I (Sean) sat down one night in the Harmon home to have an informal conversation about dating, courtship, and the Bible. We recorded several podcasts in Spencer’s upstairs loft. This conversation was impromptu and unscripted.
This 10 minute podcast includes questions such as:
What does the Bible have to do with dating?
Are you against courtship?
Should couples feel pressure when dating?
What should a first date look like?
Where did you and Taylor go on your first date?
We plan on releasing several more of these conversations in the months ahead. You can subscribe to the new “Unspokenblog” podcast on iTunes or listen via SoundCloud. As always, if you have any questions you want us to discuss, we would love to hear them.
It’s a prerequisite for Christian leadership. It’s championed in Christian literature. It’s absence is a red light in romantic relationships. It’s heralded in thousands of churches every Sunday. It motivates accountability groups, is commended by Christians around the world, and is summarized in one word:
But godliness is dangerous. Not because you may be persecuted if you pursue it – although you may. Not because Satan will oppose you at every turn of your striving towards it – although he will. Not because your sinful flesh will roar in resistance as you reach for it – although it will. No, godliness is dangerous for a much more subtle reason.
Godliness is dangerous because we use the word so much. And where words are used often, assumption follows closely behind. As we continually use this word without defining it from God’s Word, vague definitions take root. As a result, people who should be pricked are comforted, people who should be freed are burdened, and at worst a culture of shallow holiness implants itself in our Christian communities.
When something is precious and being threatened, you guard it from multiple sides. The same is true with godliness. We not only need to know what godliness is, but also what it isn’t.
WHAT GODLINESS ISN’T
Godliness is not gifting. God gives his church gifts, but we should not equate them with godliness. The Corinthians excelled in spiritual gifts, but at the same time were rebuked for heinous sin (1 Corinthians 5; 11:17-22). Preaching, teaching, counseling, music, writing, leadership, persuasiveness, hospitality – all of these things can be included in godliness, but are not godliness in and of themselves.
Godliness is not personality. Godliness is not politeness, an easy going attitude, or diplomacy. Jesus was not perceived as polite by the money-changers when he turned over their tables and called them robbers. He wasn’t perceived as diplomatic when he called the Pharisees whitewashed tombs. He wasn’t perceived as easy-going when he rebuked his disciples. Paul rebukes Peter for not eating with Gentiles. James rebukes the rich. All of these men were godly, and one of these men was God himself.
Godliness is not knowledge. A robust knowledge of theology, a nuanced understanding of the human heart, and sharp apologetical skills does not make us godly. Knowing things makes us accountable for them. The Pharisees were men of astute knowledge, but Jesus tells them they are blind to spiritual reality (John 9:40).
Godliness is not a leadership position.The greatest cause of trembling for me as a young pastor is that I would begin equating godliness with my position rather than my character. Just because we lead a discussion group or Sunday school does not make us the godliest person in the room. Being a pastor does not automatically mean you become the holiest person in the church. No, the Bible assumes this principle: the higher the leadership, the deeper the character (1 Timothy 3:1-7). And the higher you get without deeper character the more likely you are to fall.
Obvious gifting, a dynamic personality, rigorous knowledge, and lofty leadership are wonderful. They should be affirmed in the local church lifted up as worthy of pursuit. But these qualities are not what the Bible defines as godliness. Knowing this for myself is challenging and clarifying as I aspire towards greater Christ-likeness in daily life.
CHARACTERISTICS OF GODLINESS
Godliness believes the truth. The fountainhead of godliness is knowing and believing the truth. Trees need seeds, houses need foundations, cars need gasoline, and godliness stands on truth. The man who follows a false map walks in the wrong direction. False teaching in the New Testament warrants swift rebuke because it leads people to sin and death. The apostle Paul calls the gospel itself the mystery of godliness (1 Timothy 3:16). The apostle Peter says godliness comes through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence (2 Peter 1:3). This is why every saint is called to speak the truth in love to one another. (Ephesians 4:15)
Godliness is dignified. In 1 Timothy 2-3, dignity is a marker of the Christian community from the laity to the leadership. We should pray for leaders so we can live dignified lives (2:2), pastors should lead their families with all dignity (3:4), and deacons are to be dignified (3:8, 11).
Dignity is the outward reputation of a godly heart. Dignity doesn’t flow from trying to look dignified, but it’s the result of a heart that loves Christ and others. The Bible calls this living worthy of the gospel (Philippians 1:27) or conducting yourself with fear (1 Peter 1:17). It’s a life that appreciates that gravity of their salvation in Christ, and lives a life dripping with that gravitas.
