The Bible is Practical

pexels-photo-186570
By Sean Perron

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?

This post was originally posted on The Association of Certified Biblical Counselors blog. 

Young Romantic: Complement One Another

by Sean Perron
by Sean Perron

Dear Young Romantic,

On a personal note, I don’t need to remind you that there is very little reason for my wife to be thrilled about me. I’m not all that and a bag of chips. Yet to my wife, my smallest accomplishments earn the same applause as if I was awarded a nobel peace prize. If I fix a bolt on an old piece of furniture, I’m MacGyver. If I make a layup on the court while competing against the 9 year olds we babysit, I’m Michael Jordan. If I demolish a wasp nest, I surpass Tom Cruise. She bubbles over with enthusiasm for whatever my hand finds to do.

But she is more than a cheerleader. She is an essential part of my life and ministry. Jenny is my sister in Christ just as much as she is my wife. There have been many wonderful times when her gentle rebuke has set me back on course. I can’t tell you how many times she has encouraged me in the faith and held up my weary hands.

And if that wasn’t enough, she blossoms beautifully in submission. If I tell Jenny we are going to move to another state and start a ministry from the ground up, she will be in-it-to-win-it. She will have questions, she will want to know what our pastors think, but she will submit to my leadership. She is a helper extraordinaire.

Why do I say all this? Because my wife rejoices in her God given role as my wife. She is not oppressed. Jenny loves being a woman. She is thrilled to be a helpmate. She is humble, submissive, gentle, compassionate, and lives in obedience to God. The reason she thinks I’m awesome is not because I am. She thinks I’m the best husband in the world because she is the best wife in the world. If you looking for me to explain this in theological terms, my wife is a complementarian to the core and she couldn’t be happier.

Mansions to Decorate

God has given men and women different roles in marriage. We are both equal and beautiful in God’s image and yet we have different functions. The man is called to lead, guide, and protect his wife. The woman is called the honor, submit, and follow her husband.

The roles God designed for us are not prisons to escape from, but mansions to decorate. God’s roles for men and women are not putrid veggies to swallow; they are the choicest meats to feast upon. God created us to flourish and thrive in the gender role he sovereignly bestowed upon us.

The husband is not to be a dictator or tyrant. Men are called to be like Jesus – and Jesus is a shepherd (Psalm 23:1). Shepherds don’t beat their sheep. They protect them from wolves and clean them from the thistles. Shepherds care for their flocks and lead them beside still waters. Husbands are to wash their wives through the water of the Word and pursue them with goodness and mercy all the days of their life (Ephesians 5:26).  

Biblical headship is a weighty responsibility. In Ephesians 5:25, a husband is called to love like Christ. This tall order should cause husbands to humbly tremble before the holy God of the gospel. Husbands are called to lay down their lives, their preferences, their wishes, and their selfish ambitions for their bride. Jesus lived out this love and proved John 15:13 true. “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”

How can this look practically?

A husband and wife will discuss and dialogue about all kinds of decisions during a typical week. Most of the decisions we make on a daily basis are preference choices. In these types of choices, Christians are called to consider others above themselves (Philippians 2:3). If your spouse wants to eat at home this week, why not? If they want to watch a movie instead of read a book, why not? If they want to take the interstate instead of the back roads, why not? Our preferences are not the precepts of the Lord. The goal is to outdo one another in kindness. Love leads with sacrifice and this produces a joyful home.

There are also significant decisions that shape the course of a family such as jobs, churches, family crisis, etc. The husband is to lead by listening. It is important for the husband to truly understand his wife and consider any disagreements she may have. The channels of conversation and prayer must be open and cleared of any sin. “Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.” (1 Peter 3:7)

After all the issues are lovingly addressed, the husband has the final call in the matter. The wife is called to submit to the leadership of her husband and trust that God has given him the authority and wisdom of the home. “Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.” (Ephesians 5:24)

Biblical submission is a relieving reality for a wife. A wife must believe that God has given her husband authority to lead the home and she can submit to him. She can experience relief and safety as she submits in faith. The pressure is off. This is a mysterious experience that causes the world to gasp and look at the glorious picture of Christ and his bride.  

