Do You Bully Jesus?


Yesterday’s post was admittedly inflammatory. Yet I firmly believe that the Holy Spirit working through Paul intended that passage to be so. God is serious about sin, and He desires us to be as well. Our Savior is only as big as we recognize our need to be saved. Small sin, small savior. Usually one made in our image that we pull out in times of trouble, like he’s a good luck charm. That’s not a Savior; that’s an idol. A lucky rabbit’s foot, maybe.

Paul’s illustration of forcing Jesus to participate in sexual sin is shocking. It jars us to the core. It scars for life, as one friend told me this week when I shared the illustration with her. But how does that same principle play out in the sins that we as people find not quite so heinous? Humans are notorious for ranking sin, and usually the sins of others rank far worse than our own pet sin. But to God, they are all equally heinous. There are not big sins and smalls sins because they are all infinitely offensive to an infinitely holy God. It’s not that there are no big sins; it’s that there are no small ones.

“I don’t participate in any sort of active sexual sin,” you may say. Don’t think yourself in the clear. This principle of forcing Jesus into sin applies to ALL sin, not just sexual sin.

In addition to my counseling ministry, I teach at a local high school. And if you work with teens, you daily deal with the one recurring and constant torture: bullying. Whether it’s physical, verbal, psychological or technological, bullying and peer pressure are a daily part of the teen age experience. But it’s not just for teens. Once I had a student ask me in tears how old you had to be when girls would stop being so mean and just be nice to one another. I told her that I wasn’t sure, but when I reached the age that it happened, I would let her know. I’m 31 and I’m still waiting.

Bullies are generally defined as those who pick on or mess with other students. Those who force others to do things their way, who run the show, command attention, fear, and control. Nobody likes a bully, usually even the bully.

If we apply the principle found in 1 Corinthians 6, that because we are one with Christ in the Spirit, sin in the life of a believer forces Jesus to participate in acts against his will, then we can only conclude that every time we as believers sin, we bully Jesus. Think back to the day of His crucifixion. He knows bullying intimately. He was beaten, scorned, mocked. I can imagine that growing up wasn’t a piece of cake for him either. He never took part in bullying other students and was probably mocked as well. We know his brothers picked on him and claimed He was crazy right up to the moment He appeared to them after the resurrection. Jesus knew the pain and rejection of being bullied on this earth.

Jesus knows it today. He desires to be with us and we psychologically bully him by isolating and ignoring His call to our hearts for worship and fellowship. He wants no corrupt communication to proceed from our lips, but only words that will build up fellow believers, yet we force him to participate in venomous backbiting and gossip. Jesus desires to be healthy physically so He is able to do the will of the Father to best of His ability, yet we entrap him in physical cages of gluttony like a 6th grader stuck in a locker.

Understanding the heart of Christ helps us understand the brokenness He experiences over our sin. At the end of Luke 19 we see both his broken heart and his righteous anger over the hard heartedness of His people and the blatant sin that it caused. While looking over the city, He weeps for their short sightedness and coming destruction because of their refusal to repent and believe. Once He gets to the city, He righteously cleans out His Father’s house of prayer. Jesus loves his people fiercely; but He hates their sin severely.

So what do we take from this short series on the impact of sin?

1. God’s Word is for our good, the best and ideal from the only One who loves any of us perfectly, as we desire to be loved.

2. Refusing to trust Him and His love leads us to false loves and choices that cause us, at best to settle for less than what He has for us and, at worst, brings us horribly painful consequences.

3. Our sin breaks the heart of God. All sins. Every last one. His heart breaks because of His great love for us and his great hate for the sin that damages our lives and separates us from Him.

4. To solve this seemingly hopeless situation, He showed His great love for us in that, “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

The one who was bullied took the punishment for the bullies so that He might have relationship with them. Oh, what a Savior!

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No Love Without Obedience


In my many conversations and lectures concerning relationships and sexuality, those who oppose my stance on these issues repeatedly bring up passages in which Jesus stresses love. God loves us the way we are, they say. We should be able to express our love for one another any way we please. God loves me even if I am involved in supposed “sin”.

Love one another. Love. Love. Love.

Problem here is that these people are speaking of Disney, fairy tale, happily ever after love. News flash: Love does not equal happiness. While Jesus did say the world would know we are his disciples by our love for one another (John 13:35), he also very specifically said that if we loved him, we would keep his commandments (John 14:15). So love isn’t a feeling. It’s an action. A cognitive decision to behave according to a certain standard in the best interest of another. Hmmm…

This post from Dan Phillips today on Pyromaniacs.com addresses this issue with a thorough and biblical treatment of love and obedience. It’s a lengthy argument, but well worth the time to chew through if you are one that really struggles with the concept of God “limiting” how humanity chooses to express love to one another to Him.

