Being a Balance

I was just chatting to Josh, literally a minute ago and this post came to me. Being a balance!   What do I mean by this? It all relates to me and my role in church. Confused? Well I intend to explain.

Being the contemporary Christian

When I find myself in a church that is a bit old school in how it does things, I tend to find myself being the ‘contemporary Christian’. Loving all the new modern songs, loving the new technology and all that. I tend to be defending the contemporary scene, and pushing for the church to embrace aspects of the contemporary scene. A church that stubbornly sticks to its old ways is at danger of putting tradition before the Bible, before God and before its community; a church can only be healthier with someone acting as a modern spokesman!

Being the old school Christian

When I am in a more contemporary church, singing the latest Matt Redman song, with lights and smoke machines, I tend to find I become the ‘old school Christian’, loving the hymns, the old school preaching in a suit and the like. I’m the one who likes to keep going on about how good the doctrine in hymns can be. A church is always at danger in putting the latest gadget or device or technique before God, before the Bible and before its faithful walk. A church can only be healthier if it remembers the lessons learnt by our forefathers and remember the key truths always.

Doesn’t that get frustrating for you and those round you?

Perhaps, you may have to ask them! In seriousness, if you approach these matters with a humble heart and don’t slam it all in everyone’s’ faces every time something is brought up; then I see no reason why it should prove frustrating. When we think of the church, we must be humble, ready to learn, happy to be corrected. Who knows, maybe by being the opposite it engages others with a conversation they may never had had!

What’s the point in this post?

Balance is the point. The church needs a balance. Going too far one way is always dangerous and not something I like to see, ‘only blockheads go to extremes’ C.H. Spurgeon wrote. The blog is all about balance and I guess it has kind of rubbed off on me. I love debating with Josh or whoever about scripture or church issues, I love seeing other view points, and I like to see balance in everything that is said.

We cannot be afraid of having different opinions, but we must always have a humble heart when we look at other people and other churches. We aren’t always necessarily right and it is always good to have a conversation in the right spirit.

So remember, try and maintain a balance and always try to have a humble heart!

How do we achieve this balance?

Let’s be frank, we can’t get it on our own, we need God’s help. Our ‘balances’ are ‘unbalanced balances’. ‘Balance’ is very often the buzzword of my discussions with Josh, yet a real balance is unachievable whilst we’re trying to do it alone. We always veer towards extremes, we’re too human. Our balance is too much of a pendulum; a brief moment in the middle when we’re swinging from one extreme to the other. We need a ‘divine balance’, we need God’s Holy Spirit to come down and take charge of our minds and senses — only then can we get that true balance.

The words of Jesus promise:

“So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. “Which of you fathers, if your son asks fora fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” Luke 11:9-13 (NIV).

It feels like the church in our day is just running around in circles, trying this, trying that, without looking upwards, to heaven, to God.

“A false balance is a abomination to the Lord, a just weight is his delight” Proverbs 11:1 (ESV).

LGBT+ And Christianity: Have We Got It Wrong?

This is a massive subject and not one that I approach lightly, but rather, literally, in fear and trepidation, with a profound sense of its difficulty and sensitivity. It is an issue that needs to be considered by all Christians. We need to clearly define the biblical position. It cannot be handled without touching on certain points which may well cause offence, but I tread as delicately as I dare and attempt to do these subjects as much justice as is possible within a reasonable word-count (which, by the way, has been blown to kingdom come!). I, and others who I have prayerfully tackled this with, have done our utmost to be loving and faithful, to share the amazing love of God and stay true to the Bible, as the final authority on everything.

Three wrong attitudes

Homosexuality and transgender issues are being promoted so rapidly, and sometimes quite forcefully, by progressive liberal Western governments in schools, places of work, in law, and even in churches — that it is vitally important we define the correct and biblical position. Every letter of the initialism LGBT+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and more) is real and we have to recognise them, they aren’t going to go away! Before we go any further we must understand that LGBT is not primarily a political movement. It is a series of enormous issues that affect and have affected many people, including many Christians, globally, throughout history. Many people feel born into the wrong gender or sexuality and feel they just have to embrace that powerful feeling and turn it into reality; others experiment with gender and sexuality searching for something, some magical key to happiness that will suddenly give life real meaning.

In Christian circles there seems to be at least three incorrect attitudes towards LGBT issues, particularly homosexuality and the ‘gender revolution’. These have had a seismic impact on our society; even within the last five years so much has changed.

Firstly, there seem to be those who condemn homosexuality and transgenderism in no uncertain terms, and oppose homosexuals and transgender folk every step of the way, shunning them and treating them with contempt and disgust. This sad attitude is perhaps worst expressed by Westboro Baptist Church, a nutty sect in America, infamous for their offensive and downright wrong ‘God hates fags’ banners. Whilst this represents the extreme of this position, the sentiments often expressed privately or thought by individuals holding this sort of view are sometimes not dissimilar. The unspoken thought is worse in many ways, as we lie not only to ourselves but to the world.

