By the rivers of Babylon


While in Europe a few years back, my wife and I had the opportunity to visit a former Nazi concentration camp.  Dachau was the first “test case” of the Nazi camp system.  We walked slowly through, following the footsteps of the poor souls that entered there some 75 years prior.  Our guide described their experience.  Wagon loads of Jews, Poles and political prisoners were offloaded from the train station and then marched through the streets to the camp which was located some 8 km away.  Upon entering the main gate, they were lined up and forced to listen to a long tirade by a Nazi officer that they were worthless scum, that all commands must be obeyed unquestionably, and insubordination of any kind would be met with a bullet to the head.  This was followed by camp registration.  All personal belongings (personal ID, photographs and documents) were handed over and in return you were given a number.  This was your new identity.  You were then shaved, showered and handed prison clothes.  This would be your new life.  Few survived and those that did lived with the scars.

This was the kind of experience (with a lesser level of brutality and cruelty), that Daniel and his three friends would have endured when their homeland was invaded, and they were hauled off to become subjects in a foreign land.

Their captor was king Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon.  Nebuchadnezzar was proud, ambitious and in the year 605 BC he was building one of the greatest empires of the age.  In the spring of that year he defeated the Egyptian army at the Battle of Carchemish.  Then he turned on the kingdom of Judah and invaded the city of Jerusalem.  He took captive many of Jerusalem’s choicest young men and women and marched them off to Babylon, to the house of his god (Daniel 1:2) and he put the vessels from the temple of Jerusalem in the treasury of his god.

Babylon was the capital of the empire and the greatest city of that age.  Everything about it spoke of Gentile power and glory.  The city was the largest of its time, covering 850 hectares (over 2000 acres).  Herodotus, a Greek historian in 450 BC, said “Babylon surpasses in splendour any city in the known world.”  Its outer walls were 100 metres high and ran over 80 km in length.  They were wide enough, that if you went on top of them two four-horse chariots could ride side by side.


Daniel and his fellow exiles would have been led through the Gate of Ishtar, the goddess of love and war and then down the famous procession way.  All around them were magnificent buildings, palaces and temples (53 in total).  And towering above them all, was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world: the Hanging Gardens of Babylon.  It was the Paris and New York of the ancient world and would leave any one of us dazzled at the sight.  But there was nothing about it that was dazzling to these captives.  It filled them only with sorrow and despair.  We get a sense of that sorrow from Psalm 137 with the song of the captives:

“By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion. There on the poplars we hung our harps, for there our captors asked us for songs, our tormentors demanded songs of joy; they said, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!” How can we sing the songs of the LORD while in a foreign land?” (Psalm 137:1–4)

It is the last line of this song that becomes the central issue of the book of Daniel: how can Daniel and his fellow captives sing the songs of the Lord in a foreign land?  And it becomes the central issue for us as well.  Because this land that we live in, that was once permeated with Christian thinking, that held to moral values the Western world was once founded on, now appears to be very strange to us.  Our universities are influenced by liberal agendas, our politics dominated by a secular worldview, and our nation is devoid of Christian thought.  This is modern Babylon.  The question Daniel and his captives faced is the same question we face: how are we to sing the songs of the Lord in this strange land?  The book of Daniel gives us the answer.  The first clue is given to us in opening verses.  We read,

“In the third year of the reign of King Jehoiakim of Judah, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon came to Jerusalem and laid siege to it. The Lord handed King Jehoiakim of Judah over to him, along with some of the vessels from the house of God…” (Daniel 1:1–2)

It is right here, at this juncture, that we find the main lesson of the chapter, which is also the lesson of the entire book: no matter what earthy kingdom is strutting its power, God is in charge and he will enable his people to stand.

Daniel knew there was nothing accidental in the lives of God’s people.  He was there for a purpose.  God was at work behind the scenes.  God was in full control.  And it was precisely that he was convinced that God was in control that enabled him to make the stand that he did and become salt and light in a hostile environment.  As a result, Nebuchadnezzar – as well as countless other men and women in the Babylonian court, heard about the God of Israel and witnessed his saving power.

Babylon was to be the scene of Daniel’s lifelong service to the kingdom of God while living in a foreign land.  He would demonstrate, along with his three friends, what it means to sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land.

In my next post, we are going to see something of the strategy Nebuchadnezzar used to accomplish complete global dominance.  It’s called operation assimilation.  And we are going to see how Daniel and his three friends, trusting that God was in full control, use courage, wisdom and faith to evade it.

This post was based on a sermon called A Tale of Two Kingdoms. It is the first of a series at our church on the book of Daniel.  You can listen to the full audio on our website here.

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I am a Child of God

Among the many wonderful benefits of our salvation, none is more uplifting and assuring than the doctrine of adoption.  It brings comfort to the most troubled and distressed soul.

Adoption is the gracious and loving act of God where he takes children of Adam – those who are sinners by nature and by choice, and He brings them into His household, into his family, and grants to them all the legal entitlements of being a child of God.

There are a number of passages in the Scripture that teach adoption; one of the clearest is in Galatians chapter 4 verses 4-7:

“When the time came to completion, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba, Father!” So you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then God has made you an heir.”

Notice how the entire Godhead is at work here.  The Father chooses us for adoption.  Ephesians 1:5 tells us that, He predestined us to be adopted as sons through Jesus Christ for himself, according to the good pleasure of his will”.  The Son goes to the cross and redeems us and secures our adoption legally.  And then the Spirit comes and indwells us and assures us that we are God’s children, so that we cry out “Abba Father.”   The result is we are no longer slaves but sons.

It all seems too good to be true doesn’t it?  Like a fairy-tale.  But it’s not a fairy-tale. It’s the story of every Christian in every age.  From slavery to Sonship through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.  Every Christian is a rags to riches story.

Don’t you find this truth to be absolutely marvellous?  John the Apostle thought it was.  He exclaims in 1 John 3:1:

“See what great love the Father has given us that we should be called God’s children—and we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it didn’t know him.”

Notice his astonishment – “See what great love!” (or “Behold, what manner of love”).  He’s amazed, astounded, and stunned over the fact that God’s love would be so great as to make him – a rebellious sinner, a son in God’s own family.

Charles Spurgeon preached a sermon on adoption and this is what he says:

“A man, when he adopts a child sometimes is moved by its extraordinary beauty, or at other times by its intelligent manners and winning disposition. But, beloved, when God passed by the field in which we were lying, he saw no tears in our eyes till he put them there himself; he saw no contrition in us until he had given us repentance; and there was no beauty in us that could induce him to adopt us — on the contrary, we were everything that was repulsive; and if he had said, when he passed by, ‘You are cursed, be lost forever,‘ it would have been nothing but what we might have expected from a God who had been so long provoked, and whose majesty had been so terribly insulted.