The Rape of Christ


We are only prepared to receive and comprehend the grace of God when we have understood His infinite holiness and our incredible sinfulness. ~James MacDonald

I have been attempting for months to help someone understand just what the big deal is about our sin, and sexual sin in particular. I was struggling to bring to light just how badly our sin breaks the heart of God, and 1 Corinthians 6:5-20 is the passage I ended up returning to several times.

This passage gives us a clear explanation of the connection found in mind, body and soul specifically; each is intricately involved in the health and welfare of the other. Sins actively committed in our body impact our souls and minds; thoughts lead to actions which lead to spiritual disconnect from the Father. Spiritual brokenness can cause mental and physical side effects like depression, anger, apathy, even physical pain.

So, according to this passage, our physical actions impact us mentally and spiritually as well. We use our bodies and train our minds to respond a certain way, leading to addictive behavior. Most people today watch enough Dr. Phil to understand the mind/body connection.

But what about the spiritual aspect of sin? How does that impact us? How does our sin impact our relationship with the Triune God? According to this passage, our sin effects Christ intimately and directly. He tells us that, at the time of salvation, we become joined in one Spirit with Christ. He is a part of us, we are a part of Him. This is why the marriage relationship is a picture of our relationship with Christ; separate beings, joined together to become one while still remaining unique beings. One of the greatest mysteries of how we as spiritual beings function.

Follow this logic for a moment; as believers, we are joined to Jesus, being one in Spirit. He is with us and a part of us, present and actively involved in all that we think, say and do. That’s a pretty convicting thought.

But Paul then immediately uses an extreme illustration to make his point; he asks who in his right mind would ask Jesus to sleep with a prostitute? The answer to that rhetorical question is, “No one!” Jesus was tempted in every way, yet without sin. Jesus doesn’t want to engage in illicit sexual activity; his one goal is to glorify His Father in Heaven in mind, body and spirit.

So, following Paul’s graphic illustration, what are we doing when, as believers, we force Jesus, with whom we are joined in one Spirit, to join us in immoral sexual behavior? We are essentially raping Jesus. We are forcing him to participate in sexual activity He wholeheartedly desires to avoid because it brings no glory to the Father in Heaven.

Some statics claim that by the end of college (or age 22) as many as 20% of all women have been at least convinced to participate in a sex act she would otherwise have avoided. Ask any woman who’s been in that situation, and she will tell you how it made her feel. Dirty. Shameful. Used. Broken. Brokenhearted.

Sometimes it’s difficult as believers to understand how our sin breaks the heart of God. In following Paul’s logic in this passage, it should be abundantly clear; to engage in immoral sexual activity is to force Jesus to engage in sexual activity against His will. Our selfish momentary pleasure is equal to the rape of Christ.

Looking at it from that point of view, how do you think our sin breaks the heart of God? How would your heart break knowing that a loved one had been raped, abused, molested? How did you feel if it’s happened to you? What steps do you take to protect yourself from being in a situation in which those things could happen? How do you teach and train the young boys and girls in your life to avoid those situations? Shouldn’t we do the same for Christ?

If we are one in Spirit with Him, shouldn’t we live our lives in such a way that we do everything within our power to keep Him from being involved in activities He desperately wants to avoid?

Sex to the Glory of God?


(This post is the first in a series of three addressing specific ideas and principles found in the following passage of Scripture.They will post on three consecutive days.)

The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, “The two will become one flesh.” But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or 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 with your body.
1 Corinthians 6:15-20

People spend hours each week engrossed in television shows whose story lines center around the illicit relationships of the main characters. Teen girls are now intentionally getting pregnant, hoping they’ll be selected as the next “star” of a teen mom reality show. More and more church members are involved in immoral sexual activity or cohabiting, all while the church has historically kept silent on the issue of sex, rarely teaching a godly, biblical theology of sex. Unbiblical sexual activity has become an acceptable sin in the body of Christ. It’s been so normalized in culture that the church has surrendered and thrown up her hands in defeat. The attitude seems to be that we can’t stop people from having sex, so we’ll just hope they use protection and we’ll be here to help them pick up the pieces when their lives explode.

The church ignores the topic of sex as if it has nothing to do with the church or the God we worship. Here’s where the problem comes occurs. Sex was God’s idea, not something he wants to limit, control, or destroy. Here is God’s view of sex. Sex is good. Very good, in fact, according to Genesis 2. But, much like a fine luxury car, sex is best when it functions within the manufacturer’s suggested guidelines.

And, whether we like it or not, God gives very specific guidelines for how sex is best enjoyed and most fully experienced in its original purpose.

God is perfect. He’s the perfect teacher. He not only tells us what not to do, he tells us what to do. He gives us the one right, best way to do things and then gives illustrations of consequences of what will happen when we don’t follow His guidelines.