Secondly, there are those who go to the opposite extreme and jump on the LGBT bandwagon for all they are worth. Many liberal churches (and indeed much of the Church of England) are now in this position, they follow popular opinion rather than the Bible. ‘God is love,’ they say; ‘He doesn’t mind’.

Thirdly (and I think there are many Christians in this position), there are those who are unsure of their own position, caught between the cross-fires; unwilling to come down on either side for fear of being judged or alienated, they neither speak in favour of LGBT issues or oppose them. They see certain ‘Christians’ loudly condemning homosexuals instead of preaching the gospel and object inwardly but do no more. They view liberal churches on the ‘LGBT bandwagon’ with suspicion and whilst they know that the Bible teaches that homosexual acts are sinful, they fear to speak out. They find it easier to say nothing and do nothing, letting the younger generations struggle on alone.

Well, all of these attitudes are quite plainly wrong. C.H. Spurgeon once somewhat bluntly said, ‘Only blockheads go to extremes,’ and he was quite right. But we don’t need a balance or a middle ground between anti-LGBT and pro-LGBT — we need to take a big step back, put matters into their correct perspective and re-examine our position. And to do that, we start with the Bible…

What does the Bible say?

Sexual identity and gender has been the big question of the last fifty years, but the Bible has all the answers.

The Bible is the eternal Word of God. On it we stand, off it we fall. If we compromise on one biblical truth, we might as well throw it all away. It’s all or nothing.

The Bible isn’t just a list of do’s and don’ts. It is a record of the magnificent plan of salvation God has wrought for His people, it is an open invitation to escape the clutches of sin and death, and join the marriage feast of the Lamb. It is the story of all of us, all humanity, and our past, present and future, whether believer or unbeliever. The Bible is not an encyclopaedia or a series of random old manuscripts stuck together. It is ‘the textbook of life’, says Martyn Lloyd-Jones, with ‘one great message and that message is life and how life is to be lived, how life is to be enjoyed, the object and purpose of life and the way to live it.’

The Bible says that ‘all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God’ (Romans 3:23), and David writes that ‘surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me’ (Psalm 51:5). We are not sinners because we sin; we sin because we are sinners.

In that backdrop, homosexuality and the gender revolution are just more outworkings of the sinful nature of mankind. And here is an important distinction; too often I fear Christians define sin as a list of particular evils to abstain from — e.g. drunkenness, bad language, gambling, etc. — making it out to be single acts of wickedness rather than the underlying problem.
However nowhere does the Bible directly condemn the consumption of alcohol, cursing or gambling. That doesn’t mean they aren’t wrong but not simply because of what they are, but because of how the heart is in these matters — a heart not set on God — and, one might add cursing often comes from an angry heart, and gambling and drunkenness from a greedy heart.

What is sin then? Sin is rebellion against God (Joshua 1:18). And this all stems from the Fall of Man — the ‘original sin’, and the reason, the only reason, the world is always in such a mess, and always will be, until He comes. Lloyd-Jones defines sin like this: ‘God is to be praised because He is God, and the real essence of sin is not to praise God. […] Sin really means we think we know better than God.’ Read Romans 1:18-32 for a fuller definition. This is the real issue, not whether a person is a homosexual, liar or adulterer. Whilst the Bible is clear that homosexual acts are wrong, it also makes it clear that all sins are as bad as any other (James 2:10) — and everything we do, outside of God, is sin (Romans 14:23). Paul says as much, in that Romans 1 passage:

“Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshipped and served created things rather than the Creator.

“Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones [unnatural in the sense that biologically we are not designed for same-sex relations]. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.”

Paul goes on to list the rest of what ‘free will’ got man.

Jesus said: “In the beginning the Creator made them male and female. For this reason, a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” (Matthew 19:4-5).

Both homosexuality and the gender revolution are perversions of God’s plan for creation and part of the curse on mankind, as is every other outworking of our sinful nature (e.g. sex outside of marriage, as well as non-sexual sins). That is what the Bible says.

Homosexual acts are no different to a lustful glance at a member of the opposite sex. They are both 100% natural to our fallen nature. The fact is, we are all sinners who sin, and there’s no difference between a liar, a practicing homosexual or an adulterer. In many ways these labels are a misnomer – e.g. I’ve lied, I’ve stolen, I’ve blasphemed, that doesn’t mean I’m just a ‘liar’, I’ve broken more than just one commandment! I’m a sinner — full-stop (James 2:11).

