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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Actor?

The complete Resisting Gossip Video Teaching Series DVD is available now for pre-order on Amazon. It includes all ten lessons (with music by The Gray Havens), 3 book trailers (good for introducing resisting gossip to your church, group, or organization), and the blooper reel. The DVD releases on October 7th in conjunction with Resisting Gossip Together.

The strangest feature is that instead of being listed as an author, I get to be listed as an actor on Amazon.

What's next? An IMDB profile? I don't think I'll quit my day job.




Monday, September 29, 2014

Blooper Reel

Spencer Folmar's favorite outtakes from filming The Resisting Gossip Teaching Series.


Resisting Gossip Teaching Series: Bloopers from Third Brother Films on Vimeo.

On Location

Now that the entire Resisting Gossip Teaching Series is out, we can show you a little bit of what it was like behind the scenes. In a word: fun.

Special thanks go again to Spencer for his sense of humor and hard work on this project, to the Gray Havens for the use of their fun yet serious song "Jack and Jill, pt 2," and to CLC Publications for giving these away to the online world.

Please Share

Don't forget that these ten videos are all free for streaming, downloading, and sharing. Please pass them on to whomever you think will profit from them. Each film is specifically designed to be used in conjunction with a chapter in Resisting Gossip and a lesson from the new companion book Resisting Gossip Together which comes out in just one week.


Sunday, September 28, 2014

[Matt's Messages] "Living the Christian Life Today"

“Living the Christian Life Today”
September 28, 2014
1 Peter 2:11-12

I invite you to turn in your Bibles with me to 1 Peter chapter 2.

I know that was a surprise–it was a surprise for me, too.

Every once in a while you run out of week before you run out of work, right?

Well, that happened to me this week. I ran out of week before I ran out of work. And Romans is so important to get right I just didn’t feel like what I was preparing was going to be ready for today, so I switched directions and landed on 1 Peter chapter 2.

I’ve said before that sermons are kind of like casseroles. Sometimes they need a little more time in the oven before you put them on the table.

So, today, while the Romans casserole continues to bake, we’re going to consider just 2 verses in the second chapter of Peter’s first letter.

And here’s why I picked this passage.

Because Peter says here how Christians are supposed to live in the year 2014.

Now, it doesn’t actually “2014" in this passage. But it just about could.

What Peter had to say to those Jewish Christians living in exile in Asia Minor towards the end of the first century, is exactly what you and I need to hear in the last quarter of the year 2014.

What Peter had to say was profound, encouraging, challenging, and life-changing.

I’ve entitled this message, “Living the Christian Life Today.”

It was true 2000 years ago when Peter wrote it, but it’s so perfect for you and me today.

In this passage, the Apostle Peter is going to use the word “urge” or “exhort” or (King James) “beseech.” He is going to call us to a certain way of living. A way of living that might pinch a bit when we first put it on, but we will find it overtime it will wear just right.

Now, I think, because, he is going to go straight to the heart of our lives today, and because he just might step on a few toes, Peter begins with a very important word in v.11.

The word is translated “Dear friends” in the NIV.  Do you see that?  The NASB and ESV have, “beloved.”  The KJV says, “Dearly beloved.”  The Greek word is “Agapatoi” and you can hear in that word the idea it expresses. “Agapatoi” means, “Ones who are loved.”

Peter is saying, “I urge you, ones who are loved...to act a certain way.  Agapatoi, I urge you to live this way...”

Now, the question is, loved by whom?  Who loves the Agapatoi?

The obvious answer here is Peter.  “Dear ones whom I, Peter, love, I urge you...to live a certain way...”

But I think we can hardly miss the significance of this word (Agaphtoi) falling on the heels of vv.9&10. Look up at what Peter had just said to these people. V.9  “You are a chosen people, a royal (priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God...Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy [from God!].”

Agaphtoi.

Ones loved by God Himself.

Bask in that for just a second.  Revel in that!  If you are a Christian, you are the Agaphtoi–beloved of God.

Remember that thing I told you to put on your mirror and say to yourself each day? That was a month ago.

“I am loved by God.”

The hymnwriter said:
O love of God, how rich and pure!
How measureless and strong!
It shall forevermore endure–the saints’ and angels’ song.

Loved by God Himself.

That, in and of itself, should be adequate motivation for compliance with any life-choices that God desires for me to make.

If God starts any sentence with, “Matthew Charles Mitchell, Agapatoi–loved one, I urge you to do this...” that should be much more than enough to engender obedience.

Being loved by God makes all the difference in how we live in 2014.

Now, let’s see exactly what He wants. The first part of v.11.

“Agapatoi, dear friends, dearly beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers in the world...”  Stop right there for a moment.

The first thing God wants for us to do is to recognize that we are aliens and strangers in the world.

Our Link Group which meets on Sunday nights has just started studying this book together, but we’ve already been talking about that theme.

Peter asks us to live as aliens and strangers in the world.

Now, this word “alien” does not mean E.T. or Yoda or Doctor Who or Mork from Ork. It generally means someone who does not belong officially to the country he or she is living in.  In other words, someone who is not a citizen.  My mother-in-law, for example, was not a citizen of Canada.  She was an US citizen that married a Canadian citizen and came to live permanently in Canada.  But she had never become a Canadian citizen before she died. So, in that sense (and in that sense only!) I used to joke with her that she could rightfully be called an alien.

The second word here (a “stranger”) generally means one who lives temporarily in a certain country or area.  For example: a hitchhiker just passing through or a migrant farm-worker.  Someone who is in an area or country but not expected to make this area or country their permanent home–that’s “a stranger.”

At bottom, these two words describe together a kind of person who does not belong.  One who does not have citizenship and one who does not expect to stay forever.

And Peter says, “Agapatoi, I urge you to live your lives as people who do not belong.”

Point #1 of three.

#1.  DON’T FIT IN.

You and I don’t really belong here.

The Christian slaves in the South used to sing, “This world is not my home, I’m just a’passing through.”

Paul said in Philippians, “Our citizenship is in heaven.”

The Lord Jesus said that we are in the world but not of the world.

You and I don’t belong here.  But too many Christians act like they do.

We want to be loved.  We want to be accepted.  We want to correspond to the people around us and be well-liked.

But God calls us to stick out like a sore thumb.  To be different.  To not fit in.

Now, I’m not talking here about a Christian dress code, though being an alien and a stranger does have implications for the way in which we dress.  Ladies, do you dress just like the world? Do you take your cues from the world?  If you get your ideas of how to dress from the magazines at the checkout counter, there is something wrong.

And I’m not talking here about a legalistic list of do’s and don’ts, though being an alien and a stranger certainly does affect the list of things we will do and the list of things we most certainly will not do.

I’m talking here about being a different kind of person than those around us.  A person whose character and morals (and actions!) match the world to come more than they match this world.  Does that make sense?

If everyone at work pads their expense account, why don’t you?
If everyone at school uses the Lord’s precious name as a swear word, why don’t you?
If all of your friends spend all of their discretionary money on a bigger and better vehicle each year, why don’t you?
If the discussion around the water cooler is gossip, talking about people, or dirty jokes, why don’t you join in?
If your buddies say that revenge is sweet, and that you are justified in bitterly not speaking to her ever again, why do you go and forgive?
If your friends stay up late on Saturday nights watching stupidity on television or wasting time on the internet so that they are too tired to worship God with the full glad heart He deserves, why are you in bed by ten on Saturday nights?
If the people around you are paranoid about terrorism, or the government, or the economy, or rampaging viruses, why are you confident and secure?

