Tuesday, January 16, 2018

It’s Not a Victimless Sin

Part 2 of 2 
Ezekiel 3:20-21

The sin of pornography is doubly damning for a professing believer. What about the sex worker’s soul? What about the image of God imprinted upon each human in Creation? Rather than warning and caring for the exploited sex workers, far too many professing Christians use them, like consumable and disposable waste, to feed their own sinful fantasies and pleasure. No Christian love or care is extended. The image of God upon the created is ignored by the lustful leer of the one who consumes another.

I was praying with a friend who had struggled with many issues throughout his life. One of the issues was pornography. I remember telling him very directly that his compulsive sinful flights to pornography, lust, and masturbation to manage his sexual urges imprisoned sex workers and advanced a twenty-first century slavery. He looked at me with shock.

“I never thought of it that way,” he responded.

“It’s about time you did,” was my response.

In an internet age where private consumption of pornography is hidden between a phone, a wifi router, and a soft glow, honest repentance and departure from lustful participation in pornography is scarce. Jesus’ words span twenty centuries with a bold relevance for today.

“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell” (Matthew 5:27-30 NKJV).

Job surely had grappled with temptations of lust. The ancient saint boldly proclaimed his testimony and personal commitment.

“I have made a covenant with my eyes; why then should I look upon a young woman? For what is the allotment of God from above, and the inheritance of the Almighty from on high? Is it not destruction for the wicked, and disaster for the workers of iniquity? Does He not see my ways, and count all my steps? If I have walked with falsehood, or if my foot has hastened to deceit, let me be weighed on honest scales, that God may know my integrity” (Job 31:1-6 NKJV).

I first met Melissa when she was sixteen. She was serving a banquet at the Christian high school from which Beth and I graduated. Two years later, she enrolled in Bible college. She served as my student secretary, sang in college singing groups, earned A’s in class, and attended small group in our home. We rejoiced with Melissa’s successes and included her as a part of our family.

But Melissa had unresolved issues. A family history of sexual abuse, and manipulation complicated her romantic life, leading to sexual sin and dismissal from Bible college. She eventually “hooked up” with Tim and bore two children to him. Tim was an ex-Marine. When money was tight, he demanded that Melissa work as an erotic dancer in local clubs. Her income, he insisted, was needed to make ends meet. In order to work up the nerve to perform such an indignity, she got drunk. The alcohol numbed her emotions enough for her to cope with the shame of it all.

I warned Melissa. I tried to help her find a path of hope.

When Melissa and Tim broke it off, he took the kids. He had money. She had nothing, except fading beauty and growing shame. In 2011, a small article in a Michigan newspaper featured her death from drug overdose.

And you say that your pornography habit hurts no one.


Lexi “Olivia” Nova. Shyla Stylez. August Ames. Porn actresses. Consumable. Victims of a culture gone mad with watching sex on the internet.

Now, I warn you, professing Christian friend. The Bible teaches that fornicators go to Hell. If you are to be a follower of Jesus Christ, you must repent in faith, become His true and faithful disciple, and walk with Him in the victory He provides through the merits of His atoning blood on the cross of Calvary.

“Again, when a righteous man turns from his righteousness and commits iniquity, and I lay a stumbling block before him, he shall die; because you did not give him warning, he shall die in his sin, and his righteousness which he has done shall not be remembered; but his blood I will require at your hand. Nevertheless if you warn the righteous man that the righteous should not sin, and he does not sin, he shall surely live because he took warning; also you will have delivered your soul” (Ezekiel 3:20-21 NKJV).

Lexi, Olivia, August, Melissa.

It’s not a victimless sin.

In the words of Jesus, “Go and sin no more” (John 8:11c NKJV).

Monday, January 15, 2018

Blood on Your Hands?

Part 1 of 2

Ezekiel 3:16-19

Their physical features are often beautiful. Their sexual appetites are legendary. Their audience is vast.

Their lives are filled with torment. They are sex workers, porn actors, exotic dancers, and prostitutes. Hollow eyes. Soulless gazes. Empty. Hard. Aged. Exploited. Addicted.

A recent news report tells the story. Lexi “Olivia” Nova (20) of Minnesota, a porn actress, recently sought help. She tried to get sober. Her boyfriend died of a heroin overdose last year. Now, she is dead, and no one knows the cause of death.

Lexi is one of many who have lost their souls, their lives, their families, their hopes, their minds, their bodies, and their dreams to the adult entertainment industry.

Do you care? Why should you? She is just a hopeless whore in a junkie hotel, you say. She ought to know better, you say.

But what are you doing to contribute to Lexi’s bondage, addiction, exploitation, endangerment, and death? Do you have blood on your hands?