It seems some people consider ‘homosexuality’ to be the worst sin ever! Wrong, the worst sin ever and the only sin that cannot be forgiven is the final rejection of the Son (blasphemy against the Holy Spirit).

What about sex outside marriage? Much more prevalent today and much more ruinous than homosexuality and transgenderism to 21st century society; it’s been the break-up of countless marriages and the downfall of many people, including Christians. Yet many Christians turn a blind-eye to it, whilst judging LGBT people!

The bottom-line is we’re all sinners who need Christ. He is God’s way of escape.

The Bible says:

“[The Lord] is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9).

And:

“Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).

And this is the glorious truth! It doesn’t matter what we are, what we have done, we can come to Christ as we are; and with Christ we start totally anew! He is the personification of love and ‘love keeps no record of wrongs’ (1 Corinthians 13:5b), if we are in Him then all is forgiven. ‘For the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin!’ (1 John 1:7; also see v.9). Christ is our mediator; He takes on all the wrong and freely exchanges it for His perfect righteousness. We do nothing except believe in Him, as Jonathan Edwards said, ‘You contribute nothing to your salvation except the sin that made it necessary.’ It’s all Christ, and in Him, true contentment and lasting peace is found, for all who will only come to Him. Hugh Latimer once said, ‘[Christ] is but believe and have.’

‘Gay and Christian’?

So can you be a gay Christian? No, I don’t believe you can. Why? Is this narrow-minded and homophobic? No. Let me clarify: The word of God is quite clear — when we become Christians we put off the ‘old self’ and put on the ‘new’ – that is Christ. We no longer define or identify ourselves by what we were, we define and identify ourselves by what we are now — new creations, children of God, joint-heirs with Christ. For more information I would recommend checking out Living Out (an organisation set up by same-sex-attracted Christians). They, and I, don’t believe Christians should hold on to the ‘gay’ label. Our true identity is Christ; everything else is irrelevant — nationality, sexuality, whatever.

Heaven will be full of adulterers, murderers, thieves, rapists, paedophiles and all kinds of wicked people that would send a cold shiver down your spine. Will they be defined by those labels? ‘No!’ they will cry emphatically. ‘We are new creations in Christ, the old has gone, and the new has come! God has forgiven my sin, though it was as red as scarlet, He has made it as white as snow! I am now perfect and spotless through Christ. I did nothing. It was all the grace of God!’ And I’ll warrant there won’t be a dry eye in that glorious place.

Yes, as Christians, we may still struggle with same-sex attraction and all manner of issues, but God promises that: “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it. (1 Corinthians 10:13).” We are all tempted and whether that temptation is lust for a member of the same- or opposite-sex is irrelevant. ‘Resist the devil and he will flee from you,’ the Bible says (James 4:7b).

Coming to Christ doesn’t mean your problems disappear completely; He just opens our eyes so we see everything in a new light. We then have a Heavenly Father we can call upon (through our mediator – Jesus Christ [1 John 2:1]), who loves to hear our voice, whether it be repentance, praise, petition or thanksgiving. So called ‘gay cure’ techniques clearly miss the bus here; there is no cure for same-sex attraction, as there is no cure for other temptations, outside the grace of God. We will not be completely free from the shackles of sin until we get to glory. What a day that will be!

‘Transgender/Intersex and Christian’?

I believe the same principle applies. However hard it is, God rules, not us. Yes we may experience gender dysphoria and struggle with all sorts of gender or sexuality-related challenges, but God will never forsake us! He made us just as we are, for a reason.

Far too much is made of sex in our world. It is not all! Nor is marriage everything! We shouldn’t push ourselves into a marriage just for the sake of it. ‘I wish all men were as I am,’ writes Paul, unmarried, celibate, 100% content; and a better servant of Christ for it.

What did Christ say…?

“The disciples said to him, ‘[…] it is better not to marry then [in response to Jesus saying divorce is adultery].’

Jesus replied, ‘Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given. For there are eunuchs who were born that way, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others – and there are those who choose to live like eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it.’” (Matthew 10:12).

There is hope for everyone, and that is the fantastic truth of the Gospel. Everything that separates us now, even as Christians, is made irrelevant in heaven:

“There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Colossians 3:28).

Again, I believe we cannot then identify as ‘transgender’ — ‘our citizenship is in heaven and we eagerly await a Saviour there, the Lord Jesus Christ’ (Philippians 3:20).

What should Christians do?

There is no place for homophobia or transphobia of any sort in thought, word or action, just as there should not be any place for racism, murder, hatred and etc. Discrimination or bullying of any sort on the grounds of sexual orientation is bang out of order.