Why are you different? The answer should be, because you belong to another kingdom than the one you live in.  You are an alien and a stranger in this world.  You don’t take your cues from the world.  You don’t do things the way the world does.   You don’t value the things the world values. You know that you are leaving this world soon so you better not get too comfortable.

Aliens and strangers don’t buy things the same way regular citizens do, they don’t dress the same way, they don’t talk the same way, they don’t even feel the same way.  They have different agendas, different hopes, different values, different aspirations.

Beloved, don’t fit in. ...

Now, the examples I’ve just given you may not strike you as the exact area where you are weak here.  You know where you struggle to fit in.  Why don’t you ask God right now where He wants you to change? What area of your life looks just like an unbeliever’s life and needs to change.  I invite you to write that area down on the back of your bulletin with a prayer for God to actually make you stick out. I’ll give you a couple seconds to do that. ...

Agapatoi, beloved, don’t fit in.

#2.  DON'T GIVE IN.

Let’s finish v.11.  “Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul.”

Don’t give in!

“Abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul.”

Those are strong words. I almost titled this message, “The Soul War.”

Peter is saying that there is a war being waged that is more important than the war on terrorism. It is the war being waged inside of yourself by your own sinful desires on your soul. The KJV renders this more literally, “fleshly lusts” that is, desires that arise out of your sinful human nature–out of being a fallen human. The ESV translates it, “passions of the flesh.”

You and I have an internal enemy–our old nature–that rises up regularly to try to defeat our holiness and our hope.  Don’t let it!

Peter is saying that there are these internal terrorists called sinful desires and they want to get you!

You know what they are.  You know what is in your heart: lust, envy, malice, unbelief, greed, fear, selfish ambition, discord, jealousy, anger and rage and pride.  These all came with the package when you and I were born.  Batteries included.

They are the way the world works. They are the “bad news” of Romans 1. That’s why Peter puts this command to abstain from them with the call to live as aliens and strangers.

The world gives in to these desires.  Christians must not give in, or we lose the war.

Don’t give in.

I remember a time not too long ago that I gave in to gluttony.

Our family sat down to a delicious spaghetti dinner (one of my favorites).  Towards the end of the meal I got up and fixed myself a second heaping plate that I absolutely did not need.
 
I knew I didn’t.  I had a fleshly lust arise within me that told me that the second plate would make me happy.  I was stressed and frazzled, and I let myself listen to the internally-sourced lie that I deserved another plate after a long day of meetings and sermon writing.

The world says, “You deserve a break today, Matt.” “Pamper yourself.”  “You deserve the best.”  I saw a banner at Wal-Mart that said, “Submit a little, rebel a lot.”  It said that! And that night, I swallowed it–literally.  And there was a little battle in my soul’s war that was lost.

Now, you might think that that is a little thing–and quite natural, for me to want that second plate and extra plate.

But that’s just the point.  It is natural to sin.  It is natural to have desires for things I should not have.

God is calling us, as Christians in 2014, to abstain from those. TO NOT DO WHAT COMES NATURALLY!

To live differently.  To not fit in and to not give in.

What is it that wars against your soul these days?  Write it down on the back of your bulletin with a renunciation of it.

It might be gluttony like it was for me. Or it could be something completely different.

What desires are natural for you, but must be resisted in your ongoing war with sin?

The world says to us, “follow your heart” as if our heart was an infallible guide.

Instead, we should be saying to our hearts, “Follow the Lord.”

“...abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul.”

Do you have an ongoing war with sin?  Or have you just given in?

Write down your enemy that you need to kill. I’ll give you a few seconds...

Agapatoi, don’t give in.

Instead:

#3.  DO GOOD DEEDS.  V.12

“Live such good lives [literally: excellent, honorable, beautiful lives] among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds [literally: excellent, honorable, beautiful deeds] and glorify God on the day he visits us.”

Peter will go on to give practical examples of this principle at work in different kinds of relationships: civilian, work, and marriage. Those relationships may not always be with the best of people–unbelievers that have a grudge against you just for living differently!

And that’s what our culture has become in 2014. There is a growing bias against Christianity at least in some areas.

And we need to prepare for how we are going to act when people don’t like us.

Christianity used to have a favored status in the United States.

I’m not saying that we were ever a Christian nation. I don’t know exactly what that means. A nation doesn’t have a heart. A nation can’t receive Christ.

But we had a Christian heritage. A nation with many Christians. And a nation that had Christian assumptions, Christian presuppositions.

Americans liked Christians and assumed a kind of cultural Christianity (for good or ill).

But that day is, in many ways, over.

And instead of moaning and whining about it, or trying to vote it back into existence somehow, we, instead, need to think of ourselves as aliens and strangers warring against the flesh with righteousness and good deeds so that some day those slanderous mouths against us will be silenced. Do you see what I’m saying?

Do you remember a few weeks ago, I said that the campus ministry InterVarsity had been de-recognized by the California state universities. And it was because they required the student leaders to believe the teachings of Christianity.

Well, that’s going to be the new normal. We need to get our heads around that. Unless there is a revival (for which we can pray) and gospel transformation of many people,  this is the sort of thing we can expect in the future.

But here’s the good part. It doesn’t change anything. The InterVarsity Christians are just going to get more creative. They’re just going to keep on doing what they were doing and living out Christianity before the watching world.

It doesn’t change Christianity. We were always supposed to be a pilgrim people.

“Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.”

The “day God visits us” in v.12 is either the day that God visits a person with salvation or when God brings judgment.  Both will be present at the Second Coming of Christ.

Peter is saying, live your life before unbelieving humanity in such a way that over time they will see that there is something good and different about you.  You don’t fit in and it is good.  And on the day that God visits, there will be just judgment for those who saw your life and still did not believe.

And for others, there will be salvation because they saw your good deeds and came to praise a God who could do something miraculous.

Because it is miraculous when we abstain from sinful desires and do good things!  That’s God at work in us to will and to do His good pleasure!  If you have any measure of victory in the war against sin, that’s God!  And others may see it and come to believe the gospel.

Because they are watching, you know.  Peter got these words (I’m pretty sure) from the Lord Jesus Himself who said, “Let your light so shine before men that they see you good deeds and praise you and really give you credit for being such a good person”–NO!!  “Praise your Father” who made your holiness and good deeds possible through His grace!

That’s the goal–the ultimate glorification of God.

And we get there by doing good deeds.

Notice the progression.  First, recognize that you are dearly loved by God Himself  and an alien and a stranger who doesn’t belong here.

Then, secondly, internally fight the war with sinful desires. The soul war.

Then, finally, externally let your light shine with good deeds.

God is saying to you today in 2014, to live a good life.  Do good deeds.

Do morally praiseworthy things:
sacrifice something for someone
help someone
pray for someone
pray with someone
minister to someone at work
do your job really really well when no one is looking!
volunteer
call someone to encourage them
keep your promises
forgive someone
apologize to someone
stand up for someone who is being picked on or talked about.

Do good deeds.  And do them in such a way that you stick out as a Kingdom citizen who is sold out to Jesus Christ so that He gets the glory on the day He comes back to visit us.

