Secret Thoughts Of An Unlikely Convert – Rosaria Butterfield and Russell Moore (Video)

From the 2014 ERLC National Conference on “The Gospel, Homosexuality, and the Future of Marriage.”

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VIDEO by ERLC

Russell Moore – Why Public Prayer Is About More Than Culture Wars

Source – Huffington Post

President Obama and religious conservatives are rarely on the same side of the culture wars. But a case now headed to the Supreme Court has forced a sliver of consensus between the White House and right-leaning people of faith on – of all things – praying in public, in Jesus’ name. Perhaps this little truce in the red state/blue state divide can give Americans of all faiths, and no faith, an opportunity to think about why our pluralistic society is better off with uncensored, unscripted public prayers. (Photo www.uu.edu)

The case is Town of Greece v. Galloway, a lawsuit by two citizens against city council meetings in a small New York town opening with a spoken prayer by an invited clergyperson. The plaintiffs argue that the prayers – especially since some of them were explicitly Christian – represent an establishment of religion by the government, an establishment forbidden by the First Amendment. The case, now headed to the Supreme Court, represents the first high court test of the constitutionality of such prayers in nearly a generation.

As the legal briefs were filed with the Supreme Court, they initially took the typical trajectory of such disputes. Religious conservative groups – such as my denomination – defended the legislative prayers, while so-called „strict separationist” groups called for an end to „sectarian” prayers that would alienate citizens such as the plaintiffs, one Jewish and one atheist.

The Obama Administration surprised some by siding with the defendants in the case, and defending voluntary prayers by invited clergy at public gatherings. The White House’s decision ameliorated the potential for a „red state/blue state” shouting match over this case, and made it more difficult for some to suggest that Town of Greece is some advance toward an intolerant „Christian America” zealotry.

prayer constitutionBut that caricature of a theocracy-seeking evangelicalism, hell-bent on establishing official up-to-code prayers everywhere „in Jesus’ name” – as easy as it is – doesn’t line up with reality, anyway. Conservative evangelicals don’t want government support for our faith, because we believe God created all consciences free and a state-coerced act of worship isn’t acceptable to God. Moreover, we believe the gospel isn’t in need of state endorsement or assistance. Wall Street may need government bailouts but the Damascus Road never does.

In fact, most of us support voluntary public prayer not because we oppose the separation of church and state but because we support it.

After all, at issue in this dispute, is the supposed „sectarian” nature of these public prayers. Few suggest that any invocation at all is unconstitutional – especially since invocations have been going on in such forums since the Founding Era. The problem is that these prayers are specifically Christian or specifically Jewish or specifically Jewish or specifically Wiccan, or what have you.

But that’s precisely the point. A prayer, by definition, isn’t a speech made to a public audience but is instead a petition made to a higher Being. For the government to censor such prayers is to turn the government into a theological referee, and would, in fact, establish a state religion: a state religion of generic American civil religious mush that assumes all religions are ultimately the same anyway. To remove the „sectarian” nature of prayer is to reduce such prayers to the level of public service announcements followed by „Amen.”

Evangelicals pray in Jesus’ name not because we are seeking to offend our neighbors, but because we’re convinced that through Jesus is the only way we have access to God. We can’t do otherwise.

Read the article in its entirety here – Huffington Post (Photo credit www.washingtontimes.com)

Internet Pornography, Sham Repentance and the Gospel

By Russell Moore via Church Leaders.com (Photo credit thegospelcoalition.org)

In light of British Prime Minister David Cameron’s actions on Internet pornography, here’s why I think we ought to care about digital porn.

There’s a situation in counseling I come across all too often: A couple will typically tell me first about how stressful their lives are. Maybe he’s lost his job. Perhaps she’s working two. Maybe their children are rowdy or the house is chaotic. But usually, if we talk long enough about their fracturing marriage, there is a sense that something else is afoot.

The couple will tell me about how their sex life is near extinction. The man, she’ll tell me, is an emotional wraith, dead to intimacy with his wife. The woman will be frustrated, with what seems to him to be a wild mixture of rage and humiliation. They just don’t know what’s wrong, but they know a Christian marriage isn’t supposed to feel like this.

It’s at this point that I interrupt the discussion, look at the man, and ask, “So how long has the porn been going on?”

The couple will look at each other, and then look at me, with a kind of fearful incredulity that communicates the question, “How do you know?”

For a few minutes, they seek to reorient themselves to this exposure, wondering, I suppose, if I’m an Old Testament prophet or a New Age psychic. But I’m not either. One doesn’t have to be to sense the spirit of this age.

In our time, pornography is the destroying angel of (especially male) Eros, and it’s time the church faced the horror of this truth.

A Perversion of the Good.

In one sense, the issue of pornography is not new at all. Human lust for covenant-breaking sexuality is rooted, Jesus tells us, not in anything external to us, but in our fallen passions (Matt. 5:27–28). Every generation of Christians has faced the pornography question, whether with Dionysian pagan art, or with Jazz Age fan-dancers or with airbrushed centerfolds.

But the situation is unique now.

Pornography is not now simply available. With the advent of Internet technology, with its near universal reach and its promise of secrecy, pornography has been weaponized.

In some sectors, especially of our young male populations, it is nearly universal. This universality is not, contrary to the propaganda of the pornographers themselves, a sign of its innocence, but of its power.

Like all sin, pornography is by definition a perversion of the good; in this case, of the mystery of the male and female together in a one-flesh union.

The urge toward this is strong indeed, precisely because our Creator, in manifold wisdom, decided that human creatures would not subdivide like amoeba, but that the male would need the female, and the female the male, for the race to survive.

Beyond that is an even greater mystery still. The Apostle Paul tells us that human sexuality is not arbitrary, nor is it merely natural. It is, he reveals, itself an icon of God’s ultimate purpose in the gospel. The one-flesh union is a sign of the union between Christ and his Church (Eph. 5:22–33).

If human sexuality is patterned after the very Alpha and Omega of the cosmos, no wonder it is so difficult to restrain. No wonder it seems so wild.

An Ecclesial Issue.

Pornography, by its very nature, leads to insatiability. One picture, stored in the memory, will never be enough to continue arousing a man.

God, after all, designed the man and the woman to be satisfied not with a single sex act, but with an ongoing appetite for each other, for the unitive and procreative union of flesh to flesh and soul to soul. One seeking the mystery outside of this covenantal union will never find what he is looking for.

He will never find an image naked enough to satisfy him.

Yes, pornography is an issue of public morality. We have spoken to this repeatedly. A culture that doesn’t safeguard the dignity of human sexuality is a culture on its way to nihilism.

