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Winsomely Weird Wednesdays

“Gender, Sexuality, and Family”

December 4, 2019

Welcome & Dismiss Kids to Kids Club

Songs – #316 “I Surrender All” & #303 “Blessed Assurance”

Testimonies – What’s a way that you’ve been challenged this fall to be more winsomely weird?

Teaching

Recap & Intro

Let’s remind ourselves of what we’re doing here. This fall we have been talking about how we as the church, the remnant redeemed out of the wreckage of the world by Christ, are to live as citizens of another world, the world to come, where righteousness reigns. So we don’t march to the beat of the world’s drum. We’re weird in that sense. But we are also not self-righteous, hateful, arrogant, or cold, but rather kind, humble, gracious, and deeply desiring others to be saved. Winsome is the word. Winsomely weird.

But the pressure to conform to the world is powerful and strong and insidious and relentless. Think of Jesus’ parable of the soils. Some seed fell among good soil and grew and produced fruit. That’s the real Christian. Other seed fell among the path and Satan plucked it up right away. That’s those who quickly reject the word of God. But two other options are given. The rocky ground, referring to the ones who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy, but they have no root in themselves, endure for a little while, and then, when tribulation or persecution arises, they fall away. That’s those who face the open hostility of the world and fall back into it, proving that they never really were delivered from it. And then there is the seed among thorns, those for whom the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word. That’s not the outright opposition of the world, but the more subtle allures of the world that really have captured people’s hearts (cf. Mk. 4:13-20)

Paul says in Romans 12:2 – “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind.” That’s what we’ve been trying to do this fall. It’s not a game. We’re at war for our souls. The world, the flesh, and the devil are out to snooker us. This morning in my Bible Reading I read 2 Peter 1. We have all we need for life and godliness so that we can escape “from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.” But it takes making every effort. Being regularly reminded of the gospel and consciously building on that. That’s what our Midweek Meetings have been about.

And tonight, the last night, we come to perhaps the hardest one of them all, the area where there is the most contempt and pressure from the world around us at this time to lose our saltiness and blend in. I think that’s probably why it was the last one picked and kept getting postponed till the end – you know that this is perhaps the hot button issue where God’s ways clash with the world around us and we’re feeling the heat. We’re talking about Gender, Sexuality, and Family.

Jesus on the Creation Order

Let’s start with what Jesus says on the topic, because people are cool with Jesus, right… because he was just all about love and tolerance, right… and didn’t mention things like homosexuality, right? Can someone read Matthew 19:3-9:

And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?” He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” They said to him, “Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?” He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.”

What is Jesus doing here? He’s answering a first-century debate about divorce. But he’s doing more than that. He’s laying out a theology of Gender, Sexuality, and Family. He’s pointing to the Genesis narrative as the normative, God-ordained pattern for these things. From the beginning, the original design and intention of the Creator, is that human beings would fit into two, binary gender categories: male and female. And one man and one woman would be united together in a life-long marriage. And any sexual relations outside of this one man, one woman bond is beyond the bounds. That is the teaching of the Bible from the beginning on God’s ideal, corroborated by numerous other passages, but ultimately by the Lord Jesus himself.

Paul on Creation Disorder

So that’s Jesus on creation order; now let’s look at Paul on creation disorder. Jesus in Matthew 19 alludes to the fact that the original design has been marred and human hearts have been hardened and corrupted. Genesis 3 certainly recounts that. But Paul in Romans 1 gives the clearest theological explanation of what has happened with the entrance of sin into God’s good design. Can someone read Romans 1:18-27…

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.

At the Fall, the world went wacky. All of us. Perverted. It centers around our rebellion against God and rejection of him and his order. Something switched in us and instead of a glad submission to our Maker, there entered a deep-seated resentment. We suppress the truth, reject reality, engage in asinine idolatry, and become warped in ways that get reinforced and augmented by culture in this vicious vortex of sin. That is the world.

And Paul clearly links this idolatrous insurrection with gender and sexuality confusion. We resist the clear will of God, and God gives us over to all forms of sexual depravity to the point that we don’t even know which end is up anymore, although we pompously assert that we in fact do.

This is all of us! Not just some really messed up people. We’re all born into this. We’re all sick, twisted, prideful people apart from the merciful intervention of God to remake us. For some, our war against God looks like morality, trying to be straight-laced and good enough to not need him. And it’s often those sorts of Pharisaical environments that loudly tout traditional sexual mores that have some of the most sinister scandals. But even if you succeed at being outwardly ‘pure’, if it’s to prove your goodness, it is still evil wickedness aimed at sticking it to God. And don’t forget how Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount took sexual ethics to the inner thought life, where no one can sustain such scrutiny. The point is that we’re all sexually screwed up, because our relationship with God is screwed up. It takes the gospel to cover our sin and shame and change us at the heart level so that we start to love and submit to God.

Gender

Let’s talk briefly about gender identity issues. This is a growing issue today. People born with a certain sex, but identifying with a different gender, or genders, or no gender, or both genders. We don’t have to deny the reality of the feelings. In a fallen world we have all kinds of fallen feelings. We must empathize with the pain of the confusion and the sin of others heaped upon those prone to gender dysphoria. But to encourage people to ‘transition’ and go with their feelings is not loving. It is aligning with sin. It is our sinful, fallen nature to resist receiving and insist on achieving. That is our sin. We don’t want to submit to something given to us from God. We chafe at having something dictated to us and bending our will to God’s. And so in our sin we want to assert our own will, defy the limits placed on us.

If we have a y chromosome and boy body parts, but feel like a girl, then we don’t want to submit to the givenness of our gender and learn to act in line with that. We want to determine for ourselves. Remember back when we talked about Authority & Purpose? The fallen world way is to live from Self and for Self. My SELF – my thoughts, feelings, desires – is what tells me what to do. That’s a pretty good description of sin.

And so to say, “I know that I have a woman’s body, but I feel like I’m a man” is to let your feelings be your authority. And it doesn’t go well. This is such a new realm that our culture is boldly venturing out into, but the emerging stats on suicide among trans people is so sad. The studies on gender dysphoria pre vs post puberty should give pause. I think some people are starting to see the insanity of it all as biological men identifying as women are winning women’s sporting contests. But I don’t have hope that the world will snap out of this anytime soon.

So how are we going to be winsomely weird? First, we must be loving and patient and compassionate to those who are confused about their sexuality or even self-assured in their non cisgendered identity. We can’t be disgusted and want to have nothing to do with that.

But second, we must be a community that stands out from the world and doesn’t rush headlong with it into craziness. We must be men and women who are glad and happy with our gender as a gift from God based on our assigned sex.

We must hold that men and women are equally image bearers and therefore absolutely equal in dignity, value, and worth. And yet we must hold that men and women are distinct, with different roles and functions in the world for God’s glory. Both are weird at different times and places. In hierarchical, patriarchal cultures where men have all the power and women are treated like property, the Bible’s emphasis on the equality of women and Jesus’ elevation of women will be weird, but must be unequivocally maintained. And in egalitarian, urbane settings where any differentiation of gender roles is considered oppressive and heretical, the Bible’s clear teaching on male headship in the home and church will be not just weird, but utterly despised. If we hold both, together, joyfully, in our city where women are still treated like property and also expected to be just like men, then we’ll really be different.

We must be committed to searching the Scriptures to see how God wants us to be as men or women and submit to that, not our culture’s definitions or our personal feelings. Godly women can win over the world without a word (cf. 1Pe. 3:1). And Christlike men, tender warriors, neither complacent and lazy nor abusive and boorish, that is really weird… and winsome! Brother or sister: be very careful that you are getting your ideas about all this from the Bible and not the world, either the traditional side or the progressive side.

Sexuality

Let’s talk about sexuality, what we do with our bodily urges for sexual stimulation and release and the emotional sensations connected with that. Remember: the sinful, fallen world lives from Self (I determine for myself what I can and can’t do) and for Self (I do what makes ME happy). And so I like to talk about the world’s way of sexuality as selfish sex. The only limit that the world right now wants to put on sex, is that it has to be consensual. But beyond that, if it feels good, I do it. I get out of sex what I want. I’m doing it for me.

Pornography and masturbation are obvious selfish sexual expressions. You get what you want without having to deal with another person. In your fantasies you are completely in charge. When we do involve other partners, we go for the fulfillment of our selfish urges. Maybe we want multiple partners. Maybe I want a partner of the same sex who gets me more easily and knows what I want. The world’s approach to sex is ultimately about self-fulfillment. And so we use people to try to make ourselves happy.

And by the way, selfish sex can happen in heterosexual monogamous marriages. Each person is just trying to get his or her own climax. Or have power over another person in some selfish way.

But the Christian vision for sexuality is not just about getting, but primarily giving. It’s to be selfless sex. How can I use my body to love and cherish and comfort and bring joy to another? That should be what we’re thinking about how to steward our sexuality. How can I serve? How can I show love – selfless, self-sacrificing love to another? That should be how we are thinking about every sexual encounter in our marriages.

And if you are not married, not in a covenanted, committed relationship with another where you’ve given your body and whole self exclusively to this person, then you have no place for having sex. You are called to deny yourself and find other ways to serve people. And that is a grand and noble calling too (cf. 1Cor. 7).

But, the world asks, why can’t you have selfless sex in a monogamous, loving, homosexual relationship? One, probably unconvincing on its own, reason is that selfless sex is also designed to create other people to love and care for. Sex completely divorced from procreation is not a good thing.

Family

So let’s talk really quickly about family. Most people want to have sex without any possibility of babies coming along and cramping your style. That’s pretty selfish. It’s not serving society. It’s just about you. But God designed men to be the provider and protector of a family, moving out of himself into a woman who then receives and nourishes and nurtures life. And altogether they carry on the human race in a context of love and self-giving. That’s the ideal. Those who do have kids these days often do it for selfish reasons – to have someone who needs me, someone who looks like me, someone to keep me from being lonely, someone to control, someone to vicariously live my life through, someone to try to make succeed so as to justify myself… instead of someone to love and lay my life down for and eventually send out into the world to make society continue to go.

I know there’s much more to say about all of these things…

The Bigger Picture

But back to the objection that a monogamous, loving, homosexual relationship could be in some ways selfless… they could even adopt children and give them a caring environment to grow up in. But the main reason this is wrong, and there are a myriad of Bible verses we could bring out that say so, is because the biblical idea of selfless sex isn’t just about pleasing the other person or procreating more people, but it’s about picturing the magnificent metanarrative of God’s salvation. Why did God make men and women and marriage in the first place? To set up a parable, a picture of Christ and the Church. Jesus never got married in his earthly life, showing that marriage is not a necessity. But he does have a Bride and he has pledged his love to her and is coming again to consummate his relationship with her. The Bible begins and ends with a wedding.

Gender, Sexuality, and Family is all designed to be not ends in themselves, but means for imaging something grander, more cosmic. Truly selfless sex says I’m not doing this for my pleasure, or ultimately my spouse’s pleasure or my children’s protection. I’m submitting to this God-ordained form of sexuality so that I can show something of what really matters.

Gospel Conclusions

Let me just wrap up this short treatment of a huge topic with a few gospel conclusions.

Will you let God define you? Not just as a man or a woman, but as someone declared righteous in his sight because of the work of Christ? Will you let him define your identity, or will you continue to try to carve out your own, seeking to define yourself through your works, efforts, redefinitions…

And will you live not controlled by the world’s small narratives, but captivated by the weirdest and most winsome one found in the Bible. That you’re a sinner, a spiritual harlot, totally screwed up. And yet the strong, loving Lord Jesus came on a mission to woo and win you not by force, but by laying down his life to take your debts and give you his riches. And now you want to submit yourself to him unreservedly. And can’t wait to see him face-to-face. You want that more than anything else.

