Note to readers: The above image is from the weekly publication, "The Baptist Messenger", produced by the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma (BGCO). The link is www.baptistmessenger.com. All comments below and links were granted permission by the BGCO to be used in today's post. May what is written below inform and equip the reader to the glory of God.
John 4:9-13 "Therefore the Samaritan woman said to Him, “How is it that You, being a Jew, ask me for a drink since I am a Samaritan woman?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) 10 Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.” 11 She said to Him, “Sir, You have nothing to draw with and the well is deep; where then do You get that living water?12 You are not greater than our father Jacob, are You, who gave us the well, and drank of it himself and his sons and his cattle?” 13 Jesus answered and said to her,“Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.”
A few weeks ago this blogger had the opportunity to attend a conference sponsored by the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma (henceforth from here we will use it's abbreviation "BGCO") entitled: "The Gospel, Sexuality and the Church". My intention for attending this conference was two-fold:
1). To be equipped on how to better communicate to people what the Bible has to say about the Gospel and it's bearing on gender, sexuality, the church and culture.
2). To know how to express the love of Jesus in a better way to all people, regardless of sexual orientation.
The conference to say the least was very well done, organized, positively communicated and Biblical. As each sermon and panel discussion was presented, I felt it necessary to not only take notes but to make them available to readers of this blog with the hope of sharing this informative, engaging and Gospel-centered conference. Thus for the next few posts I will be sharing by way of summary the messages and panel discussions. The BGCO has posted some of the plenary sessions on their website, as well as links to their weekly publication: "The Baptist Messenger", which features after-conference reflections and articles by key leadership in the BGCO. Here are the links: http://www.bgco.org/bgco-conference and http://www.baptistmessenger.com/the-gospel-sexuality-the-church-2/.
Today's post will feature summary notes of the first session preached by Dr. Russell Moore, Chairman of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), wherein He talks about how to approach this issue of the Gospel, Sexuality and the Church from the account of Jesus' conversation with the woman at the well in John 4. Dr. Moore refers to the need to proclaim the "Strangeness of the Gospel to our culture in need of the Gospel".
The BGCO conference the Gospel, sexuality and the church - session #1: "The Strangeness of the Gospel to our culture in need of the Gospel". Dr. Russell Moore, Chairman of the ERLC.
In session 1, Dr. Russell Moore preached from John chapter 4:1-20. He introduced his message by talking about how shocking and counter intuitive the Gospel was to two kids he taught. In short, they thought the gospel was strange. As Christians, we are used to a "Nicodemus" culture (compare Nicodemas and Jesus in John 3) whereby people want to be something with a thin veneer of religiosity. We are shifting to a Samaritan woman culture (please compare the Samaritan woman and Jesus in John 4). When we compare Nicodemus to the woman of Samaria we find out what is meant by this.
1). Nicodemus came to Jesus by night whereas the woman of Samaria came to Jesus by day.
2). Nicodemus was all about morality whereas the woman of Samaria was immoral.
3). Nicodemus came asking Jesus questions where as Jesus asked the woman of Samaria questions.
So how does Jesus engage the Samaritan woman? Moreover, what should be our method of cultural engagement with the Gospel, since we are no longer in a Nicodemus culture? Let's notice some things.
Jesus shed light on the issues with the Gospel.
Jesus was not afraid to take the light of Himself, the embodiment of the Gospel, and shed light into the world of the Samaritan woman. It must first be noted that people in our culture are offended by Christian views of marriage, but moreover, our views on final judgment. Jesus tells this woman to go get her husband. He doesn't sidestep the heart issues, since he is calling her to repentance.
Secondly, sexuality is a powerful impulse an expression created by God. Marriage is a sermon, an invitation that preaches the gospel. If we refuse to hold fast to what Jesus and His apostles gave us, we will be unloving to our neighbours and leave consciences undisturbed.
Third, sexuality is not a political issue but a moral, theological issue. If we remain silent and blur the topic, we will leave those needing the gospel in the dark.
Fourthly, if we do not address sexuality, people will realize we are not telling the truth and conclude that they don't need a Bible and thus draw conclusions on their own. If people sense we are unwilling to be marginalized, they won't trust us. So we can see how Jesus shed light on the issues but notice secondly....
Jesus engages His culture (i.e the Samaritan woman) in conversation and spiritual warfare.
When engaging our culture, we must remember that our warfare is not with people, but with ideologies and the kingdom of darkness itself. The Devil uses two tactics to try to destroy people: accusation and deception. How does Jesus deal with this in John chapter 4 in this conversation with the Samaritan woman? Well Jesus is not afraid of the woman. He was not disgusted nor repulsed. He sees her as an object of redemption. People holding to a Christian view on sexuality and marriage have always been in a minority. The temptations we will have are twofold: wringing our hands or shake our fists at the culture.
The people railing against the gospel are reflecting the devil of Revelation 12 which reminds us that the Devil's time is short before Christ's return in judgment, which is why the Devil is angry. The church at large and Christians in particular are not walking into a new situation. When we do nothing but vent against culture, we are saying to God we deserve a better culture. We should see the people around us as those in need of Christ. So in observing Jesus and his conversation of the Samaritan woman, we see Him shed light on the issues at hand and how He dealt with the twofold method of Satan in accusation and deception.
Jesus reveals the source of confidence in this present hour
Let notice now the matter of the source of the Christian's confidence in this present moment. We do not find a hope in polls or political maneuvering, but in Matthew 16:18 which reminds us that the gates of Hell will not prevail against the church. The culture believes the sexual revolution will deliver on it's promises. As Christians, we know marriage is not a social construct. When James and John wanted Jesus to call down fire on the Samaritan people, Jesus chose to enter not only into their orbit, but specifically into this Samaritan woman's life. Jesus gave her spiritual water at a well that could only offer physical water.
Many people are hostile to our message, however we must remember they are not to be written off. Now when it comes to communicating and embodying a biblical vision of marriage and sexuality, how do we do that? We used to assume that people agreed with us on sexuality and marriage. That perceived consensus is no longer the case. We articulate what the Scripture teaches on manhood, womanhood, fatherhood, motherhood, to our children. We must not only articulate this, but embody it.
Why do we often respond in the wrong way to our children? We view them as in our image whatever they are doing. If it conflicts with us and our peer groups, it will come back on us. This focus on ourselves is selfish. Could it be that our gay and lesbian neighbors wonder what it may look like for them to take up the gospel? For them, they assume such a response would mean dying alone. That is not Acts 2 Christianity. So in approaching the Gospel, Sexuality and the Church, we learn from Jesus to shed the light of the Gospel on the issue, engage in conversation and spiritual warfare and the source of confidence. Let's consider one final thought, namely...
The Strangeness of Christianity - Our Best Strategy for reaching the culture
The strangeness of Christianity is what will enable us to counter are sexual revolution culture. We believe a previously dead man will show up in the sky on a horse. Our problem has been to view the Gospel as a moralistic message. Rather, we need to confess the strangeness of the gospel in a culture that sees the strangeness. If done right, such contact will open the door for the Spirit to show people that they are sinners and that God in Christ desires to reconcile them and save them from judgment."