Yes, pornography is an issue of social justice. After all, pornography, at least as we know it today, is rarely about mere “images.” Behind those images stand real persons, created in the image of God, who through some sad journey to a far country of despair have tumbled down to this.

We agree with those—often even secular feminists with whom we disagree on much—who say that a pornographic culture hurts women and children through the objectification of women, the trafficking of children and the commodification of sex.

But before pornography is a legal or cultural or moral issue, it is an ecclesial one.

Judgment must, as Scripture tells us, begin with the household of God (1 Pet. 4:17). The man who is sitting upstairs viewing pornography while his wife chauffeurs their children to soccer practice might well be a religionless, secular culture warrior. But he is just as likely to be one of our church members, maybe even one who reads Touchstone magazine.

To begin to address this crisis, we call on the church of Jesus Christ to take seriously what is at stake here.

Pornography is about more than biological impulses or cultural nihilism; it is about worship.

The Christian church, in all places and in all times and in all communions, has taught that we are not alone in the universe. One aspect of “mere Christianity” is that there are unseen spiritual beings afoot in the cosmos who seek to do us harm.

These powers understand that “the sexually immoral person sins against his own body” (1 Cor. 6:18). They understand that a disruption of the marital sexual bond defaces the embodied icon of Christ and his Church (Eph. 5:32).

They know that pornography, in the life of a follower of Jesus Christ, joins Christ, spiritually, to an electronic prostitute or, more likely, to a vast digital harem of electronic prostitutes (1 Cor. 6:16). And these accusing powers know that those who unrepentantly practice these things “will not inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor. 6:9–10).

Sham Repentance.

This means that our churches cannot simply rely on accountability groups and blocking software to combat this scourge. We must see this as darkly spiritual and, first and foremost, reclaim a Christian vision of human sexuality.

Internet pornography, after all, is downstream from a view of human sexuality that is self-focused and fruitless. In an era when sex is merely about achieving orgasm by any means necessary, we must reiterate what the Christian church has always taught: Sex is about the covenant union of one man with one woman, a union that is intended to bring about flourishing love, happiness and, yes, sensual pleasure.

But it is also intended to bring about new life.

An incarnational picture of sexuality, rooted in the mystery of the gospel, is the furthest thing possible from the utilitarian ugliness of pornography. Our first step must be to show why pornography leaves a person, and a culture, so numb and empty. Human sexuality is, as our colleague Robert George put it, more than “body parts rubbing against one another.”

Moreover, we must call for repentance in our own churches, and this will be more difficult than it sounds. Pornography brings with it a kind of sham repentance.

Immediately after an “episode” with pornography is “over,” the participant usually, especially at first, feels a kind of revulsion and self-loathing. An adulterer or a fornicator of the more traditional kind can at least rationalize that he is “in love.” Most people, though, don’t write poetry or romantic songs about this isolated, masturbatory compulsion. Even the pagans who find pornography pleasant and necessary seem to recognize that it is kind of pitiful.

Typically, for those who identify as Christians, a pornographic episode is followed by a resolve “never to do it again.” Often these (again, typically) men promise to seek out some sort of accountability and leave it behind.

But often this resolve is less about a convicted conscience than about a sated appetite.

Even Esau, belly full of red stew, wept for his lost birthright, but “found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears” (Heb. 12:17).

Without genuine repentance, the cycle of temptation will grind on.

The powers of this age will collaborate with the biological impulses to make it seem irresistible again. The pseudo-repentance will only keep the sin in hiding. This is devil work, and is among those things our Lord Jesus came to destroy (1 John 3:8).

Genuine Repentance.

Our churches must show what genuine repentance looks like. This does not mean setting up legalistic rules and regulations against the use of technology itself. This, the Apostle Paul tells us, is “of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh” (Col. 2:23).

It does mean, however, that every point of temptation comes with a corresponding means of escape (1 Cor. 10:13). For some especially vulnerable members of our churches, this will mean giving up the use of home computers or of Internet technology altogether.

Such a suggestion seems absurd to many, as though we were suggesting that some Christians might do well to stop eating or sleeping. But human beings have lived thousands of years without computers and without the Internet.

Is our Lord Jesus right when he says it is better to cut off one’s hand or gouge out one’s eye rather than be condemned by our sin (Matt. 5:29)? How much less is it, then, to ask that one cut through a cable?

We must also empower women in our congregations to grapple as Christians with husbands enslaved to pornography.

We believe, and have taught emphatically, that wives should submit to their husbands (Eph. 5:23). But, in Scripture and in Christian teaching, all submission (except to the Lord directly) has limits.

The husband’s body, the Bible says, belongs to his wife (1 Cor. 7:4). She need not subject herself to being the physical outlet for her husband’s pornographically supplied fantasies. If both are members of a Christian church, and if he will not repent, we counsel the wife to follow our Lord’s steps (laid out in Matt. 18:15–20) to call a brother to repentance, up to and including church action.

The Gospel Answer.

Finally, and most importantly, we call on the church to counteract pornography with what the demonic powers fear most: the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Jesus, after all, walked with us, before us, into the testing of the appetites. His enemy and ours offered him a solitary masturbatory meal, to be wolfed down in the desert. Jesus turned back Satan’s offer, not because he did not hunger, but because he wanted a marriage supper, joined with his church “as a bride adorned for her husband” (Rev. 21:2).

The powers want any child of Adam, especially a brother or sister of the Lord Jesus, to cringe in hiding from accusation. Through the confession of sin, though, any conscience, including one darkened by pornography, can be cleansed.

By the blood of Christ, received in repentance and faith, no satanic indictment can stand, not even one that comes with an archived Internet history.

An adapted version of this article appeared originally in Touchstone.

Dr. Moore is the Dean of the School of Theology and Senior Vice-President for Academic Administration at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He also serves as a preaching pastor at Highview Baptist Church

Violence against women – What is the church’s response

Sunday was declared International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women by the United Nations. Dr. Russell Moore, Dean of the School of Theology and Senior Vice President for Academic Administration at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary wrote an excellent post here – http://www.russellmoore.com//the-church-violence-against-women

I have to say that this is the strongest language I have seen used by a church leader and it is right on the mark. Dr. Moore points out that men will stand at the „Judgment seat of Christ, at which they will give account of how they cared for their families”.  And he advises that  church leaders must tell women in the congregations that-

A man who hits you has surrendered his headship, and that is the business both of the civil state in enacting public justice and of this church in enacting church discipline.”

In the public arena, Dr. Moore also urges that christians-

..should call on the powers-that-be to prosecute abusers of women and children in ways that will deter others and make clear society’s repugnance at such abuse.