Listen to how Jonathan Edwards describes what that will be like:

In that resurrection morning, when the Sun of Righteousness shall appear in the heavens, shining in all his brightness and glory, he will come forth as a bridegroom; he shall come in the glory of his Father with all his holy angels. And at that glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ shall the whole elect church, complete as to every individual member, and each member with the whole person, both body and soul, and both in perfect glory, ascend up to meet the Lord in the air, to be forever with the Lord. . . . Then will come the time when Christ will sweetly invite his spouse to enter in with him into the palace of his glory, which he had been preparing for her from the foundation of the world, and shall take her by the hand and lead her in with him; and this glorious bridegroom and bride shall, with all their shining ornaments, ascend up together into the heaven of heaven, the whole multitude of glorious angels waiting upon them; and this Son and daughter of God shall, in their united glory and joy, present themselves together before the Father; . . . and they shall together receive the Father’s blessing; and shall thenceforward rejoice together in consummate, uninterrupted, immutable and everlasting glory, in the love and embraces of each other, and in their shared enjoyment of the love of the Father.

That’s what your Gender and Sexuality are all about!

What’s Next?

Next week we’ll be having our Koinonia Christmas Party. Then after the New Year we will be resuming Small Groups. If you also want a format with more teaching like what these Wednesdays have been, we’ll be having an adult Sunday School after our worship services going through the 1689 Second London Confession of Faith, which actually has a helpful section on marriage.

Prayer – Break up into groups to pray with and for each other: (1) Single Men (2) Married Men (3) Single Women (4) Married Women

Pray to be captivated more by the grand vision of the wedding feast of the Lamb (Rev. 19:9)…

Read 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8… Pray for sanctification in your sexuality…

Praise God that 1 Corinthians 6:11 is true of us and pray that more would be added to our number…

Winsomely Weird Wednesdays

“Politics”

November 20, 2019

Welcome & Dismiss Kids to Kids Club

Songs – #111 “All Hail the Power” & #1 “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God”

Testimonies – What’s some way that you have been engaged with the city (polis) lately?

Teaching

Recap & Intro

What’s one way Christians should be winsomely weird when it comes to:

· Authority & Purpose?

· Speech?

· Relationships & Conflict?

· Drugs & Alcohol?

· Bioethics?

· Entertainment?

· Work, Money, & Possessions?

· Fitness?

Tonight the topic is politics. Has anyone been listening/watching some of the impeachment proceedings going on? We’re a politically charged and divided culture. Christians have a great opportunity to be winsomely weird in our partisan climate.

Allegiance to the Kingdom of God

How do we do it? First off, by having our allegiance be ultimately to the kingdom of God and not any of the kingdoms of this world. Philippians 3:20-21 – “Our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.” “Jesus is Lord” is a politically subversive statement, because in the first century Romans said, “Caesar is Lord.” To be a Christian is to acknowledge that Jesus is the Lord of lords and King of kings and to find your primary identity as a citizen of the kingdom of heaven.

All other kingdoms are fallen and fall. This week my Bible reading plan has me in Daniel. Special points if anyone can tell me the vision that God gave to King Nebuchadnezzar and it’s interpretation… Statue with head of gold (Babylon), chest and arms of silver (Persia), middle and thighs of bronze (Greece), legs of iron with clay mixed into feet (Rome). And then a little pebble rolls up to the feet and crashes it all down, and that stone (the Kingdom of God) grows into a great mountain that fills the whole earth. What’s the point? In the middle of the Roman Empire, Jesus established his kingdom, it’s like a mustard seed but as all the kingdoms of this earth rise and crumble, Jesus’ kingdom keeps growing and growing and one day when he returns the great Hallelujah Chorus will resound – “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever” (Rev. 11:15).

All the kingdoms of this earth are limited in power and geography and contain within them the seeds of their own destruction. Rome fell, the Ottoman Empire fell, the sun is setting on the British Empire. America outlasted Russia (or did we?), but this superpower will weaken. Jesus’ kingdom is forever and is perfect! He’s the only unimpeachable king. He alone tells the truth. He has exactly the right position on everything because he’s the definition of righteousness. He’s trustworthy. He’s loving and beneficent. How else is King Jesus awesome and better than any other political savior??

How do we participate in this Kingdom of God now even before the Return of the King? Jesus gave the keys of the kingdom to the church (Mt. 16:19, 18:18). Church – this right here – is the most important poltical entity that we belong to. It’s where we find our deepest sense of belonging, our noblest cause to work for, our greatest joys… Jesus and his eternal purposes have captured our hearts and to him we pledge allegiance.

Which makes us weird. It means we won’t feel really at home in any of this earth’s political entities. Peter calls Christians sojourners and exiles (1Pe. 1:1, 17; 2:11). We’re living outside our fatherland, even if we’re living in the country of our birth, because heaven (shorthand for the renewed creation under King Jesus) is what we’re homesick for. We live like the saints of old, acknowledging that we are “strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If [we are simply talking about the land we moved from, we can return]. But as it is, [we] desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called [our] God, for he has prepared for [us] a city[, the New Jerusalem]” (Heb. 11:13-16; Rev. 21:2ff).

When I was in high school I had a Bob Dole bumper sticker on my bedroom door. I went to Washington, D.C., several times for things like National Young Leaders conferences, including President Clinton’s Second Inauguration. In one of my high school classes we were supposed to bring a song to have played that defined who you were. I brought the Star Spangled Banner.

I was a born again believer but had, unwittingly, bought into a brand of civil religion that conflated Christianity with Country. Thankfully, as I have gotten to know Christ better and grown as his disciple I’ve learned to disentangle the two. For example, in the church I grew up in (and almost all the ones I knew) there was an American Flag (and a Christian Flag[?!]) at the front. There was a Patriotic section in our hymnal and we sang from it around Fourth of July. I think that’s atrocious and we would never do that here. We gather to sing about and pledge allegiance to Jesus and his empire.

Life in the Kingdoms of this World

In college I was a Bible major and Political Science minor. Is there any benefit to studying those things? Is there any obligation to participate in the broken, compromised, political systems of this world? Can we love our country? Is there a good patriotism?

Yes. When you watch Captain Von Trapp sing “Edelweiss” there is something touching and honorable about that. You want to choke up too, don’t you? God is my Father, the church is my mother, you are my brothers and sisters. But I can still love the smell of my grandparents’ house and my mom’s cooking and respect my dad and enjoy my family’s cultural traditions and feel a sense of fealty to them and it can be okay. Jesus’ statement that his follower must “hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters” (Lk. 14:26) is about relative affections, right? In comparison, my love for Christ makes my connection to my blood family look like hate and they can never get in the way of following Jesus. But Jesus also took care of his mom at the cross (Jn. 19:26-27) and Paul said “if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1Tim. 5:8). Similarly, we can be aligned with the kingdom of God and still thankful for and appreciate the blessings of our country and root for it in the Olympics.

John the Baptist (Lk. 3:14) and Jesus (Lk. 7:1ff) didn’t tell Roman soldiers that they had to stop wearing that uniform if they wanted to be part of God’s kingdom.

Paul in places like Romans 13 and Titus 3 and Peter in 1 Peter 2:13-17 said that secular (or more specifically, pagan) governments were instituted by God and used by him for certain evil-restraining functions, keeping the world in order while the gospel spread like a virus in and throughout them. Can someone actually read 1 Peter 2:13-17?? So we can honor political leaders, respect them, submit to them in submission to the Lord (and disobey them when they go against the Lord, i.e. Acts 5:29).

So what we’re seeing is that we’re weird because we’re not of this world and our ultimate loyalty and longings lie elsewhere. But we’re also winsome because we remain in this world. We are still citizens of the lesser, temporal governments and we should be the best citizens of these Cities of Man that we can. Any verses that you can think of that back that up?

State and National Politics

So how can we do that here in the U.S. where we have a form of democracy that invites political engagement? We vote for candidates based on values and our best understanding of policies that apply those values. We are getting our values from God and so here’s my main point that I want us to walk away from tonight with: the source of our political thinking is informed not by the right nor by the left, but from above. And that will make us winsomely weird!

Our convictions about what is best for people and society won’t line up easily with one party or match an ideology. We will bust those categories and confound the world. The world desperately wants to reduce ‘evangelicals’ to a voting bloc. We should defy those categories!

Some of you were at the City to City North America Conference here in Chicago last fall with me when Tim Keller walked through the revolutionary values of the early church that made them winsomely weird. First, he showed how they were multi-ethnic, breaking down racial barriers. Then he talked about their radical commitment to serve the poor. Then he showed how the early Christians championed an ethic of non-retaliation. Then he talked about how they were pro-life – rescuing babies from the garbage dumps and caring for the weak and infirm. And finally he explained the sexual counterculture that the early church had – sex only within loving monogamous, heterosexual covenant marriages. These 5 things made the church stand out then and caught the world’s attention with their winsomeness.

And then he commented that today the first two: racial justice and concern for the poor seem to be the domain of the political left. The last two: pro-life and holy sexuality seem to go with the right. And nobody’s really talking about the 3rd one, love of enemies. What if the Church in America today, what if we embraced and embodied all five. That would be really weird, but I also think winsome.

We’re still going to have disagreements on the best policies for helping the poor and things like that, but if we could talk charitably and humbly we might be able to arrive at more of a consensus and where we still can’s as long as it’s not compromising a clear value, we can agree to disagree about implementation.

This will mean losing a lot of power, but that’s okay.

This politics from above will also mean we never feel excited about anyone we vote for.

Global Politics

But since the Church is trans-national we should also be interested in global politics: International Justice Mission, what’s going on in Hong Kong, religious freedom in India…

Local Politics

But we can become too inundated with information about what’s happening in the Hague or a hearing room on the Hill, or even Springfield, and miss the people we have moral proximity to. I saw this some with Ferguson. The race issue blew up on the national scene and we had people in our church getting rightly upset about this, but at the time we had some evangelism efforts and a Bible Study going on in the Brooks Homes and a Mercy Team forming and nobody wanted to be part of that. Racial injustice issues are right on our doorstep, but it’s easier to re-post Facebook articles about places far away than it is to actually get involved right in your backyard.

I want to encourage us to focus more on local politics. Do you know the gatekeepers on your block? Who makes our neighborhood run? Have you ever considered running for your Local School Council? Or how about showing up at your HOA meetings and taking an interest there? They aren’t usually debating Gun Control or Entitlement Programs. It’s smaller, more immediate issues. And as a Christian you can show that you are concerned as a neighbor and then when they find out that you’re loving your neighborhood not to earn your salvation, but because you’ve been shown grace and that you live out all five of those values, you will shock many people and they will find you intriguing…

What’s Next?

Next week there’s no Midweek Meeting because of Thanksgiving. On December 4th we’ll talk about Gender, Sexuality, & Family. And then on 12/11 we’ll be having a Christmas Party.

Prayer – Break up into groups to pray based on what Ward you live in: (1) 28th Ward (Alderman Ervin) (2) 25th Ward (Alderman Sigcho-Lopez) (3) 27th (Alderman Burnett) and 42nd (Alderman Reilly) Wards (4) 11th (Alderman Thompson) or another Ward

https://www.chicago.gov/city/en/depts/mayor/iframe/lookup_ward_and_alderman.html

Pray for your alderman and a need in your ward (1Tim. 2:1-4)…

Pray that God would guide the presidential primaries and give us good options and for an elevation in civil discourse…

Pray for Hong Kong…

Pray that our hearts and minds would be captured even more by the eternal glories of God’s Kingdom and pray for it to come soon…

Pray that we would reflect the Kingdom of God’s winsomely weird values around the Thanksgiving table next week…

Winsomely Weird Wednesdays

“Fitness”

November 13, 2019

Welcome & Dismiss Kids to Kids Club

Songs – #201 “Come, Ye Sinners, Poor and Wretched” & #259 “And Can It Be That I Should Gain?”

Testimonies – What’s a meet up you’ve had with another member or with a non-believer lately that has been encouraging?

Teaching

Recap & Intro

We’re talking about how we as Christians are supposed to be a peculiar people. We’ve been delivered from the domain of darkness and transferred into to the kingdom of God’s beloved Son (Col. 1:13). So let’s not keep living like we did. Ephesians 5:7-11 – “Do not become partners with [the world]; for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.” We’ve been trying to expose the world’s way of thinking about Authority, Purpose, Speech, Relationships (btw, did you see the recent news that Emma Watson is ‘self-partnered’?), Conflict, Drugs, Alcohol, Bioethics, Entertainment, Work, Money, and Possessions. And show a better way, a more beautiful way – God’s way, motivated by the gospel.

