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Q&A: How can Christians make sense of all the gender confusion in the world?


How can Christians make sense of all the gender confusion in the world? 

You are absolutely right, there is a world of confusion out there concerning gender. From what I’ve read, when you create a new Facebook account you are now presented with multiple gender identities to choose from. And if none of those seem to suit you, you’re given the option to create your own. Reading through the morass of gender options it becomes very clear that confusion is the order of the day.

Understanding gender from the perspective of God’s Word isn’t confusing at all. In fact, the Scriptures are very straightforward on the subject:

God created man in his own image,

in the image of God he created him;

male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:27)

There you have it. God made two genders — male and female. So, where did all this other gender uncertainty come from? Simple answer: the unregenerate, darkened heart of man.

Ever since the corrupting influence of sin entered the human race, mankind has been in open rebellion against God and His sovereign rule. The Lord our God decreed in the beginning that mankind is "male and female" but the sons of Adam would have none of it. "No!” he shouts in angry defiance, “we refuse to submit to God's definitions!” So man sets out to recreate the world in his own distorted image. 

This rebellion on the part of mankind is powerfully expressed in the Psalm 2:

The kings of the earth take their stand

and the rulers gather together

against the Lord

and against his Anointed One.

“Let us break their chains,” they say,

“and throw off their fetters.” (Psalm 2:2-3)

All this talk of alternate expressions of sexuality and transgenderism is nothing more than man throwing off what he considers to be the shackles of God's sovereign rule. Man doesn't want to be ruled by God and he chafes under what he deems to be God’s unfair dominion. Mankind desires above all to be his own ruler. Just as it was said of the nation of Israel in the time of the Judges: Everyone did what was right in his own eyes. (Judges 21:25b) 

This is where we currently live. Isaiah’s description of Israel is no less true of our modern world, “righteousness stands at a distance” and “truth has stumbled in the streets.” (59:14)


Q&A: Can God help me to break this cycle of sin?

Q&A: Since giving my life to Jesus I have been struggling to overcome a specific sin. As much as I desire to be free and try to walk in victory I seem to keep failing. Can God help me to break this cycle of sin?

I understand your problem and I know your pain.

Let me begin by encouraging you. You said that you have a desire to be free from the sin that you repeatedly commit. That's good news because the Apostle Paul wrote, "...it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure." (Philippians 2:13) Your desire to be free from the cycle of sin tells me that God has already given you the will to do His good pleasure. You're just stumbling in the area of carrying it out.

You must understand that sin creates very deep ruts in our lives (the world calls them addictions) and breaking free from those ruts is extremely challenging. It takes dedication, and faith. Let me share some suggestions as well as some pitfalls that you must avoid:

1. Do not doubt your salvation. Doubt is one of Satan's most effective tools for bringing discouragement to the believer. Struggling with sin is not a sign that you are unsaved. It's simply a reminder that sin is a very challenging thing from which to be free. 

2. Do not doubt God's love for you or His willingness to help you. One of the biggest pitfalls for those struggling with some besetting sin is the temptation to become overly introspective. They analyze their every thought and motive and they also analyze God's attitudes and motives as well. "Maybe God doesn't want to help me. Maybe my sin is punishment for my past. Maybe God has given me over to my sin and there's no hope for me." Those who give into such thoughts eventually fall into a maze of confusing and errant notions that bear no resemblance to the truth. It only breeds discouragement. Don't go there!

3. Do NOT focus on self-effort. You cannot break free from this sin on your own. It simply isn't possible and you need to come to the Lord DAILY and remind yourself of this in prayer. Tell the Lord that you need Him to set you free and that you are waiting on Him to give you strength DAILY. The Apostle Paul wrote that we put NO CONFIDENCE in the flesh. (Philippians 3:3) Tell the Lord that you place NO CONFIDENCE or hope in your own power to break free from your sin, but that your confidence and hope is completely in Him alone.

4. Do NOT look to the world for answers. The world in which we live knows only the power of "self" so don't go looking there for answers. Keep your heart focused on the Lord and His Word. Expose your heart to the Word daily and make sure your heart gets filled. (Psalm 119:11)

5. Make no provision for the flesh. "...put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires." (Romans 13:14) There's an old saying that goes like this: If you don't want to fall off the cliff, don't play around the edge. This means you need to be careful about needlessly placing yourself in the path of temptation. You also need to think about what things in your life make it easy for you to sin. Are you watching movies or reading books that portray sexual acts, or is the Internet a constant temptation to go where you shouldn't go? Remember that Jesus told us to be radical in our dealings with sin. (See Matthew 18:7-9) Sometimes we have to be radical to disconnect our lives from the things that cause us to fall into sin.

6. Take each day as it comes. If you're having trouble trusting God for the whole day, then pray for strength for the next HOUR. Literally, set your watch ON THE HOUR and pray, "Lord, I ask you for the strength to get through this next hour." Then, as you get stronger pray for the MORNING, and then pray for the AFTERNOON and then pray for the EVENING. Then eventually pray for each DAY. Take it SLOW. Only take as much of your day as your faith allows.