Please read the entire article here- http://www.russellmoore.com//the-church-violence-against-women

Russell Moore – on Corporate Sanctification from the Desiring God National Conference September 2012

More Conference videos-

Text 1 Corinthians 4:14- 6:9 The apostle Paul writes, as he is carried by the Spirit to the church at Corinth.

1I do not write these things to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children. 15 For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel. 16 I urge you, then,be imitators of me. 17 That is why I sent you Timothy, my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, to remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach them everywhere in every church. 18 Some are arrogant, as though I were not coming to you. 19 But I will come to you soon, if the Lord wills, and I will find out not the talk of these arrogant people but their power. 20 For the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power. 21 What do you wish? Shall I come to you with a rod, or with love in a spirit of gentleness?

Chapter 5  Sexual Immorality Defiles the Church

It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father’s wife. And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you.

For though absent in body, I am present in spirit; and as if present, I have already pronounced judgment on the one who did such a thing. When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.

Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump?Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us therefore celebrate the festival,not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— 10 not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. 11 But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one.12 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? 13 God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.”

Chapter 6.  Lawsuits Against Believers

When one of you has a grievance against another, does he dare go to law before the unrighteous instead of the saints? Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases?Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life! So if you have such cases, why do you lay them before those who have no standing in the church? I say this to your shame. Can it be that there is no one among you wise enough to settle a dispute between the brothers, but brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers? To have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded? But you yourselves wrong and defraud—even your own brothers!

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

Some notes from the message:

Dr. Russell Moore, Dean of the School of Theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary:

Part of the obstacle you and I face, when it comes to holiness, when it comes to being sanctified is that we don’t know what normal looks like. We live in a fallen universe; we have grown up in a fallen universe. We live, as Isaiah tells us, among a people of unclean lips, even as we are a people of unclean lips. And in the middle of all of that, what can seem to be normal to me can simply be my own pattern of sin. What seems to be regular and the default, simply can be the fact that I am living around people who have similar sorts of slaveries and bondages to sin, and to Satan and to the curse, and to death. And what the Gospel of Jesus Christ does is to break through this bizarre, unusual, unnatural kind of life that we are living, with a new normal that Jesus defines as the kingdom of God.

And this kingdom, Jesus says to His apostles, isn’t just some generic category and it isn’t just something that waits for us in the next thousand or million, or billion years. This kingdom, Jesus says, shows up in the assemblies. At Caesarea Philippi, Jesus speaks of the coming of the kingdom, of the keys of the kingdom. And He says this kingdom is going to advance, this kingdom is going to be invincible, the gates of hell will not stand against it, the powers of Satan will not overcome it and He says this kingdom is going to be seen in the reality that „I will build My church. I will assemble My people together. There is no kingdom, the Bible tells us, where there is not a people, there is no rain, where there is not an empire of those to be reigned over. And Jesus says, „In the middle of this fallen world, you will see what the apostle Paul says to the church at Ephesus is a sign of the manifold wisdom of God. A sign to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places. Where God has appointed Jesus to reign and to rule over His church as a head with a body, as a king over a kingdom.

And, while the whole world, the scripture says, lies under the sway of the wicked one, while there is a god of this age, a prince of the power of this air, in these local assemblies and in these gatherings, we see a sign of the reign of Christ. That’s why Paul’s letter here, to the church at Corinth is so significant. He is talking to a group of people who are living out the beginning stages of the reality  that Jesus promised at Caesarea Philippi. The building and the gathering of this church, of this kingdom colony and what is happening here is of absolute significance to our sanctification.

Our problem, typically is that we think of sanctification as primarily an individual thing. How often do I read my Bible? How often do I pray? How often do I meditate on the things of God? How often do I sing and give praise to God? And, all of those things are significant, and all of those things are important. But, we too often neglect that all of that is only true because we are part of the body of Christ, we are part of His church and the theme of this meeting is so critically important: Act the miracle- God’s work AND our work. Not just my work. Not just your work, but, our work in the sanctification process.

I want you to notice several things about what Paul is pointing out here to this church at Corinth.

(1) The role of proclamation

The role of proclamation in the corporate nature of sanctification. Paul writes to this church at Corinth, a church which is troubled, a church that has people within it who are talking, he says, arrogantly. They are talking as if they are already kings. And he says, „I have demonstrated who I am. I have demonstrated the apostleship that I carry, I have demonstrated the commission that I have from the Lord Jesus Christ. I have sent to you Timothy, I have sent to you the word of the Gospel, I have shown you my life. I have given you every reason and every way to imitate it.” „But,” he says, „There are those who are still speaking with arrogance, there are still those who are opposing this kind of apostolic authority”. And he says, „I want to see what they’ve got. I’m going to be coming to you very soon and we will see these people who are talking , if what they have is just talk. Because the kingdom of God is not a matter of just talk. The kingdom of God is a matter of power.”

Now, you look at that, it sounds at first blush as though Paul is threatening some kind of physical encounter. „We’re going to see whether or not you have talk, or you have power.”  As though the apostle Paul is going to show up and say, „Ok, you’ve got your arrogant talk; deal with my heat ray vision. Deal with my levitating power to swoop you out of your chairs and send you out  into the streets.” But, no, no, no, no. Paul says, „I’m going to come to you and come to you with what? With words! With talk, with a spirit of gentleness, or with a spirit of discipline. But he is still dealing with words. The contrast is not between words and a lack of words. It’s between empty, idle, meaningless talk and authority.

I will come to you with power. And what is the power? The power is the proclamation that is coming, bearing the authority and the spirit and the presence of Christ.  He says, „When you’re gathered together in Jesus’ name, in Jesus’ power and my spirit is there with you. As you are reading this letter, there is a power that comes with these words, the kind of power that you see at Caesarea Philippi. Jesus turns to His disciples in Matthew 16 and says, „Who do people say that I am?” That’s a very ‘low threshold’ kind of question. A very non threatening sort of question. „Well some people say John the Baptist, some people say Elijah.” These are just words. They’re going out there and they’re not doing anything. They’re not affecting anything.

But, Jesus  turns when Simon Peter, by the Spirit, confesses ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God’, Jesus turns to this man and Simon the fisherman and He names him. Now, that is authority. There’s a kind of audacity when Jesus stands and names him speaking, „You are Peter, you are rock.” And what’s even more audacious is it doesn’t seem to be true. It’s not true at all. This is the least rock like person, just a few verses down Jesus is going to name him again, Satan. He’s going to be the one that when Jesus is arrested, leaves. And in the middle of it he says all kinds of stupid things at inappropriate times. But Jesus names him rock. Foundation. Stone. Of My church. And then, what does Jesus by His spirit, and by His word do? He makes him live up to his name.

