We’re Not Fighting Flesh and Blood
About the Guest
Do you feel like the culture is sliding away from Christian values? We shouldn't be surprised according to Dr. Russell Moore, President of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, but we should be strategic in how we address it. Dr. Moore shares some timely advice on how to address a sexually confused culture.
Dr. Russell Moore, President of Southern Seminary, shares some timely advice on how to address a sexually confused culture.
We’re Not Fighting Flesh and Blood
Bob: Do you feel like the culture is sliding away from Christian values? Russell Moore says, “We shouldn’t be surprised by that, but we should be strategic about that.”
Russell: The way that we are going to be able to speak to the people in our culture is not by more posturing but by a Christ-shaped counter-revolution that takes seriously what the Bible speaks about sexuality, about marriage, about human dignity, and focuses that upon the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, September 11th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. So, how do we stand for godliness and righteousness in an increasingly ungodly and unrighteous culture? We’ll explore that today. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Thursday edition. I think our friend, Russell Moore, is trying to give Bill O’Reilly a run for his money; don’t you think?
Dennis: I think he is. I think—
Bob: No spin.
Dennis: No spin with him.
Bob: No baloney. [Laughter]
Dennis: Man, I’m telling you—he shoots straight from the hip. Before we get to his message, let me just say something to our listeners—in fact, I just got this letter from a listener, who is a young lady in college. Her name is Karen. She listens to our broadcast every night—she says she’s addicted. You know, that’s too bad she’s addicted to FamilyLife Today; but if you’re going to be addicted to something, that’s a good thing.
She said, “Last night, I was listening to your broadcast and learned all about generosity in marriage.” She said: “I’m not married or even engaged, but it’s the principle of the thing. I was reminded that God says, if you sow generously, you will also reap generously.”
She said, “That’s one reason why I’m sending you 60 bucks. It only leaves me with $12 in my checking account because the other reason I gave is that God is clearly teaching me to trust Him. He’s been doing that for the past couple of months.”
She goes on to say: “I became a Christian when I was 12 years old, but my home was broken. Now, we are restored because of God. I prayed like crazy,” she said, “for my parents to be restored, and I get to hear God’s commands from FamilyLife Today that my parents never communicated to me.” She said, “They are both Christians now.” And she said, “I love God more than anything.”
You know, Bob, here is what I just wanted to say to our listeners—this broadcast is brought to you by young ladies, like Karen, who cared enough to send some money. In her case, it was truly a sacrificial gift. I just want to say, “Thanks,” to the Legacy Partners—
—who keep this ministry on the air on this station—and to the rest of you, as well, who give to support this broadcast. It’s needed, and appreciated, and I want you to know—extremely timely.
Bob: Well, and I think that the message we’re going to hear today is also extremely timely. This is Dr. Russell Moore who was speaking to a group of pastors a few months ago about the spiritual condition of our culture and how we represent Jesus in this climate.
Dennis: Bob, I love featuring messages like this for our listeners because you are getting a chance to hear from some world-class communicators, who are the best of the best. Russell Moore is a good man, a great preacher, and you need to hear this message—and your children as well—because we’re all living in a day where our faith is on trial. We need to know how to best represent Jesus Christ.
Bob: You and I are going to be going to Nashville to be with Dr. Moore, at the end of October, for a conference called The Gospel, Homosexuality, and the Future of Marriage. We’re going to spend a couple of days looking at the defining issue in our culture today, in terms of what the state of the family is going to be over the next generation. If folks would like more information about that, they can go to FamilyLifeToday.com and click the link that says, “GO DEEPER.” You can find out about the conference in Nashville.
But this is Part One of a message from Dr. Russell Moore about how we represent Christ in our world today.
Russell: Had a conversation several weeks after taking this office that turned out to be determinative for me in many ways. I was having a conversation with a woman who could probably be best described as spiritual but not too religious. She was someone who believed in spirituality, but she didn’t have confidence that there was a God. And she, certainly, did not believe in Christianity or Evangelical Christianity.
