Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Sex to the Glory of God

Let's preach about sex, baby?

No thanks, say some conservative Christian watchbloggers, who are quick to ready, fire, and aim on sermon series geared towards preaching about the Bible's teachings on sex and marriage. Certainly preaching on sex and marriage requires great discernment and dedication to proper exposition of preaching, but does purposefully planning and advertising a series on what the Bible says about sex a bad thing?

Should pastors, from the pulpit, exhort married couples to have frequent sex to the glory of God or should marriage's joys and challenges be preached to the virtual exclusion of the sexual dimension of the marital union? Does talking frankly about the joy of marital sex from the pulpit lead primarily to inflamed lusts or to greater joy in knowing God's sovereign care for our sexuality?

I'd answer those questions with an affirmative to the former options. After all, Paul instructed married couples to not deprive one another except for a short time and to prayer, and there is plenty of content in Scripture that speaks to the joy of sexual union between a husband and wife.

Of course, critics will protest, these things can and should be discussed frankly, in private, in marital counseling, but have no or little place being proclaimed from the pulpit.

Certainly preachers should be careful to rightly divide the word of truth, preaching expositionally in a way that is appropriate for a general audience on a Sunday morning. But God's Word is divinely inspired and profitable for all ages, and rightly preached and teached, sex should be addressed from the pulpit as it is encountered in scriptural texts.

As far as planning a sermon series on sex and marriage to draw a crowd, well, that's a question ultimately for the elders of the local church to prayerfully wrestle with. Preaching series can and should at times have in mind how to reach the community at large by addressing issues of concern in light of Scripture BUT the Gospel must be central, not peripheral to every sermon and the primary concern for the preaching calendar should be prophetically addressing the spiritual needs of the congregation, not the roping in of curious new crowds.

The church is the Lord's house and His people must be fed solid food from the preaching/teaching elders. That includes preaching and teaching both chastity in singleness and frequent, fruitful sexual congress in marriage, all to the glory of God.

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Monday, April 27, 2009

What Will My Son Write About Me?

Writer Christopher Buckley, son of famous conservative thinker, writer, and publisher William F. Buckley Jr., has a new "warts and all" book out about his famous father and socialite mother. Reading Chris Buckley's interview with the Washington Post's Howard Kurtz in the April 26 post got me thinking: what will my son write about me, and how will they look wildly different, yet perhaps all too accurate, from what the outside world sees?

I'm a sinner saved by grace, and while I see evidence of grace in the progress of my attitudes, behaviors, motives, and morality, I'm weak and prone to failure, especially as a husband and father. Simply put, I'm sure there are many sins and errors in judgment I'll commit against or make when I have kids.

So what will my son or daughter, should God bless me with children, write about me? I don't think I'd mind a warts and all portrayal, so long as they get out of my life that I didn't claim to be the ultimate example to look toward.

Yes, I want my children to follow me but only as I follow Christ. I want to teach them that dear old Dad is a sinner saved by grace through faith, and that not of himself, but it's a gift of God. My hope in life and death is that body and soul I belong to my Savior, Jesus Christ, who died for my sins. That's what I'll want my kids to take away from my life, and that's what I want the world at-large to see.

Poor Chris Buckley joked in his interview with Kurtz that maybe his dad, if he's in heaven, can argue him in on a technicality.

I want my kids to know that the only defense counsel that can work their acquital is the Lord Jesus Christ.

The price was His blood and his representation is pro bono, if only we repent of our sins and trust in Him.

I pray Chris Buckley does so before the Lord summons him to court, and that my kids will do the same.

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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Glory of Election in Isaiah 6

Today as I read from Isaiah 6, it struck me how Isaiah's salvation and call to ministry are all of grace. Of course Scripture as a whole shows us that our salvation is of the Lord and that we have absolutely nothing to do with earning it or being gifted it. It is unconditionally granted by God at His pleasure according to His will for His glory.

But it seems to me Isaiah 6 gives us a beautiful illustration of how God calls us to salvation and then to walk in light of that salvation by calling others to faith and repentance, even if it's a heart-breaking task that seems to us to yield little fruit.