Today we are looking at the topic of Fitness – physical fitness, exercise, working out, health, body image…

Obesity

Is obesity a sin? It’s actually hard to find verses in the Bible about this. I first thought of that story in Judges 3 about Eglon, the wicked king of Moab. It says he was “a very fat man.” And left-handed Ehud hid a sword on his right thigh and got a private meeting with him and thrust the sword into his belly. “And the hilt also went in after the blade, and the fat closed over the blade, for he did not pull the sword out of his belly; and the dung came out.” It’s a disgustingly intriguing story… but it actually doesn’t make a clear moral pronouncement against obesity.

The closest I could think of was Deuteronomy 31:20 where God predicts: “When I have brought them into the land flowing with milk and honey, which I swore to give to their fathers, and they have eaten and are full and grown fat, they will turn to other gods and serve them, and despise me and break my covenant.” I think a link could be made between excessive consumption and spiritual lethargy.

But we have to also be careful about judging people who are overweight. It may not always be directly due to laziness and sin. Genetics may be involved. Poverty and food justice issues may be at play. I’ve heard of someone who was repeatedly sexually abused as a child and then ballooned to 400lbs as a defense mechanism to try to make himself unattractive in the hopes that that would make the abuse stop. So we never know all that is going on.

But I think we can agree that it is in general not a good thing to be overweight. It’s often connected with lack of self-control and food idolatry. It increases your risk of heart attacks, makes you feel yucky overall. And it’s just not winsome.

Several years ago there was a story in the news about a study showing that Baptists were by and large LARGE. I think it was in response to the Baptist insurance company no longer automatically covering Baptist pastors because they were overweight and high risk. And I remember hearing a Baptist leader here in Chicago say that he was contacted by a reporter for a comment and he said he would do it, but said no pictures please… because he was a bit portly himself. It’s not winsomely weird to be known as the pudgy people.

Obsession with Fitness

But I don’t think that’s our church’s issue. I don’t think we have an obesity problem in our body. Actually, we’ve got a lot of fairly fit people. And so I think we need to come at it from the other side and ask what might be ways that we have bought into the world’s perspective on fitness. Our center-city culture is one that seems to not have a problem with obesity but rather an obsession with fitness. How are we to be different?

So let’s think: what are some sinful ways the world approaches physical fitness?

It can be a form of self-salvation. At my gym there is this big plaque right in front of the treadmills that says:

What is a Workout?

· A workout is 25 percent perspiration and 75 percent determination. Stated another way, it is one part physical exertion and three parts self-discipline. Doing it is easy once you get started. [so far so good, I think we can agree that exercise can be a fruit of the Spirit of self-control or discipline]

· A workout makes you better today than you were yesterday. It strengthens the body, relaxes the mind, and toughens the spirit. When you work out regularly your problems diminish and your confidence grows. [okay, mostly good; working out has physical, mental, and emotional benefits; I heard a trusted pastor once say that a lot of times depression can be cured by breaking a sweat 3x a week; but the self-confidence thing starts to make me concerned]

· A workout is a personal triumph over laziness and procrastination. It is the badge of a winner – the mark of an organized, goal-oriented person who has charge of his or her destiny. [this is where it starts to sound a little like Joel Osteen and verge into godless self-help territory; we are simply not in charge of our destiny and when working out makes us have too high a view of our own works, this can get spiritually dangerous; it can get close to self-salvation]

· A workout is a wise use of time and an investment in excellence. It is a way of preparing for life’s challenges and proving to yourself that you have what it takes to do what is necessary. [again a mix of wisdom with this idea that we have deep within us the power to change ourselves; the next one makes this explicit:]

· A workout is a key that helps unlock the door of opportunity and success. Hidden within each of us is an extraordinary force. Physical and mental fitness are the triggers that can release it. [no, hidden within each of us is a sinful desire to be autonomous and self-determining; we are not good at the core and just need a trainer to help us release that; we are sinful and need a Savior; and here it is:]

· A workout is a form of rebirth. When you finish a good workout, you don’t simply feel better, you feel better about yourself.

There’s a great example of how fitness can take the place of faith in Christ. It becomes a surrogate for salvation and the Holy Spirit. My hell is low self-confidence and flabby abs. My heaven is people’s attention and a flat stomach. And my salvation is myself – effort, grit, determination.

What are some other potential pitfalls with an obsession with fitness??

It can come from a fear of death. What is driving so many people to stay healthy? They are slaves to the fear of death (Heb. 2:15). Aging, slowing down, losing muscle tone… is terrifying. And instead of trusting Christ, we try to take matters into our own hands and stave off death by obsessing with health.

It can miss the blessings of weakness. A fixation on fitness often is coupled with a despising of weakness. Those who are slow, uncoordinated, handicapped, limited… are looked down on. We want to avoid at all costs losing our independence. And so we idolize youth and strength. The picture of beauty is an athletic, active person. Those who have deformities or diseases are ignored. The worst imaginable thing in the world is to be weak and frail. But the Bible talks a lot about weakness as the way of the Christian life. 2 Corinthians 12:10 – “I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” An obsession with health can be an aversion to weakness. Are we a community that welcomes the weak or prizes the strong?

It can feed vanity. Humility, C.S. Lewis I think said, is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less. The world’s obsession with fitness puts the focus on self – weighing self, measuring self, looking at self in the mirror, counting calories, fishing for compliments, wanting attention; me, Me, ME! But Christ wants us to stop thinking about ourselves and love others.

It can be our identity. Being in shape can be how we feel worth and value. We compare ourselves to others in order to feel good about ourselves. But the dark side of this is that when we put on weight after giving birth, or develop a middle-age ponch, or get pimples or wrinkles, we are insecure and devastated. We work out more, trying new supplements and diets, obsessing about appearances. Why? Because we’ve wrapped up our identity in our physical fitness.

Obsession with Christ

Instead, I think the most winsomely weird thing for the world would be to see a people who are obsessed with Christ and secure in him, who therefore aren’t too worried about what they look like, but just exude a sense of being comfortable in their own skin, because they know they are clothed with Christ’s righteousness, that God the Father sees them as glowing and gorgeous on account of grace. And so they can relax.

This gospel identity produces in us a winsomeness and beauty that isn’t based on the world’s definition of beauty. We don’t let the world tell us what to do to be pretty and attractive. We focus on becoming Christlike. I don’t think he cared at all about his body-mass-index. I picture him more like a baseball player from the 50s – just a normal guy. More importantly he was kind and patient and content and selfless and humble and full of compassion for the broken and weak and hurting. That is true beauty and strength.

This topic has a lot in common with the question of dress and modesty. We obviously don’t want our fashion to be an unnecessary offense to the gospel, but we don’t let the world tell us what is beautiful and try to fit in that way. Peter tells women, “Do not let your adorning be external – the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear – but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious” (1Pe. 3:3-4). Peter might say something like, “Fashion is of some value for keeping warm and even displaying creativity, but godliness is really what’s beautiful.”

And that is what Paul says about fitness – “Physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come” (1Tim. 4:8; NIV). We should not be people obsessed with fitness, but with Christ, secure and resplendent in his robes of righteousness, and growing into them like clothes that are several sizes too big.

Value of Physical Training

So if Paul says that bodily training is of some value, in its proper place, what is that value?

· Anti-Gnosticism. Being physical – moving, bending, twisting, stretching, doing amazing things with our bodies… – reminds us of the importance of the body, of physical matter. God made matter. God the Son joined himself to a human body. He was raised bodily. He’s coming back in his body. He’s going to raise our bodies. The body matters. Gnosticism was a heresy that said only the spirit matters, but that’s not true. Using our bodies is good theology.

· Spiritual benefits. Similarly, since we are embodied souls, exercise and physical health (if we’re able) does help our spiritual life to be generally healthy. Working out releases stress, helps you sleep better, helps your mind focus, is a beneficial use of leisure (if your work doesn’t involve much physical activity).

· Spiritual metaphors. It’s full of spiritual metaphors. We are running a race (i.e. Heb. 12:1). We’re in a fight (i.e. 2Tim. 4:7). Paul loves sports illustrations. He said, “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified” (1Cor. 9:24-27). There are many ways that fitness can help you with spiritual growth instead of inhibit or distract you.

· Witness opportunities. It can be a great opportunity to witness. I think of Russell’s evangelistic rock climbing. And several years ago Vivian helped organize a Meet-Up in the UIC for runners.

· Service opportunities. Finally, we need to think about why we want physical health. Do we want it so that we can do what we want to do: travel the world and enjoy life? Or do we see health as a gift to use to serve others? I often think of the story of Jesus and Peter’s mother-in-law in Mark 1:29-31. Read… Her physical fitness was for serving other people. We should be stewarding our bodies for the sake of long-term service, and then when we can no longer, either through poor decisions or just the natural inevitability of aging (probably a combination of both), we are able to let others serve us without feeling useless and guilty. That’s winsomely weird.

What’s Next?

We’ll meet next week, then take the week of Thanksgiving off, then have one more and then the next Wednesday is the Christmas Party. What do you want to do next week? Gender, Sexuality, & Family or Politics…

Prayer – Get into groups based on how much you weigh… jk! What’s your favorite way to be active? (1) Rock Climbing (2) Walking (3) Playing a sport (i.e. basketball, soccer, Ultimate Frisbee) (4) Going to the gym (i.e. weightlifting, pilates, Zumba) Get into those groups to pray…

Pray for each other to have a deeper gut sense of God’s delight in them on account of Christ and freedom from the world’s definitions of beauty…

Pray for growth in discipline and endurance…

Ask God to save specific people you know who are running after things that won’t satisfy or last…

Winsomely Weird Wednesdays

“Work, Money, Possessions”

November 6, 2019

Welcome & Dismiss Kids to Kids Club

Songs

Testimonies – How have you been challenged to be ‘weird’ during our Wednesdays together?

Teaching

Recap & Intro

I have no voice tonight, so I’m going to lean on you to do most of the talking…

Can someone explain what we mean when we say that Christians are to be ‘winsomely weird’??

I had the thought last week that Daniel and his three friends presents us with a good model of being winsomely weird? Can someone elaborate on how that might be??

Work

We talked some last week about the fact that work is good. Christians should not be lazy and idle. Can you think of Bible passages that address this?? Ex. 20:9

What about workaholism?? Ps. 127:2

How should we be different from the world in the ways that we approach work?

· Witnessing

· Integrity

· No grumbling (Ph. 2:14)

· Excellence… to a point

· Not find our identity in our career, have a life outside work

· Say No, rest well

· Work as unto the Lord (Eph. 6:5-8; cf. Col. 3:22-24)

· Be a good boss (Eph. 6:9)

· What about Sundays?

I recently received an email from a pastor who said, “I’ve just met a group of house workers /nannies who don’t have the autonomy to be able to attend our corporate gathering, since they are required to be working on the weekends. There are no other church options for them. Any counsel for how to think about potentially bringing these ladies into membership, when they are unable to come to our gathering? They are Filipinas in Turkey. Their obligations are somewhere equivalent to indentured servitude.”

I also heard this recently: “According to a 2016 time study conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 34 percent of the workforce works on the weekend…. The U.S. workforce is approximately 160 million. That means over 54 million work on the weekend” (thomrainer.com). The person was saying that we need to adapt to try to accommodate this trend.

Money

What does the Bible teach about money? I.e. Eccl. 5:10; Mt. 6:24; 1Tim. 6:9-11; Heb. 13:5.

How should we look different than the world when it comes to money?

· Stewardship (Mt. 25:14ff) and saving (Prov. 6:6-8)

· Sharing (Acts 2:42-47) and generosity (2Cor. 8:1ff)

Possessions

I saw when I opened my web browser today that Jeff Bezos has a mansion with 25 bathrooms. Is that wrong? 24? 10? 5? 4? 3? 2? 1? How should we think about stuff?