„Peter, do you love Me? Feed my sheep.” The voice of Jesus sent out and working in the life of Peter, takes a name that seems as ridiculous as naming an elderly barren man father of many nations. But He makes the name true by the power of His transforming word. Paul assumes that the apostolic authority that he carries, that the proclamation of this Spirit inspired word brings with it  the authority of Jesus Himself. When you and I gather together and hear the word of God as it is rightly preached, we are hearing an ambassadorial plea that has been sent down from our Lord Jesus Himself, so that, as Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5 „We are speaking, pleading with you as though Christ Himself were pleading through us be reconciled to God. When you are rightly proclaiming the word of God, there ought to be a northern Galilean accent in there.

People ought to hear a familiar voice that first calls them out of darkness. And, whenever Jesus begins speaking, everywhere that we see Jesus speak, things start happening. Demons start shrieking. They see that their power is being broken. That is what is happening when we gather together and hear the word preached. That’s what happens when we admonish one another and teach one another. That’s what’s happening when we sing and teach one another with Psalms and hymns and spiritual songs. That’s not just information that  is being downloadedThat’s expository exorcism. The power of Jesus’s voice residing in His church, under the authority of the word of God and reflecting upon the authority of the word of God breaks through those patterns of deception that keep us form seeing the glory of the light of God reflected in the face of Jesus Christ.

It’s not just an information download. It’s not just principles for living. When we teach one another and when we preach to one another, and when we sing to one another, and when we rebuke one another, and when we admonish one another, and when we do so, not on the basis of our own authority, but on the basis of the word of God. There is a power, power pact, wonder working power in that proclamation that creates and forms exactly what Jesus says. This is why the Bible is written to the whole church. The Bible isn’t written in bits and pieces for people in particular life situations. Sometimes that single woman, who has never been married and will never be married, doesn’t sense any calling to be married, can come to our congregation and say, „Eh, I don’t feel comfortable here. Why do I need to be in a sermon on marriage?” Because Ephesians 5 wasn’t just written to the married couples at the church at Ephesus. It’s written to the church at Ephesus, and the church at large because you single woman in this congregation are accountable, not only for your own life for your sanctification, but, to teach and to admonish and to hold accountable those marriages within the church.

Why do I need a sermon series on parenting when I’m an 88 year old man with no children? (Or)  I’ve been widowed for years, there’s no prospect for children out there. Because you are to hold accountable, and to teach and to encourage, and to rebuke the whole church when it comes to parenting. You are a kingdom of priests, under the proclamation of the word of God, that creates and brings about our sanctification and holiness.

(2) The role of discipline

Paul, immediately after he talks about this power, in contrast to the talk about his coming behind his words, starts talking about a situation of scandal. He says, „There is a man in your midst who is unrepentantly sinning against God and the problem is that you’re doing nothing. He begins to speak to them about that kingdom authority, and that kingdom responsibility for discipline. Exactly what Jesus said, when He said at Caesarea Philippi, „I am giving to you the keys of the kingdom.” Now, one of the things that irritates me, when it comes to the way we talk, and when I say ‘we’, I mean me as well as anybody else, we mean church discipline. He’s under church discipline. We mean excommunication. Someone who is under church discipline is someone who has been voted out of the fellowship of the church.

We are ALL under church discipline! Discipline is simply not excommunication. As a matter of fact, excommunication is actually the end of church discipline. I have now been handed over to Satan. Discipline is just not in scripture that final phase of the lack of repentance. Discipline is every step along the way, starting with the definition of who’s who.  He says, „There is sexual immorality among you. Who’s you? The church of God at Corinth, called out and sanctified by the spirit and by the blood of Christ. It is the authority that Jesus has given to His church dependent and derivative upon His word to mark out and to identify who are those who are qualified to be called brother and called sister, based upon the criteria of repentance towards God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.

When the church baptizes and marks out its boundaries. When the church receives into its membership, into its structure of accountability, that church is defining the boundaries of discipline. This is not the world, out there in the chaotic anarchy that is the rule of Satan. This is the church. This is where Jesus, right now is actively ruling. And we, on the basis of what Jesus has said to us declare, „You are my brother. You are my sister. You have been received by Christ.” Now, I don’t have personal authority to define that. And we don’t have individual, congregational authority to define that. The king of the kingdom has defined who are those who are received by God. We, when we speak rightly and when we speak on the basis of what Jesus has given us, we are declaring in the voice of Jesus, „You are one of the brothers. You are one of the sisters.” That is a powerful, powerful responsibility.

Your vote on receiving a new member into your congregation is more significant in the long term than for your vote for who will be the next president of the United States. When the congregation says, „We receive you as brother,” and when the congregation refuses to deal with an issue that would seem to show a lack of repentance, that congregation is speaking for Jesus in a place that congregation has no authority and no mandate to speak. You see these empty suit, toothy preachers on CNN, who get on talking about this very light and fluffy Gospel, who start to become very nervous when the host says, „Well, what about Moslems, and what about HIndus, and what about atheists, do they go to hell?” You see that guy, the grin starts to get frozen, and he starts to get really uncomfortable and he says, „Well, for me I think Jesus is the best way and…” there’s just a reluctance to say what the scripture has said so clearly about the way of salvation through Jesus Christ.

It’s easy for us to look at that and say, „That’s pathetic,” and yet, that’s what many of us do. We have people in our congregations, that we are saying, by the fact that we list them as brother and sister, and we treat them as brother and sister without a life of faith and of gathering together and of repenting of sin. We are saying, „Jesus says you are our brother,” when you have no warrant to say that. You might as well go door to door, simply saying to everyone who opens the door, „I’ll see you in heaven.” The membership of the church and the accountability of the church is the discipline of the church.

Now, you only have the authority in the church to discipline where Jesus has given that authority in His word. We don’t discipline one another and excommunicate one another  because we disagree over home schooling and public schooling, or whether we ought to celebrate Halloween. But where the scripture says this is a lack of repentance and a lack of obedience. And Jesus says, „Those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. What Paul says happens is not just when that unrepentant person, going through all that process of „Be reconciled, repent. Be reconciled. Repent.”  When that person refuses  to repent and that church hands that person over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that is not just clearing out a membership roll. That is not punishing that person and saying: We don’t want your kind around here. That is the voice of Jesus saying, „I am turning you over to the power of Satan. If he turns,” Jesus says, „you have received your brother.” Why? „My sheep hear My voice  and they follow Me.”  Only difference between Peter weeping in the arms of Jesus and Judas tangled up in his own intestines in a potter’s field is the kind of repentance the voice of Jesus brings

Acting the Miracle Together: Corporate Dynamics in Christian Sanctification – Desiring God Conference 2012

The discipline of the congregation spurs us to holiness, not only because we deal with lack of repentance and lack of faith among us, but also because this discipline and this accountability changes us. Notice what Paul says, „You ought to be mourning. You ought to be crying. You are arrogant that you don’t even notice this. And why don’t you notice this? Because you don’t know where you are.” He says, ‘I don’t want you to be with the swindlers, and the sexually immoral people, and I’m not talking about those out in the world. I’m not trying to have some premature rapture here.” He says, „I am talking about those within the accountability of the church.”

