In this series of posts we are looking at Jesus’ shocking statement concerning lust in Matthew 5:27-30 and gleaning from it 4 ways that pornography short circuits intimacy. In the previous post, I discussed the first way. Pornography short circuits intimacy because to justify it we ask the wrong question. If we ask the wrong question we live the wrong answer. In this post I want to share the second-way pornography short circuits intimacy: pornography objectifies people and turns them into bodies.
With Jesus’ statement in Matthew 5:27-30, he moves the conversation off of the finish line of adultery and moves it onto the starting line of lust. Adultery is the sin of ending up in someone’s bed. Lust is the sin of letting it get started in your heart.
What is lust?
Lust is not noticing that someone is attractive. Lust is imagining what it would be like to have them. Lust is not seeing someone, it is dwelling on them. Lust is misplaced desire.
An interesting thing about the word translated “lust” in Matthew 5 is it is the same word translated as “earnest desire” in Luke 22. The scene in Luke 22 is Jesus preparing to take Passover with his apostles.
And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.”
The same word used to describe a deeply meaningful act of devotion in Luke 22 is used in Matthew 5 to describe a dirty thought that could potentially turn into someone more.
The problem is not desire, but direction. We all have desires. The question is not whether or not you will have them. The question is what will you do with them?
The Prayer You Don’t Want to Pray
A typical early response to a message like this is for someone struggling with lust is for them to want to pray, “Lord, please take away these sexual desires.” Do you really want God to answer that prayer? I don’t think so! That prayer would be like someone struggling with gluttony to pray, “Lord, please take away my hunger.” The problem is not in the desire. The problem is in the decision.
They call it sex drive, but is sex drive really just our desire for sex? It isn’t. Our sexual desires are more complex than just the physical act of sex. If we just wanted sex for the sake of sex, then people hooked on pornography, or people who sleep around, or people in prostitution would be the happiest people on the planet. But they’re not. Why not?
Because in our sex drive there is also the desire to be loved, to be known, to belong, to connect, to be affirmed, to be satisfied, and to be secure. Our sexual desire is one of the most complicated, but deeply meaningful parts of being human.
The problem with lust and pornography is that a desire becomes a demand. A person just wants sex without the messy work of love, communication, building intimacy, trust, connection, forgiveness, and grace.
Maybe your marriage is not so good right now. Maybe the two of you are not getting along. But you still have desires, right? The right way to fulfill that desire would be to reconnect with your spouse. The right way is to work on communication, talk through the issues.
But that takes time and work. So a decision is made. I still have the desire, but the right way is not an easy way. So, that desire becomes a demand. You bypass your spouse. You pull up an image or a video. You lust after a body.
When you bypass the messy work of connecting with your spouse and fulfill your desire through the demand of pornography, you effectively do what they did with the rubber hand illusion (see my previous post). You take one of the most complex desires God has given you and you transfer all of those connections onto something that isn’t real.
That person on the screen has a name. That is someone’s son or daughter. That person has needs and desires of their own, but with pornography you don’t need affirmation, you just need a body. With pornography you don’t give security, you just take an image. With pornography you don’t develop trust, you just click a button.
The person on the screen has no identity, it’s just a body.
You have taken your God-given desires and turned them into demands. The more you do this, the more you like this, and the more you believe you need this. The more you bypass the messy work of fulfilling God-given desires and settle for just making demands; this becomes dangerous! You have short-circuited intimacy and turned a person into a body.
The first “D” in the 3 D’s of Biblical parenting is DEVELOP. Develop is about creating an environment that consistently reinforces content that helps your child discover who God wants them to be. “Develop” only works if there is discipline.
Necessary to the development of a child are boundaries. There must be discipline when boundaries are crossed. When it comes to discipline, many parents consider it begrudgingly. The Bible looks at discipline lovingly.
Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.
Every parent must remember, you may have a beautiful child, but you are raising a natural born sinner. If you love your child, you will discipline your child.
Many people mistakingly equate discipline with abuse. The Biblical discipline of a child does not put them in any sort of physical danger and is in no way abusive.
Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you strike him with a rod, he will not die.
Discipline is not manipulation. You don’t discipline a child because he or she annoys you, interrupts you, or frustrates you. As a parent, you discipline yourself before you discipline your child. You should never punish your child out of anger, but out of heartbreak. You also must be careful that the child understands that they have not just done something to disappoint you, but they have ultimately sinned before God. A parent is a servant of God, not His replacement. If we use discipline to point our child toward the Lord, the child will develop a higher sense of accountability. If you help a child understand that they are ultimately responsible before God, not just to you, they will respect God’s authority throughout their lives.
