, preaching the Word clearly, minimized theatrics, seriousness placed on holiness, and who is striving to be faithful leading to growing holiness.

Don’t spend time in parachurch therapeutic clinics and seminars. They only serve to heighten the sin in your eyes by drawing continual attention to it. They cannot help you. God has ordained the simple preaching of the Word of Christ to be the power behind your obedience.

At the end of the day, you are not simply dealing with pornography, are you? Don’t you see pride in yourself, anger, love of money, coveting, faithlessness, etc…? Is the lust for others outside of marriage your only fault? Of course not!

Conclusion

In conclusion, all that I can say is follow Christ. His Word works in those who believe very, very effectively (1 Thessalonians 2:13).

God’s Mercy In Trials

 

Testing is Normal and Necessary

The Bible indicates that a normal part of life as a Christian is testing. This does not refer to testing in the sense of pass or fail. It is a kind of testing that has as its purpose revelation. The revelation not so much of the Word of God, but of our hearts.

God tested Adam in the garden, calling out to him, “Where are you?” (Genesis 3:9). God tested Abraham when he was commanded to take his son, Isaac, up to the mountain and offer him there as a sacrifice (Genesis 22:1-2; cf Hebrews 11:17). God tested Israel for 40 years in the desert (Deuteronomy 8:1-4) not so that God would find out, but so that they would find out! Moving forward into the New Testament we see that the Father even tested His Only Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, by means of 40 days of fasting and aloneness while being tempted to sin by Satan (Matthew 4:1-11; Mark 1:12-13; Luke 4:1-13).

The writer of Hebrews exhorts us:

Hebrews 12:4–8

A Father’s Discipline

4  You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin;

5  and you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons,

“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,

Nor faint when you are reproved by Him;

6  For those whom the Lord loves He disciplines,

And He scourges every son whom He receives.”

7  It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline?

8  But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.

 

One such son was Simon Peter. This man, named “Rock” by the Lord Himself (John 1:42), would go on to become the pillar of the church, alongside James, the Lord’s brother (James 1:1), and John (Galatians 1:9; 2:2, 6). But, Peter needed to be tested first. Why? Because, as he was, he was not fit for ministry. His life was filled with pride, sectarianism, and spiritual short-sightedness. However, God had chosen this man to become a foundation-stone to their group, the apostles (Matthew 16:18; Ephesians 2:19-20). He had the highest service toward God, and therefore had the furthest to go as it relates to testing. Since he would be used of the Lord to such a degree, the Lord needed to expose his own heart to him in the deepest way.

The Test

Simon was brought to Jesus by his brother Andrew (John 1:40-42). Once Simon saw Christ, and Christ saw him, the Lord prophesied that he would have his name changed to “rock.” That would be a description of this man. But, right now, he was simply same-old Simon. As the Lord’s ministry wore on, with tremendous power and conflict, this man, Simon, didn’t seem to change much. However, that was not the point of the Lord’s ministry. Although the Lord would have expected these men to change, He knew what was in their hearts (John 2:23-25). No one needed to tell Him what was going on in their minds at any time. However, Simon did not know what was in his heart. And that ignorance would keep him away from effective service to Christ. If the Lord is going to call you to service, He must first reveal you. And since He already knows our hearts, He only needs to reveal our hearts to us! The years of preparation for service, the laying of seeds of teaching and example, as it were, did not sprout during the Lord’s ministry. It would almost seem that nothing took root. However, the watering of testing, pressure, needed to be applied first before the condition of the soil and seed could be made evident. The moment of water applied to the soil and seed came in the courtyard where Simon and the Lord Himself was being tested respectively. 

Our Lord is arrested, betrayed by the Satan-filled betrayer, Judas. Judas, already having it in his heart to do evil, is led by Satan to betray Jesus to the Jews and the Romans. In doing so, it would seem that the hopes of the kingdom are destroyed. The three years of following, watching, learning, practicing, ministry with Jesus now dashed. Peter is told to bear a sword (Luke 22:35-38). He attempts to use the sword to fight for Jesus at His arrest (Luke 22:49-51). Jesus rebukes him, because he was apparently operating outside of the will of the Father (v. 42). Peter did not see that, as he did not see much of a spiritual nature (see Matthew 16:21-23). Peter, along with the rest of the disciples, flee the scene.

