The Ear Cavity is Not Meant for Storing Pennies

If someone told you that they are storing pennies in their ear, I doubt that you would say, “That is what the ear is for – good for you!” We seem to know what all our body parts are for, except our genitals. Just as an observation, the female sexual body part and the male sexual body part seem to be made for the other. And as another observation, it seems that the male anus, “the opening at the end of the alimentary canal through which solid waste matter leaves the body,” was not made to be inserted by the male sexual body part. That would be like driving up an exit ramp – that’s not what it’s for. (see the intro to Making Gay Okay, by Robert Reilly)

I do not mean to be insensitive, crass or crude in stating it this way. I find the same reasoning in God’s Word, to a church that is living its life in a culture where every kind of sexual penetration is endorsed:

“The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written,

“The two will become one flesh.”

But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” (1 Cor. 6:13b-20)

Yesterday, June 29, Cheryl and I celebrated our 31st Wedding Anniversary, starting here under the Pergola in our back yard, and then on to Chicago for some delicious food, and, sights and sounds from some of our favorite venues.

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According to the passage above (since union comes from the male body part fitting with the female body part, the meaning of “the two will become one flesh” cited from Genesis 2), by God’s grace and with his endorsement, we are not forcing Jesus to bed a prostitute as we unite ourselves. However, if I have sex with anyone else, male or female, then I am not using my body for the Lord (the word for sexual immorality in the Greek is for all forms of sexual activity outside of a married male and female, which includes all hetero and homo sexual hookups – see 1 Cor. 6:9-11). But if I am a married man to Cheryl, keeping in step with “the two will become one flesh” marriage license, then Jesus’ union with us as his members is holy. A majority of the Supreme Court might sanitize your bedroom, but not Jesus. The above passage therefore, teaches me to celebrate these realities:

1. No matter what I feel in my body, it is not meant for any sexual activity with any other than my wife, any more than if I feel like punching someone, that’s not what the fist was made for.

2. Jesus is Holy. He will never endorse a threesome between you, him, and a prostitute, male or female. Jesus will only endorse his members if they are “one spirit with him” – and you cannot be one spirit with Jesus if you use your body for any sexual activity outside of “the two shall become one flesh” union of male and female.

3. Jesus was meant for the body (“. . . and the Lord for the body”). This means that before the world was created, there was a plan to send the Son of God into a male body, so that it would be crucified and “raised” up by his Father. Take-away: therefore glorify God in your body in the way that you live your sexual life. Jesus killed the hetero and homo sexual sins as he died and was raised for them. Now we have the same resurrection power to “put off the sinful deeds of the body” and use our bodies for their intended purpose – glorifying the God who made us as male and female, to showcase the union of Christ with his Church.

4. My body is the Temple of the Holy Spirit. This is why all sins except sexual sins are outside the body. This does not diminish the seriousness of non-sexual sins, it only highlights the profound mystery of what it means to be a sexual being, male or female. Point: all hetero and homo sexual activity outside of a male and female marriage union is “against the body” because the body was not made to be vandalized and scandalized by spiritual self-mutilation. I am more than my body parts – I am a spiritual being. But if I use my body parts in a way that is contrary to the holiness of the Holy Spirit, then I have become my own enemy – I will destroy my soul.

5. Finally, I trust what God, his Son, and his Holy Spirit have to say about sex than what my feelings, my desires, my world, and my government say about sex, and even what my church have to say about sexual expressions, if my church happens to steer away from what God has given me in his Word. As an observation, any church that endorses sexual activity outside the one that Jesus approves, then that is not what a church is for. The church was founded on the person and work of Christ so that the world could see the Savior. This is why I’m so blessed to belong to a set of “members of Christ” who know what their church is for – it is for Jesus, first. That means we’ll love sinners of all kinds and show them the way, the truth, and the life that is found in Jesus alone.

John Piper and Russell Moore on Recent Supreme Court Ruling

Also yesterday, John Piper posted this very pastoral and biblical response.

Jesus died so that heterosexual and homosexual sinners might be saved. Jesus created sexuality, and has a clear will for how it is to be experienced in holiness and joy.

His will is that a man might leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife, and that the two become one flesh (Mark 10:6–9). In this union, sexuality finds its God-appointed meaning, whether in personal-physical unification, symbolic representation, sensual jubilation, or fruitful procreation.

For those who have forsaken God’s path of sexual fulfillment, and walked into homosexual intercourse or heterosexual extramarital fornication or adultery, Jesus offers astonishing mercy.