She wanted to have a conversation about the things that we believe as Christians and as evangelicals. Most of the questions that she was asking me had to do with the Christian sexual ethic because these are the sorts of things that are in the newspapers and across the internet so often. She was asking me: “Why do Christians believe this about sex?” and, “Why do Christians not believe this about sex?”
I answered all of her questions. She said, “You know,” she said, “what you have to understand is I don’t know anyone who believes the things that you all believe about sexuality.” She said, “These things sound incredibly strange to me—that there would be people that you would be attracted to / there would be people that you would be in a relationship with that you wouldn’t have sex with.” She said, “That there would be certain sexual relationships that would be sinful and other sexual relationships that would not be sinful.”
She said, “Do you realize?—I don’t know anybody, in my entire life, who believes these things; and what you are saying sounds so incredibly strange to me.’” My response was to say: “I know that, and I believe in even stranger things than that. I believe that a previously dead man is going to show up in the sky on a horse.”
The central claim of Christianity is one that does not sound normal when it is being proclaimed. As a matter of fact, the typical reaction, when the gospel is being proclaimed in Galilee, in Judea, in Jerusalem, and then as the gospel marches forward in the book of Acts is for people to say: “This sounds insane to us. It seems as though you have lost your mind because you believe these things—that this ex-corpse is now the ruler of the entire universe and that ‘every knee shall bow and every tongue confess, “Jesus Christ is Lord” to the glory of God, the Father.’
“That does not seem normal.”
You and I are moving into a time in which, in this country—and in many places around the world—a Christian understanding of sexuality is going to seem strange, will seem freakish, and may, in many cases, seem even subversive to the people around us.
What I think we ought to commit to do, as the people of God, is not to run away from the strangeness of Christianity but to reclaim the strangeness of Christianity as it is found and focused on a crucified and resurrected Jesus Christ. The way that we are going to be able to speak to the people in our culture—and increasingly, in some ways, sexually-confused culture—
—is not by more culture-war posturing but by a Christ-shaped counter-revolution that takes seriously what the Bible speaks about sexuality, about marriage, about human dignity, and focuses that upon the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Often, when people, in our day and in our context, describe themselves with the language of prophetic, that often means a jerk. Often people will speak of themselves as prophetic—simply meaning, “I am speaking to you exactly what I have on my mind; but if I say it’s prophetic, it’s spiritual and you can’t really say anything to me about it.”
But that’s not the way that the Bible defines prophetic. Biblically-defined—the message of a prophet and the mission of a prophet is to speak words that have been given to give a word of revelation—
—as God says to the prophet, Jeremiah, “…to tear down and to plant…to build up and to reconstruct.”
The Scripture also tells us that, although John the Baptist was the greatest of all the prophets, up to the point of the coming of Jesus, Jesus says that the least in the Kingdom of God is greater than he. The ministry and the mission of John the Baptist is not a different mission than the mission that has been given to us—it is the same mission, that we have been granted, to point and to say, “Behold the Lamb who takes away the sins of the world.”
Now, what that means is we have to understand what is happening in the world around us. We have to understand that we are part of a world in which something has gone terribly wrong.
We have to understand that, as we speak prophetically within the church and outside of the church—when it relates to issues of sexuality or any other issue—we have to do that in a way that opposes the devil without acting like the devil.
It is easy to demonize opponents. It is difficult to oppose demons. The Scripture says that we have been called to wrestle, not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers in the heavenly places. One of the easiest things that we can do is to decide that somehow we are going to fight like the devil in order to please the Lord; but Jesus, speaking to Peter, says to him, at a moment in that ministry, “Get behind me, Satan.”
He says that Peter—when he attempts to do the work of Christ but bypassing the cross—is actually empowering the powers of darkness.