How can we be weird yet winsome when it comes to our possessions?

Home Décor

Minimalism

Christmas

Cool factor, fashion

Contentment (1Tim. 6:7-8)

What’s Next?

We’ve got three more of these. What do you want to do next? Gender, Sexuality, & Family; Fitness; Politics…

Prayer – What’s your primary vocation right now? (1) Higher Education (2) Medical Field (3) Business World (4) Other Get into those groups to pray…

Ask God for wisdom to know how to do what you do with distinctly Christian motivations and goals…

Pray that you would “take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” (Lk. 12:15)…

Pray that we would  have our treasures be in heaven and not transient things (Mt. 6:19-20)…

Winsomely Weird Wednesdays

“Entertainment”

October 30, 2019

Welcome & Dismiss Kids to Kids Club

Songs – #140 “When Morning Gilds the Skies” & #47 “Fairest Lord Jesus”

Testimonies – What’s some way that you have seen God moving in our body lately?

Teaching

Recap & Intro

So we’re basically talking about holiness, how we as God’s people, saved by grace, are to think and act differently from the world around us. We’re aliens and strangers. Which means we will stand out, be weird, yet in a way that is winsome, still engaged with the world. Jesus wants us to understand the world, to be savvy with the world, without getting sucked into the world in the least. Totally in, totally different. There are people who are totally weird because they live in a bubble. Then there are Christians who say, “We need to get out of the bubble,” but then start absorbing the world’s ethos. We want to stay weird, but be winsome.

That means we live under God’s authority and for his glory, in a world that lives from Self and for Self. It means we’ll be winsomely weird in the way we talk and relate. It means we won’t get drunk with wine or high on pot, but be filled with the Spirit. And last week we saw that we will be a winsomely weird community in the way that we care for the weak and vulnerable and those that the world sees no value in; we care about all of life from the womb to the tomb. And we will die differently than the world does. We will die in peace, trusting God, okay with weakness and dependence. That’s a major way we will be weird to the world.

Today we’re talking about entertainment. This one is so important because it’s probably the primary instrument that the world uses to promote worldliness. We must be thoughtful here. Leland Ryken wrote a book a while back called Redeeming the Time: A Christian Approach to Work and Leisure. In it he lamented that often “we worship our work, work at our play, and play at our worship.” We’re all mixed up. So let’s try to think clearly about this topic.

Work

First, we need to establish that we were made to work. Work is good. God created the world and made humans in his image to cultivate it and care for it. That is the genesis of every valid profession. We are to be active creating, cultivating, organizing, operating… This is supposed to take up the bulk of our time.

There are all the admonitions in the Proverbs against laziness (i.e. Prov. 26:13-16). There are statements in Paul’s writings like: “Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need” (Eph. 4:28). “Aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you” (1Thess. 4:11). “We hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living” (2Thess. 3:11-12).

So a good chunk of our time must be taken up with work. Work is not an unfortunate thing, a necessary evil, but it’s good and God-honoring. I hope to talk more about this on another night. But let me just add: when we work, we should work hard and buckle down and focus so that work doesn’t expand and creep into all of our life because we’re also supposed to rest.

Rest

The Bible puts a limit to work to keep us human and humble; to keep us from thinking that we are just machines and that we are able to keep the universe running ourselves. God puts limits to work. The most obvious is the Sabbath – one day in seven to cease your productivity and enjoy (i.e. Ex. 20:8). But also yearly rhythms of celebrating (Lev. 23:33-36). And also the daily need for sleep. By and large, he made the day for work and the night for sleep (Mk. 4:27). Psalm 127:2 – “It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep.” God made us to need sleep, to remind us that we’re not God and as way to declare our trust in God to keep the world spinning (he does not slumber or sleep; Ps. 121:4). Most of us need 7-8 hours a day to function well.

So two main categories to our days: Work and Rest. We keep them separate and balanced; the world blends them and has them all out of whack (i.e. workaholics or playaholics). But if we work, let’s say 12 hours a day on average (I’m including in that your job, housework, making meals, giving kids baths, etc…) and sleep 8 hours a day, that leaves roughly 4 waking hours in a day in the category of Rest. How are we to use that time as believers in ways that are weird to the world? Time when we’re not ‘getting things done’; let’s call this sub-category of Rest – Leisure.

Bible Reading, Prayer, Meditation. Christians spend time regularly and daily focusing on the Lord. This is weird to the world. Remember how I mentioned a few weeks ago that the way we give of our finances limits the disposable income we have to spend on things like alcohol? So just won’t be able to drink like the world because we give away a significant percentage of our money. It’s similar here. We spend a significant portion of our leisure time reading the Bible, praying, meditating, which simply means we will not have as much time for the other stuff.

Similarly, we are committed to a community. So we will be at Sunday gatherings and Midweek Meetings. That’s takes time. And beyond that there is relationship building – meeting up with a brother or sister for accountability, encouragement, fellowship. Calling and checking in. Bringing a meal. Working on relationships with spouses, roommates, kids, parents, friends… We’re always thinking of each other, even in our leisure time, whereas the world is thinking of Leisure time as Me Time.

Then with what’s left, what are some other good uses of our Leisure??

Exercise/Physical Activity.

Hobbies. I encourage you to try to use your hobbies for fellowship and/or evangelism…

Read. When is the last time you’ve read a book? How about a book that stirred your soul and strengthened your faith? When are you going to do that? Paul writes to Timothy – “When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, also the books” (2Tim. 4:13). Listen to Spurgeon on that verse:

Even an apostle must read…. He is inspired, and yet he wants books! He has been preaching at least for thirty years, and yet he wants books! He had seen the Lord, and yet he wants books! He had had a wider experience than most men, and yet he wants books! He had been caught up into the third heaven, and had heard things which it was unlawful for a man to utter, yet he wants books! He had written the major part of the New Testament, and yet he wants books! [….This] is true of all our people. You need to read. Renounce as much as you will all light literature, but study as much as possible sound theological works, especially the Puritanic writers, and expositions of the Bible. We are quite persuaded that the very best way for you to be spending your leisure, is to be either reading or praying. You may get much instruction from books which afterwards you may use as a true weapon in your Lord and Master’s service. Paul cries, “Bring the books” – join in the cry.

Diversify your leisure.

And what about Me Time? Can I have any time to just totally unplug and relax and have a diversion, some mindless break from all the exhaustion? Well… It depends. Unplug, but not from Christ. Relax, enjoy a non-utilitarian pursuit, but not apart from Christ. A break for the mind, but can never turn the mind totally off. What about Self-Care, which is all the rage in the world today? Didn’t Jesus withdraw to desolate places by himself when exhausted? Yes! We need time away. But look at Mark 6:30… First off, their Me Time was We Time… But what happened to it? It got interrupted. So, yes, you can take time away, but don’t make of it an idol; don’t let it become an excuse to be selfish; and see it in the larger picture of replenishing you for a return to greater engagement and service.

And now here’s what is in my mind the area we need to think through the most: what about Screen Time? We live in a world largely dominated by the image and the screen: tv and phones. Discussions about Entertainment in the past were geared around the theater, the coliseum, the pool hall… stuff you had to go to. But now we have access to entertainment at our finger tips 24/7. It distracts us at work. It keeps us from sleep. And it seeks to dominates our leisure time.

If you have kids or when you have kids, do you want them to not know what an iPad is? No. But do you want them to watch iPad all the time? No. Why do we limit screen time for our kids? Because it may make your life easier for an hour, but it makes them more selfish, whiny, discontent, bored, less imaginative… In excess, screen time sucks life out of kids and rots their brains.

And it can do the same with us. A quick look at Twitter can turn into 30 minutes easily and it can make you more anxious. Scrolling through Instagram makes you jealous of other people’s lives. Surfing YouTube reduces your attention span. Binging on Netflix numbs you to the real world. It’s alarming when the goal of our days, the thing we’re looking forward to is: get home and get the kids in bed so I can watch my show. We need to be very careful with the amount of time we watch. The world is watching a lot of Screen Time; we should be weird.

Entertainment is by nature Self-focused. It’s designed to serve you. You don’t have to do anything to make it happen, just sit back and passively be pleased. Is that always wrong? No. But we must be careful that it doesn’t feed Selfishness.

A lot of those same questions we asked with substance you take into your body, are good questions to ask with what we take into our eyes and minds: is it legal, is it necessary, is it good, is it healthy, is it an addiction, intoxicating, an idol, wise?

Some more suggestions for our Screen Time:

Do it with others. What if we were watching some of the same shows and then discussing them? So it wasn’t just a private thing. What if we even turned our watching into social get-togethers? We do it for the Super Bowl, why not other shows? At the very least what if you watched with your spouse or your roommates, so there was accountability and it didn’t isolate but brought together?

Do it for others. Watch what your co-workers are talking about to understand them. Watch what gets nominated for Oscars to be able to engage the world.

Do it with God. Always, do everything with a conscious awareness of God’s presence. You can’t turn your mind off and veg and passively take in what Hollywood is feeding you. You have to think critically. Measure everything by God’s Word. If there is common grace there, praise God. If there is beauty there, worship God. If there is sin there, hate it and thank God for forgiveness and the promise of a new world without sin. Turn it all back to God. Watch it as a Christian, filtering everything through the lens of Scripture.

We’ve been watching Disney’s Liv and Maddie as a family lately. Thinking about this upcoming talk I started having everyone share a biblical principle (positive or negative) that they saw illustrated in an episode. Andrea and I have been watching The West Wing for the last couple years. It’s a well-written show that has lessons about leadership, work, relationships… but it’s also trying to shape the way you think about social issues. We have to be discerning…

And what is off-limits? Pornography. Game of Thrones? VidAngel. …

What’s Next?

What do you want to do next? Gender, Sexuality, & Family; Fitness; Work, Money, & Possessions; Politics…

Prayer – If you had to pick one of these, which of the following would you prefer to do tonight before bed: (1) Watch a re-run of Parks & Rec; (2) watch the World Series Game 7; (3) play Super Smash Brothers; (4) or listen to Kanye’s new album. Get together in those groups and pray…

Repent of ways that you have had more of an appetite for the things of this world than Christ…

Pray that we would look carefully how we walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil (Eph. 5:15-16)…

Pray that we would learn how to understand the longings and brokenness of this world and better connect them to Christ for people…

Winsomely Weird Wednesdays

“Bioethics”

October 23, 2019

Welcome & Dismiss Kids to Kids Club

Songs – #291 “Be Still, My Soul” & #336 “My Jesus, I Love Thee”

Testimonies – What is something from Amos that God has used in your heart and life?

Teaching

Recap

Are you willing to be weird for Jesus?

Can you do it in a way that is winsome? That doesn’t unnecessarily turn off people to Jesus? 1 Peter 2:12 – “Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable.”

We saw that the world is living from SELF (I am my own authority) and for SELF (what’s in it for me?). We, on the other hand, by God’s grace in Christ, have been freed from SELF to live under God’s authority and for God’s glory.

Last week we saw that when it comes to drugs and alcohol, the world mainly asks, “How does it make me feel?” But we ask a series of questions like: Is it legal? Is it necessary? Is it good? Is it healthy? Is it addictive? Is it intoxicating? Is it an idol? And is it wise? Were there any further thoughts on that??

One way I was thinking about all of this recently was that I want us to not look up to the world – “Oh… they’re sooo cool. I wish I could be like them.” But I also don’t want us to look down on the world – “I can’t believe they do that…” I want us to look on those in the world as fellow humans with love and empathy…

Intro

That applies to tonight’s topic too. We’re looking at how we are to be winsomely weird when it comes to bioethical issues, mostly questions revolving around beginning of life and end of life, but also what lengths we will go to in order to increase quality of life. I want to think of it first as patients and parents and regular people. And then think of it from the perspective of health-care providers.