Godliness is marked by good works. The person who spends all their time in a prayer closet but never loves their next door neighbor isn’t a godly person in the Bible. Godliness is not just private piety, but public goodness. Godliness is a light that is meant to be seen (Matthew 5:16). Good works signify a godly person, and the nature of good works are to not remain hidden (1 Timothy 5:25).
Godliness is a fight and race. Godly people are marked by fighting and fleeing, racing and pushing, practice and persistence. Paul tells young Timothy to train himself for godliness (1 Timothy 4:7). Training involves intentionality and vigilance that monitors the areas of life that propel you towards or away from your goal. This means that godliness doesn’t come automatically to us, we must intentionally grow in it, practice it, and discipline ourselves for it.
GODLINESS HAPPENS TO US
Two parallel truths meet when we talk about godliness. The first truth is obvious from everything written above: godliness can’t be assumed. It must be understood, pursued, and intentionally fought for. Godliness doesn’t just happen to us. Yet, there is a second truth that undergirds the first truth: godliness does happen to us.
The human heart does not thirst for godliness out of the formation of new habits, but from the transformation brought about by the new birth. God’s Spirit transforms the human heart by cleansing it from sin and giving it a new nature that desires to grow in godliness (John 3:1-8). The human soul becomes tender as the seed of the gospel breaks through cement-soil hearts. May we grow in this grace that he might reap a fruitful harvest.
We have been working on a project together over the past two years. We have been writing two books that are expanded versions of our Letters to a Young Engaged Man blog series. These books are being published by P&R and will release simultaneously in the Fall of this year.
The book On Dating begins with topics related to singleness and then covers a wide range of topics such as breaking up, physical affection, early marriage, and discussing sexual history. Some chapter titles include:
Marriage vs. Singleness
Should We Be in a Relationship?
Do We Have a Bad Relationship?
What if I am not a Virgin?
Should I Guard My Heart?
The book On Engagement walks couples from the time right before a proposal all the way to their wedding night. Some chapter titles include:
The Length of Engagement
Till Death Do Us Part
Loving Your New Parents
Should We Elope?
On Birth Control
The chapters are designed to be short and can be read individually or together as a couple. Even though we don’t know the specifics of your situation, we have made a concerted effort to make each chapter as practical as possible. It is our prayer that this content feels immediately helpful and comes from a refreshing peer-like voice. Our wives have also contributed to many of the letters and provided their own warm touches throughout the books.
Our prayer is that your plans for dating and engagement would begin aligning with God’s plans to glorify his Son in the world. We pray that these letters will tune your ears to hear God’s voice in his Word and that these letters will provoke many conversations between you, your partner, and godly mentors in your life.
We are not relational gurus. Quite the opposite. We would be the first to admit to you that when we follow our own wisdom… we get lost. We are sinners who are desperately in need of God’s illuminating Word in every facet of our lives. We have simply tasted the goodness of God’s shepherding voice in our romances, and we want you to taste it too. We pray that you fall in love with hearing his voice in the Bible so that it guides you in singleness, dating, and engagement – and every other season after that.
In the meantime you can check out the recent Truth in Love podcast with Dr. Heath Lambert and Sean on the topic of Physical Boundaries Before Marriagethat discusses a controversial portion of the dating book.
As we continue to write to you, we always want to hear your letters. Don’t hesitate to send us your feedback and share your story with us.
Perhaps you are reading through an Advent devotional this Christmas season or focusing on the Gospel accounts of the Christmas story in Matthew and Luke. The Bible never ceases to amaze and there are always new insights to discover in old stories.
This year I was struck by a small unexpected sentence in Matthew 1:24-25. It reads:
When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus. (Mat 1:24-25 ESV)
This text teaches that Joseph obeyed God by marrying Mary (even though the child within her was not his offspring) but he did not have sex with her until after she gave birth to Jesus. The ESV uses the language of “but knew her not” as a euphemism for sex. There are other translations that read:
NAS Matthew 1:25 and kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son; and he called His name Jesus. (Mat 1:25 NAS)
NLT Matthew 1:25 But he did not have sexual relations with her until her son was born. And Joseph named him Jesus. (Mat 1:25 NLT)
There are several things to point out from these couple of verses.
First, this is a unique situation in redemptive history. The main point of this verse is not to communicate that you should avoid sex after your wedding. There are several factors that make this situation unique – not the least of which is that the Holy Spirit conceived a baby in the womb of a virgin. There are also other Scriptures that command regular sexual activity for married couples. (1 Corinthians 7:5)
Second, the Bible (and Joseph) wanted it to be crystal clear that Jesus was not the offspring of an earthly father. Jesus is God in the flesh. His birth was miraculous. Joseph and Mary had a wedding but did not consummate their marriage until after Jesus was born. They knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that Jesus was not conceived by human relations. This was a divine act.
