We don’t tend to think or talk a lot about God being the creator of sex. Our western culture tends to leave a lot of this discussion behind closed doors, or for ‘more appropriate’ opportunities to discuss, which seem to evaporate if they ever existed at all.
Over the last few weeks at Oasis, we have been having a frank discussion about God and sexuality. Why not, God is the one who invented it and the bible isn’t exactly shy or candid about discussing sex. For example, Songs of Solomon reads more like a KFC menu with breasts and thighs littering the dialogue between lovers. As a Jewish man, you had to be married and of a certain age before these scriptures were allowed to be read.
God’s not a prude.
The world would say that the traditional church point of view on human sexuality being between a man and a woman who are married would seem dated and antiquated. Why would we give away such freedoms some in the world would say have been hard-earned?
But we would tend to agree more with the world around the negative sides of sexual behaviour. The #metoo movement has shown us the proliferation of abuse that women (and to a lesser extent men) have endured in the film industry, in state care facilities, schools, and dare we say churches. We’d all have to agree (Christian and non-Christian) that we believe that human sexuality matters.
Where the difference comes is that those that choose to follow Jesus and the church's historical teaching about not having sex before marriage is agreeing with God and adopting healthy boundaries in an area where we are at our most vulnerable.
God doesn’t say no to sex or that it’s wrong. He invented it, He called it good, and told man to have lots of sex with your spouse (Gen 1:28). It was God’s great wedding gift to mankind. Since the fall (Gen 3) it didn’t take long before this amazing gift began to be mistreated. Like all desires and appetites if not brought under the person's control, they can begin to control the person.
Ancient Jewish wisdom writings put it this way:
Like a conquered city with no walls, so is a man who has no self-control. Proverbs 25:28
Our nation's judicial system agrees with both Christians and non-Christians. Sexual crimes deserve a fitting judgment. We all agree with this because we’d all agree that a sexual crime isn’t just a physical act. It’s not just two bodies. There is real damage done emotionally and Christians would say, and others agree ‘spiritually’ to the victim as well.
In the earliest book of the Jewish scriptures that Jesus pointed to Genesis tells us that when God created man and woman, He said:
‘For this reason, a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife and the two shall become one flesh (Gen 2:24).
The church's historical teaching on marriage says that when a husband and wife are joined in marriage there is something deeper going on here, something spiritual where a connection is made. A spiritual connection that binds the two together.
Ancient Jewish teaching taught this, and Jesus agreed with it (Matthew 19:5-6). It makes sense that such a spiritual connection should be honoured, protected, and not be debased.
At Oasis we embrace the teaching of Jesus, especially around human sexuality. We believe that the good news of our rescuing saviour is for the world, and no one is excluded from that rescuing love of the Father.
We believe in a God that isn’t prudish or old fashioned, but a God who cares about the most intimate parts of our lives and so gave us healthy guidelines to live by.
As early as the 3rd Century, monastic (monks) Christians sojourned into the deserts around Egypt to live ascetic lives – that is lives deprived of sensual pleasures to be devoted to God in a kind of reaction to the rather unchristian way the church had become in a way to emulate what Jesus did before His ministry (Matt 4:1-11). The Greek word monos (μονος) from which we derive the name ‘Monk’ literally means solitary.
These early Christian fathers determined to separate themselves from the rest of the world but amusingly after a relatively short period grouped together to learn from the more senior ones and became cloistered groups of ‘monks, which in turn resulted in ‘monasteries’ the forerunners to today’s Theological colleges, missional centres, schools, and hospitals.
Even the best intentions of being separate culminated in a coming together. The fundamental reason behind this is that God made us for community.
No Christian has ever been called to go it alone in his or her walk of faith. This is a fundamental principle we see throughout the scriptures.
Here at Oasis Family Church one of our mission statements is ‘Grow Together’ and that emphasises this exact point. The spiritual and relational growth of a person can only happen in a community.
The old African saying that it takes a village to raise a child here rings true for faith as well. With such a rich array of Christian experiences that turns up to churches every Sunday, failing to meet can hinder your ability to grow, be challenged, and be exposed to God’s voice in a communal setting.
When the Holy Spirit opens your eyes to the truth of Jesus and you accept Him as Saviour, The Holy Spirit indwells you. Along with this, He brings you gifts.
Good gifts, some to encourage yourself and some to bless others with. If we fail to meet with each other, the church misses out on these gifts. Paul describes each of us as being like body parts, all needing to work together in perfect synergy to make the body effective. Can you imagine a body without a leg, or without sight, or sound? What about without something vital like without kidneys, or without a lung? Things become hindered, arrested and things are harder. Gods is not honoured through the withholding of talents and gifts from his family.
What about those super annoying people? Those ones just rub us up the wrong way. How do they help us to grow?
