Bald-faced mysticism

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Without Purpose

“Therefore remember that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called ‘Uncircumcision’ by the so-called ‘Circumcision’, which is performed in the flesh by human hands—remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.  But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ” –Ephesians 2:12

Recently, a friend of mine asked me to review a book written to parents about raising sons that happen to be gay.  It hasn’t been released as yet.  Though it’s relatively short and very beautifully written, I’m only halfway through it.  Emotionally, I found it too much to read in one sitting.

In one chapter, it details all the psychological dangers faced by gay teenagers.  I had never seen them listed so concisely in one place before.  It brought up and explained a lot about my high school years.

Without “giving the plot away”, I’ll say the book made me realize how I “disconnected” from myself and life (some people would say I still am) I was.  I couldn’t feel a continuity between the world I was presented with and the world within myself. The world I was presented with was very heterocentric.  I therefore lived on its social fringes.  It worshiped a heteropatriarchal discourse on power.  I was useless to that world.

The world I have uncovered within myself, on the other hand, is very much about God and beauty, colours and design, numbers and elegant music notes, justice and prosperity, salvation and divinization, Christ and glory – I love that word – redemption and grace.  It’s about biblical dispensations and unexpected “But now” Pauline turn of phrases especially in Romans.  It’s about election to salvation, the eternal purposes of God, creation and the high, holy mystery of existence.

And somehow or another, it’s gay.  It’s very gay.  The sight of a good-looking man or the sound of some men’s voices can send shudders reverberating through me from the pit of my stomach.  It reminds me of my creatureliness; of my being called-from-nothing, hewn from dust into some exquisitely sensitive musical instrument that plays silent but oh-so-poignant notes of longing.  And I’ve never been able to help the feeling that it’s all part of the same mysterious pattern that resonates with themes like crucifixion and burial; regeneration and resurrection.  The pattern I experience as my inescapable identity, hewn together by the hand of a God bigger than I can understand.

More beautiful was the helplessness of not knowing what I would do with that good-looking man, if it turned out (as it sometimes does) that the feeling is mutual.  Would I kiss him?  Did men kiss romantically?  Was such a thing even possible?  Was it wrong?  Would masculinity get lost?  What if it wasn’t wrong?  What if society has denied and repressed something holy and healing?  Would we then be in the cross-hairs of its judgmental ignorance?  These questions, their accompanying wistful longing, the feeling of heaven brought so near only to be denied or its moral permissibility left unexplained – all of it felt, oddly, like an enigmatic divine message to only be understood upon death or a long, courageous existence.  Like a cruel hoax played by a cosmic genius who can best make my heart sing when it’s piqued to the brink of unbearable agony and aching desire.

Not knowing what it all meant amplified the helpless, beautiful, pathetic weakness of being thusly attracted to other men.  These feelings didn’t just feel human, but deeper than human.  They made me feel like I’d assembled with angels in a former existence.  They were the terrifying, beautiful colours of my soul.

At that time, they had no correspondence with anything external except disdain in the social world I grew up in.  So I suppressed and repressed them though I knew they were there.  I lived with bullying and scorn both from people who knew and people who didn’t know.  When I came out to my mother at twelve, she told me that she already knew and said to just do or be whatever I needed to do or be in order to get through life in one piece.  She also assured me that God loved me. For this I am eternally grateful.  My father only had his suspicions confirmed very recently but he doesn’t seem keen to discuss any of it.

I reached a point growing up where I wasn’t living but existing.  I was on and off antidepressants.  I remember someone asking me what I wanted to do after school.  I cringed at the question.  If life was that much of an answered question then, I didn’t want more of it beyond high school.  I had pat answers about what I would do, and I gave those answers to people who asked, but deep inside I was convinced that I didn’t need plans for the future because I had none.  It was all a big, blank nothing ahead of me.

But to my surprise, time didn’t – and wouldn’t – stop as life went on.  I’m still here, and I’m still at the same place most people are in life when they’re fresh out of school, just coming out of my paralysis.  I’ve always been fairly disciplined in some facets of my life but I’ve never been committed to anything long term.  It’s very recently that I’ve sensed a calling to add my voice to those working to shift the perceptions of Christians about lesbians and gays.  That, I am committed to doing.

I remember at the end of school when the dreaded prom came.  Everyone encouraged me to go.  So profoundly did I fail to see its point that I didn’t go.  “But you’ll have so many amazing memories when you’re older” they said.  That’s exactly what I didn’t want to hear.  Being not-grown-up was safer for me.  School was like the womb, and I didn’t want to leave.  Ghosts – even ghosts that look alive – don’t go to proms.  Ghosts are memories, shadows, of people that once existed or never lived, and memories don’t need memories.b I was a memory.  I didn’t need more memories.

In the Gospel of John, Jesus often speaks about himself as though he, too, were about to become an invisible memory.  He speaks of himself in the past tense and in the third person.  He speaks about the Holy Spirit, whom the world doesn’t know because the world had never seen him.

