Deep in Our Hearts

Deep in our hearts let us record
The deeper sorrows of our Lord;
Behold the rising billows roll,
To overwhelm his holy soul.

In long complaints he spends his breath,
While hosts of hell, and powers of death,
And all the sons of malice, join
To execute their cursed design.

Yet, gracious God, thy power and love
Has made the curse a blessing prove;
Those dreadful suff’rings of thy Son
Atoned for sins which we had done.

The pangs of our expiring Lord
The honors of thy law restored;
His sorrows made thy justice known,
And paid for follies not his own.

O for his sake our guilt forgive,
And let the mourning sinner live;
The Lord will hear us in his name,
Nor shall our hope be turned to shame.

 – Isaac Watts
When was the last time you examined your heart and remembered that it was to pay the penalty and debt your sin was due that Jesus came to the Earth, died on the cross, spent three days in Hell and rose again?
Advertisements

Is World Vision Discriminatory?

If you have been watching the news or keeping up with the World Vision saga this week, you are probably as sick of hearing about it as me.  But I am particularly intrigued by the recent accusations made against the organization using the term, “discriminatory”.

Is World Vision’s code of conduct discriminatory?

World Vision is a Christian organization.  That is their primary identity.  In 2007 a few employees decided that they no longer believed in the Christian faith and their employment was terminated on that ground.  For four years the former employees sued and fought World Vision pushing their case before the Supreme Court who ultimately refused to hear it.  Why?  Because World Vision is a Christian organization.  All employees sign a statement of faith, affirm their belief in Jesus Christ for salvation and agree to a code of conduct.

They agree to a code of conduct.

Within this code is the submission to Biblical authority, expectation of church involvement, and a lifestyle free from outward, intentional sin.  Yes, all World Vision employees sin.  But if World Vision employees willfully engage in a lifestyle that is not consistent with the teachings of Jesus, they can be and are terminated.  Fired.  And they agree to it up front.  All employees sign off on the code of conduct which states that if they have an affair they will be fired.  If they have sex with their boyfriend/girlfriend they will be fired.  These sins are not normally associated with a career or the workplace unless, of course, you have sex on the conference room table.  Then you might get fired in the non-religious corporate world.  World Vision employees participate in devotions, prayer and Bible study.  In the workplace.

The U. S. District Court, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court all declared that World Vision was legally free and able to hire and fire based on one’s personal belief system because they are a Christian organization.

To be a Christian is a job requirement.

To be a Christian who submits to the authority of Scripture and lives to the best of his ability to abstain from sin is a job requirement. 

Wikipedia defines discrimination as “the prejudicial treatment of an individual based on their actual or perceived membership in a certain group or category, ‘in a way that is worse than the way people are usually treated'”.  So.  Is World Vision treating homosexuals with a discriminatory attitude?

The answer is quite simply no.

There are homosexuals who work for World Vision.  They are submitting to the authority of Scripture and are living an abstinent lifestyle, just like the non-marrried heterosexual employees.  And the married employees are practicing marriage as defined by God in Scripture as the union of one man and one woman, and are faithful to their spouse.

World Vision has not said that those who have homosexual tendencies and struggles may not work for them.  They have said that those who do not repent of their sin may not work for them.

Have I mentioned before that getting drunk is grounds for dismissal from the company?

If World Vision could be accused of discrimination, it would be on the grounds of adhering to the Bible and only hiring Christians.  Would a Christian be surprised if they were not hired by a Muslim company?  Or a Hindu by a Buddhist company?  Not all companies are created the same, some unite for other reasons that capital gain.  Some unite for faith.  And World Vision will employ people who struggle with any temptation, as long as they submit to God and His word.  And, of course, are qualified to work the job for which they applied.

Let’s not overly accuse a company for standing on its self-declared purpose and mission statement that has been established since the beginning.

Let’s get real about sin.

dont-judge-me

We’re all sinners.  No one is perfect.  So who am I to judge your sin, and who are you to judge mine!

Right?