Let's begin with verses 1-7:

6:1 In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train [1] of his robe filled the temple. 2 Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. 3 And one called to another and said:

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory!” [2]

4 And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. 5 And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”

Isaiah's experience with the Lord is ordained from all eternity, but happens in time. It occurs in the year King Uzziah died. We see Isaiah does nothing to seek God's presence or favor, but that the initiative is God's. God suddenly draws Isaiah into a vision of Himself in His glory.

Yet God doesn't just wow Isaiah with His glory, he lets him hear a sermon of sorts, which is actually a song of praise being sung by the seraphim, who are ascribing holiness to God and declaring that the "whole earth is filled with His glory." Interestingly enough, Isaiah records that the seraphim are not addressing Isaiah nor are they directly addressing God. They are "addressing one another" and singing the praises of God's holiness and glory. Even before the throne of God they are preaching and declaring to one another God's infinite worth and pure holiness, and God chooses to show this ongoing worship to Isaiah so that he might not just see and believe but hear and repent.

Undone by the weight of God's holiness and glory and the depths of his depravity and unholiness, Isaiah declares woe upon himself, confessing not just his generic sinfulness and uncleanness, but a particular besetting sin (unclean lips). He contrasts this with God's perfection and declares he is lost, that he is a goner. He recognizes no works or deeds on his part can justify or appease or propitiate the wrath of the holy Lord of hosts.

So what happens next? Even before he can plead for mercy, a seraph "flew" to him with cleansing fire from the altar, touching Isaiah's mouth with the burning coal and declaring absolution. Isaiah's guilt is taken away and his sin atoned for.

Remember, this happens immediately after Isaiah declares his utter inability to save himself. This happens not because Isaiah convinced God to save him but because God granted salvation of His own initiative to Isaiah and because the Lord is slow to anger but abounding in steadfast love, quick and eager to forgive the repentant sinner.

The grace to save Isaiah, to remove his guilt and atone his sins was all from God, wholly unearned or merited. It came immediately after Isaiah was brought to an awareness of his brokenness and sinfulness in light of God's holiness, and that awareness of God's holiness was made by divine revelation and by preaching the glory and holiness of God by the seraphim.

So Isaiah has seen the Lord's glory and lived to talk about it. What happens next? Let's look at verses 8-13:

8 And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here am I! Send me.” 9 And he said, “Go, and say to this people:

“‘Keep on hearing, [3] but do not understand;
keep on seeing, [4] but do not perceive.’
10 Make the heart of this people dull, [5]
and their ears heavy,
and blind their eyes;
lest they see with their eyes,
and hear with their ears,
and understand with their hearts,
and turn and be healed.”
11 Then I said, “How long, O Lord?”
And he said:
“Until cities lie waste
without inhabitant,
and houses without people,
and the land is a desolate waste,
12 and the Lord removes people far away,
and the forsaken places are many in the midst of the land.
13 And though a tenth remain in it,
it will be burned [6] again,
like a terebinth or an oak,
whose stump remains
when it is felled.”
Isaiah is saved, and as a fruit of his salvation and repentance he desires to please God, to minister to God's people for the sake of God's elect by doing His will.

Yet God makes clear Isaiah will declare salvation but see very little to show for it. His preaching will harden hearts. People will ignore the call to repent and go merrily to destruction. Yet even so, God will preserve His people. He will call forward His elect through the preaching of His Word, just as He did with Isaiah, through the preaching of his glory by the seraphim.

Preaching will precede judgment and exile, but after exile an elect remnant shall return to the Promised Land. This was true of national/ethnic Israel in the Babylonian captivity, and it is true of Christ's church in spiritual Babylonian captivity.

We are saved by grace and called to proclaim that salvation to others by God's grace. Many times our hearts will be broken as call after call to repentance will go unheeded by most, but our call remains, as it did for Noah, who preached for 120 years while building the Ark but saw no converts from it (2 Peter 2:5).

Even so, like Isaiah we can rejoice that all the Lord has called to salvation will be saved, that faith that justifies comes by hearing and hearing by the preaching of Christ (Rom. 10:17), and that not one jot or tittle of God's Word will return to Him void; it will accomplish what it was sent forth to do (Isa. 55:11).

Soli Deo gloria!

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