Discipline in Balance
When it comes to discipline we cannot be too soft or too harsh. Proverbs 22:15 says that folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but that the rod of discipline drives it far from him.
Discipline is a positive and a negative. It is exposing wrong and reinforcing right. If folly is truly to be driven from the heart of a child, there has to be a tipping point. Your value has to become their value. If folly is bound up in the heart of a child, that means they innately do not understand why something is wrong. You simply getting angry or disappointed is not discipline. Discipline involves discipleship. Your child is unlearning folly and replacing it with the Biblical values you reinforce.
If folly is bound up in the heart of a child, being their friend won’t help. God has called you to be a parent, not an enabler. A soft parent doesn’t want to hurt or to offend. In doing so, a soft parent only fosters the folly in their child’s heart and the older the child gets the more difficult it is to drive that folly very far!
Your child may not be happy with you when you discipline them, but they will be thankful for you in the end. Hebrews 12:11 says that discipline is painful and not pleasant, but that it yields “the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” Part of your problem with discipline may be that YOU don’t like it! It should break our hearts to discipline our children, but remember, it’s not about you, but about what’s best for them.!
Discipline is Shepherding
At the heart of discipline is not enforcement, but shepherding. Discipline is not breaking a child. Discipline is about loving guidance with consequence. A parent must realize that discipline is not as much about spanking, grounding, or whatever method you use, as much as it is about connecting with a child’s heart. They have to see that the choice they have made is not a good choice. It is one that has hurt them and others. You as the parent help them through discipline to realize that the world is not all about them.
Discipline cannot be too harsh. In Psalm 103:13 the Bible uses the example of a father’s compassion for his child to illustrate the compassion God has for those who fear Him. If we separate discipline from love and compassion all we have left is physical abuse and emotional manipulation; and that is not at all a loving parent.
Children will fail. Discipline gives a child a safe place to fail. If a parent lovingly disciplines a child he is safe. His folly will not be allowed to forfeit his future. His mistakes will turn into teaching moments. His failures will not destroy him, but disciple him.
Children need boundaries and loving discipline that brings them back when they cross the line. Discipline is like a guardrail on a highway. When you hit them at high speeds there will be a sudden and perhaps painful collision. But think of what a guardrail saves you from. Had you not hit the guardrail you may have ended up in a ravine, wrapped around a tree, or at the bottom of a pond. Guardrails are not pleasant or beautiful, but they are safe. A home without discipline puts a child in greater danger. Discipline brings them back. Loving discipline creates a much safer place to fail.
In my previous post I asked, what is the point of parenting? A great passage in the Bible that I think encapsulates the concept is Psalm 127:4-5.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them. He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gates.
An arrow in the hand of a warrior is not effective until it is released. In the same way, the point of parenting is not to keep a child but to intentionally and effectively release him. This is a critical, Biblical principle for parents.
In our society, we are spending inordinate amounts of time and money on coaching, training, clinics, tournaments, recitals, rehearsals, and lessons so that our child can get a scholarship, but we are missing the point of parenting. Your child may win a state championship, but what will become of him once he is released? We have too many men already who were amazing second basemen in high school, who now at 32 can’t get it together at home. And just like Psalm 127:5 says, that’s a shame!
By examining the warrior and the arrow we can better understand the point of parenting.
I am no archer, but I have done just enough of it to know that there are two pieces of equipment that are critical to the sport; the bow and the arrow.
I remember vividly one of my first introductions to archery at Boy Scout camp back in the ’80s. Allow me to put this in its proper historical context. The movie Rambo, First Blood came out in the ’80s. Every kid that grew up in that decade dreamed of shooting an arrow tipped with a nuclear warhead and blowing up the neighbor’s trash can. The good folks at Skymont scout camp were about to help me release my inner Rambo.
What happened next was a total let down for an 11-year-old. We were marched down to the archery range and handed over to an instructor. Mr. Archery was more like Mr. Rogers than Rambo. And FYI, he had no intentions of blowing anything up. Mr. Archery was all about safety.
Looking back I now appreciate a man’s concern for safety when you are about to put high-velocity sharp objects into the hands of about a dozen awkward pre-teen boys. But when you’re 11, the safety spill seems like overkill. Before he would allow us to even touch an arrow, Mr. Archery lectured us about the parts of an arrow. Boring! But important!
Inspect the Arrow
Like an archer inspects his arrows we must pay attention to our kids. The wording of this article at Eastenarchery.com will PREACH to parents!
Any arrow can become damaged. A damaged arrow could break upon release and injure you or a bystander.
