The e-teaching that follows, which I originally wrote after Hurricane Katrina bombarded New Orleans in 2005, seems appropriate to re-publish now. For the first time in recorded history, two Category 4 or higher hurricanes have struck the U.S. mainland in the same year. “That is extraordinary by itself,” according to AccuWeather founder Dr. Joel N. Myers, but “also unprecedented is that this particular storm, Irma, has sustained intensity for the longest period of time of any hurricane or typhoon in any ocean of the world since the satellite era began.” Might there be a divine message hidden in these recent hurricanes? Keep reading! – David
Over the past few months in my e-teachings we’ve been taking a look at who God really is—as He has revealed Himself in Scripture—which is quite different than how He is often revealed in modern Christendom. We’ve not only considered His amazing love and mercy, but also His “holy hatred.” That holy hatred is often referred to using other phrases, such as “God’s righteous wrath,” or “His holy indignation,” but all refer to the same aspect of God’s character. And as we’ve seen, God’s Word does indeed speak of His hatred, using the very word hate (for proof, click here to read last month’s e-teaching). There is no escaping this.
My third confession in last month’s e-teaching—an admission of visiting an Assembly of God church in the summer of 1976 and experiencing what they called “the baptism in the Holy Spirit”—leads to my fourth, fifth and sixth confessions this month. But first, some background.
One week after my Pentecostal experience, I began my freshman year at Penn State University with the intention of majoring in forestry. I soon became involved in a campus ministry called Lamb Fellowship. It was led by a group of young men who had all been influenced by the Charismatic Renewal Movement—begun in 1960 when Episcopalian priest Dennis Bennet announced to his California congregation that he had been baptized in the Holy Spirit and had spoken in tongues. By the mid-1970s, the Charismatic Renewal was sweeping through traditional denominations across the U.S. and around the world. Those were amazing years.
Two months ago, I wrote an e-teaching that examined what I’ve termed “absolute nonresistance,” that is, the idea that in all cases and situations, Christians must never resist any evil person, to the degree of never defending themselves, or others, from those who would harm them, never taking another person to court, never serving in any branch of government or law enforcement, and never going to war. Contrasted with that is what might be called “everyday nonresistance,” the idea that Jesus expects His followers to “turn the other cheek” when suffering the minor offenses of everyday life.
Some of the good folks who subscribe to absolute nonresistance are persuaded that in His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus called His followers to a higher standard than what was expected of those under the Law of Moses. The Law of Moses clearly allowed for self-defense, defense of others, lawsuits, and wars, whereas Jesus, they point out, always expected His followers to “turn the other cheek.”
I certainly enjoyed reading the feedback, both positive and negative, to last month’s e-teaching, which centered around Jesus’ commandment to “turn the other cheek.” Because my position stands at odds with certain “nonresistance” theologies that are generally associated with the Anabaptist tradition, the negative feedback, as anticipated, came mostly from them. To their credit, most were very gracious.
Let me say from the start how deeply I respect those within the Anabaptist tradition, which includes Mennonites, the Amish, Hutterites, Brethren and various modern “true church” adherents. I respect anyone who is endeavoring to do the will of God. But may I also add that, sometimes, the most zealous God-loving people are the most susceptible to the kind of teaching that places a greater yoke upon them than Jesus’ easy yoke (see Matt. 11:30). Longing to prove their sincere love for God, pure-hearted people are often drawn to scriptures that seem to call them to make unusual sacrifices, scriptures which they then fail to interpret in the light of everything else God has said. To a degree, they end up “cutting off their hands and gouging out their eyes,” all “in obedience to what Christ clearly taught.”
When someone tells me that I’m sending him a mixed message, it indicates one of two problems. Either I am sending a mixed message and my listener has picked up on it, or I am not sending a mixed message, and my listener has misunderstood what I’m trying to communicate.
In the former case, I need to stop and ask myself why I’m sending a mixed message. Am I confused? Have I lied? Have I changed my position on the subject?
This month I’d like to continue to examine Matthew Vines’ novel interpretation of the six biblical texts that traditionally have been used to prove God’s disapproval of homosexuality. If you haven’t read last month’s e-teaching, I suggest you read that first. A professing Christian and author of the new book God and the Gay Christian, Matthew Vines boldly declares on his website that homosexuality is not a sin, and he “proves it from the Bible.”
Note: This e-teaching is for adults only.
I did not intend for this series on homosexuality to continue beyond three months, but in light of current events, as well as the feedback I’ve received, there seems to be a need to proceed further. You may have heard that World Vision, the world’s largest Christian humanitarian organization, last month announced a change in its employment policy, allowing the hiring of homosexuals who are legally married and “committed Christians.” Days later, World Vision’s board reversed their position, obviously due to donor displeasure. The issue is not only dividing professing Christians, but also dominating world headlines due to anti-homosexual developments in Russia and Uganda.
Although the Law of Moses was given to the descendants of Israel sometime around 1440 B.C., God had already given the entire human race another Law that predated the Mosaic Law by at least 2,500 years—a Law that He wrote upon every human heart. To that Law He held every person accountable, and against that Law every person sinned, which is why people died from Adam until Moses. As Paul points out:
So death spread to all men, because all sinned—for until the Law [of Moses] sin was in the world; but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses (Rom. 5:12b-14a).
Thanks to all for the feedback, as well as questions, which I received in response to last month’s e-teaching titled, Five Modern Myths About Jesus’ Conversation with the Rich Young Ruler. Over the next few months, I’ll address some of those questions. This month, I’d like to tackle the most common one, which could be paraphrased, “How does what you taught last month harmonize with the biblical doctrine of salvation by grace and not works?”
Allow me to begin by rephrasing that question to, “How does what Jesus said to the rich young ruler harmonize with the doctrine of salvation by grace and not works?” I didn’t write the Bible, and it wasn’t me who had a conversation with that rich ruler 2,000 years ago. All I did last month is take Jesus at His word, something that consequently exposes the myths so commonly believed relative to His conversation with the rich ruler.
This month I’d like to continue answering questions I received in response to my e-teaching from two months ago titled, Five Modern Myths About Jesus’ Conversation with the Rich Young Ruler.
Last month I answered the question, “How can we reconcile what Jesus required of the rich young ruler if he was to inherit eternal life with what the Bible teaches about salvation by grace and not works?” If you have not yet read that e-teaching titled, The True Grace of God, please do. You must understand that God’s grace is not unconditional, as is so commonly thought, but rather, conditional, in order to grasp what follows below.