And before that I want to start by reading this quote from the beginning of this book [Gilbert Meilaender, Bioethics: A Primer for Christians (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2013 [1996]), 1]:

How we understand… the [bioethical] situations we encounter… will depend on background beliefs that we bring to moral reflection – beliefs about the meaning of human life, the significance of suffering and dying, and the ultimate context in which to understand our being and doing. Our views on such matters are shaped by reasoned argument and reflection less often than we like to imagine. Our background beliefs are commonly held at a kind of prearticulate level. We take them in with the air we breathe, drink them in from the surrounding culture. It is, therefore, useful sometimes to call to mind simply and straightforwardly certain basic elements in a Christian vision of the world – to remind ourselves of how contrary to the assumptions of our culture that vision may be.

The World’s Assumptions vs. The Christian Vision

So what are the key assumptions that the world brings to bioethical debates? What is the air we breathe? What do we need to be aware of drinking in from the surrounding culture? I’m sure there is much more than this, but I thought of six big ones:

1.) Independence and self-fulfillment are chief values.

2.) Personhood and worth comes from capabilities and productivity.

3.) This life is all there is or everyone is guaranteed an afterlife.

4.) God isn’t there or doesn’t care.

5.) Suffering is to be avoided at all costs.

6.) Science can (eventually) solve everything.

Independence and self-fulfillment are chief values of the world. We are taught to be strong and see ourselves as autonomous. No one tells me what to do. I don’t need someone else. And I certainly can’t be obligated to do something that I don’t want to do. I don’t care what they say, this is my life. We’ve been through some of this before, but we need to see how pervasive this mindset is and how ingrained it is into us.

The Christian vision, on the other hand, holds up community and caring for others as chief values. From the beginning we see that “it is not good that the man should be alone” (Gen. 2:18). Humans are social creatures, interrelated and interdependent on each other, and all utterly dependent on God (cf. 1Cor. 11:11-12). Sin isolates us and turns us in on ourselves. But God’s work of redemption brings us together and makes us need each other and consider how our actions affect others. We don’t lose our individuality, but we are individuals bound in relationship.

And Christians are to be known for their love, compassion, and care for one another. Like our Savior, we sacrifice for others instead of using others for our own gain. We have experienced grace and so we give grace. Which gets into the next one…

The world sees personhood and worth as coming from capabilities and productivity. You are what you do. Value is achieved. The world fawns over the famous, the smart, the strong, the beautiful, the important and looks past the small, the slow, the weak, the ugly, and those who don’t or won’t contribute much. In the world there is no real place for mercy, just merit.

Christians, however, know that dignity is inherent to embodied human existence and value doesn’t come from what you do. In creation God bestows value on every human being, no matter rich or poor, young or old. And in redemption we see that “it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy” (Rom. 9:16; NASB). The gospel tells us that our identity does not come from our works but from Christ’s work for us. In Christianity valued is received, not achieved. And so Jesus touched the children and the lepers and Christianity defined pure religion as visiting “orphans and widows in their affliction” (James 1:27).

The early church was the island of misfit toys. And in Roman society there was a practice where unwanted or deformed babies could be ‘exposed’ – set out to die on a trash heap. Christians went and collected those discarded babies and cared for them, not because of what the babies would do for them, but because all of life is precious. That’s winsomely weird to the world.

Third, the world sees this life as all there is or says that everyone is guaranteed a good afterlife. Have you ever heard He’s not suffering any more or she’s in a better place? These unsubstantiated sayings are thrown around flippantly.

But as Christians we live with eternity always in mind. We know that every person we meet is immortal. They will be raised either to everlasting punishment or to everlasting life (i.e. Jn. 5:28-29). There is something worse than death and that is hell; and there is something better than a fulfilled life here on earth, and that is heaven. And so this short life is not made the measure of all decision-making.

Fourth, the world says that God isn’t there or he doesn’t really care. The world has a nihilistic worldview. This is it and what you make of it is what counts. It’s a cold hard place; you’ve got to make your own meaning of it. And what you are dealt is a fluke of nature.

But the Bible tells us that there is a good and sovereign God who is superintending everything. There is a Divine Author. We are not writing the story of our lives. We are not a product of chance in a meaningless void. Nothing is an accident.

And so that means that (#5) suffering can have a purpose. Suffering itself is not good and we don’t seek it out, but a good and sovereign God can work good from it. He brought the greatest good out of the greatest suffering at the Cross. And so with a Savior who sympathizes and the promise of a loving heavenly Father, we can endure suffering with trust in him.

The world on the other hand says that suffering is to be avoided at all costs. Since we’re not in the caring hands of an all-good, all-wise, all-powerful God, all we can do is whatever we can to eliminate our suffering. The world doesn’t see a potential redemptive purpose to suffering.

Finally, the world has faith that Science can (eventually) solve everything. It is hubris, a high view of humanity apart from God. But we know that there are mysteries beyond us and we are content to trust God and not try to be God. Science in its place is good; we’re not anti-Science. But we’re anti-Science-instead-of-God.

Abortion

So with all that in mind, let’s talk about some specific topics. Of course, we are not going to be able to come up with a definitive answer for every imaginable scenario, but hopefully get you thinking about how to be winsomely weird when it comes to these issues.

Abortion. The Bible clearly prohibits murder. And it also talks a lot about life in the womb (i.e. Ps. 139:13; Jer. 1:5; Lk. 1:44). We now know from science that this happens when a father’s sperm and mother’s egg unite. Look at a baby… Would it be okay to kill him today? How about yesterday? How about the day before? How about at birth? How about the day before that? The day before that?…. The day before that….?….

Not all, but a significant number of abortions occur because pregnancy clashes with the chief values of independence and self-fulfillment. And we rationalize it because we deem the fetus a non-person because it can’t think or do something that adds value. But instead we are to see these as the weakest members of our human community that call for our care and protection.

In Vitro Fertilization

What about IVF?…

Euthanasia

There was an opinion piece in the New York Times this last weekend by Lyndsay Werking-Yip. The title was, “I Had a Late-Term Abortion. I Am Not a Monster.” A non-Christian friend sent it to me and asked me what I thought. Here’s a segment:

My husband and I chose to end our child’s life. Many imagine this as an impossible decision to make, one that would take hours of deliberation. I will be honest with you. You may not want to hear this, but the decision was obvious to us. Our child would not be given a life of pain and suffering…. I do not regret the decision we made. Within 15 minutes of the diagnosis [of severe brain malformation], we knew what we had to do: We would become baby killers…. I want people to know: I ended my child’s life. At 23 weeks and six days into my pregnancy, I had a ‘late term’ abortion. When people ask, ‘How could you?’ I reply that allowing her to live would have been a fate worse than death. Her diagnosis was not fatal, not incompatible with the bare mechanics of a living body. But it was incompatible with a fulfilling life. And that makes all the difference to me

What do you think? Isn’t this a much more beautiful picture? https://erlc.com/resource-library/event-messages/testimony-choosing-life

Today on NPR I heard the story of Marieke Vervoort, who died by physician assisted suicide yesterday… https://www.bbc.com/sport/disability-sport/50145393

For Providers…

What issues are you facing? Are you willing to be so weird that you lose your medical license?

What’s Next?

What do you want to do next? Entertainment; Gender, Sexuality, & Family; Fitness; Work, Money, & Possessions…

Prayer – Get in groups the following groups: (1) doctors or doctors in training, (2) other medical professionals and those in training, (3) those in non-medical fields who have been to a hospital/doctor’s office in the last 10 months, (4) those in non-medical fields who have not been to a hospital/doctor’s office in the last 10 months…

Repent of ways that you have bought into the world’s lies about the meaning of life and pray for courage to stand with God’s truth…

Pray that IBC would be a loving place of interdependence where all of life is valued and members are cared for…

Pray for opportunities to speak of the hope of the gospel in bioethical conversations…

Winsomely Weird Wednesdays

“Drugs & Alcohol”

October 16, 2019

Welcome & Dismiss Kids to Kids Club

Songs – #364 “Like a River Glorious” & #366 “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms”

Testimonies – Who has a story of being weird and/or winsome with the world lately?

Teaching

Recap

“For we have spent enough of our past lifetime in doing the will of the Gentiles – when we walked in lewdness, lusts, drunkenness, revelries, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries. In regard to these, they think it strange that you do not run with them in the same flood of dissipation” (1Pe. 4:3-4; NKJV). The world will think we’re strange, weird, that we don’t do what they do.

But there’s a weird that’s just plain weird, and there’s a weird that’s intriguing, curious… winsome. That’s what we’re going for.

How are Christians winsomely weird when it comes to authority?? How about purpose?? What about speech; how do we talk differently than the world in a way that’s not nails on a chalkboard, but catches attention? What makes us stand out with regard to our relationships and conflict?

Introduction

Tonight we’re going to talk about drugs and alcohol. The world has a way of thinking about drinking. We as Christians should too… and it can’t just be the world’s; we can’t uncritically go right along with the world’s practices when it comes to alcohol. The world around us also has a way of thinking about pot. How are we supposed to think about that? That’s where we’re going to.

First, I just want to set forth a series of questions we need to ask with regard to anything kind of substance that we take into our bodies. The world pretty much just asks one question – Does this make me feel good? Or maybe, Does this make me look cool? We have to go deeper. Here are 8 questions I thought of:

(1) Is it legal? Romans 13:1 tells us that our general attitude is to “be subject to the governing authorities.” If a government says a particular food or drug is not safe, we better have a good reason to disobey them. Is it legal?

(2) Is it necessary? Is this something I need to live, like food and water? The Bible assumes that there are basic necessities that we need. 1 Timothy 6:8 – “If we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.” Is it necessary?

(3) Is it good? Is this something I can ask God for and thank him for? Is this one of the good and perfect gifts from above, coming down from the Father of lights (James 1:17). Is it good?

(4) Is it healthy? “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” (1Cor. 6:19-20). Our bodies are not inconsequential. Matter matters. And so we should be good stewards of our physical health. Is it healthy?

(5) Is it an addiction? We must ask ourselves when it comes to anything we put into our bodies – can I say No? Or has this thing become my master? 1 Corinthians 6:12 – the Corinthians were saying, “All things are lawful for me,” but Paul said, “but I will not be dominated/enslaved by anything.” Is it an addiction? We’re not supposed to be addicted to anything.

(6) Is it intoxicating? Does it impair your ability to think and change your personality and make you lose control of yourself? In other words, does it make you not you, transcribe you into a different state that you return back from later? Does it do something unnatural to me? Does it have “a psychoactive affect… [on] brain function, resulting in alterations in perception, mood, consciousness, cognition, and behavior?”[i] This concept comes from the Bible’s prolific treatment on alcohol, which we’ll look at in a second. Is it intoxicating?

(7) Is it an idol? Is your use of this created thing an escape from God? Are you turning to this thing instead of God for the things that you are supposed to look to God for?

(8) And then lastly there is the question – Is it wise? It may be legal, in the category of necessary, good, healthy, non-addictive, not intoxicating, and not an idol, but still not wise to partake of for different people in different situations.

Food

Okay, so let’s start by running food through these questions. Is food legal? Besides raw milk in certain states, I can’t really think of much that we would want to eat that was prohibited by law.

Is it necessary? Yes. Without food and water we will die. God made us to need it and so it’s not wrong to eat. In fact, it is right and good.

That’s the third question – is it good? In the New Covenant, there are no foods that are unclean (cf. Mk. 7:19). In 1 Timothy 4:4, talking about food, Paul says, “everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving.” Jesus teaches us to pray – “Give us this day our daily bread” (Mt. 6:11). You can eat and drink to the glory of God (1Cor. 10:31). “The Son of Man came eating and drinking” (Mt. 11:19). Food is good!

Is it healthy? This is where it starts to get tricky. Our understanding of health is regularly changing. But we generally know that an exclusive diet of sugar is bad for you. Proverbs 25:27 – “It is not good to eat much honey.” And to eat excessively (gluttony) is not good for you. But a well-balanced diet in moderation is healthy.

Which leads into the next question we have to ask when it comes to foods – Is it an addiction? Are we able to exercise self-control when it comes to eating? Can we go without sweats or meat for a while without being cranky and jittery? This is where fasting is helpful. Food is a necessity, so we need it in a sense, but do we neeeed it? “Is it an addiction?” is a helpful question to ask when you’re asking, “Should I eat this?”