 But no; he found a rebellious child, a filthy, frightful, ugly child; he took it to his bosom, and said, ‘You who are dirty, you are comely in my eyes through my son Jesus; unworthy though you are, yet I cover you with his robe, and in thy brother’s garments I accept you;’ and taking us, all unholy and unclean, just as we were, he took us to be his—his children, his forever.”

Christian, do you grasp the astonishing and astounding reality of your adoption?

Adoption is not a recent or modern invention.  It has been around for centuries.  Paul’s readers would have been very familiar with it.  Adoption was a legal act in Roman times and it was taken very seriously.  The adopted sons enjoyed the same privileges as natural born sons.  According to the Roman law the adopted person lost all rights in his old family and gained all the rights of a legitimate son in his new family.  He got a new father and he became the heir of his new father’s estate.  He became co-heir with the other sons in the family.  The old life was completely wiped out.  All debts were cancelled, and he was absolutely the son of his new father.

Paul tells us that this is what God has done for us. We were sons and daughters of Adam.  We inherited his sin and guilt.  God took us out of that family and adopted us into His new family.  We have been completely released of all responsibility and debts of sin because Jesus paid the debt in full.  And we inherit everything that Jesus inherits.  All that is his is now ours.

Adoption applied

The implications of this doctrine of adoption in our Christian lives are rich and profound.  I would like to offer three of them.

1. Intimacy with the Father

Intimacy is what we experience when we feel when we really know and are known by another person.   An intimate friend is someone we feel very close to; they know us at a deep level.  When intimacy is damaged or broken, there is a feeling of distancing with that person.

That’s what children of God experience in their relationship with God the Father.  They are intimate with him and he with them.  There is a deep sense of closeness, of being known, and of love for each other.

I am a father of four children.  I have very fond memories of going into their rooms when they were asleep.  I would look down upon them, as see them sleeping peacefully.  I would look at their faces and a great sense of love and affection for that child would well up in my heart.  Well, I am certain the Father looks down upon his children and experiences that same kind of affection for us.  He loves us.  He adores us.  We are his children.

2. Trust in the Father

Children are very trusting – have you noticed that?  Sometimes they are too trusting!  Sadly, as they grow older, they grow less and less trusting of their parents and anyone else for that matter.  Your heavenly father wants you to be like a child, trusting him with everything.  I know that’s hard.  We want to be in control.  We struggle handing over the wheel of our lives to someone else.

Your heavenly father can be trusted with every detail of your life – no matter how insignificant or small.  “Look at the birds,” Jesus said, “they don’t sow or reap or gather into barns (like you do), yet your heavenly father feeds them.  Aren’t you worth more than they?”  He cares for birds.  Dum birds.  You are more important to him than a dumb bird.  So trust him.  Stop fretting and trust him.  Don’t lose sleep over a bill you can’t pay, or someone you can’t change or a problem you can’t fix.  Trust him.  He’s got the whole world in his hands.  He can handle your problems.  Trust him.

3. Love for the Father’s family

Not only do we become sons and daughters of the living God.  We become brothers and sisters of each other.  You know how it is with your earthly brothers and sisters.  They can be a bit of a pain at times, can’t they?  But you still love them.  You love them because they are family.  And so, it is in the family of God.

The Christians that are in your life – the one’s you sit beside in church on Sunday or work alongside – they are not simply friends and acquaintances.  They are your family.  Jesus calls you to love them and serve them and encourage them.  He calls you to pray for them and watch out for them.  And that means each and every one of them; not just the ones you like!  When you care for them and serve them and show kindness towards them and forgive them when they wrong us, your heavenly Father smiles down upon you.  For in the same way you show love to them, you show love to him also.

Conclusion

The Father loves you.  It can sound so trite, can’t it?  But it’s not.  He loves you.  He has proven his love by sending his own Son to redeem you.  He has doubly proved it by then sending his Spirit to indwell you and place his stamp on you.

Who am I?  I am a child of God.  I have been adopted into God’s family.  He says to me, “I have redeemed you; I have called you by name and you are mine” (Isaiah 43:1).

This is my identity.  And this is my destiny.

This post was based on a sermon called I am a Child of God.  It is part of a series on the Christian’s identity that we are working through at our church.  You can listen to the full audio on our website here.

 

Who am I?


Who are you?  What is it about you that defines you?  Is it your job or career?  Is it your role as a parent or wife?  Or is it some great achievement you have attained in life?  How you answer this is important because it will tell you something about the way you understand yourself.  It will tell you about your identity.

Some find their identity in their career.  Work is not just a means to an end.  It is their end.  That’s what they live for.  Others find their identity in relationships.  They view themselves as someone’s wife or husband or girlfriend or boyfriend.  Some find their identity in their possessions.  Others find their identity in their sexual orientation.

For the Christian, none of those things have a bearing on their true identity.  When you go to the bible, you never find Paul or James or Peter identifying themselves by their job title or who they are related to or what they own or by their sexual orientation.  They use an entirely different set of self-designations.  These designations, which reveal the Christian’s true identity, have become lost in the church today.

I am in Christ

Foundational to your new identity as a Christian is this truth: you are in Christ.  The term “in Christ” is one of the Apostle Paul’s favourite expressions.  He uses it more than 160 times in his letters in the New Testament.  The term “Christian” in comparison, is only found three times in the bible, twice by Luke in the book of Acts and other by the Apostle Peter – never by Paul.  So, we know this an important concept.  He doesn’t want us to miss it.

So what does it mean to be in Christ?  Let’s start with what it doesn’t mean.  To be in Christ does not mean to be ‘inside’ Christ as a person is inside a house, or tools are kept inside a toolbox.  It is not a matter of physical location.  It is a spiritual reality.  “In Christ” is Paul’s shorthand for our union Christ.  Louis Berkhof, in his Systematic Theology, defines union with Christ as, “that intimate, vital, and spiritual union between Christ and His people, in virtue of which He is the source of their life and strength, of their blessedness and salvation.”

You say, “I’m still having difficulty getting my head around this.  It’s not like being in a room or a house and it’s not like belonging to a club or an association.  Then what is it?”  The answer is it’s the opposite of being “in Adam”.

Christ, the Second Adam

In 1 Corinthians 15:22 Paul says this: “For just as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.”