Like a damanged arrow, a damaged kid becomes a damaged man or woman who injures others. If you don’t pay attention and do damage to your children, they will break upon release and injure innocent bystanders – ie. the future spouse, your future grandchildren, their friends, etc. Giving attention to your kids now could prevent a lot of damage later!
One of the things missing from parenting in our busy, social media society is attention and inspection. You can’t farm out parenting to a coach. Dance lessons may make your child wonderful in a recital, but your child doesn’t just need dance lessons. They need life lessons. Your children need to hear from you. Children need conversation. Questions. Inspections. Your kids need table talk. They need less phone in their face (and your face). They need your face, your eyes, your ears. Your children need your attention. A damaged arrow can hurt a lot of people upon release! If we are to equip our kids, we must pay attention to our kids.
Load the Bow
Have you ever witnessed a warrior engage in hand to hand combat using an arrow? I hope not! Up close, it is no more useful than a Pixie Stick in a sword fight. An arrow is a long range weapon. It needs speed and velocity to be effective. The warrior uses the bow to create tension to launch the arrow.
Your home is your bow. If your home is to be a place where your kid is equipped to be launched, there needs to be a certain amount of tension. By tension, I do not mean unhealthy and undue stress, but I mean expectation and discipline. The further the warrior draws back the bow, the more velocity he will create to launch the arrow.
Kids need moral, social, financial, familial, and vocational expectations. Your child will have a hard time keeping a job as an adult if he or she has never worked in the home. Are you the one always making Junior’s bed and cleaning his room? If so, his future wife may find that you have sent her a husband who has no tension in the bow.
If your child is proficient at Snapchat, but can’t carry on a face to face conversation with an adult, this arrow will not fly with force. To let a smartphone raise your child is a DUMB move. You will end up with a Bubba in the basement trying to make a career out of tweeting reviews about Netflix.
Your child won’t raise himself. He needs the tension of discipline. Too many parents see discipline as a negative experience, but it is proven to yield positive results. True, your child may not like you for 30 minutes, but they will appreciate you in the end. More on this in my next post!
Having a home of healthy expectation and discipline gives your child the velocity he or she needs to encounter the world as an effective adult.
An arrow without direction is dangerous. So is a child.
There are a lot of factors to consider when a warrior aims an arrow. He considers the wind, the distance, as well as the target. Where is the most effective place to hit the target? Is it moving or stagnant? Where is it most vulnerable?
If you aim at nothing, you’ll hit it every time. This is especially true in parenting. As far as the Bible is concerned, as mentioned in my previous post, Genesis 1:27-28 is our aim. Would you rather have a child who can subdue the culture or would you rather have a child absorbed by it? Like God applied His Word to the chaos and brought it into order, the child you release should be able to apply the Word of God day by day and subdue the earth.
The conditions do not have to be perfect for a warrior to make a great shot. FYI – your child’s life does not have to be perfect for them to become a great kid. And just in case you didn’t realize it, you’re not a perfect parent.
There is no perfect school, coach, teacher, church, etc. A parent who is always propping up a child pointing the finger of blame at everyone else is only teaching the child that the world is not good enough for them. The way this will translate into their release as an adult is that there is no job, spouse, community, church, etc. suitable for you. If you teach your child this you may release a child with a lot of velocity, but he will have no direction. This is a dangerous child. You have raised Cain – literally. Like his Biblical predecessor, he will end up in the land of Nod, an aimless wanderer.
An effective parent helps their child take aim by giving them objectives and a safe place to fail. Let’s try this . . . correct this . . . and try this again . . . Allowing a child to make an F may be exactly what he or she needs to make an A.
Set some goals. Set some direction. Take aim with your children.
At some point the warrior let’s his arrow go. He does so with the intention that the arrow is on target and that it will hit with maximum velocity.
A recent survey by Barna Research found that only 4% of American adults have a Biblical worldview. Amongst professing Christians, only 9% have a Biblical worldview.
A worldview, as the name implies, is the philosophical lens through which you view the world. Your worldview is the filter through which you process information and make decisions. A worldview is critical to a person as he or she tries to process such questions as what is right and wrong? Is human life valuable? What is sexuality? Why are we here?
The problem with many Christian homes is that we are raising children without a Christian Worldview. The end result is that we are releasing children into the world who are way off target.
The end result is that our children are no different than the world they encounter. They have been coddled and controlled in our home when they were supposed to be armed and aimed with a Biblical worldview.
Children need encouragement, but they also need honest conversation and correction. A child who believes he is God’s gift to the world will think that he has no need of God’s grace for the world. We are raising kids who are so amazing that they completely miss Jesus!
If we are to release on target kids who impact our culture with maximum velocity we must become more intentional and truthful in parenting. What does that look like?