The first time I read the Gospel, I felt like I’d been caught out.  That someone had seen everything I was, and written a story about someone else, and that there was an intimate connection between his story and mine.

It is ultimately only in Jesus that I have been known, given an identity, an existence, a meaning, a purpose and a life.

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“Can Gay Relationships Reveal God’s Love?”

A brother in Christ often brings this question to me.  I believe the answer is, “Why not?”  I also believe that this matter is not my business until the Spirit brings a greater understanding of it to my conscious surface awareness.  For me to presume otherwise, I would have to be like the Jewish apostles who, having worked only within Israel with Christ, assumed upfront that the Holy Spirit could not live in Gentiles.  God isn’t contained in our theological systems but vice-versa (Rom 3:29).

Before Adam and Eve learned to pontificate over good and evil, they were naked in God’s presence, never troubled about whether they were within his plan for them or not.  The plan worked well enough on auto-pilot as long as they remained without the knowledge of good and evil.  They were not self-conscious.  Neither am I.  I experience creation as a glorious given, a wonderful surprise, and an existential dance.  Every moment flows seamlessly into the next.  I observe and participate without judgment.  This is what it means to rest.

Every question comes with a hidden assumption.  The assumption behind the question of whether to end slavery in America was that white people had the right to own back people.  The choice to set them free presupposes they were theirs to set free (“Do you refuse to speak to me?  Don’t you realize I have the power to release you or crucify you?”). The assumption behind the question of whether to end segregation and apartheid and many sexist policies was that certain ways of being in the world are intrinsically more righteousness or entitled than others.  Right-handedness versus left handedness.  Heterosexual versus homosexual.  Etc.

Galatians 3:28 says that “There is no longer Greek or Jew, nor is there slave or free, nor is there male and female, for you are one in Christ Jesus”.  In Greek, the conjunction switches from Or, Or, to And.  It’s a reference to the first creation order and its foundation on the first heterosexual union.  In other words, the first creation based on the design of the male and female is like a good book: the story takes you where you need to go, and, once you’re there, you can put the book down and revisit it whenever you wish, much like early Christians visited synagogues without partaking of sacrifices.  Gender is a grace note, an absurd and beautiful given of creation.  It’s not a rule or standard.  Adam and Eve were naked and unashamed.  They just were.  There isn’t room to contextualize every conceivable verse in the New Testament that discusses marriage right now, but we must remember that Adam and Eve were made of dust.  This is crucial, for it begins to explain why Adam and Eve were not the pattern of righteousness but its prophetic foreshadower and its fallen reason.

Much is made of the fall and how it shattered God’s perfect plan for humanity and sexuality.  But for that to be true, Adam would have had to have been created perfect.  Was he?  It is said that any idiot can count the number of seeds in an apple but only God the number of apples in a seed.  When God looked at Adam, there was never a time when he didn’t see in him not only his transgression, but every transgression of his every descendant.  I know this because God’s raising up a Pharaoh as a clay vessel of destruction in Exodus/Romans 9 is impossible unless Adam was the original vessel in which was contained every future destructiveness of every future clay vessel that in Adam dies.  Adam was the eye of the needle through which the whole thread of humanity’s sin would be passed down to every man as God went about weaving the tapestry of time.  History was contained in Adam even before he took his first God-given breath.

If you read 1 Corinthians 15 or Romans 9, you will realize that not one thing in the redemption drama has been out of God’s hands.  Including Adam’s choice.  God saw it in Adam’s make-up from the start.  Paul repeatedly refers to the earthly man of dust as though there never had been any hope in him.  In Adam all die.

And that’s why we cannot look to him and Eve for righteousness.

This is precisely what Christian heterosexism does.

And heterosexism, judging from its effects (email me for the ugly details, or spend a few hours reading on the topic on Google) is what is not of God.  Love is.  Love is primary.  Love God and love neighbor.  Everything else will fall in place and hang on this.

This has not been a 10th of the explanation it could be, and in fact is no explanation at all.  Still, I am naked and I am not ashamed.  I am loved unconditionally.  I couldn’t be more righteous in his sight: for Jesus’ sake he has done it for me.

You cannot be God for as long as the Trinity has been, and still be phased by anything inside or outside creation.  There will be a judgement.  Moses’ Law, and not anyone in the Godhead, will be accusing the sons of the slave woman.  And we know from Paul quoting the Law to exile the Law out of its own mouth in Sarah’s abolishing Haggai and her son, that the Law is not just limited to the 613 rules, but reaches as far back as Genesis.  Moses’s Law is the Pentateuch.  It’s instructive.  God’s creation of them as male and female is binding even over Moses’ precepts on divorce for them that are under the Law.  In this area, Catholicism is far more consistent in its administration of the Law than Protestants are, but they’ve neglected the weightier matters of the Law: this is why they need Christ crucified afresh each Mass and for adherents to reform and be born again each Communion.  I think both Protestantism and Catholicism are doomed for having trifled with the Law in the first place.

