by Dan Phillips

If I were to ask what leprechauns, mermaids, and loving homosexual couples have in common, I'm pretty sure this readership would have the answer. I'd like to help you explain why you answer as you do.

What they have in common with each other is, of course, that they are all mythical creatures, living only in fantasy and imagination and every movie, TV show, and commercial in existence… or at least that's true in the latter case.

This is a truth that has obviously not reached everybody. In fact, apparently it hasn't even reached those who made the decision to become spotlight-Christians, performers whose entire career is predicated on their claim to be Christian — which is to say, lifelong and advancing students of the words of God (John 8:31-32). I have in mind here folks like Dan Haseltine, lead singer for the group Jars of Clay. Note this tweet of his:

This “loving gay couples” meme is heard so much today; it's hard not to think in response:

The whole stands or falls, of course, on the definition of “love.” If “love” means sexual arousal, well then, okey doke sport, I guess if you say so. Or if it means fondness, affection, attraction, or a hundred other emotional and even volitional states… well, how would we even have the discussion? If it's all about emotion, the “discussion” is really beside the point, isn't it? Feelings are thought…well, felt… to be self-validating. After all, you've got to follow your heart, right? And your heart is all about what you feel. Right?

Unless you start with the fear of God (Prov. 1:7) instead of the lordship of Ego. Then, everything changes.

To begin with the fear of God is to acknowledge, from the outset, the Lordship and ultimacy of God, and the dependence and fallenness of man. It is to acknowledge that our hearts cannot be trusted (Prov. 28:26 {NAS]; Jer. 17:9). It is to acknowledge that real life is only found in knowing God through His word (Prov. 3:18; 4:13; John 6:63, 68). It is to see that rebellion and unbelief are the sure way of death and misery (Gen. 2:17; Pro. 8:36; Rom. 6:23).

As we learn from God how He wants us to treat others, we learn that He wants us to love them, even if they are our enemies (Lev. 19:18; Matt. 5:44). We learn that love is not primarily about feeling. Love is about doing what is for the greatest good of the other, even if that costs us (cf. Exod. 23:4-5; Prov. 25:21). We see the grandest display of love in the Father's gift of His son for our salvation (John 3:16; 1 John 4:9).

So, you see, there never was such a thing as a “loving homosexual couple.” Nor was there ever yet a “loving adulterous couple,” or a “loving fornicating couple.” Accomplices? Yes. Co-conspirators, co-perpetrators? Sure. But loving? Never.

Love is a commitment to the good of the other — and rebellion against God is never for the good of the other. Sin against God is never for the good of the other. Turning away from life and love and forgiveness and reconciliation, and embracing guilt and wrath and doom and despair, wrapped in a straitjacket of rationalizations and distractions — these things are never about the good of the other.

Real love will point someone away from sin and death, and to Christ, the Gospel, life and forgiveness. If that
Christward call to repentant faith is absent, so is love.

This is one of those cases where the crystal-clear thinking that the fear of God teaches can stand as a bright beacon of witness to God's wisdom, in our murky, fogbound culture.

That is, if fitting in with the culture isn't our highest ambition. Which it never will be, once our own world has been tilted by the Gospel.

Postscript: this and related matters are opened more fully in “Adultery De-Glamorized,” a sermon on Proverbs 6:24-35.

Dan Phillips's signature


The-twisted-case-of-Donald-Sterling-and-a-few-other-racists-I-know

Social Media is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the dividing of humanity and a revealer of the thoughts and intents of our lives. And no creature is hidden from its sight, but all people are naked and exposed to the eyes of our big brother to whom we all must give account.

At 2PM EDT, April 29, 2014, Adam Silver the NBA commissioner, announced his decisive action against Donald Sterling’s alleged racist comments that were released to the press the previous weekend.

Sterling was fined 2.5 million dollars and banned from the NBA for life. There was also an appeal from Silver to the board of governors to make a move to force Sterling to sell his business, the Los Angeles Clippers.

This latest media conflagration around public scandal has gripped my thinking this week. And I am not a news guy. I have never been interested in the news because it is not how I am wired.

The LORD gave me the end of the news reel a long time ago (Revelation 21:1) and I typically leave the in-between details up to Him. My thinking has always been if it is really important somebody will tell me about it.