Next, is food intoxicating? I suppose certain mushrooms might be psychedelic. But for the most part, food does not transform our character or radically alter our performance. I may be a little sleepy after eating a lot of turkey, but it’s not illegal to drive a car under the influence of turkey, and rightly so. I may run faster if I had a good breakfast, but the International Olympic Committee has not banned Nutrigrain bars? Food can make me feel better, but I’m still me after a meal.

Is food an idol? Not inherently. This gets to motivation. Philippians 3:19 talks about people for whom “their god is their belly.” Am I looking to ice cream to comfort me instead of the Lord? Or am I finding my righteousness in eating paleo? There are many ways our food consumption could be idolatrous.

And then there are endless other questions of wisdom. Do I need to become a foodie to win foodies (cf. 1Cor. 9:19-23)? Is shopping at Whole Foods the best use of my money? Is it unethical to eat chickens from farm factories? ??

Poison

Just for fun, let’s run arsenic through this. Is arsenic legal? Probably not; idk. It’s not necessary for survival, in fact the opposite: it kills. It’s not good. It’s not healthy. But here’s what it has going for it – it’s not addictive (as far as I know). I don’t know how to answer the intoxicating question. If it was taken in order to control one’s own death, I suppose you could say it was idolatrous. It’s safe to say that poison is not wise.

Alcohol

Okay, here we go. Alcohol: is it legal? Yes, for those 21 and older.

Is alcohol necessary? No. You can live a full life without ever tasting a drop of alcohol. One thinks of the Nazirite vows in the OT (cf. Nu. 6) and even Samson who was a Nazirite from birth (Jdgs. 13:2ff).

But are alcoholic drinks good? Yes, they are. Psalm 104 – “You cause the grass to grow for the livestock and plants for man to cultivate, that he may bring forth food from the earth and wine to gladden the heart of man, oil to make his face shine and bread to strengthen man’s heart” (Ps. 104:14-15). Alcohol was used in OT worship celebrations (Dt. 14:26). Jesus provided wine for a wedding (Jn. 2:1ff) and used it in the institution of the Lord’s Supper.

Is alcohol consumption healthy? Well, Paul tells Timothy, “No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments” (1Tim. 5:23). I’m not sure what the rationale was behind that. Alcohol has a germ killing quality and in some places it is healthier to drink than water. Some studies are showing certain medical benefits of moderate alcohol intake, such as reduced risk of heart disease. However, excessive alcohol use has a massive list of adverse health effects, including heart disease, cancer, liver damage…

That brings us to the question – is it an addiction? Alcohol has a powerful addictive potential, especially for certain people. Alcoholism is a very real problem that has destroyed many, many lives. It’s a cruel, cruel slave-master. The Bible is very clear that we are not to be drunkards (i.e. 1Cor. 6:10). If you have a drinking problem, you need to admit it and seek help. And if you are a recovering alcoholic you should stay far away from alcohol. And if you don’t have an issue now, you should be very careful that you don’t become addicted to alcohol.

Sixthly, is alcohol intoxicating? Yes, it has that chemical property. Unless you’re missing the enzyme to break down alcohol, you can have a drink (12 oz beer, 5 oz wine, 1 shot of liquor) and still be in control of all of your faculties. But multiple drinks move you beyond enjoying the pairing of a nice red with a steak and get you into the realm of intoxication. You act different. Your hand-eye coordination and reflex times are significantly affected. This is clearly off-limits according to the Bible. There are stories of bad things happening when people are drunk (i.e. Gen. 19:30-38). And there are verses like Ephesians 5:18 – “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit.” Being influenced and controlled by alcohol is wrong. We should be under the influence and guidance of the Holy Spirit. And in Galatians 5 the fruit of the Spirit is self-control, but one of the works of the flesh is drunkenness (Gal. 5:21). So never drinking alcohol to the point of intoxication is a clear way that Christians will be weird to much of the world.

Is it an idol? It can definitely be. Most people drink in order to forget their problems; that is looking to alcohol for something you should look to God for. We drink in order to lighten up and have pleasure instead of finding pleasure in God. It’s also a way to dull the conscience and do and say the sinful things that are in your heart without a filter: anger, sex…

Is it wise? It depends on your genetics. Your finances – I think if you look at Christians’ budgets the amount of money we give away is about equivalent to the world’s entertainment budget, a big part of which will be alcohol. Drinking water saves big time on eating out and groceries so you can spend that money elsewhere. Something to consider. It depends on your upbringing and who is watching. Romans 14:21 says, “It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble.” Can you get drunk? No. Are you free to drink? Yes, but use your freedom wisely. If you don’t drink, don’t feel superior or self-righteous.

One thing I worry about is people who grew up in Christian contexts and for various reason are not that experienced with alcohol, going to another extreme in their 20s and making it an obsession. And why? I think it is largely because they are listening to the world tell them what is cool and desperately wanting to be cool. Magazines and movies portray drinking as cool, sophisticated, smart, fun… and too often Christians let the world tell them what is cool.

I went to a Christian college that required students to pledge not to drink alcohol. One summer I worked for a company selling books with several other students from our school. Some of us sold enough books to win a trip to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, over Spring Break. We showed up and there the legal drinking age was 18. It was an ethical quandary. Several students were excited by the opportunity. One night we went on a booze cruise and everyone was getting sloshed. To be in the world meant going to the party. To be not of the world meant not getting drunk. And in this case not even drinking, because we had given our word that we wouldn’t. That made people curious and opened up conversations about Jesus. But one student from our school was wasted and ended the night making out on top of a girl on the beach. People noticed that too. Brothers and sisters: let’s be wise and winsomely weird when it comes to alcohol consumption.

Tobacco

Let’s quickly walk through the 8 questions with tobacco… What do you think? Is it legal, necessary, good, healthy, addictive, intoxicating, idolatrous? What does wisdom say?

Caffeine

What do you think?

Marijuana

Legal: starting January 1 if over 21.

Necessary: no

Good: maybe CBD??

Healthy: maybe CBD??

Addictive: yes

Intoxicating: This is the real issue. There is almost no way to ingest or inhale THC without getting high. And there’s really no reason to do it apart from the experience of being stoned. It takes somewhere around four beers to get drunk. And some people like the taste of a beer. But nobody is eating cannabis brownies for the taste. And it takes only four puffs of a joint to get high (less than 7 mg of THC). So… what does the Bible’s prohibition against getting drunk mean for Mary Jane??

Idol: yes

Wise: no…  medical??

What’s Next?

What do you want to do next? Entertainment, Gender, Sexuality, & Family, Bioethics, Fitness; Work, Money, & Possessions; Entertainment…

Prayer – Get in groups with those who live in your neighborhood: Tri-Taylor/Medical District, Little Italy/UIC, ABLA/University Village, East Pilsen, West Pilsen, outside the UIC Area…

Pray for forgiveness for ways we’ve sinned with food/alcohol/drugs and ask God’s help to change something you’ve been convicted by…

Pray for our church to be filled with the Spirit…

Pray for opportunities to witness to the superior pleasure of Christ to those who get drunk at the company Christmas party or high as marijuana is becoming legal…

Winsomely Weird Wednesdays

“Relationships & Conflict”

October 9, 2019

Welcome & Dismiss Kids to Kids Club

Songs – #11 “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” & #397 “What a Friend We Have in Jesus”

Testimonies – What is something that you have read in God’s Word lately that has hit you?

Teaching

Recap

Can someone explain what Winsomely Weird means??

We’ve overviewed the concept, then talked about authority and purpose.

Our authority is not the world. Our authority is not ourselves: either our reason or our experience (how I think or how I feel). Rather, our authority is God, as he has revealed himself in Scripture.

And our purpose is God. Our purpose is not self-actualization, self-fulfillment, self-promotion. We live for God’s glory and others’ good… and find our true selves in the process.

Then last week we ran the concept of speech through that grid: weird yet winsome, based on the authority of the Bible and for a noble purpose. After I left I thought of another negative use of our speech that I forgot to mention – quarrelling. Quarreling is a major category in the Bible. Here’s just one example: Paul tells Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:14 to “charge [people] before God not to quarrel about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers.” Using our tongues to fight is a bad use of our speech.

The world loves to fight, to argue, to debate and bicker. Have you noticed? Just listen to a ‘talk show’. But Christians’ speech is to stand out in this matter. I think this may be one of the biggest areas currently where Christians are not distinct. Christian Twitter is full of quarreling. Paul tells Titus to “remind [people]… to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people. For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us” (Tit. 3:1-5).

So there you have another subcategory of speech in which we should be weird to the world – not being quarrelsome. And that leads us perfectly into today’s topic: relationships and conflict.

Conflict

Let’s actually take the topic of conflict first. James asks in James 4:1 – “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you?” And then he gives the answer, “Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel” (James 4:1-2). So interpersonal conflict comes from passions, desires within us that are out of whack. Remember what the purpose of the unregenerate world is? SELF! I want to please myself. Other people get in the way of that, and so there is tension, conflict, hurt feelings or worse – violence. That’s the way of the world.

Now, the believer still has these passions within him or her. But he or she also has the Holy Spirit. And the Holy Spirit is working to put those passions in their proper place. Instead of interpersonal conflict, we are called to an internal conflict, to fight, to wage war against the passions and desires of the flesh. This is what Galatians 5:16ff is about. There Paul lists 15 works of the flesh. Now here are 8 of them (more than half!): enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy. Those are all words describing conflict. Did it ever strike you how much the Bible identifies sin with people not getting along?

On the contrary, notice how much of fruit of the Spirit applies to relationships: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. The sweet fruit of the Spirit is a people who are not at odds with everyone.

Now, the reality is that because we still struggle with the flesh, we are not perfect. We still have conflicts with others. We’re sinners; they’re sinners. We can be irritable and easily annoyed, prideful and argumentative, selfish and unthoughtful… and so we can sadly have fights. But what do we do? We reconcile.

The Holy Spirit will not allow us to be okay with broken relationships but will push us towards reconciliation. Jesus taught – “If you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift” (Mt. 5:23-24). Christianity is all about reconciliation. 2 Corinthians 5:18 – “God… through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.” We offended God and sinned against him, but he took the initiative to seek us out and bore the cost of our sin himself to restore us to right relationship with him. And so we who have experienced that, of all people, will be peacemakers, laying aside our wounds and grudges and bending over backwards to reconcile.

Is there anyone you need to be reconciled to right now? Ask the Spirit to bring to mind any situations, any people from your past or your present that you have a broken relationship with, that God wants you to seek reconciliation with…

Now sometimes it’s not possible. It takes some willingness on behalf of the other party. That’s why Romans 12:18 says, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” Do all you can.

And reconciliation doesn’t always mean restored trust. It may not be possible to be restored to regular contact. And it doesn’t mean there are no consequences. I think of cases of abuse and unrepentant, gross sin. But it does mean no malice; we hate nobody. We don’t retaliate (“To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also;” Lk. 6:29). And we don’t take revenge, either by our own hands or even in our hearts. In the next verses in Romans 12 Paul says, “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’ To the contrary, ‘if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink” (Rom. 12:19-20). We leave it with God and love all people, even our enemies.

And that is totally compliant with reporting to the civil authorities. That’s where Paul goes next in Romans 13. The government can enact God’s vengeance on someone. But we can’t. We saw this beautifully illustrated last week in the Botham Jean case, when the brother of the murder victim hugged the convicted killer in court and told her about Jesus. The state serves justice; but we extend grace. Now that’s winsomely weird. It doesn’t come from us, but from the power of the Holy Spirit.

Because of our experience of the gospel of grace, believers in Jesus are to be weird in the world because of the way we deal with conflict. We fight our sin instead of fighting each other. And when we do have grievances, we pursue reconciliation. We repent regularly and forgive freely. We have humility to see the log in our own eyes and not focus on the specks in others’ (see Mt. 7:3-4). We know that we need forgiveness all the time from God and his mercy never runs out, so we extend that to others. After spending some time with Jesus and catching on to this radical concept of conflict resolution, “Peter came up and said to him, ‘Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?’ [And] Jesus said to him, ‘I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times’” (Mt. 18:21-22). It’s crazy, but such grace is really what the world is yearning for, and when they see it in us it is winsome.