The pornography industry and its related sex trades are a multi-billion dollar, criminal-infiltrated, underworld of twenty-first century slavery. If you consume these images, you are this industry’s customer. If you visit the websites, buy the content, lust after the fantasies, and gratify yourself to the entertainment, you are the problem. The pornography industry cannot exist without customers. If you are one, you are a twenty-first century slave owner. You are ensuring the bondage, exploitation, disease, addiction, and death of hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of people.

You say, “Dr. John, why are you so worked up about this?”

I am worked up about this because of the large number of ministers, Christian leaders, and church members who are consuming pornography. Each consumer participates in the enslavement of sex workers.

I am worked up about this because pornography is fornication. Both words share the same Greek root word, porneo. Fornication is the most broadly defined word for sexual immorality used in scripture. It refers to all forms of sexual sin ranging from gazes, to touches, to actions, and includes the entire range of relationships in which such sin might take place. The Bible strictly forbids all fornication.

“Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma. But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them” (Ephesians 5:1-7 NKJV).

Why is fornication such a big deal? Because it exploits people made in the image of God. It exploits people whom Jesus died to save. Fornication always has victims. In the Body of Christ, we are commanded to live in love, not exploitation, with one another and toward outsiders. Holy, self-giving love becomes the defining characteristic of Christ’s church.

“For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in passion of lust, like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one should take advantage of and defraud his brother in this matter, because the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also forewarned you and testified. For God did not call us to uncleanness, but in holiness. Therefore he who rejects this does not reject man, but God, who has also given us His Holy Spirit” (I Thessalonians 4:3-8 NKJV).

Self-giving love does not defraud another. Defrauding means cheating. It means taking something for nothing in a way that exploits and disadvantages another. Defrauding leaves another as less than they were before the exchange. In the context of I Thessalonians 4, defrauding means to use someone sexually in an uncommitted way. One takes from another some part of their sexual self that can the taker never will restore or return. To defraud has the tone of cheating in a business deal. Sex is reduced to a transaction. Relationship is stripped away. Commitment is absent. Love is absent. Fornication is defrauding, whether the victim is a girlfriend, a child, a mistress, or a porn actress.

If a professing Christian is living in fornication, that one is living in deception and in danger of eternal judgment. John, the Revelator’s, closing words to the church include a warning against fornication that elevates it to the level of witchcraft, murder, idolatry, and lying.

“Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city. But outside are dogs and sorcerers and sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and whoever loves and practices a lie” (Revelation 22:14-15 NKJV).

Ezekiel was called to be a prophet of God to the Hebrews stuck in Babylonian captivity. God called him to be a watchman for their souls. Ezekiel’s call to be a watchman for his people echoes my own call as a follower of Jesus Christ. So, I have to warn you.

“Now it came to pass at the end of seven days that the word of the Lord came to me, saying, ‘Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; therefore hear a word from My mouth, and give them warning from Me: When I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die,’ and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life, that same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at your hand. Yet, if you warn the wicked, and he does not turn from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but you have delivered your soul’” (Ezekiel 3:16-19 NKJV).

If you are using pornography, you are in danger of Hell’s fires. The Bible is clear, fornicators go to Hell. Those words are not my words. They come directly from the Word of God.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Jesus' Justice

I grieve the crude and disgusting language which the leader of the free world allegedly used to disparage majority world nations. My love for the nations is directly related to Jesus Christ's love for the nations. I am reminded that wherever the Gospel of Jesus Christ has gone, nations are improved, women and children are safer, wealth increases, and health improves. That is because true followers of Jesus Christ seek to follow His mandate. 

"And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, 'All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.' Amen." (Matthew 28:18-20 NKJV).

In Matthew 25, Jesus is facing the cross. As he does so, he issues orders to His followers to care for people of every tribe, tongue, and nation. Our counter-culture mandate comes not from the White House, a government, or a court. Our mandate to the nations comes from our Lord Jesus Christ Himself. 

“When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats.  And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left.  Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in;  I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’

“Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You?  Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’  And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’

“Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink;  I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.’

“Then they also will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?’ Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
(Matthew 25:31-46).

Jesus Christ's mandate concerns and convicts me. It is a mandate to all nations. All nations will face judgment. That judgment will begin with the nations care for the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick, and the imprisoned. The Gospel mandate is expressed in a social mandate. This is not social justice in the neo-Marxist context of our age. This justice is Jesus' justice. 

Surely, immigration is a pressing political and policy problem that needs to be addressed. Surely, many competing interests seek alternative solutions. I don't have the answers for all of the thorny issues policy makers face. But the Biblical mandate from our Lord Jesus Christ is clear: food for the hungry, water for the thirsty, protection for the stranger, clothing for the naked, medical care for the sick, and compassionate care for the imprisoned. And the comments of our president are offensive to "Jesus' Justice." 

Thursday, January 11, 2018

You Might be a Priest for Sale, if…

Judges 17-18

So I have to get very personal. I might be a priest for sale, if…

If I permit and excuse unholiness in my own life, I might be a priest for sale.

Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14 NKJV).

This is a faithful saying: If a man desires the position of a bishop, he desires a good work. A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober-minded, of good behavior, hospitable, able to teach; not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but gentle, not quarrelsome, not covetous; one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence (for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?); not a novice, lest being puffed up with pride he fall into the same condemnation as the devil. Moreover he must have a good testimony among those who are outside, lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil” (I Timothy 3:1-7 NKJV).

Am I a priest for sale?

If I bless unholy marital unions because I don’t want to offend anyone, I might be a priest for sale.

A friend of mine remarried. This marks her second marriage. It is her fiance’s second marriage. She was 33 and he was 53. They were engaged before his divorce was final. They will have a church wedding. She will wear white. A pastor will perform it. Would I perform such a union? For a friend?

Will I provide a church wedding, complete with a white dress for the bride, to a couple that has been openly cohabiting without the benefit of marriage?

There was a day when a woman who was getting married for a second time would wear a lovely dress, but never a white dress. The symbolism of the white dress was a mark of purity and virginity; and that was important.

Am I a priest for sale?

If I sanction immoral living arrangements because I fear what people will say against me, I might be a priest for sale. What about cohabitation without the benefit of marriage? What about same sex relationships? What about illegitimacy? Mississippi illegitimacy birth rates exceed 50%. Do I love and accept the illegitimate child while rejecting the illegitimate behavior of adults? I have a Biblical mandate to care for the fatherless.

“You shall not afflict any widow or fatherless child” (Exodus 22:22 NKJV).

Defend the poor and fatherless; Do justice to the afflicted and needy” (Psalm 82:3 NKJV).

Do I see the suffering of the fatherless child as a sin of cruel abuse to that child? Or has fatherlessness become so commonplace that I excuse, embrace, and normatize it? Will I have the courage to proclaim fornication as the immorality which the Bible judges it to be?

Am I a priest for sale?

If my funeral sermons preach lost sinners into heaven, I might be a priest for sale.

If I compromise my call with my ambition, I might be a priest for sale. Am I ambitiously climbing a ladder of church politics? Of worldly politics? Does my public job have greater priority in my life than my calling?

Am I a priest for sale?

If I lack pastoral compassion for lost people and for my people God has called me to serve, I might be a priest for sale.

If I lead people astray, embracing cultural Christianity’s failure theology, neglecting to call my flock to holiness, I might be a priest for sale. Failure theology abandons all hunger and quest for holiness as over-zealous, unattainable idealism. Failure theology seeks to normatize daily sin of word, thought, and deed as one’s “Christian” obligation. The Bible teaches victorious Christian living.

If I blend cultural political correctness with nominal Christianity, creating a superstitious idolatry, a false gospel, I might be a priest for sale.

God has called you to be a pastor, a shepherd of His flock. Don’t be like “Jonathon Levite.” He was a priest for sale… First, to Micah. Second, to the Danites. And Jonathon started an idolatrous cult that plagued generations of Danites.

Jesus needs some shepherds of the flock of God who cannot be bought, will not be compromised, love the sheep, and call the church to be Christ’s holy bride. You need a priest who is not for sale.

I am praying that you will study to be approved by God, and become a priest who is not for sale. Serve your flock as a shepherd in the model of the Good Shepherd. Speak the hard truths of God’s Word, along with the comforting truths of God’s Word, to your flock. Care for souls. Care for families. Care for children. Instruct in holiness, and lead God’s flock to heaven. I pray to that end.

“Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen” (Hebrews 13:20-21 NKJV).

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

What is a Priest for Sale?

Judges 17-18

Pastors love people. They care for folks’ souls. That care makes us especially vulnerable to the temptation of being liked. The pastor’s desire to be liked and accepted by his or her congregation allows the pastor to have a role of influence in their lives. However, when pushed to an extreme, the desire to be liked can compromise the message, ministry and mission of the Kingdom of God in the world.

The story of Jonathon, the Levite, reveals some characteristics of a priest for sale. In Judges 18, the young Levite is identified by name, Jonathon.

A priest for sale is influenced by money and security.

Micah said to him, ‘Dwell with me, and be a father and a priest to me, and I will give you ten shekels of silver per year, a suit of clothes, and your sustenance.’ So the Levite went in.” (Judges 17:10 NKJV).

I live in Mississippi. Mississippi’s per capita income is $36,000 (2016). Micah’s mother had 1100 shekels of silver. Micah agreed to pay Jonathon 10 shekels of silver per year. If Jonathon Levite’s 10 shekels per year were the equivalent of my state’s per capita income, Micah’s mother was worth nearly $4 million!

In Micah’s household, Jonathan, the Levite, was connected. He was content to be one of Micah’s family. But that family membership came with a price. Jonathon forfeited the ability to speak truth into people’s lives.

