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29
Jun

This is Real: Sex

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All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything… Flee immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body. 1 Corinthians 6:12&18 NASB

Sex has become a “touchy” issue in the church — I use the adjective touchy with a measure of irony. Sex has become so convoluted in our culture that many churches don’t want to touch it for fear of offending people. Some pastors don’t touch it because they themselves are oscillating on issues of sex and sexuality – both in thought or practice. Even congregants don’t want their pastors and leaders to touch the topic of sex for a variety of reasons. Sex is a touchy issue – This is Real!

But even though our church culture is skirting the sex conversation, the Bible does not! As the church’s voice grows more faint on the topic and the secular culture’s voice is getting louder, the Bible’s teachings are to be upheld as the standard for a Christian’s sexual ethic.

Paul’s words to the Corinthian believers in chapter six are as relevant for us today as they were for them two thousand years ago. And here is the summation of Paul’s ethic on sex: Sex is not as casual or as common as people treat it; instead, it has powerful implications for our most important relationships – God, neighbor, and ourselves.

In the city of Corinth (and in many parts of the Ancient Near East), sex was considered a basic human function, like eating food or playing a game. Sure, people would marry, but these marriage contracts were mostly for tribal alliance and family security – not love or romance in the way we think of marriage today. Men would often visit a prostitute causally, not much different than how men today go to a bar after work to unwind. Sex was causal, common, and inconsequential.

Is this not how our culture sees sex today? Of course there are some variations but the essence is the same: It doesn’t matter who you sleep with. Having sex is simply fulfilling a primal human instinct – nothing more.

In today’s culture, secularists are constantly trying to promote sex as something causal. A prime example of this was when one of the largest porn websites strategically placed an advertisement in the middle of Times Square in New York City. The billboard shows nothing more than a pair of hands put together to form the shape of a heart, and the copy said, “All you need is hand.” The line was a rephrasing of a Beatles tune, “All You Need Is Love.” The subtle, but obvious message this sign makes is the epitome of secular culture’s opinion of sex – it is not that big of a deal.

But friends, no matter how casual the culture tries to categorize sex, no matter how powerful those human urges may become, the Bible is timeless and true when it affirms: Any form of sexual activity outside of a marriage relationship between a husband and his wife is a deviation from God’s original design; therefore, it is sin!

There are two ways to respond to sex outside of marriage. The first (and most important thing) is that you confess it as sin and, since many fail in this area, you trust in what Christ has done for you on the cross. You do this to be forgiven and to be washed clean of your sin. Second, you flee from it. You don’t continue in it and pray for more forgiveness – that is cheap grace! Instead you run away from the hazardous condition. You don’t put yourself in situations that have the potential to lead you to stumble and fall into sin.

22
Jun

This is Real: Week 4

For, I think, God has exhibited us apostles last of all, as men condemned to death; because we have become a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men. We are fools for Christ’s sake (NASB1 Co 4:9–10a)

Let me start with a controversial statement: Christianity is NOT cool! Now, before you rip this paper up and call me a heretic, let me explain. What I mean is that Christianity is not cool in the eyes of the world. Generally speaking, the world hates Christians. And as we learned in chapter one of 1 Corinthians, they think that the gospel itself is foolishness and repulsive. Even Jesus said “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you” (John 15:18). Christians have historically been one of the most persecuted and oppressed people groups. Therefore, something that we need to come to grips with is the reality that in the opinion of the world, Christianity is not cool — This is Real!

However, if you look at the church culture of the last few decades, you will notice some who have tried to make Christianity “cool” in the eyes of the world. The thought is this: if Christianity looks cool then maybe more people will embrace it. The heart behind this thought is noble — it just isn’t biblical or realistic. Sure, thirty to forty years ago, with an evangelical president in office and mega-churches springing up everywhere, you might have been convinced that Christianity was finally being invited to eat their lunch at the cool table. But those days are long gone here in America.

Of course, even today we still see some groups trying to make Christianity more palatable to the eyes of the world. But in order to do this, the gospel itself is compromised. And in their pursuit of being cool in the eyes of the world, these groups often lose their effective and powerful witness because they sacrificed their core principles and beliefs.

So what is the result: A group of people who are still uncool to the world and also shallow in their faith and witness. Here is the real: Christians will never be invited to the “cool table” — As Paul wisely put it, “We are fools for the sake of Christ.”

But let me qualify all of this by saying something that might sound like an oxymoron given all that I have previously written: Christianity is the best and coolest way a person can live. The gospel is the coolest message a person can believe. Jesus is the coolest person who ever lived.