A Story of Effective Release
In April attended a Biblical Worldview conference in Washington, DC hosted by Bob Jones University Press. Jeff Keaton, President, Founder, and CEO of Renewanation shared a story about his nephew.
His nephew was raised in a pastor’s home, graduated from a private, Christian high school and is now attending a public college. This young man is currently in an environment in which his faith will be challenged by a secular worldview.
The professor of his freshman English class enjoyed debate and had assigned the students various topics throughout the semester. Jeff’s nephew had done well in all of the debates and had one of the highest grades in the class. The professor was impressed with his skill.
Toward the end of the semester the professor assigned the students a debate on the topic of abortion. The students were able to choose which side of the debate to defend based on their personal views and opinions. I can’t remember the exact numbers, but if there were 28 people in the class, Jeff’s nephew and one other student were the only ones willing to defend the pro-life position. The other student chose to side with Jeff’s nephew, not based on personal convictions, but based on the fact that he needed a good grade and knew that this young man did well.
Jeff shared the concern that his nephew had in the days leading up to the debate knowing that it would essentially be him vs. 26 pro-choice advocates.
On the day of the debate the professor allowed the pro-choice advocates to go first due to the sheer number of people who sided with the position. Jeff’s nephew listened intently taking careful notes. When it came time for his presentation he articulated it carefully and ended with the words, “and for these reasons, abortion is the murder of a baby.”
Jeff’s nephew expected to be rebuffed with harsh criticism. But instead the class was silent. So the professor asked, “Now that the debate is finished, how many of you are pro-choice and how many are pro-life?” Every student who debated the pro-choice position raised his or her hand that they were now pro-life after hearing Jeff’s nephew explain his beliefs.
That’s an arrow released with maximum velocity, well equipped, aimed, and on target. That is a young man who is not absorbed by the culture, but who is affecting the culture. It is a great example of Psalm 127:5b. “He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gates.”
We need more arrows released like this! How do we parent so that we may raise children like this? Check back for my next post in which I will begin to explore 3 basic principles of Biblical parenting.
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What is the point of parenting? Is it to raise a happy, healthy child? That seems to be a fairly generic goal.
How does one measure success as a parent? Is it GPA, earning potential, athletic achievement, or some sort of moral standard? How do we know if we’ve done well?
The point of parenting is articulated in the 28th verse of the Bible. Even before God rested, He explains the purpose of a parent.
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.’
OK, nice Bible verse. So what’s the point of parenting?
Image – you are the representative of God on earth. You demonstrate how His Word works in the world and share the blessing that it brings. Your home, as imperfect as it may be at times, is a demonstration of the Lordship of Jesus Christ and His redemptive power to the world.
Multiply – notice the Bible doesn’t say add but multiply. All things being equal, any man and woman can biologically add children, but the word “multiply” means that there is something exponential in the purpose of parenting. Teach your child how to be an image of God and you double yourself. If that child has children who also pass along those values, and so on and so on, what you have done for the benefit of the world is exponential. The greatest contribution you can make to the world is not the business you start or the recognition you receive. The greatest contribution you make to the world according to Genesis 1:17-28 is in the children you send.
Fill – what you are for your children doesn’t stay put, it moves. Notice that the verse does not say fill your basement space, but fill the earth. What has happened in your home needs to happen again, in another place. The word “fill” assumes there is an empty space with a need. When we fill the earth with “image-ness” there is less of a void. People tried the stay-put plan with the Tower of Babel (Gen. 11). God didn’t take it well. Don’t make your basement Babel 2.0. God was the first father to boot a Bubba out of the basement. The earth left to itself descends into chaos. It needs more images to fill the earth, spread out, and work God’s plan (Gen. 2:5).
Subdue – God created the world by applying His Word day by day. In the same way that God applied His Word and brought chaos to order, His images continue to work the earth, day by day, by applying God’s Word bringing an otherwise chaotic culture to order. We need MUCH more of this, don’t we?
So, in short. The point of parenting is to teach a child what it means to be an image of God so that when you release him or her into the world they will continue to apply God’s Word to an otherwise chaotic world and bring it to order.
But Houston, we have a problem; failure to launch.
Failure to Launch
A study published in November of 2016 found that in The State of New Jersey, 45% of young adults aged 18-34 live with their parents, even though they are employed.
The common term for a child’s unwillingness to leave out on his own is “failure to launch.”
I realize that there are a lot of circumstances in life in which a young adult may choose, or need for a time, to live in their parent’s home. Many college students save on the high cost of housing by commuting. I was one of those. My parents encouraged me to go to college by offering to pay tuition. The rest of it was on me. When I realized how much debt I would have just in housing expenses, and then took a look at what they were serving in the cafeteria, I realized that home is a really good deal!