Maybe right now God is laying a good deed on your heart. Write it down on your handout sheet. Don’t let this pass.  Don’t go a day, or more than two, before you do it.

Let me give you a second to write it down with a prayer to live a good life before your unbelieving neighbors. ....

Brothers and sisters, God loves you.  Here’s what He wants from you in 2014:

Don’t fit in.  Don’t give in.  Do good deeds.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

The Resisting Gossip Video Teaching Series

Rejoice with me! The complete series is now online. All ten videos are free for downloading and streaming. Please use them and share them with others.

Special thanks to Spencer Folmar of Third Brother Films for producing, directing, filming, and editing them, to The Gray Havens for the use of your awesome music, to all the folks who opened up their places for us to film on location, and to CLC Publications for giving these films away to the online world.

Tune in Monday for one last video release: the outtakes on the blooper reel.



Introduction/Trailer


Resisting Gossip Teaching Series: Trailer from Third Brother Films on Vimeo.

Lesson #1: What, Exactly, Is Gossip?


Resisting Gossip Teaching Series: Lesson 1 from Third Brother Films on Vimeo.

Lesson #2: Why Do We Gossip?


Resisting Gossip Teaching Series: Lesson 2 from Third Brother Films on Vimeo.

Lesson #3: A Gallery of Gossips


Resisting Gossip Teaching Series: Lesson 3 from Third Brother Films on Vimeo.

Lesson #4: Believing the Best


Resisting Gossip Teaching Series: Lesson 4 from Third Brother Films on Vimeo.

Lesson #5: Instead of Gossip: Speaking


Resisting Gossip Teaching Series: Lesson 5 from Third Brother Films on Vimeo.

Lesson #6: Instead of Gossip: Listening


Resisting Gossip Teaching Series: Lesson 6 from Third Brother Films on Vimeo.

Lesson #7: Responding in Faith


Resisting Gossip Teaching Series: Lesson 7 from Third Brother Films on Vimeo.

Lesson #8: Responding in Love


Resisting Gossip Teaching Series: Lesson 8 from Third Brother Films on Vimeo.

Lesson #9: Regretting Gossip


Resisting Gossip Teaching Series: Lesson 9 from Third Brother Films on Vimeo.

Lesson #10: Gossip and Our Church


Resisting Gossip Teaching Series: Lesson 10 from Third Brother Films on Vimeo.

Purchase the Entire Series on DVD

The Resisting Gossip Teaching Series is also available on DVD.  The DVD includes all ten video lessons, the blooper reel, and the book trailers for Resisting Gossip and Resisting Gossip Together.



Friday, September 26, 2014

Lesson #10. "Gossip and Our Church"

I'm pleased to present Lesson #10 of the Resisting Gossip Teaching Series.


Resisting Gossip Teaching Series: Lesson 10 from Third Brother Films on Vimeo.

Introduction

The Lord loves unity among brothers and sisters in Christ. Unity is utterly holy and divinely refreshing. God also hates unnecessary disunity among His people; therefore, we are called as the people of God to “make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:1). Join Pastor Matt Mitchell as he teaches on how glorious unity is and what we can be doing to maintain it in our local fellowships.

On Location

We filmed lesson #10 in an old, white, traditional-country-church-looking building in a very rural part of our county. There was no running water, and (more importantly) no electricity. That meant that we could only use natural lighting and that Spencer's fancy cameras would only be good as long as their batteries held up. We filmed it in the afternoon as the sun began to set--so it was crucial to get as much footage as quickly as possible. We just made it! The batteries died and the light left us just as we were filming the last take.

Please Share

Don't forget that these ten videos are all free for streaming, downloading, and sharing. Please pass them on to whomever you think will profit from them. Each film is specifically designed to be used in conjunction with a chapter in Resisting Gossip and a lesson from the new companion book Resisting Gossip Together which comes out on October 7th.

That's all of them! Tune in Monday as we release the outtakes Spencer gathered for the Blooper Reel.


Thursday, September 25, 2014

Lesson #9. "Regretting Gossip"

I'm pleased to present Lesson #9 of the Resisting Gossip Teaching Series.


Resisting Gossip Teaching Series: Lesson 9 from Third Brother Films on Vimeo.

Introduction

Shame, disgrace, condemnation, self-loathing–these are a few of the feelings we can experience after we give in to what seems like irresistible gossip. We know, deep down, that when we gossip we are offending God and hurting people so it is right to feel deep regret. Join Pastor Matt Mitchell as he teaches on the grace, peace, and light that comes from the gospel of Jesus Christ.

On Location

We filmed lesson #9 in a private airplane hanger. During the lesson, the hanger door opens dramatically letting in almost more light than Spencer's cameras could handle. The idea was to vividly picture how the gospel moves us from the darkness of shame and regret in gossip to the light of repentance, forgiveness, cleansing, and joy.

This episode also features the traditional feather pillow and gossip story which we acted out with a real old-fashioned feather pillow (thanks, Becky!) and a leaf-blower (thanks, Tom!).

Please Share

Don't forget that these ten videos are all free for streaming, downloading, and sharing. Please pass them on to whomever you think will profit from them. Each film is specifically designed to be used in conjunction with a chapter in Resisting Gossip and a lesson from the new companion book Resisting Gossip Together which comes out on October 7th.

Tomorrow, we'll release the last lesson, #10: "Regretting Gossip."


Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Lesson #8. "Responding in Love"

I'm pleased to present Lesson #8 of the Resisting Gossip Teaching Series.


Resisting Gossip Teaching Series: Lesson 8 from Third Brother Films on Vimeo.

Introduction

What do you do with an enemy? When someone gossips about you, he or she is acting as your enemy. Our culture and our instincts urge us to defend ourselves and to retaliate. But our Lord says to follow His example and love our enemies. Join Pastor Matt Mitchell as he teaches on four love-in-action responses we can use when our opponents have gossiped about us.

On Location

We filmed this at the offices of TMM Data (thank you Bob Selfridge!). Gathering around the water-cooler is another one of those typical times when gossip might flow. I really appreciate the two office guys who were willing to gossip on camera for us.

Please Share

Don't forget that these ten videos are all free for streaming, downloading, and sharing. Please pass them on to whomever you think will profit from them. Each film is specifically designed to be used in conjunction with a chapter in Resisting Gossip and a lesson from the new companion book Resisting Gossip Together which comes out on October 7th.

Tomorrow, we'll release lesson #9: "Regretting Gossip."


Tuesday, September 23, 2014

"Resisting Gossip Together" Now Available for Pre-Order on Amazon

Great news!

Our new companion book is now available for pre-order on Amazon.

After months of planning, writing, and editing, it's wonderful to finally be able to share it with others.

The ten lessons and Bible studies in Resisting Gossip Together each correspond to a chapter in Resisting Gossip and are keyed to the videos we've been sharing each day these last two weeks.




I'll be telling you more about it as the release date approaches (October 7th), but today, I'm just happy to report that it's "Amazon official."

Lesson #7. "Responding in Faith"

I'm pleased to present Lesson #7 of the Resisting Gossip Teaching Series.


Resisting Gossip Teaching Series: Lesson 7 from Third Brother Films on Vimeo.

Introduction

It hurts to be gossiped about. When we find out we’ve been the target of a whispering attack, we feel betrayed, vulnerable, and robbed of our reputation. Caught in that unenviable position, it can be difficult to know what to do. Join Pastor Matt Mitchell as he teaches on how to relate to and trust in God when others are talking about us behind our backs.