Third, this verse also teaches that Joseph and Mary had sex after Jesus was born. Mary was not a perpetual virgin. Joseph didn’t have sex with her until after she gave birth. There are also verses in the book of Matthew that talk about Jesus’ brothers and sisters. (See also Mark 6:3)
Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? And are not all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?” (Mat 13:55-56 ESV)
These are all important things to point out from these verses, yet these were not the things that struck me this Christmas. What caught my attention was the self-control of Joseph.
Think about it. Joseph was a righteous man who followed the law (Matthew 1:19). He was presumably chaste and had no blemish on his record. He had waited his entire life to have sex until the proper context. He had been self-controlled because he wanted to obey God and follow the Old Testament law.
Then it comes out that Mary is pregnant with a baby that does not belong to him. He is told in a dream by an angel of the Lord that he should remain committed to Mary and take her as his wife. Joseph marries Mary… but still remains self-controlled.
He could have had sex with her and we have no indication that it would have been sinful. Yet, he chose to wait until after the birth of Jesus in order that it would be crystal clear that Jesus was not of earthly descent. Since he had a character of a righteous man and knew this was a unique divine circumstance, I conclude that he wanted to answer any possible claim that he was the earthly father of Jesus.
Joseph lived with Mary. He loved her. He saw her naked. He took care of her. He traveled with her to Bethlehem. And yet, he waited to have intercourse with her until after he helped her give birth to a child that was not his own.
Would you have been as self-controlled as Joseph? Would you have complained? Would you have grumbled? Would you have been bitter?
I don’t want to read more into the text than need be. Nor amy I trying to advocate for anything bizarre. I’m not advocating using Joseph as an example to refrain from intercourse within marriage. If you have followed my other blogs, you know I believe married couples should enjoy sex on a very regular basis.
I am saying that Joseph exerted a lot of self-control and truly loved well in a difficult and unprecedented situation.
Perhaps you need the grace of Jesus this Christmas to grow in the area of self-control. Are you single and struggling with pornography? Are you dating or engaged and struggling with purity? Are you married and having difficulty remaining sexually committed to your spouse? Use this Advent to ask God for the gift of control. Only the Holy Spirit who conceived Jesus can give us this spiritual fruit.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. (Gal 5:1 ESV)
The Holy Spirit did a miracle in the womb of Mary. The Holy Spirit did a miracle in the heart of Joseph. And I am more than confident that the Holy Spirit can do a miracle in our lives and enable us to replace any sinful desires with steadfast love.
Sean is the Chief of Staff at the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors and the author of Letters to a Romantic: On Engagement (P&R, 2017)
The Bible isn’t relevant for life if the Bible can’t be applied practically. Biblical counseling must be practical or else it will be irrelevant. This is because we obey or disobey God in specific ways. Our idolatries are not vague. Our sins are not general. When we are fearful, we think fearful thoughts in our mind. When we are sinfully depressed, we neglect real responsibilities. When we act in anger, we do things with our tongues and our hands. Thankfully, the Bible offers practical ways to overcome our sin and change us in concrete ways.
The practical nature of the Scriptures for counseling can be seen in three verses in the New Testament. Romans 12:19-21 is just one example that gives us insight into the powerful and tangible ways the Bible can be used in counseling.
Verse 19: Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”
1) Command and Motivation
The command in verse 19 is to never take revenge. This command is simple, but it is not merely a command. In Romans 12:19, the motivation for the command is given. We should not seek revenge because this is only God’s prerogative. Vengeance belongs to the Lord and we are called to trust him instead of taking matters into our own hands. To not take revenge requires faith. The command is given and the motivation to obey the command is also explained.
Verse 20: To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.”
2) One Practical Application
Verse 20 goes beyond both the command and the motivation and moves into a practical example. If your enemy is hungry, you can not take revenge by feeding him. If your enemy is thirsty, you can fight anger by giving him something to drink. This is one practical way of fighting the urge to take revenge. Instead of giving your enemy poison, you should buy him coffee. Instead of giving your enemy a mouthful of harsh language, you should give him a mouthful of food.
Verse 21: Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
3) Many Practical Opportunities
The practical nature of the commands of God can be seen even clearer in verse 21. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. The practical nature of doing good in order to combat revenge isn’t bound up in giving away meals or bottles of water to your arch enemies. There are hundreds of ways in which you can tangibly show kindness instead of wrath to those who upset you. Romans 12:20 gives one practical example, but Romans 12:21 allows for a thousand other acts of kindness that are in keeping with verse 19.