Relationships

So now let’s talk about relationships more generally. How does the world, for the most part, think of relationships? I say ‘for the most part’ because I want to acknowledge that there is a lot of common grace in the world and as a result there are many beautiful examples of relationships even among pagans. Non-Christians can experience healthy, loving relationships. But there is still a predominant way of thinking about relationships that prevails and permeates our culture. How would you describe it?

I think for most people, most of the time relationships are characterized as selfish, idolatrous, and convenient.

Selfish. Remember: the world’s purpose is to live for Self. Relationships then become accessories for self-fulfillment. So we pick our friends based on how they make us feel. Are they fun? Do they make me cool or connected? Or are they like me? If I have to be with other people, I want it to be as much like looking in a mirror as possible – same life stage, same age, same gender, same values, same interests, same culture. Friends are supposed to make life fun. And when it isn’t, I want friends who will be there for me. It might sound good, but it’s really still a self-centered motive. I want relationships that are some benefit to me. These leads to the next characterization of worldly relationships…

Idolatrous. Because the world does not know God, at least as the soul’s delight, constant companion, most intimate and durable and important relationship, then it looks to other things to try to fill that role. The world wants out of other people what they cannot ultimately give. We want friends and family to give us an identity, to give us joy, to make us complete. We’re aching for that experience of connection but because we refuse to find it in God we attempt to get it from other people, but that is a lot of pressure to put on relationships. And that’s why many people are very disappointed in their relationships – because they’ve looked for too much from them.

Convenient. And so, ironically, we treat people as expendable. The world views relationships as items of convenience. And if they become inconvenient, fail to fulfill us, don’t serve our selfish ends any more, we bail. Many people in our mobile society don’t have long-lasting relationships. Maybe a lot of Facebook friends, but not people that I’m actually responsible to and for.

Selfless (instead of selfish). On the flipside, followers of Christ are to view relationships as opportunities to be selfless. Philippians 2:3-5 – “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus.” What was Jesus like? “The Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve” (Mk. 10:45). He didn’t seek out the cool people who could do something for him. He went after all kinds of people and loved them. He said, “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you” (Lk. 14:12-14). That’s pretty weird, but the world will notice.

God-centered (instead of idolatrous). The only way we can do this is if we have been captivated by God and find in him our deepest fulfillment. Then everything else becomes subservient to God and not a surrogate god. I’m not trying to get something out of my relationships that I haven’t gotten from God. And then my relationships can all be in some way or another, pointing me back to God. I don’t become a Father to have little kids who make me feel good (HA!); I become a Father to get to know more of God the Father’s heart…

Committed (instead of convenient). A Christian knows the faithfulness of the Lord, that he has called you his friend (Jn. 15:15). And so he seeks to be a friend like that. Proverbs 17:17 – “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” We aren’t just in it for when it’s convenient for us, but there through it all.

This is what church is supposed to be. It’s not a place to be with people who are like you and make your life easier. It’s a place for Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free, male, female… to serve each other and learn to lay their lives down for each other. Ask not what your church can do for you, ask what you can do for your church.

And church is about God. It’s not there to meet your deep longing for companionship and fulfillment. It’s there to point you to the only One who can, the only One who can be with you 24/7, the only One who can truly get you and satisfy you. All of our relationships in the church are to be geared towards helping each other locate God in our lives.

When that is the case, lo and behold, you will find deep relationships. But they can only come as a gift from God that you are able to let go of. And they only happen after you make a commitment. This is what church membership is. You may not make me feel all excited, you may be hard to love, but I’m going to commit myself to you, to pray for you, to meet with you and worship God together, to be there for you, even though I may have never have picked you as a friend. And in doing so we participate in something profound and otherworldly.

“If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen” (1Jn. 4:20).

“I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:1-3).

“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body” (Col. 3:12-15).

And a church – rag tags serving each other, centered on God, and sticking it out even when it’s hard – is extremely winsome. That’s what Jesus was getting at when he prayed – “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me” (Jn. 17:20-21).

Really fast, maybe you thought this was going to be about dating. Everything I’ve said above applies to romantic relationships. The world by and large views the purpose of dating selfishly – I want someone that makes me feel the tingles. But we want someone to love. I remember when I first met Andrea I thought she was a certain person that I found attractive. On the second or third date I started to notice that the first time we met she was just having a really great day. In fact, her struggles are things that naturally turn me off. And I had a choice to make right then and there. Break it off and keep looking for this imaginary dream girl. Or dig in and love a real girl. It’s not easy, but it’s awesome!

The world thinks that a soul-mate can complete you. But we approach marriage as a means to the end of picturing the ultimate relationship, that of Christ and his Bride, the Church.

And the world views even marriage as something that can be discarded. Divorce is commonplace. Whereas we believe that marriage is a commitment for better or worse, in sickness and health, no matter what, till death parts us.

What’s Next?

What do you want to do next? Fitness; Bioethics; Gender, Sexuality, & Family; Drugs & Alcohol; Entertainment; Work, Money & Possessions…

Prayer – Count off 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. Get in groups with others who have the same number as you.

Pray for God to help you reconcile with someone you have a broken relationship with…

Pray for supernatural strength to love others who are different from you…

Pray for our church to demonstrate a ‘compelling community’ to the world…

Winsomely Weird Wednesdays

“Speech”

October 2, 2019

Welcome & Dismiss Kids to Kids Club

“Let the words of my mouth

and the meditation of my heart

be acceptable in your sight,

O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.”

– Psalm 19:4

Songs – #104 “Come, Thou Fount” & #49 “O for a Thousand Tongues”

Testimonies – How can you encourage the church with something you’ve seen God do lately? [ABC]

Teaching

Recap

This is our third Midweek Meeting. If you missed the first two, allow me to briefly recap, because everything else we do this fall will be run through a grid that we established the first two weeks.

We’re calling this series ‘Winsomely Weird’. Winsomein the world, engaged, rubbing shoulders with the lost with love, not sequestered in a holy huddle. Weird – not of the world, distinct, different, holy, peculiar, not just going right along with the flow of the fallen world. Winsomely weird.

Last week we saw how we as the church are to be winsomely weird when it comes to our authority and our purpose. Our authority is not our Tradition or our Thoughts or Feelings. We don’t take our cues from what our culture says. Our authority is God. And the only way for that to really work is to have a written revelation from God. It can’t be subjective personal impressions – “I sense God telling me this;” “Well, I feel God telling me this.” Submitting to Scripture makes us weird, but it doesn’t have to make us repulsive. It’s actually a strangely beautiful way to live, under God’s ancient authority and not setting oneself up as the authority.

And then with regard to purpose – the world lives for the goal of pleasing Self. Express yourself, defend yourself, love yourself… But we live for the honor of the One who lived and died for us. It’s a noble cause that is bigger than the small pursuit of Self, but it will definitely make us stand out.

A Foreign Language

Today’s topic, at your request, is speech, the way we talk. You’ve heard how the term ‘barbarian’ came to be, right? The Greeks and Romans listened to the foreign cultures talking and it just sounded like gibberish to them: bar bar bar bar to them. So they called them barbarians. They talked weird. Likewise, Christians, who are citizens of heaven, speak with a strange tongue to the ears of this world. People will think we talk weird. They will notice our accent. “You’re not from round here, are you?” “No, no I’m not.” We’re aliens and strangers. And that will make many mad – “Go back to where you came from.”

But, have you ever heard a foreign language that you didn’t really understand, but it sounded kind of cool? Maybe even made you want to learn it? That’s what the language of the kingdom of God is like. Weird, but winsome, intriguing.

The Word of God on the Words of His People

If the Bible is our authority, we must look to God’s Word to tell us how our words should be winsomely weird. And the Bible actually has a lot to say about this topic. There’s no way I can cover it all here. If you want, do a search of all the times that ‘lips’, ‘mouth’, or ‘words’ occurs in Proverbs. It’s a major theme!

First off, we learn from the Bible that words are powerful and they matter. Genesis 1 – “And God said, ‘Let there be…’ and there was…” Psalm 33:9 – “He spoke, and it came to be.” God’s words have creative power, and so do ours to a lesser extent, of course, but potent nonetheless. “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” is not true! Words have the ability to impact people, negatively and positively. And we will be held accountable for our words – “I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak” (Mt. 12:36).

Let’s look at some of the negative uses of words that the Bible mentions, ways that the world talks that the church shouldn’t imitate?

LYING Let’s start with an obvious one. The 9th commandment – “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” The world uses words to try to bend the truth to suit themselves. We deceive, we spin, we flatter, we are selective in what we say… all designed to protect ourselves and manipulate others to do what we want. Do you know people that you just can’t quite totally trust? What does Jesus mean in Matthew 5:37 when he says to his followers: “Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.” We are supposed to be weird in the world by being people who just tell the truth; we aren’t hiding or positioning or smooth talking… But this makes us winsome because it comes from someone who is secure in who he or she is in Christ; people who twist the truth are really insecure.

GOSSIPPING How much conversation among people at your work is about other people? If you take gossip away from most conversations, there’s not much left. Dishing gossip: Did you hear about…? Or digging for gossip: What’s so-and-so been doing lately? You want to know something privileged and if you do it makes you feel important to let other people know you know it. Proverbs 18:8 – “The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to the inmost parts” (NIV). The world feasts on juicy gossip. We are will be thought weird if we say something like, “I don’t think we should be talking about this.” Proverbs 11:13 – “A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy person keeps a secret” (NIV). Abstaining from gossip will ultimately make us winsome because people will realize that they can trust us.

GRUMBLING So if you take gossip away from water cooler conversations AND you also take away grumbling you really don’t have much left. Have you noticed how easy it is to slip in to griping about something – the weather, your boss, how much sleep you got, this, that…? The world conditions us to complain. To complain is cool. If you ask someone how they’re doing, most likely you’re going to get back some kind of complaint. Philippians 2:14-15 – “Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world.” Not grumbling will really make you stand out, but really who wants to be around someone who is always negative? Not joining in with cynical grumbling will be winsome, if a bit weird.

BOASTING So you’re sitting around the break room at the office and nobody is allowed to lie, gossip or grumble. Now take away boasting and bragging. Jude 16 talks about “grumblers, malcontents, following their own sinful desires; [and] loud-mouthed boasters…” The world loves to turn everything back to ourselves – to name drop, make sure people know what we know or what we’ve done, talk about our own experiences, our kids. We should stand out by being humble. “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Eph. 2:8-9). But this is really winsome because, c’mon who really wants to be around people who are stuck on themselves?

COARSE JOKING So you’re in the locker room. No falsehoods allowed. No gossip. No grumbling. No boasting. And then you take away coarse joking! What could possibly be left? Ephesians 5:4 is very clear about this – “Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place.” That’s not how God’s people should talk. The world talks about inappropriate things all the time – off color humor, lewdness, sex… “In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth” (Col. 3:7-8). The world will think we are prudes – C’mon! Lighten up! But they will notice that we don’t laugh at the jokes and don’t join in.

CUSSING And then there’s cussing. Can Christians say cuss words? Yes. But. Have you ever heard someone who’s vocabulary seems very limited? It happens among educated and non-educated alike, but every other word is a swear word. I think Christians should stand out among their peers by not using words that the world itself deems profanity. There is not a Bible verse that says, “Thou shalt not use the s-word or drop the f-bomb.” They are culturally defined words. But here I think two principles are helpful. The first is that of self-control. Control your tongue. Don’t blurt out expletives in anger or frustration when you lose your filter. It’s good to strengthen your filter and not let your lips be loose. The second is the principle of the weaker brother. Are all words the same? Yes, but to many, many people there are certain words that are off limits and would wound their consciences and cause them to stumble (Rom. 14). So be willing to give up your freedoms to not give offense. And I think it does more to our witness to stand out by not using swear words than it helps to join in using them. But wisdom is needed: are you trying to be cool in the world’s eyes by cussing? Or do you have a good reason to use a certain word.