Then the Levite was content to dwell with the man; and the young man (Micah) became like one of his sons to him(Judges 17:10-11 NKJV).

Once Jonathan sold himself to enjoy the luxury of status, he abandoned truth.

So Micah consecrated the Levite, and the young man became his priest, and lived in the house of Micah (Judges 17:10-12 NKJV).

Jonathon became the superstitious talisman for idolaters. Jonathon became Micah’s rabbit’s foot, good luck charm, four leaf clover.

I grew up as a fan of University of Kentucky basketball. I loved following “Pitino’s Bombinos” back in 1989. They were named the “Bombinos” for several reasons. That version of the Wildcats was made up of Kentucky boys who remained at UK after the program had crumbled in scandal. The dapper, young coach of Italian ancestry needed an Italian sounding name for his crew, and “Bombinos” was born. They were a fast-breaking, 3-point bombing, group of enthusiastic, hard-working, blue-collar Kentucky kids.

It always amazed me that a foul-mouthed, braggadocio, self-promoting guy like Coach Rick Pitino always had a priest on the bench at games. Pitino placed Father Bradley strategically upon the on the sidelines with the himself and his team.  It seemed to be a sort of athletic and animistic superstition that hoped that a tip of the hat to the priest would bring the good fortune of a win.

A priest for sale is influenced by flattery. Jonathon seemed to be a relatively insignificant Levite, but once Micah flattered him, he had Jonathon billed as the high priest of the Hebrew nation! Such flattery of Jonathon was intended to elevate Micah’s status in the community. It seemed to work for a season.

Then Micah said, ‘Now I know that the Lord will be good to me, since I have a Levite as priest!’” (Judges 17:10-13 NKJV).

A priest for sale blesses the un-blessable. Five spies of the tribe of Dan came to Micah’s house. They recognized Jonathon, for they seem to have been previously acquainted with him. The spies plot to steal Levite Jonathan and the silver idols. Jonathon blesses them in their deceit:

And the priest said to them, ‘Go in peace. The presence of the Lord be with you on your way.’” (Judges 18:6 NKJV).

Jonathon blessed the Danite mess. He blessed a mess that was not bless-able.  Jonathon was undiscerning of the holy. A priest of God must call the people of God to holiness. That means we must name sin as sin.

A priest for sale gladly abandons one flock in favor of another with greater pay, position, and prestige. Six hundred Danites returned to steal the silver idols and the Levite Jonathon to form their own idolatrous cult.

When these went into Micah’s house and took the carved image, the ephod, the household idols, and the molded image, the priest said to them, ‘What are you doing?’ And they said to him, “Be quiet, put your hand over your mouth, and come with us; be a father and a priest to us. Is it better for you to be a priest to the household of one man, or that you be a priest to a tribe and a family in Israel?’ So the priest’s heart was glad; and he took the ephod, the household idols, and the carved image, and took his place among the people” (Judges 18:18-20 NKJV).

A priest for sale is morally compromised. He quickly contextualizes his idolatrous religion for a new group of idolaters.

So they took the things Micah had made, and the priest who had belonged to him, and went to Laish, to a people quiet and secure; and they struck them with the edge of the sword and burned the city with fire. There was no deliverer, because it was far from Sidon, and they had no ties with anyone. It was in the valley that belongs to Beth Rehob. So they rebuilt the city and dwelt there. And they called the name of the city Dan, after the name of Dan their father, who was born to Israel. However, the name of the city formerly was Laish. Then the children of Dan set up for themselves the carved image; and Jonathan the son of Gershom, the son of Manasseh, and his sons were priests to the tribe of Dan until the day of the captivity of the land.  So they set up for themselves Micah’s carved image which he made, all the time that the house of God was in Shiloh” (Judges 18:27-31 NKJV).

A priest for sale shows no guilt or regret over the loss or destruction of his former flock.

“So they took the things Micah had made, and the priest who had belonged to him, and went to Laish, to a people quiet and secure; and they struck them with the edge of the sword and burned the city with fire (Judges 18:27 NKJV).

Jonathon simply yielded to the theft, the destruction of the city, the apparent death of Micah’s family, and his new post as priest.

A priest for sale institutes and ensures the multi-generational curse of idolatry.

‘Then the children of Dan set up for themselves the carved image; and Jonathan the son of Gershom, the son of Manasseh, and his sons were priests to the tribe of Dan until the day of the captivity of the land.  So they set up for themselves Micah’s carved image which he made, all the time that the house of God was in Shiloh” (Judges 18:30-31 NKJV).

Jesus called this sort of “priest for sale” a “hireling.”

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep. But a hireling, he who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them. The hireling flees because he is a hireling and does not care about the sheep.  I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own. As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd” (John 10:12-16 NKJV).

Jonathon was a priest for sale.