On Location

We filmed this seventh video at the war memorial in downtown Philipsburg, Pennsylvania. One of cameras wasn't working in the sunlight, but Spencer was able to get ample footage with the other camera. You can hear the sounds of traffic. It was a chilly, windy day in late March. It was hard to keep my papers from flying off the ubiquitous music stand.

Please Share

Don't forget that these ten videos are all free for streaming, downloading, and sharing. Please pass them on to whomever you think will profit from them. Each film is specifically designed to be used in conjunction with a chapter in Resisting Gossip and a lesson from the new companion book Resisting Gossip Together which comes out on October 7th.

Tomorrow, we'll release lesson #8: "Responding in Love."


Monday, September 22, 2014

Lesson #6. "Instead of Gossip: Listening"

I'm pleased to present Lesson #6 of the Resisting Gossip Teaching Series.


Resisting Gossip Teaching Series: Lesson 6 from Third Brother Films on Vimeo.

Introduction

We’ve all been ambushed by a gossipy conversation. Whether with friends, family, neighbors, or co-workers, we’ve all been in social situations that unexpectedly took a detour into gossip, and it’s often unclear what we should do in those frequently awkward moments. Join Pastor Matt Mitchell as he teaches about biblical alternatives to listening to sinful gossip.

On Location

Is there a more stereotypical place for gossiping than the beauty parlor? Is there a stranger place to find a preacher with a music stand?

Please Share

Don't forget that these ten videos are all free for streaming, downloading, and sharing. Please pass them on to whomever you think will profit from them. Each film is specifically designed to be used in conjunction with a chapter in Resisting Gossip and a lesson from the new companion book Resisting Gossip Together which comes out on October 7th.

Tomorrow, we'll release lesson #7: "Responding in Faith"


Sunday, September 21, 2014

[Matt's Messages] Hope for Holy Sexuality

“Hope for Holy Sexuality”
All Roads Lead to Romans
September 21, 2014 :: Romans 1:24-27 

Our series is called “All Roads Lead to Romans” and we’ve covered the first chapter in the first three weeks.

However, last week, I said that I would preach a special message this Sunday on homosexuality from verses 24-27 which we didn’t get to go very into last week.

I have to say that I don’t feel like preaching about homosexuality.

It seems like there are too many ways to get the message wrong.

For example, the very thing that you might want to hear me say this week might not be the very thing that you need to hear from me this week.

Some of us are probably tempted to follow our culture and celebrate homosexuality. So, you might be wanting me to say, “It’s no big deal. Don’t worry about it.”

On the way other side, some of us are probably tempted to feel morally superior to LGBT people and maybe even hate them and feel comfortable disdaining those who experience same sex attraction. Maybe even hating them with our words or actions.  You may want me to make this “us vs. them.”

Some of us are probably tempted to live in fear right now because the proponents of homosexuality as good and normal and worth celebrating are on the ascendency in our culture. You can be ostracized and penalized for suggesting differently. Some of you may want me to either reassure you that you don’t have to speak up or to get you riled up to be politically active on this issue and win back America for traditional values. You want some red meat.

It seems like there are too many ways to get the message wrong.

And the stakes seem too awfully high. Because we all have people that we know and love who are affected by same-sex attraction.

Many of you have children, and grand-children and cousins and aunts and uncles and friends, and neighbors, and co-workers who identify as gay.

I have several people whom I love dearly that are.

And we love them. And we’re confused. The stakes are high.

And some of you here probably struggle with same-sex attraction, as well. Maybe you’ve never told anybody, but there it is.  Let’s say the occurrence is 3% of the population. There are 150 people here. Maybe 3 or 4 of you?

I’m so glad you are here!

And there are people who will read or listen to this message online who experience same-sex attraction, as well. I’m glad you’re tuning in, too.

I preached a special message on homosexuality before, 8 years ago when I was preaching on what the Bible teaches about the family. Some of you will remember it.

A lot has changed in our culture since 2006.

Homosexuality has become mainstream.

In 2006, I was worried to preach about it because of exposing the children.

Now, I’m concerned that we have talked about it enough because of what the children are regularly exposed to.

Two daddys and two mommys. It doesn’t matter.

Heather and I were at the Shakespeare Festival in Stratford, Ontario this Summer for our second honeymoon. And we went to see A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

And there was no warning, but it was a Very LBGT Midsummer Night’s Dream.  There were 3 twisted couples in the production. One gay, one lesbian, and one cross-dressing queer.  Titania the queen of the forest was a drag queen.

And the hall was packed with families, and they all applauded as if it was completely normal and good.

Honey Maid, the food company, has recently put out an ad campaign called, “This Is Wholesome” which features among other things, a gay couple as parents. “This Is Wholesome.”

But is it?

Homosexuality has become mainstream.

I didn’t feel like talking about it to the teens at Challenge this Summer. I don’t know what I was thinking when I agreed to talk to them.

I’m not an expert. I’m just a pastor who cares.

But somebody has to be talking about this and specifically saying what the Bible has to say about it.

And many of you have been asking me to share what I said to the students at Challenge. So, today I will.

Because lots of things in our culture have changed since 2006, but God’s Word has not changed.

One the great things about the Challenge Conference this Summer was that all of the teaching was built around the Big Storyline of the Bible.

Creation, Separation, Promise, Silence, Rescue, and then Restoration!

We talked about that this Summer.

Well, when I wanted to talk to the teens about holy sexuality, I followed the same general pattern.

We started by talking about #1. ORIGINAL SEXUALITY.

I asked, “Where in the Bible would you go to establish God’s design for human sexuality?”  And how would you answer that? Genesis, right? Chapters 1 and 2.

Let’s turn there real quickly.

Look at Genesis 1:27 and 28.

After he created a whole bunch of other things, God set to making us.

 “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.’”

Chapter gives a closer look at that creation. Look at verse 18.

“The LORD God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.’”

And that’s what he did and he presented the woman to the man. V.23

“The man said, ‘This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called 'woman, 'for she was taken out of man.’ For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.”

So much could be said here, but this is what I want you to notice.

God made how many genders?  2 genders.

And these 2 kinds of human beings complement each other. Male and female.

And when a man a woman come together, they multiply.

Marriage unites a man and a woman in a complementary, comprehensive, exclusive, and permanent union.  “One flesh.”

And the refrain of chapter 1 is, “God saw what he had made, and it was...” good.

Gender, sexuality, and natural marriage are real, good, and beautiful.

Original Sexuality was good.

Some people like to think that sex was the original sin. It wasn’t.

God designed sex. It wasn’t something man made up.  It wasn’t like God made man and woman and then said, “Oh, no what are they doing over there?”

No, He sat at his drawing board, and said, “Oh, I’ve got a great idea for marriage! They are going to love this one.”

Original Sexuality is good. It is God’s design. But, we should use it as directed.

Like on your prescriptions?  Use as directed.

I like to say, “Sexual relations are for marriage (meaning one man, one woman united for life). Sex is for marriage like fire is for the fireplace.”

Fire is awesome in the right place. Warm, cozy, good. But terrible if it’s in wrong place and burns your house down.

And here’s where Jesus’ teaching comes in.

Some people like to say that Jesus never said anything about homosexuality.

He was silent.

And if you mean that he never said the word “gay,” you’re right.