Why does our society have this mindset right now?  I am convinced it is because we do not believe that we all truly are sinners.  This is our cop out to not have to take responsibility before anyone for anything.  It sounds humble because we would say that we are not perfect, but if one were to be pressed in exactly how he is not perfect, he would have no answer.  He would probably give you the interview answer, “I’m a perfectionist” which he calls a weakness but makes it out to be a strength for the hiring company.  We are extremely good at manipulation and self deception.

Is morality a viable aspect of our society?  Without getting too philosophical early this morning, if God exists and His Word is true then yes, His moral and His holy law outline how we should live.  The belief in a Godless universe means that there is no purpose in life, we are just highly evolved balls of slime who have developed thinking and reasoning skills, but there is no moral absolute by which we can hold ourselves accountable.

Even if one proclaims to believe that there is no God and evolution and meaninglessness in life are true, he still lives and functions with an innate sense of morality.  If someone breaks into his house and steals his stuff or rapes his wife, he will demand justice.  He will not say, “Well there is no moral absolute, so who am I to judge the thief/rapist”.

Therefore:

We must understand where morality is defined.  We must understand what the author considers sin.  And we must get real with ourselves and examine the depth of our own, personal, ugly sin.

Salvation is through faith, by grace, unto repentance.  When we are born again we have a new life.  The old has passed away.  Sort of.  We will still struggle with temptations, trials and sinful desires.  This is what theologians like to call “The Already, Not Yet”.  We have been saved, but we are not yet free of our sinful flesh.

And in order to repent we have to name our sin.  Confess it.  Hate it.  Fight it.  What are those things that entice you most?  Pornography?  Over eating?  Laziness?  Stealing?  Lying?  The Scripture is extremely clear about what is sin and what is not.  And most of us function with a normal conscience and have an understanding of right and wrong.  When we are unsure, where do we go for the answer?  The Word of God.

This week there has been a scandal over World Vision and their positional change about allowing homosexuality as an unrepentant sin for employees.  The long held tradition that adhered to Scripture calling it sin was reversed for a brief 48 hour time frame, and led to a media storm that has polarized Christians.

Some would seek to deny the Scripture and say that homosexuality is not a sin.  Some would say, “We are all sinners, so who am I to judge?”  And some would say, “That person cannot be saved if he has those desires”.  All of these answers are dangerous and hurtful to Christianity.  Why?  Because homosexuality is indeed a sin and those who struggle with the passions and desires need to fight it.  But it does not disqualify him from salvation.  Just like murder, stealing, lying and adultery do not disqualify another.  But excusing it and not helping the weak to fight it leaves the sinner in his sin and without hope.

False humility will be our demise.  Until we realize our guilt and get on our faces in grief and brokenness over our sin, we will not repent.  We cannot be saved.

Here is an easy way to test yourself.  When someone calls you out on a sin, what is your response?  Do you get defensive and fight for your sin as acceptable or excusable?  Or do you get angry and say the accuser has no right to call you out because he is just as bad – but in his own way?  Do you fall into depression because someone would think that you are not perfect?  Do you admit your sin and mope in your guilt?

Or do you admit, “Yes I did that, and it was wrong.  Will you forgive me and help me to honor God by not doing that any more?”

Do you get on your face before God and say, “God I did _____ today.  I dishonored you by _____.  But I love you and want to honor you with my life, help me obey you and represent you well before my friends, coworkers and neighbors.”

You’re not perfect.  I’m not perfect.  Let’s take some time today to evaluate those specific ways in which we are tempted and/or regularly sin.  And let’s allow God to be the judge, let’s get on our faces before Him, and let’s turn to Him to redeem us.  He will forgive you if you confess your sin and repent.  Leave the sin behind.  Cling to God.

“If any man thinks ill of you, do not be angry with him, for you are worse than he thinks you to be.”

– Charles Spurgeon

World Vision: What’s the Big Deal?

As the events of this week have unfolded publicly resulting in a tsunami of debate, conversation and doubt, it is becoming clear that the foundational issue is not being portrayed clearly.  What is the big deal about World Vision’s decision?

