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Martyred for the Gospel

Martyred for the Gospel
The burning of Tharchbishop of Cant. D. Tho. Cranmer in the town dich at Oxford, with his hand first thrust into the fyre, wherwith he subscribed before. [Click on the picture to see Cranmer's last words.]

Collect of the Day

The Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany.
The Collect.

O LORD, we beseech thee to keep thy Church and household continually in thy true religion; that they who do lean only upon the hope of thy heavenly grace may evermore be defended by thy mighty power; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Daily Bible Verse

Monday, August 31, 2009

Re: Transgenderism: How Am I Different From the Pharisees?



Linsey,

The difference between biblical Christianity and the Pharisees of the New Testament is that the Pharisees had begun to go beyond what was written in the Hebrew Scriptures. They added traditions of men as being equal to God's Word and instead of focusing on being justified before God on the basis of faith alone they were advocating a justification based on their own inherent goodness, merits and works. They loved to show off in public places and to brag about how perfectly they kept the law. But Jesus pointed out to them over and over again in parables, discussions, and debates about the law that they were not good and that they had not kept the law at all.


In fact, the point of the law is not that it is a means of justification of sinners before God. On the contrary, the law convicts us as sinners and reveals to us our true spiritual condition before God. So we can never be good enough to earn or merit salvation at all. Law keeping, being nice to others, loving your neighbor and all those things are commanded by God and we have a duty and obligation to do so as your question implies. You rightly point out that I am obligated to love even those who are unlovable by the worlds standards--the homeless, the poor, the criminal, the alien--and Scripture tells me that I am even obligated to love my enemies! How radical is that??? But the real question is DO I? And again, as you quite rightly point out--NO I DO NOT LIVE UP TO THAT STANDARD AS I SHOULD! But the OBLIGATION to do so is not now nor will it ever be removed! So I'm in a dilemma as you again rightly point out. The law condemns me as a sinner!!! I deserve hell!!! What will I ever do to live up to the standard? And this is precisely the point--God's standard is higher than any human standard. So if I cannot even live up to the standard as YOU see it, how in the world will I ever live up to the standard that an Almighty and perfect God has???


And here's the rub... God does not lower His standards so you can appear to keep them. You see, this is the error of the Pharisees. They thought they were keeping the law. But Jesus pointed out over and over again that they were hypocrites who were only fooling themselves. But Jesus Himself did keep the law perfectly. He absolutely never sinned even once in his entire life. In fact, the New Testament says that Jesus had the authority to override the sabbath laws for He was Lord of the Sabbath. Jesus, wishing to point out that being good and law-keeping cannot be the basis of our justification said:

Matthew 5:17-20 (ESV)


17 "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. 19 Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

Matthew 5:43-48 (ESV)


43 "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.


Now, Jesus is telling us what we "ought" to do. But He also knows that it will cut us to the heart because we all know that we do not live up to this standard and that we never can do so "perfectly" and "absolutely" in this life. But the paradox and conflict within us as sinners is that God REALLY EXPECTS US TO DO SO!


Well, you say, how can God expect us to do the impossible??? Good question. He expects us to do the impossible, i.e., be absolutely sinless, because He wants the law to crush us and to so devastate our own self justification and self righteousness that we come to see ourselves as what we really are--objects of God's wrath fit for eternal destruction. There is no one who is good or good enough to deserve salvation. We all without exception fall short of the mark and are by nature evil.


The Apostle Paul puts it like this:


Romans 7:13-20 (ESV)


13 Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure. 14 For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. 15 For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. 17 So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.


In other words, law keeping often only stirs up more disobedience in us. We struggle to keep the law but only wind up sinning more because sin dwells within us in the heart, the soul, and the flesh. Our nature has been corrupt since the fall.


So to answer your question, how am I different from the Pharisees? The answer is that all of us are like the Pharisees, including yourself. We all have a tendency to see everyone else's sins but not our own. This is the deception of thinking that we ourselves are somehow better than everyone else--they deserve hell but I do not. The difference between a biblical Christian and the world or "natural" religion is this: We know that God has supernaturally revealed the law and the Gospel to us. The purpose of the law is not to show us how to be saved but to show us that we are totally and completely helpless to save ourselves! And the purpose of the Gospel is to show us that salvation is completely and absolutely a free gift. It cannot be merited, earned, or deserved in any way whatsoever. In other words, the Gospel is given to us out of the pity and mercy of God. He commands us to do what He knows we cannot do--obey perfectly--to reveal to us that we are hopelessly in rebellion against Him and that we cannot live up to the law. At that point, we cast ourselves on the mercy of the heavenly court. We plead our guilt and ask for His forgiveness. And He then relents. But He cannot do so without satisfying the demands of the law and the due penalty for the violation of His law, which is death. So He sends Jesus to fulfill the law perfectly for us and that obedience becomes credited to us as if we had actually lived up to it. AND Jesus dies on the cross to pay the eternal penalty for our sins in our place. We are freed from the demands of the law and from the due penalty.