7. Do not allow failure to deter you from pressing onward. Satan wants you to give up and he will highlight your failures to get you to feel hopeless. Don't let your feelings rule your life. It's natural to feel bad when we mess up, but ultimately we need to listen to God rather than our feelings. And God wants you to press on and press in. 

8. Pray for an accountability partner. Ask the Lord to bring a mature believer into your life who you can talk and pray with, but most of all, someone who will ask you the hard questions and hold you accountable. 

9. Stay in the Word of God. It is through the Word that we build up and strengthen our faith (Romans 10:17) so stay connected to the Scriptures. Remember: All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17) I would encourage you to spend time reading and meditating on the Scriptures each and every day. Memorize passages that speak to your specific issue and recite them often — especially when you're feeling weak.

And finally,

10. Cry out to God. The Psalmist wrote: When the righteous cry for help, the LORD hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. (Psalm 34:17) Believers are made righteous through the blood of Jesus Christ, so what remains for us is to cry out to the Lord with our whole heart. 

Don't give up! Stay on course. There is freedom at the end of this road.

Q&A: Should small children be baptized?

 

Q: Should small children be baptized?

This question is one I have agonized over for the most of my time as a pastor. And it’s not because the Bible is ambiguous on the subject, but because there's never a shortage of parents wanting to see their children baptized. I can't blame them for that, but many times I find myself in the position of having to speak with the parents and explain to them that water baptism does not guarantee one's salvation. I know of several instances when parents rushed their children into being baptized for the wrong reasons and this often brought about confusion later on. My own parents had me baptized as an infant although I'm not certain what they really believed it accomplished.

A little background may be helpful. In the early 5th century AD, a man named Augustine rose to prominence in the church and became bishop of Hippo in North Africa. Augustine was brilliant and his writings are still studied today, but some of what he believed wasn't thoroughly biblical. On the subject of water baptism, for example, Augustine believed that all who receive water baptism become recipients of a regenerating grace. This belief was passed along to the Roman Catholic Church and continues to be a popular idea today. It's actually a lovely thought. The only problem is that this idea is nowhere found in Scripture. Even so, there are still many people today who are stuck in the mindset that baptism guarantees one’s future salvation and because of this, they wish to have their loved ones baptized.

But what does the Bible really say about water baptism?

Water Baptism is only ever portrayed in God's Word as an act of obedience on the part of those who have already come to faith in Jesus as Savior. The act itself of being baptized is a declaration of one's identification with Jesus in His death, burial and resurrection — all depicted beautifully as the new believer is lowered into the waters of baptism (signifying our identification with Christ in His death) and then immediately raised again (indicating our identification with Jesus in His resurrection). 

While I completely agree that children can fully know and understand the Gospel and truly be born again, I do not agree that they can fully grasp the idea of water baptism in terms of what it represents. This is because the idea of entering into Jesus' death (which we depict in water baptism) speaks to the issue of dying to self and recognizing that we are now called to choose Jesus over the life of the flesh that wars against the life of the Spirit. And having died to self, water baptism goes on to symbolize the reality of being raised to new life through the power of the Spirit. The life of the Spirit and the life of the flesh are concepts that small children find very difficult to grasp, but I believe they are essential for making our motivation for being baptized in water truly biblical.

My wife and I raised four kids of our own and I have to tell you I wish I had encouraged them to wait until they were older and better able to understand what they were doing. I believe I robbed them of what could have been a more meaningful and genuine expression of their faith.

So, what age is best? That's hard to say because we grow and mature at different levels. When a child comes to the place of understanding the life of the flesh versus the life of the Spirit, and how we are called to die to self and live to Christ, they will then be ready to express that understanding in the waters of baptism. Until then, the very last thing we want to do in a child's life is to leave them with the impression that they were baptized in water and as a result, everything concerning heaven is all settled. We are not saved by being baptized in water. We are saved by placing our faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross.

Q&A: Can men wear feminine clothing — and vice versa?

 


Q: Can men wear feminine clothing? and vice versa?

The definition of "feminine" or "masculine" when it comes to clothing is constantly changing. God's Word does address what we would call "cross-dressing" (cf. Deut. 22:5) but obviously clothing styles have changed drastically since that time so it's impossible to say "women should wear this and men should wear that."

We need to be careful not to narrow down the issue to trivial matters like whether it’s better for women to wear dresses than wear shirts and pants, or for men to wear jeans instead of shorts. What God is MOST concerned about is the heart. He created the two genders to be fundamentally different and it is a departure from God’s creative order for us to blur the lines in any way (clothing included).

So, when God addresses the issue of men wearing clothing traditionally worn by women, He is addressing the heart of man first and foremost. Man's unwillingness to submit to God's gender distinctions is just another act of rebellion and wickedness on man's part, and God condemns all acts of rebellion against His creative order.

Q&A: Can you give me some tips on how to worship?

Q: Can you give me some tips on how to worship? I'm a new believer and I haven't got a clue. 