On Monday, World Vision announced that they would no longer hire or fire based on someone’s sexuality, but they would leave that to the authority of the individual’s local church to deem appropriate or not.  This was cloaked in the idea of unity amongst believers.

Why is this a big deal?  Shouldn’t homosexual people be allowed to work?  Surely they can feed the poor and help those who are less fortunate?  Perhaps allowing people of all backgrounds to work for a Christian non-profit will help them learn the Bible and maybe this is the way God is drawing them to Himself?  To repentance?

All of those arguments are valid.  But they completely miss the point.

World Vision is a Christian organization.  Leadership states that its purpose is to fight all forms of injustice and reach the world for Christ.  Because of its Christian identity, they hold an employee code of conduct.  To be hired, one must affirm faith in Jesus Christ, be an active member of a local church, sign off on belief in the Apostle’s Creed and agree to a lifestyle that fights sin.  It also affirms belief in the Bible as the inerrant (without error) and inspired Word of God, and our authority for life.

What does that mean, what exactly is the lifestyle conduct code?  Most of us, Christian or not, could list the ten commandments.  Most of us know that the Bible has clearly outlined things that are sinful.  Adultery.  If you are married and you have an affair, this is Biblically considered a sin (Ex 20.17).  World Vision will fire an employee and refuse to hire a candidate if it is known that he is having an affair.  Drunkenness.  The Bible is clear that getting drunk is a sin (Eph 5.18).  Jesus drank wine, so alcohol is not prohibited but to be drunk is indeed a sin.  Sex outside of marriage is also Biblically called a sin (1 Cor 6.18).  These are all grounds for dismissal from the organization.

So in World Vision’s employee code of conduct, any normal, fire-able sin like stealing, embezzlement and lying are ground for dismissal.  Above those normally ethically damnable sins are drunkenness, adultery and sex outside of marriage.  While a non-Christian company would not fire you for those personal decisions, World Vision would.  Included in this list before Monday was unrepentant homosexuality.  The Bible defines homosexuality as a sin:

“Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God?  Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God.”

– 1 Cor 6.9-10

God is extremely concerned about sin.  The only reason Jesus died and rose again is to pay the punishment for our sin.  We need a Savior because we deserve to go to Hell for any sin that we have committed.  Practicing homosexuality is not going to send someone to Hell more than lying, stealing or murder.  But not repenting from it will indeed send you to Hell just like lying, stealing and murder.

World Vision is what is known as a para-church organization.  They are not governed by a specific denomination or statement of faith.  In fact, they are composed of fifty denominations:  everything from Orthodox to Episcopalian.  And there are represented within those denominations what are known as “secondary doctrines” and even tertiary doctrines.  These are those doctrines that churches believe and hold strongly that do not affect the core of Christianity that is salvation.  Included in these doctrines is the debate over birth control, mode of baptism, and women in leadership.  On topics like these, World Vision does not take a stand but allows each individual church to interpret Scripture how they understand it.

So now we finally get to the point.  On Monday, the board at World Vision attempted to take homosexuality out of the sin and nonnegotiable category and place it into the non-essential category of secondary doctrines.  They removed it from the list of sins that Paul says will keep us from Heaven, and said you can decide for yourself.  We will not hold you accountable.  They will still fire employees for having one too many drinks, but not for marrying someone of the same gender.

IF World Vision had made the decision to remove their Christian identity and overall code of conduct and function strictly as an NGO that helped in disaster relief and community development, this would be a non conversation.  Of course all people can work together and unite towards that end.  The problem is that they, for two days, stood under the statement that they were changing Scripture, or choosing to not submit to it as the authority for Christians, namely employees.

Praise God, though, that they listened to the counsel of believers and repented of their decision.  They could have rectified the situation in two ways.  They could have abandoned their Christian identity and then been free to employ people of all world views and could have used the work place as an opportunity to engage people who are not believers, or they could return to the authority of Scripture and maintain their Christian identity.  They chose the latter.