Such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Corinthians 6:11)

But today this salvation from sinful sexual acts was not embraced. Instead there was massive institutionalization of sin.

In a 5-to-4 decision, the Supreme Court of the United States of America has ruled that states cannot ban same-sex marriage.

The Bible is not silent about such decisions. Alongside its clearest explanation of the sin of homosexual intercourse (Romans 1:24–27) stands the indictment of the approval and institutionalization of it. Though people know intuitively that homosexual acts (along with gossip, slander, insolence, haughtiness, boasting, faithlessness, heartlessness, ruthlessness) are sin, “they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them” (Romans 1:29–32). “I tell you even with tears, that many glory in their shame” (Philippians 3:18–19).

This is what the highest court in our land did today — knowing these deeds are wrong, “yet approving those who practice them.”

My sense is that we do not realize what a calamity is happening around us. The new thing — new for America, and new for history — is not homosexuality. That brokenness has been here since we were all broken in the fall of man. (And there is a great distinction between the orientation and the act — just like there is a great difference between my orientation to pride and the act of boasting.)

What’s new is not even the celebration and approval of homosexual sin. Homosexual behavior has been exploited, and reveled in, and celebrated in art, for millennia. What’s new is normalization and institutionalization. This is the new calamity.

My main reason for writing is not to mount a political counter-assault. I don’t think that is the calling of the church as such. My reason for writing is to help the church feel the sorrow of these days. And the magnitude of the assault on God and his image in man.

Christians, more clearly than others, can see the tidal wave of pain that is on the way. Sin carries in it its own misery: “Men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error” (Romans 1:27).

And on top of sin’s self-destructive power comes, eventually, the final wrath of God: “sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming” (Colossians 3:5–6).

Christians know what is coming, not only because we see it in the Bible, but because we have tasted the sorrowful fruit of our own sins. We do not escape the truth that we reap what we sow. Our marriages, our children, our churches, our institutions — they are all troubled because of our sins.

The difference is: We weep over our sins. We don’t celebrate them. We don’t institutionalize them. We turn to Jesus for forgiveness and help. We cry to Jesus, “who delivers us from the wrath to come” (1 Thessalonians 1:10).

And in our best moments, we weep for the world, and for our own nation. In the days of Ezekiel, God put a mark of hope “on the foreheads of the men who sigh and groan over all the abominations that are committed in Jerusalem” (Ezekiel 9:4).

This is what I am writing for. Not political action, but love for the name of God and compassion for the city of destruction.

“My eyes shed streams of tears, because people do not keep your law.” (Psalm 119:136)

I Can’t Wait to Go to Earth!

I get to live on this earth forever. I’m really happy about this because it’s what our hearts are undeniably longing for: I want to live where I’ve come to love my surroundings. I want to live where my memories are. I want to live in and with what God has created for his glory and my joy. I want to see what this earth would look like if there were no sin and no curse – it’s got to be breathtaking.

This earth has been subjected to groaning and futility (Romans 8:20) – it’s cursed because of my sin. But this same creation will be set free from its bondage to corruption (vs. 21a). Notice that Paul does not say that this creation will be destroyed and a different creation will take its place. But rather this creation will be “set free to obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God” (vs. 21b). This creation, with its massive Oceans teeming with life, its Grand Tetons, its majestic Himalayas, its towering Redwoods, Appalachian Mountains, and its Swiss Alps, will get what’s coming to her: Resurrected children of God who will live like Kings and Queens forever with their Savior and Brother, Jesus Christ. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I get to live forever on this earth and you can too. Not even Cuba Gooding Jr., Annabella Sciorra, and Robin Williams can story-tell what awaits us, though they tried in Vincent Ward’s, “What Dreams May Come.” Reincarnation via will-power is powerless to give us what our hearts long for.

Speaking of stories, Mankind has a thousand versions of the afterlife and how to get there, that’s because man really does want to live forever on a real physical sphere where unending delight is really found. And no wonder: Man was made to live on this earth forever. This is not the opposite of going to heaven. To say that I want to go to heaven is the same as wanting to live forever with God, on this earth, but without anything broken:

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”(Revelation 21:1-4 ESV)

Not to exhaust many other relevant texts, but clearly here, what passes away is not our physical bodies or the physical world, but the things that cause death, tears, brokenness, and pain. These are the things that will be left behind. To give assurance that God will never break his covenant to love forever all those who are part of the new covenant family in Christ (Jer. 31:31-34; Luke 22:20; Hebrews 8:8-13), upon this earth, he made a promise that this fixed order of our Sun, Moon, and Earth will never go away:

“Thus says the LORD, who gives the sun for light by day and the fixed order of the moon and the stars for light by night, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar – the LORD of hosts is his name: If this fixed order departs from before me, declares the LORD, then shall the offspring of Israel cease from being a nation before me forever” (Jeremiah 31:35-36).