There may be hardships or unforeseen circumstances that require a young adult to shelter at home for a time. There may be mental or physical disabilities that make staying at home a wise choice. But from what I understand of the study, these circumstances are not factored into the 45%. Even if I am making a mistaken assumption and all of these variables are included, 45% still sounds a little high don’t you think?
Life can be difficult and expensive, but I don’t think it is any parent’s dream to raise a capable kid, only to find that at 31 Bubba refuses to leave the basement!
Why am I being so hard on Bubba and his parents?
So what if Bubba is still in your basement? Or maybe he’s a boomerang kid – he moves out but keeps coming back. Am I saying that you are a bad parent? Not at all. I’m not even saying that Bubba is a bad person. Bubba’s first choice may not be for him to be in your basement. Furthermore, I know of some amazing single people who have greatly impacted God’s Kingdom who have lived their entire lives in their parent’s home.
But if you have an adult child who has no plan to launch out on his own and no concern for God’s Kingdom, I do have a question. What’s your release plan?
Surely you are not about to give up on Genesis 1:27 and 28. It’s too great of a vision. I’m not trying to condemn you, but I do want to challenge you. The world has enough people in it that eat Dorito’s, play video games, and binge watch NetFlix. We have some definite void in this culture that needs to be filled. Rise up, don’t give up!
God’s desire is for you to embrace the point of parenting. It will be a blessing to you!
Why are there so many Bubba’s in New Jersey?
Bubba stuck in the basement is not just a New Jersey problem. Failure to launch is becoming epidemic in the American family. Why is this? Perhaps it is because many have missed the point of parenting.
The point of parenting is not to just please our children, but to release them as mature adults. Instead of our homes being launch pads we are instead creating safe, sterilized bunkers in which our kids have everything their heart’s desire, where they are never hurt, never disappointed, never told “no”, and somehow sold on the snake oil that they should never fail.
The problem then becomes that they NEVER leave. Even worse, some parents, never get it! They don’t want to release their children. And YES – this I condemn. It is disobedience and not AT ALL God’s design!
Some parents simply want to control their children no matter how old they are. God has called parents to be equippers, not enablers. If a parent is an enabler, there sits Bubba in the basement thinking he is the center of the world; having no plans to impact the world. This is a child that has been added to the world, but who multiplies nothing. He is a consumer; a proverbial black hole of a family’s resources. He only adds to the chaos, making no contribution to subdue it.
So what if I don’t want a Bubba in my basement?
But maybe that’s not your vision. You don’t want Bubba in your basement. Perhaps you want to be an effective parent who releases an image of God capable of impacting culture and subduing the chaos. So how do we accomplish the point of parenting and raise kids with for purposeful release?
So now that I’ve intrigued some readers and perhaps angered others, let’s offer the proverbial cliff hanger. What’s the answer? I’ll share it in my next post. This week I’ll also address the issue of parents who have done it right, but the child rebels. What then? Stay tuned! Subscribe! Comment, ask questions – let’s have a conversation. How would you explain the point of parenting?
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Between emotion and action, Jesus issues four corrective commands. “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.” – Luke 6:27-28 Those commands seem unreasonable and impractical especially when we have such cursing, abusive, hateful enemies. Does Jesus really expect us to respond to such horrible people with redemptive action? The answer is, Yes. Not only does he expect it, but one character in the Bible exemplifies it, Joseph.
In my previous post, we looked at how Joseph loved his family despite them becoming his enemy. How did Joseph exemplify the other corrective commands of Jesus?
Do Good to Those Who Hate You
Joseph did good even when life was bad. Joseph’s brothers sold him. He served his master well and God gave him favor (Genesis 39:3-6).
Potiphar’s wife falsely accused Joseph of rape. Potiphar put Joseph in prison. Even there he did well and the Lord gave him favor (Gen. 39:21-23).
“Where” Joseph was never changed who Joseph was. He did well because the Lord is good. Joseph’s actions became a testimony to everyone around him. We can learn from his example. When you respond with bad, it does no good!
Bless Those Who Curse You
Joseph’s brothers conspired against him. Blessing and cursing; both are about words. Words hurt.
Our natural emotional response to cursing is to curse back. In Genesis 45, Joseph had the opportunity to get physical and verbal revenge on his brothers. At one time they determined his fate in a pit, now Joseph had the opportunity to determine their fate from the palace. What sort of words would Joseph choose, blessing or cursing?
Joseph chose blessing. If you read Genesis 45:4-14 you will find that Joseph directs his brother’s attention to what God has done. He then promises to bless them and provide from them out of the abundance of Egypt. Notice the last line of this paragraph full of blessings.