The Father and the Son have called out of religion those that belong to them.  The cryptic Spirit calmly saves and rebirth humans while religion scrambles around trying to reform them by a rule that was given to impart death.

Some of the elect just happen to be gay.  Some happen to be in gay relationships.  Without ruminating on the Greco-Roman context and motifs of this passage –

I tell you, in that night,
there shall be two men in one bed;
the one shall be taken, and the other shall be left.
Two women shall be grinding together;
the one shall be taken, and the other left.
(Luke 17:34-35, KJV)

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To Put It Lovingly, Reparative Therapy Is An Affront To God’s Cross

Position Precedes Performance

Each Christian needs to get clear about where he stands with God.  Any theology that says, “You ought to ___ in order to be holy”, persuading us to do anything other than “believe in the Lord Jesus”, or stay in faith from start, middle through to finish (Rom 1:17) is not from the One who called us (Gal 5:8).

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Anything other than Christ and him crucified is not the gospel but an immediate death sentence.  It leaves the responsibility for defining and achieving holiness to the flesh.  It really ought to begin and end in the Spirit.  That Spirit comes and works miracles among us by the hearing of the Word concerning Christ who was clearly portrayed among us as crucified, once-for-all perfecting those who are being made holy.

Hebrews 9:14 reminds us that the gift Christ gave, he offered up through the eternal Spirit.  Though an infinite person, the Spirit is synonymous with the infinitely valuable gift that was given because it is by his presence and ministry that we meet the God who gave the gift.  Christians walk by this Spirit when they just rely on the gift of righteousness instead of the works of the flesh for righteousness.

For God to advocate anything else as justifying or sanctifying us before him is for God to appeal to our flesh instead of the gift that was offered once and for all through the Spirit.  When we “walk in the flesh”, or think anything we do can earn God’s approval, we employ the flesh.

When the flesh is employed, it looks for a reason to either boast or be condemned.  That seeking a reason to either be condemned or to boast is the “Contrary Law” that is at work among our members, but it only works when there is something to contradict.  If the flesh understands itself as called upon to yield itself before God for your righteousness, it is more than happy to “contradict” this commandment or obey it to its own credit.  Either way, it is operating from a separated identity instead of an at-one-d identity.

This is how the commandment that was supposed to produce life instead exposes our death.  This is true for the impeccable Pharisee as well as the half-breed Samaritan.  Insofar as Father God only had their deeds to look at when judging them, he can find nothing – not one thing – to commend them to him.  This was why righteousness had to be a gift from God apart from any deed or trait of the recipient.  Even faith comes from God.  Regeneration precedes belief.

When one walks in the Spirit – that is, when one hopes that the gift of righteousness received by faith start to finish is all there is to commend him before God – there is no boasting except in the Lord and there is no condemnation because Jesus was made into a curse for us.  The flesh is therefore unemployed; consequently, it has nothing to gain from working the works of the flesh.  In our passivity, the Spirit has room to produce his fruit in us instead.  Our position before God was established spiritually by Christ apart from works.  “Walk in the Spirit [only believe in the unceasing, uninterrupted, undiluted sufficiency, infinite grace and unconditional love of the One who called you] and you will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh” – because you will no longer be appealing to the flesh for anything, lest of all, “good behavior”.  The Gospel is a Gospel of “done”, never an instruction to “do”.

“Mortify your flesh; crucify your flesh”, Paul writes. Whatever does he mean? He means, “Believe in the Lord Jesus” because in Jesus, the flesh was crucified, the flesh was mortified, the body of sin was done away with, the heart was circumcised and the Law was fulfilled.

God refuses to give into the taunts of the flesh that says, “Look at me, I’m ___” – whatever it is that the flesh is doing or refusing to do, whether it’s an act of self-originated righteousness or sin.  No flesh will boast in his presence or disturb his divine equanimity.

People break rules because the flesh carries – and revels in – the fear of getting caught.  But perfect love casts out fear because the rules were fulfilled on our behalf as a forever gift.  The flesh holds to the wantonness of flaunting rules.  Fearing rejection and hardening itself in advance for the punishment it anticipates, it kicks into rebellion or dehumanized slave mode and re-represents us as slaves to something other than the love God has shed abroad our hearts through the Holy Spirit.

But the Gospel has no rules so the flesh has nothing to hold to.  Bring me the verses if you think you’ve found them, and I’ll pull you a history and theology lesson to help contextualize them.

A God who polices or judges human performance (which is what the Law does), counting, cataloging, recording and remembering men’s sins (four things the New Covenant promises wouldn’t happen) is an omnipotent and irresistible inflamer of sin.  In fact, “the Law was added to increase transgressions”.  Show me someone who worships that God, and I’ll show you someone who is utterly, helplessly dead in his sins without the slightest hope of rescue from the God he has imagined – no hope, of course, other than a realer God, a stronger God, a wiser God: that is the God who put the cross forward and with whom mortals may enjoy friendship.

