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The Bible

Tuesday, September 13, 2022

This is the last time that I will ever stand before this congregation and preach a sermon. I regret this deeply; it is not how I would have planned things at all. However, I am driven to it by my ill health and the needs of my family.

This morning, then, I must finish the trio of sermons about the core attributes of the Jackson Heights church. The first was kindness, the second was unity, and the third is love of the Bible. This is a congregation that loves the word of God, and from that, everything else follows.

Thus, it's appropriate for me to begin this farewell sermon with words from another farewell sermon, Paul's address to the Ephesian elders in Acts 20. In verse 32 he commends them to God and the word of His grace, which is able to build them up and give them an inheritance among all those who are sanctified. Today, we're going to use that as an outline to discuss what is most important about the Bible.

The first significant idea in this passage is that the Bible is the word of the grace of God. There are many passages that we could use to illustrate what this means, but one of them is Ephesians 2:1-7. We were dead in our sins, but the grace of God made us alive again together with Christ.

Grace is what is truly unique about our faith. Certainly, the New Testament sets forth a wonderful system of ethics, but there are other systems of ethics out there. Even the people in our society who celebrate sin and call evil good have an ethical code. That's why they mob people on social media who violate it!

Standards of right and wrong are universal. However, only Christianity has strong standards accompanied by forgiveness for violating those standards. God hates our sin! In fact, He hates it so much that only the blood of His only begotten Son could wash it away.

Who could imagine such a thing, that an all-powerful God would love us enough to redeem us at such a terrible cost! That's grace. I've heard about it every Sunday all my life, but I still can't comprehend it.

This is the gospel we proclaim, not the gospel of the laws that condemn us, but the gospel of the grace that saves us. However, I'm afraid that some Christians are under the impression that grace evaporates along with the water after you're baptized. God saved us once, but now we'd better get all our ducks in a row!

Not so. How foolish would God have to be, to go to all that work of saving us while expecting our hapless selves to get things right thereafter! Every day of our lives, we remain in need of grace, and the great message of the Bible is that God will provide it.

Second, Paul tells us that the word of grace is able to build us up. The passage that best explains how this works is a familiar one, 2 Timothy 3:16-17. To some, my citation of this text might seem to contradict what I just said about grace, but really, grace and obedience are two halves of the same whole.

When we understand the richness and magnificence of God’s salvation, how could we possibly keep on doing the same thing that we've been doing? I want to spend every day of my life being pleasing to God because it's the least I could do after all He's done for me. Of course, none of my paltry acts of service are worthy to be compared to salvation, but I still have to try. The problem with people who don't try is not that they don't understand law. It's that they don't understand grace.

For those who do understand grace, for those who are determined to please and glorify their Savior, this text provides a road map. As is the case with many lists in Scripture, the first item in this list is not really an item. It's a subject heading. Paul tells us that the Scriptures were profitable for teaching, and then he explains how they teach.

I like to think of this as a spiritual U-turn. When we're going the wrong way, the Scriptures rebuke us. They yell, “Stop!” Next, they correct us. They say, “Try this way instead.” Once we're going the right way, they train us. They say, “Here's how to do this better.” Through them, we can get all of the spiritual instruction we need.

However, here we encounter one of the great spiritual dangers for religious people, self-righteousness. Rather than coming to the Bible to look for the spiritual U-turns that we need to make, we come to it looking for the spiritual U-turns that others need to make. We hear or read a passage, and we think of somebody who really needs to listen, and that somebody isn't us. Then, we sit around complaining to our self-righteous friends about how those other people just don't get it.

It's true that we do have a spiritual duty to warn and admonish others. However, that's not the goal of self-righteousness. Most self-righteous people will never have a difficult conversation with someone they think is in sin because having that conversation takes love instead of contempt. Self-righteousness is all about diverting our attention from our own imperfections so that we can boast in ourselves instead of in God.