But turn quickly to Matthew 19 to see what he said about marriage. Look at v.3

“Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, ‘Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?’ [Now, we can’t into divorce today, but see where Jesus goes with this...] ‘Haven't you read,’ he replied, ‘that at the beginning the Creator 'made them male and female,' [Where’s that? Genesis 1] and said, 'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh'? [Where’s that? Genesis 2.] So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.’”

Jesus was not silent about what marriage is supposed to be.

Jesus was not silent about original sexuality.

He says the fire of sex is made for the fireplace of natural marriage. Male and female becoming one flesh. And it’s God who joins them.

And the apostle Paul takes it even one more step further. In Ephesians 5, which if we had more time I’d take you to (but I had 90 minutes with the youth and only about 35 with you, in Ephesians 5), Paul quotes Genesis 2 again and says that marriage has always been a mystery pointing people to a picture of Christ and the church.

A mystery is something that’s always been there and is not revealed. Like an app on your phone running in the background and then you pull to the front.

Marriage has always been a picture of Christ and the church.

And homosexual union cannot achieve that picture.

And then, I took the student this Summer to #2. UNHOLY SEXUALITY.

We went to Genesis 3 and read about Satan’s temptation getting between the couple and thwarting God’s design for complementarity for the sexes, and saw how Adam’s sin changed everything. How men and women after the Fall are ashamed and at odds.  And how our good sexuality is now broken in so many ways. Not just in homosexuality! We are all broken sexually in some way.

And then we went here to Romans 1. Where we’ve been as a church for this whole month.

Where we clearly see that homosexuality is a result of the Fall.

We said last week that this is the “Bad News section of Romans.” The wrath of God is being revealed against all unrighteousness, against those who suppress the truth in unrighteousness.

God has made Himself known in creation, clearly, but people everywhere have pushed down that knowledge of God.

And traded God for stuff.

Idolatry. V.23 “[They] exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.”

And that’s not all they’ve traded.

They traded original sexuality for unholy sexuality.

And it was, in part, a judgment. V.24

“Therefore [because of that idolatrous exchange] God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another.”

As we said last week, idolatry leads to sexual impurity. Unholy sexuality.

Now, that’s not just homosexuality, that’s all sinful sexuality.

That includes lustful masturbation, using pornography, sexually abusing someone else, selling your body in prostitution and pornography, beastiality, and every other kind of unholy perversion that we as humans can think up.

All sexual intercourse outside of the covenant of marriage.  Couples living together as man and wife when they aren’t. Fornication.  All of that stuff.

By the way, I’m really uncomfortable talking about all of this. I don’t enjoy it one bit.

I’d rather I never had to talk about this publicly.

The media culture tries to paint Christians as fixated on sexuality because we preach God’s design and standards.

But it’s the media that’s fixated on sexuality.  I’m sure that there are preachers who are abscessed with it, too, but just turn on any TV or device or open any magazine and you’ll see what I’m talking about.

The point I’m making is that idolatry is the root cause of sexual impurity. And that’s all sexual impurity not just homosexuality, but it includes homosexuality. V.25

“They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator–who is forever praised. Amen. [Idolatry. V.26] Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. [Lesbianism] In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.”

Do you hear all of the negative words?

There is no way to put a positive spin on this.

Impurity. Degrading. Shameful. Unnatural. Lust. Penalty. Perversion.

Unholy sexuality.

Now, this is not saying that people wake up one morning and decide to become gay.

“I’m going to choose unholiness today!”

We’ve made the mistake of thinking it’s all about choice.

And that’s it’s simple as a simple choice.

It’s not simple in most cases.

There may be lots of factors involved including biological ones.

Things like biology, environment, and nurture can shape and express our fallenness but are not the ultimate or most central and important cause.

The science actually bears this out if you read it carefully.

But the Bible places homosexuality as a result of the Fall.

And ties it closely to idolatry. It’s another kind of exchange.

Now, some people want to argue this away.  The most recent was a man named Matthew Vines who wrote this book, “God and the Gay Christian.”

He argues that Paul isn’t talking about homosexual orientation here. Paul doesn’t know about that. He’s talking only about a perversion of how you were made.

If you were made a heterosexual then it would be unnatural for you to have sex with another man. But it would be different if you were, as Lady Gaga would say, “Born that Way.”

But that’s not what Paul means by natural.

Paul means how God made us in nature.  He means original sexuality.

Male and female go together.

And he’s saying that’s obvious.
It’s part of what God has clearly revealed in creation, that people are suppressing.

But it’s absurd. This should be obvious:

Men should not have sexual relations with other men.
Women should not have sexual relations with other women.
To do so is unholy and invites the wrath of God.

Turn with me to 1 Corinthians chapter 6 verses 9 & 10.

“Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.”

That’s the bad news.

And Paul here uses two words for homosexual people to indicate both the active and the passive partners in gay sex.  It’s not just abusive dominating men in a patriarchal Roman society. It’s all who choose to have same sex relations.

They will not inherit the kingdom of God.

But!

Look at the next verse. V.11

“And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”

#3. SAVED SEXUALITY.

I love that sentence in verse 11. “And that is what some of you were.”

Some of you were sexually immoral and idolaters and adulterers and thieves and greedy and drunkards and slanderers and swindlers and practicing homosexuals.

But you aren’t any more.

You’re saved.

“But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”

Forgiveness is possible.
Redemption is possible.
Change is possible through the gospel of Jesus Christ.

In Jesus, we can have hope for a holy sexuality.

Now, we want to be careful not to hold out a false hope.

We in the church have often given people the idea that change will be easy and quick.

But that’s not often not the case for any sin.

There is victory in Christ. In being washed, sanctified, justified.

But that victory is often up and down and three steps forward and one step back and sometimes just facing forward not making much progress.

Some people will come to Christ and experience total freedom from same sex attraction and marry an opposite sex spouse and have kids and never look back.

Others will not get there in this lifetime.

For some, holy sexuality will look like singleness and celibacy.

Which is an awesome calling. Jesus did it.

We need to hold up more the awesomeness of singleness.

Jesus was not a second level citizen in the kingdom of God. And he never had sex!

The goal is holy sexuality, not heterosexuality.

I learned that idea from a man named Christopher Yuan.

Christopher Yuan was heavily intro drugs and promiscuous gay sex. And he eventually went to prison. And it was in prison that he met Jesus.

And he said in his book Out of a Far Country:
For so long, I saw myself solely as being a gay man. That was such a big part of who I was. I went to a gay club, I went to a gay gym, I went to a gay grocery story . . . everything. All my friends were gay.
And as I was reading Scripture, I realized I had put my identity in the wrong thing . . . that my identity is not gay, it’s not homosexual, it’s not even heterosexual, for that matter. But my identity as a child of God must be in Jesus Christ alone.
And:
Regardless of whether your temptations, your passions, your desires, your struggles change, God is calling us to live a life of obedience. God is calling us to live a life of holiness. So I realized that the opposite of homosexuality is not heterosexuality, but holiness.

Christopher Yuan is now a professor at Moody Bible Institute and teaches on holy sexuality across the country.

And this Summer, I told Christopher Yuan’s story and a bunch of other stories of public people who have experienced saved sexuality. Change.

Rosaria Butterfield whose book is in our library, “The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert” who was a lesbian professor of gender studies who became a Christian now homeschooling mom!