Biblical Counsel is Practical Counsel
How do you give advice to others? Do you talk about God’s commands? Do you explain the motivations behind those commandments and how faith is required? Do you give practical examples to implement these truths? Do you then teach others to think of new ways to obey God when faced with a variety of circumstances?
Romans 12:19-21 is just one example of how the Scriptures are powerful and practical to help people change. It is my prayer that this text is an opportunity for us to ask ourselves: Do we counsel like the Bible counsels?
At this point, you have likely seen the nightmare that looms behind the placid language of the abortion industry. While Planned Parenthood says that during your procedure “medical instruments and a suction machine gently empty your uterus,” viewers of this week’s undercover video saw arms and lungs. There is now no escaping the violence of abortion; but then again, there never was. Interestingly, many are running to the aid of Planned Parenthood’s tarnished image. “Misunderstood,” they say. “Deceptive editing,” they cry, as though smoke and mirrors were responsible for the limbs on the tray. Nothing could be further from the truth. Human beings have human hearts. And we must not forget that that is exactly what is at stake.
Yet the insanity of abortion is not just in the desperate attempts of Planned Parenthood to save face. We should expect those who love the darkness to fight to keep the light at bay. Indeed, the insanity of abortion is that followers of Jesus Christ are so deafeningly silent. What is almost unthinkable is that those who have experienced new life in Christ would not speak when God’s glorious work of creation is undone. Sure, evangelicals have taken to social media in protest. I will be the first to proclaim my deep gratitude for those who will not let this occasion be just another flash in the pan. But a merely digital pro-life position is really no gospel pro-life position at all. The silence I have in mind is not in the public eye, but that which is heard in front of the EMW Surgical Center in Louisville, Kentucky.
If you drive down West Market street on a Saturday morning, you may be caught off guard by the large crowd lining a particular stretch of sidewalk. With a momentary glance you would probably see signs that say, “Choose Life” and “Women Regret Abortion.” You would most likely hear people talking about free maternity homes and scholarships. You would definitely hear voices of pro-choicers protesting the pro-life protesters. But if you listen very closely, amidst all the noise, you may hear a faint voice pleading, “be reconciled to God.”
The evangelical presence outside this abortion clinic is meager at best. It is certainly not for a lack of effort. I have emailed every evangelical pastor in this city to request the help of local churches. Some have responded; most have not. Those who do respond typically express a great deal of hesitancy. After all, actually going down to an abortion clinic is a little extreme, isn’t it? I am forced to ask why someone so bold on their blog would hesitate to join brothers and sisters on the sidewalk where the rubber meets the road?
“I don’t know what I would say,” they respond. Brother, the Spirit gives timely words. “Does it ever get hostile?” they ask. Sure, especially for the image-bearer whose life will be snuffed out in secret. “Our church just has too many programs,” one man said. Brother, you need to repent. The clear command of the text is to open your mouth for the mute (Proverbs 31:8) and expose shameful things done in darkness (Ephesians 5:11-12). And yet, our silence is deafening. As a means of bringing the gospel to bear on this issue, our own testimonies remind us that our God is deeply committed to life. This truth necessitates our voice in these dark and shameful places.
For a believer, speaking for life need not be a difficult task. Many have expressed interest in doing more, but simply do not know where to start. The good news is that you do not have to reinvent the wheel. I direct a ministry called Speak for the Unborn (S4U) that seeks to do this very thing.We have resources available to equip local churches to start gospel-centered, Christ-exalting, compassionate sidewalk counseling ministries in their own cities. While situations differ from place to place, the framework we provide is applicable to a spectrum of contexts.
Christians can no longer hide from the horrific reality of abortion. Francis Shaeffer once said that “every abortion clinic should have a sign in front of it saying, ‘Open by the permission of the church.’” This is true, but need not be our story. The Church of Jesus Christ has been given a commission to be his ambassadors. We must go where the hurting are, and where the hurting are harming their children. While you are sleeping in, women up the road are assaulted by the lies of a Devil who is hell-bent on destruction. Whether abortion drives these women to despair or makes them feel empowered, a forked-tongue never means well. Yet by our silence, we are entrusting these women to his care.
So how will you respond to the insanity? Silence? Apathy? Excuses? Fear? You would do well, believer, to remember that you have not been given a spirit of fear, but the third person of a trinity that drives out darkness. Do not leave the work for someone else; for someone who is “cut out” for this kind of ministry. Trust me, no one is cut out for it. Fortunately, you have a Christ who is. He is able to strengthen your weak knees to compassionately walk next to a women whose child is being led away to death. He is able to sustain a Speak for the Unborn ministry in your church. He is able to give you creative ways to serve abortion-minded women in your city. But never again can you say, “behold, we did not know this” (Proverbs 24:11). Passivity is not an option when children are stumbling to the slaughter next door.