Instead, our primary application of Scripture, especially when it comes to rebuking and correcting, must always be to ourselves. It is able to build us up, not somebody else. When we come across as humble servants rather than self-righteous judges, that's when we're able to influence others’ lives for good.

Finally, the word of God's grace is able to give us an inheritance. Here, let's consider 1 Peter 1:3-7. As Peter's words here make clear, being a Christian is not about fulfillment in this life. Sometimes, even the most faithful face great suffering. We see this repeatedly in Scripture, from Jesus on down.

What keeps us going is God's promise of a reward. The Bible isn't like one of those scammy emails from a Nigerian prince who promises you millions but will leave you with an empty bank account. Instead, our inheritance is imperishable, undefiled, unfading, and kept in heaven. This is why we keep going through those trials, long after worldly people would have quit. What is waiting for us will be worth it.

The key to obtaining this inheritance is the word of God. There are lots of other books about religion out there. None of them hold the secret of eternal life. There are lots of religious scholars and religious experts. None of them are the way to eternal fellowship with God. Even I will not help you at all if I stray from what God has revealed.

All we need is the book that we hold in our hands or have stored on our phones. God has given us His inspired word, and He has given everyone who needs to understand it the ability to understand. It's all right here, His precious gift to ordinary people who want to seek Him and find Him.

There is no such thing as too much Bible. The more we read and study it, the more it will teach us, convict us, and inspire us. Every assembly of the Jackson Heights church is precious because every one is an opportunity to learn more about the Bible. Sometimes, we sing a hymn entitled “When We All Get to Heaven”. If all of us steadfastly seek God according to His word, and then all of us will.


Tuesday, September 06, 2022

A couple of months ago, Clay made me a very gracious offer. He said that throughout the month of August, I could preach all of the Sunday morning sermons so that I could be sure to get in everything I wanted to say to this congregation before leaving. After I argued with him about this for a little while, I invested some thought in figuring out what I wanted to say. I concluded that I wanted to preach 3 sermons about the Jackson Heights church personality, highlighting the three attributes that make us happy and successful in doing the Lord's work.

The first of these attributes is kindness. This is a strikingly kind congregation, which makes us both appealing to others and pleasing to God. I know that many of you practiced great kindness before you ever heard of me, and I pray that such kindness will continue to mark this congregation for decades after my departure. This morning, let's contemplate the role of kindness in the life of the Christian.

We first should reveal our kindness to those in need. Consider the words of the Lord in Luke 14:12-14. As it often does, the gospel of the kingdom here turns conventional wisdom on its head. Jesus tells us that when we give a meal for others, we shouldn't invite those who might benefit us. Instead, we ought to invite the poor who cannot repay us. When we do this, God will be the One who does the repaying.

Although Jesus is discussing food specifically, the applications of His message extend far beyond the dinner table. When we truly are serving Him, we aren't thinking of the future and how our good works will help us. Rather, we are doing good with no thought of the earthly consequences.

This is tricky! I figured out a long time ago that the right thing to do also was the smart thing to do, even in earthly terms. It's righteous for us to be faithful to our spouses, but it's also wise. As a rule, adultery brings 70 kinds of misery and sorrow down on the head of the adulterer. Likewise, it’s both godly and wise to tell the truth. If you're a liar, people will figure it out, and soon nobody will trust you.

However, kindness is only kindness when it is extended without the thought of earthly benefit. We can't be kind only when we think it will help us or even when we think it will help the church. In fact, we ought to be kind even when we have concluded that no earthly good will come from it at all.

To the world, this is foolishness, but to the Christian, it makes perfect sense. Verse 14 explains why. Often, we aren't kind because we want to protect ourselves from being swindled by some con artist. Sometimes, the issue isn't even the money. It's our pride. Regardless, we have a promise from God that whatever we surrender will be repaid in heaven. His great, eternal kindness in heaven frees us to be kind here.