Note the two key expressions here – “in Adam” verses “in Christ.”  When God looks over all humanity he places every single man and woman into one of two categories: those who are “in Adam” and those who are “in Christ.”  There is no third category.  Those who are “in Adam” – those who have Adam as their representative head, will die.  Those who are “in Christ – those who have Jesus as their representative head, will live.  This is the idea that Paul develops in Romans chapter 5:

“Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, in this way death spread to all people, because all sinned.” (Romans 5:12)

God placed Adam in the garden and gave him specific instructions not to eat from a certain tree.  If he did he would die.  He disobeyed, and so did Eve.  They both ate and guess what?  They both died.  The first death was spiritual and instantaneous.  Their relationship with God was broken – cut off.  Eventually they died physically.  But here’s the catch: Adam was no ordinary man.  God appointed Adam to represent the entire human race.  What he did affected us all.

So when Paul writes in verse 12, “in this way death spread to all people, because all sinned,” he is referring, not to our individual sins but to the fact that we were united to Adam as our representative head.  When Adam sinned, we all sinned.  And we all suffer the consequences of his sin.  Look also at verse 18 – Paul is saying the same thing:

“So then, as through one trespass there is condemnation for everyone…” (Romans 5:18)

And again, in verse 19,

“For just as through one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners…” (Romans 5:19) 

In answer to the question “Who am I?”, we would all have to say therefore, “I am a sinner.”  That is how God identifies me.  I was made a sinner through Adam.

You say, “Well that’s just not fair.  I never asked for Adam to be my representative head!”  No, and I didn’t ask for the Queen to be the head of our State and I didn’t ask Steve Hanson to be the coach for our national rugby team.  But that’s the way it is.

But here’s the good news: what Adam ruined, Christ reclaimed.  What Adam lost, Christ restored.  That is why Jesus is called the second or last Adam.  The first Adam turned from the Father in a garden; the last Adam turned to the Father in a garden.  The first Adam substituted himself for God; the last Adam substituted himself for sinners.  The first Adam sinned beside a tree; the last Adam bore our sin on a tree.  The first Adam died as a sinner; the last Adam died for sinners.

For just as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.”

I don’t think I’ve ever heard someone say, “It isn’t fair that Jesus Christ, the sinless Son of God, came to die for the sin of humankind. I don’t want to be represented by Christ.”  Yes, Adam sank our spiritual ship, but God has thrown a life-preserver to us.  His name is Jesus.  What Adam did was the worst thing that ever happened, but what Christ did was the best thing that ever happened.

To be ‘’in Christ’’ therefore is to trust in him in such a way that we are united to him in the all his saving acts.  When he died on that cross, I died with him.  When he was buried, I was buried.  And when he rose to new life, I rose to life with him.  The day I put my trust in Christ, my union with Adam was severed.  He ceased from being my representative head.  I formed a brand union with Christ, who became my new representative head.

For just as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.”

Consider these words from John Wesley’s great hymn, “And Can it Be?”

No condemnation now I dread;
Jesus, and all in Him, is mine!
Alive in Him, my living Head
And clothed in righteousness Divine,
Bold, I approach the eternal throne,
And claim the crown, through Christ my own

You see there in line 3, Wesley is talking about representative headship.  He’s talking about being united with Christ.  This is not “deeper theology” for spiritual elites.  This is fundamental to the gospel.  And it’s crucial to understanding our identity as a Christian.

As a Christian, you are not defined by what you do – your job or your career.  You are not defined by your possessions – the things you own.  You are not defined by your role as a wife or mother or a husband or a father.  Nor are you defined by your successes or your failures in this world.  When God looks at you, he sees none of these things.  When God looks at you, he sees who you are in Christ.

  • You are chosen (Eph 1:4)
  • You are redeemed (Eph 1:5)
  • You are loved (1 John 3:1)
  • You are forgiven (Eph 1:7)
  • You are a son or daughter of the living God (Eph 1:5)
  • You are a saint (Eph 1:1, Phil 1:1, Col 2:1)
  • You are dead to sin (Rom 6:11)
  • You are spiritually alive (Rom 6:11)
  • You are Christ’s friend (John 15:15)
  • You are God’s workmanship, created in Christ for good works (Eph 2:10)
  • You are a temple of God’s Spirit (1 Cor 6:19)
  • You are a co-heir with Christ (Rom 8:17)
  • You are chosen (1 Peter 2:4)
  • You are called (Gal 5:13)
  • You are the salt of the earth (Matt 5:13)
  • You are the light of the world (Matt 5:14-15; Phil 2:15)
  • You are a new creation (2 Cor 5:17)
  • You are an ambassador for Christ (2 Cor 5:20)
  • You are God’s prized possession (1 Pet 2:9)

Don’t listen to what the word tells you who you are.  And don’t let the devil start telling you who you are.  Let God tell you who you are.  It will free you in a thousand ways.

This post was based on a sermon called I am in Christ.  It is part of a series on the Christian’s identity that we are working through at our church.  You can listen to the full audio on our website here.

 

 

 

 

Homosexuality and the Church

A massive shift has taken place in our culture over the past decades regarding homosexuality – from condemnation to tolerance, from tolerance to acceptance, from acceptance to approval and from approval to full endorsement.  Today, those who support the LGBT movement are considered enlightened, progressive, open-minded, and inclusive.  Those who dare say anything against it are considered unloving, intolerant, narrow-minded, and bigoted.

That places Christians in a difficult position.  Traditionally the church has understood that the bible teaches homosexuality is sin.  That doesn’t wash very well in our modern, progressive society.  For this reason, many Christians are rethinking their beliefs about the issue.  In 2015 Time magazine published an article entitled, “How Evangelicals Are Changing Their Minds on Gay Marriage.”  Support for gay marriage has increased by double digits over the past decade; the fastest change is among younger evangelicals.  Their support for gay marriage jumped from 20% in 2003 to 42% in 2014.  We’re seeing a similar shift is taking place here in New Zealand.  Last month, Anglican bishops at a synod in Wellington voted in favour of blessing couples in committed same-sex relationships.  Discussions like this are taking place in the Presbyterian church.  Many churches are taking a softer position on the issue or seeking some kind of “third way” option.

To make matters more confusing, vigorous attempts are being made by Christians in the LGBT camp to reinterpret the passages in Scripture that directly address homosexuality.  They claim many of the Old Testament passages are obsolete, that Paul and the early church leaders weren’t as enlightened with regard to sexual orientation as we are today, and all prohibitions against homosexual behaviour refer only to orgies, rape and paedophilia – not loving, consensual relationships.