Jackie Hill Perry who was one of the poets at the Challenge conference who had been a rebellious lesbian who is now married and expecting a child.

And Sam Allberry whose book is the absolute best thing I’ve read on this, “Is God Anti-Gay?

Sam still lives with persistent same-sex attraction. But he is living out a holy sexuality in celibate singleness.

And the stories can go on.

Not just of very public people who write books.

I know several people personally whose lives have been changed and through Christ have chosen away from unholy sexuality to live in faithfulness and obedience to God’s good design–and been blessed for it.

This Summer, we completed the Big Story of the Bible by going to Revelation 21 and soaking up the picture of the end of the story with heaven unifying us with God, filled with only good things, and utterly satisfying.  That’s the direction that everything is going for those who belong to Jesus and are saved.

But I want to end our time with three points of application.

From all that we’ve seen here in the Bible (and more could be said!), how should we then live? We must we do?

FIRST, WE MUST NOT CALL ‘HOLY’ WHAT GOD HAS CALLED ‘UNHOLY.’

In the words of Romans 1, we must not “approve of those who practice them” (Romans 1:32).

We cannot celebrate unholiness and remain holy.

One of you came to me in the last few months looking for counsel about whether or not to attend a gay “wedding.”

The “wedding,” at this point, was still theoretical, but one of the grooms wanted to know if you would attend.

And you loved this person a lot, but you loved them too much to celebrate what would be sin. And I was able to affirm you in telling your loved one that you couldn’t participate in good faith.

And some people will call that homophobia.

And for some people it will be homophobia. They are truly afraid.

But Christians are not to be afraid or hateful. But we are also not supposed to call something holy that is not.

We must be courageous and confident. We need to know what we believe and why. We need to speak the truth.

Honey Mead? It is not wholesome. It is not holy.

SECOND, WE MUST REPENT AND HOPE IN CHRIST FOR HOLY SEXUALITY.

And that’s all of us. Not just those who are attracted to members of the same sex.

We are all broken sexually.

And instead of celebrating our brokenness, we are to turn away from it and embrace Christ.  Trust in Jesus and His work on the Cross on our behalf.

And be washed, sanctified, justified in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

And then, by faith, in the power of the gift of the Holy Spirit, live out a holy sexuality. Obey God. Practice God’s original design.

That’s not going to be easy, but it will be good.

And it’s not just sexual sin that we need to repent of.

Romans 1 and 1 Corinthians 6 give us long lists of sins that aren’t sexual at all but are bringing the wrath of God.

We’ll see next week in Romans 2 that judging others is just as sinful and just as damnable.

But we must repent. Just because all sin is sin doesn’t make any sin less serious or less needing of our repentance and faith in the cleaning blood of Christ.

Repent and hope in Christ for a holy sexuality.

AND THIRD AND LAST, WE MUST LOVE OTHERS WITH THE LOVE WE HAVE BEEN SHOWN.

One of the reasons why we have lost so much ground in our culture is because Christians have often failed to love those who are different from them.

We Christians have failed to love and care for those who experience same-sex attraction.

We have not been safe.
We have not been welcoming.
We have not been listening.
We have not been suffering for them.
We have been afraid, and we have been angry.

We’ve blamed the LGBT community for all kinds of things including the breakdown of the family.

Let me just say that we broke down the family all by ourselves.

The degradation of marriage didn’t start with gay “marriage.”

We messed up marriage without much help from them.

The easy divorce culture and the casual sex culture are much more damaging to the family than same-sex marriage. They paved the way for it.

The church has often (not always but often) mishandled this whole area, and we’re reaping the consequences.

We need to speak the truth and not stop speaking the truth when it becomes unpopular, but we need to speak the truth in love.

And if you can’t find it in yourself to love people who identify as gay, then that’s unholy, too.

If hate words come out of your mouth like “faggot” and you use the word “gay” as a slur, “That’s so gay!” then you are being just as unholy as they.

Christians are called to love those whom we would rather hate.

We are called to love our enemies.

We are called to love those who are different from us.

We are called to love those who seem strange to us.

We are called to love those who are unholy.

Isn’t that what God did for us?

Let me tell you my second favorite verse in Romans. It’s Romans 5:8.

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

We must love others with the love that we have been shown.

I’m so proud of many of you in this room who have LGBT loved ones and you work hard to show your love and the love of Christ to them.

You are an example to me, and I’m proud to be your pastor.

And I’m happy to have gotten the balance right at times, too.

This Summer at Challenge, after I had spoken to a group of about 250 teens on this material, a young lady about 15, came up to me and whispered:

“I’ve never told anyone before, but have those feelings sometimes. How can I have a holy sexuality?”

And that made it all worth it.

Because she saw Christ in me.

I was calling sin “sin.”

I was speaking the truth about unholy sexuality!

But I must have been communicating something of the love of Christ to that young lady.

Because she wanted to know more and to trust Him and to change.

Friends, that’s what it’s all about.

May we be found faithful to love others with the love that we have been shown in Jesus Christ.

***

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Friday, September 19, 2014

Ever Increasing Joy

Dave Radford on the backstory of the new Gray Havens song, "Far Kingdom."



Can't wait for their new album to release on January 6th!

Lesson #5. "Instead of Gossip: Speaking"

I'm pleased to present Lesson #5 of the Resisting Gossip Teaching Series.


Resisting Gossip Teaching Series: Lesson 5 from Third Brother Films on Vimeo.

Introduction

Resisting gossip is not just about what not to do but also what to do. Sometimes, gossip feels irresistible, and we have a hard time seeing any other option than succumbing to the scuttlebutt. But God has something better for us to “put on” than unwholesome talk. Join Pastor Matt Mitchell as he teaches about the godly alternatives that the Lord provides for us to practice instead of speaking gossip.

On Location

We filmed this one in the locker room at Clearfield Alliance Christian School (thanks, Mr. Spanogle!). We borrowed jerseys from their high school basketball team--a tight fit for me! I talked Spencer into including at least one shot of me actually making a basket. I'm afraid there were a lot of missed buckets. That music stand looks a little out of place.

Please Share

Don't forget that these ten videos are all free for streaming, downloading, and sharing. Please pass them on to whomever you think will profit from them. Each film is specifically designed to be used in conjunction with a chapter in Resisting Gossip and a lesson from the new companion book Resisting Gossip Together which comes out on October 7th.

We're half-way there! On Monday, we'll release lesson #6: "Instead of Gossip: Listening."


Thursday, September 18, 2014

Lesson #4. "Believing the Best"

I'm pleased to present Lesson #4 of the Resisting Gossip Teaching Series.


Resisting Gossip Teaching Series: Lesson 4 from Third Brother Films on Vimeo.

Introduction

Most, if not all, sinful gossip includes the sin of judgmentalism. Before we bear bad news behind someone’s back, our bad hearts have already passed sentence upon that person. Join Pastor Matt Mitchell as he teaches about three main ways that we often go wrong in judging others and how we can grow in believing the best about others instead.

On Location

This is an actual courtroom near where we live. Spencer Folmar, our filmmaker, worked very hard to find authentic locations. This location fit perfectly with the sin of judging others.

Please Share

Don't forget that these ten videos are all free for streaming, downloading, and sharing. Please pass them on to whomever you think will profit from them. Each film is specifically designed to be used in conjunction with a chapter in Resisting Gossip and a lesson from the new companion book Resisting Gossip Together which comes out on October 7th.

