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Sunday, February 15, 2015

In Between Epiphany & Emmanuel sermon: A response to invitation to LGBT

The recent announcement by the GracePointe Church in Franklin Tennessee to extend an invitation and to embrace LGBT (lesbians, gays, bisexual and transgender) represents a need to proclaim 1) what is sin, and 2) how those who renounce their life of sin will inherit the kingdom of heaven. This need to proclaim is true as concerns the enlightenment and edification of those saints who are bound to Christ Jesus as Lord and Savior. It is just as true, though they are certainly not bound by it, of the nonbeliever whom if he/she loves his/her life cannot be a disciple of Jesus nor inherit the kingdom of heaven deserve to hear the proclamation of the gospel. (Luke  14:26; I Corinthians 6:9, 10) I believe there is sincerity behind and in the aftermath of a great struggle and wrestling before pastor Stan Mitchell came to a place, to understate it, of great discomfort for himself and as concerns his love towards the saints, their love towards him, the love of the saints at GracePointe towards Jesus as Lord and Savior and his and the saints love for the LBGT to whom GracePointe has extended the invitation. Decisions which affect the congregation of the saints in Christ are sometimes reached on the basis of what is popular or difficult. Yet, I believe those decision makers know these are not the proof as to whether those decisions are right or wrong. Decisions in the past in different fellowships ranged from the petty inside bickering of the saints over whether to have a kitchen in the building to speaking in tongues. Mostly, these were limited to those fellowships respectively. Today, the decisions concerning LGBT, equality involving same-sex marriage (with more to come likely) or other decisions such as sisters in Christ preaching and teaching, (The YouTube video introducing Lauren King at Fourth Avenue Church of Christ has been removed.) reveal that these are not limited to a particular fellowship of the saints. They cut across from one gathering of the saints to another without respect to doctrine or creed.


So, this is a blast of neither the GracePointe Church, her leaders or those who gather there to seek and to know the will of Father through Jesus, his Son and the presence of the Holy Spirit. It is an admonition. It is a word of encouragement that through understanding the saints who gather there as well as those elsewhere may be edified in their faith. I strongly encourage readers of this article to take the time to watch the video in its entirety. Listen to Stan Mitchell in his own words which include some profound insights on Living Between Epiphany and Emmanuel. As true and powerful as are Mitchell’s praiseworthy insights the application of those insights or the justification for the decision of the church leadership seems obscured at best and at worse misplaced. Watch and listen to the video as it is the only way some of the content of this article will can make sense because I have not necessarily expanded in great detail on the entire content of the video.


a list of sins


The apostle Paul stated (I Corinthians 5) that some of those believers in Corinth who were now in Christ were at one time were numbered among those people who lived in sin and without God. His admonition to them was for them to not associate with such people. The admonition was not about those who know not Jesus as Lord and Savior. Rather, it was as concerned a “so-called brother,” as Paul refers to him in the same chapter to the believer in their midst. His immorality had been embraced by the Corinthian saints as a demonstration of their love. It was their mistaken notion and it was why Paul admonished and instructed them as to what they were to do about the matter. Paul, although absent from Corinth not only judged the individual, but he urged the saints at Corinth to do likewise. Despite the aversion and mistaken notion about judging which some saints clutch with much fear it is more the influence of the world on their thinking than their understanding of Jesus and Paul. Their judgments, like the judgments of the saints, were not unto the condemnation of the individual, but unto the salvation of the immoral brother. The saints in Corinth did just as Paul instructed them and they put out of the assembly, or broke fellowship with him. The individual did repent and was restored subsequently. (see II Corinthians 2)


The apostle Paul later reiterates a list of sins, by no means exhaustive, in I Corinthians 6 with some additional sins:


Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters,nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, 10 nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God.


peace outside kingdom


I thought this statement by Mitchell to be peculiar and as telling as it is to ponder:


"I want all of you today who are experiencing the peace of safety to celebrate that. I want those of you who do not have the peace of safety to hear me; you're safe and if can't believe that for yourself let some of us believe that for you and then you can do that for us when we go through our time . . . hmmm” (time: 12:30)


It is not easy for the saints in Christ whether at GracePointe or anywhere to view with acceptance or much less accept the practice of something which the scriptures state is sin, against the will of God and the kingdom of heaven. It may seem and sound as praiseworthy, but exactly what or how does a disciple believe peace towards another person so as to impart peace on that person? Even more, what is this notion of Mitchell to ask of those who do have peace to, do that for us when we go through our time? Assuredly, Mitchell understands how the believer goes from being a child under the wrath of God to one who is at peace with God through the peace of Jesus. It is not a stretch to expect that he knows there is no way for a nonbeliever to be led to believe he/she is at peace with God if they are outside of the kingdom of heaven, _ especially by the saints in Christ believing the nonbeliever is at peace? This is precisely where they remain, outside of the kingdom, without their own renunciation of a life of sin and without Jesus as Lord.


