If you follow Bro. Jonathan on Twitter you know that we’ll soon be adding a song to our congregational repertoire.  You can find the audio in Jonathan’s tweet below.  Further down you will find the lyrics and a YouTube video for the song.

Chorus
We will feast in the house of Zion
We will sing with our hearts restored
He has done great things, we will say together
We will feast and weep no more

We will not be burned by the fire
He is the LORD our God
We are not consumed, by the flood
Upheld, protected, gathered up (Chorus)

In the dark of night, before the dawn
My soul, be not afraid
For the promised morning, oh how long?
Oh God of Jacob, be my strength (Chorus)

Every vow we’ve broken and betrayed
You are the Faithful one
And from the garden to the grave
Bind us together, bring shalom. (Chorus)

 

Rosario Champagne Butterfield is a wonderful storyteller.  Here, in the story of her own conversion, she uses those powers to remind believers that Christians are “called not just to a single instance of repentance. Rather, they’re called to repent throughout their lives, trusting Christ for life every day.”  Thanks to Ligonier Ministries for providing the video.

You can find her book, The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert:An English Professor’s Journey into Christian Faith, here which provides a more lengthy account of her conversion.  Also, if you liked the video above, you may enjoy this conversation with Russell Moore from the 2014 ERLC National Conference on “The Gospel, Homosexuality, and the Future of Marriage.”

Today’s decision by the Supreme Court of the United States to impose a radical redefinition of marriage on all states of the Union has profound implications for the church.  We certainly face new difficulties but difficulty is the environment in which the Gospel does its most wonderful work.  We are not fearful but we must be prepared to face these new challenges faithfully.  Today is a good day to re-read our post on Mark Dever’s counsel for Surviving a Cultural Crisis.  The article below from The Gospel Coalition and the The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention brings further aid.  For even more resources visit the website EQUIP, a joint effort from TGC and ERLC.

Same-Sex Marriage and the Future
Russell Moore, President of The Ethics and Religious Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention

The Bible tells us that the king of Israel once wanted to hear from the prophets, as to whether he would be victorious over his enemies. All the court prophets told him exactly what he wanted to hear. Yet the king of Judah, wisely, asked whether there might be another voice to hear from, and Israel’s king said that, yes, there was, but that he hated this prophet “because he never prophesies good concerning me” (1 Kings 22:8).

Once found, this prophet refused to speak the consensus word the king wanted to hear. “As the LORD lives, what the LORD says to me, that I will speak” (1 Kings 22:14). And, as it turned out, it was a hard word.

When it comes to what people want to hear, the church faces a similar situation as we look to the future of marriage in this country. Many want the sort of prophetic witness that will spin the situation to look favorable, regardless of whether that favor is from the Lord or in touch with reality.

Some people want a court of prophets who will take a surgeon’s scalpel to the Word of God. They want those who will say, in light of what the Bible clearly calls immorality, “Has God really said?” Following the trajectory of every old liberalism of the past, they want to do with a Christian sexual ethic what the old liberals did with the virgin birth—claim that contemporary people just won’t have this, and if we want to rescue Christianity, this will have to go overboard. All the while they’ll tell us they’re doing it for the children (or for the Millennials).

Preaching a Gospel That Doesn’t Save

This is infidelity to the gospel we’ve received. First, no one refusing to repent of sin—be it homosexuality or fornication or anything else—will inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor. 6:9–10). This strategy leaves people in condemnation before the judgment seat of Christ, without reconciliation and without hope.

Second, it doesn’t even work. Look at the empty cathedrals of the Episcopal Church, the vacated pews of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), and right down the line. Let me be clear. Even if embracing same-sex marriage—or any other endorsement of what the Bible calls sexual immorality—“worked” in church building, we still wouldn’t do it. If we have to choose between Jesus and Millennials, we choose Jesus. But history shows us that those who want a different Jesus—the one who says, “Do whatever you want with your body, it’s okay by me”—don’t want Christianity at all.

But there will be those who want prophets who will say that the gospel doesn’t call for repentance, or at least not repentance from this sin. These prophets will apply a selective universalism that denies that judgment is coming, or that the blood of Christ is needed. But these prophets don’t speak for God. And we have no one to blame but ourselves since, for too long, too many of us have tolerated among us those who have substituted a cheap and easy false gospel for the gospel of Jesus Christ. Too many have been called gospel preachers who preach decision without faith, regeneration without repentance, justification without lordship, deliverance by walking an aisle but without carrying a cross. That gospel is different from the one Jesus and his apostles delivered to us. That gospel doesn’t save.