Being a complementarian couple affects everything you do in life. When Jenny and I were engaged, our counselors wisely encouraged us to go ahead and determine which of us would typically be responsible for everyday life tasks. Who is going to do the dishes in the home? Who is going to take out the trash? Who is going to cut the yard? Who is going to catalogue the finances? Who is going to make dinner?  

A husband and wife are each other’s highest compliment, but don’t wait until marriage to begin cultivating these characteristics. Learn to lead and submit in the season of engagement.

Future husbands, gently protect your future bride from all the unnecessary demands and expectations placed on her during this busy season. Give up any silly preferences you have for the wedding and honeymoon. Seek to serve and don’t be detached from the planning. Leaders are engaged and selfless. Ask yourself, where can you tenderly lead?

Future wives, humbly allow your groom to take the lead in decision making. Voice your opinions in a way that respects him and speaks the truth in love. Trust his judgement and free yourself from the pressure of making the final call. Ask yourself, where can you lovingly submit?

My wife was complementarian before we got married. She was blooming beautifully then and is flourishing now. I can’t get enough of her. It is my prayer, as a couple, your headship and submission would stir your affections for each other and attract people to the God of this glorious gospel.

Are you ready to rejoice in your gender for God’s glory? Do you complement each other?

The content for this post has been expanded into Letters to a Romantic: On Engagement which will be released in 2017 by P&R Publishing. 

Severed Heads, Silence, and Selecting a Political Candidate

by Sean Perron
by Sean Perron

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:

  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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)

First Video: Salads, Wine, and Baby Parts

Second Video: “I want a Lamborghini” 

I am Twenty-Four and Unashamed

by Sean Perron
by Sean Perron

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?

For resources on counseling and homosexuality, listen to the Truth In Love podcast and check out the upcoming ACBC annual conference

Counseling the Words of Christ: Where Else Can We Go

by Sean Perron
by Sean Perron

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.
  • Fear? Repeat.
  • Anxiety? Again.
  • 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. 

Whether You Eat, Drink, or Decline a Date…

by Sean Perron
by Sean Perron

 

Girls can be placed in an awkward position when they are asked out.

How should a girl turn down a guy? Can a woman serve her brother in Christ who goes out on a limb to ask her out on a date? The apostle Paul tells us that whether we eat or drink, we should do everything to the glory of God. This does not exclude the moment when a girl is faced with the decision to say no to a pursuer. Thankfully, there is a biblical way to turn a guy down for the glory of God. Christ can help us even in the most uncomfortable of moments.

 

Compassion: Decline as you would want to be declined

 

One biblical truth to apply to this situation is “love your neighbor as yourself.”

I believe it is the biblical role of the man to pursue the woman. Women should not be asking out guys on dates. Ladies, if a guy doesn’t have the courage to ask you out in person, he is not worth your time. But reverse the roles in your head for just a moment and ask: “how would I want to be rejected?”

If you were nervous and your voice was cracking in the moment you asked out the person of your dreams, how would you want to be turned down? Graciously? Harshly? Flippantly?

If you are in the position to be asked out, it is likely because the guy found you attractive and enjoyable to be around. This is an honor! With the power of Christ, you can reject a romantic offer in a way that is gracious, kind, and shows that you are truly flattered that he would ask you on a date.

Declining a date doesn’t have to involve only pain. It can also be an opportunity to build one another up. There is a way to build up your brother when you decline his date. Even if he totally caught you off guard when asking you out, let him know that you appreciate the offer and are thankful for him.

 

Clear Intentions and a Concise Response

 

Many girls feel badly they are saying “no” to a guy. In order to lessen the blow, they will often leave the door open for the future. I know of some very kind girls who unintentionally offered hope that romance might be kindled in the future even though they had zero interest in a future relationship.

Even though it is hard, it is loving to seal the door shut if you are not interested in the guy romantically. When declining a romantic relationship, it is important to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:25-29).