Peter is now in the courtyard, warming himself by the fire (Luke 22:54-62). He is asked three different times by three different people if he was with Jesus. He denies that he even knows the Man. The last time, defending his own hypocritical innocence against the accusation that he was with Jesus, he does so with vehement curses (Matthew 26:74). Peter, horrified by the accompanying shame of having been with the Jesus who is, as he speaks, being tried and beaten, denies that he was ever an acquaintance of the Lord’s. At the end of the last denial Jesus, being within viewing distance to Peter, turns and looks Simon in the eyes without a word. He didn’t have to speak-he already had.

At the end of the final meal that the Lord would eat on this unredeemed earth, having eaten it with the disciples, Peter assured Jesus that even if everyone else would fall away from the Lord, there would be no possibility of him falling away and denying Him (Matthew 26:31-35). Simon was willing to die with Him. However, when it came down to it, the Scriptures were true-Jesus would be denied three times by this self-confident man. What happened? How could Peter have done this? Sure, Peter was self-assured. Sure, Peter had no idea what he was in for. Sure, Peter was ashamed of Jesus Christ, when push came to shove. But what was really going on behind the scenes?

Behind the Scenes

Luke tells us the behind the scenes scenario of this event, a devastating, but necessary one, in the life of this leader. He needed to be humbled. He needed to deny himself, not Christ. He needed to see his own weakness, and the Lord’s mercy. And that he did.

Satan, the arch-enemy of Jesus Christ, is a murderer (John 8:44). He cannot help himself, nor does he want to. According to the Lord, Satan has demanded from God, and has obtained, permission to sift Peter like one would separate wheat and the chaff. Peter would be devastated by Satan’s ravages, and God has granted permission to Satan for that very purpose. Thus, we understand that Satan is a target for Peter. This makes sense, since Peter would become the rock, or pillar, of the church in Jerusalem and beyond.

Satan obtains permission. Unlike Job, Peter at least was told it was about to happen. Yet, Jesus also mentions something more. Jesus said,

Luke 22:31–32

31 “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat;

32  but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”

“Listen up, Simon, Satan has demanded, and obtained from the Father, permission to sift YOU! You are a target of Satan, Simon.” However, Peter would not be left in that horrible condition. At some point, Peter would turn back. And once being turned back, he is then responsible for strengthening his brothers, i.e. the other apostles. So, Jesus Christ, since He prayed for him, believed that God would answer His prayers and that Peter would be granted repentance and would be useful again for the apostleship.

How did Satan do it? How did Satan sift Simon? He did it through unredeemed people around him. Remember, three people instigated a conversation with Simon at the fire which brought out of Simon’s heart the hidden shame toward Jesus that he was feeling. There were no riots, officers, or clubs. It was only the accusation of the servant-girl and a couple others at the fire. Peter did not know that he was ashamed of Christ. He did not know that he was so distant from the plan of God. But he needed to know.

When Jesus Christ turned and looked at Simon at the crowing of the rooster, Peter realized what he had done. He was devastated. He was destroyed. Consider him sifted. Satan did it. Goal accomplished. He ran out of the courtyard absolutely distraught (Matthew 26:75).

The Result

But wasn’t it gracious of God to show Peter what was in his heart? Sooner or later the shame of Christ that resided there would get in the way of ministry. He needed to have it exposed and led to repentance. And he was.

It was a few days later and Peter and the others were in a boat fishing. They had gone back to fishing assuming that their fishing-for-men days were done. After all, Peter had denied the Lord, the Lord knew it, and there appeared no remedy. I can only imagine how often that scene played itself out in his mind.

