Category Archives: Christian living

Really Part of the Family

Do you remember the first time you met someone who’d been adopted?  I do.  We were living in the Canadian Arctic and there was this family in the church we were attending.  Like my Dad, the father in the family was an RCMP officer.  They lived in our neighbourhood and we spent a lot of time together.  They had a son and he was a little bit younger than me — he had been adopted.  Had I not been told, I never would have guessed.  They treated him exactly like one of their own.  I was fascinated by this concept of a mother and father taking a child that, biologically speaking was unrelated, and adopting him for their own.

Flash forward some years later and now I have a niece who was born in China.  She spent the first couple years of her life in an orphanage, abandoned by her birth parents.  My sister and brother-in-law adopted her.  She’s now really part of their family.  My sister and brother-in-law are the only mother and father that she’s ever known and will know.  Her older brothers love her dearly.  It’s a beautiful thing.  Even though I haven’t yet met her, I feel like she’s just as much a beloved part of our clan as anyone else.

Adoption amongst human beings can be impressively beautiful, but even more beautiful is divine adoption.  Even more amazing is how a holy God who was once our judge and our enemy becomes our Father through Jesus Christ.  Adoption brings us into this close family relationship with the King of the cosmos.  That is astounding if you pause to reflect on it.  And we should reflect on it often.  Reflecting on it leads us to praise and wonder.  Reflecting on it leads us to marvel at grace and this leads us to love the one who first so greatly loved us.

I can think of no better concise definition than that given by the Westminster Shorter Catechism in QA 34:

What is adoption?

Adoption is an act of God’s free grace, whereby we are received into the number, and have a right to all the privileges of the sons of God.

Adoption is an essential part of the Christian’s experience of salvation.  If you are saved by God’s grace, you’re adopted into his family.  The two can’t be separated.  All those who have been declared righteous by God (justified) are also adopted.  Everyone who has been justified is brought from the court room to the family room.  More, just as with justification, the only basis for our adoption is the work of Jesus Christ on our behalf.

What is the instrument through which we receive this benefit?  Faith.  Galatians 3:26, “…for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.”  While we are promised adoption in the covenant of grace, we only receive what is promised by placing our trust in Jesus Christ.  You cannot be adopted into God’s family apart from faith in Jesus Christ.

Once you are adopted into God’s family through Christ, your adoption is irreversible.  God writes your adoption certificate with indelible ink on indestructible paper.  When God is your Father, he is your Father forever.  Nothing and no one can ever take that away.  Your place is secure.  You don’t wake up each morning and have to wonder whether you’re still in the family.  Once adopted, you are securely in that loving relationship.

From God’s side, this glorious truth of adoption results in several outcomes.  Chief among them is the new way God relates to us.  He is our Father, not our Judge.  As a Father, he dearly loves us as his children — “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are” (1 John 3:1).  What “kind of love” is this?  It’s a love where we have the care of a Father.  He pities us, he protects us, and he provides for us.  Moreover, if we should stray from him, like any good earthly father, our heavenly Father disciplines us for our good (Heb. 12:6-10).  As our Father in Christ, he also invites us to free and open access to his throne of grace.  Our Father is a great and awesome King, but yet his children are welcome to approach him boldly — no need to dread!  Romans 8:15 encourages us, “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba, Father!'”  Finally, from God’s side, he promises that we will receive his rich inheritance.  We are the heirs of the Father’s kingdom, to the new creation.  It’s all promised to his children and his children will receive it with joy!

There are also outcomes on our side of this relationship.  We love and worship this God who has freely adopted us as his children.  We love to be in his presence in public worship.  We look forward to eternity in his blessed presence in heaven.  While we still live here, we call on God as our Father.  Our Saviour Jesus teaches us to pray, “Our Father who is in heaven” to impress on us the nature of our relationship with the Triune God.  This is going to be reflected in our prayers.  We regularly confess our sins to our Father, look to him for fatherly forgiveness through Jesus Christ.  In prayer we also express our dependence on our Father.  Without him, we have nothing and are nothing.  Finally, in this adoptive relationship, we aim to obey the will of our Father because we know this pleases him.  We want to please him — children who stand in awe of their earthly fathers and love them want to please them.  Similarly, God’s children through Christ aim to please him with their lives.  We do that by striving to imitate our Father.  I always wanted to be like my Dad.  Dad was a pilot, I wanted to be a pilot.  The same happens with the true adopted children of God.  They want to follow in their Father’s footsteps.