If you are really not interested, then do not give a hint of a future possibility. Be clear with your intentions state that friendship is the only thing you are interested in. If you are tempted to keep talking in order to break the awkwardness of the moment, talk about something else besides romance. God is kind to give us wisdom and grace to be slow to speak.

Being clear and concise is like ripping a band-aid off quickly – it may hurt but it is only for a few seconds and doesn’t leave any gooey residue. You don’t want to an awkward saga that drags on for weeks when it could have been handled in a few seconds.

 

Ask for grace from God to be honest in your communication. It is important not to hide behind an excuse that really isn’t truthful.

 

  • “It is not God’s will for me right now” – While this statement may have good intentions, it actually places the blame on God and dodges ownership. It is more helpful to be upfront and say that you are not interested in romance and friendship is the only option on the table.
  • “It is not the right time” – Only say this if you want to be asked out again next month by the same guy. It would be more helpful to say that you are grateful but it is not going to work out.
  • “I’m not ready to date anyone yet” – If this is true, then it is good to be humble and admit this. However, this can also leave a kernel of hope for the guy to nurse on for the next several months. If you truly are not ready to date yet and also happen to know that you would never date the guy who asked you out, you should be upfront and not use this as an alibi. It is better to tell him you are not interested in a relationship with him.

 

What if they ask for a reason?

 

This is inevitably going to happen: A guys asks you out and catches you a little off-guard. You agree with everything I just said above and try to say something that is compassionate, clear and concise.

You say: “I am thankful for your offer. That is very kind that you would ask me. I am going to say no, but I am thankful for you as my brother.”

There is an awkward silence and then the guy asks for a reason. He wants to know why you are turning him down. What should you do?

There is a time to speak and there is a time not to speak. It depends upon what would be most loving to tell him and what would serve him long term.

 

Depending upon the situation and the nature of the friendship, we can image a scenario when it is loving to explain why you are not interested. Perhaps he is immature in a particular area spiritually and could really benefit from hearing a compassionate reason why you are not interested in him romantically. You will need to exercise wisdom before responding. Does the guy have a soft heart and ears to hear? Would he benefit from knowing about a particular area so that he can grow and be helped? If so, this may require an extra measure of boldness, but you can treat him as your brother in Christ.

Let’s say the issue is that he is undisciplined and doesn’t manage his time well. If he is asking for clarification, you could say something like: “I am honored you would ask me out, but I have actually noticed there is a particular area in your life that gives me pause. I have noticed that you devote a lot of time to recreation and I wonder if you are neglecting responsibilities at work or in your spiritual life. From my perspective, this is an area that needs attention before a relationship can be considered. I say this not as a superior, but as your sister in Christ. You should also know that I am not sharing this reason with others, but only tell you this because you asked for clarification.”

There are other times when it would simply be more loving to remain clear and concise without offering the specific reason.

One example might be:  If you think he is ugly, then you don’t need to share that information with him. It would be obviously unloving to say, “Well I just think you look like the hunchback of Notre-dame.” Instead, you can stand your ground and simple say,  “Thank you again for asking, but I am not interested in a romantic relationship together. I am thankful to be your friend, but that is all that is available.”  If you shower him with kindness and repeat yourself again, it is likely he will get the point and conclude that it is best for him not to know the reason.

 

Conclusion:  

No one wants to be turned down, but everyone wants to be treated with compassion and truthfulness. If you are going to turn a guy down, God will give you grace to do so in a way that glorifies Christ. Ask the Lord for help during those uncomfortable moments and seek to honor your brother. They will appreciate your kindness and value you all the more as their sister in Christ. Whether you eat, or drink, or decline a date – do it all to the glory of God. (1 Corinthians 10:31)

 

The content for this post has been expanded into Letters to a Romantic: On Engagement which will be released in 2017 by P&R Publishing. 

Can I Flirt to Convert?

by Sean Perron
by Sean Perron

 

Dear Young Romantic,

 

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.

 

Until then,

Sean

 

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. 

