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Paul Tautges Christian Blog and Commentary

Paul Tautges

Paul Tautges serves as senior pastor at Cornerstone Community Church in suburban Cleveland, Ohio, having previously pastored for 22 years in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. Paul has authored eight books including Counseling One Another, Brass Heavens, and Comfort the Grieving, and contributed chapters to two volumes produced by the Biblical Counseling Coalition. He is also the consulting editor of the LifeLine Mini-Book series from Shepherd Press. Paul is a Fellow with ACBC (Association of Certified Biblical Counselors). He and his wife, Karen, are the parents of ten children (three married), and have two grandchildren. Paul enjoys writing as a means of cultivating discipleship among believers and, therefore, blogs regularly at Counseling One Another.

Gender as a Spectrum

[Today's guest post is written by Jay Younts, author of Everyday Talk about Sex and Marriage, and is re-posted here with permission.]

The January 2017 issue of National Geographic examines the issue of gender. The editor of the magazine believes gender is not an issue of male and female, but that gender is best understood as numerous points along a spectrum of possible identities. As this special magazine issue indicates, the idea of gender as a spectrum is a recent concept and rapidly changing the way culture and science view the sex of humans.

According to National Geographic, gender identity and sexual orientation are fixed realities that are determined by children as they grow. The idea that humans are created male and female by God has been been discarded. The notion that gender can be determined at birth is also dismissed. Note this quote from an article in this issue entitled Helping Families Talk About Gender:

“There is no way to predict how children will identify later in life. This uncertainty is one of the hardest things about parenting a gender nonconforming child. It is important for parents to make their home a place where their child feels safe, loved unconditionally, and accepted for who they are. Research suggests that gender is something that we are born with; It can’t be changed by any interventions.”

When God’s order and plan are rejected, uncertainty is the result. Taking the article and the theme of this issue at face value, the physical anatomy of children at birth is not a reliable indicator of the sexual gender and orientation of that baby. To be sensitive to what the child determines, parents must wait until the child declares for themselves what their gender is and then what sexual orientation they will pursue. The article continues:

“While gender identity typically becomes clear in early childhood, sexual orientation — which refers to the person one falls in love with or is attracted to — becomes evident later. Research suggests that like gender identity, sexual orientation cannot be changed.”

The social chaos that will result from this thinking is impossible to calculate. A baby who looks like a boy, may actually identify as a girl or a mix of girl and boy who may determine to engage in a range of sexual activities that is consistent with an emerging orientation that is yet unknown to that child. One final quote from the article:

“When your child discloses an identity to you, respond in an affirming, supportive way. Understand that gender identity and sexual orientation cannot be changed, but the way people identify their gender identity or sexual orientation may change over time as they discover more about themselves.”

It is up to the child to determine, to discover, what sexual gender he or she will be and the mix and gender of the sexual partners she or he will have in life. The choice is totally up to the child and how he or she identifies with who she or he thinks she is. Chaos awaits.

Humanity is perceived by this article to be an emerging evolutionary flow where each person is his own point of sexual self-reference. There is no proof given tor this assertion. Note the highlighted portions in the three quotes above. In the first two quotes we read that “research suggests” identity / orientation cannot be changed. But then just a couple of paragraphs later in this short article we read that we must “understand that gender Identity and sexual orientation cannot be changed.” No references are given for this research. No other sources are cited. The suggestions have become absolute. The term “research suggests” has replaced the purpose and plan of God in determining issues regarding human sexuality.

The truth of God has been exchanged for unfounded assertions. By disregarding the truth of God’s word, culture is plunging itself into a sea of uncertainty. Personal choice is everything. In this context there can be no sexual immorality except the immortality of denying personal choice in sexual behavior. Your two year old boy may decide to identify as a girl who desires both male and female sexual partners. And it is your job as a parent to show unconditional love, acceptance and affirmation of this self-determined gender and orientation.

Moral chaos will result. Indeed, if you examine the contents of this issue of National Geographic you will see that moral chaos has already arrived.

What is God’s answer to this chaos?

First, you must believe that gender is not a matter of human choice. Genesis 1:27 says,
“So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.”