I heard about the Oklahoma City bombing ten days after it happened. Someone told me about flight 370 being missing three days after it was lost. It seemed the LORD wanted me to give some thought to this Sterling fiasco. So I have.

There were five things that troubled me about what happened. I’ll list them for you here and then interact with them in order.

  1. Donald Sterling’s comments.
  2. Public dissemination of a private conversation.
  3. Sensationalized racism.
  4. The harshness of the penalty.
  5. What if they catch me for my racism?

Comments

What Sterling said was wrong. It appears to no longer be alleged, but factual. I listened to several minutes of the audio recording and there is no doubt about the wrongness of the comments. They were harsh, unkind, mean-spirited, and unacceptable. There should be no place in our hearts to foster that kind of thinking, but sadly we all have been guilty of his sin.

As my soul settled down and my mouth closed, the Spirit of God came around to reveal to me how I’m not any different from Donald Sterling. There is a kind of racism in all of our hearts.

Racism is the belief that all members of each race possess characteristics or abilities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races. – Google

If you or I are different from him, it is because of the grace of God and nothing else. Looking at Donald Sterling is in some way looking at me. I have hated people.

Through the course of our marriage, I have said some shameful things to my wife, as well as to my children. In moments of disappointment or impatience, I have used hate speech.

I am not going to sugarcoat my hatred in a way to convince you that I am better than Donald Sterling–for by grace I have been saved (Ephesians 2:8-9). Speaking unkindly in times of elevated self-importance is not outside the range of possibilities for me.

“Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” – Jesus

It would be intellectually dishonest to set myself apart from him, while speaking against him. It does not mean I should refrain from speaking out against his sins; it means before I pick up my rocks to toss on the pile, I need to realize how I have carried hate in my heart toward other people.

This kind of self-imposed modulation is one thing that is not forthcoming from the media screamers. Christians know better. We can see Donald Sterling through a biblical lens, which gives us a threefold advantage.

  1. We can speak against his hatred of blacks because those views are sinful.
  2. We can be humble enough to acknowledge our own sin, while we speak against his views.
  3. We can intercede for him, asking our kind Father to show mercy on him, as He has shown mercy on us (Matthew 18:33).

Dissemination

There is something wrong with the dissemination of Sterling’s comments. While I could never condone what he said, I also cannot condone someone recording a private conversation and making those comments available to TMZ.

There is more deviousness going on here than his racist remarks. Suppose you worked for a company and during one of your lunch breaks a colleague engaged you in a conversation about gays.

Let’s further suppose your friend recorded the conversation. During your lunch break you are asked leading questions that reveal your anti-gay lifestyle views. (Though you are not against gays, only their lifestyle, it is a moot point to those who have no tolerance for people like you.)

Your “friend” then shares the recording with the owner of the company and you are fined, fired, and banned for life from the company. This is, essentially, what happened to Donald Sterling. Follow the sequence here:

  1. Donald Sterling does not like black people.
  2. Someone records his views about black people.
  3. Those views were shared in the public arena.
  4. Donald Sterling was fined, fired, and banned for life, with the future possibility of losing his business.

Dear Christian, welcome to your future. You are now Donald Sterling. You and I can agree that disliking blacks is heinous and unwarranted. We can further agree that the process of exposing Sterling was wrong. But there is more.

Because public media is the means through which moral agendas are established and punishments are demanded, you and I are also considered to be of Sterling’s ilk. We are standing in their line-of-sight.

Sensationalized

There is a difference between sensationalize racism and racism. What has just played out in our culture the past few days is sensationalized racism. This is what is alarming to me.

To sensationalize something is to make much of an event. Donald Sterling was caught on tape and that one event was sensationalized. The hypocrisy of this is that Sterling has a well-documented history of racism. If the issue was only about racism, they had him dead to rights years ago. But there is irony here.

The local chapter of the Los Angeles NAACP gave Sterling a lifetime achievement award in 2009. He has been a major donor to their organization. In 2011 the NBA awarded Donald Sterling, along with the Los Angeles Lakers, the NBA All Star Game, their showcase event for the league.

His long history of racism was permitted until this one event was swept up into the vortex of Social Media. What the country has witnessed this week is the power of Social Media.