We tend to get that completely reversed. „Let’s express our outrage with everything that’s going on out there!” And we ignore what is happening among us. The discipline and the accountability of the church changes your affections, it changes your mission, it changes the way you see people and it drives you towards holiness, and it drives you toward love. Why? Because the presence of Jesus is in your midst by His word and by His spirit.

(3) The economy of the church

Paul also talks about the economy of the church, the structure and the life that is being lived within the church. He says, „Your problem is not only that you are tolerating this kind of behavior, the problem is also that you’re fighting with one another, and you’re struggling with one another and you’re doing it by taking one another to court. He says, „This ought to shame you. You ought to be embarrassed about this.

These bickerings and these divisions that are between you and they ought to shame you even more so that you are taking it to those that have no standing in the church. Why? Because the gifts that Jesus is giving to the body are not simply, or means at all simply of personal self actualization. They are given for the building up of the body  and they are a sign of spiritual warfare. Jesus has taken captivity captive. When Jesus gifts His church, He is prepping His church, He is staffing up His church for a future kingdom that is to come.

We have all these spiritual gifts inventories. We spend so much time worrying: What’s my spiritual gift? I’m not saying those things are not of some value. But, the main issue is not whether or not you know what your spiritual gift is. It’s whether or not, in the life of the church your spiritual gift is operative and functioning and building up the body of Christ. It’s not your gift. It belongs to the body.

Paul says, „Is there nobody wise enough among you to decide these disputes? Paul says, ‘The problem is, when you go to the outside,” which doesn’t have to be in a formal law court, you can do that in the court of public opinion on the internet. „When you go to those who have no standing within the church, you are already defeated.” Why? Don’t you know that you will judge angels? Don’t you know that you will rule the world?

Jesus gifts the church because He is showing you in little things. He is training you in little areas of authority to rule over many things. „To rule and to reign with Me,” He says. Your life within the body of the church is just an internship for the eschaton. Why are these people bickering and fighting with one another? Why do they think that their agenda matters so much? It is because they are not looking to their next trillion years. They think this, and this only is where I am going to be able to carry out my little place of power and my little place of authority and so, I don’t care about anything beyond that. Paul says, „You are going to judge angels, you are going to rule over the entire universe and when you come together and you argue and you bicker and when you go out to the pagan world and say, „We need you to help us to discern God’s good from evil, right from wrong,” you are declaring the incompetence of Jesus to rule over his kingdom within His church. (42:50)

Paul says, ‘You have the mind of Christ. You have everything that is necessary for godliness and within this congregation, part of the way that Jesus sanctifies you is by putting you together with people where you are exercising wisdom and you are exercising gifts and you are being trained in some way for a greater and more majestic responsibility later on.

So, who cares right now if somebody has defrauded you? Why not rather be defrauded for the sake of the mission that  you have waiting for you? You’re sanctified as you are giving and as you are serving for the upbuilding of the body because you see the big picture of what’s happening.

Often the kinds of squabbles and bickerings that we have over worship and particularly over music have everything to do with what the apostle is talking about here. I assume that the issue is my personal sanctification in the now. What does it take to speak to me, so I can close my eyes and pretend like it’s me and Jesus in the congregation and have a foretaste of heaven? The problem is that is NOT a foretaste of heaven. It’s not just you and Jesus. It turns out you don’t come to the garden alone (as in the song), which is a disappointment for me…(pun intended) You are teaching one another in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. You are doing warfare with one another against the principalities and powers in the heavenly places. And you are preparing yourselves, through the worship of God’s people for a new era and a new creation. You are giving yourself over for the new sanctification of someone else.

(4) The corporate aspect of testimony

He says,”Don’t you know the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? The arena culture that God has called us to in our sanctification is an arena that is much bigger than a sports stadium or a political convention. He says, „Remember who you are, don’t you know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God.” The power of Christ together breaks through deception of the Satanic powers. The way it’s easy for me to identify your sin, but in my case, there are always reasons. I don’t see it, I am guarded against it. „Do you not know that the unrighteous..” and he lists out what that means: the swindlers, the adulterers, the fornicators, the homosexuals, the thieves will not inherit the kingdom of God. He breaks the deception that is said form the very beginning, „You will not surely die.”

But, that is not the only power that the word given to the church breaks. It beaks that other power of Satan, which is accusation. Not only- „Don’t you know the unrighteous won’t inherit the kingdom of God,” but, it makes the division here, not between the swindlers, the idolaters, the sexual immoral and the regular people. No, no, no, no, no. It’s between the swindlers, the idolaters, the fornicators, the homosexuals, and the swindlers, the fornicators, the adulterers, the homosexuals who have been crucified. „Such were some of you, but you were washed, you were cleansed, you were forgiven.” Being together in the fellowship of the church and  learning to bear with one another’s sins and repentances, and grievances, and weak points, points me to the reality of my own standing before God. Not as some neutral, normal person, but, as a sinner who deserves to hear only, „Depart from Me you worker of iniquity.” Such were some of you, but, the blood of Jesus cleanses.

The gathering of the church together is a sign to the principalities not that this is a sinless people, but that this is a sinless people who can no longer bear accusation because of the reign of Jesus through through His crucifixion and through His resurrection from the dead.

We don’t come together as those who are former sinners. We don’t come together as those who are regular people, or as people who have a difference with the people out there in the world, we come together as the crucified. And when we join in worship, we are joining with an already existing worship service in the heavenly places. We’re just a satellite campus. What we need to remember is that every single Lord’s Day when we gather together we are joining, by the eyes of faith, with a number that no man can number- A church that is awesome, as an army with banners. We are part of a huge, global ,transgenerational movement: the old, restful, and resurrected. And we stand there with them, confessing: „We were lost, but You were slain, and with your blood, You have purchased a church that has the power to transform, that has the power to recalibrate, and that has the power to rebuke.” Because that is the voice of Christ and it gives us a way out of our self sufficiency. If Jesus is able to build this church and the gates of hell cannot stop it, then Jesus is gonna build His church.