 

 

Christian Giants and the Church of Galatia

I went up because of a revelation and set before them (though privately before those who seemed influential) the gospel that I proclaim among the Gentiles, in order to make sure I was not running or had not run in vain. (Galatians 2:2)

The Christian culture we live in has superstars. You know who I am talking about. There are almost too many to count. These are the famous pastors, circuit conference speakers, the prolific authors, the big names with the big followings. If you and I are really honest, we have our personal crushes. We have a couple of these supernovas picked out and we like to gaze at them from time to time.

 

There is nothing new under the sun and that includes Christian superstars. The Apostle Paul mentions the original religious rockstars in the book of Galatians. In Galatians 2:2, he says the Apostles “seemed to be influential.” In 2:6, he repeats this phrase a second and third time. In fact, Paul calls them “Pillars” of the faith in 2:9. Back in the day, the Apostles were the real Christian celebrities. They were not only famous, they had authority endowed from God to speak to the church. Paul in Ephesians 2:2 says that the church was built of the foundation of the Apostles and prophets. These guys were famous, influential, titanic pillars for the kingdom of Christ. They walked with Jesus and learned directly from the Son of God. John Piper, Billy Graham and Matt Chandler have nothing on these guys.

 

How should we think about contemporary public power-house Christians? Is there an appropriate way to admire these Christian superstars without making them idols? We should think about Christians Celebrities in the same way Paul thought about Christian giants in the book of Galatians. We should not esteem them too highly or too lowly.

 

Don’t Esteem Them too Highly

Paul recognized that the original twelve Apostles were significant and important. Yet Paul did not let this cloud his clarity or his convictions. Paul held all the Apostles under the microscope of the gospel. In Galatians 1:8, Paul says “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.” Paul was so committed to the words of Christ, that nothing could deter him – not even angelic beings. If Peter, James or John had changed their minds ever so slightly about a biblical truth, their teaching would have been out of line. The words and work of Christ kept the Apostles in check. The Bible should dictate our convictions, not Christian celebrities. Paul grounds all his authority in the words of God. The words and work of Christ are immovable.

 

If a Christian celebrity deters from the Scripture, then he should not be followed. We are only to follow Christian celebrities as they follow Christ. We should imitate Christian supernovas only as they reflect the glory of God. We should gaze in wonder only as they submit their lives humbly the the authoritative word of God.

 

The sufficiency of Scripture should be our lens through which we view Christian figures. The Scriptures are the only certain rule of faith and obedience. Paul was not afraid to confront the “pillars” of the faith. In fact, he says in Galatians 2:11 that he opposed Peter to his face because he stood condemned. Out of a love for Peter and the truth, Paul held Peter accountable to the Scripture.

 

This is immensely important to us today because it shows that even the most iconic Christians are still sinners. We must be careful not to esteem the “pillars” so highly that we are blind to their cracks. If the foundational men of the New Testament had chips and cracks, we should never expect today’s celebrities to be infallible. Megachurch pastors sometimes need to be rebuked in love. Presidents of major evangelical institutions are capable of horrific sin. We do a disservice to the spiritual superstars of our day we when place them on a high pedestal. If we place unrealistic expectations upon Christian leaders, then we will get burned when our supernovas become falling stars.

 

We cannot follow any Christian leader blindly. We must examine all teachings in light of the Scripture and we must remember that all have fallen short of the glory of God. We should not believe something just because “so-and-so” believes it. Instead, we must tether everything to the Scripture and follow leaders as they follow Christ.

 

Don’t Esteem Them too Lowly

Galatians 2:1-12 is a fascinating passage to examine because Paul is very particular in how he views the Apostles. He is writing to defend his Apostolic authority against a group of Jews who taught that circumcision was essential for the Christian life. In one breath, Paul comments on the Apostles and says “what they were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality.” In another breath, Paul says the Apostles “who seemed to be pillars… gave the right hand of fellowship to Barnabas and me.” Paul used the confirmation from the Peter, James and others to defend both his ministry and his gospel. Paul did not dismiss the teachings of the Apostles because they “seemed to be influential.” He was more than happy to receive their commendation in the gospel and use their affirmation it to endorse his ministry. What the Apostles said was not final, but it did matter. He did not esteem their significance too lowly.