It became apparent how I am caught between two worlds. In one world I despise sin, which can manifest as racism. In the other world I hear people yelling at me, “Crucify him, crucify him.”

When the herd mentality ramps up to a fever pitch, there is no turning of the tide. I have listened intently this week because I know this kind of swarming hatred of another person is going to be turned on me some day.

Penalty

The NBA is a business that is free to operate how they see fit. As a fellow business owner, I am glad they have this freedom to manage their affairs in broad and unhindered ways. It is one of many things I love about America.

Still yet, it seems to be the NBA was caught between a rock and a hard place. The penalty for hating someone is $2.5 million dollars and a lifetime ban from the company you own, with a future aim to make you sell your company. (I praise God some of the private conversations in our home have not been recorded.)

The mass hatred for what Sterling did was so unabated that the NBA had no choice. There was no way they could put themselves on the side of racism. They needed a sacrifice. The only way they could win was to levy the stiffest penalty allowed, which is what they did.

“This has all happened in three days, and so I am hopeful there will be no long-term damage to the league and to the Clippers organization,” Silver said.

Silver had to make a big time power play to quell the uproar. There was talk of a boycott. This was a highly charged political nightmare that, from a business perspective, could have only one outcome–Sterling had to be offered up.

I am not sure we fully realize the power of our media culture. This case, like no other before it, has clearly shown how the new morality maker is Social Media. One of the most popular and powerful organizations in America could not stand against it.

Some would argue that $2.5 million is chump change for Donald Sterling. Maybe so, but that is not my point. The point is the new morality makers in our country. When disgust for a person and his views swell to the level it did this week, then even the mighty are not willing to go to war.

My racism

While I’m sure you don’t want your most sinful thoughts displayed for public scrutiny, what about your religious views? This kind of reverse hatred is already part of our culture’s right to body slam anyone who thinks differently from them. They will not tolerate anyone hating on anybody, unless you disagree with them. Then they will hate you with all of their force.

  • Do you realize how closely aligned you are to Donald Sterling?
  • What do you think about homosexuality? (If you are a biblicist, then you are opposed to that lifestyle.)
  • Are you aware there is a label already created for a person like you?

If you are against the gay lifestyle, then you are a homophobe. If you believe homosexuality is a deviant behavior, then you have a mental disorder according to the Diagnostic Statistical Manual. You are closer to the Sterling camp than you might be aware and they have science to support their hatred of you.

A homophobe is a gay racist and people like you and me have no place in the public arena. What if the current of our massive media culture bent its way toward you or me? What if they targeted your employer?

What if your comments regarding your views of the gay lifestyle were recorded? What if they made their way to the public square? I’m somewhat confident your employer would sell you down the river for the sake of capitalism.

You would be fined and banned for life because of your bigotry. When the culture is allowed to determine our morality, all Christians are in the soup. This is why I am watching the Donald Sterling saga play out with mixed emotions.

I don’t agree with his position or his attitude toward black people, but I sense a dark shadow falling over my soul as the culture condemns him. The Sterling story has put me on both sides of the fence. I’m against his views, but I’m soaking in, as much as one can, what it must be like to be him—because I am him.

Many of my views are condemned by our culture—the new gatekeepers to what is right and wrong. I suppose some Christians could read this and say, “Damn the torpedoes, we’re pressing on.”

Well, that is what I plan to do by the grace of God, but I don’t want to be naive about what I have just experienced this week. Today, I am pointing my finger at Donald Sterling. Tomorrow, I’m getting the finger pointed back a me.

And they stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on his head and put a reed in his right hand.

And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” And they spit on him and took the reed and struck him on the head. And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him and led him away to crucify him. – Matthew 27:27-32 (ESV)

If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. – Mark 8:34 (ESV)

SterlingClippers

Anybody that knows me knows that I’m an avid basketball fan, so I am never too far away from what is happening in the NBA.  The recent scandal involving Los Angeles Clipper’s owner Donald Sterling and the racist comments he made about not wanting his “mistress” to be associated or seen in public with black people has caused a firestorm in the NBA. Sterling’s racist rant received universal condemnation all around the league and all around the sports world for that matter; even President Obama while abroad in Malaysia interrupted one of his press conferences to comment on the matter. This of course is a good thing. Racism of any kind should never be tolerated. The problem with this story however does not have to do with race but with the new tolerance squad and the confusion over what precisely is civil rights. 