Still, if there anything praiseworthy about the decision of GracePointe Church it is that she is to be commended for her welcome of the LGBT; a welcome which ought to be, and presumably is, extended as well to thieves and others.


leadership, membership and other false branches


Yes, the carnal mindset of some saints who shun sinners and shut the doors of the assembly to them is as much their own sin against the kingdom of heaven. However, extending “full leadership” roles and “ full membership” are no less the same concessionary olive branch of “partial leadership” and “partial membership” which GracePointe extended to them by the church leadership initially. These meager offerings to sinners as decided by the GracePointe Church leadership represent nothing less than (however unwittingly) a deceptive or misleading offering because full leadership and full membership offerings are no more present and taught in the scriptures than are partial leadership and partial membership.


Furthermore, and this is the fallacy of these olive branches as Mitchell calls them, the giving of those olive branches may create the impression of love in the Lord, but it is a notion of love as mistaken as that of our Corinthian brethren. Why? Because receiving and participating in “full leadership” and “full membership” do not equate with and are not a substitute for the knowledge, humility and obedience of the believer to the message of the gospel by which he/she is translated from darkness into the kingdom of heaven. (Colossians 1:13)


being full of the Holy Spirit


It is quite true that those who lead are to do so by serving. Certainly, this is what was modeled for the saints in Acts 6. What escapes the GracePointe leadership is not unique to them. It is widespread. It is the quickness with which some are tasked with the responsibility of teaching (as is the intention of GracePointe towards the newly welcomed ones) in the body of Christ rarely without any discernment or testimony as to whether these, like the seven in Acts 6, are “full of the Holy Spirit.” If this can not be or is not discerned and affirm about the individual by the congregation the needless qualifier of “full” to their responsibility as leaders rings hollow.


Paul declared this truth about being in the Spirit and belonging to Christ succinctly and clearly and are pondered with questions and thoughts:


9 However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him. (Romans 8)


24 Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. (Galatians 5)


First, do those whom are entrusted with “full leadership” including to teach, able to understand and able to teach how and when the Holy Spirit came to dwell in them? If the Holy Spirit is not in one who professes to believe or who speaks of love it no more makes him/her a leader or a teacher than one who belongs to Christ and is filled with the Holy Spirit. The promise that the believer who receives the indwelling of the Holy Spirit is not the same as being filled with the Holy Spirit.


Secondly, the body of Christ is made up of a number of different members. There is no mystery as to how these believers came to be added into the body of Christ nor is their any question about them being members such that they have need to qualify that they are “full” members of the body of Christ. I encourage you to review the response of believers to the preaching of the gospel in Acts as well as the conversion account of the apostle Paul.


I anticipate the response concerning Peter’s qualifier that the seven be “full of the Spirit and of wisdom.” I understand this example of the work of the Holy Spirit in the saints was to teach the body of believers how to address and solve problems in their midst. It was to provoke and stir the saints to think and examine just who and how those seven selected individuals were full of the Holy Spirit. It is noteworthy that the task at hand as described by Peter was to serve tables. How much more so of those who go before the congregation of the saints to teach the scriptures! Today, this is not the intended use of those qualifiers. They are as pins or labels adhered to an individual on the basis of their professional stature, business success, because they want to teach, or, because the leadership has no response to a charge of being politically incorrect, phobic or anti towards a particular individual or group. They are like that peace of the nonbeliever in Mitchell’s statement, which is given by one believer believing for another person that they have peace. So too, being a leader or teacher is not much more than a hashtag; full of the Holy Spirit. It is to be dispensed like a commodity.


I also anticipate the rants and shouts about this being a hate, hateful or hatred-filled message. This is a common response and typically with nothing more substantive than . . . a rant and shout. Let the reader judge for themselves. Hate and love are two words with which Jesus was quite comfortable towards himself, but he also used these same familiar words to impress without any tricks, schemes or slight of hand on anyone who would contemplate following him.


conclusion


Whatever your way of living might be I have no more need or desire than did Jesus to condemn you, fear, hate, dislike or shun you from the assembly of the saints anytime you might be moved to gather among the saints who are of the faith that is in Christ Jesus. The cost of following Jesus is for every individual to count and determine and decide for themselves whether they will follow Jesus. Whether you live a life which you hate but the you live without Jesus is more to be desired than what you hate about taking up their cross and following Jesus, _ then, Jesus said, you cannot be my disciple. If you love the life you live more than the love which you see and understand in Jesus, _ then, Jesus said, you cannot be my disciple.


Yes, there are plenty of semblances to being a follower of Jesus, but here is a at-home test for you. If those semblances of following after Jesus are easy, fun or popular think about the horror and spectacle of Jesus being crucified and decide for yourself as the apostle Paul said about himself,
I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. (Galatians 2:20)


Nobody likes crucifixion or being crucified. If, on the other hand, after looking past the horror and spectacle of death by crucifixion you determine you hate your life more than you hate being crucified to self, or, that you love the call of following Jesus more than your own life; then take up your cross and follow. It is your obedience to or rejection of the gospel, not what I as individual, a political agenda or association, a gathering of the saints, participating in that gathering of the saints or what the leadership might have to say about your condemnation or salvation. It is your obedience to the gospel which determines your own condemnation or salvation. (II Thessalonians 1:5-12)
Grace and peace be to all who call upon the name of the Lord.