Moral Purity in Marriage

Dr. Russell Moore – You will encounter sexual temptation in your marriage. It is not a question of whether you will encounter sexual temptation, you will encounter sexual temptation when the satanic powers see two who become one flesh, what they see is a living, breathing,  organic display of what they hate the most, which is the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Whatever sexual temptation will come into your marriage is not about you, it is about something that has been going on for millennia and something that was purposed and planned in the mind of God before the cosmos ever was. Your struggle and your battle is precisely what the serpent offers in the garden when he says to the woman, simultaneously, „See yourself as an animal”. She’s been given dominion, the Bible says, over all the beasts of the fields and now she is taking direction from a beast of the field. And also, „See yourself as a god. You can decide what is good and evil”. You will face this throughout your marriage because this is exactly what the apostle Paul is talking about when he says the issue with sexual purity is not simply about self control, although it is about self control. It is about a kind of self control that is doing warfare against the temptation of Satan.

Paul has been going through this entire letter, talking to them about the dangers out there, in the spiritual world. He talks about sexual morality, he talks about sexual fidelity and he says, „Don’t you understand that there is something spiritual happening here?

ADULTERY – Almost anybody in this room can look around and see the kind of carnage that takes place in the lives of even the people that you know. Some of you have pastors who preached the Gospel to you , or baptized you and were later destroyed because of an adulterous affair. Sexual immorality is not something that suddenly happens to you, sexual immorality is part of a conspiracy and a plot to work with you in your sin in order to, as the book of proverbs says, trap you like an animal who is caught.  Paul says, „Flee from sexual immorality. Be warned about joining yourself in adultery”. And why is that the case?  It’s because this warning applies to all of the people of God. We typically think that sexual temptation and sexual opportunity happen to sexy people. That is not the way that it happens. And I have seen so many men who have left beautiful, godly wives for women that you would not even notice if you passed them in the hallway. This is not a matter of how sexy someone is. The Satanic powers are noticing you. They are watching you. Especially those of you who have stood up and said, „I am pursuing God’s call upon my life, to stand and to speak for Christ, in proclaiming the oracles of God.” They will do anything to see to it that the Gospel is discredited by your animalistic impulses. Most people who find themselves drawn into adultery, are not drawn into adultery because they are so oversexed. Most of them, instead find them selves in that place because marriage is a mission, it’s an economy. It’s an order that has been put together and it is hard labor together to bring forth the bread from the earth and to be fruitful and multiply, and to raise up the next generation and to get along with one another through all of these sufferings and all of this strife.  Notice what the apostle Paul says here, it is shockingly radical „You belong to each other”. He does not simply say, „Flee adultery”. He says something significant here. He says, „Husbands, your body belongs to your wife. And wives, your body belongs to your husband”. Do you realize what a shocking statement that is?

(2) FORNICATION – When you change the biblical name ‘fornication’ which is something that is evil, to ‘premarital sex’ you are changing it to something that signifies it is just a matter of timing. There are some ways that fornication mimics the conjugal union of sex. When you have two that are joining themselves together, outside of that life long covenant, you are picturing something other than the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The fornication is not simply something that is timed badly. The fornication is a spiritual act that is joining you and attaching you in some mystical way to another person, in a way that communicates a ‘Christ who is not faithful to His bride’. That is not just immoral, that is blasphemy. One of the significant issues that we face in our churches is that we have an entire generation of young people who are able to cover over and to callous their consciences by being technical virgins, by justifying to themselves acts of rebellion against God as somehow being acceptable and somehow being justifiable in a way that not only stores up sin, but also devastates the functioning christian conscience. And often, even those teenagers and young single adults in our churches, who are remaining faithful in sexual purity are doing so more out of risk avoidance than out of a commitment to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. God has revealed that fornicators will not enter the kingdom of God. One of the things we have in our church and possibly in your marriage is that we don’t really believe that. And we really do not see the spiritual war that is going on at this point, because we assume it’s premarital sex, so once the marriage takes place, the issue is now resolved. Some of you in your marriages right now are experiencing deadness and mistrust, and conflict because you, husband led that woman into fornication and you have never gotten to the point of repentance before God for evil. Everything that you said to her, to convince her that this was justifiable, every act of hiddenness that you took to manage your own hiddenness and to cover over your sin, yo will be able to do just as easily, again with some other woman. „She’s the love of my life!” You’ll feel that way about some other woman some day. „We were just so carried away”. You’ll be carried away again, like that. „The timing was so wrong, we were so young”. „My wife just doesn’t understand me and I’m at a time in my life when I really need this relationship”. Until you get to the point, specifically men, where you, as a former fornicator get on your knees with your wife and say, „I am guilty of not protecting you, of not exercising Godly headship over you, of not loving you as Christ loved the church, and I repent before God and I repent before you”. You will never understand what the scripture is talking about when it says, „you were washed, you were freed”. The problem is that we assume that because the problem is in the past, that the issue is over, but, nothing drives 2 people further apart than sinning together. Your wife, men, may not trust you right now because she knows her parents couldn’t trust you then. Until that is dealt with, with the kind of heart that cries out, „Lord have mercy and free me and wash me”, you will never find the kind of spiritual power and freedom in your marriage that  you so desperately need.

(3) PORNOGRAPHY. The apostle Paul doesn’t speak to pornography directly here, but he speaks to porneia, to sexual immorality. And this issue has become almost ubiquitous to such a degree that pornography in terms of spiritual warfare has been weaponized, including in our churches. Now, when a couple comes into my church and says, „We don’t know what’s wrong in our marriage, we just don’t have any intimacy, we don’t have sex with each other anymore, we just feel cold, I immediately say, „How long has the porn been going on? ” Husband usually looks at me like I’m an Old Testament prophet or a new age psychic. It is because it happens so often and with such regularity and it always has the same satanic results. PORNOGRAPHY IS UNIQUELY SATANIC BECAUSE IT DRIVES YOU TOWARDS INSATIABILITY. Nobody in the history of the world has said, „Ok Ive seen my porn”. Porn, by definition drives you further and further and further towards intimacy . WHy? Because it is an occultic pull upon you that is driving you towards the kind of mystery  and the kind of intimacy  that you are designed to find in the one flesh union and it severs that away from real life, covenant, flesh and blood love in such a way that you become numbed over to the joy of sexual intimacy itself. PORNOGRAPHY LURES YOU IN WITH SEXINESS, and then TOTALLY EVISCERATES YOUR CAPACITY  FOR SEXUAL INTIMACY. So much so, that there may even be men in this room  who are so captured by pornography that you are not even able to have sex with your wife without retrieving for yourself images that you have archived from porn. If you do not see how desperate and how sad and how pathetic and how pitiful that situation is, you will never find freedom. When you put yourself in the orbit of pornography, you are not just viewing material, you are joining yourself with a digital prostitute. Someone who is paid to create a sexual arousal in you, you are doing exactly what the apostle Paul is warning about in Corinth, when he says, „Don’t go up there to the temple prostitutes. What will happen when you get there, no matter how you cover over it, no matter how you keep it hidden, something spiritual has happened in the most wicked sort of way. Pornography will move in and destroy you because it will start to create you into the kind of person for whom intimacy is simply body parts rubbing together, not one flesh. And you will ultimately find yourself, when you have seen every image you want to see, when you have read every word you want to have read, like Esau, vomiting up the red stuff that he craved so badly. Pornography has some of you enslaved, precisely because the satanic powers love to work by helping you to hide your sin.