The reason this story is relevant to the Christian Church is because of the postmodern rhetoric dealing with homosexual rights. I believe the day is coming when comments about homosexuality that are deemed inappropriate for example that homosexuality is a sin and that it is  unnatural will be met with the same condemnation. In one sense of course this mentality is already here as is evidenced by Mozilla Fox CEO Brendan Eich recently being forced to resign for having supported Proposition 8 in the past. But the minute that our culture adopts a view that equivocates between race and sexuality and sexual orientation we will have a whole new level of hostility against the Christian Church on our hands. You have heard of the slogan “never waste a good crisis”, well this recent national controversy will surely not go to waste among aggressive liberals and homosexual agenda who will surely exploit this recent racial discrimination on behalf of one professional sports team owner for their own sinister purpose.

This is why we cannot confuse true civil rights true human rights ethnic rights and sexual orientation because the minute that we do anyone who speaks against a certain lifestyle will be condemned as a bigot and narrow minded racist. 

So far, in listening to countless pundits and sports announcers on this issue, I have heard the repeated insistence that society has moved beyond that type of [bigoted] thinking. This is precisely what the culture is now trying to do with the homosexual issue claiming that we have moved beyond discrimination on this level as well. Of course the fallacy in this type of thinking is that the two are not the same in any way shape or form. That is not to say that someone cannot be wrongly treated as a homosexual person but that being a homosexual is not like being black. Being an African American person is not something that you decide to come out of the closet with its not a lifestyle that you test out it’s not an experiment, in fact, it is not optional at all. Homosexuality is a lifestyle choice something that a person of race simply cannot even conceive of. Unlike homosexuality, ethnicity brings glory to God, in fact it is part of the great gospel story that God will redeem people from every tribe tongue and nation and make a new humanity in Christ (Gal. 3.28; Rev. 5.9-11). But homosexuality speaks directly against God’s purpose and God’s design for mankind because it does not display the relationship that God has with the church it actually distorts that redemptive portrait (Eph. 5.22ff.). 

While I am in full agreement in condemning Sterling’s recent unfortunate comments, I am also gravely suspicious that such comments and condemnation will continue to be applied improperly concerning gay rights and homosexual “marriage” further removing this culture from the biblical worldview which is always a concern and always carries dire consequences for any people.

Soli Deo Gloria

The post The Clippers and The Church appeared first on RedGraceMedia.

Has it ever occurred to you that nothing ever occurs to God? This has been a question that has brought incredible peace and security to my own heart through many conflicts and trials throughout my own life. There have been many times that I have wondered why I am the way that I am in my own particular weaknesses and did God actually place these in my life. The only conclusion is that while God is sovereign and makes all things to work out for our good (Romans 8:28), He Himself does not place evil within us and cannot be culpable in our sin. Sin is the result of Adam's rebellion and because of his sin, all of us are born with the sin nature. Therefore, before we can consider the remedy of sin, we must admit that we are born in sin and are already condemned (John 3:18) before the most Holy and Righteous God. As such, we have no standing whatsoever to accuse Him of creating our sinful condition. It is only after our repentance can we say with Paul, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” (I Corinthians 5:17) At that point, we can make a new start. It is with this background in mind that I discuss this news story.

As many of you have undoubtedly already heard, Ray Boltz, writer of such songs as “Thank You”, “The Anchor Holds,” and “I Pledge Allegiance To The Lamb,” has announced that he is a homosexual. Before I go any further, I do not believe that homosexuality is any worse of a sin than any other. I have sin in my own life that rank right up there, so I do not want this discussion to come across as self-righteous in any way.

Honestly, my first reaction to Ray's announcement was one of pity, because any type of sexual sin, from simple lust while surfing the internet (a much too easy temptation these days!) all the way to the most brutal sexual assault, is devastating not only to the one committing the sin but to their family and friends as well. My second reaction was one of fear for Ray's soul. The Bible clearly teaches that the only path of reconciliation with God comes only through repentance and faith. In an interview with the Washington Blade, Ray said,

“I'd denied it ever since I was a kid. I became a Christian, I thought that was the way to deal with this and I prayed hard and tried for 30-some years and then at the end, I was just going, ‘I'm still gay. I know I am.' And I just got to the place where I couldn't take it anymore … when I was going through all this darkness, I thought, ‘Just end this.'”