But we are not free to sin as if there were now no law. So here is where we have a duty to live for God, but knowing that we will fail often. But we are forgiven sinners and freed from the obligation to be saved by law keeping and being perfectly good and loving, etc. So now we are free to live a gentle, loving and kind life as a Christian out of gratitude to God for saving us, despite the fact that He should by all rights have damned us to an eternity in hell!


This is how I am different from a Pharisee. I am freed from the law but not freed from the law. I am free from the law as a means of saving myself by good works. If that were possible, Christ died on the cross in vain. But I am not free from the obligation to love others, including trans-sexuals, etc. But that does not mean that I must accept the evil behavior itself anymore than I must accept the evil behavior of a Muslim terrorist. I am obligated to love the person and hate their sin. But God himself has no such obligation because He is the Judge, Jury and Executioner. He can justly damn whoever He chooses because He IS sinless and meets the qualifications to do so! He can damn not just me or you but anyone simply because of Adam's original sin and on the basis of our own actual sins. We have nothing to make us worthy of salvation. It is a sovereign act of mercy on God's part.


I fall short of the mark but I try. I pray for more of God's grace. If I come across as "unloving" as you say, perhaps it is because I am at that point emphasizing God's law. God does not lower His standards for me or for you. He requires us to love our neighbor as ourselves and to even love our enemies. But I emphasize the law not because I think I'm better than you or because I think I myself live up to it perfectly. By no means! I emphasize the law to devastate your own sense of self righteousness so that you too can see that only mercy can save you! This is the difference between Christianity and the Pharisees and all other forms of natural religion which teaches that good works can save you. Only Christianity teaches salvation by grace alone.


I am able to love you because I know that God can and does forgive ALL sin. Even a serial killer may ask for God's pardon and God will freely give it. But the one sin which is unforgivable is unbelief and blasphemy of the Holy Spirit--which is essentially saying you can save yourself by your own inherent goodness. This is the sin of idolatry--making yourself equal with God. It's the same lie satan told in the garden: "You can be like God."


Trying is not good enough. You're right. I don't try hard enough to love as I ought. But that's why I need grace! I deserve hell probably more than any trans-sexual does! But that's why God unconditionally elects sinners for salvation. He knows that left to ourselves we will only bring greater damnation to ourselves. The difference between a "saved" sinner and a lost sinner is that saved sinners ask for God's help to repent and to change when they fail or sin. The lost sinner seeks the world's approval of their sin as if it were not sin at all. But this is not what the moral law of God reveals. The law reveals that we DID sin and we are guilty and without hope if we have no Savior to deliver us from our sins. Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior of all who will believe. Even if we fail continually, God continues to forgive us when we repent--and eventually we by grace overcome habitual sins. In this life we will never stop sinning completely but we can move forward and live a Christian life, never reaching perfection until we die.


Romans 8:1-9 (ESV)


1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. 3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6 For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot. 8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. 9 You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.


Finally, I want to address your last question. You asked if love and compassion and empathy is the heart of the Gospel? The biblical answer is no. The heart of the Gospel is that humanity is fallen, lost and condemned by the holiness of God and that His law reveals that we are in need of a Savior. The heart of the Gospel is that God loves sinners enough to send His Son to die for their sins and to save those sinners to whom He will give mercy. We love because He first loved us. Not everyone receives mercy but anyone who wants to be saved will be lavished with God's love, mercy, kindness and forgiveness. (See Romans 5). Being loving, compassionate and empathetic is indeed our moral obligation but even that obligation only reveals that we do not love as we ought! Hence, the need for grace to do better as Christians, knowing it is grace that saves us in the first place!


May God reveal to you the love Jesus had for His sheep when before the foundation of the world He decided to lay down His life for His people,


Charlie


----- Original Message -----
Sent: Monday, August 31, 2009 12:27 AM
Subject: Re: transgenderism: A Biblical Response

Charlie,

Thank you for taking the time to reply.

Your knowledge of scripture and theology is impressive. I don't disagree with much of what you say, technically. I am also not upset with you. Perhaps I could learn from you, which is why I am emailing.

I do have a couple of questions for you, though. I mean them in earnest, honestly, and without malice.

My first question is, what makes you different from the Pharasies in the Bible? I am not accusing you of being one, I'm just saying at this point I guess I'm too foolish to be able to tell the difference.

Another question is, when do you actually practice love and grace, compassion and empathy? I mean this specifically.... where does it show in your life? Is this not the heart of the gospel? I'm not saying you don't, I'm just saying again that I can't find it in your writing.

- LL

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