Extolling the Desolate

Along the Way @ mlsgregg.com

The following words are going to lose me some readers, so know my heart before you proceed. I don’t expect everyone to agree with me. I don’t desire complete homogeny in my life. Never, ever will I advocate being a jerk. Neither do I believe that we are to be anything other than loving.

But that love? It is to have a backbone. It is to be rooted in what is true. 

Gentle Reader,

Why do we praise that which is not praiseworthy?

Those who call themselves Christians baffle me in their responses to current events. I choke on the saccharine, sticky, feel-good buzzwords. Acceptance. Tolerance. Love. Forgiveness. Courage.

Nobody defines those words correctly.

When did we become blind to the fact that there is no sin that should be celebrated? Why has our understanding of grace become so disgustingly cheap? The community of faith seems to, in general, buy into the lie that “as long as you’re not hurting anyone, do whatever you want.” Such an idea is antithetical to the Gospel.

No, we Christians should not praise Bruce Jenner. Neither should we call him names or use the anonymity of the internet to share vile thoughts about him. We should be sad. Our love for God and our love for people who struggle with issues like transgenderism should compel us to speak truth. Gentle truth. Respectful truth. But truth nonetheless.

We do not have a God who tells us to surrender to every desire. He does not tell us that salvation came at little cost. He does not tell us that obedience does not matter. He tells us through His word and through the consequences of our experiences that sin and struggle are real because of the pernicious growth of evil in our hearts due to the Fall and our own inwardly warped natures – and He can and will save us from that. Praise Him forever because He loves us as we are but that love means that He cannot allow us to stay as we are.

He is the God who tells us that our hearts are desperately wicked (Jeremiah 17:9). We are not to “follow” them so we can be “happy.” We are to follow Him. He is the God who tells us to take every thought captive (2 Corinthians 10:5). We are not to dwell on every little thing that comes into our heads. Our minds cannot be trusted unless they are renewed and transformed in Him (Romans 12:2). That same verse tells us that we are not to be conformed to the pattern of this world. We are not to shape our lives based on the ever-changing whims of society. We are to base them on God’s truth.

No, we Christians should not engage in the doctrinal gymnastics and outright denial of Scripture that is required to “support” any kind of marriage that is not made up of one man and one woman. Neither should we call any person names or use the anonymity of the internet to share vile thoughts about them. We should be sad. Our love for God and our love for people who struggle with issues like homosexuality should compel us to speak truth. Gentle truth. Respectful truth. But truth nonetheless.

We do not have a God who says it’s fine to ignore Him. He is the God who tells us that He formed us within the secret place of the womb. He knows us at a level beyond minute intimacy (Psalm 139). He says that we were made for His glory (Isaiah 43:7). He arranged creation in such a way that it screams of His continual presence (Romans 1:21). We do not get to shape Him to fit us.

No, we Christians should not swallow the bubble-gum, fortune-cookie, cotton candy garbage continually hawked by men like Joel Osteen. Have we forgotten warnings about deception and itching ears (2 Timothy 4:3)?

If I had been coddled in my sin and praised for my bad decisions, I would be dead today. If I fed on a steady diet of fluff, I would be dead today. It’s that stark and that simple. I know precisely where I would go if left to my own devices. I know exactly what God has saved me from. I am dependent on Him for every breath, awash in His good graces that I can never, ever deserve or repay. I am intolerant of anything less than the radical, transformative, powerful Gospel and the holy, majestic, entirely-other God behind the message.

Yes, intolerant. It breaks my heart. I can’t stand it. There is a physical pain that presses against my chest when I consider all those who blithely march to hell in the name of “progress” and “openness” and “acceptance” and the people who call themselves children of God let the parade go by without so much as a word. No, I don’t believe in being nasty. I do believe in truth. I do believe that Christ’s death and resurrection were for naught without sin. If we remove that ugliness, that separation, from the equation; if we twist words and decide that God did not mean that _________ is wrong, then what would be the point of the Atonement? If there really isn’t such a thing as sin, and this is what we communicate when we support and give pride of place to it, then why did Christ come?