The Lord appears on the shore and calls out to the men. No one recognizes Him except John (no doubt by the Lord’s sovereign choice). John exclaims to Peter, “It is the Lord!” (John 21:7). The ensuing conversation is the power of God. “Simon,” the Lord asked, “Do you love me more than these?” Whether it is a question of loving Him more than the fish and his fishing occupation, or more than the rest of the disciples, it is hard to know. However, Peter’s answer was less confident than his denials a few days earlier. If Simon actually loved Jesus, then he would “Feed [His] sheep.” The Lord asks him a second time, “Simon, do you love Me?” Simon again answers, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love You.” This is very different from what was in his heart a few days ago. If Simon really does, then he would show it by shepherding His lambs. The third time, “Simon, do you love Me?” Simon, apparently irritated, or frustrated, answers, “Yes, Lord, you know all things. You know that I love You!” Again, “Feed my sheep.” Jesus was calling Peter back to love for Him. Maybe, which is probably more accurate, Jesus was continuing to purge Peter’s heart because Peter was still not completely sanctified in his love for Jesus Christ as is evident in his frustration for asking a third time. Besides, the first two times the Lord asked Peter if he “loved” Him, the Lord used the word that refers to a love that is sacrificial and submissive apart from reciprocity. It is a love that reflects God’s love and does not consider the worthiness of the object of love. However, the third time, Jesus seems to even question Simon’s affection for Jesus as He then uses a different word for “love.” One that refers to an affection for something. It is, after all, the fulfillment of the Law to love the Lord your God with all your heart. Again, Peter appears to teeter on the line between complete love and simple self-produced affection for Christ, but no absolute subjection to Him.

Fact of the matter is, our hearts (and minds) are never really capable of being really worthy of serving the Lord. The reality is, we will always need our “feet cleansed” (John 13:1-20). Satan was God’s instrument, with all of his diabolical fury, for the cleansing of this self-confident, and loveless apostle. With Peter learning his lesson, and by the ministry of the Spirit of God in this man, he is now able to be a strengthener to the others. How do I know? Simply read Acts 1-15.

The Pastor’s Home-pt.4

Last time…

we considered the fact that Paul left Timothy in Ephesus, and Titus in Crete, in order to deal with teaching that contradicts sound doctrine. Part of that work is to confront leadership in the church and call them to repentance. That is quite a work for a man to do, but the church is a precious thing and needs to be cared for by godly leadership. If a man in leadership is teaching error, he needs to be removed. However, that will create a gap. So, what are Timothy and Titus to do? They are to appoint new leadership. That is why Paul gave these instructions in these chapters (1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 respectively). Both of these men must appoint leadership. The assumption is that this activity is a priority because God has appointed men to lead the sheep and tend the flock of God. If a church has no leadership, or has unqualified leadership, they are not being cared for.

In 1 Timothy 3:4-5, and Titus 1:6, Paul makes sweeping statements that are determinative of whether a man should be a pastor or not. Paul wrote,

1 Timothy 3:4–5

4 He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity

5 (but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?),

And in Titus,

Titus 1:6

6 namely, if any man is above reproach, the husband of one wife, having children who believe, not accused of dissipation or rebellion.

These passages instruct us in the necessary qualification of a man to leadership in the household of God, the church (1 Timothy 3:15; Ephesians 2:19). The point of this series is to attempt to bring to light that the condition of a man’s home is a qualification for service in pastoral ministry. This is not negotiable, any more than being able to teach is negotiable. A man’s efforts, heart, abilities, failures, repentance, and overall righteousness through the obedience of faith (Romans 1:5; Philippians 2:12-13) are all on display in the home and those things affect everyone else in the home.

We have seen that Paul says that if a man cannot lead his home, he cannot lead the church. This is because both the church and the home are essentially made of the same categories of people. In the church, there is a Father (Ephesians 4:6) and there are children. Where does the wife and mother fit in? She is one with the father of the children (Ephesians 5:28-33). Men and women who obey Christ are made children of God, and He becomes their Father. The collection of these children all under the care and instruction of God the Father is what Paul refers to as a “household.” Jesus Christ is to have preeminence in that household (Romans 8:29; Colossians 1:18). Therefore, that body of people, in Christ, is as precious as any household. In fact, given the One who is Head of the household, the church is even more precious. These are great realities and, unfortunately, very little is being written about them (although this was a refreshing reminder of these things).

Now…

we come to the similar phrases found in 1 Timothy and Titus involving the children. As with many passages of Scripture, there are a number of disagreements over what Paul wrote here. The reasons for these disagreements are varied. But the disagreements are not caused by the lack of clarity in the text itself. It does not appear to be vague, nor meant to be. I will work through these things here and delineate some conclusions.