It would be easy for us, as we take the mission—as we look around and we see the changes that are happening in the culture around us—to do much the same thing. But the Scripture calls us to a different way. Jesus says that He, by the power of the cross, has bound the strong man. Therefore, he may plunder his house. You and I have to understand that the powers at work around us in this universe are working in two ways. We must oppose both of those ways at the same time.
We’re living in a world, right now, in which, right now, while I am talking to you, there is probably someone, just blocks from this place, contemplating walking away on a marriage / on a family tomorrow morning.
We live in a time where, right now—perhaps, right now, while I am speaking—there is a young woman who is looking at two lines on a pregnancy test and wondering whether or not she is going to go into a building and have that child eradicated from her life.
We live in a world in which children have unspeakable things done to them by predatory adults. We live in a world in which so many of our young women are being told, implicitly and explicitly, to see themselves and to see their entire identity in terms of their sexual attractiveness and availability to men. We live in a world where concepts of marriage, and of love, and of fidelity, and of family are contested all over the place.
It would be easy for the people of God to respond to all of that with hand-wringing. It would be easy for the people of God to respond to all of that with panic. It would be easy for the people of God to respond to all of that with surrender, and it would be easy for the people of God to respond to all of that with simple outrage. But we are the people who have been given a mission which means we understand what is going on in the universe, and we are to wrestle principalities and powers through the cross.
The power that the power of darkness has is a power that comes, first of all, through deception. That’s exactly what John is addressing in that passage that we just read some moments ago. John stands up and is speaking a word that is calling the people around him to repentance:
“You are walking in a way that seems right to you. Turn and be reconciled to God.”
The power that the evil one has we see in the biblical story from the very beginning—is a power that first wants to deceive—to say, on the one hand, “Has God really said…? Has God really spoken? Is the Word of God really clear on these issues?” And then, secondly, to turn around and to say: “There is no accountability. You will not surely die. There will be no judgment for you.”
I don’t know any man or any woman in any situation I’ve ever dealt with—and there have been countless situations, and I know for many of you as well—in the middle of an extramarital affair—I don’t know any of them who concluded an extramarital affair is a good thing to do and, then, went and sought somebody with whom to have an affair.
Most of the time, what happens is—there is a slow and gradual process in which a person is being led and directed by his own heart / by her own heart, by the circumstances around that person into a situation in which the person now finds justification why—“In this case, in this instance, in this circumstance—this is acceptable and this is alright.”
The power of the evil one is to say, “God has not clearly spoken, and God will not clearly hold you accountable for this.” You’re able to somehow be a god—discerning good and evil in your own life—and, at the same time, you’re simply an animal, driven along by instincts, and not driven and directed by the Word of God.
But what John does—in speaking to those around him—is to speak honestly about the revelation of God—
—to speak honestly about the judgment that is coming—to speak forcefully and urgently in a line that has to be one of the most astounding lines in all of Scripture—found in verse 18. After John the Baptist has stood up and talked about the winnowing fork of God—talked about unquenchable fire—this is hellfire and brimstone preaching as it is originally defined. And then, Luke says this: “So, with many other exhortations, he preached good news to the people.” Good news! He’s standing up and saying: “You are under the judgment of God! You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?”
I have never, in my life, stood up in any preaching assignment and said, “You bunch of snakes, who warned you to get out of the way of the judgment of God?” John does; and Luke says, “This is good news.” He’s speaking good news to the people. Well, why is that the case?
It is because God has given a word. The word that calls to repentance is a word that does not leave us alone in the path that we want to go on our own. If the Scripture is right that there is a judgment and if the Scripture is right that the human conscience testifies to that coming judgment, then, the refusal to speak to those consciences clearly and openly is a refusal to love.
If the Apostle Paul is right when he says that sexual sin / sexual impurity is a sin against one’s own body and that those who practice such things will not inherit the Kingdom of God, the question is “Why?” The Scripture tells us why—because the sexual union isn’t simply a biological act. It isn’t simply the rubbing of body parts together to fire neurons and to have a sensory experience. What the Scripture tells us is that, in the sexual union, there is a joining together of a one flesh union. That means something is happening, spiritually. Paul says, “Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit.” When that body is being given over sexually, something is happening within the temple of God.