No mention of repentance. This is so typical of the “Come to Jesus, He has a wonderful plan for your life” message that is so prevalent in a great many methods of evangelism. In discussiong his conversion to Christianity, Ray later said,

“‘That evening had a profound impact on my life,' he says. ‘I realized that this was the truth and that Jesus was alive … that's really where I made a commitment to Christ. I decided I could be born again and all of the things I was feeling in the past would fall away and I would have this new life.'”

Again, no repentance. It appears that Ray tried for many years to deal with his feelings by his own strength and merely used his Christianity to mask the problem in his heart. But isn't this all of our problem, whatever our besetting sin is? We have absolutely no ability whatsoever to be able to change ourselves. John MacArthur refers to this as total inability. Ray went on to discuss why he came out:

“‘You get to be 50-some years old and you go, ‘This isn't changing.' I still feel the same way. I am the same way. I just can't do it anymore.”

Ray is absolutely right. We cannot do it. Only by the grace of God and His transforming power through His gift of faith and the killing of our old sin nature and His gift of a new nature can we ever hope of changing. Ray continues,

“I basically lived an ‘ex-gay' life – I read every book, I read all the scriptures they use, I did everything to try and change.”

The problem here is that we cannot do it. It must be a supernatural work of God. If we had the ability to change ourselves, we wouldn't need God.

For me, the most disturbing part of the article came at the end:

“He doesn't want to get into debates about scripture and has no plans to ‘go into First Baptist or an Assembly of God church and run in there and say, “I'm gay and you need to love me anyway.”

For him, the decision to come out is much more personal.

‘This is what it really comes down to,' he says. ‘If this is the way God made me, then this is the way I'm going to live. It's not like God made me this way and he'll send me to hell if I am who he created me to be … I really feel closer to God because I no longer hate myself.'”

This is the crux of the situation. Without the solid foundation of Scripture on which to build one's life and worldview, all that is left is what we FEEL is right. At this point, who is to say whether ANYTHING is right or wrong. Without the objective moral standard of Scripture, we could use any of these arguments to justify any of our behavior. Let's say if a heterosexual adulterer used the same logic that was used in the last quote, that would be an absolutely absurd argument. Why is this any different?

In Romans 1, Paul talks of those “who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.” (Romans 1:18b, ESV) Ray does not seem to be interested in the truth, but only seems interested in following his feelings. Honestly, I fear for his soul. Is homosexuality any worse than any other sin? Absolutely not. What I am saying is that when someone allows any type of sexual sin to take root in their heart, it takes hold and grows deep into the heart and can only be rooted out by the power and grace of God. This is why Paul in 1 Corinthians 6:18-20 says, “Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” (ESV) If you have never fallen to the temptation of lust, consider yourself blessed and do everything in your power to guard your heart! Christ did not pay the price of redemption so we could go and violate the very law He came to fulfill in us. Please note that I have no other agenda here but only to warn anyone who has fallen to this type of sin that when you are living in total rebellion against God, whether overt or covert, you are in a most dangerous place.

On a personal note, I had the privilege to work with Ray on his 1989 album “The Altar” and found Ray to be a genuinely friendly guy, which I hate to say was all too infrequent during my Nashville years. I still consider it to be one of the greatest events in my musical career and in my life. On that project, Ray wrote one particular song that I think is fitting in many ways. “Let's Begin Again” has one line that I believe sums this up. “Let's begin again, trusting Him and not our feelings.” The Gospel is the good news of Repentance and Faith. Without these, there is no way to begin any new life in Christ. Ray, there are many of us who are sad over your decision and certainly do not agree with you, but please know that we really do love you and are praying earnestly that you will come to repentance and “true” faith in Christ.

For anyone who is not sure of their faith, please take the time and go to http://www.needgod.org. There is nothing more important that your eternal soul and we want you to escape the condemnation that all mankind is under without Christ. Why not do it now!