Similarly, God calls us to be kind to our enemies. Here, let's read from Romans 12:19-21. Many Bible students find this text hopelessly confusing, but I think the confusion arises because of our misconceptions about the role of vengeance in the life of the Christian. Understood correctly, this isn't a passage about whether vengeance should be taken at all. It's a passage about who should be taking the vengeance.

In the world, the answer to this question is easy and obvious. If somebody pushes you, you push back. Some people will walk up to their enemy and blow his brains out; others will look for little ways to make his life miserable at work or even at church. Still others will just talk bad about him in the hope of diminishing him in the eyes of others. Though obviously they vary greatly in terms of significance, all of these are forms of vengeance.

Paul exhorts us to adopt a very different strategy toward our enemies. Rather than looking for ways to get them back, we should treat them kindly. We should look for ways to help them.

The world thinks this is nuts. How can we possibly let insults and offenses go??? Paul’s answer is that vengeance belongs to God. Just like His promise of heavenly repayment frees us to be generous to people who won't help us, so too His promise of vengeance frees us from the need to be vengeful ourselves.

Here is where we intersect all those imprecatory psalms that we've been singing on Wednesday nights. I'm sure that many who have been attending the class wonder if it is even godly to sing such things under the new covenant. According to this text, the answer is clearly yes. God has promised us that He will avenge us, and it is always right to ask Him to fulfill His promises. That's part of the covenant!

This may put us in a seemingly contradictory position. On the one hand, we show love to our enemy and treat him kindly. On the other, we pray to the God of justice to punish him for his wrongdoing. However, the same contradiction appears on a much larger scale elsewhere in Scripture. Is it not true that the same God who loves sinners also will end up condemning most of them to hell? The answer lies in the unique ability of God to mete out both mercy and justice. We can put our vengeance in His hands and trust that He will do the right thing.

Finally, we must be kind to our opponents. Our final passage of the morning is 2 Timothy 2:24-26. These aren't the people who wrong us or harm our families. These are the people who are wrong and annoying on Facebook and won't be quiet.

In my twenties, I had this one written down on a 3x5 card and taped to my bathroom mirror for years. There's a pretty good case that I shouldn't have taken it down at all! I have some trouble being kind to the needy, but I have a lot of trouble with being kind to opponents. I have a big combative streak to my personality, and if you get me riled up enough, online or even in person, I get much more interested in scoring points than in being gentle.

However, gentle is what Christ wants us to be. In part, this means picking our battles. It's easy to get mad at people on social media when we can't see their faces, but it's nearly impossible to persuade somebody who can't see our face. There's not much point in trying to win over somebody who disagrees on Facebook!

Also, notice the stakes that Paul mentions in verse 28. These opponents aren't people who disagree with us about politics or college football. They are those who have been taken captive by the devil and are following his will. Outside of that, we really need to ask whether engaging an opponent is worth it at all.

When the stakes are that high, when somebody’s soul is in danger because of their convictions, we need to remember what the goal is. It is not winning the argument, as judged by us or even a third party. It is convincing the opponent. When that is the case, we must be patient, gentle, and humble; otherwise, there is zero chance that they are going to listen to us even if we're right. This can take a long time and be very frustrating, but it's the only way to turn an erring heart back to God.

In the Breaking of the Bread

Thursday, August 04, 2022

In the gospel of Luke, the primary resurrection appearance of Jesus is when He reveals Himself to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. After they explain the events of the past few days to Him, not realizing that He is Jesus, He takes over the conversation. The rest of the account appears in Luke 24:25-35.

Within this story, several things stand out. The first is that He upbraids His disciples for missing the significance of His crucifixion and resurrection. He makes an extremely strong claim, that the promised Messiah had to suffer before entering into His glory. Then, He backs up that claim by interpreting for the two disciples everything that the Scriptures said about Him. I don't know about the rest of you, but I would have purely loved to have heard that!

They arrive in Emmaus, sit down to supper, and as Jesus so often does in the gospels, He blesses the bread, breaks it, and distributes it to His disciples. Then, He reveals Himself and vanishes. Later, the disciples report that Jesus was made known to them in the breaking of the bread. I'm not going to say that this is the first example of the Lord’s Supper in Scripture, but I'm not going to say it's not either!