So when these prophets emerge to tell people they can stay in their sins and still be saved, we must thunder back with the old gospel that calls all of us to repentance and to cross-bearing, the gospel that calls sin what it is in order to call grace what it is. J. Gresham Machen warned us that our Lord Jesus himself never attempted to preach the gospel to the righteous but only to sinners. Those who follow him must start by acknowledging themselves to be in need of mercy, to be in need of grace that can pardon and cleanse within.

Marriage Revolution Is Real

There’s another form of court prophet of these times, too. This one has no problem identifying homosexuality as sin. He may do so with all sorts of bluster and outrage, but he still does what court prophets always do—he speaks a word that people want to hear. Some people want to hear that sexual immorality is moral after all, and other people want to hear that same-sex marriage is simply a matter of some elites on the coasts of the country. This prophet implies that if we just sign checks to the right radio talk-show hosts, and have a good election cycle or two, we’ll be right back where we were, back when carpets were shag and marriages were strong. I don’t know anyone in any advocacy organization in Washington, D.C.—and there are many fighting the good fight on this one—who is saying that. As a matter of fact, the organizations closest to the ground know just how dark the hour is.

In some form or another, your church will have to address the marriage revolution. This includes thinking through steps that churches should take to protect themselves and their confessions of faith from legal action. But it also includes being honest about our congregations. It’s simply not the case that homosexuality, same-sex attraction, transgenderism, and so on are issues in “big” churches or “city” churches. In backwood rural churches of Appalachia or the mythological Bible Belt of the American South, congregations have to know how to faithfully and compassionately minister to the sexual revolution’s refugees. Churches that aren’t addressing these issues in their Sunday gatherings are ignoring the Great Commission.

That’s why this isn’t merely an issue of an election cycle or two. There is an urgent need for conscience protections for those who dissent from the High Church of the Sexual Revolution. Look at the way the CEO of Mozilla was hounded out of office simply for supporting a ballot measure defining marriage as between one man and one woman. Look at the way Baronnelle Stutzman was accosted by her own government, not for refusing services to gay customers (she served many gay clients for years) but for refusing to agree with two customers, and the state, about a same-sex wedding.

If the church doesn’t read the signs of the times, we will be right where we evangelicals were after Roe v. Wade—caught flat-footed and unprepared. Thankfully, many Christian leaders, and many outside the evangelical tradition, became bold leaders in the cause of protecting unborn life. We owe much today to their courage.

Lessons from the Pro-Life Movement

So what should we do? Precisely what we should have done before and after Roe. We should recognize where the courts and the culture are, and we should work for justice. That means not simply assuming most people agree with us on marriage. We must articulate, both in and out of the church, why marriage matters, and why its definition isn’t infinitely elastic.

We must—like the pro-life movement has done—seek not only to engage our base, those who already agree with us, but to persuade those who don’t. That doesn’t mean less talk about marriage and sexuality but more—and not just in soundbytes and slogans but in a robust theology of why sexual complementarity and the one-flesh union are rooted in the mystery of the gospel (Eph. 5:22–33). We must—also like the pro-life movement—understand the danger of a Supreme Court that won’t will into existence constitutional planks.

Above all, we must prepare people for what the future holds, when Christian beliefs about marriage and sexuality aren’t part of the cultural consensus but are seen to be strange and freakish and even subversive. If our people assume that everything goes back to normal with the right President and a quick constitutional amendment, they are not being equipped for a world that views evangelical Protestants and traditional Roman Catholics and Orthodox Jews and others as bigots and freaks.

Jesus told us we would have hard times. He never promised us a prosperity gospel. He said we would face opposition, but he said he would be with us. If we are going to be faithful to his gospel, we must preach repentance—even when that repentance is culturally unwelcome. And we must preach that any sinner can be forgiven through the blood of Jesus Christ. That means courage, and that means kindness. Sexual revolutionaries will hate the repentance. Buffoonish heretics, who want only to vent paranoia and rally their troops, will hate the kindness. So be it.