I love the Christian doctrine of adoption!  It gives such comfort and assurance to be reminded that we have this intimate relationship with the mighty God who created the universe and holds it in his hands.  Along with all other Christians, I am his beloved son, really part of his family.  What a position to be in!  Nothing can ever take that away from me.  It’s a gospel truth that’s locked up and secure in Jesus the only Saviour.


Top Three Marriage Books

Over my years in the ministry, I’ve taught many marriage preparation classes.  From time to time, I’ve also counselled couples with marriage problems.  In my preaching, I’ve had many opportunities to speak about marriage.  Besides all that, I’ve been married myself for what’s going on to 23 years.  All these things give me a vested interest in good books about marriage.  I’ve read a few.  Almost all of them have something worthwhile, but there are some that really stand out.  Here are my top three, in order of importance:

When Sinners Say “I Do”: Discovering the Power of the Gospel for Marriage, Dave Harvey.

This one tops the list because of the author’s relentless focus on the gospel.  Written in a warm, personal style, Dave Harvey helps couples come to terms with the biggest problem that all marriages face and the solution to this problem.  Along with some of the other topics one would expect in a marriage book, he also discusses one you don’t often encounter:  death.  If you’re going to read just one book about marriage, make it this one.

Strengthening Your Marriage, Wayne Mack.

Are you ready to get to work on your marriage?  Then this is the book you’re looking for.  It’s not just a review of biblical teaching about marriage, but a very practical workbook.  It contains a variety of exercises for husbands and wives to complete.  The idea is that they would be done with a pastor or counsellor, but certainly couples could benefit from doing them on their own too.  I use Wayne Mack’s book Preparing for Marriage God’s Way for my marriage preparation classes and I appreciate his biblical approach.

Each for the Other: Marriage As It’s Meant To Be, Bryan Chapell with Kathy Chapell

I really like this one for three reasons.  One is that it includes the perspective of a woman.  Another is that it has great stories and illustrations to drive home the points of the authors.  Finally, I value the clear explanations and applications of biblical submission and headship.  This book also includes discussion questions to go with each chapter.


Absurdity

Can we pray to Jesus?  This is a question that I’ve answered countless times, both in sermons and here on Yinkahdinay.  It’s a question that I have to keep coming back to, because the answer sometimes given to that question is not only wrong, but harmful.  Some say that since Jesus taught in the Lord’s Prayer for us to pray to the Father, we must therefore only pray to the first Person of the Trinity.  The Lord’s Prayer says “Our Father,” and therefore we may not pray to Jesus.  Case closed.

However, if such voices are wrong, they fly against what we confess in article 32 of the Belgic Confession.  There we confess that we must not deviate from what Christ has commanded for worship.  Then read this carefully: “Therefore we reject all human inventions and laws introduced into the worship of God which bind and compel the consciences in any way.”  So, if someone says that we must not pray to Jesus, and Scripture says that we are allowed to pray to Jesus, that person is introducing a human law which illicitly binds and compels our consciences.  There is a lot at stake here.

There are several ways I could address this question.  I could point out the proper explanation of “Our Father” in the Lord’s Prayer (see here).  I could mention the explicit biblical passages where prayer to Jesus is not only observed, but even invited (John 14:14, Acts 7:59, 1 Cor. 16:22, Rev. 22:20).  I could discuss again how the primary author of the Heidelberg Catechism, Zacharias Ursinus, answered this question using an essential theological distinction.  I could point out the practice of the early church with church fathers such as Augustine, the practice of the medieval church with Anselm of Canterbury, the practice of the Reformation church with William Farel, or the post-Reformation church with Thomas Watson.  We could note that the Athanasian Creed speaks of worshipping the Trinity in unity, and unity in Trinity, noting how this has been understood throughout the history of the church.  We could note the prayer-like hymns we sing which address Jesus — and to which most people don’t give a second thought.  There are all these different ways of going at this issue.

However, today I want to take an approach I haven’t taken before.  It came to me while I was recently teaching a marriage preparation class for a couple in my church.  We were discussing healthy communication in marriage.  I pointed out what Scripture says in Ephesians 5, where the Holy Spirit draws a parallel between human marriage and the relationship between Christ and his church.  The thing that stood out to me is that Christ is clearly said to have a relationship with his church.  That relationship is spoken of in marital terms.  How absurd it would be for a human marriage to see one spouse being forbidden to speak with the other!  Imagine a human marriage where the husband can speak to the wife, but the wife is not allowed to answer and communicate with her husband.  Yet that’s what we’re left with when we’re told that the church of Jesus Christ may not pray to him.  We have a relationship where the communication can only go one way.  What healthy relationship only has one-way communication?  We realize that healthy relationships see communication going both ways.  If the church really does have a relationship with Jesus Christ, and if that relationship parallels human marriage, shouldn’t it be expected that the church would pray to Jesus?