Paul wrote that Timothy (and Titus) are to look for men for leadership who are appropriately raising their children. That much is clear. In fact, in 1 Timothy, the indication is that the condition of the children is the litmus test for the ability of the man to lead his home. In other words, to see if a man can lead his home, look at the fruit of that leadership, the hearts and lives of the children (this is evident by the participles “manages” and “keeping” which would modify the main verb, “to be”). Interestingly, there is nothing explicitly written here about the condition of his wife. The assumption is that she would fall into the category of his household. Everything that the man is head over, wife, children, and resources, are his “household.” However, if you want to see the fruit of that man’s know-how of raising children, and managing his home, look to the quality and condition of his children.

His children should be “under control” (the phrase “with all dignity” refer to the man and his quality of training his children to be under control). The phrase “under control” is the Greek prepositional phrase, ἐν ὑποταγῇ. The preposition “ἐν” is usually translated “in.” That is not possible here because Paul is not insisting that the children be “in control” of the household. The next word “ὑποταγῇ” also has a preposition on the front of it, hupo, which is usually translated, “under” as in spatially, or logically, under something or someone else. It makes sense with this particular word “ὑποταγῇ” because the other half of the word is the word for obedience, or submission. In fact, it would, together, indicate a willing, voluntary submission under the authority of another (Jesus, of course, exemplifies this precious and powerful truth in Luke 2:51). Coupled with the preposition “ἐν,” Paul is driving home this reality. The fact is, a father and mother have authority in the home, with the husband as the head, or leader, of the two. He has the right from God to instruct, and care for, all the others. Children should be in such a condition of heart to choose to submit to that authority.

This kind of humbling is not natural to a child (Proverbs 22:15; Ephesians 2:1-3; Romans 3:9-18) and is only produced through the gospel of Jesus Christ. The will of a child despises God’s authority. They welcome the care and benefits of God (Acts 17:25b; cf. Matthew 5:43-45). But, they naturally reject His righteousness. Essentially, the man of God should know how to bring his children to the point of obedience to the gospel of Jesus Christ. This cannot mean to simply control the children externally, without any repentance and submission in the heart. God expects more than that out of His children (Mark 7:6-7). God’s expectation of His children is as much submission and obedience from a pure heart as Jesus Himself has (Matthew 5:48). Otherwise, the New Covenant would be unnecessary since the target of that covenant is the heart and the product of that new heart is obedience to God’s instructions (Ezekiel 36:26-27). If the good news of Jesus Christ is that God’s eternal plan of making sinners into sons (Revelation 21:7) has come to earth, then that should be most evident in the homes of the leaders of God’s church (Romans 8:28-30; cf. Ephesians 3:8-11). Paul reiterates this in Titus as well.

Paul wrote to Titus that an elder should "[have] children who believe.” Again, since Paul taught that the condition of the home determines whether or not a man knows how to lead, it would be basic to assume that Paul expects the children of the elder/pastor to believe in Christ. The adjective “πιστά” describes the children. This description coincides with 1 Timothy 3:4 that the children are obedient and voluntarily submissive to their father. This kind of faithfulness to their father is demonstrated by their behavior. And just as there is a list of behaviors for elders, here is a little list for his children as well. In other words, the behavior of the children (as well as the elders and deacons/deaconesses listed in 1 Timothy 3) demonstrates their hearts.

The question for many is whether or not this demands that the children of the pastor need to be believers. Is it Paul’s intention to instruct Timothy and Titus to only approve men whose children are following Jesus Christ? I believe that Paul is instructing just that. Whether the children are simply faithful or believers, the point is the same. A faithful person is one who adheres to a kind of expectation. That expectation for a Christian is contained in the Scripture. If a man is teaching these instructions of Scripture to his children, the assumption is that the children are faithful to those instructions. To rebel against those instructions demonstrates an unbelieving heart. To obey and submit to those instructions demonstrates a believing heart. James would say that faith in Christ necessarily evidences itself in “works” (James 2:14-26). The works of faith are ultimately evidenced in submission to teaching. If you believe something, you obey it (Romans 6:16-18).

The assumption is that the man’s aptitude in teaching shows itself primarily in his home. This teaching, with wisdom and skill, will accomplish what God intended. Paul told Timothy later in his second letter,

         14      You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them,
         15      and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. –2 Timothy 3:14-15

According to Paul, the wisdom literature of the Old Testament, as well as the entirety of Scripture (3:16), is able to produce the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.

