Is the Church still the Pillar of Truth?

1 Timothy 3:14-15 “I’m writing these things to you so that you may know how to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth.”

The Apostle Paul identified the church as a ‘pillar and buttress of the truth‘. If there is any group of people on the planet that needs to know and represent the truth of Jesus Christ well, it’s the people of God. Representing the teachings of Jesus well doesn’t mean selecting a few verses out of the gospels that suit your position on the latest social issue but requires understanding the whole context of the bible, including the Old Testament, the epistles, as well as the historical and apocalyptic literature that make up the New Testament. Unfortunately, we are witnessing a shift away from truth as the bible reveals, within the church, because of pressure from the surrounding culture. The antichrist spirit is gaining momentum across the media and culture at large, making it easier for fence sitters in the church to choose the broad pathway that leads to death instead of the narrow pathway that leads to life. More and more believers are using Jesus name to justify ideologies that aren’t even in the ball park of what the Scripture teaches. This demonstrates poor exegesis and a growing ignorance of the fundamental teachings of the Word of God. It appears that some believers are basing their beliefs on feelings to suit their conversations with family, peers and voices in the media rather than on the solid rock of God’s Word. It’s becoming a case of the blind leading the blind. The universal church, by and large, has held onto essential orthodox beliefs for 2,000 years because the truths underpinning these beliefs have been painstakingly clear in Gods Word for 2,000 years. It’s only been in recent times that we are now seeing such liberal views of Scripture infiltrate the church on a mass scale. This is a time for the church to be revived in its passion for God and truth, and not only for people and grace. This is a time for the church to be revived in its belief in the authority of Scripture, interpreting it and applying it in a way that honours God first and foremost, whether it’s popular or not. Explosive Insights!

Delay is not Denial!

Read Genesis 16 for context.

Genesis 16 is the account of Sarai, Abram and Hagar. It’s got a plot line that would rival any episode of ‘Days of our lives’. Sarai and Abram have received a promise from God many, many years before but they have grown impatient and frustrated with God’s apparent memory loss of his promises to them. Due to their impatience and impetuosity, Sarai comes up with a bright idea, to help God’s promises to come to pass. She offers her husband, her very own maidservant as a wife. Just brilliant! Of course, Abe being a red-blooded, half moron male decides it’s a brilliant idea as well and ends up sleeping with Hagar and ‘kaboom’ ‘WW1 the prequal’ begins in the centre of the household. Some principles that emerge for our benefit today are:

  • Don’t misinterpret delay as denial – We live in the space-time continuum, God doesn’t. He exists outside of it. His purposes are established in alignment with his timing which is, in the grand scheme of eternity, perfect. God makes everything beautiful in its time. Some promises of God come to pass quickly, some take a lot longer to come to pass and we being finite, impetuous human beings want everything the moment we conceive the idea or hear God’s word to us. When God’s promises delay we conclude that we heard wrong or that God is not interested in us anymore because we must have done something wrong. To conclude this would be to conclude wrong.
  • When you misinterpret God, you try to accomplish in your own strength what can only be achieved in God’s strength. That which is born of the flesh must be sustained by the flesh. That which is born of the Spirit must be sustained by the Spirit. Too many of us are tiring ourselves out, unnecessarily, because we are pursuing things, God has never sanctioned or ordained for us. Attempting short-cuts to get close to God’s promises only ever ends up in conflict and frustration. It causes conflicts in relationships and it actually delays what God wants to do anyway.
  • Cutting corners on God’s promises leads to bitterness and more pain. The ‘Hagar Highway’ only ever takes you into bitterness and more frustration. Near enough isn’t good enough. Good enough isn’t satisfactory from God’s perspective. God has plan A and he intends to bring plan A to pass. Don’t settle for short-cuts when deep down you know you are just being immature, impatient and finding it difficult to trust in God (Prov 3:5-6).

I know exactly what delay feels like, because I have lived in delay most of my ministry. Trust me, shortcuts never provide the answers you are looking for. They are simply a mirage. Instead, run to God. Ask him the hard questions, remind him of his promises. Do what he’s asking you to do right now with what he has put into your hands. Stop complaining to others and start complaining to God. The funny thing is, he can take it from you way more than you think he can. He may even give you the answer you are looking for.

Grace!

Preaching on Sex!

I am in the middle of a series at Activate Church titled, “Lets talk about SEX!”

My preaching philosophy is centralized on expository preaching, which is a commitment to preach in such a way that the big ideas of the text are drawn out of the text rather than the individuals personal ideas. Every preacher brings their bias to the text but our role is to discover the original sense and meaning of the passage we are dealing with and communicate it in a way that best represents the authors and ultimately God’s inspired and original intent.

