One of my favorite verses in the Bible is 1 John 1:9. “If we confess our sins, [God] is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” I love that verse! I love the truth that verse conveys! I live by that verse! What is so comforting about that verse is not only that it promises that if we confess our sins, God will forgive us of our sins, but that if we confess our sins, God must forgive us of our sins. In other words, the deeper assurance of this verse is not primarily in the forgiveness itself, but in the basis of that forgiveness.
Recently I have had quite a few discussions regarding the relationship between the Lord’s Supper and church membership. Historically churches have practiced the administering of the Lord’s Supper in one of three ways—open, closed, and semi-open. All three stem from a church’s interpretation of 1 Cor 11:27-30. There the apostle Paul, after reminding the church they should partake of the Lord’s Supper regularly, warns them to “examine” themselves lest they partake of the elements in “an unworthy manner” and become “guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord.” When this happens, he warns, “many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.” Hence, taking the Lord’s Supper is a serious matter with life and death consequences.
Since the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that same-sex marriage is a constitutional right there has been a cacophony of articles, interviews, blogposts, lectures, discussions, and conferences regarding the topic. Some of it good. Much of it wrong. However, this has all led to no small amount of confusion within the Christian community regarding the issue of homosexuality and what the Bible actually says about it. The two most popular arguments for same-sex marriage over and against the Bible is that, first, Jesus himself never condemned homosexuality. What we find in the Old Testament is antiquated and, therefore, irrelevant. And what we find in the writings of the apostle Paul is the product of a homophobe, a man heavily influenced by his first century patriarchal Jewish heritage. Secondly, if two same-sex persons are happily committed to a loving life-long partnership, that cannot possibly be wrong. We often hear the slogan--love is never wrong.
In celebrating their twentieth anniversary of publishing their “Best-Seller” list, in October 2013 USA Today published the findings of which book genres have been the best-selling over the past twenty years. They discovered that the third best-selling book genre was adult erotica books (sadly), number two was children’s literature books (parents are trying to figure out how to keep their kids happy), and number one was self-help books. Americans are desperate to solve their marriage problems, their parenting problems, their own psycho-emotional problems, their financial problems, and a whole host of other problems. Additionally, I dare say this is probably true of many inside the church. Too often believers look to Laura Schlessinger and Oprah Winfrey for solutions. Too often churches look to corporate America to figure out the best way to attract ‘consumers’ and grow their church. The result is that the divorce rate among those who regularly attend church is nearly identical to those outside the church. Nearly 70% of children raised in Christian homes walk away from the faith during their first year of college. And the term “mainline denominations” is a well-known reference to liberal churches who deny the inerrancy of scripture.
The Bible makes clear that Christians are to verbally share the gospel with all who are willing to listen. Two reasons can be ascertained from scripture as to why this is so. The first is that it is commanded by Christ. Just before his ascension into heaven he gave to the disciples what has come to be known as the Great Commission. In Matthew 28:19-20 Jesus ushers this command: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (ESV). Notice the active language. Jesus does not say ‘stay and wait for people to come to you to be made disciples’, but “Go…and make disciples…” Additionally, when these disciples have been made we are to teach ‘them to observe all that Jesus has commanded them.’ Thus the Great Commission is not simply about bringing people to Christ through the proclamation of the gospel, but is also about growing people in Christ--it’s about discipleship.