Now, hopefully most of you who are reading this will agree with that affirmation. Those of us who have come to know Christ personally after experiencing his grace, love and forgiveness, we define “cool” differently than how the world does. Being cool to us is living under the reality of who we truly are — sinners saved by grace — and not pretending to be something we are not — cool, hip, and popular.

The world will look at us and think we are strange and foolish. Unbelievers will think that we are naïve, brainwashed, and weak. Haters will call us bigots, intolerant, and old-fashioned. But we know that in the end there is nothing in this world worth pursuing and no worldly population or affirmation worth achieving. The coolest thing we can do is to pursue hard after Christ and be engaged in his mission of saving the world. To do this, we need to abandon the delusion that we can be cool in the eyes of the world and embrace the position that Paul himself took in verse 13, “we have become as the scum of the world, the residues of all things, even until now.”

15
Jun

This is Real: Purity

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“It is actually reported that there is immorality among you, and immorality of such a kind as does not exist even among the Gentiles…” 1 Corinthians 5:1.

In the first four chapters of 1 Corinthians, Paul has been unrelentingly addressing the first of two major issues that plagued the newly established Corinthian Church — Disunity. The lack of unity that existed amongst these believers was reaping tragic consequences. Therefore, Paul needed to spend significant time on it. As we arrive now at chapter five, Paul transitions his attention onto the second major issue — Purity.

Tragically, sexual immorality existed in this body of believers; after all, how could there not be? Remember, the city of Corinth was an epicenter for travelers and worshippers of a variety of Greek god’s. One of which was Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love, whose temple housed 1,000 prostitutes. And then there was Apollo, Greek god of music and poetry, whose worshippers would engage in homosexual acts at the temple devoted to him. So in a culture saturated in pursuing sexual pleasure, to the point that it’s a part of their formal worship, it would be understandable that this would be a major issue in the life of the church.

We see similar effects in our culture today. In America, we are bombarded with sexual images and information. Anything coming from the TV or magazine racks has blaring images containing sexual content. And what are the effects of this on society? Well, there are many consequences for this that is still be researched, but one thing it does is normalize sex outside of God’s design.

When a TV show portrays a homosexual relationship as something normal and healthy in society then the viewers are deceived into believing that seam-sex relationships are a viable option for the family. When people see billboards on the side of the freeway advertising a nearby strip club they begin to think that it is normal to treat women as objects for sexual pleasure. And this list of the types of media that is normalizing the pursuit of sex outside of God’s design could go on and on. But the point is that this immersion of sexual content in society affects the culture of the world and the church.

The church is simply a people group called out of the world and into a countercultural community through a countercultural message (gospel), to worship God and then witness to the world through a countercultural lifestyle. Here’s the problem, this transaction/transformation is both instantaneous and a process. We are immediately changed and transferred from darkness to light. Yet we still need to fight sin, flee immorality and put off the worldly behaviors that previously defined our lives.

Sin is a devastating thing, but in the church sin that is not dealt with is even worse. The reason for this is because sin, like a disease, spreads. It affects everyone around. Therefore, like a disease, it needs to be treated and at times, like a cancer, it needs to be removed completely.

Jesus Christ came and died to liberate us from the effects of sin and to reconcile us back to the Father. As a mark of genuine conversion, a person needs to fix their hope solely on Christ and live a life of repentance from sin. God uses the church, fellow believers in Christ, to help in this lifestyle of repentance as the Holy Spirit transforms us more into the image of Christ.

7
Jun

This is Real: Spiritual Growth in Light of Christ’s Grace

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Written by: Joe DiGerolamo

“Dear brothers and sisters, when I was with you, I couldn’t talk to you as I would to spiritual people. I had to talk as though you belonged to this world or as though you were infants in Christ. I had to feed you with milk, not solid food, because you weren’t ready for anything stronger. And you still aren’t ready…” (1 Corinthians 3:1-2).

Imagine sitting in a restaurant and overhearing a couple ordering a rib-eye steak for their newborn baby. You’d think they were joking; otherwise, things would seem seriously off! Paul uses a similar approach to paint a picture for the church of Corinth, addressing their immorality and lack of spiritual maturity. When he first shared the gospel with them, they were like spiritual babies, needing careful attention and guidance. But as time passed, they weren’t growing—they were stagnant, even reverting back to their old sinful patterns.