 

When an influential Christian speaks, we should listen. If someone had a fruitful ministry for 30 years, we would be wise to give them our ears. If someone has been married for 40+ years, we ought to pay attention to what they say. We prove ourselves to be fools if we reject the counsel and teaching of someone just because they are famous. Fame does not equal sin. We should not be ashamed to sit at the feet of key leaders who have spent years in the Scriptures and follow them as they follow Christ. If someone is reflecting Christ in a stellar way, it is a good thing to imitate them. Supernovas are usually bright for a reason.

 

Fruit of the Spirit Never Fails

One final word of caution from the book of Galatians on the topic of Christian Celebrities. We should desire to produce fruit of the Spirit more than we desire to become influential. It can be very tempting to want to be like our Christian heroes in every way. We may deceive ourselves into thinking that a successful ministry means being simulcast into five buildings and flying across the country five times a month. Instead, we ought to make it our goal in life to be faithful fruit bearers.

 

I know of Christian supernovas who have soared high in the sky but exploded upon everyone along the way. There are leaders in evangelicalism who are one thing on camera and another thing at home. There are megachurch pastors who are unqualified for ministry according to 1 Timothy 3. There are countless Christian leaders who have failed millions, but bearing fruit of the Spirit has never failed anyone. Paul says the fruit of the Spirit is “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:23)

 

Every star eventually burns out – even the Christian ones. Fame is fleeting, but the word of God endures forever. We need to be men and women who are bearing fruit of the Spirit that lasts into eternity. Spend your days drawing near to the God of the Bible and becoming a bountiful tree that bears fruit in secret and in every season.

This article was originally published in the September 2014 Issues of The Seminarian. You can view the article here

Dear Young Engaged Man: Don’t Swallow The Pill

by Sean Perron
by Sean Perron

 

Dear Young Engaged Man,

 

As your marriage approaches, it is completely appropriate for you to begin seeking counsel about contraceptives. I am thankful for your commitment to avoid abortion and your question about which contraceptives truly protect life.

As you know, God alone is the giver and taker of human life (1 Samuel 2:6). Scripture clearly teaches that life begins before birth. In the book of Psalms, David recognized that his personhood began at the moment of conception. Biblical texts include verses like Psalm 51:5, Psalm 139, Genesis 25:22, and Luke 1:41. The Bible teaches that life begins at the moment of conception.

 

In God’s eyes, a blastocyst is just as human as a seventy year old man. Therefore, when a person considers birth control, it is imperative that they do not use methods which destroy life after the woman’s egg has been fertilized.

Following up on that discussion, I wanted to be sure to write to you about my findings regarding “The Pill”. The Pill was one of the main drives of the sexual revolution back in the days of volkswagens and large tie-dye shirts. Baby-free sex became a possibility for women and the popularity of the Pill even surpassed that of Lava Lamps. Society has not been the same since.

 

Presently, over 100 million women are on the Birth Control Pill. Many women take the Pill for purely medical reasons and are not sexually active. Certainly this is more than fine. No complaints here.

But there is a powerful misconception about this “contraceptive.” It is prescribed by both Christian and non-Christian doctors as an ethically legitimate way to keep from having children. In these situations, it is not women seeking help for medical treatment, but women seeking to prevent pregnancy.

 

The Pill is a very effective means of pregnancy prevention. It is rather rare that someone becomes pregnant while on the Pill. Statistics range from 1%-4.7% of women who become pregnant even though they consistently and accurately used the Pill. While this seems like a successful method to the Pill’s manufacturers, this statistic is a startling and horrifying fact. 

Many people, including sincere pro-life Christians, are unaware that the Pill uses three types of birth control mechanisms. The Physicians Desk Reference explains the different functions of the Pill which can be found in this more detailed article.