“After that his brothers talked with him.”
How many of us in our time of hurt would welcome a productive conversation? Imagine having a conversation in which wrongs are confessed, the hurt is expressed, and apologies are exchanged. That sort of reconciliation only comes through redemption. A conversation like that does not come about through revenge. Cursing for cursing does not cure the hurt.
Pray for Those Who Abuse You
The Bible doesn’t record Joseph’s prayers, but make no mistake, Joseph prayed. The integrity of his character, the strength of his witness through trial, and the favor God gave him only comes through prayer. Joseph never wavered from God’s will. He interpreted dreams through the wisdom of God. When the moment of redemption came, the emotions were overwhelming. I’m sure the hurt resurfaced. But rather than revenge Joseph chose redemption. A choice like that only comes as the product of prayer.
As for you! But God!
The climax of Joseph’s story comes in Genesis 50:20. Jacob, the father of these lost boys brothers has died. Now that dad is gone, will Joseph finally get revenge? Absolutely not. He explains:
As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good to bring it about that many people should be kept alive as they are today.
Somewhere between angry emotion and destructive action is something only Christ can do in you.
So how do we tap into this redemptive response only Christ can give?
Know Christ as Lord and Savior. Through repentance and faith, we enter into a relationship with Jesus Christ (Rom. 10:9,10, 13). We don’t need a situation change as much as we need a nature change. The Bible teaches that when we repent of sin and receive Jesus as Lord and Savior that He places His Holy Spirit inside of us (2 Cor. 1:22). The fruits of our new nature will begin to emerge (Gal. 5:22-24).
Renew your mind. After giving his discourse on such a great salvation, Paul turns his attention to life application in Romans 12:1-2. Our new life in Jesus calls for us to not be conformed to this world, but to be transformed into Christ. That transformation comes only through “renewal of the mind.” Renewal of the mind means that we unlearn those habits and patterns of reaction to emotion that conform to the ways of the world. We then learn Biblical, Christ-honoring patterns of behavior as part of the transformation of salvation.
Feed and foster new life from the graces of the church and spiritual discipline. Part of discipleship is discipline. Seek to establish daily habits of Bible reading, prayer, service, and worship. Your church becomes a critical ally in the transformation process. God uses the church to minister His graces of forgiveness, conviction, grace, mercy, and love to His people. Prayer is a conversation with God. Sometimes in prayer, you feel as if you are only speaking to Him. You will be amazed at how God uses His church to speak back to you.
We will all have cursing, hateful, abusive enemies. When people take destructive action against us we are flooded with negative emotion. Our natural reaction is to return destruction for destruction. But Jesus is our in-between. He is our corrective thought. In a sin cursed world He has chosen to call his people to be the conduits of redemption. Unnatural? Yes. Supernatural? Absolutely. But by following Christ we introduce into the fabric of a fallen story something that will save many people alive. Think about it. Had Joseph chosen destructive action and destroyed his brothers the seed of the Savior would have been lost. What salvation could Christ bring from you if you choose redemptive response rather than destructive action?
These advances in technology are from a fascinating field of study called cybernetics. In short, cybernetics is the merging of man with machine. If you read about this stuff it will either scare you to death or amaze you at how close we are to existing in a sci-fi movie.
One of the side effects of cybernetics is that it is making us take a hard look at what it means to be human. What is it that makes us different than machines?
For instance, as amazing as it is to have a robotic arm that is connected to your thoughts, aren’t you thankful that you don’t do everything you think? Some people would say that they are a lover, not a fighter. I’m afraid that I’m a fighter, not a lover. I’d rather argue than give a hug. That being the case, I’m afraid that if I had a cybernetic arm that responded to my thoughts; there may be some people who get throat punched!
The Difference in Man and Machine
One of the big differences in man and machine is that computers simply carry out commands. Humans have the ability to make an extra decision between emotion and action that keeps unreasonable, annoying people from getting constantly throat punched by maniacs like me.
While there may be something in me thinking “throat punch,” to date I have throat punched exactly zero people (so give me a sticker). This act of self-control comes from the ability you and I have to realize that even though delivering a throat punch is tempting, that doing so would probably make a bad situation even worse. Somewhere between emotion and action comes a correction that results in a much better decision.
It looks like this for computers. COMMAND ———> ACTION.
It looks like this for humans. EMOTION ——> CORRECTION ——> ACTION. That correction is significant! When you omit that middle thought, someone gets throat punched.
While it is one thing to use restraint and refrain from throat punching someone, it is quite another to carry out the 4 correcting commands Jesus offers us in Luke 6:27-28.