What was causing this? With love and truth, Paul held a spiritual mirror to expose their need for change:

“…you are still controlled by your sinful nature. You are jealous of one another and quarrel with each other. Doesn’t that prove you are controlled by your sinful nature? Aren’t you living like people of the world?” (1 Corinthians 3:3).

God has called his people to be holy, upright, and pure just like he is (see Leviticus 20:22, 26, 1 Peter 1:13-16, Hebrews 12:14-17). Paul understood this and urged every believer to treat their bodies as God’s temple, a dwelling place for his Spirit (3:17). However, the Corinthians dismissed the Lord’s command for them to be set apart, causing sexual immorality, dishonesty and corruption to take residence in their hearts. Instead of growing in Christ together and changing the culture around them, they allowed the culture to shape their ideologies and actions. In a vicious cycle, they participated in sinful acts only to blame their neighbors for the wrong-doings they saw, arguing over pointless doctrines and living in disunity.

Like the Corinthians, we are surrounded by a culture that shouts for our attention and daily encourages immorality, testing and even opposing the truths that we believe in God’s word. The world praises self-sufficiency through fame, riches and pleasure to mend their brokenness. Perhaps you’ve found yourself tempted by these very things, even slipping into them at times. Let’s be honest—we don’t have the strength to resist any of the temptations that are thrown at us apart from Jesus’ strength. But remember that if we are in Christ then we will never be alone, especially when sin entices us! He promises to save us.

Paul encouraged the church with this later on in his letter:

“No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).

Paul loved the people of Corinth; he lived in their city for almost two years and walked alongside them as they saw revival. Now, as their spiritual parent, Paul was calling them to grow up and mature in their relationship with Christ. No more blaming; no more fault-finding. It was time to own up to the truth. He commanded them to look at their own hearts in light of the scriptures:

“Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test?” (2 Corinthians 13:5).

These words are equally applicable for us today. The body of Christ is made up of imperfect people in need of a perfect Savior. Pastor Greg has jokingly said, “If you find a perfect church, don’t join it—you’ll ruin it!” It’s easy to know when we haven’t truly examined our own hearts to the word of God: pride creeps in, leading us to blame-shift and expose the sins of others. Yet the gospel of grace softens our hearts and disarms our complaints against one another. Jesus’ massive and unending love will never run dry even for the worst of our sins. This proves that we can trust him when we are tempted. We can live in peace with God and with our neighbor.

May the gospel of life that saved us from eternal separation and unified us with God so revive our hearts and remind us daily that we are loved by him and that he is far greater than what the world offers to us. Then and only then will we see unity and growth in our community.

“Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin?” (Romans 2:4).

1
Jun

Summer Camp

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There are thousands of influences that attempt to shape the way we think about God, life, the world, and people. We are bombarded with arguments and different ideas on social media everyday, and they can cause us to lose sight of the most important things.

The theme of this year’s camp is “Sola,” which is a Latin word meaning “alone.” This word is used to define five foundational ideas of Christianity that are meant to form the way that we think and live. These five ideas are: Christ alone, scripture alone, through faith alone, by grace alone, to the glory of God alone. At this camp, we’ll strive to focus our view on God alone and allow Him to influence the way that we see the world.

This camp will challenge us to consider what it means to think and live in a biblical way through powerful teaching from God’s Word and music from the Activate Worship Band. The weekend will also be full of fun days on the lake, where we’ll play Olympic style games, go on the zip line or blob, and you’ll be able to meet new people your age!

Click here or on the graphic above to sign up!

27
May

This is Real Blog: Strangeness to the World

Written by Ryan Lawrence

 

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“The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 15 The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. 16 “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:14-16).

Was there a time in your life when you didn’t understand the things of God—the Bible, prayer, or church? Maybe you came to church with your family or friends and didn’t understand anything that the preacher was saying? After leaving confused, you asked the question: “I don’t get it, what’s the big deal?” Maybe this is you right now. Well, you’re not alone! In fact, many people have experienced this.

Without the Spirit, we try to understand the Christian life only to be puzzled and unaware; it’s hard for us to understand the depth of God’s love for us through his Son Jesus. This is what it means to be “spiritually discerned.” But for those who believe, what seemed to be strange has now effected everything about you. At some point in your life everything changed—the revelation of Jesus came into your life, you repented of your sins, and received the gift of eternal life.

So, how does this change happen?