This is our goal too. As we partake, we want to recognize Jesus. In this, we can do far worse than following the Lord's outline. We must accept Him as the Messiah and remember His sufferings and glories, as predicted by the prophets. Let's consider how He can reveal Himself to us through these things in the breaking of the bread.

The first such prediction allows us to recognize Jesus as the Messiah. Let's look at both prophecy and fulfillment in Luke 4:16-21. This too would have been an awesome scene! A man who had grown up living in Nazareth and worshiping in its synagogue reads a Messianic prophecy from Isaiah 61 and announces that He has fulfilled it.

To modern audiences, it is not immediately obvious that Jesus is claiming here to be the Messiah, but the Nazarenes would have taken His point immediately. We look at “Christ” and see Jesus’ last name, and “Messiah” is just a weird word that means “Jesus”. However, both of those words in their original languages carry the meaning of “anointed one”. In the old Israelite kingdoms, prophets, priests, and kings were anointed.

In those cases, the chosen were anointed with oil, typically by another prophet. However, the subject of the Isaiah 61 prophecy has been anointed with the Holy Spirit. This can only be the capital-M Messiah! Indeed, only someone who could back up this claim with undeniable miracles could get away with making it.

It's equally important, though, for us to recognize who the beneficiaries of the Messiah's message are. It's not a very impressive group! Instead, the Messiah is bringing the gospel to the poor, the captives, the blind, and the oppressed. If people weren't in those categories, the Messiah wasn't for them.

The Jews of the New Testament didn't like hearing this. In the gospel of John, they explicitly reject the notion of being captives or blind. They had too high an opinion of themselves. In doing so, they also rejected Jesus.

Today, we can have the same problem. Like the Laodiceans, we can conclude that we are wealthy and in need of nothing. However, believing it doesn't make it so. As we share in the Lord’s Supper, then, we should remember not only Jesus but also our great need for Him.

Next, we must contemplate the suffering of the Messiah. Our story here appears in Acts 8:27-35. We can describe this as a coincidence exploited by providence. The Ethiopian eunuch happens to be reading from what we call Isaiah 53. Nudged by God, Phillip approaches the chariot and happens to overhear him. Then, the eunuch invites Philip to explain the perplexing prophecy.

It's easy to understand why the eunuch was perplexed! We tend to think of Isaiah 53 as an isolated prophecy, and its significance has been drummed into us by countless Scripture readings before the Lord’s Supper. However, that chapter is only part of a much larger prophecy called the Song of the Servant, and without the benefit of hindsight, its meaning is not at all clear.

Is Isaiah talking about himself? The nation of Israel? Somebody else? If I were a first-century Jew, I don't think I would have understood it either.

However, Philip explains this confusing text by proclaiming the good news about Jesus. To us, it may seem odd that the news from Isaiah 53 is good. Sometimes, we fall into the habit of treating the Lord’s Supper like a funeral service. We mourn that all of the horrible predictions in that chapter were fulfilled by somebody who didn't deserve for any of it to happen to Him.

That's true, but it's incomplete. Despite the gory details, Isaiah 53 is good news! He became a curse for us so that we could receive blessing through faith in Him. He Himself didn't stay in the rich man's tomb. Instead, He was raised from the dead to demonstrate the efficacy of His atoning sacrifice. We should mourn at the thought of what Jesus endured, but as we partake, we also should rejoice.

Our final fulfilled prophecy concerns the glories of the Messiah. We find it in Acts 2:22-33. This is, of course, part of the first gospel sermon on the day of Pentecost. Here, Peter is using a prophecy from Psalm 16 to show that the resurrection of Christ was foreknown long before He was born.