It is not bigotry to say that something is wrong. It’s not. It is not anything-phobic to say that such and such action or stance does not hold up in the light of God’s word. It is actually loving. It is loving to look someone in the eyes and say, “I know that you are hurting. I know that you have this struggle. I know that you have questions. But please, I beg you, do not go your own way. I can’t stand by and let you, a person I care about, tear your life apart. There is something – Someone – so much better.”

Isn’t this what we say to drug addicts? To alcoholics? To women who keep diving in to bad relationship after bad relationship? To the depressed and anxious? Don’t we try to surround them with love that says, “you are safe and I’m with you” and truth that says, “let’s work through this together?”

So why are sexual sins treated differently?

Don’t we look at liars and say, “You are false. You are fake. I cannot trust anything you say and I will not listen to you.”

So why are we silent in the face of false teachers?

I do not expect the world at large to act if they are saved. I do not expect them to care about anything God has to say. I do not expect my national, state or local governments to suddenly shift course and made decisions based on Scripture.

I do expect this of anyone who calls himself a Christian. I expect us to stop extolling the desolate. I expect us to stop giving people enough rope with which to hang themselves. I expect us to expose liars for who they are.

I expect us to follow Christ.

His refrain when interacting with sinners (i.e. everyone)? “Go and sin no more. Repent and be saved. Take up your cross.”

There are also some words about whitewashed tombs and broods of vipers that would apply nicely to the Osteen’s and Hinn’s of the world.

My journey to faith. (15)

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13 thoughts on “Extolling the Desolate

  1. Wow! You don’t mince words or sugar coat anything! I will admit that I struggle with what’s “out there” up to (and including, but not limited to) transgender issues and other issues in our society. I don’t know what I feel so I will stay silent on the subject. But thank you for expressing yourself so well! Gives me good reason to reflect on what I do think at present.

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    1. I think it’s hard to keep up with it all, Aunt Lenore. Things change so fast. I just know that I’ve been cowardly in addressing some of this in my writing, and that’s not cool.

      The bottom line is that we commit to doing what Jesus told us to do: Go out there and tell others about Him. Tell them why He came and why they need Him. We let Him define the way. I have no doubt that you strive to obey Him and take the opportunities presented to you to share with others. 🙂

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  2. Thank you. I completely agree. A couple friends and I were talking about this very thing the other day and I admitted I sometimes felt as if I was alone. Of course God is love but where is the the holiness preached? Keep speaking the the truth Marie.
    Its what every thing else rests on.

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    1. Thank you for bringing up holiness! The message and process of sanctification are getting lost in political correctness and fear. I know that it’s been that way for me. It took a lot to write and publish this; to put my fear of others aside and speak out in obedience to God.

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  3. Wow, Marie! You didn’t pull any punches with this one. And I’ll stick around.

    I did give this a lot of thought while feeding and walking the dogs…all 25 of them. LOT of thought.

    First, I think the reason why we give sexual sin a pass is because the hippies shouted everyone down. The Sixties sucked, big-time, because thanks to people like Benjamin Spock, society started thinking that “youth should lead the way”.

    They got loud, and anyone who didn’t agree with the Free Love principle was square, man. Madison Avenue bought into it, because young people…affluent young people, living off Dad’s paycheck…were prime consumers. A lot of money to be made, selling with sex and the illusion of sexual freedom.

    We never recovered from that; the genie could not be put back into the bottle without some draconian lawmaking, and without limiting things like access to personal transportation. It’s a lot easier to be loose when you can drive somewhere to do it. The upstair’s bedroom in the parents’ house doesn’t inspire passion.

    That said, Christians do tend to some inconsistency. Homosexuality is decried, but we often give heterosexual fornicators a pass, as if it were a lesser sin, because at least it’s between a man and a woman. I don’t think that’s Scriptural.

    We’ll overlook celebrities who live together, man and woman…but we’ll often shun openly gay celebs. It is a double standard. Both are setting an example of sin.