Be Ready

Our churches must be ready to call out the revisionists who wish to do away with a Christian sexual ethic. And we must be ready to call out those who tell us acknowledging the signs of the times is forbidden, and we should just keep doing what we’ve been doing. An issue this culturally powerful cannot be addressed by a halfway-gospel or by talk-radio sloganeering.

The marriage revolution around us means we must do a better job articulating a theology of marriage to our people, as well as a theology of suffering and marginalization. It means we must do a better job articulating to those on the outside why children need both a Mom and a Dad, not just “parents,” and why marriage isn’t simply a matter of court decree. It means we must start teaching our children about marriage “from the beginning” as male and female when they’re in Sunday school. It means we may have to decide if and when the day will come in which we will refuse to sign the state’s marriage licenses.

The long-term prospects for marriage are good. Marriage is resilient, and the sexual revolution always disappoints. It’s true these are dark days for the culture of marriage. But dark days are exactly what our gospel is for. No day was darker than the day the Son of God died in Palestine on a criminal’s cross. We are here because that dark day was not the end of the story. And because it wasn’t the end then, it will never be the end now.

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Addendum: The changing legal realities of our world necessitate that churches provide themselves what legal protections are available.  For an idea of what these protections look like see How To Protect Your Church Against Sexual Orientation And Gender Identity Lawsuits.  If you want to see a physical copy of the booklet mentioned in that article named Protecting Your Ministry from Sexual Orientation Gender Identity Lawsuits let the church office know.

We also recommend you read Russell Moore’s op-ed in The Washington Post titled Why the Church Should Never Cave Nor Panic About the Decision on Gay MarriageAn excerpt:

Let’s also recognize that if we’re right about marriage, and I believe we are, many people will be disappointed in getting what they want. Many of our neighbors believe that a redefined concept of marriage will simply expand the institution (and, let’s be honest, many will want it to keep on expanding). This will not do so, because sexual complementarity is not ancillary to marriage. The church must prepare for the refugees from the sexual revolution.

We must prepare for those, like the sexually wayward Woman at the Well of Samaria, who will be thirsting for water of which they don’t even know.

There are two sorts of churches that will not be able to reach the sexual revolution’s refugees. A church that has given up on the truth of the Scriptures, including on marriage and sexuality, and has nothing to say to a fallen world. And a church that screams with outrage at those who disagree will have nothing to say to those who are looking for a new birth.

We must stand with conviction and with kindness, with truth and with grace. We must hold to our views and love those who hate us for them. We must not only speak Christian truths; we must speak with a Christian accent. We must say what Jesus has revealed, and we must say those things the way Jesus does — with mercy and with an invitation to new life.

Our reading group starts on June 6th and Bro. Jeff recommend the title we’ll be going through – Renaissance: The Power of the Gospel However Dark the Times – highly!  Please make plans to join us!  Of course, with summer travels and events no participant can be at every meeting but being at the ones you can will be, I trust, very beneficial.  Details are below.

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The summer reading/discussion group will start on Saturday, June 6!  If you are a regular attender, please add this to your calendar—and confirm that you will be part of the summer group

If you’re not a regular or if it’s been sometime since you were part of the group, this is an invitation—please make plans to join us.  And let me know your plans to attend.

We will be reading Renaissance:  The Power of the Gospel However Dark the Times by Os Guinness.  Also, go ahead and order your copy of the book.  Even if you can’t attend the reading group, I’d encourage you to purchase and read the book.

I’m hoping that our first session can be a video of Dr. Guinness speaking about Renaissance. He recently gave this talk at the Acton Institute in Michigan.  When I inquired when the video would be online, the good folks at Acton said they would do me one better—they’d just send me a CD of the talk.  Hopefully, I’ll have that talk for our first meeting/discussion on June 6.

Here are three introductory quotes from Renaissance which will give you an idea of where Dr. Guinness goes in the book.

After half a millennium of dominance, the West is being eclipsed in the global era, the United States as the lead society in the West stands on the verge of relative if not absolute decline, and much of the Christian Church in both Europe and North America is in a sorry state of weakness, confusion, unfaithfulness and cultural captivity.

The truth is that the greatest enemy of the Western church is not the state or any ideology such as atheism, but the world and the spirit of the age.Anything less than a full-blooded expression of the Christian faith has no chance of standing firm against the assaults and seductions of the advanced modern world. So when the church becomes worldly, she betrays her Lord, and she also fails to live up to her calling to be dangerously different—and thus to provide deliverance from the world by a power that is not of the world.

