(I’d like to thank Mark Proeger for his fine preaching this past Sunday, May 3rd, and for taking extra time to field these questions following the second service. —geno)
Q1: What do you think keeps us from showing love to those who don’t believe yet? Like what are the mental hurdles?
I believe one of the greatest things that keeps us from showing love to those who don’t yet know Jesus, is fear. This can come in several forms. We can be afraid of what they may think of us. We can be afraid of not having the answers and therefore are afraid to start the discussion in the first place. At the end of the day, I think we are afraid to simply say “I don’t know” to a hard or difficult question. We have some belief, that is not from God, which tells us we have to have all the answers or be ready to answer any question someone throws at us.
Another issue is that Christians are regularly depicted as being the most judgmental, nerdy, hateful, ignorant (and add any number of more insulting adjectives here) people on the planet. We are embarrassed to be identified with the world’s depiction of Christians. This stops us from wanting to put our own faith out there in an authentic and winsome way.
Much more could be said about this, but I will add that we may also just lack the faith to believe that our friends can be changed by God’s love. We may subconsciously imagine them to be too far to be reached by God’s grace. Obviously, this is a lie, but it is one that we sometimes accept without realizing it. We then act on it and get in patterns where we keep our “religion to ourselves” and don’t share the love of God.
Q2: You’ve talked about sexual struggles but didn’t mention porn. Could you talk about what this does to our spirits?
When it comes to pornography, I believe that we accept a deep lie that somehow this is “less” of a sin than actually cheating on our spouse or fornicating. I think pornography is akin to pouring a poison lie into our spirits and adopting fantasy as a god which easily replaces intimacy with our spouse or with God. (talk about mixed metaphors!!) I hope you understand what I mean. I believe that we need to talk about pornography more openly and more frequently. There has never been another time in the history of the world when porn was more readily accessible. Every smart phone, every computer and ever tablet is a portal to an ever-growing and vast storehouse of pornographic images. The church needs to discuss this openly in small groups, in Sunday meetings and with our unbelieving friends.
Q3: You asked “what do we do?” Then gave the examples of Isaac on the altar, Jesus on the cross and Adam put to sleep in the garden. Each of those examples are of things being done to individuals, not things done by the individuals themselves. So, what is it “we” do again? 1 Thessalonians 5:23, 24
Great question with some excellent points! I would say that while it is true that Jesus was a “victim,” Isaac was somewhat passive and, in the case of Adam, “the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man” I believe there is an appropriate metaphor for us in each of these stories.
My point was not necessarily that they behaved in a way that we should behave, but that the posture of their lives in these various scenarios are good illustrations of how we can posture ourselves to receive from God. Having said that, Jesus certainly partnered with His Father in that while He asked that the Father would “let this cup pass from me, but not my will but yours be done” he still ultimately submitted to God and allowed Himself to be killed for the salvation of mankind. He also made it clear to Peter in the Garden that he could have “called 10 legions of angels” to be rescued. So Jesus certainly partnered with the Father and chose to allow Himself to be killed and even reminded us before that we must “take up our cross daily.” This is the same posture we should take in letting God transform us.
We don’t have as much information when it comes to Isaac, but it seems likely that there would have needed to be some cooperation for an old man to tie up his son who was anywhere from his high single digits to as old as his early 30’s (Yeah, crazy eh? Josephus evidently declared that Isaac was 25 while Adam Clarke thought he was 33). We tend to think of a very small boy but the Hebrew term here was quite flexible and there are at least some indications that Isaac was older than his single digits since he was carrying the wood up the mountain for the sacrifice. It is difficult to imagine even a 9 year old being strong enough to carry enough wood for a sacrifice. Regardless, we can’t be sure, so my point was just that we needed to lay our lives on the altar just like Isaac was laid on an alter. It seems Paul may have had this in mind when he wrote Romans 12:1: “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”
I like that you referenced 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 which reads: “Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.”
Certainly we must always remember that it is God’s work in us…but at the same time, we are called to humbly submit and even partner with God in the process. The same author of Thessalonians wrote Philippians 2:12 “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,”
As for the analogy with Adam, that was probably my weakest example! ; ) But I still think the metaphor is a fitting one in that we rest in God and He does His work in us. I believe we can choose to position ourselves that way.
Q4: Do you intend to imply that women don’t struggle with lust?
Let me briefly clarify. I fully realize that women struggle with lust. I probably spoke too hastily (not even sure exactly what I said to spur this particular question), but I do think it tends to be a far more intense battle for men as a rule. Of course, even that is a dangerous statement because how can we know that? Let me stop with…..yes, I agree that many women struggle with lust as well.
Q5: Did you to imply that men become gay, because of a hole in their heart regarding their heart regarding their fathers?
There are many reasons a man may be gay and most of them have nothing to do with any choice that particular man made. Even secular scientists now acknowledge that nurture plays a very significant role in the development of various sexual orientations and the notion that someone is “born that way” has frankly fallen on hard times in the scientific literature (not that it would change the morality of the issue either way, obviously). The original study done back in the early 90’s which declared a genetic link was not reproduced by other scientists and we now know that any particularly proclivity (whether sexual or not) can not be merely reduced to a genetic pathway or one standard wound from childhood. So with that big caveat in place, I would simply say that there are a host of reasons men turn out gay and that I believe a common wound many of my gay male friends have is a deep wound from the absence of a father or the presence of an unkind or disconnected father growing up. But there are plenty of other reasons that homosexual inclinations may be present and we can’t oversimplify it down to either the genetics or one particular heart wound.