As mentioned above, it is not only wrong to conclude otherwise, it is also harmful.  Think about it.  If we cannot communicate with him, how can we really have a relationship with him?  How can we live in union with someone with whom we’re not even allowed to speak?  How can we avoid the danger of turning the person of our beloved Saviour into a theological concept to be analyzed or argued rather than someone to be loved and cherished?  I posit that the challenge of real spiritual vitality goes up exponentially in Reformed communities where they are taught (and then believe) that they may not pray to Jesus.

So, yes, I do pray to my Lord Jesus from time to time.  I don’t pray to him all the time.  Most of the time I pray to the Triune God as my Father.  But I’m taught in Scripture that prayer to my Saviour is also appropriate at times.  I may pray to him in my personal prayers.  I may sometimes also address him when I lead congregational prayer — this is especially if a sermon has been on a text explicitly unfolding some aspect of his person or work (as an example, see the prayer at the end of this sermon).  Through the Word of God, the Holy Spirit allows me this privilege of being in a relationship with the Son of God where I may freely speak with him.  He allows you that privilege too and don’t let anyone take that away from you.  Don’t let your conscience be bound by human laws.


How to Do Family Worship

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It’s one of the most basic things that a Christian family does — or should do.  And yet there are many Christian parents who’ve just never been taught.  They might be new Christians, or perhaps they grew up in a church-going family that was just not very serious about following the Lord.  For them especially, I’ve been meaning to write this practical post about how to do family worship.  This is about the practical side of it.  I’m not going to explain the biblical rationale for it today.  Instead, I’ll just assume that we agree that Christian families should worship God together.  Moreover, I’m not presenting this as the definitive way to do family worship. Rather, this is the way our family does it.  There are other ways to do it.  There’s freedom for that.  In fact, I’m going to leave the comments open on this post so that other people can share their ideas.  Please do share!  If you have questions, also please feel free.

In our family, we normally do family worship after our evening meal.  At the beginning of the meal, I normally lead in prayer and give thanks for the food.  During that prayer, I’ll also ask for God’s blessing on our family worship later.

After the meal is over, we’ll begin by reading Scripture.  Throughout our married life, my wife and I have just constantly read straight through the Bible in our family worship.  For many years, I would just read and everyone else would listen.  But in the last few months, everyone has a Bible and everyone takes a turn reading a verse or two from the chapter.  Most times we read an entire chapter, but if the chapter is long we might split it up over a couple of days or more.  The hard part for a father is trying to make some intelligent comments about what is read, comments that draw out the meaning of the passage, how it points to Christ, and how it applies to our lives.  That can even be hard for a father who’s a pastor!  This is where you can really benefit from the Reformation Heritage Study Bible (see my review here).  Every chapter includes “Thoughts for Personal and Family Worship.”  Sometimes there are just comments, other times questions to ponder or discuss.  It’s really enriched our Bible reading time!

After Scripture, we do a short time of catechism instruction.  For this, we use a book by Starr Meade based on the Westminster Shorter Catechism.  The book is entitled Training Hearts, Teaching Minds.  I highly recommend it.  She also has a book based on the Heidelberg Catechism, Comforting Hearts, Teaching Minds You can find my review of that here, but in brief, I still prefer her previous book.  Whatever is done, it is important for parents to catechize their children with Christian doctrine.  It’s not first of all the job of the church, but of the youth pastors, i.e. the parents.

Next, we sing a psalm or hymn.  There are different ways of doing this.  Our children go to a Christian school and have memory work from our church’s songbook (the Book of Praise).  We’ve sometimes sung their memory work.  At other times (like at present), we just sing our way through the psalms. God loves to hear his people sing!  And don’t worry if you’re singing is not that great — neither is mine.  God just loves to hear you and your family sing.  It is, after all, family worship.