We need clarity on this issue.  We need clarity for the sake of God’s church, we need clarity for the sake of the gospel, and we need clarity for the sake of those who are living openly gay lifestyles.  Is homosexual activity a sin or something that God blesses, or is it something else?  We’ll look firstly at what the Bible has to say on the subject, then we will consider some of the objections that are raised, and I’ll wind up with a few concluding remarks.

There are five passages in the Bible that speak directly address homosexuality: Genesis 2, Genesis 19, Leviticus 18, Romans 1 and 1 Corinthians 6.  I will deal with what I think are the three most controversial passages.

Genesis 2:21-25

God’s plan for the human race involves two people coming together, a man and a woman to form a one-flesh union.  This union is called marriage.  The argument, from the revisionists, is this is not restricted to a man and woman.  The same intimacy, companionship and sharing of life can take place between two men and two women.  God’s purpose for this union, is companionship.  That does not require two people from the opposite sex.  Gay couples make wonderful companions.

That may be true, but this misses what is clearly stated in the text: Eve is not only Adam’s companion, but his opposite.  She is the same, yet she is also very different – physically, genetically, and psychologically.  In the one-flesh union of a man and woman you have a fitting, a connecting, and a uniting that cannot be simulated with a same-sex couple no matter how hard you try.

Furthermore, this interpretation overlooks another divine purpose for marriage: procreation.  God created the man and the woman, so he could bring them together to reproduce (Genesis 1:28).  Marriage, by definition, is a union which produces children.  Homosexual unions by their very nature cannot fulfil this procreative purpose.

Thirdly, it overlooks another very important purpose for marriage: a picture of symbol of Christ and his church.  This is spelled out for us in Ephesians 5:31-32:

“For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. This mystery is profound, but I am talking about Christ and the church.”

Marriage is intended to reflect a heavenly marriage between Christ and his people.  We, his people, are referred to in Scripture as his bride.  A union of two men or two women cannot reflect a union of Christ and his bride.

Romans 1

Paul’s aim in Romans chapter 1 is to lay a case that every single person in the world is guilty before a holy God and in need of salvation.  God has revealed himself clearly in creation but instead of acknowledging God people suppress the truth and makes three exchanges:

  1. They exchange the glory of God for the foolishness of idolatry (v.23)
  2. They exchange the truth of God for a lie (v.24)
  3. They give up natural relations with members of the opposite sex for relations with those of the same sex (vv.26-27)

It is this third exchange that is under consideration for this subject.  Here’s the text in question:

“For this reason God delivered them over to disgraceful passions. Their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. The men in the same way also left natural relations with women and were inflamed in their lust for one another. Men committed shameless acts with men and received in their own persons the appropriate penalty of their error.” (Romans 1:26–27)

If we follow Paul’s logic, when people reject God, they find themselves craving what they are not naturally designed to do.  They exchange God’s natural design for sex and sexual intimacy for what is unnatural.  Sex is turned into something God didn’t design for it (bear in mind Paul is speaking not so much to individuals as society as a whole.  This is what happens when an entire people group turn away from God.  Individuals get caught up in it).

The revisionist argument is Paul has ungodly homosexual activity in mind.  He’s talking about those who abuse their homosexual preference, who are not satisfied with a long-term, loving relationship and instead lust after new experiences.  The word “unnatural” (ESV “contrary to nature”) however, was used in Paul’s day for any and all homosexual activity.  Plato, Philo and Josephus all used it this way as did the Stoic philosophers.  It’s a hard push to make this text say anything other than what on the surface (as well as underneath), seems obvious.

1 Corinthians 6:9-10

“Don’t you know that the unrighteous will not inherit God’s kingdom? Do not be deceived: No sexually immoral people, idolaters, adulterers, or males who have sex with males, no thieves, greedy people, drunkards, verbally abusive people, or swindlers will inherit God’s kingdom.”

In these verses Paul describes the kinds of people who – unless they repent, will be excluded from the kingdom of God.  Included in this group are homosexuals – males who have sex with males.  You see the stakes a high here.  The eternal destiny of souls hangs in the balance on this one.

Here again the revisionists step in and say this is not referring to committed, consensual, and loving same-sex relationships.  This is referring to homosexual rape and prostitution.  But the terms that Paul uses are so very clear.  Literally the words translate “bedders of men” or “those who take males to bed” and “being yielded to touch” or “being passive in a same-sex relationship.”  Paul couldn’t be clearer.  He is addressing both active and passive partners in homosexual sex.

At this point it is likely that a few objections are thrown up.  I’ll cover two of the main ones.

Objection #1:  It’s not my fault I’m gay, I was born that way.

You’ve probably heard of the “gay gene” that was discovered in the early ‘90’s.  It was never substantiated.  Recently, the American Psychological Association publication made an admission that there’s no homosexual “gene”:

There is no consensus among scientists about the exact reasons that an individual develops a heterosexual, bisexual, gay or lesbian orientation. Although much research has examined the possible genetic, hormonal, developmental, social, and cultural influences on sexual orientation, no findings have emerged that permit scientists to conclude that sexual orientation is determined by any particular factor or factors.

That is not to say that someone with same-sex attraction woke up one day and decided that they might start having feelings for people of the same sex.  What it is saying is no one is born homosexual.  You might have a predisposition toward same-sex attraction.  But that doesn’t mean you are hardwired to be homosexual.

We all have predispositions toward things – some of them being undesirable.  It might be a predisposition toward anger and rage or depression or binge-drinking or some kind of addiction.  But does that mean you must act on every one of them?  No, we also have the power of choice.  And sure, the choice not to drink will be more difficult for the person who is prone to binge-drinking than the one who is not.  But it’s a choice that can be made.  Imagine if everyone acted on every impulse and predisposition – what a mess our world would be!

Rosaria Butterfield, a former lesbian who became a Christian chose, in obedience to Christ, to renounce a homosexual lifestyle and is now married with children.  Ed Shaw is an Anglican minister in Bristol, England.  He experienced same-sex attraction since he was young.  In obedience to Christ he has embraced a life of what he calls “hope-filled celibacy.”  Is he still tempted?  Sure he is, just as anyone who is attracted to the opposite sex is tempted.  Ed says he doesn’t allow his desires or sexual orientation to define him.  It’s his identity in Christ that defines him.

Both Rosaria and Ed have made choices to deny self and follow Christ.  One is happily married and the other happily single.  The problem is our world has given sex this exalted status as if that is where we find our purpose and our identity and our fulfillment.  All sexual impulses should be acted on.  If you don’t, you are not being true to yourself.  Well Jesus is the fullest example of what it means to be human, and he never had sex.  Is it really wrong therefore, to say to our Christian brothers and sisters who have same-sex attraction, you don’t need to follow through on those desires?  That there are alternatives; one’s in which God promises blessing and fulfillment?