God says that if this fixed order of our earth, moon, stars and sun ever cease to exist, then so will his children in Jesus Christ cease to exist. But neither will happen. Which means, for all those who are in a covenant relationship with Christ, they get to live on a cleansed and renovated earth – that’s what will be new about it. As Isaac Watts sang, “No more let sins and sorrows grow, nor thorns infest the ground; he comes to make his blessings flow far as the curse is found” – (3rd verse in “Joy to the World! The Lord is Come”).

Since we are promised that we will be known as we were known (1 Cor. 13:12), I look forward to life in a painless, deathless, sorrowless body, where upon this earth, in the same Appalachian Mountains where I grew up, I will enjoy all that it means to be a complete human: to know Christ and to dwell with him with no barriers of sin. This means that I will enjoy a oneness with Christ as I reflect upon the graces that I experienced before my resurrection (Eph. 2:7). So many of my moments of growing in Christ and receiving his grace took place in WV. I’ll walk with Christ and those who “loved his appearing,” and see the same landscape of my childhood, my life with my parents and grandparents, my experiences meeting and living with my wife and the years of a growing family, pursuing higher education in Chattanooga and St.Louis, and then shepherding a church family near Chicago (one day, no more sin in Chicago, no more of its governors going to jail!). I’ll be learning more and more of who Christ is without a single plateau of boredom. In the newly renovated WV (since the “new earth” will be this earth all cleaned up) I might take up new areas of stewardship to serve others – explore and harness resources – enjoy an unending fellowship with a good dog and a horse – take in an evening of delicious food for about 10 years, then move on to dessert! (Isaiah 11; Luke 19:17-19; John 21:9ff; Rev. 19:6-9).

Simply, as I get a little older, and feel a little more of the effects of our sin,

. . . I can’t wait to go to Earth!

 

 

“I can’t wait to go to heaven because . . .”

As one who confesses that God sent his son Jesus to save me from the consequences of my sin, and to “prepare a place” for me, and to clothe me in a body that will never die, and to give me access to all that God has for me in his son, is it ok to want to be in heaven for anything other than Jesus? To the point, if a loved one dies in the Lord, is it saintly to desire heaven because you want to be with someone besides/other than/along with Jesus?

This is tricky, mostly because our hearts are naturally deceptive and can masquerade false motives (Jer. 17:9; Heb. 4:12). Which of these expressions feels comfortable to you and which do not?

I want to go to heaven to see ____, and Jesus too.

I want to go to heaven to see ____, other than Jesus.

I want to go to heaven to see _____. Oh yes, Jesus would be nice too.

I want to go to heaven to see _____. Jesus? It doesn’t matter if I see him or not.

I want to go to heaven to see Jesus because it’s better than the alternative.

I want to go to heaven because I love Jesus most of all.

Regardless of religious conviction or persuasion, most people want to go some place when they die, they don’t want to go nowhere. And most people who want to go some place when they die want to go to a place where, at least in their minds, is a place where nearly every desire is fulfilled. Most people don’t want to go to a place that makes the worst experience here, seem like a casual pleasant stroll through the countryside. Most people instinctively want to go to a place where what was lost is restored – and then some. This is natural. This is a witness of not only our humanity, but also of something out there, that if we do not apprehend it as an eternal possession, we feel less than human and unfulfilled.

The longing for heaven was not put in us by crusty theologians who have nothing better to do than to theologize. It was put in us by the one who made us (Ecc. 3:11). To quote C.S. Lewis, “If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.”

For me, the only expression above that works for me is the last one. But this is not a cold criticism of those who express a deep desire to see a loved one who has gone on to be with the Lord. This is not pitting a loved one against Jesus to see which is your most favorite. Nor is this an attempt to dismiss and explain away the anguish of being alone by saying, “You won’t want to see your loved one once you see Jesus.” Nonsense. If heaven is anything it is a place where lovers of Christ receive “the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:7), an innumerable festal gathering of angels along with a massive assembly of all the enrolled of heaven (Heb. 12:22-23). What a Party!