 

Medical jargon aside, the Pill does three things:

  1. Prevents eggs from being released and thereby prevents fertilization
  2. Increases mucus which does not permit the sperm and egg to unite
  3. Thins the lining of the uterus which can prevent a fertilized egg from living

 

The first two mechanisms of the Pill are contraceptive. If this was all that the Pill accomplished, then there would be no moral controversy. However, the third mechanism of the Pill is abortive in its function. The third function of the Pill is to weaken the uterine wall and reduce the chances of an already fertilized egg (human life) from implanting on the wall. If the fertilized egg cannot implant, it will die.

 

I would most definitely affirm the Pill if it was only a contraceptive. A contraceptive prevents the sperm and the egg from uniting. An abortifacient kills the fertilized egg after it is already conceived. This is literally a life and death difference. God is explicit that murder is not morally permissible (Exodus 20:13).

 

In light of this evidence, the question must be asked “How often do the first two mechanisms fail and the third succeed?”

To answer this question we must know that every year 420,000 babies are born despite their mothers taking the Pill. In order for someone to become pregnant while on the Pill, it means that all three mechanisms of birth prevention have failed. The troubling reality is that we do not know how many times the first two contraceptive mechanisms failed and the third abortive mechanism worked. We simply do not know how many times the third mechanism snuffs out lives.

 

Randy Alcorn asks the question, “How many children failed to implant in that inhospitable environment who would have implanted in a nurturing environment unhindered by the Pill?” (Does the Birth Control Pill Cause Abortions?).  He then postulates that if the number of deaths was twice the number of Babies born then there would be 840,000 deaths a year because of the Pill.

But what if there were only 100,000 deaths a year due to the third mechanism of the Pill? Or what if there were only 10 deaths a year? Would this be morally justifiable?

A husband and wife cannot play Russian Roulette with a child’s life every time they have sex.

 

I realize you may be hearing this information for the first time. I don’t write these things to condemn or burden you. I want to encourage you to begin researching the things discussed in this blog post. Begin researching and discuss this with your mentors in your local church. 

I know you are passionate about the Sanctity of Life and I am confident you and your bride will strive to be consistently pro-life in your marriage. Lives are at stake and we cannot sacrifice them for sexual leisure.  People will think you are crazy, but please don’t drink the kool-aid by swallowing the Pill.

Believers must strive to glorify the Lord in every area of life. This includes even our most personal and intimate matters. Nothing is off limits to God.

We have received forgiveness at the great cost of Calvary. We been bought with a price; therefore let us glorify God in our bodies. (1 Corinthians 6:20)

 

Until then,

Sean

 

 

This post was adapted from an essay by Sean Perron on the ethics of birth control. See the resource page.

 

 

Good Discipleship: A Real Relevant Solution on Sex

 

Photo Credit: Jessica McIntosh

 

By Sean Perron 

 

I recently stumbled across a blog post from Relevant Magazine called 4 Lies the Church Taught Me About Sex. I was intrigued because I too am burdened about how the church communicates to it’s members about such an important issue. I agree with the overall intention of the post that “the evangelical church has a lot of work to do correcting the distorted ways we talk about sex and sexuality, especially to our youth.” In the midst of a confused sexual culture, my soul yearns jealously for the church to talk about sex in a way that is consistent with the Scripture and offers wise biblical counsel. To my chagrin, the Relevant article missed the mark.

I readily admit that many presentations of sexual purity in the church today are well-intended but poorly delivered. Once I was asked to speak at a purity banquet. I preached my heart out about how everyone is a prostitute at heart and in need of forgiveness. I then talked about the need for grace-motivated purity from Ephesians chapter 5. I was followed by the minister who unfortunately proceeded to lay the legalism on thick. It felt as if my message was in vain.

The church desperately needs help in holding high the bar of purity while reaching out boldly to those who have been burdened with sexual sin. This is what was disappointing to me in the Relevant article.

 

The First “Lie”

Not everything in the Relevant article was unhelpful, but the response to the first “Lie” was harmful at best. The first lie addressed was: Any and all physical contact is like a gateway drug to sex.”  The following paragraphs in the post communicate that this is a crazy idea that should surely be discarded.