The cross was an instrument of execution and torture.  It enforced man’s power over man.  It also represented the divine curse, for it is written, “Cursed is he who hangs on a tree”.  It therefore was the perfect altar upon which God’s sacrifice could be offered whereby God subverted and destroyed the temple system and its religious domination over the overtaxed poor that could not buy righteousness that was for sale (or works).  With it, God disarmed any Sword of Damocles over even above the religious Powers, for they also needed to be rescued from themselves.  They had judged, and therefore were in danger of being judged by the same measure – a fate none but God could withstand.  At a high price to himself, God chose mercy instead of retaliation.

Here, even the conscience has no room before God’s complete work. For the conscience to visit us again about sin is for it to equate the blood of Jesus to the blood of bulls and goats.  This is a tremendous mistake.  The blood of bulls and goats was offered several times over to atone for unconscious and accidental sins committed only in the past tense.  The ceremonial Law had no provision for deliberate sin, and if three witnesses were willing to out you you’d be killed without mercy.

But the blood of Christ was offered once to take away all sin.  What Jesus did cannot be improved upon or undone.  And this is what transforms souls.

“The Holy Spirit convicts believers of sin”, religion likes to say in order to get us to buy into its temple sacrificial systems.  But that’s a misunderstanding of John 16:8.  “And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment; concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me; and concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father and you no longer see Me”.  If we break it down, we find that the Holy Spirit will convict the world (those who walk in the flesh – religious people) concerning sin, because they don’t believe in the Lamb who has taken away the sin of the world.  Instead of relying on this truth, they continue walking in the flesh to earn a righteousness that is only found freely in Christ.  The Spirit convicts them concerning righteousness, because they don’t believe in the only One in whom it can be found and so continue producing dead works by obeying rules.  He has returned to the Father which proves that his person was worthy for the task of purging sin.

The NIV says, “When he comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment”.  The world that walks in the flesh was wrong about slavery, racism, interracial marriage, and this time, what it means to be attracted to someone of the same gender.  The world that regards according to the flesh has always been wrong and will continue to be wrong until the day it collapses from outward appearances and performances into nothing but God’s ability to justify the ungodly.

God’s righteousness, his justification and justice, is his choice to place the sinner smack-bang at the center of his unconditional love for Christ’s sake without regard for what that sinner does.  This effectively circumcises that sinner’s flesh nature into the death that Christ died.

NET Bible reads: “And when he comes, he will prove the world wrong concerning sin and righteousness and judgment”.  The world was dead wrong about sin and judgment; hence, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do”.  The world is blind, but says it sees.  Those that were blind do see.  Thusly does God judge religion.

The subjective awareness of assurance is not necessary for salvation, but it is necessary for victorious living.  You want to see victory in your Christian walk?  Believe that no matter what your flesh decides to do, it is no longer included in the equation of how you stack up before God; Christ alone is and has secured your salvation.  In believing this, you fire the flesh.  But for that to happen, you have to simultaneously fire all expectations and rules, whether they come from society, the Law of Moses, the rules of decency – all of them, without one exception – because God abolished the Law in its totality.  He didn’t merely say that Christ was his method for getting you to fulfill the Law, for that would turn Christ into little more than a hagiographed psychological gimmick.  Rather, God called Christ the Law fulfilled when he called his blood the ratification of the New Covenant, making the other one Old.  Why, then, serve the Law?  The Law was added because of transgressions and at every point, it presupposes the very sinful nature it is given to subdue.  It is impotent to transform that nature or ransom the Law-keeper.  The blood of Christ, alone, presents this hope; this hope is frustrated when it’s Jesus plus something of the flesh.  It must be Christ, he must be crucified, and, like the High Priest, he must be alone.

People will accuse you of antinomianism.  Now before you get scared and run back into the Law in order to impress men or find a secure footing instead of being established in grace, ask yourself one thing.  What Law applies to God or to someone who, by nature, possesses God’s righteousness?  What Law applies to people who are the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus?  Whatever Law is applied to believers has to be applied to God.  However believers are bound, God, too, must be bound.  For they partake in the same righteousness.  Jesus ate with people that decent society regarded as sinners.  And if any Letter-Law applies, then Christ was lying when he said, “It is accomplished”: it wasn’t accomplished for there still exists a handwritten debt.

Christ is risen above all power and principality and rule.  In this ascended nature, God is a Law unto himself.  God only and always acts out of his nature.  God’s nature is love.  Your nature, if you’re a believer, is love.  You are therefore free to only and always act out of your nature, for it is identical with God’s.  You are the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus.  You are not under the Law.  If they accuse you of antinomianism, rejoice greatly and be exceedingly glad!  For so did they persecute and revile the prophets that testified of the gift of righteousness apart from the Law before you.  Unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.  But you possess the kingdom of heaven and God’s righteousness, that is, God’s choice to love you by sheer gift, which you never worked for.

Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Christ your righteousness.  Blessed are you when they make caricatures of who you are as you fight for marriage equality – a basic civil right – or the separation of church and State (what the hell has Satan’s world bound under Moses’ Law got to do with God’s Kingdom?) or pray against your convictions.  God’s already won the battles he’s interested in winning and religion is on the wrong side of the culture war by being at war with flesh and blood to begin with.  Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you when they testified of God’s gift of righteousness apart from observation of the Law.

And this is where reparative therapy to “cure” homosexuality comes from a fundamental, and fundamentalist, misunderstanding of both the Gospel and the bible (notice how I’ve distinguished them).  The Judaisers (reparative therapists that claim to work for God) want to boast in “the flesh” of “cured” gay Christians: they want to prove that some human technique can get human beings to conform to human standards of righteousness instead of letting those humans submit to the righteous that was given by God as a free gift.  It shows lack of faith in what God has declared – that is, that the corpus of justification’s work has been accomplished in Christ.  This ministry of righteousness sounds correct, and it seems to make perfect sense – the Law is against homosexuality; therefore, to save homosexuals, we need to get them to observe the Law through the power of the cross, presto – but one cannot observe the Law and work from the power of the cross at the same time.  In fact, no one can be justified in God’s sight by observing the Law; Moses and his Law exist to stir up and accuse of sin and will do nothing else, ever, even as one goes about marrying heterosexually as expected by the Law.  So this business of working for sanctification through the power of the cross is a contradiction in terms.  “What, then?  Leave them in their sins?”  No!  The church needs to engage with same-sex attracted believers in their righteousness, talk to them, and watch what God does.  They are not the same creatures that the Law presupposed when it made its demands because they were transformed by gazing upon the glory of the Lord; by looking upon the bronze serpent.  When believers look into the mirror, they see the glory of the Lord (James 1:25; 2 Cor 3:18) and our proper response is to be in communion with them.

If an accusation could be brought against God’s chosen ones, an accusation causing God to revoke his free gift of imputed righteousness, then the chosen one was under the Law all along – for his performance has caused God to cease loving him – and the free gift of righteousness never was a free gift of righteousness from God in the first place.  The genius of the cross would have been thwarted by God’s partiality.  But there is no partiality with God, for there is no difference: he consigned all to disobedience so that he may show mercy to all that trust on God who justifies the ungodly.  In a passage sometimes titled, “God works in all things”, Romans 8 says, “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?  Who will bring a charge against God’s elect?  God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns?  Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us”.  Over the next few blog posts, I will explain why the Law made the demands that it made.  Those instructions are perfect, holy and good for someone who knows not Christ.  But Christ is the end of the Law for them that believe.

Christ Abolished The Law

The cross judged the temple system as a scheme of thieves.  See, the priesthood knew in theory that God alone forgave sin.  But the moment he did offer forgiveness aside from the temple system, the priests would cry, “Where’s our cut?”  Oh, they’d disguise it as concern for ecclesiastical protocol but God called bullshit on the whole farce.  He sent prophets to rail against it and they were stoned.  He shut his mouth for four centuries and eventually stepped in to cut that system away because of its sky-high corruption (“I hate…detest…abhor…your sacred feasts and new moons…).  God undercut the system by offering sinners unconditional acceptance substantiated by Christ’s sacrificing himself as a ransom on the altar of the idols of religion and State – idols and altars, paradoxically, that were supplied by the priests themselves.  The cross was God’s supreme checkmate, silencing every religious mouth and crushing Satan’s head, stuffing the accusation back in their faces with a price too high not to ransom sinners out of the system – exposing its spiritual bankruptcy and parasitism.  God thwarted and unmasked the impostor that pretended to be God: religion.

Jesus is God’s verdict, an absolute “vindicated”, on behalf of those religion deemed beyond God’s grace.  God, by sheer fiat explained in his self-sacrifice which he condescended to offer on the altar of our idols – disarming our Powers and Principalities of religion and empire – may justify whomever he damn well pleases without checking even the character or attitude of the one justified.  Read Romans 9 again and again until it sinks in.

For the danger with leaving the cause of his choice down here on earth as though it were something offered by the elect, is that we or the Powers and Principalities may make an entire industry out of buying God’s favour – we may erect a new temple system, replete with our moneychangers’ “cut” and bragging rights as we glory in the flesh of those we’ve healed on any day except the Sabbath and into any condition except for Sabbath rest – and in our temple system of human-originated righteousness, we may only proclaim people forgiven once they’ve paid us indulgences to escape our imagined Purgatory, or shown, through enough straining at reparative therapy, religion and reformation, that they’re awfully contrite for the terrible sin of loving members of the same sex.  Hence Romans 9’s emphasis on the unilaterality of God’s election into justification.  Through the cross, God took the monopoly of righteousness – the whole discourse of who is forgiven and who isn’t, who is in and who is out – back from religion, back from the Law, back from the rules of common decency, back from social norms and normality, culture, back from even our blessed conscience with its dismally low understanding of purity and righteousness, back from the unspoken “bro code” that flunks gay men at gender 101, back, back, back to justification entirely and forever as and by the gift of God’s love, given in a dirty, scandalous criminal’s death on an oppressor’s cross.