For me, my best expression is this:

I want to go to heaven because I want to see the one who loved me enough to save me from the consequences of my sin – I want to see the most spectacular Person who is truly worthy of all my affection. I can’t tell you who I’ll see first, Jesus, or my loved one, who also died loving Jesus, evidently, for the same reason. But . . . if I should see my loved one first, before Jesus, the most appropriate response would be to run up with arms wide open, embrace, laugh, swing with elation, cry and jump with joyful tears, xoxoxoxox, lol, “like”, and anything else that would express over-the-top pleasure. But then, as my eye would look past and see the unmistakable visage of the crucified, buried, and risen Savior, smiling with approval and delight over my joy, I would immediately drop everything that I was doing, and with all of my being plummet at his feet in humble adoration. I would, no, I will worship him for saving sinners by grace, including me. I will thank him for saving my loved one without any sense of entitlement for my own presence there.

I don’t know who I’ll see first when I get to heaven, but this I know, when I see Jesus, then I will know that I am finally home. Whoever else is there, will be Jesus’ way of saying,

“This is for our mutual delight, for ever and ever – it’s a gift from my Father to us – Enjoy!” (John 17).

When I look at the world, I question God’s goodness.

How could you? How can you? With all that is happening in our world, God, I question your goodness. I look around near and far, people I know and people I don’t know . . . I see, listen, think . . . and with what I observe, I have reservations over your goodness. Specifically,

How can you continue to give good health to people who abuse their bodies and never once give you thanks for the life that you have given? How can you provide the privilege of employment while so many lie, steal, and defraud their employer? How can you bless the human race with the pleasure of sex in the safety of marriage union between a man and a woman, while the world disgraces that very sacred gift? How can you possibly continue to give men and women sound minds to invent, create, discover, produce, and engineer incredible feats of excellence, while they continue to use them to destroy, manipulate, and do harm to their fellow-man? I don’t understand your goodness!

Actors and actresses take your name in vain, over and over and over again in their movies, using “Jesus Christ” as an explicative, and yet you give them more success? You give athletes of every kind, accolades and sponsorships, while they pomp and circumstance themselves to the top, never once acknowledging where their strength comes from? There are more millionaires than ever – you make men wealthy – and what do they do? . . . they never give you thanks! And what’s more, they find new ways to oppress and steal. You exalt men to high offices in the land, knowing full-well their unspeakable secrets. You give women beautiful bodies, knowing full-well their sexsational plans. You give and give and give and the world grows further and further away from you, sinking down into pride and violence. God . . .  I question your goodness.

It would seem that there is no one more generous, more merciful, and more patient than you. I mean, if anyone treated me the way the world is treating you, I would smoke them in a heartbeat. I question your goodness.

I look and listen to the world’s increase in pride, love of money, selfishness, hatred, manipulation . . . and what do you do? You again give good things the very next day. I am witnessing this all around me: more and more people that you made for your own glory are giving you less and less credit for what they have. AND STILL . . . I just can’t believe it . . . you pour out more and more pleasures of living this life. How could you? How can you continue this? How long, O Lord will you be so merciful and so kind to a world that is so ungrateful? I’m speechless: In the face of so much evil, I question your goodness. And to beat it all, you sent your own Son knowing full well how we would treat him. Your goodness is shameless.

We don’t deserve this. I don’t deserve this.

 

 

Jon Bloom helps me to think like a Christian should on Bruce Jenner

How Should We Respond to Caitlyn Jenner?

June 4, 2015

How Should We Respond to Caitlyn Jenner?

Former Olympic champion, and current pop celebrity, Bruce Jenner, revealed in a recent interview his lifelong struggle with gender confusion. This week he announced that he is changing his public identity from male to female, his given name from Bruce to Caitlyn, and celebrating his gender transition by being featured in a photo shoot and cover article for the July edition ofVanity Fair.

Jenner has suddenly become the most well-known transgender person in the world and has brought transgender issues into the headlines and cultural conversation.

So how should we, as Christians, respond to Jenner’s transition?

With Compassion

In 1976, Bruce Jenner won the Olympic gold medal in the decathlon. Instantly, he became a global mega-star. But when making public appearances afterwards, no one knew that sometimes under his suit, this handsome, muscular, charismatic epitome of masculine virility and success was wearing a bra and pantyhose.