Objection #2:  Surely a same-sex relationship is pleasing to God if it’s committed and faithful?

A promiscuous gay lifestyle with multiple partners and one-night stands is one thing, but what about two people who love each other and are faithful?  Surely that is OK.  It’s a compelling argument.  But you could say the same thing regarding a young unmarried couple who are sleeping together, or a husband who leaves his wife for another woman.  “He’s much happier now.  He loves her and they are committed.”  Does that make it right?

It’s possible in many areas of life, to demonstrated good qualities while doing something wrong.  Sam Allberry remarks on this matter, “Activity that is faithful and committed is no more permissible in God’s eyes than activity that’s promiscuous and unfaithful.”  Not if God has forbidden it.

Conclusion

Let me say a few words by way of summary and conclusion:

Firstly, as Christians, whenever we find that the Scriptures clash with our culture (or even our desires), it is not Scripture that should change We should change.  Because the bible is God’s Word.  Scripture, not our culture or our desires, has the final word.  God is not a kill-joy.  He knows what he is doing.  His prohibitions and promises are intended for a greater joy.  When God says “no” to something, it is because he intends a better “yes.”

Secondly, we need to stand together against all kinds of hate and bigotry.  Homophobia has no place in our culture and it should equally have no place in God’s church.  We must treat people of the gay community with love and respect.  They are people made in the image of God.  They are individuals for whom Christ died.  Let’s love them into the kingdom.

Thirdly, let’s always remember that the real issue is not whether we are gay or straight.  The real issue is whether we are willing to surrender ourselves to the Lordship of Christ.  The key issue isn’t whether we’re LGBT or straight or anything else. The real problem is that we’re proud, and that we want to be autonomous rather than submissive to God.  The answer, for us all, is repentance and faith.

And that’s where we need to begin – first with ourselves, each and every day, and then with others.  The real issue is what are we doing with Jesus.  That’s always the no.1 issue.  That’s what keeps people from the Kingdom of God.  And it’s what keeps all of us from a life of fulfilment, blessing and abundant joy.

This post was based on a sermon on Homosexuality in the Church.  It is part of a Hot Topics series we are working through at our church.  You can listen to the full audio on our website here. (our apologies: the first 12 min of recording is poor in quality). You can also listen to the discussion forum that followed here.

Here is a video I showed to our congregation the morning I gave this message.  It is from Rosaria Butterfield (whom I referred to earlier) on what most surprised her about Christians when she became one.  It’s really worth your watch.

 

Evolution v. Creation

The evolution/creation controversy has been going on for the past 200 years and shows no signs of letting up.  There is no end to the number of books and literature written on the subject and the debates between leading atheists and Christians always guarantee a packed house.

You’ll often hear the issue is one of science v. religion.  That’s incorrect.  It’s an issue of theism v. atheism.  This is not a clash between the bible and biology.  It’s a collision of two worldviews or two belief systems.  Darwin’s theory of evolution is just that – a theory.  It’s a belief system, in the same way that Christianity is a belief system.

So, let’s take some time to compare these two belief systems by placing them side by side.  We’ll start with evolution.

Evolution

The simple definition of evolution is change over time.  A sapling changes as it grows into a tree.  A baby changes into a toddler.  When used in this sense, evolution is not a problem for the Christian.

A second definition of evolution is the process where minor changes take place in an organism or species.  We call that micro-evolution.  This might better be called variation, or adaptation, but the changes are “horizontal” in effect, not “vertical”, from one species into another.  Again, this fits perfectly with a world that God created.

The third definition of evolution is macro-evolutionThe theory is, given enough change and time, one species could develop new body parts and become an entirely new organism.  Over millions of years, earwigs become elephants.  This is the evolution that Darwin proposed in his Origin of Species.

Many refinements were made to Darwin’s theory over the years; the most notable being Johann Mendel and his discoveries in the field of genetics and gene mutation.  The result was Neo-Darwinism, a theory that is still taught in classrooms in schools today.  Simply put, Neo-Darwinism teaches that all living things on earth evolved from a single source and driven by genetic mutation and natural selection gave rise, without any divine intervention or guidance, to all the various life forms on earth.  Scientists now had an explanation for the origin of life that didn’t involve God.  Or so they thought.

New discoveries have been made in the field of genetics.  We now know that mutations in genes are harmful.  Many diseases are caused by, or contributed to, by faulty genes.  Because mutations tend to be harmful, our bodies work hard to correct them before the cell can copy them.  The mechanisms of nature, then, work hard against mutation.

Neo-Darwinism also cannot explain the origin of life.  It presumes the existence of reproducing organisms.  Attempts have been made to calculate the probability of random chance causing these basic chemicals to form into the complex chemicals found in living organisms.  The probability of such an event is in the order of 1 in 10⁴⁰⁰⁰⁰⁰.  In other words, not very likely!

There’s a basic axiom of biology and it goes like this: life only arises from life.  No biologist today would dare say that you can get life from anything other than life.  You cannot get living matter from non-living matter.  Something or someone started it all.  And that leads us to the opposing theory for the origin of life: Creation.

Creation

The bible teaches that God created the universe ex nihilo – out of nothing, using no pre-existing materials.  Hebrews 11:3 says that:

“By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was made from things that are not visible.”

All Christians believe that God created the universe ex nihilo.  The sticking point is over how long God took to complete creation.  Christians fall into one of two camps – the Young Earth Creationists (YEC) and the Old Earth Creationists (OEC).  So let’s have brief look at the alternate views.  Not one of these is without its problems.

The 24-hour theory

This is the oldest and most traditional of interpretations.  It states that the Hebrew word yom – day (day 1, day 2, day 3 etc.) refers to a 24-hour period, or a solar day.  The claim is whenever the word day (yom) is used with a number, it always refers to a 24-hour day.  Another line of support is the Sabbath law laid down in Exodus 20.  Moses’ argument is God worked six days and then rested on the seventh day, therefore man must aslo rest on the seventh day.  That commandment loses all its meaning if Genesis 1 does not refer to a 24-hour period.

There are two main problems however.  The first is a massive amount of activity you have to push into day 6, with Adam naming all the animals being one of them.  The entire animal kingdom, including birds and insects, in one 24-hour day?  Some are doubtful.  The other problem is the geological and cosmological evidence (namely the distance of the stars and the speed of light) work against the universe being created in six 24-hour days.