God did not create more or less than two genders of humans. As it was at the beginning, so it is now. Because of the impact of sin there are places where cultural traditions produce behaviors that accommodate a distorted view of human sexual practice. But these distortions do not change the reality that God created two genders. Also because of the impact of the fall of man, there are rare occurrences of children born with a combination of male and female physical characteristics. But, as with any number of other congenital conditions, these occurrences do not constitute a change in the created order.

With regard to sexual behavior, marriage remains the one social construct where God says that sexual activity is appropriate. The fact that people rebel against what God has commanded does not change what is honoring to God.

The teaching of the Bible is sufficient to address the radical assertions posed by National Geographic. But you must be aggressively faithful to God and his word if you want to lead your children to clarity of thought and purity of sexual practice. God, not a developing human child, is the one who determines gender and what is healthy sexual behavior. His word fully discloses all that you need to know. Don’t be taken captive by the impending moral chaos. I discuss these issues and more in my new book, Everyday Talk about Sex and Marriage: a biblical handbook for parents. It will be available from Shepherd Press in February.

There is much more that needs to be said. This is why I am grateful to Cornerstone Community Church for hosting a conference that brings the light of Scripture to these dark times. This February 17&18 are the dates for the conference. It is called Redeeming the Gift, God’s Design for Sexuality. I am honored to participate in this conference along with Tim Challies and Paul Tautges. Here is a link to information about this important response to the gender and sexual chaos of our culture.

Many times, it is the simplest truths that are the most profound and the simplest truths that are most easily forgotten, such as the truth “God is love.” The truth is so simple that people hear it and ignore it. “Of course, He is,” they say, “What else would He be?” And yet it is profound to think that the holy God could love sinners.

What does it mean that God is love? How do we know that this is true? What has He done to demonstrate it? And what does it mean for you and for me, as sinners? As believers in Christ? These are important questions, which 1 John 4:7-11 answers for us.

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.

So, here are four conclusions concerning the truth that God is love.

God’s gracious, saving work in the heart of a sinner is the only means to true love (vv. 7-8a).

In the New Covenant, which was inaugurated by the Lord Jesus, God gives us a new heart at the moment of our conversion. “Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances” (Ezekiel 36:26-27). Because we are born sinners we are spiritually dead. Only by the miracle of the new birth can we be made new. Jesus said, “You must be born again.” This new birth takes place by means of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God (John 3:8; 1 Peter 1:23).

God’s nature is to love (v. 8b).

Love began with God and ends with God. Without God, it is impossible to even have love present anywhere in our world. Love is part of God's essence, an integral part of who He is. Love is what moved God to initiate His rescue plan for sinners: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (John 3:16-18). God takes no pleasure in the death of sinners (Ezekiel 18:32). Instead He patiently waits, calling them---calling us---to repent of our sin and believe in Jesus as the only Savior (2 Peter 3:9).

God’s love has already been shown and proven to us (vv. 9-10).

Scripture makes it clear that the Cross of Jesus Christ is the greatest demonstration of the love of God for sinners. “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:6-8). By means of Christ’s death on the cross, God manifested both His love and justice at the same time. He punished sin and provided the one and only way for us to be reconciled back to Himself. This is love.

God’s expectation for believers is that we love one another (vv. 11-13).

God’s command to believers to love one another is one of the most important themes in the book of 1 John. For example, see 1 John 3:11-18.

For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother's righteous. Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you. We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.  But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. (See also 1 John 4:7-12).

This love for one another is a fruit of God’s grace in our lives and one of the means by which God is made visible. It is one of the most powerful elements of our gospel witness to the world (John 13:35).

The central message of the Bible is actually very simple, yet profound. God loves sinners and has done everything to rescue us from the eternal consequences of our sin. As the angel announced, there has been born for us a Savior. He is Christ the Lord. In His great love, God has given to us Jesus Christ. He and the salvation He brought are God’s gifts to us as sinners. Have you responded to God’s love? Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” If you have not repented and returned to God by faith in Jesus Christ, please come to Him today.

One of the favorite metaphors used by New Testament writers to describe the Christian life is that of the race. For example, the apostle asked the Corinthians, Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? (1 Cor 9:24). Many run, but not everyone is a winner.