One of my favorite examples of this type of teaching is the inclusion of polygamy in Scripture. Christians of a more liberal or emerging mindset think along this line of logic: polygamy is in the Bible, so God must be ok with it. Polygamy is oppressive to women, therefore, this must also mean God hates women.

OR maybe he included stories of polygamy in Scripture to show us the consequences of engaging in sexual relationships in ways other than His one, best way. One of my favorite defenses of the Bible and Christianity coming from a Being greater than humanity is that the Bible graphically displays the greatest failures of its “greatest” human characters. Humans tend to cover our faults and deify our leaders. Not the Bible. God ensures we know that it is He who does the miraculous work, not any man.

In my area of counseling, I spend a lot of time pondering relationships and gender and sex, and what God has to say about these issues in the Bible. I also ponder them because I spent so many years struggling with my own understanding of those very issues. Many people go into counseling because they’re trying to figure themselves out, and I guess I’m no exception. But during my time in seminary, I spent more time studying the nature of God than I spent talking about mankind and relationships.

And the more I learned about God, the more I learned about myself and people in general. This is the conclusion that I came to concerning sex and my stance on sex as I learned more and more about God and his purposes for creating humanity and sexuality.

1. God designed sex with a good purpose.
2. God created sex to produce good results– trust, pleasure, intimacy, connection, procreation…
3. God determined sex was so precious and powerful that it was best reserved for only one person.
4. To accurately show God’s image and nature in procreation and diverse unity, sex should be expressed only between a man and a woman.
5. To be a faithful picture of God’s covenant with His people, sex should only only take place within the confines of a covenant relationship, specifically marriage.

These are the guidelines for God’s good gift of sex. Seems pretty simple and straightforward. It gets complicated when we start making exceptions for our own “happiness”. But notice that “it makes me happy” is not included in that short list above.

As believers, we need to remember the statement my mom repeats often: quit expecting people who aren’t Christians to behave like Christians. They aren’t. Our “rules” don’t apply to unbelievers. If unbelievers follow God’s guidelines, their lives will be better, more peaceful, healthier simply because God’s way is best. But it makes sense that unbelievers are concerned foremost with their own happiness; their lives revolve around themselves and their own fulfillment.

I don’t want lost homosexuals to just stop being homosexuals; I want them to meet the only fulfilling Lover of their soul and completer of their heart.

I don’t want heterosexual sinners to just stop having sex outside of marriage, or to break their addictions to porn or self-pleasure; I want them to discover that the pleasure and fulfillment they are seeking in sex or relationships will only be found by fulfilling their souls’ deepest desires in Christ instead hopelessly trying to fulfill their bodies’ most intense urges.

I don’t want lost drug addicts to just get clean; I want them to meet the Most High.

I don’t want lost people struggling with depression to just figure out how to be happy and self-fulfilled, and I want them to discover eternal joy in Christ.
And I don’t want saved homosexuals, sex addicts, drug addicts, or those suffering from depression to just stop their behavior, either. I desire the same thing God desires for them. To stop being so easily pleased with mere happiness and and begin seeking true and lasting joy, found only in seeking after His glory.

So what happens, as believers, to our relationship with God when, through sex (or any other thing), we seek our own happiness instead of His glory? We’ll see the answer to that tomorrow in Paul’s graphic illustration in 1 Corinthians 6.

The Difference Between Grace and Karma


I appreciate what Bono, the lead singer of the rock group U2, has to say about grace: “It’s a mind-blowing concept that the God of the Universe might be looking for company, real relationship with people, but the thing that keeps me on my knees is the difference between Grace and Karma.” Bono explains that the idea of karma is central to all religions:

What you put out comes back to you: an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, or in physics– in physical laws– every action is met by an equal or an opposite one. It’s clear to me that Karma is at the the very heart of the Universe. I’m absolutely sure of it. And yet, along comes this idea called Grace to upend all that “As you reap, so you will sow” stuff. Grace defies reason and logic. Love interrupts, if you like, the consequences of our actions, which in my case is very good news indeed, because I’ve done a lot of stupid stuff…. It doesn’t excuse my mistakes, but I’m holding out for Grace. I’m holding out that Jesus took my sins onto the Cross, because I know who I am, and I hope that I don’t have to depend on my own religiosity.

The above quote, found in Joanna Weaver’s book Lazarus Awakening, may have shot it’s way into my top five all time favorite quotes.

I teach World Cultures and Geography, and in that class we spend nearly an entire quarter studying various world religions. One thing that I stress to my students is that there are various themes that are found in ALL religions, Christianity included, because there are certain questions that all of mankind asks: “Why am I here?” “Why is there evil in the world?” “How do I make sense of this life?” “What happens when I die?” What sets Christianity apart from other religions, is that other religions stop at an answer that satisfies the intellectual understanding of man.