Finally, we end with a brief time of prayer.  Each day, a different member of the family takes a turn in leading this closing prayer.  It’s important for our children to learn how to lead in prayer.  Especially when they’re younger, the prayers might not be that deep or elaborate, but it doesn’t matter.  Family worship is about training and discipleship.  They will grow into it.  There can be an opportunity for prayer requests.  You can also make a prayer calendar where you pray for some particular things each day of the week.  On some occasions, Christian families can also take turns praying around the table.  We did this recently with our church’s Day of Prayer.  I know of families that do that once a week or more.

All up, our family worship usually takes about 15-20 minutes, depending on how much discussion we have.

Like I said, our way of doing it is not the only way.  There is lots of room for flexibility with family worship.  It doesn’t have to be complicated.  Above all, my one word of advice is:  just do it!  Your family will be blessed for it.


Sermon for Day of Prayer

In August 2015, the Free Reformed Church of Launceston asked FRC Baldivis to declare a day of prayer in view of the pressures towards same-sex marriage and other breaches of biblical norms on sexuality and marriage.  FRC Baldivis agreed to declare a day of prayer for the Free Reformed Churches of Australia on 12 February 2017.  I chose to preach on 1 Corinthians 6:9-11.  

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Beloved congregation of Christ,

If our federal government had gotten its way, yesterday we would have gone to the polls to vote in a plebiscite on so-called marriage equality.  We would have been voting on whether or not the Australian government should allow for same-sex marriage.  However, the other parties blocked the plebiscite.  They want to have a free vote in parliament on the matter.  We shouldn’t be thinking that this matter is done and dusted.  Labour, the Greens, and even some from the Coalition are still pushing for a free vote.  It would probably only take a change of Prime Minister to make it happen, and given how often this country has been changing prime ministers in recent years, don’t hold your breath.

Meanwhile, the media is also putting enormous pressure on our society to allow for homosexual people to get married.  While I was in Cairns, I watched a bit of a TV show called Bride and Prejudice.  Maybe some of you have seen it.  It’s about “forbidden marriages,” couples getting married against their parents’ wishes.  One of the couples is two men, Chris and Grant.  Grant is an American, and his parents are supportive.  Chris is an Australian, and his parents are totally against the marriage.  His mom is a Jehovah’s Witness and his ex-military dad is portrayed as just another Aussie bigot.  The show creates sympathy for Chris.  And also for Chris and Grant as a couple.  After all, they have to travel all the way from Australia to Palm Springs, California in order to exchange their wedding vows.  TV shows like this prepared the way for same-sex marriage in North America and TV producers know that this has power to change things here in Australia too.

In August of 2015 the consistory [of the FRC Launceston] sent a letter to the church at Baldivis asking for a Day of Prayer in view of efforts in our nation to allow for same-sex marriage.  The church at Baldivis is the church for calling Days of Prayer.  They considered the matter and agreed to call for a Day of Prayer in our bond of churches for today.  It’s not only because of same-sex marriage, but also because of other pressures on biblical norms regarding marriage and sexuality.  We think of sexual activity before or outside of marriage, pornography, divorce, gender confusion, and so on.  Today, we will pray for our nation.  We’ll pray here in church, but you’re also encouraged to pray at home with your family, and as an individual.  We must plead with the Lord to have mercy on Australia.  We have to beg him to restrain the forces of evil which continue to threaten our national well-being.

But in connection with that, it’s also good for us to be reminded from God’s Word about the norms that God has established for marriage and human sexuality.  That’s why we’re looking at this passage from 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 this morning.  This should be a well-known passage to us.  When we’re faced with the issues we’re facing today, our thoughts should go to what God’s Word says here.  This passage is clear about what’s sinful.  It identifies various sinful behaviours and tells us what the consequences are.  But it also offers hope with the gospel.  Through the good news of Jesus Christ, there is a way for people to be delivered from sin.  There’s not only a way for us to be delivered, but also a way for this nation we love.

The passage tells us of two types of people:  unbelievers and believers.  It shows us not only how they are different in principle, but also how they must be different in practice.  You could say there’s both description and prescription.  And so I preach to you God’s Word from 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 with this theme:  There’s to be a radical contrast between unbelievers and believers.

We’ll consider what characterizes:

  1. Unbelievers
  2. Christians

We sometimes think that our society must be one of the worst that’s ever existed.   Morally speaking, can there have been a worse time in human history?  Knowing your history helps you to keep everything in perspective.  If you know something about the history of Corinth, that helps you realize that the wickedness of our day is more of a revival than an innovation.  It’s a revival of evil, not the appearance of something that’s never been seen before.