    Whether homosexuality can be ‘cured’, I don’t know. But I do know that, like ‘normal’ fornication, it can be abstained from. The action itself is degrading to the soul, and ultimately harmful to society; perversion is never private, not in the long run.

    That, I think is a hint to the compassionate and Christian way to handle this…to say, effectively, “I know it hurts to be different, and I know you feel attraction toward other men (or women), but please…don’t act on them”.

    To those who would cry, “It’s unfair! Why shouldn’t he or she be happy for who he/she is?” I would say, well, a pyromaniac is happiest when setting fires, and we’re not very tolerant of that, are we?

    On the subject of same-sex marriage, again, we have to be consistent, and oppose heterosexual “domestic partnerships” with equal fervor. Cherry-picking to take aim at homosexuals implies that we are singling them out for special loathing…and many of us do find their practices disgusting. But we can’t base the promulgation of Scriptural authority on personal preference.

    And so to Bruce Jenner.

    The situation here may be rather different, and trangenderism may not be a sexual sin. True, he does not want to be the man that God made him to be…

    But wait. The last part of that sentence can be a problem, because we DON’T always accept children as they come from the womb. We correct cleft palates, and we install shunts in the heads of hydrocephalus babies.

    We can be born with a predisposition, through chemical imbalances in the body, to depression. We try to address that through medication.

    Is wanting to be another gender something that can included as a birth defect? Or are we looking at it with understandable revulsion, and possibly singling these individuals out for special consideration?

    I don’t know. I do think it’s worth thinking about; a fallen world in which a baby can be born with no eyes, or various syndromes that doom to a short and stunted life can certainly admit a defect like this.

    My personal feeling is that it’s more a matter of a person convincing him/herself that changing gender is a cure for other dissatisfaction in life, but I’m not a psychologist, and my opinion here is essentially worthless. I have to allow for the fact that there is a real problem, if I’m to be morally rigorous.

    Now for the bottom of the dung-pile…the false teachers.

    These people are evil. The ones who claim healings they can never prove, and miracles-for-a-price…they do more to drive people away from Christ than anything.

    “Come get your miracle!” A TV preacher invites people to bring friends and family to his “miracle services” if they’re missing limbs. He claims to have regrown them…but provides no proof.

    Jesus healed people in public. Paralytics got up and walked. Bleeding stopped. There was none of this “slain in the spirit” and wow, I FEEL better crap.

    I’m not particularly down on Joel Osteen; the prosperity gospel he preaches is misleading and based on silly interpretation of Scripture, but he’s not offering modern-day indulgences. He’s more a somewhat stupid version of Norman Vincent Peale with a razor-cut and capped teeth. Osteen wants people to feel the immanence of a God who really does love them, and we need that message.

    There’s a bit too much of “if you don’t straighten up Jesus is going to get you” going on. We look at the expression “fear God” with the modern interpretation of the word, when it really should be translated as “respect and revere”.

    Salvation is not based on following the rules; it’s based on accepting that we’ve sinned, and that Jesus paid the price for those sins. If my salvation is based on how well I live a Christ-like life, I’m doomed. I can’t do it.

    But like a toddler learning to walk, I am trying, and Jesus is helping me. Sometimes I get frustrated, and I’ll knock away His steadying hand, and take a step or two and then fall on my face. Then He picks me up, dries the tears, and says, “let’s try that one again, cochise.”

    Wow. Sorry about the long comment. I guess if you can’t sleep, y’all can re-read it!

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    1. I like your thoughts, Andrew.

      I’m not a psychologist or expert, either. I do know that being intersexed is different from identifying as transgender; the number of intersexed people who legitimately may seek gender reassignment following choices made at birth is small. So I think some people suffer as so many do with genetic deformities as a result of the Fall. I think you are on to something when you point to dissatisfaction in life as a source for others.

      In all of this, I do believe that compassion is a must. I have my own struggles. I don’t understand all the struggles of others, but I know what pain is. That’s why I tried to emphasize love and respect in speaking truth. It may not have come across very well, but I do believe that firmness and gentleness can and do go hand-in-hand.