Lastly, on the negative side of words, I would point out that there’s a danger in just talking too much. Proverbs 10:19 – “When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.” Just venting, yacking, blabbering, talking too much, running at the mouth can be a problem. I think this has a big application to our online life – blogs, Twitter, Facebook… Some people are just saying too much and need to hold their tongue. Choose your words wisely.

James 3:3-12 –

If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water.

This brings us to the positive side of our words, our tongue, our mouths, our speech. If you can’t lie, gossip, grumble, boast, tell crude jokes, or cuss, what can you do? Just sit and say nothing? What is the tongue for? We saw last week that the world lives from Self and to Self. The purpose of the world’s words is to make Self look better, build up Self by tearing down others, draw attention to Self… But for Christians, our purpose is the glory of God and good of others. So we use our words to worship, to edify, and to evangelize.

WORSHIP I could pick one of hundreds of verses about this. Here’s one – “Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you” (Ps. 63:3). We are to sing his praises, speak of his wonders, ascribe glory due to him… The commandment to not use the Lord’s name in vain is a commandment to positively use our mouths to make much of him.

EDIFY Edify means to build up, specifically other believers. We are to use our lips to love others. Ephesians 4:29 is so helpful here – “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” We should use our words to encourage, teach, correct, affirm, rebuke, instruct, comfort each other. Isaiah 50:4 – “The Lord God has given me the tongue of those who are taught, that I may know how to sustain with a word him who is weary.”

EVANGELIZE Paul says, “[Pray] for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak” (Eph. 6:19-20). Our mouths were made to share the gospel with others. The gospel is a word, that must be vocalized.

By the authority of God’s Word, Christians will be weird in their use of words. We will not join in with the worlds lying, gossiping, grumbling, boasting, joking, cursing, and just frivolous jabbering jabbering. Instead, we will use our mouths to worship, edify, and evangelize. We will “let [our] speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt” (Col. 4:6). Is there a category I have missed??

Finally, I want to point out that we can’t just bite our tongues or force ourselves to say the right things. That is fake and won’t work. I want to remind us of what our Lord said – “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” The words of our mouths reveal what is in our hearts. So we need (a) new hearts, but God’s grace, and (b) to keep hiding God’s word in our hearts (see Ps. 119:11), so that what overflows out of it is good, especially the gospel word of grace.

What’s Next?

What do you want to do next? Fitness; Bioethics; Gender, Sexuality, & Family; Drugs & Alcohol; Entertainment; Relationships & Conflict; Work, Money & Possessions…

Prayer – Get together into groups: people born in the West, people born in the Midwest, people born in the South, people born in the East, people born outside the United States…

Pray for forgiveness for the ways that we have joined in the way the world talks…

Pray for opportunities to edify others in the body…

Pray for boldness to open our mouths and declare gospel…

Winsomely Weird Wednesdays

“Authority and Purpose”

September 25, 2019

Welcome & Dismiss Kids to Kids Club

Songs – #241 “To God Be the Glory” & #132 “Blessed Be the Name”

Testimonies – How can you encourage the church with something you’ve seen God do lately? [ABC]

Teaching

Recap

Last week we introduced what will be our theme this fall – ‘Winsomely Weird’. We started by looking at Jesus’ prayer for his disciples in John 17, that they would not be of the world, in other words that they would stay weird/different/distinct. But he also prayed that at the same time they would still be in the world – that’s where the winsome idea comes from. I found out last week that there is no word in Chinese for winsome. My Oxford English Dictionary defines winsome as “attractive, engaging.” I want IBC people to think and act differently from the sinful world and not just be assimilated and take our cues from the world… BUT also to not be intimidated, secluded, self-righteous, calloused, or angry towards the world. It’s tough to do both, but that’s my prayer and hope for our time.

We saw last week that one of the ways we will be weird is by maintaining certain types of binary thinking in a world that wants to confuse us and blur lines and makes things more fuzzy. Have you noticed how the world tries to do that to you? But there is a radical and essential difference between a believer and a non-believer.

And as believers we are to be growing in conformity to Jesus, which means being winsomely weird; in the world, but not of it; going against the flow, yet gracious; holy AND happy. I’m reminded of C.S. Lewis’ quote about holiness. Sometimes we think that holiness means something like out of touch, cranky, and utterly dull. Lewis said, “How little people know who think that holiness is dull. When one meets the real thing (and perhaps, like you, I have met it only once) it is irresistible.”[i] That’s winsomely weird – a holiness that is irresistible. And we have only met it perfectly just once: in Jesus! But by the Holy Spirit we can become more and more like him.

Authority

So today I want to talk about two topics together where Christians are to be winsomely weird. The first is in the area of authority. Who says? Where are you getting that from? How do you know? Not in the full epistemological sense of all that entails, but in things like ethics, or platitudes you find online or out there. What are some examples of ‘truths’ people dogmatically assert that seem unfounded?…

J.I. Packer in his 1958 book “Fundamentalism” and the Word of God, sorts out the three possibilities when it comes to the topic of authority. He explains that you’re either:

(1) Evangelical

(2) Traditionalist

(3) Subjectivist[ii]

The Evangelical View, which I’ll explain in a moment is, you might guess, what we as Christians should be. The world operates within either the Traditionalist or Subjectivist views. The Traditionalist’s authority is Tradition. I believe this to be true because this is what has been passed down to me. This is our family’s practice. You can still see this kind of deference to ancestors in some eastern cultures. It’s found in smaller towns and less developed parts of the world. This is what it means to be a Sicilian or Nigerian; this is how we do things.

But by and large in the Modern West, especially in cities like ours, most people fall into the Subjectivist camp. We buck against traditional authority and go with what I personally think or feel to be true, what I like. So the Subjectivists have two forms or strands that people usually fall into and that history has seen vacillation between: Reason and Experience, the Rationalists and the Romantics. But both are at root a Subjectivist position – ME, I (either my rationalistic mind or my gut instinct feelings) are the authority. I think this is what we are mostly dealing with in our world. Would you agree?

Really, it means that the authority is SELF. I think. I feel. I believe what I want to believe and do what I want to do. Self. And it stems from the first sin in the Garden in Genesis 3. The temptation was to not trust God and listen to him define what is right and wrong, but to “be like God, knowing good and evil” for oneself. I don’t want to submit to God as my authority. I want to determine for myself. That’s what was going on in the decision to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. That is part of the essence of sin – the enthronement of SELF.

Now, for those who have been transferred into the realm of the Second Adam and had their sins atoned for, we are to be unlearning the practice of having SELF be our authority and re-learning the practice of having God be our authority. If God tells me something I don’t like, I defer to God. If God says something is wrong and my SELF (my warped conscience, my urges, my desires, my self-conception…) tells me it is okay, I listen to God.

But stick with me. Where it gets tricky is where you’re dealing with people who claim to be religious or spiritual, but are really still functioning Traditionalists or Subjectivists. Historically speaking, the Roman Catholic Church and Eastern Orthodox are claiming Christianity, but are finding their authority in Tradition. Liberal Protestantism (a syncretistic religion that sought to blend Christianity and Modernism) is really just a religious form of Subjectivism. The historic Evangelical View is the one that actually lets God be the authority, at least in theory (we are all constantly struggling with this).

God must be our authority, but how do we know that God is our authority? There must be an objective TEXT that has meaning. The Bible, as God’s self-revelation, must be our authority. Otherwise, we may be saying that God is our authority, but we’re really just listening to the voice inside our head and calling it God. That’s what is going on in Blue Ocean Faith. Throughout the author talks about an actual, living, personal relationship with a communicative God. But then he says this God is telling him it’s perfectly fine to be gay, for example. And he points people away from Scripture. What’s going on here? It’s really just SELF, Subjectivism, Experientialism that is the authority, not God. Because God has spoken here and won’t contradict himself.

So genuine Christians will submit to the Lordship of Christ; God is their authority. And he will tell you some things you don’t like, and things that the world (that collective thinking of Subjectivists that can ironically become a sort of new Tradition) doesn’t like. And this will make you weird. It make you do things that are weird, but just that instinct to distrust SELF and submit to Scripture itself is weird.

But how is it also winsome? It’s so freeing to not be your own boss. To not have to figure everything out yourself but take what you’ve been given. For reality and right and wrong to not be shifting all the time. It is actually arrogant to think of yourself as the final arbiter of truth – I think this and you should too! Why, where’d you get that from? Me! To submit to God should make you humble – I didn’t make this up. It’s really freeing and humbling.

Purpose

Okay, now let’s talk about purpose. Our world operates in a way that sets SELF up as the authority. It also sets SELF up as the purpose, or end goal of life. The sinful world doesn’t want to let God tell it what to do and doesn’t want to live for God. In my old nature, I don’t want to live for God’s glory and fame, I want to live for my own. How do we see this in the world’s slogans? (i.e. do what makes you happy)

What are your coworkers who don’t trust Christ living for?? What is the purpose of their life? Self-expression… Self-actualization… Self-gratification… Self-promotion…

Now, we need to be fair. Because of common grace, there are things the world knows and figures out that are true. And there are instances of altruism in the world, people doing selfless feats. But the general overarching telos or aim of the unregenerate person is to glorify SELF, to boost self-esteem or self-image, to get credit and recognition for SELF by being a good person, to take care of and protect number 1, to make yourself as fulfilled and comfortable as you can by yourself.

But the Westminster Shorter Catechism, Q 1 puts it so well and accurately summarizes the Bible – What is the chief end of Man? Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and enjoy him forever. The world tells you to chase self-fulfillment, to do what’s best for you. But the Bible calls us to live for the honor of someone else, namely God. Where? What passages of Scripture come to mind that reveal our purpose is to be God-centered instead of Self-Centered?

“To live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God” (1Pe. 4:2).

“He died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised” (2Cor. 5:15).

“For none of us lives to himself… For if we live, we live to the Lord” (Rom. 14:7-8).

“You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” (1Cor. 6:19-20).

“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1Cor. 10:31).

What are you tempted to live for? What does it look like to live so that God is glorified?

So we are to be weird in a world that is living for SELF, full of “lovers of self” (2Tim. 3:2), but being lovers of God, giving up selfish dreams, dying to self and living for the Lord. That is weird. But how is it also winsome?

First, living for God’s glory turns out to actually be the best, most joyful, happiest, most fulfilling thing for yourself as well. John Piper tweaked the Westminster Shorter Catechism to say that the chief end of man is to glorify God, by enjoying him forever. He coined the term Christian hedonism. We glorify God by finding delight in him. And when we do we get delight and God gets glory. It’s a win – win! And so we see things like Paul in Philippians 1:20-21 saying, “It is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” Win – win. We show the world a better way, because living for self actually leaves you empty; living for God is the only thing that can fill you up.

And second, again living for God instead of SELF is so freeing. You don’t have to carve out your own identity. You don’t have to make your mark on the world or be successful to be somebody. That’s so exhausting and crushing. You don’t have to constantly be trying to make yourself someone. You can find yourself by losing yourself. That is extremely winsome in an empty world of narcissism and full of meaninglessness…

What’s Next?

So as God’s redeemed people in Christ, we are to be growing more like Christ. And that will mean being weird and winsome. And today we saw that we will be weird in the way we submit to God and not Self, but that this will make us strangely appealing to a world with constantly changing standards. And we will be weird in the way we live for God and not Self, but that will make us strangely appealing to a world with no grand purpose.

What do you want to do next? After last week I got the ideas sent to me of Speech: swearing and gossip; Fitness; Family: annoying in-laws, idolizing children. I had Drugs & Alcohol; Entertainment; Sexuality; Gender; Relationships & Conflict; Money & Possessions; Work; Bioethics…

Prayer – Get together in the Small Groups you’ve been in; make a new group(s) for all those who weren’t in a Small Group previously

Pray that we would be submissive to God as he has revealed himself in Scripture in everything…

Pray that we would live for God’s glory in all that we do…

Pray that the world would worship God because of our witness… Pray for specific non-believers by name…

From @immanuelchicago on Twitter

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