Homosexuality is not the unpardonable sin.  It is actually reported that there are many homosexuals who already work for World Vision.  But they are submitting to the word of God and are fighting their own personal sin, as are the rest of us.  We are all fighting the temptation of our own sin of disposition.  Some lying.  Some stealing.  Some pride.  Some fornication.  All Christians are in the battle for our souls against our flesh, clinging to the power of Christ to free us from sin and its reign.  World Vision has simply returned to the God-honoring position that we do not have to be perfect, but we do have to agree with God about what He calls sin.  We have to fight our sin, and live a life that outwardly honors Him.  And if we choose to give in to our sin, we are disqualified from employment in their company.

Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.

– 1 Cor 6.11

Praise God we have been washed clean and empowered to live lives that honor Him!

WV

Whose side are you on?

Sometimes we get caught up in ourselves.  OK, a lot of times.  For some of us, all the time.  We learn as small children that if we throw a fit we can make our moms uncomfortable enough to give us what we want.  When we go to school we hear, “You can be whatever you want to be when you grow up”.  We dream.  We get senior pictures made that make us all look like models because we are, after all, that beautiful.  Restaurants advertise to our individualism and high self esteem, “Have it your way”.

One of our theme verses for life is Romans 8:31:

What then shall we say to these things?  If God is for us, who is against us?

We think that by being a Christian, God is on our side.  We are out in the ring fighting and He is in our corner coaching us and cheering us on.  We are the star, He is the support.

But the reality is that God is the winner, He is in control, He is the “team captain” and we are on His side.

Now it came about when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, a man was standing opposite him with his sword drawn in his hand, and Joshua went to him and said to him, “Are you for us or for our adversaries?”  He said, “No; rather I indeed come now as captain of the host of the Lord.”  And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and bowed down, and said to him, “What has my lord to say to his servant?”  The captain of the Lord’s host said to Joshua, “Remove your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy.”  And Joshua did so.

– Joshua 5.13-15

God is God.  He is the victor.  He is the all-in-all.  Everything exists for His glory.  And He calls us and draws us to be on His team.

Even our fighter verse is established in the foundation that it is God alone who saves us:

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.  For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.  What then shall we say to these things?  If God is for us, who is against us?  He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?

– Rom 8.28-32

God chose and called us to be His children.  On His team.  About His purposes.  We are called according to His purpose: to be conformed to the image of Jesus.

So let us not dream our own dreams and ask God to bless them.  Let’s not set out on our own path and say, “God give me success”.  Let’s not just blindly attack life and assume that God is in our corner.  Let’s be on His team.  Let’s see what He has to say about the meaning of life, the goal of Christians, the definition of sin, purpose and significance.  Let’s join the winning team.

victory

To What Extent Do We Unite?

Much of the Evangelical world is in shock now one day after the announcement from World Vision – the largest NGO around the world working in community development and disaster response – that they will no longer consider same-sex marriage as a determining factor in the hiring process of employees.  They have attempted to take a neutral stance on the divisive topic by deferring the authority to local churches where employees attend, to the end of unity amongst believers to serve the poor.

This is a tragedy.  

If we cannot submit to the authority of Scripture which clearly defines sin, we can offer no eternal hope.  And that is, indeed, the greatest need of all of humanity.  We only pave with gold the road to Hell if we feed the hungry but do not offer him salvation.

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God?  Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God.  Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.

– 1 Cor 6.9-11

World Vision holds to the Apostle’s Creed, and all who are hired within the continental United States must affirm this statement of faith.  They must be active in a local church, and any other sin of those listed above is grounds for termination.  However, since it is now a topic of debate whether one sin listed here is truly a sin, no stand will be taken.

I believe that the greater tragedy around the world is that even though World Vision is a Christian organization, and under the leadership of those who declare that we have a “hole in our gospel” when we preach Jesus and do not meet physical needs, the stand is also taken that “We do not talk about Jesus in situations where it could put someone in danger”.  If you sponsor a child in a Muslim country or in one where Jesus is not a free topic of conversation, you are not allowed to write about Jesus in your letters to him.  We will feed him, we will educate him, we will help build his community so that he can have a job, a house and stuff, but we will not tell him of the only, eternal hope.  He can die and go to Hell.