Which is where salvation actually belongs.  It is of the Lord.

Church.

Remember the height from which you have fallen.  You have fallen from grace.  He is at the door.  He is coming quickly.

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Does Hellfire And Brimstone Preaching Actually Inflame Sin?

legalism

You do know what happened after this was put up, right?

After they saw this, hundreds of girls subconsciously thought, “That must have been one helluva kiss” and went out to try it.

Lesson?

Whatever you do…whatever you use…make sure it’s not the Law.  The urge to self-assertion through rebellion will just take advantage of the prohibition, and, deceiving the person, send him spiraling out of control.  was catchy

Not that I think people go to hell for sexual experimentation.

 

i0kissed-a-girl-and-i-liked-it-then-i-went-to-hell

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1 Corinthians 6, Sexual Purity And Gay Christians

The first rule of sexual purity is that it isn’t so much something believers give God as it is something God gives believers. As with the entirety of righteousness, sexual purity is a reality for the believer from the moment that living faith in Christ is present.

1 John 3:20 teaches that even if our hearts condemn us, God is bigger than our hearts and “knows all things”. The divine knowledge spoken of here is not merely God’s factual knowledge of all things; rather, it’s the essence of his character as love commended towards us through all and in spite of all things (Rom 8:38, 39) as they work together for the good of those that love God (v28).  God has always known believers, and he has always known their hearts as his.  This is the knowledge to which Peter appealed when Christ, whom he had betrayed, asked three times whether Peter loved him.  It was in that knowledge that Peter would not be condemned even if his heart condemned him.  It’s the knowledge by which God in Romans 8:28-30 glorifies those whom he did foreknow, and by which he predestines them to be conformed to the image of his Son of his love.  It’s a kind of knowledge only accessible to the infinite mind of God, which, in 1 Corinthians 2:10, we’re told God has revealed to us by his Spirit.  From it, we know not just God’s factual knowledge of all things but something more precious: the essence of his character as love commended towards us.  And we cry out in response, “Abba! Father!” (Romans 8:16).

No matter what a person does, God “knows” who that person is in Christ.  That person is “hidden” with Christ.  That’s the fundamental reality of who believers are and it’s the basis of their sexual purity as well as our boldness in declaring it.

Sexual purity is imputed as a gift of God and then lived out by believers.  It is the new reality into which God has re-created the believer through faith in Christ.

This is not a righteousness that can be strained for any more than someone could, hypothetically, reverse an unchangeable divine decree made in eternity past.  Religion is an attempt to repaint the sky or reinvent the wheel or sell ice to Eskimos.

This sexual purity is the first truth concerning all believers.  This doesn’t mean that believers are without sexual appetites – voracious ones, in some cases – but it does mean that the defilement of lust is gone.  The implications for our sexual ethics are huge.  Consider two men, Romeo and John (not Apostle John, just a John Doe).  Romeo is regenerate.  John isn’t.

Sexual desire is the reason Romeo realizes that Juliet is probably the girl he wants to be with and marry.  But sexual lust would be the reason John definitely shouldn’t marry Jane: at any rate, it’s the reason Jane, if she’s a believer, shouldn’t yoke herself unequally with John.  And even if John does marry her, as permitted by the Law he is under, it’s because the Law supervises all those that are under sin’s death sentence.  But the Law cannot redeem ransom or sanctify them – it “brought nothing to perfection” whereas Christ, by once offering his life, has sanctified those that are being made holy.  And once they’re holy, they no longer are under the Law.

Apostle Paul Preaching Upon The Ruins By Giovanni Paolo Panini 1744

Apostle Paul Preaching Upon The Ruins By Giovanni Paolo Panini 1744

This is why, for example, the rule concerning sex within marriage is powerless to end rape within marriage and other forms of domestic abuse within marriage.  Lust is still there.  The issue isn’t that a marriage certificate has the power to make bad men good or make dead souls alive; the issue is that the Law as a whole presupposes the nature of father Adam, so it can only supervise what’s there.  If John struggles with lust and can’t distinguish it from desire, it’s because he sees everything through the eyes he inherited from his spiritual dad, Adam, and cannot imagine a reality in which he’d see everything through the eyes of the other spiritual father, Daddy God.  He’s never been declared righteous, he’s never been unconditionally embraced by God or seen as pure so he cannot possibly give fellow men the benefit of that doubt.  He cannot give what he’s never received.  His conscience is seared through and cannot tell real-bad from nit-picky-law-bad.

