"What would you think about someone who claimed to hold to a certain set of rules, ethics or morals, but then clearly displayed by their own actions that they didn’t truly believe those claims? What would you think of a policeman who promised to uphold the law and protect the innocent, but then stood idly by, watching one of those innocent people being robbed by a thief? Or a soldier who took an oath to defend his homeland with his life, but then stepped aside and refused to oppose an invading enemy? But let’s make it a bit more personal. What about the husband who promised to always be faithful to his wife, only to leave her for another woman? Or the child told by a parent how much they are loved, except that the parent never seems able to set aside any quality time to spend with the child.
Maybe you might say some of these people acted traitorously, some uncaringly. Perhaps you might say they can’t be trusted or that they are liars. You might even say that they have been hypocritical.
Now how do you think people look upon those who call themselves Christians, who proclaim to be followers of Jesus Christ, followers of His Word written in the Scriptures, men and woman who, the Bible says, should be the “light of the world”1 and the “salt of the earth”?2 What do they expect to see? I suggest that most of them would expect those Christians to be people who adhere to what is written in the Bible, that they would hope Christians actually believe what they claim to follow.
When I attended Hope College (1995-99), one of our textbooks was A Guide to the New Testament World by Albert A. Bell, Jr. It was published in 1994 by Herald Press. Dr. Bell teaches at Hope College (affiliated with the mainline Reformed Church in America). The book primarily uses the NRSV, and the foreword is by the esteemed Bruce Metzger (who calls the book “a veritable marvel of craftmanship”). In other words, this book is not the product of an amateur historian and does not come from an excessively conservative wing of the church.
Which is what makes Bell’s description of sexuality in the New Testament world all the more striking. I pulled the book down from the shelf last week to get some background information for my sermon on Acts 15. While flipping through the book I stumbled upon this sub-section called “Sexual Deviance” in the chapter on “Greco-Roman Morality and Personal Relations.”
In modern discussions of moral standards, a popular argument is that, when it comes to sex, nothing is “abnormal” or “deviant.” Whatever consenting adults wish to do with or to one another is acceptable. Such an attitude is certainly not biblical. The OT sets out specific rules, governing even some of the more exotic varieties of sexual behavior (as in Lev. 20:10-16; Deut. 22:5), and Jesus raised the standards even higher when he said that whoever thinks of doing such things is as guilty as if having done them (Matt. 5:27-28).
"The way we respond to a message depends on who it’s from. Let me give you an example. If a stranger walks up to me on the street and says, “Let me borrow the keys to your car real quick. I want to get some money out of your glove box,” I would probably look at him like he’s crazy and walk off. But if my wife were to come up to me and say the same thing, I’d give her the keys without a second thought. We listen and respond differently depending on who’s speaking.
How about one more scenario. If one of my good friends insisted that I must submit to his perfect authority over my entire life, I would probably look at him like he’s crazy and go get some new friends. And it would be fine for me to respond that way. But what if God Himself said the very same thing?
2 Timothy 3:16 says, “All Scripture is God-breathed.” That’s not the whole verse, but those five words say enough to meditate on for a lifetime. The fact that the words of Scripture are the words of God Himself is significant. And I think those five words, “All Scripture is God-breathed,” help us fight some of the lies that we sometimes believe about the Bible. I want to look at five.
"Today as I was sitting in a doctor's surgery flipping through a 2007 issue of New Idea all of a sudden an advertisement for the Australian Sex Party (ASP) came on the TV. I'm even more gob smacked as the advertisement had a major focus on religion. It turns out that ASP has two major policies about taxing churches and the separation of church and state.
In the first advert, ASP spokesperson Fiona Patten commends churches for their charity work, of which she heartily approves and she is quite happy for that work to remain tax-exempt. But Patten questions the tax free privileges churches enjoy when it pertains to business ventures such as breakfast cereals (i.e., Sanitarium which is owned by the Seventh Day Adventist church) and music studios (i.e., Hillsong Church in Sydney owns some studios). Patten claims to represent the weight of public opinion when she states that "most Australians would believe that churches should pay their fair share of tax."
Now I do think religious organizations should come under scrutiny with respect to their tax-exempt status, especially when it pertains to the running of commercial ventures that compete with local businesses. That applies to areas such as medical centres, fast food restaurants, and other commercial ventures even when they are used to fund charitable work. That said, a few responses need to be made.