Jenner was nine years old when he first secretly tried on his sister’s dress because he felt like he wanted to be a girl. He didn’t understand his strange desires and had never heard of anyone else who felt this way. He had no one to talk to. He was a little boy carrying a secret shame that made him feel isolated from everyone else. He always felt like a fake — like he was constantly pretending to be a boy, even though he was one.

A gifted athlete, Jenner excelled in every sport he played throughout his teens, eventually becoming world-class in track and field in his twenties. But no one knew that part of what fueled his fierce competitive drive was a desperate effort to prove he really was a man. Always present in his consciousness, sometimes screaming at him, sometimes whispering to him from the shadows, was an inner voice telling him that he was female.

Adding to his confusion, his gender and sexual-orientation voices were dissonant: He had a heterosexual attraction to women. The inner conflict of his disordered desires, though not the sole cause, contributed significantly to the break up of three marriages.

None of this means that Jenner’s decision to self-identify as a female is okay. There are important reasons why it’s not okay (see the links below). Compassion does not mean compromisingbiblical truth. But sexual identity must be for us more than an abstract social issue. Real souls have endured real anguish over it. We must seek to understand their painful stories before we speak into their struggles. The more we know, the more compassionate will be our truthful response.

“Sexual identity must be for us more than an abstract social issue. Real souls have endured real anguish over it.”

Christians are equipped to respond with real compassion for such struggles. We all understand from experience the distressing disorder of the inner man that occurs because of indwelling sin and the brokenness of the fall:

I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. . . . I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? (Romans 7:15, 21–24)

With Prayer

Bruce Jenner, and every person who deals with gender or sexual-orientation disorders, bears the image of God and has a priceless soul. The first compassionate impulse we should have is to pray for them. Jenner professes to be a Christian. Whatever that means, he at least may have potential openness to biblical truth. Let us pray that the truth of the gospel will set him free (John 8:32), knowing how much Jesus loves to redeem and restore sin-broken people.

With Greater Understanding

Growing in our understanding of the nature of transgender and sexual-orientation disorders is necessary so that we don’t hold ignorant assumptions and say erroneous and insensitive things to people. And it would be wise for us to anticipate the possibility of discovering someday that our child, grandchild, cousin, nephew, niece, friend, co-worker, or possibly a parent is enduring such a struggle. If that should happen, we want to be safe people for them to talk to.

“Jenner, and every person who deals with gender disorder, bears the image of God and has a priceless soul.”

Beyond that, gender issues are only going to grow in prominence in our society. The nations of the West have fully legitimized many of them and are working them into the legal codes. The past cultural restraints are gone. We will increasingly be called upon to explain and defend the biblical position. We need to know what the Bible actually says about transgender and sexual orientation and why the church throughout history has held its positions. Greater understanding will make us both more compassionate and more articulate. (I’ve prepared a list of places to begin at the end of this article.)

With Truthful Love

If we are compassionate, prayerful people who reasonably understand transgender and sexual-orientation issues and what the Bible says about them, we are in a good position to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). Speaking truth is itself a form of love, even if a person doesn’t receive it as such initially. But “in love” also means speaking with great respect, empathy, and appropriate humility. And it means a willingness to love strugglers with deeds (such as hospitality), not just words (1 John 3:18).

Regarding Jenner’s transition, it probably means being slow to speak, especially on social media. And if you do speak something truthful, seek to be an unusually respectful, gracious voice. Jenner is not likely to read your remarks, but maybe someone you know who is guarding a tender, shameful secret will. Speak as you would to a friend.

But pray for Jenner, that God will send to him one or two who will speak the truth of the gospel with Christ-like love and that he will have ears to hear. Jenner’s hope is that “as soon as the Vanity Fair cover comes out, I’m free.” But we know he will not be free. After some period of euphoric relief, he will find that he is still a “wretched man” who needs to be delivered from his body of death (Romans 7:24).

That is precisely why Jesus came: to deliver people like Bruce Jenner and us from our domains of sinful darkness (Colossians 1:13) and our failing, disordered bodies, and give us glorious, powerful, disorder-free resurrection bodies (1 Corinthians 15:42–44). “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord,” there is a greater hope than gender identity can provide (Romans 7:25).

It is Jesus’s truth that sets all of us free (John 8:32).


Related Resources

Full author jon bloomJon Bloom is president of Desiring God and author of Not by Sight(2013) and Things Not Seen (July 2015). He lives in the Twin Cities with his wife, Pam, their five children, and one naughty dog.