This is one of the characteristics of Old Testament prophecy. It usually doesn't make sense outside of its fulfillment in Christ. In this case, as Peter points out, even though David is speaking, it is not true of him. David did see decay! This passage is only true of someone who rose from the dead never to die again, and that description only applies to Jesus.

Also in this text, we see the three-legged stool of Acts 2. Peter doesn't only rely on prophecy to prove his claim that Jesus rose from the dead. Instead, he also employs two other forms of proof.

The first of these is the eyewitness testimony of the disciples who saw the risen Lord. interestingly, this proof is stronger for us today than it was for Peter's audience on Pentecost. After all, we know what those people did not. We know that the early witnesses to the resurrection of the Christ were so sure of what they had seen that they were willing to die defending that truth. It's hard to reject the testimony of a witness like that!

Finally, Peter uses the outpouring of the Holy Spirit as a third proof. All of the people in the crowd had heard a bunch of Galileans speaking in a multitude of foreign languages. They certainly couldn't have done that on their own! Instead, they clearly have been endowed with power from on high, and Peter identifies Jesus as the One who has poured out the Spirit. That too shows His glorification.

When we partake of the Lord’s Supper, we need to remember Jesus not only as humble sacrifice but also as triumphant Lord. The narrative of the crucifixion does not end with Him in the tomb. It ends with Him seated at the right hand of the throne of God. When we remember Him, then, we ought to reflect not only on what He has done for us but also on what we must do for Him.

Saved Through Water

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Genesis 7:11-24 tells the story of the greatest cataclysm ever to overtake the earth. Because the wickedness of man was great on the earth, God sent a flood to cleanse it by destroying everything that lived on the land. In this flood, every human being died except for eight. The patriarch Noah, his wife, his three sons, and their wives escaped the deluge because Noah had obeyed God and built an ark for their salvation.

This event has great spiritual significance because it shows that God will not allow the wicked to go unpunished. However, it has even more significance for believers because it is a type of our salvation. In 1 Peter 3:18-21, the apostle compares the rescue of Noah's family to our rescue through baptism. This evening, let's explore this comparison to gain a better understanding of being saved through water.

I believe there are four main ways in which these two events are similar. First, we must recognize that, as in the days of Noah, judgment is coming. The apostle Paul predicts this in Acts 17:30-31. Here, he urges everyone to repent because the day is coming when Jesus will judge the world, as proven by His resurrection.

In both of these cases, the timing of judgment is uncertain. God warned Noah about the flood 120 years before the event and waited patiently while he constructed the ark. God continues to wait patiently in our day, but only He knows the day and the hour when His patience will come to an end and His wrath begin.

As Peter predicted would happen in 2 Peter 3, some take God's patience as an opportunity to scoff. Because He has not destroyed the world with fire yet, they assume that He will never do so. When Noah tried to warn others during those 120 years, all of them had the same reaction. They did not believe that judgment would ever come, so they continued to live wickedly. Tragically, they realized their mistake only when it was too late to do anything about it. Today, we must be wiser than they were. Otherwise, we will be destroyed in the judgment of fire as they were destroyed in the judgment of water.

Second, Jesus warns us that only a few will be saved from the judgment. Look at Luke 13:23-24. We don't know how many people were alive when the flood came, but it certainly was many more than 8! Nonetheless, the number of the saved didn't reach double digits. In Luke, Jesus is asked if only a few will be saved, and His answer is essentially “Yes.” This is the nature of the judgments of God. Only a remnant is saved, while the many are destroyed.

This should cause us to consider soberly our own beliefs about our salvation. I know all too many people who think that it doesn't make a difference what church you go to or even if you go to church as long as you're a good person. This is a very convenient belief to hold because it basically means that nobody has to do anything in order to inherit eternal life.

Sadly, it isn't true, and we can tell that it's not true because of the words of the Lord. If indeed being a good person were enough, then Jesus would have told His questioner in Luke 13 that in fact many would be saved. After all, aren't many people good people, at least in the sense of that phrase? In reality, only a few will be saved, and none of those will be saved because they are good people.