He thinks the Law exists to tell him something about God when it exists to tell him how spiritually dead he is and how he must be guarded.  To John, all sexual desire is lust.  If he becomes religious (not believing), he’ll become a Pharisee and will never be able to give people anything other than religion.  Strangely, most people go to Pharisee John to hear the Gospel.  But his is a Gospel of rules which is no Gospel at all.  If he hadn’t already been caught out by 1 Timothy 4:3, he would even go so far as to “forbid people to marry” and maybe “order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth”.  He would subject believers to regulations like “touch not” and “taste not” even while knowing instinctively that they are powerless at subduing the flesh.

Yet to them that are pure, all things are pure.  This has got nothing to do with what the person does but who the person is, or, more accurately, whose the person is. Even if our hearts condemn us, God is bigger than our hearts and knows all things.  He knew us from before we were born, and he whom he foreknew, he predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son.  If it were the other way around – if what you did could define who you are in God – the Gospel would be no Gospel at all.  It would devolve to endless sin-management and nobody would ever “arrive” at holiness.  Read Romans 7 in order not to live through it before realizing that victory has already been declared and we’re more than conquerors through him who loved us.

The struggle for the new believer isn’t to become different or to act differently; it’s to be himself. Who this new self is will be found in the love Christ showed him by dying for him on the cross, and the life Christ raised him in when rising from the dead.  It is the identity of one loved and animated by God.  What does this identity do?  It loves and gives life to others because it too has been loved and given life.  This is the character of God, and it’s the real identity of the believer.  If you think a man having sex outside of marriage or in love with someone of the same sex is inherently the antithesis of that identity (and not just scandalizing the sensibilities of his religious, uptight society), then you have missed the Gospel altogether.  You also won’t understand how it’s possible for Jesus to have been friends with prostitutes and tax collectors while his church strongly repels “sinners”.

If getting the identity of Christ is so difficult, why does God speak about it as though it were as simple as looking and believing?  1 John 3:3-10 says, “Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself just as he is pure”.  In Matthew 21:31, Jesus tells the respectable people of his age, “Amen, Amen, I say to you, the tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the Kingdom of God ahead of you”.  In Mark 5:34 he told the woman with the issue of blood, “Your faith has made you whole” but we know that even faith is a gift from God (Rom 5:1; Rom 4:5) as is the sexual wholeness and purity towards which so many strive and labour.

There’s nothing wrong with celibacy when it’s a gift.  But there is a problem when it’s a work that we give to God in order to give him sexual purity when he’s already given that as part of our identity in Christ.  That problem is that the Gospel is being denied left, right and center.  What do we do with verses that seem to contradict this simplicity that is in Christ Jesus?

1 Corinthians 6:9 New International Version (NIV) reads “Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.  And that is what some of you were.  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.”

At this moment, I won’t go into the history of how and why the translations and readings of certain words have become something other than what Paul wrote in the original manuscripts – reliable copies of which are available, I’m sure – except to say that Pharisee John, whom we’ve described above, has been translating some of your bibles.  He’s been translating them to protect the interests of the Pope, and of certain States that don’t know whether they’re theocracies or democracies, as well as the interests of religions and fear-mongers as well.  He’s been translating them to protect anything and everything except the clarity and simplicity of God’s Gospel.

A fornicator is revealed in 1 Corinthians 6:15 to be someone who sleeps with a temple harlot acting as conduit to another god.  This is why Paul uses the word-play around the concepts of “temple” and “body”.  If the harlot shrine embodied a god, which God do Christians embody, and why will they join their bodies – which represent their God – with bodies that represent other gods, especially under such dehumanizing circumstances?  I could go into further detail about all the steps that the word “fornication” took to reach a point where it’s synonymous with “sex outside of marriage” and “Law-keeping” but to do so, I’d have to hang out the dirty laundry of the greatest sectors of the visible church currently in existence.  At any rate, the NIV and NKJV, as translations, interpretations and cultural artifacts, fail to intuit boundaries that are organic to the Gospel of God’s grace.  These translations make a deadly mistake that is visible to the naked, untrained eye: they make the Gospel a matter of doing instead of being.

As for the translation into “men who have sex with men”, I don’t want to bore you too much about the original terms, which can also be translated “man-bedder”, nor bore you with stories about the value, significance and commoditization of bodies in the first century, or the bearing that this has on the NIV’s very clumsy translation, the import and nuance of which the translators ignored.  It’s enough to ask whether the reader would like to be under the Letter that crushes, or under the Spirit that gives life.  The key difference between these two is that the Letter is the approach of believing that from acts we can infer standing before God.  The Spirit is the approach of believing that from standing before God we are free to act.

For freedom Christ has set you free.

Stand firm in the freedom wherein Christ has made you free.

A Simple Reason Romans 1:26-27 Can’t Be Used To Condemn Even One (Gay) Person

God accepts gays by divine fiat.

v-Honthorst-Christ-Crowned-w-Tho

The Letter to the Romans has material for two sermons. The first sermon is the most popular sermon on earth and it is summarized between Romans 1:18-32.  The second is found in Romans 9:10, and it hardly ever gets preached.