What would Jesus, the Son of God, the promised Messiah from ages past, do? He would hang out with homosexuals, lesbians, bisexuals, transgender peeps, just as He hung out with the ‘sinners’ of 1st century Israel. He would ‘look at them and love them’ (Mark 10:21). So what are Christians to do? Emulate Christ. The Bible says: “Whoever claims to live in [Christ] must walk as [he] did,” (1 John 2:6), and, “Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in the darkness,” (v.9).

We don’t judge — ‘let he who is without sin cast the first stone’ (John 8:7). We’re sinners too. Everybody is a sinner, whether they are an adulterer, homosexual or transgender too is irrelevant! Who are we to judge? Christ is all the difference! Many LGBT people are some of the nicest people I have ever met. They aren’t ‘in your face’ and neither should we be with our gay and transgender friends! We have a message of love that we need to preach — really bad news and amazing good news. How do we witness? With ‘gentleness and respect’ or ‘meekness and fear’ (depending on which translation floats your boat! — 1 Peter 3:15).

We should neither oppose LGBT issues nor support them. We support the Bible and serve our King. Where we have an opportunity to defend the Bible we should, although as Spurgeon once said, ‘You do not defend a lion, you just let him loose.’ That is how I have sought to tackle this issue. The word of God is indelibly imbued with the Holy Spirit and will not return to Him void (Isaiah 55:11); let Him do the talking.  However we must be prayerful, careful and wise where we take our stand. We should not seek persecution or ridicule for the sake of it; just as we shouldn’t cause offence for the sake of it or go out on a limb because we feel ‘prompted’ outside the word of God.

The three things we should do are: to love everyone regardless, pray for them regardless, and preach the gospel regardless; and we do all this with the Bible. You go outside it, even momentarily, and you will fail regardless.

Seven Things CUs Need To Learn

As the next academic year starts, Christian Unions up and down the country re-start. CUs are great; a place for students to come together in fellowship, to pray and evangelise in their campus. I was fortunate in having such a welcoming CU when I went to University, and it probably played a role in leading me to fully commit my life to Jesus. However, they aren’t perfect and in this article I will suggest a few improvements for CUs in general.

  1. There is always a danger of cliques in CUs, where churches group together. This can make it a bit awkward for visitors or for those of smaller churches. In the CU, don’t go to your friends, talk to everyone, chat to those who are on their own. Sometimes, I felt on my own because I never went to one of the popular churches. In my MA year, someone even asked if I was a fresher — not a good sign! At the same time, I don’t judge these cliques because I know they are easy to get into, but always try to avoid them! After all, we are all brothers and sisters in Christ, no?
  2. There is a danger of a dominating church. This can lead to the other churches pushed to the side and the committee promoting one church, or one church having too much influence. A CU is not a place for denomination, I love it that a traditionalist and a Pentecostal have the potential to mix in such a space and it should be kept like that.
  3. Welcome traditional churches. Don’t focus on the churches that are big, or are popular, focus on all churches! I reckon 30-50 students at each University don’t go to their CU because they are more traditional in their worship and such and do not feel welcome. The CU is not a charismatic hub; it should be for all churches, so make an effort to include all churches.
  4. Don’t sing your favourite four songs on and on. I have been in a few CU meetings where this has happened and it’s a pain, it’s boring. God is not there. Change it up, sing old stuff, sing new stuff. Write your own stuff! Basically change it up, let God lead, and not yourselves.
  5. Be serious. This sounds like a weird statement to make, but sometimes I felt looking at my CU that some Christians weren’t taking Jesus word seriously enough, I mean we are all sinners, but when some people get put on the committee and you look at their lifestyle, it doesn’t look godly. Now I know, we are all sinners, I am just as bad as them to be honest, but if they don’t even try, remotely to keep the commandments, then how will God bless us? How will people see us?
  6. Don’t be scared to talk about the difficult stuff. Hell, Judgement, sin. They’re not easy subjects and ones that none of us like talking about. They shouldn’t be the main focus of the CU, but I don’t think I’ve ever heard anything mentioned even once in three years….three years, it does make you wonder. God is love, He is awesome, He is exciting, He is beautiful! Amen to that brothers and sisters, but the gospel is much more. Don’t be afraid of talking about the difficult stuff!
  7. Keep doing what you’re doing. Weird again, eh? Well the acts of love, of kindness that the CU show on campus is always amazing! God blesses you and will use what you do. Keep on showing love and spreading the love of our Lord Jesus Christ. Keep on praying, keep on meeting, keep on singing. I was so blessed, especially in two of my years at the CU and I pray that God will bless your CU, wherever you are.

So I hope these points’ help and start something. I love CUs; I love what they stand for and what they are all about. I love how they might have been rejected by the Universities for their stances, because they are faithful! Yet they do need to improve, as we all do. Have a blessed year brothers and sisters at University.