The above example is perfect. Karma really is a concept found within every religion because it is a fundamental principle of life, written on the hearts of all people. It is easy to understand and easy to blame for both the good and the bad that occurs in this life. It is also the natural instinct of people; you do good to me, I’ll return the favor. You do bad to me, you’ve asked me to also return the favor. Karma is fleshly man at his best and worst, but it’s flesh. The cosmic balance of the Universe would be upended if something were to happen that changed Karma. I have friends who live their lives attempting to keep the balance of Karma and often proclaim their frustration with said Universe when they feel their good outweighs their bad yet bad keeps happening. “What gives, Universe?”

What gives is that Someone did enter history and upend the cosmic balance of Karma. “Grace defies reason and logic.” Karma only “works” if we are able to do more good than bad, but if we are honest with ourselves, even attempting to keep up with our own good and bad actions is more than the average person can manage. We give too much credit to our good and not enough to our bad. We only count acts of commission, not neglectful omission. Karma is something that keeps us in control; in control of our lives, our destinies. Grace takes control from us and places it firmly on the shoulders of another. And that is a concept at which self-sufficient humanity balks.

That is why I know within the depths of my heart that Grace trumps Karma. I know because it makes no sense to me. It truly defies human logic, therefore it transcends me. And any faith worth following better be a faith deeper than I can understand. Because I know me. And if all the answers can be found within myself, then I’m in trouble. Much like Bono, I have done a lot of stupid stuff, and I for one am thankful that I can look beyond the Karmic laws of the Universe to the Graceful love of the Creator of the Universe who reached into Karma and offered Grace.

The Thin Line


It’s an age old problem. Those we love the most, have known the longest, trusted with the most of ourselves, are the ones that have the potential to hurt us the most. This is exactly why so many people walk around with a wall around their hearts, keeping people at arm’s length to prevent potential heart break. The benefits of love are simply not worth the risk of hurt and rejection.

Prevention of pain explains a lot in ministry and life in general. Ministry leaders don’t stay places long because it hurts less when those you serve reject you or betray you if you haven’t known them long and you don’t have much invested in them. Marriages are short term agreements instead of lifetime covenants because it’s easier to find someone else than to work through the hurt caused by someone who knows you deeply. We are connected in more social networking ways than ever before in the history of humanity, but we “connect” through the barrier of technology. There is a very thin line between love and hate because great hate is usually only generated by a betrayal of great love. Some people learn this and decide it’s not worth the risk.

I was reminded of this today when my feelings were bruised in a ministry situation by someone I have known for a long time. My first thought was, “That wouldn’t have bothered me so bad if I weren’t at my home church and it hadn’t been someone who knows me.” Knowing and being known opens us up to hurt. And no one wants to be hurt. As humans, our favorite idol is our own pleasure and happiness, and we will often decrease our own happiness to decrease our risk for pain.

But then I thought about Jesus, the One who Scripture claims knows all of our pain and temptation yet never sinned. I thought about how painful it must have been for Him to be betrayed by Judas, one of his disciples, someone He had poured Himself into for three years. Three years is a long term relationship in our time, and they had been together almost constantly in those three years. They shared life together. They knew one another and were known by one another. Three years worth of betrayal were felt in that kiss in the garden.

But even more than that, how much did it hurt for Him to have been rejected by His chosen people? Jesus had known and had been known by His people since the time of Abraham. For eternity, before the foundation of the world, Jesus knew His creation, He knit them together one at a time in their mother’s wombs. He revealed himself in creation; day after day for thousands of years, He put himself out there, opened himself up to the risk of rejection.

Then He came to earth and was rejected. Rejected by His chosen people. Rejected by the very creation into which He had poured His own Image. Rejected by His physical family, who declared Him to be crazy and warned towns to steer clear of Him. Rejected by His spiritual family in the Temple, by those who knew the most about Him but really didn’t know Him at all. He was literally rejected to death.

Jesus knew the thin line between love and hate, but He determined that his hate of sin and separation from His creation outweighed his love for himself and his own happiness. His love for His Bride and His Father outweighed His hate for His own pain and suffering.

So when we face the tough times in relationships, those times when we are hurt, rejected, betrayed, how do we handle it? Do we run away, protecting ourselves and our hearts, or do we remember that Jesus stuck with it for the long haul? When our hearts are breaking, do we remember that Jesus poured Himself into relationships for centuries and was rejected, yet still stuck with it?

When we have times that we feel like no one understands the pain we feel, remember that Jesus invested more time in relationships than any of us, ALL of time, and experienced an equal amount of heartbreak.

He knows what heartbreak feels like and He wants to heal yours.