What we also need is a constructive overarching vision of Christian engagement in today’s advanced modern world, one that is shaped by faith in God and a Christian perspective rather than by current wisdom, and one that can inspire Christians to move out with courage to confront the best and worst that we may encounter.

A very helpful review of Renaissance, with lots of quotes, can be found online at the website of the Australian ethicist and apologist Bill Muehlenberg.

Time: 8:30-10:00 a.m. – Saturday mornings
Location:  Peachtree Learning Center
Address: 420 N. Walnut (at the intersection of Walnut and 4th streets)

Thanks to the generosity of a church member and the folks at 9 Marks our church library received a rich investment in recent days.

NewBooks

Stop by the bookshelf this Sunday in the church foyer and pick out something good to read!

NewBookshelf

YSFM

Tomorrow at Midway Baptist Church starting at 7:00am – rain or shine – you will find a yard sale chock full of goodies.  The proceeds from each sale will go to support mission work through West Haven Baptist Church in the Smokey Mountains with Chilhowee Area Ministries (Click HERE to learn more about CHARM’s work).

Up for sale are tables, desks, a dog crate, housewaress, lots of clothing and other misc. items. Refreshments will also be on sale.

Drop by!

Tim Challies regularly takes readers of his  blog through classic writings.  In reading The Mystery of Providence by the Puritan John Flavel he came across a section aimed at exhorting Christian parents.  Below you’ll find Flavel’s points from this section with a few explanatory sentences from Challies himself.  We commend it to your consideration:

[Flavel] offers these 8 considerations, asking that you would ponder each one and allow them to motivate you to call your children to respond to the gospel.

  1. Consider the intimacy of the relationship between you and your children, and, therefore, how much their happiness or misery is your concern. Our children mean so much us. You gain joy by them, you place high value on them, you express hopes and longings for them, you sympathize with them in their troubles, and you grieve from the depths of your soul if they precede you into death. Why would you long to have children, and assign such value to them, and find so much joy in them, if, in the meantime, you give little thought to their eternal souls?
  2. Consider that God has charged you to tend not only to their bodies, but also to their souls. You can know this by the clear commands God has given parents (see Deuteronomy 6:6-7; Ephesians 6:4), and also by the commands he has given children since these commands imply the duty of the parents (e.g. Ephesians 6:1).
  3. Consider what could possibly comfort you at the time of your children’s death if, through your neglect, they die in a Christless condition. The most heartbreaking cry is that of the parent who has to honestly admit, “My child is in hell and I did nothing to prevent it! My child is in hell and I helped him go there!”
  4. Consider this question: If you neglect to instruct your children in the way of holiness, will the devil neglect to instruct them in the way of wickedness? No, of course not. If you will not teach them to pray, he will teach them to curse, swear, and lie. Where the ground is uncultivated, weeds will inevitably spring up.
  5. Consider that if the years of your children’s youth are neglected, there is little probability of any good fruit afterwards. You have to make the best use of their most formative years. Flavel uses this brilliant little illustration: “How few are converted in old age! A twig is brought to any form, but grown trees will not bow.”
  6. Consider that you are the instrumental cause of all your children’s spiritual misery, both by generation and imitation, by birth and by example. They are in a state of spiritual death because of the plague of sin which they contracted from you. As David says, “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me” (Psalm 51:5). This further increases your responsibility to see them healed from that plague.
  7. Consider that there is no one in the world more likely than you to be instruments of their eternal good. You have advantages that no others have, such as the insights you gain into their hearts. Because you are with them every day, and because you have so much knowledge of their weaknesses, you have unique opportunities to instill the knowledge of Christ into them. If you are neglectful, who shall help them? No one else can or will take your place in their lives.
  8. Consider the great day of judgment and be moved with pity for your children. Remember that text, “I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God” (Revelation 20:12). What a sad thing it would be to see your dear children at Christ’s left hand. Friends, do your utmost to prevent this misery! “Knowing the terrors of the Lord, we persuade men” (2 Corinthians 5:11).

Now, the purpose of these 8 considerations is not to make parents despair, but to help them see their responsibility. Flavel acknowledges, of course, that God is the only one who can bring a child to salvation and that God’s purposes are his own. And yet the Scriptures make it plain that the parents are to raise their children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. Every parent would do well to ponder these 8 items.