But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.
Let’s break these four commands down from the standpoint of pure emotional first response.
4 People I’d Like to Throat Punch
Enemy. An enemy is someone with whom there is no peace. This is anyone in your life that you would like to throat punch.
Hater. Don’t be a hater! (throat punch)
Curser. You curse me. I cuss you back. (throat punch)
Abuser. There is nothing to say here. All that is necessary is a well-placed Chuck Norris throat punch.
There are some people I’d like to throat punch. But Jesus won’t let me.
Restraint is one thing, but what Jesus is saying seems ridiculous. He wants me to love my enemy? Why would I do good for my haters? What blessing could I possibly have for someone dog cussing me? What could possibly be left within me that would motivate me to pray for someone who abused me?
I understand that I can’t go around throat punching people, but Jesus is not just telling me to use restraint, but to respond with radical redemptive action toward the worst possible people.
Why Restraint isn’t Enough
Why would Jesus ask us to not just use restraint, but to respond in a radically redemptive way? I think there are two reasons.
Action releases emotion. Just because I refrained from throat punching my hateful, cursing, abusive enemy doesn’t mean I have dealt with the destructive emotion. If you emotionally bottle up, you eventually blow up. Typically we blow up on the very people who don’t deserve a throat punch. We take out our frustrations on family and friends because we feel it is “safe.” We direct our aggravation and frustration at them, all the while they are wondering what is wrong with us. Conversations are filled with slander and gossip about your enemy. True, you didn’t throat punch someone, but are you any better off being toxic at home? We need a redemptive release of emotion.
Redemption is better than revenge. If you hate your haters, cuss your cursers, and abuse your abusers all you’ve done is double the problem. If you simply return destructive action in response to destructive action, what makes you any different than your enemy? I can tell you something Jesus desires of you. He doesn’t want you to be like your enemy. He wants you to be like him.
Now that we understand what Jesus would have us do and why, the next logical question is who? Who can possibly do something like this? Has anyone ever responded to a cursing, abusive, hateful enemy with radical redemptive action. The answer is, YES!
The Bible’s Book of Genesis tells the story of one such person. His name is Joseph and he finds himself in each of the horrible situations Jesus articulates. Amazingly, he also displays each of Jesus’ radical redemptive responses. Joseph had every reason in the world to deliver a cybernetic throat punch to his brothers, but instead, he took action to redeem them.
We will begin to explore this story and how it corresponds to Jesus’ corrective commands for us in the next post.
Catch up on last week’s series of posts – The Bible Says to Give All, But How Can Anyone Afford All?
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“All of” giving is not a donation. It is an act of devotion. With the “all of” giver, the heart and the head converge in a different place (see previous post). This person calculates life with a different equation than everyone else.
In Mark 12 we read of an amazing scene as an unlikely widow who gives all.
And he sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box. many rich people put in large sums. And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny. And he called his disciples to him and said to them, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those whoa re contributing to the offering box. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, ALL SHE HAD to live on.
If we watch the woman give we learn the following principles about “all of” giving. “All of” giving 1) has God as its focus. 2) Gratitude is the attitude. 3) The “all of” giver understands where he gets all he’s got.
“All of Giving” – God as the Focus
In a previous post, I stated that giving is emotional before it is financial. There are many things that can hijack the emotions of giving. You either reduce your amount or decide against giving simply because it doesn’t feel right.
Look at this place! They don’t need my money.
That guy looks like he’s better off than me. Why give to him?
That guy needs to get a job.
Those people can help themselves.
Where does all of this money people give go?
It is easy to get emotionally hijacked in giving.
The Cheerful Giver
God understands the emotional component of giving. 2 Corinthians 9:7 says that the Lord loves a cheerful giver.
“Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, ‘not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”
2 Corinthians 9:7
There are two words in that verse that speak of an emotionally hijacked giver. He is reluctant. He is motivated by guilt, so he gives under compulsion. Does the Lord appreciate an emotionally hijacked giver? Maybe. I would think so. Does he hate him? I would think not. But that’s not the point of the verse. The verse is a worshipful, emotional collision between a cheerful giver and a God who loves him. It is like two friends who can’t wait to get together. It is a happy, joyous moment.
If you allow 2 Corinthians 9:7 to cast light on the scene in Mark 12, it will stop our often cold, emotionless reading of Scripture. She is the cheerful giver and the Creator of the Universe is absolutely loving the conversation he is having with his disciples about her.
Jesus Would Not Hi-jack This Woman in Worship
There is NO WAY her Savior and Creator would dare to hi-jack the emotion of this moment. He dares not to stop her as she gives all though he had logical reason in our minds and plenty of opportunity.