Previously, we highlighted how abortion was the scarlet letter of our day. We fully believe that Jesus extends love and forgiveness to those who have had an abortion. We are also convinced that Jesus can forgive the abortionists who were in the recent viral videos about Planned Parenthood. These beliefs, however, should not keep us from praying that Planned Parenthood shuts down. In light of the recent videos, I have an unspoken topic that needs to be addressed. I believe Christians should speak up for the unborn and leave the Democratic Party. I know that there will be some who read that last statement and frown because I’m getting involved with politics. I request that those who feel uncomfortable hear me out.
I am not saying: it has always been a sin to vote democrat. I’m also not saying that Republican equals Christian or the GOP is saintly, blameless, or even… worthy of praise. I am not saying that Republicans get everything right and the Democrats get everything wrong. No.
I am saying: the current Democratic Party should not get a Christian’s vote. Only the politicians who believe in life, liberty and the pursuit of existence for all people should get the Christian vote. This transcends politics. Life and death are hanging in the balance at the voting booth. The official stance of the Democratic Party is pro-abortion. Their website states: “The Democratic Party strongly and unequivocally supports Roe v. Wade and a woman’s right to make decisions regarding her pregnancy, including a safe and legal abortion, regardless of ability to pay. We oppose any and all efforts to weaken or undermine that right.” (Emphasis Mine)
You can verify this for yourself, but sadly I doubt that is necessary. We need only ask the following questions about the 2016 election:
1) Has a single democratic candidate spoken out against the butchering at the hands of Planned Parenthood? I can’t name one.
2) Have the democratic candidates supported Planned Parenthood favorably in the past? A resounding yes. In fact, several have come out in defense of Planned Parenthood since the viral videos. Hillary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi are being true to their party which firmly asserts “We oppose any and all efforts” against abortion. Remaining silent in the midst of this evil and injustice is a sin (Ezekiel 33, Proverbs 24:11-12). What’s more, it is a high handed sin to endorse such evil practices. Romans 1:28-32 states:
They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.
It is not only a sin to murder, it is a sin to give approval of those who murder. And endorsement is exactly what takes place when you vote democrat. To say that you are against abortion and then actively vote democrat is a contradiction. Follow the “logic”:
I am not a racist, but give money to the KKK.
I am against domestic abuse, but don’t report it when I see my neighbor beating up his wife.
I live in Germany in 1944 and every day I walk by Auschwitz, look in the windows, and then go home to have dessert with my family.
Do these scenarios sound outrageous? They should. The abortions that are facilitated by Planned Parenthood poses a similar conundrum for the Christian Democrat. I would be a hypocrite if I said the following:
I am against abortion, but I vote for a political party that supports an organization that has killed millions of infants.
If this bullet point seems different than the previous three, you have been blinded and calloused by the ideals and ethics of our culture. You may be assuming that I am advocating “single-issue voting” at this point. In part, I am. But let me be clear, We shouldn’t cast our lot with any politician just because he is pro-life. Yet we must agree that pro-life is a requirement for our vote. If we could have voted in the womb, this would have been our fundamental requirement. We live in a fallen world and will not always be able to agree with every candidate’s beliefs. It is not wrong to vote for an imperfect politician, however, it is immoral to vote for someone who supports the slaughter of the innocent. Perhaps you have voted democrat your entire life. I would ask you to consider that a blessing because of the solitary fact that you have a life in which you can vote. I cannot say the same for millions of others whose lives have been snuffed out because of what the Democratic Party supports.
I am not trying to be a party pooper, but some things always ruin a party. “Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater” does not work when babies are being drowned. The Democratic Party may have some merits, but those merits are drowned out because they “strongly and unequivocally support” baby genocide. For the sake of our lives and for the sake of countless others, let’s leave behind the party that seduces us to think it’s okay to remain silent and chomp on our salads while heads are being severed. We don’t want to drink the kind of wine that the “doctors” at Planned Parenthood have to offer. Christians cannot support abortion in any way, shape, or form. In fact, we must do the opposite. We must do everything we can to stand up for the genocide that is taking place. Here are some starters:
We should not endorse politicians who remain silent when it comes to slaughtering children. Many politicians, including our current president, are deathly silent in response to the recent videos – and I mean deathly silent. Nine hundred babies are dismembered each day our politicians do nothing about Planned Parenthood. And those numbers are just from the Planned Parenthood facilities.