The city of Corinth had a reputation, even amongst pagan Romans and Greeks.  It was originally founded in the time of the ancient Greeks, and then re-established in the time of the Roman Empire.  It was a port city and, as a result, also a party city.  It was a place to have a good time, a place to get drunk and go crazy.  Corinth had wide-spread prostitution, male and female.  Some of that prostitution was associated with the worship of Roman gods.  You’d go to a pagan temple and the worship involved sex.  Homosexuality was accepted as normal in Corinth, both for men and women.  Men would often be involved in homosexual relationships with boys.  Marriage was not really respected.  Corinth in the days of Paul was a cesspool of vice and the ugliest forms of paganism.

The gospel came to Corinth sometime in the early 50s.  Paul was part of the way in which that happened, but others were involved too, like Priscilla and Aquila, as well as Apollos.  The gospel came and there were people who heard the good news of Jesus and believed it.  They turned from their sin and turned to Christ.  By the time Paul wrote this letter, the Corinthian church had only existed for a few years – perhaps even only three years.  The people to whom he was writing were still baby Christians.

They were babes in the faith, “infants in Christ,” and it showed.  You just have to read through the first chapters of this letter to see the issues they were dealing with.  There was division and disharmony, infighting.  Then in chapter 5, we find that the church was even tolerating stuff that the world would find disgraceful.  There was incest – a man who called himself a Christian, a member of the church, sleeping with his step-mother.  The church turned a blind eye to it.  No discipline.  Then chapter 6 describes even more ugly stuff in the Corinthian church.  People who called themselves Christians were suing each other in court.  Church members were engaged in lawsuits amongst themselves.  It was shameful.  Look, the problem was not that the Corinthian church existed in the world, the problem was that the world was in the church.  In some key ways, the church was indistinguishable from the world.  In some ways, they were even outdoing the world’s wickedness.

That was the problem that the Holy Spirit was addressing in our text.  It wasn’t the world’s wickedness as such, but the fact that the church was joining in with the world, and in some ways even surpassing it.  It’s a pretty sad situation when the church is living worse than the world.  How can a church like that bring honour and glory to God?

Verse 9 has Paul asking a rhetorical question.  A rhetorical question is one where the answer is obvious.  “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God?”  Of course, they know that!  They know it because Paul and others taught it to them.  When the gospel came to Corinth, the missionaries taught that you have to turn from your sin and turn to Christ in faith.  You can’t keep on living in sin if you become a Christian.  They knew that – they knew it with their minds, but their lives were saying that some of them didn’t know it with their hearts.  They didn’t really know it in the most meaningful way.  So this rhetorical question is meant to remind them.

They’re reminded that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God.  What this means is that the person who lives in sin is not going to receive the blessings of living under God’s rule into eternity.  What it means is that the person who loves their sin and won’t hate it and fight against it is not going to have eternal life.  The person who clings to their sin and won’t let go of it is not going to heaven.  That’s true of people out there in the world, but here the Holy Spirit is especially applying these words to people in the church.  Today it’s still true, also for us:  the unrepentant and unrighteous church member will not inherit the kingdom of God — will not be saved.  You see, what first characterizes an unbeliever, whether in the church or outside, is the lack of repentance.  It’s the unwillingness to forsake sin.

What sin does is deceive us.  That’s why the next words of our text say:  “Do not be deceived…”  Sin is all about deception.  It’s about making you deny reality and live in a fantasy.  Sin came into this world through the deception of Satan with Adam and Eve.  Sin continues to exist because of lies and deceit all around us.  When the Holy Spirit says, “Do not be deceived,” he recognizes that there’s a real possibility that we might be deceived.  We need to recognize that too.  For the Corinthians, they lived in a society dominated by the lies of the devil.  We do too.  The world we live in lies to us constantly.  Do you see it?  Are you aware of the way the world is trying to bringing us away from God’s reality and into fantasies?  Think of that show Bride and Prejudice.  That show wants to deceive you.  It wants you to sign on to the cause of so-called marriage equality because you feel sorry for Chris and Grant.  It wants you to be okay with gay marriage because these men are feeling hurt when Chris’s parents won’t support them.  It plays on your emotions and tries to change your mind through your feelings.  Do not be deceived!  Be aware of the ways that sin lies to us, whether it’s our own hearts, or the lies of society around us.  Loved ones, see the lies for what they are and reject them.