Tomorrow, we'll release lesson #5: "Instead of Gossip: Speaking."



Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Lesson #3. "A Gallery of Gossips"

I'm pleased to present Lesson #3 of the Resisting Gossip Teaching Series.


Resisting Gossip Teaching Series: Lesson 3 from Third Brother Films on Vimeo.

Introduction

Do you know a gossip when you meet one? More often than not, the Bible defines a gossip as a kind of person, not as a kind of speech. It is something you are, not just something you do. Join Pastor Matt Mitchell as he introduce five different kinds of gossiping people that you might meet (or might be!).

On Location

This video was filmed at the West Branch Dairy Diner, also known around here as "The Pumpkin House" because of its orange exterior. The Pumpkin House is one of our local eateries and meeting places--yummy food and good conversation. I think that music stand looks a little out of place behind the counter.

Please Share

Don't forget that these ten videos are all free for streaming, downloading, and sharing. Please pass them on to whomever you think will profit from them. Each film is specifically designed to be used in conjunction with a chapter in Resisting Gossip and a lesson from the new companion book Resisting Gossip Together which comes out on October 7th.

Tomorrow, we'll release lesson #4: "Believing the Best."


Tuesday, September 16, 2014

CLC World Magazine

It's neat to see Resisting Gossip on this shelf--twice!

I'm blessed to be partnering with a publishing mission that is focused on getting edifying Christian books into people's hands around the globe.

Lesson #2. "Why Do We Gossip?"

I'm pleased to present Lesson #2 of the Resisting Gossip Teaching Series.


Resisting Gossip Teaching Series: Lesson 2 from Third Brother Films on Vimeo.

Introduction

Why do we fall into the sin of gossip? What are the reasons that gossip is so alluring and powerful? What drives the sin of gossip in our lives? Join Pastor Matt Mitchell as he teaches on both the potency of stories and the central role of the heart.

On Location

We filmed this second video in the home of Cody and Holly Crumrine which should look familiar to viewers who remember last year's trailer for Resisting Gossip--even the same potato chip bowl! The Crumrine's cat "Most Excellent Theophilus" was bound and determined to star in this film with me. No matter how many times we tried to lock it out of the kitchen, it found a way back in. Boy, was Theo surprised when I poured the water out on the floor! And there is that music stand again. Thank you, Crumrines!

Please Share

Don't forget that these ten videos are all free for streaming, downloading, and sharing. Please pass them on to whomever you think will profit from them. Each film is specifically designed to be used in conjunction with a chapter in Resisting Gossip and a lesson from the new companion book Resisting Gossip Together which comes out on October 7th.

Tomorrow, we'll release lesson #3: "A Gallery of Gossips."


Monday, September 15, 2014

Lesson #1. "What, Exactly, Is Gossip?"

I'm pleased to present Lesson #1 of the Resisting Gossip Teaching Series.


Resisting Gossip Teaching Series: Lesson 1 from Third Brother Films on Vimeo.

Introduction

The first rule of war is to know your enemy. Before we can resist gossip, we must recognize it, but that’s not as easy to do as it may sound. Join Pastor Matt Mitchell as he teaches a biblical and practical definition of sinful gossip.

On Location

We filmed this first video in my office at church. You get a peak into my little world of books and ideas where I do a lot of my research and writing. There's a shot (00:58) of the quote by Erasmus which Heather illustrated and I have prominently displayed: "When I get a little money I buy books. If any is left I buy food or clothes." There is also a shot of our wedding picture. In this video, the music stand makes its debut--and shows up in some of the most unlikely places throughout the series.

Please Share

Don't forget that these ten videos are all free for streaming, downloading, and sharing. Please pass them on to whomever you think will profit from them. Each film is specifically designed to be used in conjunction with a chapter in Resisting Gossip and a lesson from the new companion book Resisting Gossip Together which comes out on October 7th.

Tomorrow, we'll release lesson #2: "Why Do We Gossip?"


Sunday, September 14, 2014

[Matt's Messages] "The Bad News"

“The Bad News”
All Roads Lead to Romans
September 14, 2014 :: Romans 1:18-32

We’re already two weeks into our new series called “All Roads Lead to Romans,” and we’ve only made it 17 verses.  The first week was an introduction where we saw that Romans is not just a theology book but is a letter from Paul to the Christians in Rome, both Jew and Gentile. People beloved of God and called to be holy. And so are we!

Last week, we saw how much Paul longed to be with those Roman Christians and to share the gospel with them, the good news about Jesus.  And that’s because Paul is not ashamed of the gospel. Why? Because it is “the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.”

Everyone who believes, both Jew and Gentile.

How does that happen? Romans 1:17

“For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith.’”

That’s what we’ve learned so far.

The gospel is the power of God for salvation through the righteousness of God that comes by faith to everyone who believes.

That’s the good news!

Paul is now going to unpack that good news.

But he’s got start with “The Bad News.”

Have you ever had anyone say to you, “I’ve got good news and I’ve got bad news. Which one do you want first?”

Well, Paul has told us in a nutshell what the good news is, but to get there you have to go through the bad news.

And the bad news is the answer to this question, “Why? Why is the power of God for salvation so necessary?”  “Why do we need saving?” “Why do we need the gospel?”

And the answer in one word is “sin.” Or “unrighteousness.”

We have a righteousness problem–and that is that we don’t have righteousness.

But we have plenty of un-righteousness.

The bad news.

Now, I’m just going to tell you that this week is going to be depressing. This is a sermon on the bad news. And the bad news section of Romans runs from chapter 1, verse 18 all the way to chapter 3, verse 20. So, prepare your minds for a lot of bad news over the next few weeks.

But Paul does that so that we can see just how good the good news is!

And how universal it is. He’s going to take up to 3 chapters to establish how everyone is under the power of sin and then how everyone who puts their trust in Jesus and His sacrifice will be saved. Both Jew and Gentile. Everyone.

But he’s got start with the bad news.

Today, we’re just going to take the first step in his argument. That’s chapter 1, verses 18 through 32. Here Paul shares the bad news that’s true of everyone, including those who do not have any special revelation, any of the Bible, any of the Scriptures, any word from God. In short, the Gentiles.

Here’s the bad news. I’ve got three points of bad news this morning.

#1. THE WRATH OF GOD IS COMING. V.18

“The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness...”

The word translated “wickedness” could also be translated “unrighteousness.” It’s the opposite of v.17's beautiful word “righteousness.”

Because of the unrighteousness of men, of people, the wrath of God is coming.

Now, we don’t like that word. We don’t want God to be mad.

Somebody once said that we like to think that we’re not so bad and that God’s not so mad.

But the Bible says the opposite. It says we are bad, and God is mad.

“The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness...”

Wrath is anger. It’s God’s displeasure with sin. It’s God’s holy reaction to our unrighteousness.

It means punishment. It means consequences. It means condemnation. It means death.

Now, notice that the wrath of God is being “revealed.”  That’s the same word as in verse 17 where the gospel “reveals” the righteousness of God.

Well, here the wrath of God is being revealed.

And it’s present tense. It’s not just someday future–what we might call the end of the world.

It’s now. The wrath of God is coming now.

It’s coming in our deaths. It’s coming in the pain and futility and brokenness of the world. And it’s even coming in the growth of sin, more and more sin means more and more degradation and more and more wrath.