In today’s world we experience a heavy variety of worldviews, philosophies, human logic, and religious teachings, leaving humanity desensitized to absolute truth and the work of the cross. The foolish man says in his heart there is no God (Psalm 14:1) because he is blinded by his sins. The “natural person” thinks in a way that is against the gospel—the message of the God who came in the form a child, born into poverty, putting the needs of others before himself, servant of all, dying for all, so that those who believe would have eternal life. But this supernatural message can change the natural person, as the Gospel of Christ is revealed to us through the Spirit. This is a work of God.

1 Corinthians 2:10, “these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God.

When we understand that this is not by our own doing, our human efforts are laid aside and we now can receive the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Those who have “the spirit of the world” will never understand the things of God because it is “strange” to them. But God has given His Spirit and His living Word so that we would be able to grow in the knowledge of our Savior and have the “mind of Christ.”

As we live in an unbelieving world, let us use wisdom as we share the gospel with others and rely upon the Spirit. The Ethiopian eunuch asked Philip, “how can I [understand], except some man should guide me?” And then Philip, being filled with the Spirit, “began at the same scripture and preached unto him Jesus” (see Acts 8:30-35). Like Philip, we can help people know God and understand His Word.

The gospel may appear foolish and strange to the unbeliever. But for the Christian, we know that God’s Spirit is working through his people, as a confused world finds clarity through Christ.

17
May

This Is Real Blog: Unity and Cliques

Written by Tom O’Brien

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“I appeal to you brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no division among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.” 1 Corinthians 1:10.

Many people struggle to fit in while they’re in high school. I was lucky enough to have a group of friends, but I definitely recognized the difficulty others had trying to look for friends that they could relate with and feel accepted by. I always kept my eyes open for people who were alone, and I tried to welcome them into my group of friends. Still to this day I try embracing those who are overlooked as best as I can, but I miss so many opportunities. What makes thing so challenging is all of the different “cliques” people have. We all love to spend time with people who share our same interests and that we get along with, but that’s not the issue! The point where it becomes a problem is when we isolate ourselves from others and limit our relationships to only those certain individuals. We stop reaching out to other people.

While searching for an answer or a solution to this problem, I realized a few problems within myself: my failure to find my identity in Jesus alone, my lack of love for Jesus, and my comfort within my “clique.” Recognizing these weak spots revealed a lot of what I truly value, and it was very convicting. It drove me to try to understand what biblical community is supposed to look like.

“Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more.” 1 Thessalonians 4:1

We love to know that we have a good reputation and that people value us. But that shouldn’t be where we find our identity or take refuge in. What people think about us changes constantly, but the thoughts of our Heavenly Father are unfailing about His beloved children. Paul wrote to the Thessalonian people urging them to “walk and to please God” and “that you do so more and more.” We need to consider how to please God alone, for that is the only opinion in this world that really matters. Paul in Galatians 1:10 said this, “If I were still trying to please man, I would NOT be a servant of Christ.” Wow, that’s a big deal. God did not create the universe for us or others to be the center of attention, He created it for Himself to be worshiped and glorified, for He is worthy of all praise. If we are influenced by the thoughts of others, we will be hindered in our relationship with God and also fail to find our identity in him.

However, our minds are constantly concerned with what people think about us, so how do we change that? We need to fall more in love with Jesus. We need to see ourselves in the helplessness of our sin and the punishment that we fully deserve. We desperately need our hearts and minds to be transformed by digging deep into the very word of God, to see the heart of the Father, and let Him purge us of our insecurities. In recognizing the wickedness of our own heart, we can see and savor Jesus. In growing in our love for Christ our hearts will be compelled to love others. We always need to remember that our love and our joy in Christ are not complete until they are expressed. So lets let the love of Jesus overflow in our lives onto others and reach out to those that are often overlooked.

“Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly.” Romans 12:6

Lastly, we need to break up our own cliques. Again I want to say that having a good group of friends is not the problem, it’s when we only hang out with those people and disregard others from joining the group. When we only love those who fit into our group, we are missing a huge part of the gospel. If you observe the life of Jesus and see whom he befriended, it was “the lowly.” Jesus loved and made friends with the lepers and others who were outcasts in the world. Most importantly, he spent time with his enemies. I think we can all agree that we find it next to impossible to love our enemies, but we need to realize that at one time we were an enemy of Jesus. Yet He still loved us; He spent time with us and embraced us with nail pierced hands. We always want people to meet us on our level, but, like Jesus, we need to meet them on theirs. “Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly.” I am not saying that you need to ditch your group of friends, but we need to embrace those who are on the outskirts of society, even though it is uncomfortable, and love those who are so often ignored.