In Corinth, the lie was that you can be a wicked and sinful person, and everything will be okay.  Our city tolerates just about anything.  No worries.  In the Corinthian church, the lie was that you can still live like the world, or maybe even worse, and you’ll still go to heaven, still inherit the kingdom of God.  The lie was that the holy God can’t be all that serious about sin.  In verses 9 and 10, the Holy Spirit emphatically speaks truth to the lie.

He’s finished with generalities.  Now he becomes very specific.  There are specific sins of the Corinthian world which characterize unrepentant unbelievers.  They’re named and we’re not left with any doubt.  The Holy Spirit could have left it vague, but he decided to have Paul lay it all out.  Now before we look at these specific sins, the list is not comprehensive.  Other habitual sins could have been mentioned:  like blasphemy, for instance.  But the focus here is on the predominant sins in the Corinthian context, sins which predominated in the world and were also challenging the church.  Some of these sins are also challenges in our world today.  Unless they repent, all who live in these sins remain under God’s judgment.  They will not inherit the kingdom of God.  Instead, they will inherit his wrath for eternity.

Verse 9 first mentions the sexually immoral.  This is the broadest term the New Testament uses for sexual sin.  It covers every way in which the Seventh Commandment might be broken.  The sexually immoral habitually lust after people they’re not married to – that includes through pornography.  The sexually immoral unrepentantly engage in sexual activity with people they’re not married to.  Sometimes that’s before marriage – pre-marital sex of any kind, not just the sexual activity that normally results in babies, if you get my drift.  Those who are sexually immoral will not inherit the kingdom of God – they will not live with God in fellowship forever through Jesus Christ.

Then Paul mentions idolaters.  Remember that in Corinth idolatry and sex went together.  So there’s a direct connection between being sexually immoral and committing idolatry.  There’s not going to be any room for rationalization:  “Oh, I wasn’t really being sexually immoral because I was worshipping Aphrodite.”  For us today too, we have to realize that sexual sin also involves idolatry.  We may not have a temple to a goddess, but the nature of sexual sin is always worshipful.  Our society has turned sex into a god.  We’re tempted to do it too.  If we buy into that lie, there is no inheritance in the kingdom of God.

Adulterers will also not inherit the kingdom.  Adultery is when you’re married to someone, and then give yourself to someone else outside the marriage.  It usually starts with emotional adultery and then transitions to physical, sexual adultery.  Adultery accounts for a great number of the divorces in our world today.  In the church too, adultery is often the reason behind divorces.  God hates divorce and God hates adultery.  Therefore, he is not going to have unrepentant adulterers in his kingdom.  Are you tempted to commit adultery?  I beg you:  don’t.  If you get stuck in that sin — and it’s easy to get stuck in it — you won’t have a place in God’s kingdom.

Then we have “men who practice homosexuality.”  The original Greek actually uses two terms here.  If you look at the note in the ESV, it says, “The two Greek terms translated by this phrase refer to the passive and active partners in consensual homosexual acts.”  This then refers to people who are actively in homosexual relationships.  It’s not speaking about Christians who might struggle with same-sex attraction, but about those who are actually engaged in homosexual activity.  There’s a long background to the biblical view on this.  Let’s pause here and review that.

Homosexuality appears after the fall into sin.  It was not part of God’s original design for this world.  The first mention of homosexual behaviour is in Genesis 19 with Sodom and Gomorrah.  The men of Sodom wanted to have homosexual relations with Lot’s guests.  That was partly behind God’s judgment on Sodom and Gomorrah.  Now sometimes you’ll hear people say that it was their lack of hospitality that led to God’s judgment, not their homosexuality.  Well, the little book of Jude tells us different.  Jude 7 says that these cities underwent punishment because they “indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire.”  You can’t get around that.

The rest of the Old Testament likewise describes homosexual behaviour as an abomination in God’s sight.  Leviticus 18:22 says, “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman, it is an abomination.”  Someone might say, “But that’s in the Old Testament.  It’s in the Mosaic law, so it doesn’t apply anymore.”  Anyone who says that needs to read Romans 1.  There, in the New Testament, the Holy Spirit says that homosexual lusts and activity are dishonorable and unnatural.  Homosexual activity, whether among men or women, is shameful according to Romans 1.  Loved ones, the Bible is clear.  First Corinthians 6 is not the only place that says it.  The whole Bible testifies that God views homosexual lusts and activity as sinful.  When you give yourself over to that lifestyle, you’re not a Christian.  When you commit yourself to identifying as a homosexual person and living a homosexual life, you will not inherit the kingdom of God.