My normal modus operandi is to preach through books of the bible as led by the Holy Spirit, as well as considering the needs or vision of the congregation. Apart from the Old Testament book of Song of Songs (Solomon) the issue of sexuality is laced right throughout the bible beginning in Genesis and finding considerable focus in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians (1 Cor 6-7).

Sex is a thematic or topical doctrine to preach on and so I’ve had to study the bible for the variety of ways the issue of sex is dealt with in the text. Sex can also be a difficult topic to preach on, as there is so much cultural baggage, people carry with them into the sermon event. As well as this many people carry weights of sin, shame and pain into the sermon event and these can often preclude them from opening their hearts to hear what God wants to say about the issue.

For all the same reasons, preaching on sex is also easy because people are primed to hear God’s perspective on the issue due to the amount of confusion and secrecy there seems to be about the unspoken topic, especially in church circles. There are only a few times you don’t need to work hard to keep people’s attention, talking about sex is guaranteed to be one of them, where people are very attentive.

Here are some of my thoughts on approaching the topic of sex in the preaching context:

  1. Prepare thoroughly – Too many of us preachers shoot from the hip and underestimate how educated our audience really is. Read widely and keep up to date with the current stats and trends of all things sexual in our culture. Some of the books and articles I studied for the series, included, “Real Marriage” by Mark and Grace Driscoll; “Sex and the Supremacy of Christ” by John Piper and Justin Taylor; “From Good Man to Valiant Man” by Dr Allan Meyer and several online articles. As well as this I did my exegesis on the texts used throughout the series and listened to several sermons preached by other trusted sources on the sex texts concerned.
  2. Seek advice – None of us knows everything and I have learnt to lean on mentors like Dr Allan Meyer who completed his doctoral studies on the issue of sexual addiction.
  3. Just say it – Too many of us shy away from unpacking the issues surrounding terms like, masturbation, oral sex, cybersex, sex toys, etc because of the ‘blush’ factor involved. However, the spirit of the culture is more than prepared to have the conversation and pervert God’s original intention for sex in marriage. Be prepared to go there, your audience will appreciate it. In talking about God creating sex for pleasure, I talked about the woman’s ‘clitoris’ and God’s intention for it to be a pleasure organ, not useful for anything else other than a wife’s pleasure in sex with her husband.
  4. Help people don’t condemn people – Sex tends to be an avoided preaching topic and if its is touched on, it’s talked about in a condemning way, which gives people the idea that God is dead against it. I have tried to not only inform people as to what the text is saying but apply it for people in a practical way that has left me receiving some of the greatest feedback I’ve ever had on a series. God is for sex and created it for several reasons in the marriage relationship (protection, comfort, pleasure, pro-creation, oneness, healing, theology…) to name a few.
  5. Move the sermon from the pulpit into the church community – Giving people helpful resources like books to compliment the series as well as sermon outlines and study guides for the life group meetings during the week.
  6. Practice what you preach – This is the fun part. As always don’t simply be a mouthpiece but be a practitioner of what you are learning and growing in. Needless to say the pastors personal marriage should benefit from a focused series on this topic.

Our outline for the “Lets talk about Sex” series looks like the following:

  • Week 1 – Theology of Sex (am) and Sexual Healing (pm)
  • Week 2 – Sex: God, Gross or Gift?
  • Week 3 – Christians response to homosexual marriage
  • Week 4 – Porn again Christian
  • Week 5 – Special guest Sy Rogers: Seminar and Outreach

Grace!

Lets Talk About Sex!

(Read 1 Corinthians 6:12-7:5 for context)

Corinth was a city, not unlike Melbourne in that it was the epi-centre of everything cool, cultural and sexual. Recently, I came across a stat that said there are more brothels in Melbourne than McDonald restaurants. This is indicative of the sexualisation of our culture and its idolatry of it.

In v12 Paul is quoting what the Corinthians would say when arguing for freedom of sexual expression. Just because it seems like everyone is doing it, doesn’t mean it’s right or even helpful. The stats tell us that 86% of men and 83% of women believe sex before marriage is ok. Society says, “We are 2 consenting adults and we live together and we’re married in our hearts. So whats the problem?”

The problem is we are approaching our bodies, sexuality and relationships from a fallen and misinformed perspective, rather than Gods perspective. Gods standards are higher than the culture around us.

V12 asks us to consider 3 questions when thinking about sex:

  1. Is it Lawful? Does the sexual act violate Gods laws and societies laws?
  2. Is it helpful? Does the sexual act pull a marriage together or apart?
  3. Is it enslaving? Does the sexual act promote obsessive, unhealthy behavior?

Grace! (More to come this week)