The power that Satan has over you is only two fold. Satan’s power is to take those things the God has created for good in your life, including the impulse towards intimacy and to twist it slightly away from its intended object, so that you become more and more entrapped and enslaved in your own deception. That you are exactly in the situation the apostle Paul speaks of as unbelievers, „Following after the prince of the power of the air, through the passions of the body and of the mind”. The only other power he has is Revelation 12- to accuse the brothers. Some of you are staying in hiding right now when you are at the place in your life where if there is enough of the sense of the urgency of the situation, you can save your life. , you can save your marriage, but you are hiding in the bushes back there where our prehistoric parents are. But, there is a voice through the word of God speaking as it does in every generation that asks the question, „Adam, where are you?”

The only way that you will break yourself free from the pull toward immorality is to come out of hiding. „Lord have mercy upon me, the sinner”.  And the only way that the power of Satan can be defeated is first of all, by recognizing that the goodness that God has given you in that one flesh union in your marriage is to point you to something that is even better news than that. So that the very act of holding that husband, holding that wife, crying and weeping in repentance together, that very act is a physical picture of what the apostle Paul says to the church at Colossae, when he says, „All of that legal record of our condemnation, that list of thoughts and intents, and archived internet histories has been nailed to His cross, disarming the principalities and powers by making a public display  of them.

Arousing Ourselves to Death, Dr. Russell Moore

Touchstone Archives: Arousing Ourselves to Death.

A very sobering editorial from Dr. Russell Moore, Dean of the School of Theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Here’s a short excerpt:

A culture that doesn’t safeguard the dignity of human sexuality is a culture on its way to nihilism. Yes, pornography is an issue of social justice. After all, pornography, at least as we know it today, is rarely about mere “images.” Behind those images stand real persons, created in the image of God, who through some sad journey to a far country of despair have tumbled down to this.

Porn Is Ravaging Our Churches

The couple will typically tell me first about how stressful their lives are. Maybe he’s lost his job. Perhaps she’s working two. Maybe their children are rowdy or the house is chaotic. But usually, if we talk long enough about their fracturing marriage, there is a sense that something else is afoot. The couple will tell me about how their sex life is near extinction. The man, she’ll tell me, is an emotional wraith, dead to intimacy with his wife. The woman will be frustrated, with what seems to him to be a wild mixture of rage and humiliation. They just don’t know what’s wrong, but they know a Christian marriage isn’t supposed to feel like this.

It’s at this point that I interrupt the discussion, look at the man, and ask, “So how long has the porn been going on?” The couple will look at each other, and then look at me, with a kind of fearful incredulity that communicates the question, “How do you know?” For a few minutes, they seek to reorient themselves to this exposure, wondering, I suppose, if I’m an Old Testament prophet or a New Age psychic. But I’m not either. One doesn’t have to be to sense the spirit of this age. In our time, pornography is the destroying angel of (especially male) Eros, and it’s time the Church faced the horror of this truth.

A Perversion of the Good

In one sense, the issue of pornography is not new at all. Human lust for covenant-breaking sexuality is rooted, Jesus tells us, not in anything external to us but in our fallen passions (Matt. 5:27–28). Every generation of Christians has faced the pornography question, whether with Dionysian pagan art, or with Jazz Age fan-dancers, or with airbrushed centerfolds.

But the situation is unique now. Pornography is not now simply available. With the advent of Internet technology, with its near universal reach and its promise of secrecy, pornography has been weaponized. In some sectors, especially of our young male populations, it is nearly universal. This universality is not, contrary to the propaganda of the pornographers themselves, a sign of its innocence but of its power.

Like all sin, pornography is by definition a perversion of the good, in this case of the mystery of the male and female together in a one-flesh union. The urge toward this is strong indeed, precisely because our Creator, in manifold wisdom, decided that human creatures would not subdivide like amoeba, but that the male would need the female, and the female the male, for the race to survive.

Beyond that is an even greater mystery still. The Apostle Paul tells us that human sexuality is not arbitrary, nor is it merely natural. It is, he reveals, itself an icon of God’s ultimate purpose in the gospel. The one-flesh union is a sign of the union between Christ and his Church (Eph. 5:22–33). If human sexuality is patterned after the very Alpha and Omega of the cosmos, no wonder it is so difficult to restrain. No wonder it seems so wild.

An Ecclesial Issue

Pornography, by its very nature, leads to insatiability. One picture, stored in the memory, will never be enough to continue arousing a man. God, after all, designed the man and the woman to be satisfied not with a single sex act but with an ongoing appetite for each other, for the unitive and procreative union of flesh to flesh and soul to soul. One seeking the mystery outside of this covenantal union will never find what he is looking for. He will never find an image naked enough to satisfy him.

Yes, pornography is an issue of public morality. We have spoken to this repeatedly. A culture that doesn’t safeguard the dignity of human sexuality is a culture on its way to nihilism. Yes, pornography is an issue of social justice. After all, pornography, at least as we know it today, is rarely about mere “images.” Behind those images stand real persons, created in the image of God, who through some sad journey to a far country of despair have tumbled down to this. We agree with those—often even secular feminists with whom we disagree on much—who say that a pornographic culture hurts women and children through the objectification of women, the trafficking of children, and the commodification of sex.

But before pornography is a legal or cultural or moral issue, it is an ecclesial one. Judgment must, as Scripture tells us, begin with the household of God (1 Pet. 4:17). The man who is sitting upstairs viewing pornography while his wife chauffeurs their children to soccer practice might well be a religionless, secular culture warrior. But he is just as likely to be one of our church members, maybe even one who reads Touchstone magazine.

To begin to address this crisis, we call on the church of Jesus Christ to take seriously what is at stake here. Pornography is about more than biological impulses or cultural nihilism; it is about worship. The Christian Church, in all places and in all times and in all communions, has taught that we are not alone in the universe. One aspect of “mere Christianity” is that there are unseen spiritual beings afoot in the cosmos who seek to do us harm.

These powers understand that “the sexually immoral person sins against his own body” (1 Cor. 6:18). They understand that a disruption of the marital sexual bond defaces the embodied icon of Christ and his Church (Eph. 5:32). They know that pornography, in the life of a follower of Jesus Christ, joins Christ, spiritually, to an electronic prostitute or, more likely, to a vast digital harem of electronic prostitutes (1 Cor. 6:16). And these accusing powers know that those who unrepentantly practice these things “will not inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor. 6:9–10).