Both are straight from the bible but they are in direct contradiction to each other because they represent two different perspectives, the first one being a human perspective.  The true Gospel is found in only the second perspective.  And no wonder, for man can only originate bad news and God alone can declare a Gospel – and he has, but it is a Gospel that no human mind could have conceived of and few can truly grasp.  For the sake of brevity I have not discussed the material between or around these two sermons.  It is enough to note that the inspiration of the bible does not preclude it’s accurately stating a mistaken perspective in order to later reveal the truth.

The first sermon reads as follows:

The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them.  For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.  For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.  Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.

According to this immensely popular sermon in all its manifestations, God looked down at the world and what he saw shocked him. It’s evident that God is indeed angry with the world and this anger has resulted in the compounding and multiplication of sin in it.  And for everything we’re told about tolerance, some cultures, diets, lifestyles and moral codes – more like amoral codes – are simply disgusting.

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 worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised.  Amen.  Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts.  Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones.  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.  Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done.  They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity.  They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice.  They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy.  Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.

It’s the most popular sermon on earth and it condemns everyone on earth.  It condemns the abortion clinicians, those who have sex-changes, the pork-eater, money-changer and tax-collector.  It condemns even those who keep their sons’ foreskins intact – the list is endless, and there is little or no room for trying to find the humanity of these people.  They are just a list of (allegedly) evil acts.

This is every sermon on every sin God has ever counted, and he is counting.  He has a list, and like Santa he knows whether you’ve been naughty or nice – but if you’ve been naughty nobody can spare you from the horrendous penalty.  The wrath of God is continuously being revealed from heaven against this ungodliness of men, and because of their idolatrous hearts God compounds their sinfulness and hands them over to keep sinking deeper into this cesspool of filth.

Now let’s listen to the other sermon.  God’s sermon:

Not only that, but Rebekah’s children were conceived at the same time by our father Isaac.  Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad—in order that God’s purpose in election might stand: not by works but by him who calls—she was told, “The older will serve the younger.”  Just as it is written: “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”  What then shall we say?  Is God unjust?  Not at all!  For he says to Moses,

“I will have mercy on whom I have mercy,and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”  It does not, therefore, depend on human desire or effort (bold mine), but on God’s mercy.  For Scripture says to Pharaoh: “I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.”  Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden.

One of you will say to me: “Then why does God still blame us?  For who is able to resist his will?”  But who are you, a human being, to talk back to God?  “Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’”  Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for special purposes and some for common use?

What if God, although choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath—prepared for destruction?  What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory— even us, whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles?  As he says in Hosea:

“I will call them ‘my people’ who are not my people;
and I will call her ‘my loved one’ who is not my loved one,”
and,

“In the very place where it was said to them,
‘You are not my people,’
there they will be called ‘children of the living God.’”

Before there was time, space, culture, society, respectability, normality – before anyone could impress or depress or anger God with their behavior – God made a choice to save some, not out of anything he anticipated or foresaw in them but entirely because he chose to.  This doctrine is defended and explained in the blog series on predestination.

Nothing in the behavior, nature or disposition of those so chosen actually changes God’s view on the matter.  In principle, these people have always been and shall always be perfect in his eyes.  And if they were not so even for one moment, God would have no power to realize in “real life” or in time what he knows to be true of them in eternity.

Corresponding with this choice was his choice to set his love, blessing, approval, infinite patience and grace on them.

This choice was not, nor could have been, a response to anything God saw in the chosen, nor in their nature, nor in the relationship between the chosen and nature, or anything at all under heaven.

Nor was this choice dependent on how well these people fit in, or conformed to the expectations of any person or society in the world.

For if it had been such a response, God would have been acting beneath his sovereignty as God by waiting for some or other circumstance to condition his sentiments and resolve.

But God is not a creature, and God is conditioned by nothing outside himself.

Nobody can make God happy, nor delighted with them, or anything else like that.  God, who is before and beyond the world, does not love in accordance with the beloved’s diet, sexuality, naturalness, normalcy – nothing like that – but rather, imparts love as a gift to his beloved in Christ.

So no amount of gold-star behavior can justify anyone before God.

Rather, certain people have been the recipients of God’s justification, love, sanctification, grace and glory from eternity and will learn of it in time.  If anyone brings a charge against these people, fingering them as the source of God’s wrath revealed from heaven, God just isn’t listening.  God’s joy and wrath are not responses to something he learns in creation but are expressions of his sovereign choices over creation.

Therefore, the glory of the first sermon is completely eclipsed and outshone by the glory of the second just as the glory of the First Covenant is completely outshone by the glory of the Second as it glows brighter every passing moment.

The implications for gay believers will take a while and a few blog posts to flesh out.  Please stick around.  It could make all the difference to the way you understand God or relate with gay people, as people.  This is a conversation that the Reformed tradition needs to have if it is to remain true to its roots.

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