It's important to understand the difference between worshiping God and the WAYS we express our worship. Most people focus on the expressions of worship and neglect the heart of worship. Let's talk about the heart of worship first.

What is worship? Well, the first thing we learn from the Bible is that worship is a spiritual act.

"God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” John 4:24 (ESV)

Jesus spoke the words quoted above, and He said that we must worship God "in spirit." But what exactly does that mean? The Apostle Paul gives us insight in his letter to the Romans:

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Romans 12:1 (ESV)

Here Paul says that our "spiritual act of worship" is presenting our very lives to God as a "living sacrifice." Under the Old Covenant the people of God would sacrifice animals for various reasons, and one of those reasons was to show a person's complete devotion to God. Under the New Covenant we don't sacrifice animals — instead we sacrifice OURSELVES. But it's a "living sacrifice" meaning that we don't die physically. A living sacrifice is one where we come to God and offer our lives to Him — to live for Him and to serve Him with all our hearts.

So, according to the Bible, to worship God spiritually means to offer yourself daily to the Lord and for His purpose. This is worship.

Now, let's talk about EXPRESSIONS of worship.

It's important to remember that expressions of worship ARE NOT WORSHIP. It's just the way we express our worship. Some expressions of worship include:

  • Singing
  • Lifting hands
  • Kneeling
  • Shouting to the Lord in praise
  • Some groups even include dancing to express their worship

These are all acceptable expressions, but they are NOT themselves worship. Worship comes from the heart, not from the hands or mouth or feet. Anyone can do any of the things listed above and still not worship God.

Think of it this way: Imagine you asked me to define "love" between a husband and wife, and I responded by saying, "Love is kissing and embracing." But wait...people can do those things without being in love. Kissing and embracing can be expressions of love, but they are not what love is. Love comes from the heart — not the body.

So let's review. Worship is the act of offering oneself to the Lord in surrender to His Lordship.

We can express our worship in many ways but we must never allow those expressions to become worship. Worship comes from the heart.

Q&A: Are the Jews still God's chosen people?

 Q: Are the Jews still God's chosen people?

Actually, that's kind of a loaded question and one that is impossible to answer with a simple yes or no.

The Bible tells us that God first chose Abraham and made him many wonderful promises, including the fact that through his offspring all nations would be blessed. (Galatians 3:8) These promises were then repeated to his son Isaac and later to his grandson, Jacob, who was  renamed Israel. So, when we speak of Israel as God's chosen people, we're really saying that God chose Abraham and his descendants after him through his son, Isaac.

So, why doesn't it seem as if Israel is a favored nation today? 

At this time in history God is working through the Church (the Body of Christ) and those who belong to Jesus are also referred to in the Bible as God's "chosen." (1 Peter 2:9) However, that doesn't mean God has abandoned Israel. Far from it.

No other nation in the world was set apart for God in the same way as Israel, and God still has future plans for them. In fact, much of what the Bible has to say prophetically about Israel remains to be fulfilled. And when Jesus returns physically to this earth, He will return to Israel. 

But God's timetable for Israel has been put on hold during what we call The Church Age. Once the Church is removed in the Rapture (outlined in 1 Thessalonians 4) God's special timetable for Israel will begin once again, ushering in the culmination of His plan for that nation and its people. 

So, although both Israel and the Church are referred to in the Scriptures as "chosen," there are significant differences between the two. Israel possesses a physical kingdom. The Church possesses a spiritual kingdom. The promises God made to Israel in the Law of Moses are physical blessings. The promises made to the Church through Jesus Christ are spiritual in nature. (Ephesians 1:3) Israel is not the Church and the Church is not Israel, yet both have a very special place in God's plan of redemption.


Q&A: If God created all things "good" then where did sin and evil come from?

Q: If God created all things "good" then where did sin and evil come from?

The origin of evil can be a challenging subject. Because God is entirely pure and without sin we know that those things did not originate with Him. However, God is the source of all things, and one of the beings He created was an angel that we now call Satan or the devil and it is from him that all sin and evil originates.

Obviously God gave to Satan the same power that He has to create. And not just to create, but the power to create something that is wholly different from God Himself — evil. This is confirmed with some information our Lord Jesus gave us while speaking of the Satan:

You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of liesJohn 8:44 (ESV)

Notice that Jesus referred to Satan as "...a liar and the father of lies." When the Bible refers to someone as the "father" of something it is saying that person is the originator or starting point for something. For example, Abraham is called "the Father of the Jews" since the Jewish race began with him. (Luke 1:73; Romans 4:1) Since Satan is "the father of lies" we know that lies and deception actually originated with Satan. How? We aren't told since no evil existed before...but that is what makes Satan so evil — he literally created evil.

The prophetic book of Ezekiel gives us this insightful information about Satan:

You were an anointed guardian cherub. I placed you; you were on the holy mountain of God; in the midst of the stones of fire you walked. You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created, till unrighteousness was found in you. Ezekiel 28:14-15 (ESV)

So, the origin of sin is a fascinating study but all biblical evidence points to Satan as the mysterious originator of sin, lies and deception.