This takes us to our next point, which is that the righteous will not save themselves. Here, let's consider Titus 3:4-5. At this, some might raise an eyebrow. After all, didn't Noah build the ark that carried his family safely through the flood?

Not exactly. Let me explain. As you may or may not have seen, there is a consistent online debate about whether the ark was seaworthy. Some believers say yes; Skeptics say no. I think the debate is silly for reasons I'll get into in a little bit, but if we only compare the competing arguments, I think the skeptics are right.

According to Genesis 6, the ark was 300 cubits long. Even using 18-inch cubits, that's 450 feet. The longest all-wooden ship ever made, constructed with all of our modern knowledge of shipbuilding, was the S.S. Wyoming. From one end of the deck to the other, the Wyoming was only 350 feet long, but it eventually sank because wood isn't rigid enough to give stability to a hull that long. What, then, of an ark that is 100 feet longer?

As I hinted earlier, though, all of this is beside the point. There is only one reason why the ark protected Noah and his family: because God promised him that if he built the ark and went into it, he would be safe. If Noah had just been a weird dude who decided to build the ark on his own, he and his family surely would have perished along with the rest of the human race. Salvation did not come from the ark; salvation came from God.

In the same way, salvation does not come simply because we have been immersed in water. As Titus says, we do not save ourselves through works of righteousness. Instead, God saves us according to His mercy through the washing of regeneration, which is baptism.

There are those who claim that we teach works salvation because we insist upon the necessity of baptism for salvation. However, works salvation is not what we teach, nor is it what the Bible says. Apart from God’s mercy, none of us could be saved, whether we dunk ourselves in the baptistry or not.

Nonetheless, and this is our final point, we must obey in order to be saved. Let's read from 2 Thessalonians 1:5-9. Note that Paul identifies two groups as belonging to the condemned: those who do not know God and those who do not obey the gospel. It follows, then, that if we do not want to be condemned, we must both know God and obey the gospel.

This is no different than what we see in Noah's life. The ark didn't save Noah; God did. However, imagine that Noah had said to God, “You know, God, building an ark is a lot of work. I know You could save me without an ark, so I'm not going to build it, and I'm just going to trust in You to save me.” If Noah had said such a thing, assuming that he even lived long enough to see the flood, he would have been fish food!

So too for us. Baptism does not save us by its own virtue, any more than the ark saved Noah by its own virtue. However, Noah still had to build the ark if he wanted to be saved, and we still must be baptized if we want to be saved. That is what God has asked of us, and woe to those who refuse to obey!

To put things another way, heading into the final judgment without having been baptized makes just as much sense as waiting for the flood without an ark. In both cases, we might claim to be trusting God, but really, we're putting Him to the test, and we'll meet the fate that all rebels deserve.

A City Full of Idols

Monday, June 20, 2022

As all of us are doubtless aware, we are currently in the middle of Pride Month, a celebration of a number of different lifestyles the Bible condemns as sinful. In case we have forgotten, anytime we shop at a chain store, displays and decorations all remind us. I would not be surprised if, in the years to come, Pride Month develops the same kind of national presence as the holiday season.

Many brethren find this spectacle deeply distressing. What are we supposed to do when we see ungodliness being exalted everywhere around us? As always, the word of God gives us the answers we need.

In the first century, Christians were a tiny minority in a society that celebrated ungodliness too. Let's consider, then, one Christian’s reaction to such display. Let's turn to Acts 17 to see how Paul conducted himself in Athens, a city full of idols.

First, we see Paul talking to, not just about. Consider his behavior in Acts 17:16-21. Note that Paul didn't come to Athens intending to preach at all. He has only traveled to the city after having been driven out of Berea and is there to wait for Silas and Timothy. Interestingly, this meeting never happens. Silas and Timothy only catch up with Paul after he moves on to Corinth.