Speak against these issues and point out logical inconsistencies. Speak loud with lungs full of truth in love. What do we have to lose? Certainly not our lives. But babies’ lives are being lost every day as we dodge this topic because of political issues. Our president is right; we do need to “put our politics aside.” But not in the way he hypocritically suggests. We need to put politics aside and actually talk about the evils of abortion. Our country needs moral clarity. Call, write, email, and tweet to your congressmen and women.
I want to encourage you to share these videos. Speak up on social media using #defundplannedparenthood, #defundPP, and #PPsellsbabyparts.More videos will be released each week. If you have not done so already, please watch and share them. Fill up your feed. Let your favorite social media outlet become the voice of the unborn.
Most importantly, we need not only talk about these things, but we need to take action. This includes voting. It includes going down to your local abortion clinic to offer sidewalk counseling or peaceful protesting. I want to specifically encourage you to take a look at Speak for the Unborn ministries and see how you can get involved.
If you are a pastor, I want to encourage you to consider bringing these matters before your congregation and even partnering with likeminded churches in the area. Perhaps you can select a day when your church will participate in sidewalk counseling together with other churches in your city.
Fast and Pray. These are weighty matters and the God of heaven deserves to be praised by every human voice. Each child is precious to God because he created them in the womb (Psalm 139). Our God is in the heavens and he does whatever he pleases (Psalm 115:3). Let us seek his face and ask for him to turn hearts away from destruction and towards life (Proverbs 21:1).
Conclusion: We can’t merely agree in our hearts that abortion is wrong. Jesus can forgive every person who has aborted a child and every abortion “doctor” who has murdered one. But there has never been a better time to ask Jesus for forgiveness about our silence, our votes, and to begin encouraging others to speak up for those who cannot.
Rescue those who are being taken away to death; hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter. If you say, ‘Behold, we did not know this,’ does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it, and will he not repay man according to his work? (Proverbs 24:11-12)
I am twenty-four years old and I believe in the gospel of Jesus Christ.
I feel the burden to write this now, because some of my peers might assume that anyone opposed to same-sex marriage has already had their mid-life crisis. It is now assumed that anyone who believes homosexuality is immoral is narrow-minded, old timey, unloving, and desperately clinging to ideologies that only worked when the world was flat.
I don’t claim to be cool, but I want you to know that I am not a white pudgy middle-aged man who hikes his khaki pants up to his belly button. I am twenty-four years old, wear Chacos and typing on a Mac. My best friend, Spencer, has black framed glasses and listens to rap music.
You need to know that I am twenty-four and believe that the message of Jesus Christ is good news for the poor.
I believe Jesus is the Son of God and was crucified on a bloody tree in order to marry someone. Jesus has a bride and that bride is anyone who believes that Jesus resurrected from the dead and claim him as the authority over their life and doctrine.
I want you to know that I am not ashamed of this gospel because it has changed my life.
I was in middle school when I hated church and only wanted to fulfill my lustful desires. It was then that I encountered the scriptures and my heart was struck to the core in an incredible way. Here is the headline of my life: I died and Jesus raised me to life and became my everything. I discovered God and yearned to understand his precious Word.
When I believed in Jesus, I became his bride and one day I will see him face to face and experience unhindered joy at his wedding banquet. Jesus loved the unlovable (me) and Jesus now defines my world. His gospel means that I am married to him and he is coming back again to get me. I am not ashamed of this gospel.
It is because of this gospel – and only this gospel – that I believe marriage is between one man and one woman. Jesus defines the terms for the world and Jesus designed marriage to reflect his glory. The gospel is about marriage and marriage is about the gospel.
The apostle Paul says that a wife submitting to her husband represents the church submitting to the Lordship of Christ (Eph 5:22-33). When a husband lays down his selfish ambition for his wife, this is a picture of Jesus sacrificing for his bride the church. When we think of marriage, we should think of sacrificial love and submission to the truth of Christ. Homosexuality and so-called gay marriage is contrary to the gospel preached in Ephesians 5. It distorts the true picture of love God that intends to display.
I am not on a crusade to smash anyone over the head with politics or a self-righteous agenda. I don’t have a hammer to beat anyone because my heart has been broken by the Word of Christ. I want the world to know that Jesus died to save sinners and that includes me and anyone who is a part of the LGBT community.
I am not ashamed of this gospel because it is the power of God unto salvation for everyone who believes. I don’t believe these things because I’m from the South, was raised by Christians, or watch Fox News.
I believe the gospel and all it’s implications because the God of the universe cracked open my hard-hearted soul and gave me faith.