Sham Repentance

This means that our churches cannot simply rely on accountability groups and blocking software to combat this scourge. We must see this as darkly spiritual and, first and foremost, reclaim a Christian vision of human sexuality. Internet pornography, after all, is downstream from a view of human sexuality that is self-focused and fruitless. In an era when sex is merely about achieving orgasm by any means necessary, we must reiterate what the Christian Church has always taught: sex is about the covenant union of one man with one woman, a union that is intended to bring about flourishing, love, happiness, and, yes, sensual pleasure.

But it is also intended to bring about new life. An incarnational picture of sexuality, rooted in the mystery of the gospel, is the furthest thing possible from the utilitarian ugliness of pornography. Our first step must be to show why pornography leaves a person, and a culture, so numb and empty. Human sexuality is, as our colleague Robert George put it, more than “body parts rubbing against one another.”

Moreover, we must call for repentance in our own churches, and this will be more difficult than it sounds. Pornography brings with it a kind of sham repentance. Immediately after an “episode” with pornography is “over,” the participant usually, especially at first, feels a kind of revulsion and self-loathing. An adulterer or a fornicator of the more traditional kind can at least rationalize that he is “in love.” Most people, though, don’t write poetry or romantic songs about this isolated, masturbatory compulsion. Even the pagans who find pornography pleasant and necessary seem to recognize that it is kind of pitiful.

Typically, for those who identify as Christians, a pornographic episode is followed by a resolve “never to do it again.” Often these (again, typically) men promise to seek out some sort of accountability and leave it behind. But often this resolve is less about a convicted conscience than about a sated appetite. Even Esau, belly full of red stew, wept for his lost birthright, but “found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears” (Heb. 12:17).

Without genuine repentance, the cycle of temptation will grind on. The powers of this age will collaborate with the biological impulses to make it seem irresistible again. The pseudo-repentance will only keep the sin in hiding. This is devil work, and is among those things our Lord Jesus came to destroy (1 John 3:8).

Genuine Repentance

Our churches must show what genuine repentance looks like. This does not mean setting up legalistic rules and regulations against the use of technology itself. This, the Apostle Paul tells us, is “of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh” (Col. 2:23). It does mean, however, that every point of temptation comes with a corresponding means of escape (1 Cor. 10:13). For some especially vulnerable members of our churches, this will mean giving up the use of home computers or of Internet technology altogether.

Such a suggestion seems absurd to many, as though we were suggesting that some Christians might do well to stop eating or sleeping. But human beings have lived thousands of years without computers and without the Internet. Is our Lord Jesus right when he says it is better to cut off one’s hand or gouge out one’s eye rather than be condemned by our sin? (Matt. 5:29). How much less is it, then, to ask that one cut through a cable?

We must also empower women in our congregations to grapple as Christians with husbands enslaved to pornography. We believe, and have taught emphatically, that wives should submit to their husbands (Eph. 5:23). But, in Scripture and in Christian teaching, all submission (except to the Lord directly) has limits. The husband’s body, the Bible says, belongs to his wife (1 Cor. 7:4). She need not subject herself to being the physical outlet for her husband’s pornographically supplied fantasies. If both are members of a Christian church, and if he will not repent, we counsel the wife to follow our Lord’s steps (laid out in Matt. 18:15–20) to call a brother to repentance, up to and including church action.

The Gospel Answer

Finally, and most importantly, we call on the church to counteract pornography with what the demonic powers fear most: the gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus, after all, walked with us, before us, into the testing of the appetites. His enemy and ours offered him a solitary masturbatory meal, to be wolfed down in the desert. Jesus turned back Satan’s offer, not because he did not hunger, but because he wanted a marriage supper, joined with his Church “as a bride adorned for her husband” (Rev. 21:2).

The powers want any child of Adam, especially a brother or sister of the Lord Jesus, to cringe in hiding from accusation. Through the confession of sin, though, any conscience, including one darkened by pornography, can be cleansed. By the blood of Christ, received in repentance and faith, no satanic indictment can stand, not even one that comes with an archived Internet history.

—Russell D. Moore, for the editors

Russell D. Moore is the author of Adopted for Life: The Priority of Adoption for Christian Families and Churches. He lives with his family in Louisville, Kentucky, where he serves as Dean of the School of Theology and Senior Vice-President for Academic Administration at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and as preaching pastor at Highview Baptist Church. He is a senior editor of Touchstone.

Read more: http://www.touchstonemag.com/archives/article.php?id=24-03-003-e#ixzz1KjFPxXBW

A culture that doesn’t safeguard the dignity of human sexuality is a culture on its way to nihilism. Yes, pornography is an issue of social justice. After all, pornography, at least as we know it today, is rarely about mere “images.” Behind those images stand real persons, created in the image of God, who through some sad journey to a far country of despair have tumbled down to this.

Read more: http://www.touchstonemag.com/archives/article.php?id=24-03-003-e#ixzz1KjG12iKy

Dr. Russell Moore – We can’t see the script of our lives ahead of time

Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established. ~ Proverbs 4:26

From Dr. Russell Moore’s blog:

In a media-driven era, it is easy for us to think of our lives as a series of separate episodes, each compartmentalized from the other. But this isn’t unique to us. The Christian story tells us that, from the very beginning, the curse of sin holds people in an illusion that actions don’t have consequences precisely because those consequences aren’t immediate.

When the primeval woman doesn’t drop dead after chewing the fruit, she probably assumes the serpent was right: “You will not surely die.” The Apostle Peter warns us that it is easy to assume that, because the appearing of Christ has been delayed for then decades, now millennia, that this means history will continue along as normal (2 Pet. 3:1-13). And virtually every page of the Scripture addresses the truth that it seems, in the short run, that the wicked prosper and the righteous suffer.

But we are looking at too small a narrative arc. We want to reckon the Lord, and the consequences of our actions, as slow “as some count slowness” (2 Pet. 3:9) rather than seeing the vast cosmic drama in which we are but a mist. Because we hide our sin, we assume it is forever hidden. Or, because we don’t see the glory of God about us, we assume we’ve been forgotten.

We can’t see the script of our lives ahead of time. We can’t see which consequences come with which actions. It is hard enough to see the consequences in this life for our actions, much less those in eternity. But we see the gospel. We see that Jesus has indeed been raised from the dead, and, therefore, our inheritance is sure. We see that judgment has fallen on him, and, therefore, God’s justice is sure. As Paul writes: “God is not mocked, whatever one sows, that will he also reap” (Gal. 6:7).

Read the rest of the post here…

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