As far as we can tell, he doesn’t stay in Athens for very long. However, even this brief delay bothers him. Athens is an extremely idolatrous city, and he finds the evidence of idolatry distressing. There is a synagogue in Athens, and the Jews there would have been as anti-idol as Paul was. The synagogue is not the only place that Paul visits, however. He also goes to the marketplace and reasons with the idolaters.

In our day, it is easy for us to stay in the synagogue, both real and virtual. It's easy for us to come to church and complain about how awful Pride Month is to people that we know already agree with us one hundred percent. It's just as easy for us to go on our social-media platform of choice and make the same complaints to Christians and other conservatives all over the country.

However, there are two problems with confining ourselves to what is easy. First, like gossip, it tends to produce self-righteousness in our hearts. The more we condemn somebody else’s sin that does not tempt us, the more we begin to believe that we are more righteous because we don't know that temptation. We start sounding like the Pharisee in the parable of Luke 18, who thanks God for making him better than the sinners around him. If we are not careful, self-righteousness will lead us to trust in ourselves and not in Jesus.

Second, complaining about sinners to other Christians never saved anybody. We are sneering at people who are drowning in sin without even checking to see if they want to be rescued! Obviously, reaching out to sinners can be hard on the ego. In Acts 17, many of the sinners treat Paul with contempt, and different sinners treated Jesus the same way. However, when the value of the soul is so great, who are we to stay silent lest our egos get squished?

Notice, though, that Paul doesn't make his appeal in a contemptuous or perfunctory way. Instead, he seeks common ground. Look at Acts 17:22-29. All the way through this sermon, Paul is doing his best to come to Gentile idolaters on their own terms. He praises them for setting up an altar to an unknown god. He quotes their own poets to support his argument. He doesn't call them to repentance until he has gotten buy-in already.

We can and should do the same thing, even in the context of Pride Month. On one level, Pride Month is about celebrating everyone as valuable and special. You know what? We celebrate that too! The Bible teaches, and I believe, that everyone who is lesbian, gay, bi, trans, queer, or any other letters out there is precious, infinitely valuable, and loved by God more than we can imagine.

In fact, we can make that argument more strongly than the world can. Pride Month arose because of the horrible way that many of those people were and are treated, often by those who claim to be Christians. Let me add, by the way, that such displays of mockery and contempt are just as evil as the sins they purport to be condemning. Pride Month is an attempt to balance the scales, but the problem is that it offers no better reason to feel good about yourself than what others are saying about you. When the parades are over, then what?

Christianity, by contrast, teaches that everyone is infinitely precious, no matter what others say or do. We are created in the image of God, and Jesus was willing to die to redeem us. This means that every one of those people with pride flags has an intrinsic worth that is greater than the world and everything on it. Pride Month does not and cannot offer an assurance like that. We don't come to them because they are disgusting and need to clean up their act. We come to them because we love and value them simply for existing.

Finally, we must point sinners to Jesus. Look at how Paul concludes his sermon in Acts 17:29-31. He has shown that he respects the idolaters of Athens, but they still need to repent, and they need to repent because Jesus has risen from the dead.

This must always be our appeal. People in the world shouldn’t become Christians because Christianity uniquely affirms the value of everyone, even though it does. They should become Christians because God has made this Jesus whom they crucified both Lord and Christ.

The Lordship of Jesus, as proven by the resurrection, matters for two reasons. First, it means that whoever we are, we can rely on Him for salvation. As the Hebrews writer says, He saves to the uttermost. It doesn't matter what we've done. We can be as wicked as wicked can be, but His grace is great enough to erase all our sins. When Jesus stands between you and the devil, the devil isn't going to get through!

However, Jesus as Lord doesn’t only offer grace. He also demands submission. The day will come when He will judge everyone on earth. This is the great tragedy of Pride Month. All of those people celebrating their sin, for all of their value and their worth, are facing eternal condemnation. God is not willing for any of them to perish, but all of them will perish unless they repent. If we want them to be saved, we must tell them both that repentance is possible and that it is necessary. The reason for both of these things is Jesus.

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