The word race is stadion in the Greek, from which we get “stadium,” a running track about 200 yards long and 30 yards wide. On this track, the Corinthians observed the foot races as part of the annual games. They watched many run, but not everyone got the prize. Therefore, Paul exhorts the believers, run in such a way that you win. Run in such a way that you may win (1 Corinthians 9:24).

Winning not only requires putting forth every ounce of energy toward the goal, but also includes a willingness to obey, to submit to the leader. If the athlete runs out of bounds he loses. If he has a false start he's out. As there are rules in a race there are commands in the Christian life, and our rule book is the Word of God. All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work [and the Christian race] (2 Tim. 3:16-17).

The author of Hebrews used the race metaphor, too, to urge his readers to keep running the Christian race toward the finish line. However, in this case, please take note of the plural personal pronouns:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. – Hebrews 12:1-3

Too often we think of the Christian life as an individual race. It is my race. It is your race. That is, we often attempt to run it alone, or even in competition with one another. But that is not how this Scripture portrays it. Instead, the Christian race is a group activity. Yes, we have our own personal responsibility and we cannot blame anyone else for the lack of victory we experience in our lives. But, still, we do not run the race alone.

Finishing the Christian race victoriously cannot be accomplished in prideful independence, but only in the humility of interdependence. Therefore, as we stand upon the threshold of a new year, let us determine to practice 3 ongoing disciplines together.

Lay aside weights and sins (v. 1a).

Sin is a weight that drags us down and prevents us from running the race well. There are obvious sins that trip us up and cause us to fall, but there are also weights that perhaps may not be emphatically labeled sins, but still they hinder us. What are the weights that are holding you back?  What are the habits that are weighing you down? There is much freedom in the Christian life, but it should not be exercised unless it builds up others. “All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up (1 Cor. 10:23).

Sin entangles us; it “clings so closely.” It trips us up. Like a spider, it weaves its intricate, sticky web around every area of our lives. We must lay our sins aside. We must kill them. See, for example, 2 Timothy 2:22; Ephesians 4:31; 1 Peter 2:1; Colossians 3:5-6. Runners in the ancient games stripped down to the bare essentials. They wore nothing that was not necessary. Why? To let go of weights that would slow them down. We must do the same.

Run the race with endurance (v. 1b).

The word endurance is from a compound word meaning “to stay under.” This word pictures someone who successfully carries a heavy load for a long time without trying to escape. He remains under the discipline of the Christian life. He is not a quitter, but does the hard things instead of coasting through life.

James wrote of this endurance: Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing (James 1:2-4). God often tests our faith in order to build within us the character qualities that are lacking, one of which is endurance. But running with endurance requires another quality, its companion: self-control.

Again, using the race metaphor, the apostle wrote in 1 Corinthians, everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things…So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified. This is a picture of self-denial. Followers of Christ are called to a life of self-denial. Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me” (Matt. 16:24). Running with endurance is not easy. It requires daily effort. Using cruise control in the Christian race is not a good idea.

Focus on Jesus and His finished work (vv. 2-3).

While we are running, we are looking---looking at Jesus. Not looking at ourselves, though self-examination is necessary. Not looking at others, though loving concern for them is necessary. Not looking at our past, though there is much to learn from it. But looking at Christ who is the “founder and perfecter” of our faith. He began a good work in us through faith and He will finish it by faith (Phil. 1:6; Col 2:7). What propelled Him to endure was “the joy set before Him.” The joy was not the cross itself. No. Whatever joy He set His eyes upon resulted in His willingness to endure the cross. The joy set before Him was the promise of a bride from the Father. What motivated His endurance was His desire to share His glory with His bride---us, believers (John 17). While doing so, he despised the shame brought upon Him by our sin—our shame. And then He sat down at the right hand of God because His work on our behalf was finished.

As we enter a new year, let us choose to embrace these ongoing disciplines in the Christian race. Let us lay aside the sins and weights that are slowing us down, let us endure while we run,  and let us keep our eyes on the One who already ran the race on our behalf…and finished victoriously.

[This post is adapted from last Sunday's sermon at Cornerstone Community Church.]