Men, do you understand Scripture well enough to train your children in this wisdom (cf. Deuteronomy 4:5-6; Job 32:7–9; Psalm 119:100)? Do you understand the eternal gospel well enough to expose their hearts by the appropriate wielding of the Word of God?

Some would object to this understanding insisting that to expect this is to limit God’s election. That is absurd. First, nothing limits God’s election, whether entire cities (Jonah 3:5-10; cf. Matthew 12:41; Luke 11:32), households (cf. Acts 16:31-34; cf. Acts 11:14), or individuals. This argument is a philosophical one, not an exegetical one.

Second, some object because they know of a pastor who was faithful for many years over a church and when a child left home and that child renounced Christ, or lives in such a way that denies Christ (Titus 1:16). The question then is, was the father truly faithful? Remember, an elder needs to be one who manages his household well. Did he really do that? To say that we have no control over or children when they are out of the home is a sad thing to say. Of course, as parents, we don’t have control over them (Genesis 2:24-25). However, do you not expect a child to continue in the things that you taught when you taught them? What were you training them for? Solomon wrote,

            6      Train up a child in the way he should go,
      Even when he is old he will not depart from it.-Proverbs 22:6

 

Some would say that is not a promise. Some would even say this is a warning against allowing the child to continue in “his own way.” However, this is a command (Ephesians 6:4). Solomon is instructing his son to train up his child in the way that he is expected to live when he is old. If you do that, even when he has grey hair, he will not depart from that teaching. The failure, then, is not the children necessarily. It is the training they received. That is the heart of the issue.

I believe that the situation in the leadership of the church is dire. Judging by the number of unqualified and disqualified men in leadership over God’s household, I would say that there needs to be a serious examination in this area. I would also assert that the goal is not a witch-hunt. It is to equip where there apparently isn’t any, or at least very, very little. I hope to at least introduce some teaching from the Word of God along these lines.

The Gospel Stage Is Set. The Father’s Announcement Is Made.

Last post, we considered Paul’s statement in Ephesians 3:11,

11      This was in accordance with the eternal purpose which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord,

If we stop and contemplate what this says, we come up with some very interesting conclusions. One conclusion that we must admit is that since the plan and purpose of God is eternal, and since God is absolutely sovereign, and since Jesus Christ actually did come to the earth, die, and was raised again, then there must have been some preparatory work ahead of the arrival of Jesus Christ in order to carry out His work. This is a staggering thought. In order for the complexities of the purpose of God to be accomplished, the “stage” had to be set. There had to be some pieces put into place. And since that is true, then we conclude that all of history and time marches on toward one thing, the gospel of Jesus Christ. However, the setting of the stage is not what the fullness of time is. The historical components into which  Messiah was born is not the catalyst for His coming. 

I want to consider a couple things along these lines. First, we need to realize that time is fixed by the Father. Second, we need to see that Jesus’ arrival was not determined by anything other than the Father’s announcement.

It would be easy to look to history in order to see the pieces of the puzzle being put together for such a time as Christ’s arrival. Afterall, Paul did write in Galatians

4      But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, (Galatians 4:4).

Oftentimes, writers take this verse and dive into history and point out the unique world into which Jesus was born. A world most conducive to the spread of the gospel. Whether it was the Roman empire that allowed for ease of travel because of their extensive road system, or the common language of Koine Greek which allowed for the writing of the NT in a popular language, this is often the route we take. However, this is not Paul’s point in Galatians 4:4. I don’t believe that Paul sat back and considered all the historical trappings of the time and thought to himself, “My, what a perfect time for the Messiah to be born.” What did Paul mean by this phrase in Galatians 4:4? What was his thought? He tells us.

Notice the context. Paul is referring to the practice of the time when a boy becomes a man and takes on the inherited responsibilities, and privileges, of manhood as given to him of his father. If you follow the terms referring to time in this section (i.e. vv. 1-9), you begin to see Paul’s thinking unfold.

The first mention of time is found in v.1, “As long as the heir is a child.” Paul is speaking of the time-frame of childhood. In time, the child will become the owner of his father’s estate. However, for now, he is treated no better than a slave-one who has no rights or privileges but is expected to only do what he is told. Then, v.2 states that that child is kept under guardianship until such a time as the father says, “He is mature enough to handle my affairs.” At that point, the child is no longer a slave, but a son-on the same level as the father himself over the estate.