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  4. Oops, I accidently hit enter and my comment was submitted prematurely.
    Okay, what I was saying is that I believe that the Bible is like a mirror. We are meant to examine ourselves carefully before God and adjust ourselves accordingly. Being human, we often use it instead like a magnifying glass to pick out the sins of others and point them out. I refer to the obvious verse about picking a speck out of a brother’s eye instead of removing the log from our own. Unfortunately, a magnifying glass can also have the side effect of concentrating light and burning whatever it is in its focus.
    Personally, while I see in the Great Commission the call to spread the Good News of Jesus’ death and resurrection and the love and forgiveness he offers to all, I do not see in the Scripture the direction to tell others where they are sinning and set them straight. I disagree with the idea that Christians commonly overlook or condone sexual sin. In my experience, it is the failing that we are the quickest to point out in others. I am not here to debate the issue of whether or not being transgendered or homosexual is a sin. I think it is up to us to look at the Bible as a whole and come to our own conclusions regarding what is right, as you have done, although not everyone will agree on this subject. I simply question what good will come from Christians concentrating on this particular issue and publicly declaring to the world that they have got it all wrong. I think that it will only serve to drive them away from God. Surely our emphasis needs to be on caring for others and attracting them into the Kingdom.
    Although I disagree with your approach on this, I won’t be unsubscribing from your blog over it! I do appreciate that you usually bring a fresh point of view to many subjects pertaining to Christianity and I would miss that perspective. I do think that it is important to discuss these things, even when we don’t see eye to eye.

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    1. Thank you, Jodi.

      I do not at all ascribe to the thinking that we should focus on any sin over another. No way. I don’t think that every blog post has to be about defining and pointing out various types of sin; few of my posts on this site do so. But what is inescapable is that we’re ALL sinners – and this idea, in general, seems to be falling by the wayside.

      I say this because, more and more, what once was understood as sin is now being redefined as not-sin. When we say, “Well, the Bible says this in that topic, but that was only for that time,” where does it end? I’m not talking about the work of interpretation and understanding cultural context. I’m talking about what God clearly states in Scripture as being wrong. If homosexual activity is not sinful, then how can murder be sinful? If promiscuity is not sinful, then why is polygamy?

      I’m talking about consistency here. Never would I go protest at a gay wedding or refuse to associate with a transgender person or stop talking to someone who likes Joel Osteen. But neither would I, in the course of relationship with all different types of people, keep silent about the very real nature of sin and our desperate need of salvation. That is the Great Commission. We can’t tell people about Jesus without telling them why He came.

      Also, I draw a sharp line between the saved and unsaved, meaning my conversations will be very different depending on where a person falls on that spectrum. I don’t at all expect someone who isn’t a Christian to have any understanding that Scripture is the revealed will of God. I don’t expect people without the Holy Spirit to live as though He dwells within them. What I am bothered by, and what this post was directed toward, is the trend in Christianity to ignore and twist the word of God. That is where my major issue lies.

      None of my words here are directed personally at you, by the way. 🙂

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  5. Powerful words, here Marie but I’m in agreement with you. I’ve been thinking on this whole “live to be happy” stance that people seem to be pursuing today. God doesn’t want us to pursue happiness, does He – he wants us to pursue eternity. His word is clear and resolute. My heart breaks at the fact that people hurt – that they can’t resolve their identity, that they are searching to fill emptiness with more emptiness, and that as a result their futures are bleak. Praying that we can hold fast to truth, which is often neither popular or accepted, but still all together truth!

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    1. “He wants us to pursue eternity.” I like that, and would take it a step further – He wants us to pursue Him.

      We have a compassionate High Priest (Hebrews 4:12-15). He understands all of our temptations and struggles. He knows how confused we can be, how we hurt. And He offers a way for us to deal with ALL of it. He says, “Follow Me. Take My hand. I will show you the way to go.”

      His way is totally different from ours.

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