Why didn’t Jesus tell her, “Woman, this place has plenty of money, your small coins will make no difference? Keep them.”
Why didn’t Jesus say, “Mam, this place is corrupt. Give me 2 hours and I’ll have this place turned upside down. There will be coins spilled everywhere and you can have as many as you want.”
Why did he not just walk up and say, “Lady, I created the universe. Keep your money.”
Why didn’t he do any of these things? A loving God would never tell a cheerful giver to go away and He would not dare to hijack her worship of Him. To understand this scene and this woman you must understand.
She was not giving to the Temple.
She was not giving to a cause.
Her offering may have been handled by a priest but it was not given to a priest.
She was giving to God.
This was not a donation. This was an act of worship.
“All of” Giving – Gratitude is the Attitude
She is giving all she has. Ironically enough the Savior who will give Himself for the sake of His disciples is across the way discussing what she just did. In the end, she has given all for Him. He will give His all for her and them. They, his disciples, will give all for Him.
“All of” giving is a proclamation of the gospel. How can we not fail to give all when we consider that:
The Father has given the Son for us.
Jesus hung as a cursed man on a tree becoming sin for you and me.
He bore our sins, carried our sorrows and was pierced for our transgressions. By His stripes, we are healed.
Jesus rose victorious over death, Hell, and the grave.
He has given us His Spirit.
Jesus will give us a new heaven and a new earth in which we will dwell with Him forever.
“All” I will ever have is so little to give to a Savior who has done so much for me.
“All of” Giving – Understands Where You Get All You’ve Got
A person who gives “all of” does so because they realize all they have was never theirs to keep. All we have is His. The Bible teaches that we are entrusted stewards. We are managers, not creators. We are servants, not sovereigns.
The value of the two coins the woman gave was not determined by the mint in Rome. The way the woman calculated the value of the coins was in her understanding of how she got them, not in who minted them. Those two coins were not her coins. Those were God’s coins. She was merely returning them.
For the “all of” giver it is not about affordability as much as it is availability.
Again, “all of” giving is not a donation. It is an act of devotion. And it is only in “all of” giving that we can truly learn how to trust a good God and the meaning of His name, The Lord Will Provide (Gen. 22:14).
What Happened to the Woman?
I wonder what happened to the woman? The Bible never says. But the Bible does say:
Do not be anxious about anything saying ‘what shall we eat’ or ‘what shall we drink’ or ‘what shall we wear.” For the Gentiles seek after these things and your heavenly Father knows you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
My God will supply all of your needs according to His riches in glory.
The young lions suffer want and hunger; but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.
Only in eternity will we meet the woman and know what became of her, but I do know that according to His Word, Jesus did not let her walk away empty handed. I imagine any one of the following possibilities:
Jesus walks over to the woman and says, “Mam, we just had a picnic on a nearby hillside and we had a bunch left over. Andrew! Could you please bring those baskets of leftover fish and bread. Mam, you can have all you want.
Maybe Jesus directed her to a great place to stay outside of the city. “I know a great family we stay with quite a bit. It is a man named Lazarus and his two sisters. They are extremely hospitable. Lazarus was pretty sick recently, but he’s fine now. Why don’t we go have a meal with them?”
Maybe Jesus gave her an invitation. “Mam, we are going to have Passover together in a couple of weeks. I would love for you to come.”
The Bible indicates that there were several women who travelled around with the company of the disciples. I wonder if on the Day of Pentecost, this woman was part of band of disciples in Jerusalem who were the first to experience God’s outpouring of His Holy Spirit.
I can only imagine!
With such a Savior, when we ask the question of how can we afford to give all? I think the answer is how can we afford not to give all?
I think there are 3 essential questions that help us recalculate all.
How did I get it? The problem with the rich, young ruler that went away sorrowful was that he had great possessions and his great possessions had him. He could not release them because they defined him. Understanding our life as a steward is an extremely worship, liberating way of life. If I never had it, it is no problem if I lose it.
How can God use it? Giving all doesn’t mean that you have to go to church this Sunday and empty out your bank account. But “all of” means that it is all available. As a steward of God’s stuff, you are always looking for how God can use it. How can you leverage all you have and all you are for the sake of the gospel?
How can I give it? I know some will accuse me of being partial as a pastor when I say this, but I believe in and practice storehouse tithing. I believe that the first 10% of my income is to be given to my local church as an offering to God. I’m not here to argue with you, I’m just telling you what I do and what I will continue to do. The rest of it is always on the table. All giving is not financial. There is giving that is hospitable. There is giving that is helpful. Ultimately, I am the one that has to be in the offering plate!