Paul takes that true, historical, practice of families and uses that as an analogy to the gospel. The overarching point Paul is trying to make to the Galatians is found in v. 9 when he asks why, when they have been made sons through the gospel, the Galatians would go back to slavery under bondage to the master of the “elemental” things of the world. Why would one want to throw away all the privileges, and responsibilities, of sonship and go back to being a slave? It doesn’t make sense!

The timing of the coming of Christ is compared to the announcement by a father of the son’s arrival to competency. Verse 2 states that the date of transition out of slavery into sonship, at least as it relates to handling the affairs of the father, is set by the father. That is, the father has complete authority to make that call. No one tells him when to do it. He, of his judgment and for his own purposes, announces the maturity of his son to adulthood.

And that is the answer. The “fullness of the time” equals the date set by the father. To say it another way, The Father announced the date of the Son coming to earth. It was the fullness of “the” time, not because everyone was speaking Greek. It was the fullness of time because the Father said so. And, at the moment of God’s announcement that it was time, Messiah was born to an unwed mother, into an impoverished family, lead by a godly, but poor carpenter. All of this was during the time of the Law.

The Law, being compared to the “guardians and managers” of v.2, was left behind when a slave became a son, an heir. In a very real sense, we go from slavery into sonship also by the announcement of the Father. We do not appoint ourselves as heir of the kingdom. The Father must do it since it is His ‘estate.’ We cannot approach the Father and demand the inheritance, as the Prodigal did. We only receive the kingdom from the Father when He has decided it is time.

This is not unlike the discussion that the resurrected Jesus had with His apostles in Acts 1:6-7. The apostles wanted to understand when the coming of the kingdom of Israel would be. Jesus asserted that the Father of the estate, i.e. the kingdom, has fixed that time by “His own authority.” That says it perfectly! God determines the times and epochs of everything and we have no right to that information. We are children. The Fatherhood of God demands that He is sovereign because of His ownership and wisdom, at least.

So, the next time someone refers to Galatians 4:4 as a reference to historical components of God’s plan, please remind them that God is not compelled by anything, especially history, to accomplish His plan. All time is fixed by His own authority.

Worry Is Of This World

Few things grip us like anxiety. Whether it is worry over a lost child, a condition at work, or the provision of basic necessities, the act of worrying can sap a person down to the core of his being. The fear of being without food for your family, for example, hits at our basic need level and not having that can automatically put us into a tailspin of worry, doubt, and fear which, in time, lead to the potential for decisions that you may not have otherwise made. Worry is sin. Anxiety is sin. The fear of basic provision to the point of godless worry is sin. Why? Jesus answers this in Matthew 6:24-34.

Matthew writes,

         24      “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.

         25      “For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?
         26      “Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they?
         27      “And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life?
         28      “And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin,
         29      yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these.
         30      “But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith!
         31      “Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’
         32      “For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.
         33      “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
         34      “So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

This profound teaching of the King of kings is absolutely convicting, profound, illuminating, and comforting all at once.

  1. Convicting: the conviction comes in the fact that this is a command. Do not worry (vv.25, 31, 34). Three times the Lord commands the disciples, and us, to not worry about our physical needs. Why? Because of the principle found in v.24. Our hearts are prone to submit to something. And, whether we understand it or not, we always submit to one thing or another. If we do not submit to the Lord and His Word, we are submitting to something else, whether it is ourselves, our money, our problems, sin (see Romans 6:16), or another person. We are rebellious at heart. Jesus Christ has been given the kingdom of the Father, the kingdom of the cosmos, and He is the Ruler of it all and ever person, alive and dead, are subjects of that King (Philippians 2:9-11). He is Lord and Master. He has authority to command, and all things in the created world are subject to Him (Colossians 1:15-17). They are His (Psalm 24:1-2). Now, ask yourself, “If Jesus Christ is Lord, why am I not submitting to Him as such and relying upon Him for provision?” God created us to submit to Him with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength in love. When we sinned in Adam, we rebelled against that love and always submit to so many other things. Jesus calls us back under His authority, as a loving shepherd, and commands that we submit our hearts, once again, under Him. That is why Jesus said you cannot serve two masters.
  2. Profound: the profundity of this passage is contained in the fact that if we were in the Millennial Kingdom wherein we would see Jesus Christ everyday in His temple we would not worry. So, since we are in His kingdom now (Colossians 1:13), why do we worry? Is this not His kingdom? Are not all things under His sovereign control? Is your mortgage payment a surprise to Him? So, live in light of the fact that you are in His kingdom now! We have been transferred away from a master who hates, uses, and murderously controls those who are under his rule. However, even though we live in his sphere of influence, we are not of it. Even though we interact with his kingdom (Matthew 4:8-9), we are not subjects of his any longer. We are the prize that has been plundered and stolen away by a greater, stronger Man (Matthew 12:25-29). Thus, we now live in the kingdom of Christ operating under His sovereign, powerful control and under His watchful care. Therefore, we have nothing to fear. As Habakkuk said, in light of the impending Chaldean invasion,