Here’s the bad news – the wrath of God is coming.

Now, you won’t hear that on the nightly news.

The anchorman won’t wrap up his little talk with a reminder that the wrath of God is on the way.

The President won’t include it in the State of the Union address.

In fact, we tend to laugh at people who remind us of it, like their crazy people holding up signs about the end of the world.

“The Wrath of God is Coming!”

We don’t want to hear it at all.

But that doesn’t make it untrue.

The wrath of God is coming.  And it’s coming because people, humankind, have rejected God.

And we have no excuse.

#2. NO ONE HAS AN EXCUSE.

“Well, God may be mad, but He’s not at me, because....”

Paul is saying here that no one has an excuse. Including those who don’t have a Bible.  Who have never heard the name of Jesus. Who don’t have what we call “special revelation.” v.18 again.

“The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness [They suppress it. They push it down] since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them.

For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.”

Paul is saying that we all know better.

We all know better than we will admit.

Even the atheist. Paul is saying that even the atheist knows that there is God, but they suppress that truth. They push it down.

God has made Himself known in creation.

The Season of Fall has arrived, has it not?  It’s crisp and cool in the evening. The leaves are beginning to turn and even fall. There are some cloudless nights when you can see millions of stars.

It’s a beautiful time of year here in Central Pennsylvania.

And every molecule says, “God is eternally powerful and divine.”

And every atom says, “God exists and people are going to be accountable to Him.”

And every star in the sky proclaims, “God is glorious. He made you. You owe Him. You should give Him thanks and worship Him.”

Even you Gentiles. You who have never heard the name of Jesus.

You know God. You know He’s there. You just don’t want Him to be!

No one has an excuse.

There is more than enough God written into everything to make every person with a working mind and heart accountable.

Now, I’m not saying that there is enough God written into everything to save every person. We need the gospel for that.

But there is enough God written into everything to condemn every person because every person can see God there but suppresses that truth in unrighteousness.

No excuse for rejecting God. Because that’s what we’ve all done. V.21

“For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.”

We call that idolatry.

Exchanging the glory of God for something that is not God.

People are really good at that.

Back then, they did it with images of men, birds, animals, even snakes!

Today, we do it with greenbacks, quarterbacks, like-buttons, smartphones, and other pleasures of every kind. We can make anything into an idol. Anything that takes the place of God.

You see that word in verse 23, “exchanged?” That’s an important word here. It’s in verse 23, verse 25, and verse 26.

It’s what people do. We exchange God for idols.

And it’s so foolish. V.22, “Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools.”

That describes Adam and Eve, doesn’t it?  “You will be come wise!” the serpent said.

But there is nothing more foolish than sin. Nothing more foolish than idolatry.

And no one has an excuse.

We should know better, but now we’re blind. Culpably blind. V.21, “Their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.”

Now, in verses 24 through 27, part of what Paul is going to say is about homosexuality.

And because it’s such a hot-button topic in our culture right now–I’m going to teach on these verses next week in a special message devoted just to that topic.

Along with these verses (24-27), I’m going to share some of what I talked about at the Challenge Conference this Summer. A number of you have asked me to do that, so I will. There is much to say–more than I can say here today.

But I will point this out today. Sexual sin, especially here homosexual relations, is the product of idolatry.

Now, that’s not a popular message today. And someday I may get into trouble with the law for saying so. But the Bible says it, and I’m called to teach what is in here. V.24

“Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another.”

The key word is “therefore.” Because they (v.23) exchanged the glory of God for idols, therefore, God gave them over to sexual impurity.

That sexual sin is actually the punishment for the idolatry! It’s the judgment. It’s part of the wrath. Do you see the logic?

Because they (sinful people) rejected God in favor of god-substitutes, God gave them over to sexual sin. Sexual sin is a result of idolatry.

That’s what verse 25 goes on to say.

“They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator–who is forever praised. Amen. [That’s idolatry.] Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.”

I think the due penalty is more sin. The judgment for sin is more sin. And therefore earning more condemnation.

I told you this was going to be a depressing message.

Now, I know that raises a lot of questions. And we’re going to come back to this next week in that special message on homosexuality.

What I want to focus on here is the biggest problem on planet earth. What verse 25 says.

“They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator–who is forever praised. Amen.”

That’s the biggest problem on planet earth.

The most foolish exchange. The truth of God for a lie.

The worship of created things instead of the Creator of all.

And no one has an excuse.

“Well, I didn’t know!”

Yes, you did.

“Well, this is what I felt!”

Yes, but deep down you knew it was wrong. No matter what you felt or what you told yourself. No matter how you suppressed it. No matter what lie you told yourself and believed.

You traded God for stuff.

That’s what people did. They traded God for stuff.

And God, judiciously, handed them over to more stuff.

#3. WE ARE ASKING FOR IT.

The bad news is that the wrath of God is coming, no one has an excuse, and we are just asking for it. V.28

“Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips [there’s my word!], slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents;  they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless.”

How bad can we get?

“Although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death [wrath, judgment, punishment, condemnation, death], they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.”

These sinful people (which are everybody) are just asking for it.

They know in their heart of hearts God’s righteous decree that doing these sinful things deserves death.

But they keep on going.

And more than that, they applaud when others do them, too.

“Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter” (Isaiah 5:20).

We are just asking for it.

Although they know it’s wrong and deserving wrath, they “continue to do these very  things, [and] also approve those who practice them.”

That’s bad news.

So, what difference does this make for our lives today?

I’ve got three quick points of application.

#1. Swallow Your Medicine.

And by that, I mean humble yourself and agree with God that this is true.

We are bad, and God is mad.

And we should know better.

If you or I are ignoring the wrath of God, we are in big trouble.

We don’t have to like it, but we do have to acknowledge it as true. The bad news is true news.

This bad news calls for a sober self-evaluation.

“Do anything in verses 18 through 32 describe me?”

Some might want to make homosexuality what it’s all about. And there are some things here that say that homosexual relations are sinful.

But so is (v.29), envy, strife, deceit, malice. Gossip! Insolence, arrogance, boasting.

Take a hard look inside, and I think you’ll find yourself in these verses.

I know that I do.

If you don’t see yourself, then hold on for chapter 2 and chapter 3. Because Paul is going to go after the religious goody-two-shoes people, too.

The whole point of this portion is that all have sinned. All are under the domination of sin’s power. Unrighteousness.

And that’s why wrath is coming.

#2. Repent and Call Others to Repent.

Don’t just agree that these things are bad, turn away from them.

And turn to God.

In your heart, reverse the dark exchange. Away from idols. Away from lies. Away from darkness.

Turn to God. Turn to truth. Turn to the light.

And call on others to do the same.

Stop applauding when they sin. Stop approving of their death-deserving sins.

Warn them about the wrath to come.

And invite them to trust in the Savior.

I can’t wait a month until chapter 3 to remind you of the good news.

#3. Rejoice in the Gospel!

Because Calvary covers it all.

All of that unrighteousness that is storing up wrath for the day of judgment?

V.17 again.

“...in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith.’”

Calvary covers it all.

Every bit of bad news in verses 18 through 32 is countered and covered by the good news.

The bad news is bad, but it shows us just how good the good news is.

Rejoice in the gospel!

For the first time or for the billionth.

The gospel is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes.

***

Messages in this Series

01. All Roads Lead to Romans
02. I Am Not Ashamed of the Gospel