It is my prayer that you will join me in believing this gospel and be unashamed of it. It is my hope that you will extend your arms to your neighbors who are struggling with same-sex attraction and love them like they have never been loved before – with grace and truth.
I am twenty-four and unashamed of this gospel (Rom 1:16). How about you?
Can the Bible truly address life’s most complex issues?
I am convinced it can and I believe biblical counseling is the vehicle God uses to minister to broken people. Counseling from the Bible is simply a specific avenue of discipleship and the great commission.
There are some who are skeptical of biblical counseling because it seems too simplistic. Maybe you resonate with the following concern: biblical counseling seems to repackage all their solutions into a simplistic two step formula – repent and believe.
Perhaps this is how you think about biblical counseling:
“Are you struggling with anorexia? Repent and believe.
Are you struggling with depression? Repent and believe.
Anger? One more time.
Repent and believe.”
I actually think this caricature of biblical counseling is too simplistic. It does not offer a full picture of faithful counseling. I would be concerned if this was all of the biblical counseling I received!
Biblical counseling is more than telling people to pray, read their Bible, and trust in Jesus. But it is nothing less than this. Biblical counseling is both simple and complex. In a very real way, discipleship is taking the two categories of “believe” and “repent” and seeking to apply them in all the right and varied ways. Does this bother you? It doesn’t have to.
Simplicity vs. Sloppiness
I think one of the reasons simplicity is a turn off is because it gets confused with sloppiness. Simple and sloppy are not the same thing.
If we aren’t careful and caring, lazy counseling has the potential to feel like offering a bandaid to someone who has fractured their femur. Biblical counselors must be “sophisticated” in their ability to listen, diagnose, and administer the Bible.
Our society may call this “sophistication”, but the book of Proverbs calls it wisdom. No matter what you label it, biblical counseling requires seasoned skill, scriptural knowledge, and Spirit-infused intuition.
An infinite God can be studied for one thousand lifetimes and yet never be fully known. And yet, a young child can truly have a relationship with the God of the universe. The Bible is simple in it’s message and yet complex in it’s application. (Matthew 3:2; Romans 12:2)
Is Simplicity Shameful?
I want to emphasize that simplicity is not inherently negative in counseling. In reality, simplicity indicates clarity. This is a wonderful blessing from the Bible.
The biblical counselor shouldn’t be ashamed of the truth that the gospel is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes. (Romans 1:16) In our quest to be sophisticated we should not seek to be accepted by the world and sound like a psychology textbook. Jesus’ mission was not to impress the elite and educated. The solutions to problems of “life and godliness” can (and should) be boiled down to issues of faith and repentance. (2 Peter 2:1-3) There are nuances to be said and complex problems to be examined, but at the end of the day we must counsel faith and repentance. This wasn’t too narrow-minded for Paul who determined to know nothing other than Jesus Christ crucified. (1 Corinthians 2:2)
Simple Means Solutions
As biblical counselors, we can take heart in the simple message of the kingdom. We don’t have to go anywhere else except the Scriptures for wisdom in counseling. In reality, we can’t go anywhere else.
Our counselees don’t have to despair trying to find some secret knowledge that a psychiatrist possesses. They don’t have to wander around for years needing weekly therapy. They can be assured that change is possible and a real solution is within their grasp.
When we counsel from the Bible, we can actually be guaranteed to accomplish the will of God. We can be sure that his word will accomplish everything God intends for it to do. The mission cannot fail because all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to the Risen Counselor. (Matthew 28:18-19)
Let us spend our lives learning how to call people to repent and believe the gospel in a wise and timely manner. We should agree with the disciples of Christ: where else can we go? Jesus has the words of eternal life. (John 6:68)
For more information on the medical components of counseling, there are several videos on the counseling and medication from ACBC.
A playful smirk can be hard to shirk – no matter who it comes from. A “harmless” smile from a handsome guy can often be memorable – regardless of whether he is a believer or not.
In your last letter you mentioned to me a romantic interest who is becoming hard to resist in your mind. All the right factors seem to be in place – cute charm, dreamy looks, social suave, a pleasant appeal and even conservative convictions. The only thing missing is… Jesus.
They don’t necessarily oppose Jesus, he just isn’t present. There is not a hostility towards God, the Bible, church, or even moral living. It just is not something they talk about much or “get into.”
There even seems to be a remaining shell of religion from times past. Perhaps dating a Christian is just what they need? They are so close to the truth and they love so many good things the Bible supports, surely they would be compelled to follow Christ fully if they were enticed by a godly companion.