17 Though the fig tree should not blossom
And there be no fruit on the vines,
Though the yield of the olive should fail
And the fields produce no food,
Though the flock should be cut off from the fold
And there be no cattle in the stalls,
18 Yet I will exult in the LORD,
I will rejoice in the God of my salvation.
19 The Lord GOD is my strength,
And He has made my feet like hinds’ feet,
And makes me walk on my high places.
For the choir director, on my stringed instruments.

  1. Illuminating: what does this teaching tell us about our Lord? So much. But think about this. God actively clothes flowers (v.25). God actively feeds birds (v.26). Flowers die in the heat of the afternoon sun, and birds live short lives. These things are seemingly insignificant. But see what Jesus said in v.26b. He asks a question that a father would ask his son in an attempt to capture his son’s trust; “Are you not worth much more than they?” What an insight into the motivation of God’s care. We are of more value, much more, than flowers and birds! But, lest we fall into some kind of mindset that exalts our self-worth, it is not what you think. The Bible is clear that we are made in God’s image. Therefore, God has created us to display Himself, and not us. And we also know that God is zealous for His own glory (1 Chronicles 16:28-29). Thus, our worth is not really ours, but God’s. As the Psalmist says, “Ascribe to the Lord the glory due His name” (Ps. 29:2). Jesus is simply telling us that we, as God’s image and likeness, have more value than simple flowers and birds, like a beautiful Ming vase has more value than a clay flower pot in the back porch. Yet, they are made from the same materials.
  2. Comforting: all the above brings comfort. However, there is more. Comfort does not come in simply meandering through life. As a Christian, we have obligations. We have a duty. We are in a war. We are in a firefight daily; against the world, the flesh, and onslaughts of the devil. This is no time to kick back and wait for manna from heaven. We have been entrusted with the precious proclamation of the coming kingdom in which all men will be judged and will either receive eternal life, or eternal hell. We have been commissioned to proclaim the gospel. We have an announcement to make. God commands us, “Make disciples…” (Matthew 28:19f.). In doing that, however, we cannot worry about our provisions for our lives. We just simply can’t. It is antithetical to our God, our calling, and our mandate. Are we saying that God can provide eternal salvation, He just cannot provide our food and clothing? How blasphemous! Give glory to God and wait upon His provision, while working and making disciples. Therefore, Jesus says, “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness and”, and here is the comfort, “all these things will be added to you.” How wonderful! Our God will provide the uniform we will need in His army. In Him we have our provision for food, clothing, finances, and other necessities. In fact, God the Father knows that we need these things even before we realize it (v. 32). So, be busy about our Father’s business. Did Jesus starve? Was Jesus poorly clothed? Yet, did Jesus live on the hill and have a suit of clothes for every occasion? Maybe what we consider needs and what God considers needs are two different things. The Apostle Paul taught, “If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content.” (1 Timothy 6:8). So, maybe the question is not God’s provision, but our contentment.

Praise to our God who covers us, not with expensive clothing, but with Jesus Christ (Galatians 3:27)!

     

              

Some Thoughts…

As I continue to process the decisions of the Lord in my life lately, it is important to me to constantly be looking toward Scripture.