Let’s refer to them as God’s sandpaper. Growth usually doesn’t come about in an isolated environment of ease comfort and pleasure. Spiritual and character growth comes more often than not through adversity. We work hard at studies to achieve learning; we work our bodies physically to ensure we can achieve a goal like a marathon. It’s true that discipline and not desire determine our destiny. God’s sandpaper people are the ones that show us our intolerance or lack of empathy or patience. They are the stretching kind of people. These are the people that Jesus also came for. I think it could be assumed Matthew the tax collector could have been one of these. Despised for his role by his fellow countrymen for collecting more tax than due and profiting from this. Jesus called Matthew into the fold of the twelve, there would have been strong feelings toward Matthew from the others, but Jesus is ok with people that rub. It’s good for us to lose those sharp edges.
Growing together is a journey we all choose to enter when we walk into church. Following Jesus is a daily agreement to become more like Him. Growing together in community and in unity delights God in us.
In Revelation 3:20 Jesus famously says:
‘Behold I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and dine with him and he with Me.'
You might have heard this in conjunction with salvation or part of the sinner’s prayer. That Jesus stands knocking at the door of your heart waiting to be let in.
This famous sentence Jesus uttered to John wasn’t written as an evangelistic reference to those who hadn’t made a commitment of faith before but to a church that was in real trouble.
Churches in trouble today seem to be becoming more common in the public media for all the wrong reasons.
Jesus here in Revelation 3:15 addressed the church at Laodicea with a harsh rebuke:
‘I know what you get up to and what you do, you’re neither hot nor cold! Because you are lukewarm, I will spit you from My mouth.'
Laodicea had become wealthy financially and therefore their need and love for God had diminished.
One of the realities we face in New Zealand today is that today most people wouldn’t say they had a need for God.
We live in a relatively peaceful country by world standards and have a higher standard of living despite rising financial costs.
We don’t share a border with another country, we don’t have to negotiate with a neighbour who shares a different value system and culture. We live in relative peace and security on an island that requires at least three hours of flight to the next neighbour.
As Christians Jesus called them to seek after Him and the riches only, He can provide. Whilst they coveted the wealth of the gold trading in the cities financially, He calls them to seek out the riches from God refined by fire so that they may truly become rich (vs 18).
Repeatedly in Revelation, the letter from John calls believers to ‘overcome’. Overcome in the face of adversity, and persecution, but here I believe the call also is to overcome the desire that we will all be faced with as followers of Jesus which is to camp out and get comfortable. A call away from the integrity of pursuing the life Jesus calls us to the life of a pioneer, seeking out the narrow path with Jesus. Seeking out the ancient pathway Christ laid down for us which includes, self-denial, putting other's needs before our own, and doing our part to elevate the church as Christ's bride.
I’ve often wondered what a letter from Jesus to the church of New Zealand would include. Perhaps it would say something about being blessed on all four sides with peace and prosperity, maybe it would include the blessing of the gospel to our shores 200 years ago. What would Jesus say to New Zealand church today? It’s easy to say it may be a letter of rebuke, but how would Jesus encourage us to keep up the good fight? I think like all the churches, the Apostle John’s word of perseverance would ring true. Revelation as a letter has always been a handbook of overcoming for those who are persecuted. A book to encourage those facing hard times and injustice.
It’s never been a book of escaping troubles, but one of calling people to know God is faithful and a God of Justice who will always look to put right His world again, and that reward is in store for those who hold fast to the lamb (Jesus).
Jesus does stand and knock on our hearts daily and if you’re a follower of His, it’s time to open the door let Him in to sit on the throne of your heart, and invite Him to be in charge. He has a fruitful life like you could never dream about. His Spirit looks for those who are willing to inhabit them and be a blessing to the world around them.
No grown adult picks used chewing gum off the street for a quick chew. Not only is that gross and unhygienic, but we wouldn’t want to put anything into ourselves that could make us sick.
Funnily enough, though, even Christians can stumble into the area of what we put into our minds which likewise we don’t always pick up immediately, but it can have equally as negative an impact on us.
Jesus taught us some important things about the devil. Firstly, Jesus knew he was real.
Immaterial yes, but Jesus lets us know the accuser is very real in a spiritual sense. Secondly, the accuser’s main goal is to spread ruin in our souls and our societies. The third thing we learn from Jesus is that Satan’s (Accusers) main method for doing this is through lies (John 8:44).
How much of our society is laid waste by lies?
For example, there’s a lie in our society that pornography is ok as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone. What the lie doesn’t tell us is that when we expose ourselves to this, we are going to school.
What we are taught is that one person is not enough. They are only a body to be enjoyed. We can easily be fooled into the lie that this false intimacy can fill an actual good need that God has placed within us.
That’s the catch, temptation plays to usually a legitimate need for, rest, acceptance, intimacy, hunger, or emotions like anger, sadness, grief, or loneliness.
It’s not that these are wrong in themselves, but the accuser is the most cunning adversary and will use any to make us falter.
Temptation starts as a thought. Maybe it plays to one of these areas for you. Usually, the temptation is a shortcut to a legitimate need. It’s meeting a legitimate need but not God’s way.
Jesus gets this, he understands all too well. In Matthew Chapter 4, we read that Jesus was tempted in the desert after forty days of fasting.
Only then did the accuser approach Him. The accuser starts in the same way he did on Eve in the garden in Genesis 3. ‘If you really are the Son of God….’