World Vision does partner with many organizations that do do the illegal work of evangelism in these settings, but they will not take that stand.

If we understand our end to be physical relief, community development and disaster response, then we can unite.  There are people from every worldview and every religion who are seeking to better the world by fighting hunger, poverty and injustice.  I can work with a Muslim, a Hindu, and a homosexual couple who is legally married in the United States to feed the starving.  But every faith-based organization must determine where their lines of cooperation are drawn when it comes to uniting for the purpose of the Gospel.  And when we claim the identity of Christ, we must determine His Word to be our authority and governing power.

Permitting homosexual marriage is not a debatable and secondary doctrine like mode of baptism.  We do not have the authority to change the Word of God.  God Himself defines it as a sin.  We all have sins of disposition and engaging in them without repentance is damnable.  And while we accept the Bible’s authority of murder, stealing and lying as sins, we must understand God’s heart and will that engaging in a homosexual lifestyle, having sex outside of marriage, adultery, drunkenness and even coveting are also sins – though they do not break the laws of the land.

Let us then unite under Scripture.  Let us understand our own, personal sin.  Let us allow God to determine right and wrong, and let us seek to live lifestyles that honor Him – by feeding the poor, establishing physical hope in the third world, and by proclaiming His name boldly.

many wise men have already written on the topic. I have only encourage you to read John Piper, Russell Moore, Franklin Graham, and Albert Mohler.  And pray.  God has revealed his heart to us in His Word, the Bible.  Let’s seek to know Him and honor Him, not change Him.

Are you transformed?

128756_imagno

Martin Luther is one of the greatest forefathers of our faith today.  By the turn of the 16th century, the Catholic Church was preaching that only priests had access to God, that the Bible had to be read and preached in Latin and that Christians who had died were in purgatory, but living Christians could buy access into Heaven for the dead through the purchase of indulgences from the Church.

Martin Luther, through wrestling with his own personal sin, pouring over the Bible, prayer and earning multiple degrees came to understand the teaching of Scripture that salvation is through faith alone by grace alone.  He also realized that Jesus was the only priest needed for our intercession before God and that all believers have direct access to God through Him.  He translated the Bible into German so that everyone could read and understand the Word of God, and He preached the Gospel.

He opposed the heretical teachings of the Pope and was consequently excommunicated by the him and deemed an outlaw by the Roman Emperor.  He spent much time in hiding, but pastored a church, wrote many hymns, translated the Bible and taught as a professor.

Because of his conviction of the truth of salvation being through grace alone by faith alone, he set out to preach the Gospel to his congregation.  When they were not transformed by the good news, he decided that he would preach the gospel until they were transformed!  It is documented that one of his parishioners asked him,

“Pastor, why is it that week after week after week all you ever preach to us is the gospel?” – implying that “we’re ready to move on to something else. Certainly we know this by now.”

Luther’s response was,

“Well, because week after week you forget it, because week after week you walk in here looking like a people who don’t believe the gospel. And until you walk in looking like people who are truly liberated by the truth of the gospel, I’m going to continue to preach it to you.”

Are you over the Gospel?  Are you ready to move on from the fact that you deserve damnation, an eternity separated from God in a fiery pit of judgment, pain and sorrow, but that Jesus Christ took that upon Himself so that you can be forgiven and spend eternity with Him?  Where there is no pain and no sorrow?

If we have this attitude, that we are ready for something else – ready to move on, then we need to hear it again.  Because there is no greater news, there is no greater hope and on this everything else is established.

How often do you preach the Gospel to yourself?  Do you struggle with forgiveness?

“To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.”

– C. S. Lewis

When we understand the Gospel, we can forgive lavishly because we have been forgiven even more lavishly.  We can love selflessly because we have been loved selflessly.  The the more deeply we understand the Gospel, the more we are transformed to live and love and look like Jesus Christ in our interactions with others.

He who is forgiven little loves little.

 – Jesus