The gap theory

The gap theory (also known as the ruin-restoration theory) states there is an unknown gap of time between the first two verses of Genesis.  In this “gap”, Satan rebelled causing God to pronounce judgement upon the once perfect earth.  It is this judgement that brought about the conditions described in verse 2 (formless and void; darkness over the earth).  Then in verse 3 God began to transform the earth from a chaotic state to a perfect state.

The gap theory was very popular in the early 19th century when geologists were finding “undeniable evidence” that the earth was billions of years old.  Here was a theory that could fit with that, while still refuting evolution.  The major problem with this view is there is no mention of a gap anywhere in Scripture, nor of God judging the world when Satan fell.

The day-age theory

This theory states the word ‘day’ refers to lengthy periods of time lasting thousands to millions of years.  So each day represents a “day” of undetermined length.  Astronomers have argued for years that it takes a certain amount of time for light to travel a certain distance.  Based on the distance of the stars from the earth, the stars we see today must have been formed billions of years ago.  Thus, the age of the earth must be at least that.

The framework theory

The week of Genesis 1 is a literary device to describe the splendour of creation.  The text is not intended to say anything about how long creation took.  The framework view emphasises the pattern of two triads of days. Days 1-3 describe God’s forming of three distinct spheres – the heavens, the waters and the land whilst Days 4-6 describe the filling of these three spheres – by sun and moon, birds and fish and land animals respectively.  The strongest argument against the framework view is the whole of Genesis 1 suggests a chronological sequence of events, not a literary framework.

Theistic evolution

Theistic evolution or Evolutionary Creationism (the preferred terminology by this group), is an attempt to merge Darwinian evolutionary theory with Creation.  It’s leading proponent, is Francis Collins, director of the Human Genome Project and also a professing Christian.  In his book The Language of God, Collins states that the theory of neo‐Darwinian evolution cannot rationally be doubted by any educated person.  He believes God created the universe 13.7 billion years ago and established natural laws to govern it.  Once evolution got under way, no special supernatural intervention was required.

What about Adam and Eve?  Adam was a Neolithic farmer who lived 8-10,000 years ago in the Fertile Crescent region.  God chose “Adam” to import his divine image upon him.  Genesis 2 speaks of God breathing into Adam’s nostril “the breath of life.”  At that moment, Adam was transformed from being merely a Homo Sapien into being a Homo divinus.  Adam now reflected the imago dei (the image of God) and enjoyed a conscious, loving relationship with God.

Now there are some serious problems with this view.

  1. Firstly, “theistic evolution” is a contradiction in terms. Evolution, as understood by the scientific community is a purposeless, random process that did not have man in view. You cannot have “purposeless purpose.” If God “guides” this process, it is not evolution.
  2. Secondly, there appears to be a concerted effort here to accommodate the bible to fit prevailing scientific theories.  It’s the proverbial tail wagging the dog.  Start with a scientific conclusion and then make the bible fit it.
  3. Thirdly, it seems to be completely out of step with the Bible’s description of man’s creation in Genesis 2:7 – “Then the Lord God formed the man out of the dust from the ground and breathed the breath of life into his nostrils, and the man became a living being.”  That does not sound like God worked through billions of years of evolution in order to find a being that was worthy of being “breathed into.”
  4. Fourthly, Genesis 1:24 says that God made the beasts of the field according to their own kinds. That seems to imply that God was involved in the direct making of the species of beasts and birds and fish.
  5. Finally, there is the problem of death.  If there has been billions of years of life and death and carnage, how do you make sense of Romans 5:12, that “sin came into the world through one man and death through sin?”  Death, according to Paul, is the direct result of the fall in sin which happened in a man.  Therefore there is no allowance for billions of years of death in the world leading up to man.

Conclusion

Samuel Emadi posted a helpful article on The Gospel Coalition where he gave seven nonnegotiables in Genesis 1-2 that cannot be compromised if we are to maintain the integrity of the gospel:[1]

  1. God created the world ex nihilo.
  2. God is distinct from his creation (Creator/creature distinction).
  3. God created the world good.
  4. God created the world for his glory.
  5. God specially created Adam and Eve who both bear God’s image.
  6. Adam and Eve are humanity’s first parents.
  7. Adam and Eve are historical figures who really did disobey God in time and space history in the Garden of Eden.

Points 5-7 all deal with the historicity of Adam.  While Christians might have disagreement on the chronology of Genesis 1, the historical truth of Genesis 2-3 is not up for discussion.  Without the special creation of Adam and Eve as God’s image bearers, we lose our identity.  Without a shared parentage, we lose the notion that every human being, regardless of race and ethnicity, is part of a big family.  And without the historical fall of Adam (Point 7), we lose the doctrine of original sin and the Adam-Christ typology.

We can argue all we like about the days in Genesis 1 and the age of the earth.  But when we turn the page to Genesis 2 and 3, there is no argument.  Those are first-order doctrines.

They cannot be compromised, for any reason.

[1] Samuel Emadi, Theological Triage and the Doctrine of Creation: https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/theological-triage-and-the-doctrine-of-creation/

This post was based on a sermon on Evolution v. Creation.  It is part of a Hot Topics series we are working through at our church.  You can listen to the full audio on our website here. (our apologies: the first 12 min of recording is poor in quality). You can also listen to the discussion forum that followed here.

The ‘P’ word

Last Sunday I spoke at our church on the subject of Pornography.  Pornography has been around for centuries, but it has never been so widespread and prolific as it is today.  Today we have the internet.  That means any child, teen or adult can instantly stream on to their computer, phone or tablet, graphic sexual images and videos, without anyone knowing about it.

How bad is it?  It’s really bad.  And it’s not just the religious moral right who are concerned.  Health professionals and educators concerned, because they see how it’s messing up peoples’ lives.  Doctors and neurosurgeons are concerned because they are seeing what porn is doing the brain.

Porn Facts & Stats

If you think I’m overstating or overplaying this in some way, have a look at some of these statistics.  These are the most recent I could find.  They are all based on credible studies carried out in 2016 and 2017.

  • In 2016, people watched 4.6 billion hours of pornography at just one website (the biggest porn site in the world). That’s 524,000 years of porn or around 17,000 complete lifetimes.
  • 61% of pornography is watched on a mobile phone. In the United States that is as high as 70%.
  • The average age of first exposure to Internet porn is 11 years old.
  • Pornography has typically been considered the domain of men, but its use is rising among women. Today, 33% of women aged 25 and under go searching for porn at least once per month.
  • 62% of teens and young adults have received a sexually explicit image. 41% have sent one, usually to their boyfriend or girlfriend.
  • 36% of young adults watch pornography to get tips or ideas that they can apply to their own sexual relationships.
  • 96% of young adults are either encouraging, accepting, or neutral in their view toward pornography.
  • 64% of Christian men and 15% of Christian women view pornography at least once a month.
  • Out of 1351 pastors surveyed, 54% said they had viewed internet pornography within the last year, and 30% of these had visited within the last 30 days.