And the temple is not simply an edifice—it isn’t simply a building. It isn’t simply a geographic point. The temple is the place where God is marked out by its holiness. There are deep spiritual realities involved in the sexual act, which is why the Apostle Paul speaks so clearly to it. It’s the reason why John, when he finds himself before Herod, speaks to the issue of Herod’s sexual infidelity and sexual immorality.
If you and I have been given the mission to speak to the world outside of us, calling them to Christ—and to speak to the world inside of the church, calling one another to holiness—we must understand the stakes of the judgment seat of Christ.
We must speak every word that has been given to us. It is about coming under the lordship of Christ, which means “How is this new lordship going to change the direction that I want to go?”
You and I are living in a world, right now, that, culturally, is not built around a Roman imperial cult but is often built around a Dionysian understanding of what it means to pursue one’s sexual freedom and one’s sexual autonomy. But the question remains the same: “As the message is being preached, what must we, then, do?” If we are preaching, authentically, the Word that we have been given—an almost gospel is no match for the sexual revolution. And we have had, in too many of our circles for too long, an almost gospel.
Bob: Well, we’ve been listening to Dr. Russell Moore—Part One of a message that he shared with pastors, not long ago, on how we live for Christ in this culture. As you like to say, “Was there anything unclear about what he was saying?”
Dennis: Yes. And here is the message for all of us, who are followers of Christ: “We are not merely supposed to pound the table about what we see on TV, what we are hearing in the marketplace, what’s taking place in our culture and rail against people. In fact, the best thing we can do is not be silent but to step into the discussions and offer a reasonable defense for our faith and why, more than ever, people need forgiveness.”
I mean, Bob, on Facebook®—now, there are over 50 different choices of sexual orientation.
Dennis: The Bible begins with two—male and female. Now, because Facebook is offering choices, we’ve got to decide—whether we are single people, married folks, parents, grandparents. How are we going to respond to that? Are we going to go after those issues; or are we going to present the gospel, which offers the hope of forgiveness of sin and an eternal destiny with Almighty God?”
Bob: Well, and this is going to be at the heart of the event that you’re going to be speaking at in Nashville next month, called The Gospel, Homosexuality, and the Future of Marriage, being hosted by the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention that Dr. Russell Moore gives leadership to. I’m going to be there as well. There is a great lineup of speakers: Jim Daly from Focus on the Family® is coming—J.D. Greear, Dr. Al Mohler. Of course, Dr. Moore is going to be speaking—David Platt, John Stonestreet, and others.
You can find out more about this event by going to FamilyLifeToday.com. Click the button at the top of the page that says, “GO DEEPER.” There is a link right there to information about the upcoming national conference being hosted by the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. Again, you can find out more, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com. Click the link that says, “GO DEEPER.” The information you need is there.
And by the way, while we are on the subject of conferences and events, this is the last week that you can register for one of our upcoming FamilyLife Weekend to Remember®marriage getaways for this fall or next spring and take advantage of the special offer that is currently available for FamilyLife Today listeners. It’s a buy one/get one free opportunity. You pay for yourself, and your spouse comes free.
Details are online at FamilyLifeToday.com. Again, click the button that says, “GO DEEPER,” and look for information about the Weekend to Remember marriage getaway. We hope you’ll take time this fall to invest in your marriage relationship by attending a Weekend to Remember.
The special offer is good this week only. So, if you want to take advantage of that, we need to hear from you today.
And we want to encourage you to join us back again tomorrow. We’re going to hear Part Two of Russell Moore’s message on how we live and how we represent God’s truth and God’s standard in a culture that is slipping away from it more and more. We’ll hear Part Two of that message tomorrow. Hope you can tune in for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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