I am glad you are wanting to reach out with the gospel, but I am not convinced this is the way to go about evangelizing. I don’t think the way to share Christ is through candle lit dinners and gushy love notes. The way of the great commission isn’t “flirt to convert.” Dating an unbeliever is actually one of the most unloving acts we can do towards them. I believe there is a better way to display the love of Christ and serve the lost.
Here are three truths I would like for you to consider:
True love is soul deep.
What do you find romantically attractive in someone who is not a believer? It would be unbiblical and frankly ridiculous if I were to say that all unbelievers are repulsive. Every human is made in the image of God and bears his beautiful thumbprint. Unbelievers can be kind, generous, endearing, and attractive. This is not the issue. The issue is: do you understand true love? If the Scripture is true that God is love, then how can someone truly understand love apart from knowing Christ intimately? (1 John 4:8)
Take a good look at them. What makes them tick? What consumes them? Is it a red-hot love for Christ and his Scripture? Do the pages of the Bible leap out to them with joy and delight? Are they moved to tears by the mercy and wonder of God?
Do you catch them washing the feet of those who can never repay them this side of heaven? Do you find them praying for you and have you seen God answer their prayers? Are they willing to be spit-upon and laughed at for the sake of the cross? Are they willing to stand for the oppressed even when it is not popular? Has the glory of God set their heart ablaze with passion to see Christ reign over every human heart?
True love is soul deep. You want the kind of love that still stirs at old wrinkles. You want to clasp hands in the nursing home with a committed believer who has lived vigorously for the glory of God. An unbeliever doesn’t have what it takes to keep cultivating long term attraction to their wrinkles. Charm is deceitful, and beauty is fleeting, but a man or woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
Dating isn’t the place for darkness.
God is the author of romance and to be in a romantic relationship is to involved in how God created this world. God is the fiercest lover of all and his love is the purest we can possible imagine. Romance is one of the most intimate pursuits we can know as humans. Since it is so deeply personal and life altering, there should be no room for darkness in our dating life. What do light and darkness have in common? Nothing. Light is designed to put away darkness. (2 Corinthians 6:14)
We are called to be lights to the world, but we are not called to let darkness into our lives – particularly in the areas in which we covenant together. To date an unbeliever is to invite darkness into a room in which only light is meant to dwell.
It is one thing to share a meal with an unbelieving friend, but it is a completely different matter to contemplate swapping vows of marriage together. The believer has nothing in common with the unbeliever regarding the most important reality in the universe. Dating an unbeliever brings shadows and dimness where there should be brightness and clarity. This leads to the final point to consider.
Romance isn’t offensive
Flirting to convert ultimately fails because it is not offensive enough. The Apostle Paul says the cross is offensive (1 Corinthians 1:18-25). The cross is gruesome because it calls the world to forsake all and treasure God first and foremost. The cross requires repentance on our part – this is offensive to our selfish desires.
But Holding hands is not hideous. Red roses are not repulsive. Whispering “sweet nothings” is not offensive.
Dating an unbeliever is actually one of the most unloving acts we can do towards them. It is actually the opposite of evangelism. It says, I value you more than I value what Christ says. It brings confusion where there should be a clear call to repentance. I am not saying that God cannot use romance to bring about the salvation of a soul. Our God is in the heaven and he does whatever he pleases (Psalm 115:3). But for every person who is saved through an intentional dating relationship, it is in spite of it and not because of it.
Evangelistic dating is dangerous because it can exalt the gift over the Giver. Who wouldn’t want to convert in order to marry the person they are crazy about? Who wouldn’t want to say “yes” to Jesus in order for their significant other to say “yes” to them?
God doesn’t want to be a carrot on a stick. He wants people to come and die at his feet in order to find life. (Luke 14:26)
What should you do if you are in a relationship with an unbeliever?
I highly recommend seeking advice from your local church in how to best end the relationship. The call of the hour is to speak the truth in love to the one you care about (Ephesians 4:15). The call of repentance must be clear and you must not be the prize if they turn from sin. You will need to spend time explaining the gospel and pointing out the deep chasm of worldviews between the two of you. They need to know how different you think on the most important issues in life and why it is a deal breaker. Ending a relationship does not mean ending a friendship, but it does mean ending all romance. It will serve them best to point them to Christ instead of continuing to kindle feelings for each other.
Who knows? This obedience to God may be the means Christ uses to revolutionize their life for the gospel. If so, praise God and don’t immediately move back into the romantic relationship. Growth requires time and baby trees need more than one night to bear fruit.
That is all I can write for now, I look forward to hearing more from you soon.
The content for this post has been updated and expanded in Letters to a Romantic: On Dating which will be released in 2017 by P&R Publishing.