The world around us tells us lies about this.  The Bible tells us the truth.  The Bible teaches us that we can never accept this.  Since it goes against God’s plan for the good of our race, we should do everything we can to fight against efforts to normalize homosexuality, especially in regard to same-sex marriage.  Look, if the Bible tells us that homosexual behaviour is sinful and destructive, then obviously same-sex marriage is too.  If it comes to a free vote in Parliament, we’re going to need to mobilize.  We’re going to have to contact our elected representatives and present the case against it.  Do everything we can.

Let me say one more thing.  Following the biblical teaching on this doesn’t allow for us to be rude or mean-spirited towards our homosexual neighbours.  I know, by holding to what the Bible says, they’ll already think we’re rude or mean-spirited.  They’ll call us homophobic or bigoted or whatever else.  But we’re still to treat people with respect.  People who identify as homosexuals are still created in the image of God.  We’re called to love them, not hate them.  We can’t approve of what they do, but we can still pray for them and be kind to them as much as we can.  We ought to long for the opportunity to share the gospel with them, and to see them believe it and have their lives changed by it.

Verse 10 describes others who won’t inherit the kingdom.  Unbelievers characterized by thieving won’t.  Those who are greedy won’t.  Notice with this one how there’s a heart issue explicitly mentioned here.  Greed is something that lives in the heart and is not always visible on the outside.  You can hide greed.  But if you’re hiding greed in your heart and holding on to it and living with it, the kingdom of God is closed to you.  Drunkards are mentioned next.  If you think it’s okay to get drunk every weekend, you’re not a Christian bound for heaven.  If you think it’s okay to get drunk at any time, the Holy Spirit says you’re out.  Revilers are people who use abusive language.  They treat people with disrespect.  In connection with today’s Day of Prayer, it’s fair to say that if you constantly treat homosexuals (or anyone else) with abusive and hateful language, you will no more inherit the kingdom of God than they will.  Last of all, there’s mention of swindlers.  These are con-artists.  They trick people and defraud them.  As long as they don’t repent, swindlers are also barred from the kingdom.

It’s quite a list and again I remind you of two things:  the list is particular to the situation in that church in that time.  It’s not comprehensive.  You might go through the list and notice that your pet sin is missing.  You might congratulate yourself on still being an heir to the kingdom of God.  You’re deceiving yourself if you do that.  Read the whole Bible and you’ll find that any sin not repented of results in your name not being on the list of kingdom heirs.

Second, let me remind you that it is not the case that having committed any of these sins in the past automatically results in your disqualification from the kingdom.  I’m sure there’s someone here who’s been sexually immoral, who’s worshipped idols, been drunk.  Perhaps some have robbed or swindled.  We may even have people here who have engaged in homosexual activity.  The passage tells us that all these things are sinful, but that’s not all.  It also tells us that you’re only disqualified from a kingdom inheritance if you stay in these sins and don’t turn from them.  If you don’t repent and hate your sin, forsake it, then yes, I have to warn you:  you’re not going to heaven.  But if you hear this and you go, “Oh, I hate it that I did that.  I just hate it.  I hate it because I know God hates it.  I cast contempt on it.  I don’t want to ever do it again.  I want to live in Christ, I want to live for God’s glory.”  If you say that, you have absolutely nothing to fear.  You’re going to receive the inheritance promised to Christians.

That becomes all the more evident as we take a closer look at verse 11.  Here we find what characterizes Christians.

First of all, the Spirit says through Paul, “And such were some of you.”  Christians can have a past.  Some of the Corinthian Christians had a past life.  They used to be characterized differently.  Some were sexually immoral, others idolaters and adulterers.  Some had engaged in homosexual lifestyles.  Some had been thieves, greedy, drunkards, revilers, and swindlers.  They had a past life.  But the past was in the past.  “Such were some of you.”  The word “were” here is crucially important.  They’re not these things any longer.  A change has come.  That change has everything to do with the gospel.  What characterizes Christians is what God has done for them in the good news.

There are three gospel things mentioned in verse 11.

“You were washed” – all those things mentioned in verses 9-10 are dirty and unclean.  When you do those things, you’re filthy in the eyes of God.  That’s true of any sin, not just the ones mentioned in our text.  Sin muddies us, pollutes us, soils us.  We need washing and the gospel is what provides that.  By believing in Jesus Christ, sins are washed away with his blood.  We are made whiter than snow in God’s eyes.  All the filth is gone, and there’s nothing but purity and holiness.  The washing is what God does for believers.  He did it for the Corinthians, he does it for us, and he’ll do it for anyone who takes hold of Christ by faith.  If anyone says, “I’m a dirty sinner in God’s eyes, I need washing with Christ’s blood – O God, please wash me and make me clean”  — if anyone says that, God will hear and answer.  He will wash and purify the dirtiest sinner.