Porn and the Brain

It gets worse.  Pornography is also highly addictive.  Counselors knew this, as they began seeing the very same traits in the people they were counseling as drug addicts.  Neurological research has revealed that the effect of internet pornography on the human brain is just as potent – if not more so, than addiction to cocaine or heroin.

And here’s how it works: deep inside the brain, there’s something called a “reward centre.”  You’ve got one. Your dog has got one.  The reward centre’s job is to release “pleasure” chemicals into your brain whenever you do something healthy (like eating tasty food or doing a workout).  The “high” you get from that chemical rush makes you want to repeat the behaviour.  Thanks to your reward centre, your brain is hardwired to motivate you to do things that will improve your health and chances of survival.  It’s a great system… normally.  The problem is, the brain can be tricked.

When addictive substances are used (like drugs or tobacco), they give the brain a “false signal.”  Since the brain can’t tell the difference between the drugs and a real, healthy reward, it goes ahead and activates the reward centre.  An important chemical is released called dopamine, which makes the brain start developing a craving for the fake reward.  So the consumer keeps pursuing more and more of whatever it is he is craving.

Continued exposure to porn, especially for long periods of time, releases surge after surge of dopamine, giving the brain an unnatural high.  The brain eventually fatigues, limiting the release of dopamine, leaving the viewer wanting more but unable to reach a level of satisfaction.  This is called desensitization.  Everyday pleasures begin to lose its lustre – including sex – and the viewer expands their pornographic tastes and seeks out more novel or harder pornography to get the same arousal.[1]  In her article, “Pornography: The New Narcotic”, Morgan Bennett writes:

Think of the brain as a forest where trails are worn down by hikers who walk along the same path over and over again, day after day. The exposure to pornographic images creates similar neural pathways that, over time, become more and more “well-paved” as they are repeatedly travelled with each exposure to pornography. Those neurological pathways eventually become the trail in the brain’s forest by which sexual interactions are routed. Thus, a pornography user has “unknowingly created a neurological circuit” that makes his or her default perspective toward sexual matters ruled by the norms and expectations of pornography.

Supply cannot keep up with demand.  The porn user goes back, craving more graphic and deviant sexual content in order to re-awaken the craving to “feel the high.”

We must take this issue seriously.  We cannot treat it lightly.  And it’s not just the so-called ‘hard porn’ that’s the problem.  It’s the sexualization of just about everything we see; the movies we watch, the books we read, the images on magazine covers and billboards etc.  We live in a porn-saturated society.

Something better than Porn

Let me tell you about something better than porn.  Porn cheapens sex.  It makes it dirty and grubby.  That’s not how God views it.  God sees sex as something beautiful and wholesome and good.  Take a look at this passage from Genesis chapter 2:

“The man gave names to all the livestock, to the birds of the sky, and to every wild animal; but for the man no helper was found corresponding to him. So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to come over the man, and he slept. God took one of his ribs and closed the flesh at that place. Then the Lord God made the rib he had taken from the man into a woman and brought her to the man. And the man said: This one, at last, is bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh; this one will be called “woman,” for she was taken from man. This is why a man leaves his father and mother and bonds with his wife, and they become one flesh.” (Genesis 2:20–24)

Here we have Adam alone in this beautiful creation God has made.  He has no one to share it with.  So God puts him to sleep, takes a rib from his side and forms the perfect helpmate – a woman (which means in Hebrew, “taken out of man”).  Adam wakes up and the Lord says, “Birthday present Adam.”  Well, he takes one look at her and his heart races.  And there in the garden, a brand-new union is formed, a union that is physical, emotional, spiritual and sexual.  It is called one flesh.

“One flesh” is the relational and physical union of two human beings – male and female where they become one in their hearts and their minds and their souls and their bodies, in a covenant relationship.  And in this relationship, sex – the act of lovemaking is not just a physical act.  That’s what the world wants to make it.  It says, “It’s purely physical. It’s just like eating or drinking.”  You can’t look at sex that way.  You can’t separate it out as just a physical act.  It doesn’t involve one part of you; it involves ALL of you – mind, body, soul and spirit.

Sex was God’s idea.  He created it.  It is God’s good gift to mankind.  Stay within the parameters God designed for it and it is not just good, it is beautiful, wonderful and fulfilling.  Go outside the parameters God set for it and it’s not the same.  It’s not designed for that.

You say, “Well I’m in a committed relationship with my boyfriend or girlfriend and we’re enjoying sex.  I’m sure you are.  But you’re settling for less.  And God can’t bless it.  Sex was intended for a covenant relationship and in that relationship, a man and a woman say to each other, “I don’t just feel things for you, I’m committed to you. I made a promise to God to stick with you. Feeling or no feeling, good sex or bad sex, I’m in. I’m not going anywhere.”  When that kind of commitment is reciprocated, the result is something more wonderful than any mere sexual encounter can promise.

Hope for the porn addict

So what hope is there for the porn addict?  What hope is there for the person who has saturated their minds with graphic images so that even if they were to stop, they have enough in their heads to torment them for a lifetime?  What hope is there for the person who is wrestling with deep feelings of guilt and self-hatred?

God doesn’t hate you.  He hates your sin, but not you.  And he has a provided a wonderful remedy for you.

Jesus was like us in every way, but without sin.  He lived a perfect life, which included a perfect sexual life.  He never had one lustful thought or took one lustful glance.  When he went to the cross, he took upon himself the punishment for our sins – all of them, even the most shameful sexual sins.  The bible says that “He made the one who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Cor 5:21)

So, what does that mean for the sexual sinner?  It means this:  God made Jesus, who never looked with lust, to be an adulterer and a porn addict for us, so that in him we might become sexually pure.  So whatever you’ve done, whether it’s fantasizing, looking at porn, sexting, one-night stands, Jesus took all of it. And when we put our trust in Jesus to save us, God writes on our account PAID IN FULL.