Satan tries to undermine the fact the Father had only just said to all who witnessed Jesus’ baptism ‘This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased Matthew 3:17.
The enemy after all is wanting to destroy your soul. The first attack is on your identity in God. A beloved child. Eve fell for this and so do we.
Jesus though, coming as the second Adam, does what Adam and Eve didn’t achieve. He lives a life free from sin even though he was tempted.
Jesus’ temptation wasn’t for bread or to be saved from throwing himself down into the temple for everyone to see God save him, or even to gain the cities and kingdoms of the world.
Jesus’ temptation centred on the desire he had to bring about God’s kingdom but to gain it quickly through other means. If Jesus turned stones into bread, he could have won hungry crowds, if He threw himself into the temple and God stopped him from even a scratch all the religious leaders would herald him as the Messiah, if he had worshipped the accuser and gained all the kingdoms and been king, Jesus would have forfeited bringing about God’s kingdom here on earth through the redemption of mankind.
Jesus stood firm when the serious battle of temptation came in on Him. He did so by combatting the enemy with God’s word. Scripture to keep His focus on God’s ways.
How do we fare when temptation arises?
Are we filling our minds with the enemy’s pervasive tsunami of worldly thinking that is all around us as we entertain ourselves or wind down?
Or do we simply find God’s point of view to enable us to stand firm when temptation arises.
Evagrius was a monastic Monk in the second century who went into the desert to learn from the experience of Jesus. He wrote down a collection of his most personal battles with temptation. He later wrote ‘Talking back’ A Monastic Handbook for Combatting Demons’. That must be the best by-line ever.
Evagrius’ approach echoed Paul's 2 Corinthians 10:5, We take every thought prisoner and make it obey the Messiah.
Evagrius wrote down the temptation, be it a feeling, thought, or sensation.
After that he would write ‘What’s the lie here that reveals my attachment?’ and he would examine himself to see what the temptation highlighted.
Then Evagrius would then ask the Holy Spirit for scripture to combat this, to show Him God’s way. Then he would write this down.
This simple approach helps the rubber meet the road as Christians. A practical way in which we can deploy the use of scripture as Jesus did and have victory in our lives and enjoy the freedom from Sin that Jesus paid for us. Living free from guilt, shame, and lies of the enemy is what Kingdom living is all about.
On a computer keyboard, there is a shortcut that helps you to copy something. You simply highlight what you want to copy and then you can hit ‘control C’. Copying, emulating and making a representation of the original. When I was younger, I collected history magazines that had facsimiles or scanned copies of historical documents.
To my thirteen-year-old mind having a facsimile of the Magna Carta or the signed confession of Guy Fawkes was the coolest thing out. Somewhere in the world in a museum, was the original, but I had an exact photographic copy of it. I still have them; I still think they are cool.
We make copies of important things, things that matter. Either we are trying to emulate a great bit of craftsmanship, or we desire to replicate something great to share copying, emulating is a big part of each of our lives.
Who taught you to tie your shoes? Who taught you to bake, garden, drive, play cards, and fish? Often, we each have traits made up of a whole load of influences.
If someone was to watch you for a while, your interactions with others, the way you handle situations and stresses, your routines, and the time you spend with the Lord, would they know from your life how to follow Jesus?
Now, as a parent, I’m inevitably going to find out the answer to that question one day as to whether I have passed on my love for Jesus to my kids, not by what I have said, but more than likely from what they see me do.
Our attitudes, our decisions, and whether we prioritise meeting with other Christians is something only we can pass on to those coming behind. You might be out of the having kids season and be empty nesters, or enjoying grandkids, but there is still scope in your life to pass on to those coming behind you your faith and love for Jesus and what you have learned.
The apostle Paul’s letter to the friends and Jesus' followers at the Corinthian church encouraged them by saying:
Therefore I urge you, be imitators of me. 1 Cor 4:16
Why? Imitators of Paul?
Yes, Paul would say, imitate me as I imitate Jesus our Lord. I’m living it out in front of you, just as one day, you will live it out in front of others.
As disciples of Jesus, we are living out what we learn, and what we see of Jesus in those around us. This is how we pass on our heritage of faith.
There’s a good chance that you understand faith is built largely on what you have learnt by either doing or seeing other Christians doing.
Passing on to the next generation our faith isn’t just teaching them the Bible. Knowledge is largely useless if it’s not complimented by action. There are many learned scholars of the Bible that have never had a personal encounter with the subject material that could have changed their lives. There are also those who know little of God’s word yet put even the smallest part into action.
Learning to serve, knowing that serving is beneficial is something we can tell someone, but will only be fully realised when that person engages in the act of service.
Our kids will learn to love church when we make it a priority and express our desire and love for His idea of gathering His people.
Paul was able to say ‘Do what you see me doing’ as he set an example. It’s something worth striving for, something that you can leave as a legacy to those coming on behind you. It’s not about being the ‘best Christian’, it’s about being authentically you and showing through your life that there is a God who loves you and you showing you love Him by what you do, that’s infectious, that’s worth copying.
022 544 1946
PO Box 916