Once in high school I attended a big Christian youth conference. One night, one of the chaperones addressed the girls: “Girls, we have noticed some very inappropriate touching going on…”

The inappropriate touching she meant turned out to be two high school couples in the youth group holding hands. This woman was deadly serious. “I know it may not seem like a big deal to you,” she said. “But hand-holding leads to OTHER THINGS!”

I heard similar things from parents, teachers, church leaders and books. In my church it was not unusual for people to pledge not only to save sex until marriage, but even to save their first kiss for their wedding day. “Don’t start the engine if you aren’t ready to drive the car,” and other similar metaphors warned me that any physical contact was a slippery slope straight into the jaws of fornication.

On this side of things, I can honestly say that there are SO many conscious decisions you have to make between kissing and having sex. Despite what Hollywood says, clothes do not take themselves off and bodies do not magically and effortlessly fit together.

If you are committed to waiting until you’re married to have sex, there are many valid reasons to set boundaries on your physical relationship, but the fear of accidentally having sex shouldn’t be one of them.

 

First, I know of no one who says that “any” physical contact leads to sex. (For instance, few frown upon a side hug.)

Second, no solution is going to be found in criticism. I find it perplexing that a believer would mock a high standard of purity and then proceed to offer no practical advice for boundaries. If you are going to dismiss someone who is holding high the bar of purity for the sake of Christ, you must offer a biblical alternative.

Holding hands is not a gateway drug, but it should not be left as candy to suck on throughout the day. That helps no one – especially the diabetics.

Third, I know of no one who is worried about accidentally having sex. If you are committed to waiting until you’re married to have sex, there are many valid reasons to set boundaries on your physical relationship, but the fear of accidentally having sex shouldn’t be one of them.” Perhaps I have my head in the sand, but this is not the problem I encounter when discipling others. Most people are spring-loaded for sex… and they are trigger happy.

I have briefly written elsewhere about some considerations couples should ponder before kissing before marriage. I understand it is a bold claim to refrain from physical affection. It is certainly audacious to the world. But I am offering it with a heart full of love for the joy of my brothers and sisters in Christ.

I am fully convinced that purity brings pleasure. I think Jesus will have much joy in his heart when he presents his bride spotless before the throne. Jesus went through a bloody cross to obtain purity for his bride. I believe couples should beat their bodies into submission for their future spouses. Holiness is a beautiful thing that should cause the world to ask us about the hope within us.

I had a good friend recently get married. While dating, he did not hold hands with his girlfriend. They also waited to kiss each other until they were at the alter. Their kiss was electric. The whole room cheered and their faces were glowing. They would not have traded that moment for anything and neither would I. I’m so thankful they didn’t take the advice of Relevant Magazine. I’m so thankful they held the bar of purity high for the sake of joy.

Does that kind of electric kiss happen for everyone? I’m not a prophet nor the son of one. But that question misses the point altogether.

Kisses and honeymoons aren’t going to be perfect because we live in an imperfect world. The article by Relevant definitely highlights the fact that our bodies will fail and past sin can crouch at the door. But there is grace for that. Much grace. God can take any broken couple and sanctify them for his glory and their joy. This is the trumpet we should blow.

 

The Need for Biblical Discipleship on Sex

I agree that there are problems in how the church talks about sex. But I honestly think all of the “lies” mentioned in the Relevant article can be solved with good discipleship.

If someone has a fantasy view of the marriage bed, the Bible addresses this and can reorient someone towards selfless love. If someone is struggling with past sin, the power of Christ can help them and their spouse. If someone has a guilty view of sex, the Scriptures can renew their minds to view it as a glorious, delightful gift from God. The Bible is ready to provide practical wisdom for all areas of life and godliness. Properly discipled through the Scriptures, every Christian couple can look forward to their honeymoon and a lifetime of marriage.

So I plead with you: have a high standard of purity and seek out godly discipleship when it comes to sex. Don’t settle for shallow holiness and ignorance. Pursue practical wisdom from the Scriptures in your local church. The church can have a real relevant answer.

 

 

Related articles:

Letters to a Young Engaged Man: Should We Kiss?

Letters to a Young Engaged Man: The Marriage Bed