First, I have found a lot of comfort in the principle that Paul teaches concerning himself,

“Let a man regard us in this manner, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. In this case, moreover, it is required of stewards that one be found trustworthy. But to me it is a very small thing that I may be examined by you, or by any human court; in fact, I do not even examine myself. For I am conscious of nothing against myself, yet I am not by this acquitted; but the one who examines me is the Lord. Therefore do not go on passing judgment before the time, but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men’s hearts; and then each man’s praise will come to him from God.” (1 Corinthians 4:1–5, NASB95)

Paul is speaking of himself here in that no man is acquitted because he believes himself to be without fault. Just because we don’t see our sin does not mean that it is not there. Think about it, if I were deceived, I would not know it. Otherwise, I would not be deceived. But, in the last day at the throne of Christ, Jesus Christ will examine the motives and thoughts of every believer and reward accordingly. That is a fearful thing, and that fear should motivate us to be honest-with ourselves and others.

Jesus spoke of this very reality in Matthew 10:26,

“Therefore do not fear them, for there is nothing concealed that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known.” (Matthew 10:26, NASB95)

The hidden motives and motivations of the hearts of men (myself included), that we believe no one will ever find out, will be ‘aired’ at Christ’s throne. The hidden things will be made known. The secret things will no longer be a secret. We will enter into Christ’s eternal kingdom having all things revealed. In one sense, that is refreshing since it means a fresh start. In another sense, it is terrifying because we can so easily deceive ourselves. This is why we should deal with sin within ourselves immediately and swiftly, so that we might be a praise and honor to Christ in that day, and not an embarrassment.

Second, do not leave the pursuit of Christ in order to “spin your mental wheels” in worry. Paul as much said that in Philippians,

“But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:7–14, NASB95)

Paul, a better man than I will ever be, says that all things (including self-merit) is like rubbish as compared to the knowledge of Jesus Christ. This knowledge leads to a righteousness based on faith and not works. That righteousness further causes us to know the death and resurrection of Christ in a personal way so that we might fellowship with His sufferings, for righteousness’ sakes. The perfection of resurrection is elusive and moves ahead of you and you must chase after it. That is why we press toward that goal-the conformity to the likeness of Jesus Christ (cf. Romans 8:28-30). In that pursuit, there are lines drawn and decisions made. Some good some not so good. I have heard it said that a wise leader is good at making “second decisions.” That is true. In the pursuit of the righteousness of Jesus Christ we shred off those things in our lives that are dead weight and run with endurance that race set before us. And, again, in the end, only Jesus Christ, the righteous Judge, will know the true motives of our hearts. Thus, when worry, a very heavy weight for most of us, drags us down, realize that anxiety is not teaching us a thing about Jesus Christ. Therefore, it has to go. I would guess that Jesus never spent a second in worry. He never apologized for what He said, but at strategic times He was silent. He truly is the Perfect Man (James 3:1-12).

Lastly, I must be more concerned for the glory of the Lord than my own glory. No man can serve two masters. Loving one will pit me against the other. If I love my own glory, I will not desire Christ’s. Jesus taught this in John,

“You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life. “I do not receive glory from men; but I know you, that you do not have the love of God in yourselves. “I have come in My Father’s name, and you do not receive Me; if another comes in his own name, you will receive him. “How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and you do not seek the glory that is from the one and only God?” (John 5:39–44, NASB95)

Oh how I wish I were surrounded by men zealous for the glory of the Father! I would guess that would eliminate so much sin and mediocrity. It would only introduce other things that need to be dealt with, but there is so much grace in pursuing the glory of God in everything (cf. 1 Corinthians 10:31). Also, seeking for the kingdom of Christ first does generate animosity in those who do not. There needs to be so much grace toward them and yet a resolution to still pursue that very righteousness that brings conflict.

“Who is there to harm you if you prove zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. And do not fear their intimidation, and do not be troubled, but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame. For it is better, if God should will it so, that you suffer for doing what is right rather than for doing what is wrong. For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit;” (1 Peter 3:13–18, NASB95)

Prior to this passage, Peter teaches that those who would love righteousness should not speak evil of others, but rather seek peace. God is always opposed to those who do evil. That is not so hard to do if you consider the above point that everything you say and think will be divulged before Christ. The best pursuit of righteousness includes receiving the kiss of Judas or the friendship of Ahithophel (1 Samuel 15:12-31; cf. Psalm 55:12-14) without malice. Thus, when you pursue righteousness, this may lead to suffering for doing what is right in the eyes of God. Thus, the Lordship of Christ (1 Peter 3:15) drives you since you understand that He is judge and law-giver in His kingdom.

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