“You were sanctified” – sometimes sanctification in the Bible is speaking about the process of becoming holy.  But there is another way that the Bible speaks about sanctification and that’s what we find here.  This is what we call definitive sanctification.  When God chooses someone, calls someone, works faith in someone, and so on – he is setting that person apart from the sinful mass of humanity.  He is setting that person apart as his chosen child.  All who truly believe in Jesus Christ are definitively sanctified in this way.  The true Christians in Corinth too were sanctified by God, marked as his, set apart as his own beloved people.  Formerly they were enslaved to sin, but now they’re God’s children.  God does that through the gospel.

Last of all, “you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”  Justification – I love to preach on it.  This is such a rich and beautiful part of the gospel.  This morning, we can only touch on it.  Justification is God’s one-time declaration that we are right with him because of what Christ has done in his life and death.  When we embrace Jesus as our Saviour, the heavenly Judge declares that we are righteous.  He says that we have everything we need to live with him forever.  We have perfect obedience in the life of Christ has lived for us.  We have forgiveness through the death of Christ on the cross for us.  All of it is guaranteed in the resurrection of Christ.  The resurrection was God’s way of saying that he accepted Christ’s work on our behalf.  The Judge says that believers are right with him, and we’re adopted into his family.  We are heirs of the kingdom of God!  Our Father has bequeathed us his kingdom.  We have this in the name of Jesus Christ our Saviour, and it also comes to us by the Spirit.  The Spirit is the one who gives faith so that Christians take hold of Christ for salvation.

So these Corinthians with a shady past had been washed, sanctified, and justified by God.  The gospel had changed their standing before God.  What characterizes Christians is the incredible work of God in their lives, bringing them to Christ through repentance and faith.

Implied in these verses is the idea that the Corinthians have to be who they are.  They can’t go back to being like the world.  They have to be different, because of what God has done in their lives by his grace.  God has called them to be different.  Christians in the church can’t walk like the world does.  If we’ve been washed, we can’t wallow in the muck.  If we’ve been set apart, we can’t try to erase the distinction God has made with us.  If we’ve been justified, we can’t act like we’re still accused sinners outside of God’s family, living under his condemnation.  So that’s one important take-away from this passage:  if you’re truly a Christian, more and more the past has to be in the past.  That’s a process, but it’s an essential one.  Without that process, no one is a Christian.

Another important take-away from this passage relates to our current situation.  We have real hope to offer this world.  Look at those words again in verse 11, especially at the beginning, “And such were some of you.”  There is hope for change in the gospel.  People’s lives can really be changed, and that happens through the good news of Jesus Christ.  On this Day of Prayer, just think of one or two people you know who are lost.  They’re not Christians.  Perhaps they’re living in one of the ways described in our text.  Maybe it’s a different way.  But they’re without Christ.  They haven’t been washed, sanctified, justified.  Do you know someone like that?  Think of that person.  On this Day of Prayer, I would encourage you to pray for that person by name, intently and specifically.  Pray for God to open their heart for the gospel.  Pray for the Holy Spirit to do his work of regeneration.  Pray for that person to see their sin and misery and their need for Jesus.  Pray that you would have opportunities or more opportunities to share your gospel hope with him or her.  Ask God to give you love for that person, and also courage to speak, wisdom to say the right words at the right moment.  Loved ones, God hears these prayers and he will do surprising things with them.  Expect it.  But pray.  If we want to see our beloved country repent and follow the Lord, it starts with us praying for individual fellow Australians, caring for them, and sharing the gospel hope.  No one is beyond that hope.  The Corinthian church testified to that.  “And such were some of you.”

Loved ones, our world is dark and seems to be getting darker.  You could look at that and just resign yourself to it.  You could be passive and just say, “Oh well, the Bible said it would get worse and worse, so there’s no point in fighting it or saying anything.”  That would be a wicked response.  It’s wicked because it shows no love.  Do you love your country?  Do you love your neighbours?  Shouldn’t we care about the welfare of our land?  If we care, shouldn’t we do something?  Shouldn’t we say what we can when we can to stem the tide of wickedness?  Shouldn’t we at least pray?  AMEN.