That doesn’t mean we stop sinning.  From that point on there is an internal struggle – the flesh against the Spirit.  Every time we face temptation we need to make a decision, to follow the Spirit or the flesh.  The flesh promises temporary pleasure but leaves you empty.  The Spirit promises lasting satisfaction and leaves you full.  Jesus said this:

“Whoever drinks from the water that I will give him will never get thirsty again. In fact, the water I will give him will become a well of water springing up in him for eternal life.” (John 4:14)

Porn promises much, but never delivers.  Jesus promises to meet the deepest longings of our hearts.  He promises what porn can’t deliver.  Only when you come to him in faith, and keep coming to him, will your soul thirst be fully quenched.  That’s how you win the battle over lust – by fighting fire with fire.  When you see that what Jesus promises is far more satisfying and liberating and exhilarating than the cheap thrill of sexual pleasure, you’re on the way to being finally set free.

[1] Judith Reisman, “The Science Behind Pornography Addiction,” U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, & Transportation, November 18, 2004.

This post was based on a sermon on Pornography.  It is part of a Hot Topics series we are working through at our church.  You can listen to the full audio on our website here.  You can also listen to the discussion forum that followed here.

You might also want to have a look at this video from Fight the New Drug website.  It’s a story about Matt Harrow who was exposed to pornography at a young age and had a serious struggle with porn for many years.  After meeting the love of his life and having a wonderful honeymoon, he thought the problem was cured.  Then one day, when his guard was down, he fell and found himself in a dark hole once again.

Here are some helpful resources for keeping porn-free:

Here’s a book I highly recommend for those who want to be set free from pornography:

 

The Right to Die

 

Last Wednesday, a distinguished scientist bid farewell to his home in Australia to fly half way across the world to Switzerland, where it is legal to end your life.  He had no terminal illness nor was he suffering from any disease.  He’s just old – 104 years old, to be exact.  The tipping point for him was his diminishing independence.

“I’m not happy. I want to die. It’s not sad particularly. What is sad is if one is prevented.” – David Goodall

Prevented?  I found that interesting.  No one is preventing him from dying.  He will die; and most likely fairly soon.  Age will take him.  And if he is under medical care, he will die peacefully and comfortably.  So then, what’s the problem?  The problem is he wants to die when he says so.

It’s another example of mankind’s desire for personal autonomy, only to the extreme.  It is human rights pushed too far.  Most of us in the West are privileged to live in a democracy.  We all have certain rights –  irrespective of our age, ethnicity, culture, religion or sex.  But those rights only go so far.  We don’t have “rights” to do anything we want.  The law places limits on us.  And where the law doesn’t place limits, God does.  We don’t decide, for example, the day we are born.  Nor are we to decide the day we die.  Unless of course we override God’s plan and do what we want – which seems to be what is going on here.

This whole issue is receiving a lot of media attention in our country lately with the latest End of Life Choice Bill, which had it’s first reading in Parliament and is now being presented to the Justice Select Committee.  Currently, all forms of euthanasia including Voluntary Euthanasia (VE), Non-voluntary Euthanasia, Assisted Suicide and Physician Assisted Suicide (PAS) are illegal in New Zealand.  The administration of drugs with the intention to relieve pain however (even though the effect will result in the shortening of life), and the withdrawal of life-preserving medical treatment that is not accomplishing anything useful, is lawful.

The Australian and New Zealand Society of Palliative Medicine (ANZSPM 2013) states:

“Treatment that is appropriately titrated (measured and adjusted) to relieve symptoms and has a secondary and unintended consequence of hastening death, is not euthanasia.”

Doctors and palliative care-givers administer heavy pain medication with the intent of relieving suffering.  They may foresee that same medication will eventually bring about an early death but that is not their primary intent.  There is a clear difference and our legal system recognizes the difference.

There are a number of sound, rational, and practical arguments against euthanasia.  One is the risk of abuse.  Those vulnerable to a law change include the poor, the elderly, the handicapped and disabled, the emotionally distraught and so on.  Along with this is the slippery slope argument, which states once society accepts one form of termination of human life with a given set of conditions, it will be difficult or impossible to confine VE to those conditions.  Another is the ‘right to die’ could soon become a ‘duty to die.’  The elderly and terminally ill may come to feel euthanasia would be the right thing to do as they do not want to be a burden to their family. In fact, according to a health report from the State of Oregon (where VE has been legalized), one in three patients requesting euthanasia reported that part of their motivation was because they felt a “burden on family and friends.”

The concern is a subtle coercion placed on the vulnerable to end their lives.  In the Netherlands, where VE has been legalized for over 30 years, if a patient does not want to be killed by their doctor, they must state it clearly orally and in writing, well in advance.  A change in law allowing people to ‘opt in’ for VE or PAS will eventually become so normalized that people will feel pressured not to ‘opt out.’

But there is a greater and more powerful case against euthanasia.  It has served as the basis for the moral and ethical code in our country since it’s foundation.  It is called the sanctity of human life, which states that all human life, in whatever state or condition, able or disable, is of intrinsic value and cannot be taken.

In Genesis chapter one, verses 26-27 we find this:

“Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness. They will rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, the livestock, the whole earth, and the creatures that crawl on the earth.” So God created man in his own image; he created him in the image of God; he created them male and female.”

We are image bearers – made in the likeness of God. This includes the mentally impaired, the deformed, the diseased and the terminally ill. Each one, in some way, bears the image of God.

The bible gives us another reason we must not take human life: God alone has authority of life and death. Deuteronomy 32:39 states,

“See now that I alone am he; there is no God but me. I bring death and I give life; I wound and I heal. No one can rescue anyone from my power.” 

Psalm 139:6 says that God ordained every one of our days before even one of them began.  That means we cannot add or detract one second of our lives beyond what God has decided.

And as to the matter of suffering – the bible has something to say about that too.  Listen to what the Apostle Paul says in Romans 5:3-5

“And not only that, but we also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope. This hope will not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” 

Suffering develops character.  Suffering reminds us of the temporal nature of this world and causes us to long for the new world to come.  Suffering teaches us about mercy and kindness and compassion.  In fact, the word ‘compassion’ literally means to “suffer with.”  True compassion is the willingness to suffer on behalf of others and helping them to bear their burdens.

It saddens me to see an individual like David Goodall, who has lived a long and healthy life and who is not suffering from any illness, wanting to take his own life.  If only he knew how valuable he was in the sight of God, that God knows him intimately since the day he was formed in his mother’s womb, and that Jesus has provided a way for him know and love God, have his sin forgiven and receive eternal life.

Perhaps that might have changed things for him.  For death would not be the end, but a doorway to a new beginning.

Note: This post was based on a sermon on Euthanasia from our “Hot Topics” series.  You can listen to the full audio on our website here.  You can also listen to the discussion forum that followed here.